19th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– On the 7th June, 1950, Senator Critchley asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister a question concerning the employment in the Public Service on a permanent basis of temporary employees whose services are to be retained, and who, in many instances, have been employed in the service for ten or fifteen years. The Prime Minister has now supplied the following information: -
In reply to the honorable senator, I point out that there is no legislative authority for permanent appointment to the Public Service by virtue only of service in a temporary capacity, and any amendment to the existing provisions could not be supported.
Many temporary employees who are exservicemen and who aTe .able to comply with the examination requirements of the Commonwealth Public Service have, in fact, been appointed to the permanent staff, but even for returned soldiers, who are entitled to preference, there is no legislative provision for permanent appointment by virtue only of service in a temporary capacity. One of the reasons for repeal of section 84 (9) (c) of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, was that ex-servicemen formerly secured permanent appointment merely by the fortuitous circumstance of having been available for temporary appointment while capable and efficient exservicemen who had not sought temporary work but who wished to secure permanent appointment were debarred because of the preference given to those who happened to have been employed in a temporary capacity.
Compliance with the request that temporary employees be granted permanent appointment merely on ‘ the grounds of employment in a temporary capacity would reintroduce the anomaly which the Parliament removed when it repealed section 84 (G) (o) of. the Commonwealth Public Service Act, and moreover would conflict with the preference conditions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Prime Minister consider amending the Commonwealth Public Service Act to provide that ex-servicemen may be permanently appointed to the Service after twelve months’ temporary employment, and that such legislation also apply to commissions controlled by the Government?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
A system of preference to ex-servicemen is operating in the Commonwealth Service under the Re-establishment and Employment Act in accordance with comparative qualifications and the length, locality and nature of war service. Preference is granted in accordance with the act in the Ailing of both clerical positions in the Third Division and non-clerical positions in the Fourth Division under the prescribed Public Service competitive examination system. Moreover, the standard of entry to the Third Division has been lowered for ex-servicemen only, from the leaving to the intermediate or junior standard. It would be inadvisable to replace the present fair competitive system of preference by procedure based on the fortuitous circumstance of temporary employment, under which preference would be granted to the man who happened to be on the spot available for temporary work against others not at the time available for a temporary post, but anxious to obtain permanent employment and possibly much better qualified than the one who secured temporary employment. For a career service like the Commonwealth, a definite system of appointment, subject to preference, is required, and for clerical posts a minimum standard of general education is essential.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture by pointing out that the whaling industry off the coast of “Western Australia is conducted by a small company which operates two trawlers and that the Government intends to assist the development of ‘the industry by conducting short-based whaling from a factory, which will be completed in the near future. For that purpose it has obtained two vessels, Gascoigne and Carnarvon, which are lying at anchor awaiting the completion of the factory. During last week-end one of the two trawlers owned by the private company became a total wreck, so that pending replacement of the wrecked trawler, the catching capacity of the industry is reduced to one small vessel. Because of the importance to Australia of the whaling industry, which enabled us to earn £100,000 from the Dutch Government last year, will the Government, as a far-sighted act, as well as a generous gesture, consider leasing to the company concerned, one of its vessels, which, as I have pointed out, are not yet in use, until the company is able to replace its damaged trawler?
– I am sure that all members of the Parliament regret very much the misfortune that has befallen the whaling company to which the honorable senator has referred. I have discussed this matter with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and he has informed me that he has made arrangements for the “Whaling Commission, which comes within his administration, to give all possible assistance to the company to overcome the difficulties that have been caused by the loss of its vessel.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Prime Minister been drawn to a state ment reported to have been made at Djakarta on Monday by the Reverend John Garret, secretary of the Australian Council of the “World Council of Churches, that -
Indonesia has a better claim to West New Guinea than Holland has and certainly much better than Australia.
It is shortsighted to antagonize Indonesia on the assumption that she cannot govern properly.
The whole area formerly under the sovereignty of Holland should become a united, peaceful, democratically governmented Indonesia.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. President, whether the honorable senator is in order in reading from a newspaper report when asking a question ?
- Senator George Rankin is out of order if he is reading from a newspaper.
– I ask the Minister whether the. Government will inquire into this matter and ascertain whether the report is correct. If it is found to be correct, will the Government ask the Australian Council of the “World Council of Churches to restrain its members from making mischievous and dangerous statements in a foreign country.
– I did not see the statement to which tho honorable senator has referred, but those of us who are mindful of the 7,000 Australian dead who lie in New Guinea appreciate that that territory is vital and dear to this country. I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the Prime Minister.
Roads and Works Act will amount to £9,000,000 made up as follows:-
It is not possible to say precisely what a mount of these grants is held unexpended by the States at any one time, as in most cases the grants are amalgamated by the States in their road funds with moneys received from State sources, such as the proceeds of State motor taxes. However, I can tell the honorable senator that at the 28th Feburary last the States held credit balances totalling nearly £6,500,000 in their roads funds. That amount compared with £5,700,000 on the 30th June, 1949, and only £800,000 on the 30th June, 1939.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Will the Government consider making finance available for the various State governments to develop appropriate pre-school services suitable to local needs in accordance with national minimum standards?
– I understand that that matter is being considered at present by the Prime Minister and that direct approaches have been made by State premiers. I shall inform the honorable senator when I have any further information to impart.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health inform the Senate whether any negotiations have taken place between the Federal and State Ministers for Health to bring about some uniformity of payment of the 8s. a day bed subsidy to convalescent hospitals? If not, will the Minister take the matter up with the Minister for Health and endeavour to get uniformity so that all convalescent hospitals instead of only a few will receive that benefit?
– When the honorable senator brought this matter forward some time ago on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I promised him that I would get a reply to his question. I shall be pleased to take it up again with the Minister for Health or his department and see if a reply can be expedited.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Is it a fact that Australia is committed to a policy of immigration for the next ten years? If so, will the Government consider the appointment to his department of medical trainees under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, in order to give an even more efficient service to the medical side of its immigration policy?
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following reply to the honorable senator’s question: -
It is not customary to make statements on policy in answer to questions. However, medical graduates, including those trained under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, are eligible to apply for appointment to any position of medical officer in the Department of Health, many of which are vacant at the present time because of the lack of applicants.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
If the questions are primarily based on the premise that specialist medical attention is not available to the people of Tasmania then it is not a fact that many people have to forgo treatment because interstate air travel is involved. The primary responsibility for the provision nf medical attention rests with the States in so far as such activities” como within governmental functions. However, the Commonwealth Government does assist the Tasmanian Government in making specialist services available. Under section 0 of the Hospital Benefits Act, the Commonwealth refunds to the State the sessional fees of specialists who formerly attended persons in public wards of public hospitals in both the Royal Hobart and the Launceston General Hospitals on an honorary basis. The extent to which Commonwealth assistance is given may be gauged from the following table of specialists who are at present receiving sessional fees from the Commonwealth: - Physicians, 8; surgeons, 8; gynaecologists, 7; otorhinolaryngologists, 2; paediatricians, 4; anaesthetists, 4; diabetitians, 1; opthalmologists, 1; dermatologists. 1 ; plastic surgeons, 1 : neurologists and psychiatrists, 1. The Tasmanian Government also provides specialist attention by both consultants, and specialists on the staff of hospitals. All treatment both in-patient and out-patient in public hospitals is free of charge. Every specialty is now catered for at the Royal Hobart and Launceston General Hospitals, and the minor base hospitals arc visited by the specialists at regular fixed intervals. The orthopaedic surgeon, although performing most of his duties in Hobart and environs, regularly visits the public hospitals at Launceston, Wynyard, Latrobe and Queenstown. Two visits (during the year 1948) have been made by the plastic surgeon from Victoria, 35 operations being performed, in addition to JOB other patients being examined. A consultant neurologist from Victoria has also paid two visits, 35 patients being presented to him. The visiting medical staffs to the major base hospitals’, Royal Hobart and Launceston General, have been further expanded and augmented by specialists, who recently obtained their higher qualifications. The facilities for treatment at all public hospitals have been increased, especially as regards specialist treatment and the fact that both the Royal Hobart Hospital and the Launceston General Hospital are now recognized by the Royal Australian College of Surgeons as post-graduate training schools, proves that the services are of a very high standard.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for External Affaire has supplied the following answer : -
At the British Commonwealth Conference on Foreign Affairs held at Colombo in January of this year, consideration was given to the possibility of Commonwealth countries joining in a loan to Burma to assist that country in overcoming its serious budgetary difficulties. Following the conference, various Commonwealth governments, including Australia, agreed to offer Burma a loan of fstg.0,000,000. Australia’s share of the total was £500,000. The Government of Burma subsequently accepted this offer. The loan is to be made available to Burma in the form of blocked sterling repayable within two years, and is to be free of interest. No other special conditions attach to the loan. Honorable senators will remember that the Minister for External Affairs made a statement regarding this loan on the 25th March, 1950. The Colombo Conference of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers did not consider the question of any other loan by Australia or by other Com mon wealth countries.
asked the Minister representing .the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Works and Housing has supplied the following answers : -
– I lay on the table of the Senate the following paper : -
Superannuation Act - Fifth Quinquennial Report on the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund covering the period up to 30th June, 1947.
The report has been approved by the Treasurer.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with a message intimating that it had agreed to amendments Nos. 1, 4, 5, 9, 12, 13, 14, IS, 19, 23, 24. 25, 26, 27 and 29 made by the Senate, had agreed to amendments Nos. 1 and 16 with the amendments indicated by the annexed schedule, and had disagreed to amendments Nos. 2, 3, 6, 8, 10, 11, 15, 17, 20, 21, 22 and 2S, (full schedule of amendments, vide page 4539), and for the reasons shown therein (vide page 4569).
In committee : Consideration of House of Representatives’ message.
– I move -
That the amendment of the House of Representatives upon Senate’s amendment No. 7 [vide page, 4557), be agreed to.
The schedule of amendments that have been made to the bill by the House of Representatives, which has been circulated to honorable senators, shows that the amendments fall into two groups - those of the Senate’s amendments which the House of Representatibes has amended and those amendments made by the Senate with which the House has disagreed. “We propose to deal with the two groups in that order. Senate’s amendment No. 7 dealt in substance with the onus of proof. The Opposition in this chamber inserted certain sub-clauses in the clause dealing with onus of proof, the effect of which was that on application to the court by an unlawful organization which has been “ declared “ to have that declaration set aside, the onus of proof would rest upon the Government to establish to the satisfaction of the court not merely that the organization was a Communist organization but also that its continued existence would be prejudicial to the security and defence of the Commonwealth and to the execution and maintenance of the Constitution or of the laws of the Commonwealth. In accordance with the policy of the Government, which was very clearly stated when this measure was before the Senate, the House of Representatives has rejected that amendment, and the relevant clause is now in the form proposed by the Government in this chamber. Shortly, it provides that an organization which has been “ declared “ may appeal to certain courts against the “ declaration “ and at the hearing of the application the organization concerned shall begin the proceedings. If evidence is given on behalf of the organization by an officer or officers who, in the opinion of the court, are best able to give full and admissible evidence about matters relative to the application, then the onus of proof of whether the organization is a Communist organization shall rest on the Commonwealth. That is as far as the Government is prepared to go in this matter, and I want to make that perfectly clear and place it beyond all doubt. We believe that this measure will be made ineffective by the proposals that have been put forward.
– Why does the Attorney-General say that?
– I have already explained the reasons to the Senate at considerable length. Shortly, I say now that the whole matter of onus of proof has been completely distorted by the Opposition in the attack which it made on the measure, and its attitude at least raises considerable doubt whether it wishes the measure to be effective to deal with the Communists. The matters with which the court will be concerned on an application under this bill are obviously matters peculiarly within the knowledge of the officers of the organization suspected of having carried on subversive activities. If the organization concerned is innocent of any Communist association it is quite obvious that its officers will be able readily to satisfy a court of its innocence by sworn evidence. However, apparently the Opposition desires to keep out of the witness box persons who may be able to give useful information in the matter before the court and to protect an organization that is accused of being Communist from having to give evidence about its own character. However, if an organization i.« prepared to give evidence of its nature and affiliations, the amendment made by the House of Representatives provides quite clearly that the onus of proof in the matter shall fall on the Commonwealth. I suggest that no one but those who have guilty minds can have any fear about that provision under which the onus of proof will be thrown on the Government. That is the principle of onus raised in the amendment. The form in which the Government’s intentions were expressed in the bill in the first place was designed merely to ensure that the officers of an organization should not stand by idly in any appeal to the court and throw the whole onus of proof upon the Government.
– Did not the AttorneyGeneral say in the former debate that so long as a person swore an oath, the onus of proof would be discharged ? Now he says that such a person must give evidence.
– I said that if evidence were given by a person on his own behalf or on behalf of his organization, which would mean that he would have to enter the witness box, take the oath and give evidence, even if the evidence consisted only of his name-
– That means that he could be cross-examined on any matter?
– The Government could then assert its legal right to crossexamine him.
– I understood that thu amendment proposed by the Government in this chamber meant that evidence would not be given against a person who entered the witness-box.
– The Government may not need to offer evidence. It would depend upon the circumstances. The cross-examination of an appellant might conceivably be sufficient to convict him or the organization which he represents out of his own mouth.
– For how long would the cross-examination go on? Could it continue indefinitely?
– It would depend on the nature of the organization and on the stand taken by that organization and by the Government in the matter. The proposition put forward by the Government is surely most acceptable, unless the Opposition is prepared to protect the interests of people who are members of Communist-dominated organizations and do not want to be cross-examined, as they would be if they entered the witnessbox and gave evidence.
The second matter that arises from consideration of the House of Representatives’ ‘amendment under discussion is that the Government rejects, and will persist with its rejection, of the suggestion brought forward by the Opposition, and incorporated in the bill in the Senate, that there should be an appeal from the decision of the Government of the day about whether an organization is one the continued existence of which would be prejudicial to the security ‘and defence of the Commonwealth. We have already argued that point at great length and the Government sees no reason to depart from the attitude that it has already adopted and explained in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. We cannot concede that the function 1 of forming judgment on a matter that is concerned with the security and defence of the Commonwealth can be carried out effectively by any body other than responsible Ministers of the Crown, who are necessarily charged with the duty of protecting the people of Australia. We have already provided in the bill that a declaration will not be made until the material upon which it is based has been examined by a very responsible committee. We also say that the decision of that committee will be supported by a decision of the Government. Both the committee and the Government having reached a solemn decision that the continned existence of an organization would be prejudicial to security, it must be obvious to any sane person that the right to determine an appeal in relation to that question cannot be handed over to some person who had no responsibility at all for the implementation of a policy directed to maintain the security and welfare of the people of this land. That is not a reflection on judges or on the jury system.
– It is a reflection on democracy.
– It is not a reflection on democracy, because we insist that matters of security and defence must be determined, in the final analysis, by the elected representatives of the people, and by the Ministers who are responsible to ‘the Parliament for those matters. Such matters cannot be handed over to any other body to determine. I repeat that that is no reflection on judges or on the jury system. When this measure was previously before the committee, I emphasized that if we were to add to the amendment that Labour had inserted in the bill, the proposition that the appeal in relation to questions of security and defence should, under another amendment, be heard by a. jury, we should be reducing the position to an absurdity. That is clear when we reflect that the committee of five unanimously reaches the conclusion that the continued existence of a particular organization would be prejudicial to security; the Ministry, too, reaches that conclusion; yet merely because one member of a jury of twelve is not prepared to acquiese in those decisions, the organization is to be permitted to continue its prejudicial activities. That would be an absolutely impossible situation and no attempt has been made in this chamber by any member of the Opposition to defend it. The proposal is so fanciful and ridiculous, that, in my opinion, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Opposition wishes only to destroy the bill altogether.
– With only one statement that has been made by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) can I agree instantly - that this matter was debated at considerable length when the measure was previously before honorable senators. I should have thought that that fact would have induced the Attorney-General not to open up the wide issues that he has traversed in the course of his remarks this afternoon. On behalf of the Opposition, I take umbrage at the statement that the Opposition does not want to make this bill effective. I repudiate that suggestion instantly. The Labour party in the Parliament has agreed to the banning of the Communist party, and the expropriation of its assets. We have agreed also to clauses that will enable the Government to follow the Communist party into other guises. We have acquiesced in the principle that a person who is a Communist should not be allowed to remain in the Public Service, or to hold office in a trade union covering a vital industry; yet because the Opposition is concerned with the preservation of the appropriate and proper process of the law in relation to the declaration of individuals and organizations, the Attorney-General has the effrontery to suggest that our desire is to defeat the bill! It is difficult to understand that reflection, not only on the Opposition, but also on the vote of this chamber itself. It is in keeping with what has happened in the House of Representatives. One of the reasons for the disagreement of the House of Representatives to certain amendments now under consideration is that they are allegedly designed to destroy, and will, in fact, destroy the efficacy of the proposed law. In my view that is a gross and grave reflection on members of this chamber, and should be resented, not only by members of the Opposition, but also by Government supporters who have an even higher duty than the Opposition has to uphold the dignity, prestige, and importance of this chamber in the Parliament of the Comm on wealth.
The Attorney-General has said that the bill is in accordance with the policy of the Government as expounded to the electors. I debated that claim with the Attorney-General when the measure was last before this chamber, but let me refresh his mind, and the minds of honorable senators. In his statement of joint Opposition policy, prior to the last elections, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said -
Subject to appeal, the Attorney-General will be empowered to declare other bodies substantially communist; to follow the party into any new form, and attach illegality to that new association.
That plainly meant that provision would be made for the fullest form of appeal. There was an implication, direct or indirect, in the words used that there would be no restriction on the right of appeal. That is completely clear and nobody can deny it, but what do we find ‘( The Executive will make a declaration under two headings - first that the organization concerned is Communist in character, or Communist infected or affected, and secondly, that its continued existence would -be prejudicial to security. The Government, despite its election pledge, will say, in effect, to that organization, “ You may appeal against the allega tion that you are Communist infected or affected, but you have no right of recourse to any court whatsoever, far less a right of appeal, in connexion with the allegation that your continued existence would be prejudicial to security. The whole purpose of the amendment which, in my view, and in the Opposition’s view, is exceedingly well founded, is to throw more light on a declaration by the Executive Council that a body is subversive. We say that such a declaration should be examined in a court. The Government is opposed to that part of the Opposition’s attitude. It says, in effect, “ We shall make a declaration that your continued existence would be a danger to the security of this country, and once we have spoken, no court will be allowed to consider the matter “. Can the Attorney-General justify that attitude in view of the Government’s election promise contained in the words, “ Subject to appeal “ ? Where is the right of appeal against that allegation ? After all, is it not the more serious of the two allegations? The first charge is that the organization is Communist affected or infected, and the second is that it3 continued existence would be a danger to this country. .Surely the latter is the more serious allegation. If there is to be recourse to courts in respect of only one of the allegations, of which of them is it more important that the courts should be cognizant? The answer is completely clear of justice, decency and democracy. The courts should be allowed to examine the allegation that the continued existence of the organization is prejudicial to the security of the nation. So I refute the Attorney-General’s claim that the Government’s amendment carries out the policy enunciated .at the general election. It does nothing of the kind. It is a direct negation in a most important particular of the right of appeal. There was no restriction upon the words “ subject to appeal “. They connote more than the first application, which is not an appeal. The Commonwealth acts, or should act, in the position of Crown prosecutor in a court before a single judge. That is the initial proceeding and there should still be an appeal after that if either the Commonwealth or the organization is dissatisfied.
– That refers .to an appeal from the Attorney-General, quite obviously.
– The words are not delimited in any way. I consider that any elector who heard those words or read them would believe that all the principles of appeal to a court that are usually permissible, would be available. If they were not to be conceded, the Government should have made that fact perfectly clear when it was placing this matter before the electors. I ask honorable sena*tors to consider the absurd position to which the Government’s proposal brings us. It makes a declaration that a body is Communist infected and is dangerous to security, and allows that organization to go to the court for investigation of the claim that it is Communist infected. If the court finds that it is not Communist infected, the whole declaration covering the two points is set aside. That means that the Government, having said, after weighty judgment, that a body is Communist infected, and having decided that it is dangerous to the security of the country, does not question the continued existence of the organization as long as the court says that it is not Communist infected, although in the view of the Government it may still be a danger to security.
– The Government will deal with that one.
– There is clearly an absurd position. As long as the body is not Communist infected, the court will wipe out the whole declaration of an organization which the Government has claimed to be prejudicial to security. It will be allowed to run free and continue in existence. That is a crass absurdity. It is a position that the Government cannot justify.
The Attorney-General also said that no declaration would be made unless the Government had the soundest possible evidence and unless, in fact, it had .all the evidence necessary .to justify the declaration. The Government is in no difficulty about the evidence that will be required to declare an organization or an individual and to support that declaration in the court. The Government will take up the burden of the onus of proof and of putting its evidence before the court on that first allegation that the body is Communist infected, once the organization has sacrificed its common law traditional right either to give evidence or refuse to give evidence. If it sacrifices that right the Crown will take up the full burden of proof and become a proper Crown prosecutor, putting the case before the court so that the accused organization will know what is alleged against it.
The committee must recognize that the Government is not taking up the position that security demands that its evidence should not be put before the court. It is saying to the organization “Give .away your right to refrain from going into the box and we will put all the cards on the table “. There is no security element involved.
– It does not say that at all.
– In effect, that is what the Government proposes. As long as the organization is prepared to go into the box and sacrifice its right to give evidence or refrain from giving evidence, the Government is prepared to say, “ We will prove the case beyond reasonable doubt
– In effect, that is what the Government has said. It undertakes to take the onus of proof.
– In other words, in proving a case, the Government must tender the evidence on which it relies, so that no element of security is involved.
– It may be obtained by cross-examination.
– That is the unfair position in which the AttorneyGeneral intends to put an organization or an individual under another clause.
– What is unfair about it?
– The allegation may be completely unfounded and may rely on a tenuous course of conduct. On circumstantial evidence it may appear to be wrong, but there may be a perfectly innocent explanation and the AttorneyGeneral would put into the box officers of an organization who did not know what was alleged against them. They would not know whether it was alleged that they were affiliated with the Communist party, followed the teachings of Marx and Lenin, had a majority of Communists on their committee, or whether they were merely influenced by Communists. The officers of an organization would know nothing of the details alleged against them. If the organization had been advocating the teachings of Marx and Lenin they would not know where the allegation began or ended, yet they would be asked to begin in the court proceedings. The Government says that the applicant shall begin.
– They will know if they answer any of those descriptions.
– The person concerned must throw away his right and go straight into the box.
– He is not an accused person.
– He is in exactly the same position. Two serious allegations are made. One is that he is a Communist and the other that he is a danger to. security. According to the amendment that has been moved on behalf of the Government, he must affirmatively begin.
– Is as much consideration shown for the Communists in the Australian Labour party?
– Let me state the attitude of the Australian Labour party and the Parliamentary Labour party towards Communists. We think that the Communists are entitled to no sympathy. I have stated in this Senate and outside it that the aims of the Australian Communist party are evil. I have said that repeatedly. It is antidemocratic and anti-religious and the Labour party wastes not one moment of sympathy on the Australian Communist party or its satellites or its members. But we do demand justice and we are worried about the perfectly innocent organizations and citizens of this community who may be caught up in the net that is to be spread widely by the Government under this measure. Those persons and organizations would be put into a most invidious position. They would go into a witness-box not knowing what was alleged against them, having no clear knowledge of the allegation and having to embark on the establishment of their innocence. They would have to submit a case to the court and then the Crown would produce its evidence, if necessary. For the Government of this country to put any organization or individual in such a position is a terrible thing. The Opposition feels very strongly on this clause, and even more strongly on another clause.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– The Labour party has Supported the Government in its proposals to ban the Communist party in accordance with its pre-election pledge to the people. The Opposition has done nothing to prevent the banning of the Communist party, but we join issue with the Government on the question whether the citizens of Australia are entitled to the protection of the law; whether the Government is entitled to declare that a man or an organization is prejudicial to the security of the country; and whether the Government is entitled to go farther, and declare that a person or organization is likely to engage in activities prejudicial to the security of the country, thus branding the person or organization as treasonable. The Government has assured us that the rights of citizens will be protected, because all proposed declarations will be considered by a committee of five responsible persons. What, however, would be the position if three members of the committee were in favour of a declaration, and two were opposed to it? Would it ever be made known that that committee “was divided on the point? In its original form, the bill provided that the GovernorGeneralinCouncil might declare a person or organization. That meant, in reality, that two Ministers could agree to declare any person or organization. That has been broken down, and provision has been made for the appointment of a committee of five to consider proposed declarations. I take it that the recommendations of the committee will subsequently be considered by a full meeting of the Cabinet. It may be that, in regard to any particular declaration, the Cabinet itself will be divided. Indeed, unless the case is very clear-cut, it is quite probable that Cabinet opinion will be divided. Is it proposed to let the Parliament know that there was a division of opinion in Cabinet over the proposal to brand as treasonable some person or organization? I doubt it very much.
There are provisions in existing legislation for dealing with every situation contemplated in. the Dili. If it is known that a number of persons are likely to engage in subversive action, they can he charged under existing law with conspiracy and, if the charge is proved, they can be subjected to the full rigours of the law. First, however, they must be charged before a court, and the court must find them guilty. Although the world is in an unsettled state at the present time, we are not in a state of war. Therefore, there is no reason why action should be taken against any man until he is charged and convicted by a court. We should remove any suspicion that, in a democracy such as this, any person may be declared to be engaged in subversive activity without giving him the right to hear the charge against him, and to disprove it if he can. No action should be taken against any citizen except on a specific charge before a court of law, in which he would have the right to be represented by counsel. Surely we should not treat Australian citizens any worse than we treat Japanese war criminals. We should not treat citizens worse than we treat a person who has committed murder or some other foul crime.
No doubt the Government believes it to be highly desirable to have power to declare persons for political reasons, and not to allow them to have recourse to the law for their protection, but no one would say that such treatment was just. It is quite proper to make provision for the apprehension of suspected persons, but it should be left to the courts to say whether or not they are guilty. We do not want a citizen of Australia to be prejudiced by having to go into the witness-box to answer a charge that has not previously been made known to him so that he might have an opportunity to prepare his defence.
.- Senator McKenna. made two statements with which I disagree. They were untrue, though I do not say that they were deliberately untrue. First, he said that the Opposition had agreed to allow the. Government tx> follow the Communist party into any other guise that it might take, and to act against it. Then he said that the Opposition agreed to the principle that Communists should not be allowed to hold office in certain registered organizations, or in the Public Service. The concentration of discussion on the onus of proof has tended to obscure what it is that has to be proved. Originally, as the title of the bill indicates, the purpose of the legislation was, first, to show that a man was a Communist, or that an organization was a Communist organization, and then to take action on that ground. There was a secondary consideration, that the person or organization was engaged, or was likely to engage, in subversive activities. I do not say that this consideration was secondary in importance, but it was secondary so far as the purposes of the bill were concerned. The preamble to the bill, which has been agreed to by members of the Opposition as a whole states clearly that an organization or a person is by reason of being a Communist organization or a Communist, at all times ready and willing to engage in treasonable or subversive activities. The second part of the declaration will indicate merely that the Government believes that the man in question is taking certain action or is in a position which he can utilize to translate the always present willingness to be subversive into actual subversive action. The vital factor in the declaration will be that the person declared is a Communist. Against that allegation there will be, as- was promised by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his policy speech, a right of appeal to a court. If it cannot be proved to the court that the man is a Communist, then the allegation that, because he is a Communist, he is likely to engage in subversive activities, will fall to the ground.
Let us examine the effect of the amendments moved by the Opposition at an earlier stage. Assume that an organization is declared and that the Government believes it to be composed largely of Communists, or Communist dominated, or coming within one of the categories prescribed in the bill. The original conception was that such an organization could apply to a court to set aside the declaration on the ground that it was not a Communist organization, and that if it could establish that it was not a Communist organization, the declaration would be set aside. The effect of the amendment moved by Senator McKenna would be that the Eureka Youth League or any other well-known Communist organization could come into a court and openly admit that it was a Communist organization, but it could not be dissolved unless further matters were proved against it. In short, the bill would cease to be a vehicle for banning a Communist organization as such. The same remarks apply to cases of individuals, which are affected by a similar amendment moved by Senator McKenna. Originally, the bill provided that if a man were declared to be a Communist and, as a secondary consideration, to be engaged or likely to engage in subversive activities, he could appeal to a court. If the Commonwealth could not prove that he was a Communist, the declaration was to be set aside. The effect of the Opposition’s amendment would be that if Healy, Bird, Elliott or any other well-known and avowed Communist leader in this country was declared, he could go into a court and despite the fact that he openly admitted or it was proved conclusively that he was a Communist, lie could net be removed from a position in the Public Service or in a trade union unless further facts were proved against him. The amendment would prevent the bill from being a vehicle for action against Communists as Communists, which is the purpose for which it was introduced.
Because the amendments would have had that effect, I do not agree that the Opposition has given the Government the right, to follow Communist bodies into other guises or to prevent individual Communists from holding office in trade unions. I fail utterly to see how those provisions, which would prevent the Government from taking any action against Communists as such, can be consistent with the action of the Opposition in agreeing to the imposition of a ban upon the original Communist organization, without any trial whatever, on the ground that it wa? a Communist organization. Honorable senators opposite say, in effect, “ Here i3 a Communist organization. “We admit that it is subversive, evil and irreligious. We agree that it should be banned “. Then they say, in effect, “Here is another organization, dominated by Communists, and here are individual Communists, but we should not act against them only on the ground that they are Communist organizations or Communists. Something further must be proved “. The adoption of that attitude by the Opposition gives honorable senators on this side of the chamber the right to doubt whether the Labour party is supporting us in our attempt to take action against Communists as Communists.
– ‘Senator Gorton’s remarks have induced me to intervene in the debate again. I repeat that we have permitted the Government to follow the Communist party in any other form. I point out to the committee that we have not altered clause 5 (1.) in the slightest degree. The terms of that sub-clause, which relate to the kinds of organizations that may be deemed to be Communist organizations, are so wide that almost any organization in the country could be picked up. Paragraph (a) of the sub-clause covers any organization “which is, or purports to be, or, at any time after the specified date and before the date of commencement of this act was, or purported to be, affiliated with the Australian Communist party”. Paragraph (6) covers any organization, a majority of the members of which, or a majority of the members of the committee of management of which, are Communists. Paragraph (c) covers any organization which supports or advocates any of the objectives, policies, teachings, principles or practices of communism, as expounded by Marx and Lenin. We have already discussed at length the wide scope of that provision. Paragraph (d) covers an organization the policy of which is directed, controlled, shaped or influenced, wholly or substantially, by persons who are Communists or who make use of the organization as a means of advocating communism. The dragnet provisions of clause 5 (1.) cover every kind of organization, from a body affiliated with the Australian Communist party to kindergarten committees and school committees. I have said previously that I have knowledge of kindergarten committees and school committees that come within the provisions of paragraph (d).
I remind Senator Gorton that it was the Government, not the Opposition, that said it must be alleged against an organization, not only that it is a Communist organization, but also that its activities are prejudicial to security. That provision was included in the first draft of the bill. It is the Government’s provision. The remarks of the honorable senator would have left any listener under the. impression that the Labour party had said, “ It is not enough to allege that an organization is Communist; it must also be alleged and established that its activities are prejudicial to security”.
– The Opposition requires the second allegation to be proved to a court. We did not specify that.
– I am dealing at the moment with the remarks made by Senator Gorton. I advise the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) to let me dispose of them first. Senator Gorton’s remarks would have left a listener under a complete misapprehension, because they suggested that the Labour party had insisted upon the establishment of facts other than that the declared body was a Communist body.
– I did not say that.
– That is the impression that the honorable senator’s remarks would have made upon a listener.
Senator Gorton interjecting,
– We insist upon both allegations being proved. I made that clear when I spoke a few minutes ago.
I point out to Senator Gorton that the Opposition moved only formal, consequential amendments to clauses 10 and 11, which provide for declared persons being disqualified from holding office in a trade union, or under the Commonwealth or an authority of the Commonwealth, and for the vacation of office by disqualified persons. Those clauses were drafted by the Government.
Senator Gorton was under a complete misapprehension when he claimed that upon both points we were interfering with the aims of the Government. The Government itself inserted the provision that the Commonwealth must establish not only that a body is a Communist body but also that its activities are prejudicial to security.
– Must be satisfied.
– It is for the Commonwealth to declare and establish those matters.
– Not to establish them to a court.
– I do not propose to repeat the whole of the argument that I developed a few moments ago. I pointed out the dangers inherent in any executive government, not only of this country but also of any other country, being able to declare that a body or an individual is a danger to security, and not permitting any court to examine the declaration. The Opposition in the Senate insists upon its amendment to clause 5. For Senator Gorton’s information, I point out that the clause deals only with organizations ; a good many of his remarks applied to individuals.
– I think that Senator McKenna has either misunderstood or misapplied some of my remarks. I contend that it is true to say that precisely the same process of reasoning applies to individuals as to organizations. That is why I brought them in together. However, the whole purpose of my remarks was to show that the Opposition’s amendment to subsection (3.) of clause 5 would give bodies the right of appeal, not only on the ground that they were not Communist bodies, but also on other grounds. Senator McKenna has not denied that, by that amendment, the whole ability of the Government to act against a Communist organization as such would be destroyed. What he has implied is that the dragnet clause defining organizations against which action could be taken was too wide. If, in fact, that is the view of the Opposition,- surely the logical thing for it to do would be to amend the dragnet clause, not to force an amendment that an organization which goes into court and is proved to be a Communist organization - or admits that fact - can still not have the declaration set aside unless the Government proves something else in addition. The amendment to sub-section (3.) of clause 9 contained a similar implication in relation to individuals.
– I wonder whether Senator Gorton was speaking for the Government when he said that it would be preferable - I take it I do not misunderstand him - for the Opposition to have cut down the wide scope of sub-section (1.) of clause 5, wherein all these organizations were described, than to put the Government of the country to proof of its allegation, that the continued existence of such bodies was a danger to security. I can imagine what the Government would have said if the Opposition had hedged in the provisions, of that sub-section. The Government would have asked what bodies the Opposition desired to keep out of the net, and we would have been accused of trying to restrict the scope of the Government’s mandate to follow the Communist party into any guise or form. The fact that we have left that wide provision utterly unimpaired is ample demonstration of the Opposition’s sincerity in this matter.
I think that the Government should hang its head in shame before the people of Australia for taking up the attitude that it would name an organization or an individual as a danger to security, without allowing it or him access to any of the courts of this land.
Senator MORROW (Tasmania) [4.26 1 . - I agree with Senator McKenna in this instance, particularly in view of the fact that the definition of “ Communist “ is so wide that anybody could be picked up and gazetted, and would then have t« bear the onus of proof himself. Honorable senators opposite have said, that once a declared person stated from the witnessbox that he was not a member of th» Communist party, and did not advocate the doctrines of Marx or Engels, the onus of proof would be on the Crown. The police in this country have very wide authority, as we all know. Once a person was declared, a stigma would attach to his name, and it would be very difficult, to remove. Only recently, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was addressing a public meeting in the Sydney Town Hall, certain people were removed from the hall by police. The only offence that was committed by a young lady 90 removed, was that she had gone to the assistance of a boy who was being bashed.
– I rise to order. 1 submit that Senator Morrow’s remarks are irrelevant. The fact that a policeman has ejected’ somebody from a public meeting is irrelevant to the matter under discussion.
– Senator Morrowmust confine his remarks to the clause.
– The dragnet clause is so wide that a person declared would thereby have a stigma cast on him. In the instance that I have mentioned, certain people were ejected from a meeting
– I object. I suggest that the ejectment of people from public meetings has nothing to do with the clause.
– They might have been declared.
– They could not have been declared, becausethe bill is not in operation.
– Senator Morrow should confine his remarks to the amendment under discussion.
– I claim that my remarks are connected with the clause. I repeat that the only offence that was committed by a young lady who was ejected by the police from the meeting I have mentioned was that she had gone to the assistance of a boy who was being bashed.
– I must persist with my objection. The clause has nothing to do with the security police or public meetings. It is concerned with the question of what shall be proof in a court of law. I submit that Senator Morrow’s remarks are irrelevant.
– Senator Morrow must confine his remarks to the amendment under discussion. I cannot see how the ejectment of a person from a public meeting can be connected with the clause.
– I am confining my remarks to the bill, and pointing out-
– I again rise to order. The bill is not under discussion. We are considering a simple amendment made by the House of Representatives to an amendment made by the Senate. I submit that the honorable senator is quite out of order.
– As the amendment is. an amendment to the bill, ultimately the bill is under discussion.
– The amendment deals with clause 5, to which Senator Morrow must confine his remarks. We are not dealing with the bill as a whole.
– I am endeavouring to point out that any person who is “ declared “ in the Gazette has the onus cast upon him to prove that he is not a person with Communist or subversive affiliations. Such a provision cuts right across the rule of law and the rights of the citizen, and we should give a person who is accused of such a serious offence an opportunity to prove his innocence.
– The Government proposes to do that.
– First of all, the Government says that no charge is made against a person accused of being a Communist notwithstanding that he is “ declared “. The next important point is that once a person has been “ declared the only way in which the declaration can be annulled is by an appeal to the court. If the person “ declared “ appeals to the court he must enter the witness-box and, presumably, give evidence, although no charge has been made against him, and he does not know what he has to answer. That is not in accordance with British justice, which has always decreed that every person is innocent until he is found guilty.
– Senator Morrow, of course, wants the bill to be ineffective.
– The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) is one of those who anticipate everything. In fact, he can even anticipate the guilt of a person who is merely suspected of subversive activities. I want the rule of law to be observed and people who are accused under this legislation to be given a fair trial in the courts of the land. The onus of proof should clearly be placed on the Government.
Question put -
That the amendment of the House ofRepresentatives upon Senate’s amendment No. 7 be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator T. M. NICHOLLS.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
The result of the division having been announced, and the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) having received the call from the Chair,
Honorable senators interjecting,
– Order ! The Attorney-General has the call.
– I rise to order. I want the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to withdraw the remark that he made to the effect that we are Communists.
– Order ! The Attorney-General has the call.
– I move -
That the amendment of the House of Representatives upon Senate’s amendment No. 16 (vide page 4548) be agreed to.
– I am sorry to interrupt the proceedings, hut I must press my point of order. The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport is always ready to take points of order and to demand the withdrawal of offensive remarks made by members of the Opposition. I ask that he be brought back to the chamber and ordered to withdraw the remark that he made.
– All the Minister said was that it was a victory for the Communists.
– I did not hear the Minister make the remark alleged.
– I rise to order. Senator Maher has just made a remark that the vote of the committee was a victory for the Communist party. I take strong exception to that remark and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I ask Senator Maher to withdraw the remark to which objection has been taken.
– I made no reflection upon Senator Nash or upon any member of the Opposition ; I merely said that the effect of the vote that has just been taken is a victory for the Communists, and I believe that to be true.
– I ask Senator Maher to withdraw the remark to which Senator Nash has objected because it is a reflection upon a vote of the committee.
– I did not reflect on the vote of the committee; I reflected on the fact that the effect of that vote was to make the Communists rejoice, and that is true.
– Order ! Will Senator Maher withdraw the offensive remark?
– In deference to the Chair, I withdraw theremark to which exception has been taken.
– The motion that I submitted deals with that portion of the bill which relates to individuals. The matters that arise out of the Senate’s amendment No. 16 are similar to those which we discussed on the previous amendment a short while ago. We then dealt with the matter of the degree of proof that the Government has to furnish in relation to organizations. The amendment now under discussion deals with exactly the same matter insofar as it concerns individuals. I do not propose to discuss the matter at any length because I have already expressed the Government’s view on the matter in speaking on the previous amendment. It is extraordinary that the Opposition not only seeks to protect the individual from being required to give evidence on his own behalf, but also proposes to provide a protection for declared persons far greater than that provided for innocent persons charged with crimes. One of the provisions inserted in the hill nl; the instance of the Opposition in this chamber provides that the court before which an appeal Ls brought may award compensation to a person who has been declared if the declaration has been set aside. Although many suggestions have been made to the effect that the proceedings contemplated under this bill are in the nature of criminal proceedings, rights not afforded to persons charged with crime are to be given to declared persons. Of course, the bill is directed against Communists, and although the Opposition asks us to believe that it is wholeheartedly desirous of banning Communists from the com munity, the amendment which it submitted provides that in certain circumstances a person who has been declared may have a claim against the Government, which is a right that no person accused of a criminal offence enjoys. The fact that a man who may have been falsely charged with murder has been acquitted does not entitle him to make any claim for compensation to the court in which he has been charged. However, apparently when we are dealing with persons accused of being Communists we must deal with them very tenderly, and must extend to them privileges which persons accused of criminal offences do not enjoy. Furthermore, I remind honorable senators that a declaration may be set aside although the court may not be completely satisfied that the individual concerned is not a Communist. I find the attitude of the Opposition in this matter very difficult to reconcile with their protestations that they are wholeheartedly behind the bill.
– As the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) pointed out, similar arguments to those advanced in the debate on amendment No. 7 apply to the amendment under discussion. I do not intend to traverse that ground again, but I repeat that the Government is denying to ah individual against whom the allegation has been made that he is a danger to the security of his country, any right of access to the courts to contest that allegation. Again the Commonwealth accepts a very limited onus of proof. It is prepared to accept the burden of proof only if the individual, without knowledge of the charge that has been made against him, goes into the witness-box for crossexamination.
The provision that a court may allow compensation is, in all the circumstances of this extraordinary bill, very reasonable. It is one of the safeguards against arbitrary action on the part of an executive. It is not a matter of the Government being free to award compensation or coats.; It is a matter of a court of this land - either a Supreme Court or the High Court of Australia - ordering that an applicant’s costs shall be paid, and awarding such compensation as the court, in all the circumstances, thinks just. I do not know what phobia the Government or the Attorney-General can have about vesting that rational and reasonable power in the courts of the land. Having regard to the extraordinary powers that the Executive will exercise - powers under which individuals may be sentenced to death and organizations may be damned economically and socially by the mere act of a declaration - the refusal to meet the Opposition in this matter shows how lack of grace has marked the Government’s consideration of the Senate’s amendments. This is not a matter of vast importance, and I should have thought that the Government would decide to get it out of the way so that full attention could be given to the really serious issues, which are, of course, the denial of access to a court on the serious allegation that a person’s activities are prejudicial to security, and the placing of the onus of proof upon an applicant. These are the only matters of substance at issue between the Government and the Opposition.
The other amendment that the Senate inserted in clause 9 at the instance of the Opposition, is set out in sub-clauses 6b, 6c, 6d and 6e, which simply provide that an individual who has not bothered to appeal against a declaration, or whose appeal has been disallowed, may, at some future date, when perhaps he has secured additional evidence, or when he feels that he has reformed and can establish that fact, go to a court and ask for leave to have the declaration re-examined. He is not given access to the court as a right. He has to get the leave of the court, and the court itself lays down the conditions under which consideration will be given to the application. I do not expect that this contingency will arise, but in any case this also is a relatively minor matter having regard to the other issues involved, and quite frankly I am surprised that the Government should be insisting upon the rejection of the provisions. They are important, but I do not seek to elevate them to a position of major importance.
.; - Two authorities are to be concerned with the declaring of individuals under this measure. They are the committee of five and the Cabinet. The manner in which those bodies will make determinations has not been clarified. Which body will be the initial accuser?. Will the Cabinet initiate the proceedings, or will they be initiated by the committee? If a proposed declaration is to be considered first by the committee, by whom will the approach be made to that committee? I should like to know also whether a three to two majority of the committee will be sufficient for a recommendation to go forward to Cabinet that a certain person should be declared. Similarly, will a simple majority of Cabinet be sufficient to have a declaration made? Perhaps the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) will also tell honorable senators something about the procedure that will be adopted in relation to the list of so-called Communists given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his second-reading speech on this bill. Will Cabinet act automatically in respect of those persons when this measure becomes law, or will their activities be investigated by the. committee or by security officers before any action is taken against them? I assume that ultimate responsibility will rest upon Cabinet and upon the GovernorGeneral, but I should like some information aboutthe procedure that is to be adopted, because what we have been told so far is rather vague.
– The honorable senator stated the position accurately at the con clusion of his remarks when he said that ultimate responsibility for this matter would rest with the Governor-General in Council. Expressed in practical terms, it will rest with the ministry of the day. Whether a man is a Communist and whether his activities are prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to the defence of the Commonwealth will be determined by the cabinet of the day on its own responsibility. There is no point in discussing whether decisions will be made by majorities or otherwise. Ultimately, a Cabinet decision is the decision of the whole Cabinet. If a Minister does not agree with a Cabinet decision, and is not prepared to accept responsibility for it, he can resign.
– Do I take it that. Cabinet will discuss every case? There may be thousands or at least hundreds of them.
– I am not prepared to discuss the details of what will happen. The honorable senator may be overstating the position when he says there may be thousands of declarations. I remind him that this bill will not apply automatically to everybody who is a Communist. The Governor-General will have to be satisfied on two points - first, that a man is a Communist, and secondly, that his activities are, or are likely to be, prejudicial to security. I do not think there will be any difficulty in the mechanics of this measure. I cannot understand why I am being asked all these questions because the matters referred to are not at (present before the committee. The issue with which we are now concerned is one that will arise after an effective declaration has been made, and I suggest that we might usefully confine our attention to that matter.
Question put -
That the amendment of the House of Representatives upon Senate’s amendment No. 16be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator T. M. Nicholls.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the committee do not insist on the amendments of the Senate, Nos. 2, 3, 6, 8, 10, 11, 15, 17, 20, 21, 22, and 28, to which the House of Representatives has disagreed.
That sounds like a tall order, in one motion, but it reduces itself to a very small compass. If honorable senators will look at pages 3 and 4 of the schedule which has been circulated they will see a number of amendments which were made by the Senate and to which the House of Representatives has disagreed. I believe that Senator McKenna will agree that most of them are amendments which were consequential upon the amendments with which the committee has just dealt. Honorable senators need not worry about them. The question is whether the Opposition intends to insist upon its amendment that an applicant should be able to have a trial of his application by a jury if he so desires. The committee has already discussed that subject at considerable length and I do not propose to enter into a prolonged debate. I have indicated that in the view of the Government the amendment is entirely unacceptable. In disagreeing with these amendments, and particularly the one about trial by jury, the House of Representatives has set out its reasons. The first of those reasons is -
Because the amendments are designed to and will destroy the efficacy of the proposed law.
I think I have demonstrated that that is true. The Opposition has to face up to it. According to the law as honorable senators opposite wish it to be enacted, there may be a Communist organization in this community, the continued existence of which would be prejudicial to the defence of Australia in the opinion of the Cabinet of the day and the appointed committee.
– There is a law to cover that.
– Those processes having been completed, the organization has been declared. Nevertheless, the Opposition claims that those organizations which are prejudicial to the defence of the country shall continue in existence and shall be able to carry on the activities which are jeopardizing the safety of the community unless the Government can satisfy all of twelve citizens that its allegations are true. That is what the Opposition says. I have not distorted the position in any way.
– It is distortion.
– Senator Nash says it is distortion. I ask him to examine this proposal. If he is then satisfied that what I am saying is not distortion, he should reconsider his attitude in relation to these amendments.
– We have banned the Communist party.
– And I remind the honorable senator that the Labour party banned the Communist party without any trial at all. It banned the Communist party because it was convinced that it was guilty of the allegations that are set out in the preamble to this bill. That is why it was banned by the Opposition.
– The Government had a mandate for that.
– That is a new one.
– No, it is not.
– It is the first time that the Opposition has put that view on this matter. I hope I am doing the decent thing about the Opposition. I give it credit for having banned the Communist party for a good reason. If the Opposition did not do that for the reasons that are setout in the preamble, it did so for no reason at all, and that is worse than ever. That is what the Opposition did with the Communist party. Here is an organization which is affiliated with the Communist party.
– Who said so?
– I am asking honorable senators to assume that it is so. There is no better way toexamine these things than by considering their practical application. Suppose there is an organization which is believed to be affiliated with the Communist party. A committee of five and the ministry of the day agree that it is affiliated with the Communist party and that its continued existence would be prejudicial to the security and defence of the country. The Ministers of the day are responsible for the security of this land no matter to what party they belong. The Opposition says that this process having been followed to completion, the decision of responsible Ministers on the question of security is to become entirely ineffective if one man on a jury of twelve does not agree with what the Government has done.
– Rubbish !
– That is the effect of it. It is of no use saying otherwise. Senator Hendrickson has said that he wants to abolish the Communist party. Here is his chance to prove it. If he believes that that proposition is rubbish, he has a complete misconception of the operation of this clause that the Opposition wants to put into the bill. He should reconsider how he proposes to vote on this bill if that is true, because he has a complete misconception of how it is going to operate. I do not wish to reflect on the jury system, but the Government does not believe it is possible to hand over to a jury the function which must belong to those who are charged with the responsibility for providing for the security of the land. That is the essence of this proposal. It is strange that a political party, which poses to be democratic, should put forward the opinion that responsibility for the security of this land should not rest with the elected representative of the people and, in the final analysis, with the responsible Ministers of the Crown, but should be determined by a chance majority on a jury.
– There is no war in progress at present.
– It is no use approaching questions of security on that basis. I am surprised to hear from one so intelligent as the honorable senator that questions of security are to be dealt with differently because the country is technically at peace and not at war.
– Who says so?
– I say so. There is a great conflict in the world to-day. I think the honorable senator will agree.
– Of course there is.
– And questions of security are always arising. After all, I think the honorable senator sought to remind the committee the other day of a quotation that war is merely a continuation of the policies of peace.
– Oh, no. The author of that quotation added the phrase, “ carried on by other means “.
– Yes, I know. The conflict is there all the time and our national interests may be detrimentally affected just as much in peace-time as in war-time if attention is not given to those matters that are necessary to provide properly for the security of the country. The distinction between peace and war in relation to this proposal is quite unreal. If a question is concerned with the real security of the Commonwealth of Australia, it must be decided by those who are responsible for carrying out the policy of the nation and are vested with that responsibility by the people. That applies whether the problem arises in peace or war.
– Has not the AttorneyGeneral heard about the Crimes Act?
– Of course I have. It cannot be used in the way that the Government proposes to use this bill.
Honorable senators interjecting,
– Am I to gather from that noise that the Opposition is opposed to this bill? Honorable senators on the Opposition side do not seem to be very enthusiastic about it. The Government is asked to believe that the Opposition supports the main principles of this bill, that it wants to get rid of the Communist party and its affiliations, and to free the unions of Communists, yet honorable senators opposite raised a shout of derision when I suggested that somebody was going to take some action under this bill. Why does the Opposition think the Government wants to pass this bill?
– That is what we want
– If honorable senators do not know they should have voted against the bill, but instead they are ready to snipe at it and put up all kinds of amendments which are designed to make it ineffective. The Government’s position is quite clear. It will not accept these amendments and the responsibility must rest on the Opposition for what follows from its refusal to acquiesce in the motion that I have moved.
– The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) is constantly accusing the Opposition of not being enthusiastic about this measure, and he has questioned the Opposition’s attitude repeatedly. I have never been very enthusiastic about the bill. I shall quote one reason. I know of an avowed Communist who is building a great industry in this country. He has the confidence of primary producers and manufacturers, but as a result of this bill he will lose his position and be victimized.
– -Lose what position ?
– He is secretary of a co-operative concern.
– He would not lose that position.
– But he would lose his position if he were an official of a trade union.
– But the honorable senator said that the man was not an official of a trade union. That being so, he would not lose his position. The honorable senator has not read the bill.
– I am very pleased to bear that, but I have a shrewd suspicion that, when this legislation is invoked against Communists holding positions in trade unions and in the Public Service, there will be an attempt to use it also against avowed Communists in other positions.
– I agree with the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) that it is desirable that we should deal at the one time with all the amendments set out on pages 3 and 4 of the memoranda. Most of them are formal, and are consequential upon the amendment that extends the right of appeal to declared persons and organizations. However, amendments Nos. 6 and 15 are in a different category, because they refer to the right of appeal sought by the Opposition for an organization” or an individual on the allegation that it, or he, is prejudicial to security. The Government will not accept the Senate’s amendment on that point. It has taken up the attitude that, the Government having decided that a person or an organization is prejudicial to security, there shall be no appeal to a court from that decision. In the circumstances, therefore, it is not astonishing to find that a government which denies access to a court to a person declared to be subversive, should also refuse access to the well-tried system of trial by jury. I have already pointed out that, in some States, civil cases are heard before a jury.
Under the bill as amended by the Senate, the Government will have all the machinery necessary to enable it to ban the Communist party, and to expropriate its assets. I take it that no Government supporter will deny .that. The Government will also have power to forbid former members of the Communist party to reassociate themselves, or to take any action indicating that they intend to keep the organization going. The penalty for a breach of that provision is five years in gaol. The Government will also have power to pursue the members of the Communist party into other forms or organizations that they might set up or infiltrate. The legislation will .give power to declare such bodies to be unlawful, and to expropriate their’ property. There is power under the bill to declare, not only organizations, but also individuals. Under that provision a declared person may lose his position in the Public Service, or with any authority under the Crown. If he does not hold such a position, he will be forbidden to take one, and a declared person who is an officer of a trade union in a vital industry will lose his position. Those were the three main purposes of the legislation, and those points have been conceded to the Government, with (lie concurrence of the Opposition. I defy any one to say that the Senate’s amendments, on which I hope, the Senatewill insist, could have the effect of preventing the Government from banning the Communist party, from wiping out its affiliates and organizations influenced by Communists, or from preventing Communists from holding positions in certain trade unions or in the Public Service.
The Opposition asks that the Government, in taking action to achieve its ends, shall have regard to the ordinary processes of law. We ask that the serious allegations made against declared persons or organizations shall be ventilated in the courts of the land. The Government, however, is adamant in its refusal, and I take the statement of the AttorneyGeneral to mean that the Government will lay the bill aside. The Opposition is prepared to have the Government do that. The Attorney-General said that the Opposition would be responsible, but I say that the Government will have to account to the people for laying aside a measure which, as amended in the Senate, would allow it to achieve all its purposes, with due allowance for the processes of law, and for justice to individuals and organizations.
– The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) laid great emphasis upon the need to protect the country against the subversive activities of Communists, who, under this legislation, would be declared and found guilty by the Cabinet. Well, the Opposition is prepared to give the Government a free hand to deal with the Communists, and what is he going to do about it? Evidently, after saying that they are engaged in subversive and treasonable activities, after declaring that the Government has the necessary evidence against them, he now proposes to let them slip through his fingers. All it is proposed to do is to declare the Communist party illegal, and to prevent Communists from holding positions in the Public Service, or in certain trade unions. Tha.t is a great penalty indeed for a person accused of treason. The Government says that it will, after declaring the Communist party, chase the Communists into other organizations, but if it has evidence that the persons concerned are engaged in treasonable activities, why let them go? Is it that the Government has so little evidence that it is ashamed to put it before a jury? I say now that the Government is engaged in a sham fight on this issue of communism. If it were sincere, it would not let the Communists go once it had them.
Action will probably be taken against individuals as well as organizations. On the say-so of a peace officer, Cabinet will declare a man to be subversive, and brand him as a traitor. The Cabinet will consist of laymen, with the possible exception of a couple of lawyers. If the Government is prepared to allow a Cabinet of laymen to decide the fate of Australian citizens in that way, why not deal with the matter according to law, and let them be tried by a jury of laymen? The only reason that the Government will not accede to the request of the Opposition in this respect is that it fears that it will not have sufficient evidence to place before a court. I repeat that if the Government were sincere it would not allow subversive persons to escape its clutches, but would charge them before a court, where they WOUld receive a just trial.
– I had not intended to speak, but after listening to the hysterical manner in which some members of the Opposition have defended Communists and avowed traitors, I feel that it is time for me to say just where I stand. A powerful argument against trial by jury for a declared person is that one of their strongest supporters might be on the jury. Even if a Communist were caught blowing up the biggest munitions works in Australia, it would not be possible! to convince that juror that he was guilty. Senator Aylett said that a man could be declared on the word of a single peace officer. I suggest that he read the bill. The Government now proposes to appoint ii committee of responsible men to consider all suggested declarations, and only after the committee has recommended that a person or organization be declared will Cabinet take the matter up. Such a committee would not be likely to fail in its duty. If it did, it would lose the trust of the Government and of the people. The hypocrisy of the Opposition over the issue o of trial by jury is proved by the fact that, for the last six years, there has been no trial by jury in the Northern Territory, although, for the greater part of that time, it was administered directly by a Labour government. Senator Hendrickson said that the Opposition had conceded to the Government full power to deal with Communists; but, in view of the amendments which the Opposition has made to the bill, the Government, in dealing with the Communists, would be in the position of a man with -his arms tied behind his back trying to fight a man armed with a gun. I think that the Government has, perhaps, gone too far in its desire to reach agreement with the Opposition. In no circumstances should it give way any further. It should go to the country, and the people who decided against those traitorous dogs on the 10th December will decide against them again in a way that will stagger the Opposition.
– It is obvious that Senator George Rankin does not understand the Opposition’s amendments. If he did, he would not have said what he has said. One fact that causes honorable senators on this side of the chamber to be very doubtful of the sincerity of the Government in this matter is that a prominent member of the Liberal party, the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes), moved a very important amendment to this bill in the House of Representatives.
– He did not move an amendment.
– He foreshadowed an amendment providing for the repeal of this measure after twelve months. The amendment was-
– I rise to order. The committee is concerned only with the amendments made by the Senate with which the House of Representatives has disagreed. I submit that Senator Hendrickson’s remarks have no relevance to those amendments.
– Senator Hendrickson must confine his remarks to the amendments that are under consideration by the committee.
– -If the Government had been sincere and had accepted the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Chisholm, the
Communists could have been dealt with and the measure repealed within a comparatively short time. However, the Government did not want that. The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) and Senator Maher have said, in substance, that if the bill were passed there would soon be no Communists to deal with, because they would be willing to be martyrs to their cause.
– They would accept the declaration.
– In those circumstances, the Communists would cause no trouble. The Opposition has given its whole-hearted support to the portion of the legislation that deals with the Communist party, but it is not prepared to go where the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) would like to lead it. What is the real reason for the nonacceptance of the Opposition’s amendments? Under British law, any person who is charged with treason or some other serious offence is entitled to be tried by a jury. We have been told by honorable senators opposite that when this bill is passed, all the Communists will go. It will then be required only for one reason - the reason why Hitler introduced similar legislation in Germany in 1933. Hitler -wanted to dissolve, not one organization that was opposed to his fantastic ideas, but all organizations that might oppose him. I venture to say that, if this measure were placed upon the statutebook in its present form and this country were unlucky enough to have a nonLabour government for the next ten years, at the end of that period the great Australian trade union organization would have disappeared. Honorable senators opposite often say that the leaders of the Labour party and the Australian trade union movement in days gone by were great men, but in the past those leaders were bitterly criticized by members of the non-Labour parties. Government supporters say now, in order to mislead the people, “ Things would be different if we had to deal with good Labour leaders like Andrew Fisher and good trade union leaders like John Barnes, but we are dealing with a different set-up to-day “. I venture to suggest that in 25 years’ time the successors of honorable senators opposite will be saying, “ Senators Ashley and McKenna and Mr. Ben Chifley were not bad Labour leaders, but we have a different set-up to-day”.
Under existing legislation the Government has all the power ‘that it needs to deal with any body that breaks the law. Under the Crimes Act, it could deal with the organizations against which it says that this bill is aimed. It would have even wider powers in a time of war. However, that is not the purpose of this bill.
– I rise to order. I submit that the remarks of Senator Hendrickson are not relevant to the amendments that are under consideration.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Senator Hendrickson must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– We insist upon trial by jury because, when the Communists have gone - and the sooner they go, the better it will be for Australia
– Where are they going to?
– I do not know where the Government will put them, but I hope it will put them somewhere. Senator Aylett has pointed out that, although the Government has said that it intends to play “ Old Harry “ with the Communists, it has not said what it proposes to do. with them. In three or four years’ time, when the trade union leaders of this country may be forced to agitate against the conditions that then prevail, this measure may be used to. as it were, put them behind bars. We say that declared persons are entitled to be tried by a jury in the same way as any person who is charged with a criminal offence. I oppose the motion.
Question put -
That the Committee do not insist on the amendments of the Senate Nos. 2, 3, 6, 8, 10, 1.1, 15, 17, 20, 21, 22 and 28, to which the House of Representatives has disagreed.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator T. M. Nicholls.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) put -
That Senators Ashley, Cooke and McKenna be a committee to draw up reasons for the Senate disagreeing to the amendments made by the House of Representatives upon amendments Nos.7 and 16 of the Senate.
The Senate divided. (The President -Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 5.49 to 8 p.m.
– On behalf of the committee I bring up the following report: -
Reasons of the Senate for disagreeing to the amendments of the House of Representatives upon Senate’s amendments Nos. 7 and 16 -
Because the Senate amendments are designed solely for the purpose of providing adequate, proper and reasonable safeguards for securing the just and impartial administration of the proposed law in cases both of individuals and of organizations.
Because the bill in the form passed as amended by the Senate will carry into effect the policy of suppressing the Australian Communist party without unfairly and unjustly penalizing or endangering the civil rights and property of innocent citizens and innocent groups.
Because without the amendments of the Senate the bill represents a complete departure from the appropriate and just processes for the administration of justice and is in conflict with the rule of law well established in all British communities.
Question put -
That the reasons be adopted.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representa tives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spicer) read a first time.
– I move - That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to amend the States Grants (Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave) Act 1949. In October, 1949, awards were made by the Coal Industry Tribunal and the Central Reference Board by which long service leave benefits were granted to coal miners and members of certain other unions engaged in the coal-mining industry. This placed a substantial financial burden on the employers bound by the awards, and the previous Government decided that the financial burden involved ought to be spread equally over the whole of the coal-mining industry and that, if the States ‘ would undertake to reimburse to employers the cost of long service leave, the Australian Government would assist the States by way of grants in relation to such reimbursements and the expenses of the administrative machinery which would have to be set up by the States. An excise at the rate of 6d. a ton was accordingly imposed on coal produced in Australia after the 1st November, 1949, to meet the cost to the Australian Government.
In accordance with these decisions the Parliament passed the States Grants (Coal Mining Industry Long ServiceLeave) Act 1949 and the Coal Excise Act 1949. The former is a short act establishing a coal-mining industry long service leave fund into which is paid the amounts collected as excise on coal or contributed by the States in lieu of excise on coal produced in .State mines. The act also authorizes the payment, by way of grant, of amounts determined by the Treasurer to those States which have undertaken the liability of reimbursing to employers the cost of long service leave where the State has entered into an agreement with the Commonwealth and the agreement has been approved by the parliaments of the Commonwealth and the States.
On assuming office, the present Government decided to adhere to the decisions made by the previous Administration, and entered into negotiations accordingly with all the States that produce black coal. It was considered, however, that the principal obligations of the States ought to be embodied in statutory form, leaving only minor matters of detail to be covered by agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, and the Government of New South Wales, with which the negotiations had reached the most advanced stage, agreed with this view. That State promptly introduced appropriate legislation, which has now been passed. I refer to the Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave Act 1950. The detail which will be covered by the agreement is in process of completion. In the negotiations which have been opened with the other States the Australian Government has proposed that legislation similar to that passed by New South Wales should be enacted by the other States, and has indicated the detail that would be covered by agreement between the Commonwealth and the States.
In view of this change in the method of approach, the Government considers that the present requirement that any agreement should be ratified By the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and of each individual State is unnecessary, since it will relate only to matters of detail, and therefore the bill now before the Senate proposes to remove this requirement of parliamentary ratification. Instead of having a formal agreement between the Commonwealth and the States to cover the matters that have to be provided for and to include this agreement as a schedule to ratifying acts passed by the parliaments of the Commonwealth and of the States, there will now be, in addition to the Commonwealth act authorizing grants to be made to the States, State acts placing on a statutory basis the principal obligations to be undertaken by the States, but leaving matters of administrative detail to be covered by exchange of correspondence between the Governments of the Commonwealth and of the States. Many acts of this Parliament do, in fact, authorize advances to a State in accordance with agreements which the legislation leaves to be negotiated by the Commonwealth with the States without the requirement of ratification. The amendment therefore relates to a matter of procedure, and I commend it to the Senate in order that arrangements may be put in hand immediately to permit of grants being made by the Commonwealth so that those entitled to benefits under the awards may receive them without delay.
– The Opposition offers no objection to the bill, which is purely a machinery measure introduced to validate agreements arrived at by a previous government concerning the provision of long-service leave for those engaged in the coal-mining industry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) put -
That Standing Order 08 be suspended up to and including Friday, the 23rd June next, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 20th June (vide page 4507), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– During the last few weeks we have heard a great deal about the alleged delaying tactics of the Opposition in the Senate. The bill now before us is intended, we are informed, to prevent a deadlock between the Houses of the Parliament in the event of a double dissolution. If ever a chamber of review justified itself, the Senate has done so to-day. I understand that the Opposition proposes to move for the appointment of a committee to consider the whole question of Constitution alteration in relation to the Senate. This bill is ill-advised, illfounded and, instead of preventing deadlocks, it will make deadlocks almost inevitable. Obviously little consideration could have been given to the bill by the Government.. If the purpose of the bill is to prevent double dissolution deadlocks, and if the Ministers in this chamber had anything to do with it, the sooner we have a bill to prevent deadheads in the Senate the better it will be for this chamber. It is almost impossible to imagine a Government asking the people to vote on proposals such as this is. When this measure was first mooted, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) with “ballyhoo “ and hyperbole told the world that he proposed to make a sensational announcement in the Parliament at. a certain time. Everybody wondered what the announcement would be. We asked ourselves whether it could be that Australia had discovered a new super atomic bomb. But, lo and behold, we found that the Government had laboured and brought forth a mouse. The bill was introduced into the House of Representatives and explained by this local Demosthenes with his usual forensic and histrionic ability but when people analysed the measure, they found it to be a mere empty gesture. Ever since federation, the Senate has been the butt of the
House of Representatives. The original method of electing members of this chamber continued right up to World War I. Senator Guy will remember this, as I understand his father was a member of Hie Senate at that time and from what I cun gather, he was a very fine gentleman.
– So is his son.
– I am speaking of the father and not of the son.
– Was he a Labour man?
– Yes, and a good one. The then Prime Minister, Mr. William Morris Hughes, tried to secure the appointment to this chamber of a Tasmanian named Ready. The presence of that gentleman in this chamber would have enabled Mr. Hughes to carry on his administration without a double dissolution. However, somebody let the cat out of the bag and his scheme did not work. A double dissolution was forced. Mr. Hughes then approached the problem in a different way. I was almost going to say that he attempted to solve his problem in the same way as he dealt many years later with the then president of the miners federation, Mr. Nelson, but I shall leave the matter at that. He decided that the method of electing honorable senators should be altered. He devised what became known as the “ one in, all in “ system. He knew that, under that system, if even only 51 per cent, of the electors voted on the Liberal party “ ticket “, every member of his team would be elected to the exclusion of Labour candidates. However, in New South Wales there was a very strong character, “ Jupp “ Gardiner, who had put up a great fight in the two anticonscription campaigns. Senator Gardiner’s efforts caused a split in the Hughes “ticket” in New South Wales, with the result that the Liberal party secured only 35 seats instead of 36.
The Labour party has been accused of having practised ledgerdemain in connexion with the Senate elections. Any one who knows how proportional representation works will admit that it is eminently fair, provided a start is made cn the proper basis. As T. said last night, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), and the rest of the Labour party learned quite a lot from what happened in New South Wales some years ago. I was a member of the old upper house in New South Wales. When that chamber was reconstituted, the then Premier, Mr. B. S. B. Stevens, said that he did not know who would be in the new house, but he knew one person who would not be in it, and that was Donald Grant. However, I was elected to the new upper house. The Stevens Government decided that it would get control of the Legislative Council for all time, so that never again would there be any possibility of the passage of extreme Labour legislation. A referendum was held, and the people of New South Wales, having been worked up into a state of hysteria, supported the Government’s proposal. The scheme can be described briefly. A general election had been held and the United Australia party had received an enormous majority in the Legislative Assembly but the numbers in the upper house were even. The Legislative Council at that time was a nominated house. So, Sir John Peden, a very astute lawyer, Sir Henry Manning, and other we’ll known tories, decided how the council should be constituted. The proposal was that it should consist of 60 members elected not by the general public, but by politicians.
– What has all this to do with the bill ?
– Honorable senators opposite have criticized the Labour party for altering the method of electing members of this chamber. I am merely showing what we did was infinitely less wrong than what was done by the members of the United Australia party in New South Wales.
– It was wrong all right.
– How could it have been wrong all right? However, to cut a long story short, the new Legislative Council was elected by the lower house in which the United Australia party had a substantial majority. On the (first day, fifteen members were elected for twelve years, and the anti-Labour parties secured a majority in that fifteen. On the next day, the same politicians elected another fifteen members for nine years, and once again the anti-Labour parties secured a majority. The same politicians met on the third day, and elected another fifteen members for six years, and on the final day, another fifteen were elected for three years. The result was that the anti-Labour parties had 42 members and the Labour party only eighteen. It tools Labour eighteen years to secure a majority in the upper house; yet honorable senators opposite have the audacity to talk about what the honorable member for Melbourne did !
Having made those few introductory remarks. I come to the bill now before the Senate. The purpose of this bill is to prevent double dissolution deadlocks. I understand that the honorable member for Mackellar in the House of Representatives (Mr. Wentworth) drew attention early this year to something that he had known for some time. He pointed out that, under the present method of electing the Senate, a double dissolution would almost inevitably result in an equally divided Senate.
– The Labour Government altered the method of voting deliberately.
– Of course it did. Does the Attorney-General think that we do not know what we are doing. When the honorable member for Mackellar drew attention to the possibility of deadlocks under the existing voting system, numerous articles appeared in the press. The honorable member’s disclosure was hailed as a wonderful discovery. The problem was given consideration for a while, and then another genius, a combination perhaps of an Einstein and. a Newton announced that he had devised a method by which deadlocks could be avoided. His plan was that instead of having one ballot-paper, there should be two ballot papers, and that the electors should be asked to vote for two groups of five senators, the first group being elected for six years, and the second group for three years, so that instead of five Labour, and five non-Labour senators being elected for each State as would almost inevitably happen under the present system, there would be six Liberal senators and four Labour senators or vice versa, with the result that one party or the other would get a majority in the Senate. That sounded all right, but now we are informed that the proposal has nothing to do with party politics. We are told that this bill is a simple measure designed to overcome double dissolution deadlocks. My view, as I have said, is that it will make deadlocks inevitable. First I shall deal with informal votes. It is estimated - and accurately, I believe - that in New South Wales at least 100,000 people vote straight down a ballot-paper. That was proven when a man named Pollock who led a Christian Democrat group, received 104,000 votes at an election at which his name appeared first on the ballot-paper. Positions on the ballot-paper are allocated by a draw from the hat, and Pollock secured the first place on that occasion. The same gentleman with a team ran at the lastelection and did not take No. 1 panel, but No. 4 or No. 5, and he received less than 2,000 votes instead of 100,000. That means that the person who picks the first position has an advantage of 200,000. According to this stupid bill nobody knows whether one or two “poesies” will be picked. Supposing they toss up and a No. 1 party picks one “ possie “ for six years and the others take it for three years. There will be 200,000 one way and 200,000 the other, resulting in a dead-heat. If that is not a deadlock J do not know what is.
Let us assume for a moment that the plan does come off, although I do not believe that it will. This bill will not prevent double dissolutions. Nobody knows whether there will be one or two ballot-papers. The Attorney-General (.Senator Spicer) said as much last night when replying to Senator Ashley. Every Tom, Dick and Harry will run for the six years term. Suppose there is one ballotpaper and that eight different groups nominate. There will be 24 seeking election for six years and 24 for three years. The big percentage of the people will vote from one to 24 and will then go straight on and vote up to 48. It is a voting maxim that informal votes do not increase in equal ratio to the candidates, but geometrically. Supposing there were twenty candidates and 1,000 informal votes were cast. If 40 candidates were running, there would not be 2,000 informal votes, but 3,000. One has to consider the psychology of the public. They go to the polls to vote for the House of Representatives and do not know much about the Senate. They have done their money betting on horses that start at ten to one and finish at a quarter to five. They are faced with a list of 40 or 50 candidates. If that happened in New South Wales, 250,000 informal votes would be cast.
– That is only in New South Wales.
– Yes, and as they are more stupid in the other States there would be more there. Assuming the result was 60 to 40. That would be a supposititious instead of a suppositious case. Assume that would happen in New South Wales and in Victoria, although it would not happen there now while the anti-Labour parties are fighting among themselves. In New South Wales, as the situation is to-day, it is almost inevitable that whichever party pick No. 1 position on the ballot paper would win. Although in twelve months’ time the Labour party would beat the Liberal party from any position. A. similar result would occur in Victoria. In South Australia there is no reason to assume that the Liberal party would not do as well as last time. Give it all in and say there is a Liberal win of six to four in every State. That would be 36 Liberal to 24 Labour members. After three years, eighteen would go out on one side and twelve on the other, and if there was a swing to the Labour party in each State of one seat, the result would be 30-30 again and the same process would have to be repeated.
– It would be necessary to get a new system then.
– There would be no system ; everybody would be so sick that they would be dead. That is the proposition and it is nothing new. As soon as the Prime Minister came out with his bombshell containing this proposal a letter appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, and I had written a similar one about the same time, pointing out that this is nothing new. Yet the Government wants to submit to the people a referendum on a mass of nonsense such as this is. Are honorable senators opposite prepared to go on the hustings and say that this bill will solve deadlocks? The idea is absolutely absurd. Some wise guy blew down the ear of the Prime Minister and he accepted this scheme without consideration. He said, “That will do me. We can get .six to four if we act quickly”. He wanted to get the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950 to the people. The Government has accepted 40 amendments to that legislation. The Senate exists to see that such nonsense as is contained in this bill is properly ventilated. If the Government had had a majority in the Senate this rubbish would have gone to the people.
I believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) will submit a constitutional proposal later. There should be a convention on the subject. Australia has a horse-and-buggy Constitution. It is suggested in all seriousness that the Parliament should submit this proposal to the people by referendum. That implies the expenditure of £100,000 or £200,000 so that the people may be asked to vote on what is essentially a silly proposition. Senator’ Ashley pointed out that no provision is made for casual vacancies. Senator McCallum said that that had nothing to do with the matter. It has something to do with it, though only indirectly. Senator Ashley’s point was that if anomalies in the Senate are to be dealt with, the Parliament should deal with all of them. I believe that I have shown that such a bill should not be approved in this Senate and submitted to the electors.
– Is the honorable senator frightened?
– It is not a. question of being frightened of the bill. All wise men are frightened sometimes. The man who is_ never frightened has no brains. The highly sensitive man is alert to danger unnecessarily. The Government should admit that no serious consideration has been given to this bill. It has to show that what I and others have said is not true. It must prove that this bill will stop double dissolutions.
– That is easy.
– It may be easy for the Attorney-General, but it is not easy for honorable senators on this side of the chamber. The bill has only one purpose, and that is to get a majority for one party, lt is a matter of political expediency. Does the Government expect the Opposition to accept its invitation ? T arn reminded of the old couplet - “Will you come into my parlour?”, said the spider to the fly. “ It’s the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy.”
Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have been much too long on the road to fall for that kind of proposition. The Prime Minister said that the Senate is holding up legislation. Upper houses throughout the British communities exist to hold up stupid legislation. If it were not for this Senate, the Communist Party Dissolution Bill would have been passed in its original form and the 40 amendments that have since been made would not have been included. Everything goes to show that the Senate is doing a good job. That particularly applies to this bill. I am pleased that the Labour party wishes to submit the anomalies that exist in the Senate to a select committee which could go into all aspects. From my point of view, proportional representation is the most intelligent form of election. Deadlocks will solve themselves without a stupid bill like this. Sometimes it is good to have deadlocks.
Honorable senators who were elected three or four years ago were elected under the Constitution for a six-year term. It is a good idea to have half the Senate standing for election at one time and the other half at another time. That system has been proved sound over hundreds of years of British parliamentary history. It stops people who are drunk with power, like some whom I could name in another place, from pushing something on to the electors before the people know anything about it. It gives the Senate an opportunity to slow down legislation so that it is not approved until the people understand it. I support the suggestion that this bill should go to a select committee and that the whole position regarding anomalies in the Senate should be considered. If necessary, the committee can draw up suggestions that may be submitted to the people for their consent or rejection.
– Honorable senators have enjoyed the oration given by Senator Grant, who, in his genial way, has set out to put up a smoke-screen around the actual issue. Although honorable senators have enjoyed his speech, they do not agree with all that he had to say. Honorable senators should consider why this bill is necessary at this stage. In 1948, the government of the day decided that it would increase the size of the House of Representatives. To comply with the Constitution, it had to increase the number of senators also. A great deal of thought was given to devising a scheme for redistribution and the system of voting. For that reason I am sure that the speech of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) in another place was not new to those who supported the Chifley Government’s bill in 194S. It had such a situation in its mind . very definitely when it proposed the new system of voting for the enlarged Senate. The government of that day went carefully into the position and, knowing what happened in 1947 over the Banking Bill, it realized fully that it was not very popular with the public and would have a very big chance of losing its majority in the House of Representatives when it went to the election in 1949. The Labour party knew that, even though there might be a change of government, it would be able to hold up legislation by using its majority in the Senate, and if, by so doing, it provoked a double dissolution, it would have nothing to fear because, under the system of proportional representation, the parties would be returned in even numbers to the Senate. The system of proportional representation is the fairest one for Senate elections, but that was not the consideration that influenced the Labour Government.’ Only when that Government realized that public opinion was swinging against it, and that it was likely to be defeated in the 1949 election, did it introduce the system of proportional representation, and the alteration has had lie precise effect which the Labour Government expected. If, that Government had been really sincere, why did it not arrange for all senators to go for election at the same time?
Opposition members now claim that this Government hopes to obtain a political advantage under the method now proposed. We cannot go on as we have been going since February. The Government was elected by a large majority in the House of Representatives, but cannot get its legislation through the Parliament, because of the hostile majority in the Senate. The Government believes that it is obliged to give effect to the mandate that it received from the people to put certain legislation through the Parliament. It appears that it will be necessary to appeal to the people again, and it is possible that, under the system now proposed by the Government, it will reap a temporary advantage that will enable it to put through legislation for which it has received a mandate. There is just, a possibility that, even under the method now proposed, there could be a deadlock in the Senate, but it could happen only if three States voted one way and three the other, which is most unlikely. Last night, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) said that he did not expect a deadlock in the Senate even under the present method of voting, but I do not agree with him. To avoid a deadlock, it would be necessary for one party to poll more than 55 per cent, of the votes.
Another advantage of the proposed method is that the people, and not the Senate, will decide who shall be elected for six years, and who shall be elected for three years. The Constitution provides that, after a double dissolution, the Senate . itself shall decide which of the newly elected senators shall sit for six years, and which shall sit for three years. Naturally, the party that is returned with a majority would’be tempted to give all the six-year terms it can to its own supporters, leaving its opponents with all the three-year terms. It is possible, of course, that a majority party might, be big hearted, and would divide the long and short terms more or less equally, but. it is not likely. Under the proposed system, there will be no opportunity for juggling by any party.
When the proposed system is in operation, there will be more opportunity for the Senate to become an effective house of review. I was never in favour of the present method of preferential voting for the Senate, and the Australian Country party has always favoured proportional representation. I agree with Senator Grant that it is the fairest’ system of voting for the Senate, but that was not what influenced the Labour Government at the time it was introduced. The Senate was originally intended to be a State house, but we have, unfortunately, made it a party house. It cannot be an effective house of review unless the system of voting makes it possible for the minority party to be well represented. I agree that there is always a possibility that, when a government is returned with a large majority in the House of Representatives, it may go to the extremes, and sponsor legislation which it might not favour after more careful consideration. When the parties are more evenly represented in the Senate, this chamber can act as a house of review, and its former standing, in such circumstances, could bo restored.
– This bill is designed to enable a government that has gained a majority in the House of Representatives to avoid effective review of its legislation in the Senate. It is a very transparent device. The Government is embarrassed because the Senate is doing what it was constituted to do, which is, to analyse and to point out defects in hastily conceived legislation that would not be in the best interests of Australia. At the present time, the Senate is frustrating the attempts of the Government to fasten harmful legislation upon the people. The framers of the Constitution had in mind just such a situation as the present one when they provided that at, each triennial election for the Senate only half the whole number of senators should retire. That was done in order to ensure that there should be no hasty reversal of beneficial legislation upon the accession to office of a new government.
Senator Reid made the extraordinary statement that if the bill were passed, it would help to make the Senate once more a States house. That is not so. It would make the Senate a mere echo of the party that held a majority in the House of Representatives. The Government has now put forward a proposal which, it claims, will avoid the possibility of a deadlock in the Senate after a double dissolution. It will not do that, although it may reduce the possibility of it. Recently, there have been several State elections in which the voting has been very close. In the most recent election, that in New South Wales, the parties have been returned in almost equal numbers. The people of Australia will not tolerate fascist legislation.
This bill is designed to alter the present method of voting at Senate elections if a double dissolution occurs, but the system is one that the Government parties applauded when they were in Opposition. It meets with the approval of almost all of the democratically minded people of Australia. When the present Government parties were in a minority of three in this chamber, they applauded the action of the Labour Government that was then in power in initiating the system, because they knew that, under it, their representation in the Parliament would be in proportion to the number of electors that voted for them. The Government, having discovered that it cannot force this legislation through the Parliament because the Senate is not a “ yes “ house, now desires to remove effective opposition to its legislation in this chamber. The measure contains no guarantee that the representation of the political parties would be more just and equitable if it were put into operation.
Under the present system, if a double dissolution occurred, and at the general election the people took the view that the Senate should act as a brake upon hastily conceived legislation and did not give the present Government parties a majority in this chamber, recourse could be had to a section of the Constitution which the Government is trying to evade. I refer to section 57. It is an admirable section. The Government is trying to find a way to avoid negotiation between the opposing political parties upon legislation and to silence effective opposition to its actions. Section 57 of the Constitution makes provision for the circumstances that would arise after a double dissolution if the Government could not convince the Senate that it should agree to proposed legislation. It is designed to prevent deadlocks. It reads as follows : -
The Governor-General may convene a joint sitting of the members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives. The members present at the joint sitting may deliberate and shall vote together upon the proposed law as last proposed by the House of Representative!-, and upon amendments, if any, which have been made therein by one House and not agreed to by the other, and any such amendments which are affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of the members of the Senate and House of Representative* shall be taken to have been carried, and if the proposed law, with the amendments, if any, so carried is affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives, it shall be taken to have been duly passed by both Houses of the Parliament, and shall be presented to the Governor-General for the King’s assent.
The Government, having found that it cannot get its own way and not wishing to negotiate, desires to alter the Constitution in order to gain a temporary advantage. If the bill were passed and the referendum carried, the provisions of the Constitution regarding the number of members of each House of the Parliament would be almost ridiculous. The Government suggests that the number of senators elected should be divisible by two without a remainder, but not divisible by four without a remainder. If the development of Australia proceeded to the stage at which it was necessary further to enlarge the size of the Parliament, the number of senators would, under the Government’s proposal, be increased by at least 24 and the number of members of the House of Representatives by a larger number. The position would then be thoroughly ridiculous. I believe that this bill is intended, not to remedy a difficult situation but to gain temporary advantage. Its real purpose is to enable the Government to overcome a deadlock without following the procedure described in section 57 of the Constitution or making use of conciliation and negotiation.
Having listened to the debates that have taken place in this chamber since this Government assumed office, I am convinced that the present deadlock or frustration of the Government is not due to the fact that legislation has not been rightly challenged. I am sure that honorable senators must be convinced of that. The Communist Party Dissolution Bill, conceived by the Prime Minister and other members of Cabinet, was presented to the House of Representatives as a perfect bill.
– I rise to order. 1 submit that Senator Cooke is not in order in discussing a bill with which the Senate has just dealt.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Nicholls). - That is so. Senator Cooke must confine his remarks to the bill now before the Senate.
– If a measure were introduced into the House of Representatives and was found to require amendments, and if, when it left the House of Representatives, it was said to be a perfect bill, and if there had not been an effective Opposition in this chamber to bring its deficiencies to light, the Senate would have been what, in fact, the Government wants it to be, that is, a mere “Yes” house or an echo of the House of Representatives.
I do not think that everything is as it should be in connexion with the powei’3 of the Senate and the method of electing senators in certain instances. I believe that there is a definite weakness in the provisions relating to the filling of casual vacancies in the Senate caused by death or resignation. The weakness was overlooked when proportional representation was introduced. If a casual vacancy occurs, it must be filled by a nominee of the Parliament of the State represented by the senator who has resigned or died. That may be undemocratic if all members of the State Parliament concerned are not elected on democratic lines. In some circumstances, the will of the people may not be given effect. This bill would accentuate that position.
The Government has disregarded the possibility that there may be more than two sets of political parties in this country. Its argument is based upon two sets of parties. It has disregarded independent members of Parliament or the possibility of other political parties entering the political arena. It is possible that the number of political parties- in this country will increase. Even on. the basis that there will continue to be only two sets of political parties, the Government’s argument is weak and cannot stand analysis. Honorable senators opposite have admitted that it is possible that three States may vote in one way and three States in another way and that, in those circumstances, there may be equal representation of the opposing parties in this chamber or the Government may not have a workable majority.
It is necessary that the Senate should not be merely an echo of the House of Representatives. If a government introduces legislation that it thinks is worthwhile, and if the Senate will not pass it, then the provisions of the Constitution should be complied with. If a government is frustrated in the Parliament, after the people have been given a reasonable time in which to assess the merits of proposed legislation; if a double dissolution then occur, and if at the general election the people give the Government parties a majority in the House of Representatives sufficiently strong to outweigh the majority of the Opposition parties in the Senate, a joint sitting of both Houses of the Parliament could be held. Then the deadlock would be resolved and the legislation passed.
Senator Reid said that the present system of voting at Senate elections was conceived by the Labour party for the purpose of maintaining its majority in this chamber. Nothing could be further from the truth than that. The present Government parties applauded the introduction of the present system. They wanted it badly, because they knew it was their only hope. The present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), according to a report in the Melbourne Herald, discussed this matter in December, 1949. It is apparent that he realized then that the people of Australia believed that a Labour majority in the Senate would act as a brake upon hastily conceived legislation, and upon action designed to lower their standards of living by depriving them of the benefit of social services either by trickery or Act of Parliament, and upon the selling out of many of the big schemes of national development by the Labour party. The report in the Melbourne Herald is as follows: -
Labour control in the Senate would safeguard the public - if any safeguard were needed - against extreme or unwanted Liberal legislation, Mr. Holt, M.H.K., said to-day. Labour could not lose control of the Senate in the Federal elections on Saturday, he said. With its majority there, it could block any Liberal legislation from the House of Representatives. The Liberals would then be forced either to drop the measures or force a dissolution of both Houses. If Labour were returned on Saturday, there would be no corresponding safeguard, because Labour would control both Houses.
The Minister put that case to the people. He said, in effect, “ Labour control of the Senate is your protection “. The composition of the Senate cannot be changed, as it were, over-night.
If the Government believes in the legislation that it has introduced, it can go to the people. If, after the general election, it does not have a majority in the Senate, it can invoke the provisions of section 57 of the Constitution and cause a joint sitting of both Houses of the Parliament to be held. The provisions of that section make it almost impossible for a deadlock to occur in the Parliament after a double dissolution.
– The section relates only to one piece of legislation.
– If the Government intends to introduce other measures as badly drafted and conceived as one of the measures that the Senate has considered, and to which many amendments have had to be made, a deadlock may arise in relation to those measures, but I believe that if a government acts in a sane and democratic manner, deadlocks will occur on but few occasions. 33y weighing each other’s arguments honestly, we can agree upon legislation that will serve the best interests of the Australian people. That is what the Opposition is trying to achieve. If we have to go to the people upon it, it will be to our credit.
If the Government believes that we should abandon the present system of control of the affairs of the nation, it could best achieve its objective by introducing a system under which one House of the Parliament would initiate legislation and the other would say, “ Hear, hear ! “ without having examined it. We do not want that position to arise. 3 believe that this problem should be thoroughly investigated by an authority that could consider ways and means of improving the value of the Senate and not detracting from it. The authority could consider such matters as the method by which casual vacancies caused by death or resignation should be filled. It could consider whether a double dissolution need be a condition precedent to a joint sitting of both Houses of the Parliament. It could consider ways and means of dealing with the situation that would arise if the number of political parties increased.
This bill will not prevent opposing parties in the Senate from having an equal number of representatives. It is a transparent device to avoid compliance with the provisions of section 57 of the Constitution. The Government, for the purposes of expediency and in order to gain a temporary advantage, wishes to alter the Constitution in such a way that if, in the future, it becomes necessary to increase the size of the Parliament, the number of members of the House of Representatives will be fabulous and quite out of proportion to the number of persons represented, and the size of the Senate will be increased to such a degree that it will be cumbersome and less useful. I appeal to the Government to withdraw this measure. This chamber should not be a “ yes “ House, but should continue to have the power to watch the interests of the people that we represent.
– in reply - The Oppostion has admitted the case that I submitted in my second-reading speech on this measure. I repeat what I ‘stated then, that this bill is designed to deal with the situation that would arise in the event of a double dissolution, under the system of proportional representation. I have claimed - and the Opposition has not disputed - that because of the application of the system of proportional representation, in the event of a double dissolution almost inevitably the two major parties in this ‘ country to-day would be returned to the Senate with even numbers.
– Of course that has 1 been disputed.
– Although Senator Aylett claims that that contention has been disputed, I remind him that his colleague, Senator Katz, boasted that he was the first man to announce that to the public, and that he had done so within two days of the last election.
– Senator Grant did, too.
– Senator Grant admitted that, under the present system of voting, a double dissolution would result in the return of the two major parties in equal numbers to this chamber. He also admitted that the Labour party knew that that would be the position when it adopted the system of proportional representation.
– That is not correct.
– I understood Senator Grant to say that the Labour party had its eyes open when it introduced the system of proportional representation for the election of senators, and had in mind what had happened, in New South “Wales. I was apparently too generous to honorable senators opposite. At least I was charitable enough to suggest that they might have overlooked this particular aspect. However, as a result of their speeches, I have become convinced that the Opposition in this chamber fears the possibility of a double dissolution. It has probably feared that possibility for some time past. That in itself is justification for this measure.
– How will the bill overcome the position?
– The bill overcomes that situation very simply indeed. Instead of having a poll for ten candidates - an equal number - which, under the method of proportional representation, would almost inevitably result in the parties being returned five to five, there will be two votes for five candidates, one for a three-year term and one for a six-year term. By the proposed method it is obvious that one party must collect three of the five seats in each of the States. As I stated quite frankly in my second-reading speech, this bill is not designed to avoid a deadlock in all circumstances. It d’oes not set out to do that. No bill could do so. It is admitted by the Opposition that under the present system of voting a double dissolution would almost inevitably bring about a result in which the two parties would be returned to this chamber, in equal numbers. Such a situation cries out for remedy.
– Will this measure increase the possibility of double dissolutions in future?
– I think that it is likely to lessen them. The Labour party is frightened enough of a double dissolution at the moment, but if there were a possibility that, following a double dissolution, the majority of the votes of the people of this country would prevail, it would never face up to that circumstance. As I pointed out in my second-reading speech, not only is it undesirable that we should have a situation where, following a double dissolution, the two parties would be returned in equal numbers, but it is also undesirable that this Senate itself should have the right to allocate three-year terms and six-year terms between its members. The evils flowing from that position would affect both parties. It is nonsense for the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) to say that this measure has been introduced to give a political advantage to the present Government parties.
– Of course it has.
– The only political advantage that this measure could bring to the anti-Labour parties in the immediate future arises from the fact that the Opposition realizes that it would not get. the support of the majority of the people of this country, in the event of a double dissolution. I suggest that the only political advantage would flow to the Opposition, if it considers that it would get the support of a majority of the people in this country.
– We believe we could.
– If honorable senators believe that they could, they should vote for the measure.
– For the reason that, in the event of a double dissolution,
Labour would be faced with the same position as now confronts the Government. It is quite obvious that the Labour party’s opposition to this measure arises from the fact that it does not believe that it will get any advantage out of it. Honorable senators opposite do not consider that they could, attract the majority of the people of this country to their cause. Following a double dissolution in which they were defeated they want to be left in a position in which they could frustrate the wishes of the majority of the people of this country by still having an Opposition in this chamber numerically equal to the Government and its supporters. As I have said before, apart from that element altogether, if, after a double dissolution, the parties in the Senate were returned in equal numbers, under the present system there is no certainty that it could allocate the three-year terms and six-year terms among its members, because there is no provision in the Constitution to meet such a contingency.
– We would select so many for six years and so many for three years.
– The two parties have to agree about that. If they are not in agreement it cannot be clone. However, the worst feature, which no member of the Opposition has faced up to, is that under the present method, in the event of a double dissolution tl] e party having a majority of one would be in a position to allocate to itself the whole of the sixyear terms. Although that is undeniable, the Opposition has absolutely refused to face up to the situation. I suggest that that is a most undesirable state of affairs, apart altogether from party politics. Neither the Opposition nor the Government knows what might be the result of a double dissolution in the future. It may be that the Government would have 31 supporters returned, and the present Opposition 29.
– Apparently the Attorney-General is not so sure of himself now as he was several minutes ago.
– Although I am perfectly convinced, I want to examine the matter with the Opposition. In that situation the Opposition claims that it would be prepared for the party with 31 supporters to be left in a position where it could allocate to itself the whole of the 9ix-year terms.
– It would have to give one.
– That party would have to allocate to one of its supportersa three-year term.
– Apparently, the Government wishes to waste about £250,000 of public funds frivolously.
– The honorable senator’s interjection ill becomes a member of a party that wasted thousands of pounds over a scheme for bank, nationalization in this country without consulting the people at all. He should not have any complaints about a proposal to ask the people of this country to approve of this new method. TheLabour party is becoming very undemocratic. The proposal is that thematter should be submitted to the public for decision. Apparently the Labourparty does not wish that to, be done. It is not prepared to submit this simple amendment to the people and allow the people to decide it.
– Why should the Constitution be amended to meet a temporarysituation ?
– This is not a temporary situation at all.
– Of course it is.
– If the suggestionis that proportional representation may not be a permanent feature of our political system, might I conclude that, if Labour were faced with a similarsituation in the future, it would repeal proportional representation? Is that the suggestion? No other political party proposes to do so. It is reasonable, therefore, to proceed upon the assumption that proportional representation is to become a permanent feature of the system of electing members of the Senate.
– But it is still a temporary situation.
– I do not understand how a permanent situation can. be also a temporary situation.
– I meant that the Government proposes to amend the Constitution for a temporary purpose.
– Not for a temporary purpose, but for a permanent purpose. The result that we shall achieve, on a permanent basis, will be that, in the event of a double dissolution occurring, the public, by their votes, will decide which candidates will be elected for six years and which will be elected for three years.
– No; the political parties which endorse the candidates will decide that.
– The public will decide that. It is apparent that the Australian Labour party has lost all faith in democracy. That political party contests a general election, suffers defeat, and then whines about it, and complains that democracy has been misled. In fact, according to the Labour party the only occasion on which we ever have a democratic vote is when Labour wins an election. Senator Grant was quite f rank in this matter when he said that the public are fools.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable senator implied that. When Labour is defeated at an election it always raises the cry that the public were misled by the newspapers or by the Liberal party or by some one else. Apparently the only people who never mislead the public are the members of the Australian Labour party! Of course, they have been doing a pretty good job in their efforts to mislead the public in the last few weeks. All we ask the Senate to do now is to give its imprimatur to the bill so as to afford the public an opportunity to vote on the Government’s proposal. The Labour party, which is now in Opposition in the Parliament, is not prepared to allow the people an opportunity to vote on the proposal.
– How does the Attor- ney-General know that?
– That is what I gather from the speeches made by members of the Opposition in this chamber. Of course, the speeches made by them on this bill may be just as false in reflecting the Opposition’s real attitude as were the speeches they made when attacking other recent legislation introduced by the Government and for which they ultimately voted. The present measure supplies a perfectly simple means of solving one of the problems that confront democracy in this country to-day.
– Talking about democracy, why does not the AttorneyGeneral use his influence to reform the Victorian Legislative Council?
– I happen to be discussing the affairs of this Parliament at the moment. In any event, if I attempted to reply to the honorable senator’s interjection I would be out of order on two grounds, first, that I was answering his interjection, and secondly that my remarks were irrelevant. I submit that the reasons which have been advanced for the bil completely support the proposition put forward by the Government, which should commend itself to every member of the Senate. By supporting the bill the Senate will give the people of Australia the democratic right to decide whether in the event of a double dissolution they desire the affairs of the Senate to be conducted in the democratic way that we suggest.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I move -
I regret that the Government has not seen fit to join with the Opposition in referring the Government’s proposals to a select committee. The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), has emphasized the importance of formulating definite rules for the election of senators and to overcome the difficulties presented by a deadlock following a double dissolution. I do not wish to repeat what has already been canvassed in the second-reading debate, but I suggest that the constitutional provisions under which the Senate functions to-day are entirely out of date, and that the appointment of a committee representing both sides of the Senate, and, in fact, both Houses of the Parliament, would be of great value in making recommendations to solve the problem which now confronts the Government. If the surmises of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) and the Attorney-General are correct, namely, that after a double dissolution the Senate may be equally divided between supporters of the Government and members of the Opposition, I do not agree with the proposals embodied in this bill because they will not obviate the possibility of the Senate being equally divided. Under the Government’s proposals such a situation can arise, first, because of difficulties associated with the Government’s proposal that some senators be elected for a three-year term and others for a six-year term, and, secondly, ‘because three States may elect senators who will support the Government and three States may return senators who will support the Opposition. There are so many latent complications in the clumsy measure that has been introduced bv the Government to remedy the situation that the Opposition proposes that before this measure is enacted, the situation with which it deals shall be examined by a select committee. That committee would investigate and report upon the constitutional difficulties presented by a deadlock between the two Houses of the Parliament and also upon a number of other matters, including the filling of casual vacancies in the Senate, for which no satisfactory method has ever been devised. Reference has been made to proportional representation-
– I rise to order. I am reluctant to interrupt the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley), but it appears to me that he is now elaborating the terms of the motion that he has moved, and that therefore this may be a convenient time for me to take formal objection to that motion. No notice was given of the motion, which provides for an investigation .by a select committee of a number of matters, including the relations between the two Houses of the Parliament. The motion is submitted under the authority of Standing Order 196a.. which provides that immediately after a bill has been read a second time, a motion, of which notice need not be given, can be submitted to refer the bill to a standing committee or to a select committee. In my view any such motion must be limited to the proposal to refer the bill itself, and nothing else, to the committee for examination. The motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition goes much further than that, and I submit that it does not fall within the terms of the standing order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Nicholls). - This is apparently the first time that the matter has been raised, and I rule that the motion is in order.
– In the circumstances I regret that I must formally move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.Standing Order 429 states -
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the President, such objection must be taken at once, and in writing, and motion made, which, if seconded, shall be proposed to the Senate, and debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day, unless the Senate decides on motion, without debate, that the question requires immediate determination.
Senator Spicer having submitted, in writing, his objection to the ruling.
That the question of dissent requires immediate determination.
Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The Senate divided. (The President: - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
– When I was interrupted, I was expressing pleasure that most honorable senators had approved of the method of voting introduced by the Labour Government. Adoption of the proportional representation system has eliminated the possibility of serious inequality in the voting strength of parties in the Senate. The committee that the Opposition seeks could also give consideration to the functions of this chamber. It could consider whether the Senate should be a House of review, instead of a. mere echo of the House of Representatives. I remind honorable senators that the framers of the Constitution intended that the Senate should be a States house, capable of protecting the interests of the less populous States. The committee could give consideration to methods by which that could be achieved.
The sole purpose of the bill before the Senate is to prevent the Opposition, which has a majority in this chamber, from exercising its constitutional right to review legislation. In any event I am confident that the proposed referendum on this proposal to give advantage to one political party would not be carried. The very fact that the parties in this Parliament are divided on the proposal would be sufficient to ensure its defeat. In the history of the Commonwealth only four referendums have been carried. On occasions, referendum proposals that have had the support of all political parties have been defeated. One such referendum was the proposal to confer upon the Commonwealth Parliament power to legislate in respect of civil aviation. After that referendum had been rejected, the Commonwealth’s claim for control of civil aviation was justified by the decision of the State parliaments to confer that authority upon the Commonwealth. I believe therefore that the proposed committee could do valuable work. It could recommend reforms in relation to the Senate that would bring this chamber up to date.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Is the motion seconded?
– Yes. I second it.
– This motion is an obvious time-wasting device by the Opposition to avoid voting against this measure. The speeches that have been made by honorable senators opposite on the bill have indicated their opposition to it.
Opposition Senators. - We are opposed to it.
– Then why did honorable senators opposite not vote against the motion for the second reading The reason is obvious. If the Opposition merely voted against the bill, it would be disposed of by the Senate to-night, and, in three months’ time it could be re-submitted by the House of Representatives. Then, if the Senate again rejected it, the referendum could have been held. The Opposition clearly does not want the public to have any say on this matter. Therefore, honorable senators opposite have resorted to the device of appointing a select committee to inquire into a lot of matters, some of which are not referred to in this bill at all. I say without hesitation that this is a deliberate time-wasting device, designed to prevent the people of Australia from expressing their will on this measure. The conduct of the Opposition in this chamber to-night clearly demonstrates the truth of that assertion. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator
Ashley) said that it was a waste of time to put to the people any proposal to amend the Constitution.
– I said that this proposal would not he carried.
– The honorable senator said that no alteration to the Constitution would be supported by the people, yet he has moved for the appointment of a select committee which apparently will go perambulating this country, taking evidence on matters that are quite clear to anybody, with a view ultimately to recommending some alteration of the Constitution. Clearly the Opposition is quite insincere. I repeat that this is a device to avoid voting against the measure, and to enable honorable senators opposite to say at some future date that the Senate had not failed to pass the bill. That is what they are after as honorable senators will see in due season. It is obvious. There are other ways by which the Australian people will express their will despite the efforts of the Opposition to obstruct them. When they do get the opportunity, it will be a sorry day for the Opposition.
– I should not address myself to this proposal and delay the Senate if it had not been for the provocative speech of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). He has imputed all sorts of motives to the Opposition in moving that this bill be referred to a select committee. I am interested in any method which might prevent a deadlock in the event of a double dissolution. When I heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) make his speech in another place, I felt strongly inclined to support the proposal because I visualized the possibility that there would be a Labour Government in the House of Representatives and a hostile Senate in a few years time. The trouble prevailing then would be the same as that which befell the Scullin Government and has now befallen the Menzies Government. I find on examination of this proposal that the Prime Minister did not take his colleagues into consultation, but sprang it on another place without giving it due consideration. It was hailed as a bomb shell, but examination shows it to be an empty shell. It is a real squib.
If honorable senators opposite are eager to have an investigation to devise ways and means whereby this chamber can be made a more effective part of our parliamentary system, they should support this motion. They know the weighty proposals that were canvassed when this measure was being discussed in another place. Some people suggested that we should adopt a formula similar to that under which, after a certain period, the House of Lords has no right to prevent legislation passed, by the House of Commons from becoming operative. The same thing operates regarding the Senate of Eire and upper chambers in other parts of the world. The New Zealand Government proposes to abolish its upper house. If the Australian Senate is to be reduced to the condition that exists in the House of Lords, the sooner it is abolished the better.
All the ideas that have been expressed from time to time should be canvassed now that the question of an alteration in the composition of the Senate has been brought forward. The Government is responsible for initiating the move. Let something effective be done regarding this chamber. Through the swing of the pendulum a hopeless minority has represented a considerable percentage of the people at times. Honorable senators opposite have imputed an unworthy motive to the Labour party in introducing proportional representation for the last election. They have suggested that it did so in order that it might retain control of this chamber. When this matter was discussed, the Labour Government had not the slightest thought that it might be defeated. Members of the Labour party believed that the Labour Government’s record was such that the people would return it with an overwhelming majority. The leader of the party (Mr. Chifley), who was then the Prime Minister, said, “ If we are going to increase the size of the Senate, for goodness’ sake let us adopt proportional representation so that the other side can be represented “.
What would honorable senators opposite have said if the Labour Government had gone to tEe country at the last election on the old basis of electing senators, and had won? The aggregate votes cast throughout Australia for the defeated Chifley Government were greater than the number cast for the successful Menzies Government. The Labour Government could have gone to the country after enlarging the Senate to 60 members and would have been returned with 57 senators against three sitting on the opposite side. That could have happened to the Senate if the government of the day had not introduced proportional representation. When honorable senators opposite impute unworthy motives to the Labour Government for trying to make this a more effective institution, they should know where they stand. I hope that honorable senators will agree to this proposal in the interests of responsible government so that this chamber will be made an effective institution, and will not be derided as it has been in the past. I hope that the Attorney-General and those associated with him will review their attitude and will decide to co-operate with the committee that has been suggested by the Opposition to investigate fully the future of this chamber.
– As the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has suggested, this is an obvious attempt by the Opposition to avoid the responsibility of taking on its shoulders the blame for having failed- to pass this measure, which is designed to minimize the possibility of a deadlock arising out of a double dissolution. The wording of the resolution is somewhat fantastic. Apparently, some honorable senators are going to have a joy-ride at the public expense to any part of Australia that they care to visit. It is proposed that such a committee - shall have .power to send for persons, papers and records and to move from place to place.
What on earth can such a committee do? What can it produce by going from place to place interrogating people, calling for papers, books and records? The issue before the Senate is very plain and simple, and has been clearly explained by the
Attorney-General. There is another indication that this motion lacks a genuine desire to improve the knowledge of the Senate. When a select committee is appointed it is usual under Standing Order 294 to fix a date when a report shall be made by the committee to the Senate. The motion now before the chamber states that the committee shall report to the Senate at the earliest practicable date. That is after the committee has finished moving from place to place at the expense of the taxpayers on a mission which they must know is utterly futile. Standing Order 294 reads -
On the appointment of every committee, a day shall be fixed for the reporting of their proceedings to the Senate, by which day the final report of the committee shall be brought up by the Chairman, unless further time be moved for and granted; hut the Senate may at any time prior to such day receive the final report of the committee.
What do honorable senators find in this instance? Provision is made for travelling from place to place, and calling on people, and after these peregrinations have been completed, the committee is to report to the Senate “ at the earliest practicable date “.
– Order ! I am informed that it is desired that the motion be altered by leaving out the words “ at the earliest practicable date “ and inserting in their stead the words “not later than the 27th September, 1950”. In order to save time I inform the Minister of that proposed alteration.
– That information saves time to this extent that the peregrinations of the futile and worthless committee will be limited to a certain time.
– I rise to order. The committee that has been nominated comprises members of the Opposition who have been called futile, stupid and worthless. I take exception to that statement and ask that those words be withdrawn.
– Order ! If the Minister spoke of the committee proposed in this motion as futile and stupid, he should withdraw the statement.
– That is a complete distortion of what I said. I am talking about the committee as a committee, and not about the people who form the committee. Honorable senators know I am not saying anything about them personally.
– I am not sure whether I am philosopher enough to separate the committee from its members. The committee is to consist of six honorable senators, and I do not see how the Minister can separate them. It could be done only by some mental legerdemain. If the Minister designated the honorable senators as futile, I ask him to withdraw the term.
-I referred to the functions of the committee. I made no aspersions against the characters of the honorable senators. I spoke of the functions of the committee, and not of the committee itself, and I am sure honorable senators appreciate that no reflection on the members of the committee was ever intended. I say that the functions of the committee are completely futile and useless. Honorable senators who form the committee will have their peregrinations limited to some time prior to the 27th September, but that period could be extended while the majority in this chamber remains as it is. I emphasize that this motion contemplates an inquiry into matters on which this Senate has no power to make any effective or binding recommendations. It is purely a time-wasting device, and, as the AttorneyGeneral indicated, it has been resorted to for the purpose of avoiding responsibility for failing to pass a very commendable measure.
Amendment (by Senator Ashley) - by leave - agreed to -
That the words “ at the earliest practicable date” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ not later than the 27th September, . 1950”.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 4612), as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 25th May (vide page 3195).
Clause 7 (Establishment and functions of Commonwealth Bank Board).
– I am not prepared to agree to this clause until the Government has explained certain points raised by the Opposition. The Government has not been able to point to a single example of a bank functioning better under a board than under a governor, whereas the Opposition has been able to demonstrate conclusively that the best results were obtained by the Commonwealth Bank when it was controlled by a governor. The proposed bank board will consist of persons appointed to serve sectional interests. The Government will not say what interests they will serve, nor will it disclose who five of the members of the board are to be.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable senator in order in discussing the personnel of the proposed board when the clause before the Chair does not relate to that aspect, but deals specifically with the establishment and functions of the proposed board?
– Order! I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the clause before the Chair.
– I am directing the attention of the committee to the manner in which banks that have been controlled by a board have operated in the past, and I am showing that such institutions have not always operated in the interests of the people. Gladstone, who was one of the most famous of British Prime Ministers, exposed the ruthless fashion in which the Bank of England and London’s financial interests, known as “ The City asserted their power. He said -
From the time I took office as Chancellor of the Exchequer I began to learn that, in the face of the Bank and the City, the State had an essentially false position as to finance. . . . The hinge of the whole situation was this: The Government itself was not to be a substantive power in matters of finance, but was to leave the Money Power supreme and unquestioned. In the conditions of that situation I was reluctant to acquiesce, and I began to fight against it, by financial self-assertion, from the first … I was tenaciously opposed by the Governor and the DeputyGovernor of the Bank, and I had the City for an antagonist on almost every occasion.
That is a complete condemnation of the system of control of banks by boards. Gladstone showed that when the Bank of England was controlled by a board, it asserted supremacy over the British Government at a time when the British Empire was at its zenith, and that the British Government had to submit to dictation bv that institution. We had a similar experience in Australia when the Commonwealth Bank was previously controlled by a board. Thomas Jefferson, who was President of the United States a generation before Lincoln, put the matter to the American people in these words -
If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first hy inflation and then by deflation, the corporation that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all their property, until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.
– How could people wake up homeless, if they were in bed ?
– I remind the honorable senator that during the depression that occurred in this country not many years ago, thousands of our people, including primary producers, found themselves homeless. They were stripped of all their property as the result of the policy that was carried out by the Commonwealth Bank, which at that time was controlled by a board.
– That is not true.
– I find it difficult to believe that the honorable senator does not remember the depression that occurred in this country in the early ‘thirties. At that time the private trading banks and the Commonwealth Bank called in overdrafts and restricted credit and thus brought about conditions which, I suggest, will be repeated if the Commonwealth Bank is again placed under the control of a board. It is most unfortunate if some honorable senators are so lacking in knowledge of political affairs that they do not know of the economic disaster that befell this country in the early ‘thirties.
– That depression was world-wide.
– I do not deny that statement; but the honorable senator would not require to engage in much research into financial matters to realize that world-wide depressions have been caused by banking institutions that have been controlled by boards that have invariably restricted credit at times when they should have expanded credit. The depression that occurred in Australia in the early ‘thirties was man-made. It was engineered by the money powers which applied their policies under the system under which banking institutions are controlled by boards.
– The honorable senator is stretching his imagination.
– Perhaps the honorable senator will be better informed when I mention some facts about the operations of the House of Rothschild.
– I rise to order. Apparently, the honorable senator is debating whether the Commonwealth Bank should be controlled by a board that will be able to dictate to the Government. I point out that the measure specifically provides that the proposed board shall be under the control of the Government.
– I ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the clause before the Chair.
– The .Government has not given us any reason to believe that any board that it appoints to control the Commonwealth Bank will not implement policies of the kind that were implemented by the board that previously controlled that institution. Many years ngo, Meyer Rothschild, head of the House of Rothschild, who founded the great r- l.i fi i ti of Jewish banking houses that constituted the most powerful financial empire the world has ever known, said -
Permit me to issue the money of a nation and I. care not wlm makes its laws.
According to the Canadian economic magazine, Instructor, the Rothschilds evolved the following plan : -
Firstly. - To place rulers and leading politicians under obligations by loaning them (and their Governments large sums.
Secondly. - To prostitute the press by granting or withholding patronage through business organizations which had borrowed, or hoped to borrow, money.
Thirdly. - To obtain the favours of colleges and churches by large donations and by posing as generous philanthropists.
Fourthly. - By paying writers constantly to spread the idea, that money is a mysterious subject that can be understood by only .a very few people.
The Rothschild family tried to hoodwink the people with the myth that money is a mystery. The Rothschild banks were controlled by boards.
– I rise to order. What has the history of the Rothschild banks, which were private banks, to do with the proposal to establish a board to control the Commonwealth Bank, which is a government institution ?
The TEMPORARY Cil AIRMAN.T ask Senator Aylett to connect his remarks with the clause under consideration.
– I am attempting to do so. It is evident that what I am saying is more than Senator George Rankin can stomach.
– I rise to order. Senator Aylett is discussing bank boards that were not appointed by governments. The clause relates to a government- appointed board. I submit that Senator Aylett’s remarks are not relevant to the clause.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask Senator Aylett to connect his remarks with the clause under discussion.
– I was endeavouring to do so when Senator Mattner rose to order. It is apparent that some honor:able senators opposite are not prepared to allow me to connect my remarks with the clause. The Government wishes to establish a Commonwealth Bank Board and to empower it to perform functions similar to the functions performed by the other bank boards to which I have referred. That is my point. What can we expect of a bank board the members of which will be representatives of the same financial interests as those that were represented by the members of the other bank boards that I have mentioned ?
– The honorable senator is not discussing the clause under consideration, which states that there shall be a bank board and describes what it shall do.
– I have quoted what eminent authorities have said about the operations of banks under boards. It is apparent that that has hurt honorable senators opposite. I challenge them to tell me of one bank board in the world that has operated for the benefit of the people as a whole.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I accept Senator Aylett’s challenge. I mention the Commonwealth Bank Board that functioned from 1924 onwards. Senator Aylett would have the committee believe that while that board was in existence the Commonwealth Bank made no progress, but I have extracted figures from the balance-sheets issued by the bank which show that that is not so. In 1924, the profit and loss account of the Commonwealth Bank showed that the bank made a profit of £261,012. That was the year in which the Commonwealth Bank Board was established. In 1925, the profit made by the bank increased to £452,351, and in 1926, to £472,558. In 1927, the Rural Credits Department of the bank was established by the BrucePage Government, and in that year the bank made a profit of £641,126. In 1928, the Commonwealth Savings Bank was established. In that year the bank, from all its operations, made a profit of £691,206. In 1929, the profit increased ;o £725,658; in 1930, to £782,024; and :n 1931, to £793,807. During those years, under the control of a bank board, the Commonwealth Bank made continuous progress.
Senator Aylett would also have the committee believe that when the depression began the trading banks - and I presume the Commonwealth Bank as well - withheld credit from people who wanted it. The figures show that that is not so. In 1929, the nine trading banks made advances totalling £257,000,000. In 1930, the total of the advances increased to £280,000,000. In 1931, it dropped to £261,000,000, but that was greater than the total advances made during 1929. The decrease in 1931 was not caused by funds being withheld by the banks but by a reduced demand by borrowers. The banks were prepared to advance all the money that borrowers needed in that year. Senator Aylett would have us believe that the banks clamped down upon borrowers, called in overdrafts and put primary producers off their properties, but nothing like that took place. In 1932, the private banks advanced £262,000,000. In 1933, when the depression was beginning to recede, they advanced £279,000,000. These are authentic and up-to-date figures.
– They are very much out of date. Is not the Minister able to cite the figures for 1946-47 ?
– The figures that I have cited completely refute the arguments advanced by Senator Aylett.
– What arguments do they refute ?
– They refute completely the statement that during the depression years the private banks called in overdrafts. Is it likely that overdrafts would have been called in and that other advances would have been made at the same time? The figures which I have cited cover a period in which the Commonwealth Bank enjoyed uninterrupted prosperity. Opposition senators would have us believe that when the bank was under board control it was being slowly strangled. The figures that I have cited prove beyond any doubt the falsity of such a claim.
– Senator Aylett referred not to the Commonwealth Bank but to the private banks, but of course, the Minister would not understand that.
– The figures that [ have cited relate to advances that were made by the nine principal trading banks. Honorable Opposition senators should be more sure of the facts before they speak on matters of this kind.
– Such a considerable time has elapsed since this bill was last before the Senate that it is difficult for us to recall what stage had then been reached. During the earlier discussion in committee on two or three occasions I directed questions to the Minister in charge of the bill, but I regret to say he neglected to reply to them. I have always understood that it is the accepted practice for responsible Ministers’ to answer, as far as they are able to do so, all questions directed to them during the committee debate. Immediate replies to questions facilitates the progress of the bill through the committee stage.
– Does the honorable senator claim that certain questions which he asked have not been answered ?
– Yes. Answers should be given as soon as opportunity permits so that needless repetition may be avoided. I understood the Minister to say a few moments ago that the Senate is now dealing with the establishment and functions of the Commonwealth Bank Board. We are now discussing clause 7 and I assume that in doing so we may deal with any matter that comes within the scope of the new sections which are proposed to be inserted under that clause. Proposed new section 9 (1.) reads -
There shall be a Commonwealth Bank Board, which shall be constituted in accordance with Fart V. of this Act.
What necessity exists for the appointment of such a board? The Government has not advanced any reasons to justify a departure from the existing practice of administration of the bank by a governor with the assistance of an advisory committee. If this bill be passed the advisory committee will be dispensed with and we shall revert to the system of control that was brought into operation in 1924 as the result of interference by the then government with the control of the Commonwealth Bank.
The Government may have good reasons to justify the proposed change, but it has not yet stated them. We are entitled to know what motives have actuated it coming to a decision to revert to the system of board control. The committee has been given no information about the persons whom the Government proposes to appoint to the board. For all we know, it may intend to appoint persons who have an interest in banking, notwithstanding the fact that the bill specifically provides that a person who is a director or an employee of a corporation the business of which is wholly or mainly that of banking shall not be capable of appointment as a member of the board. This proposal to revert to the system of board control should be most carefully considered. The Commonwealth Bank was first established in 1911 and from then until 1924 it was administered by a governor and it progressed rapidly. The bank was so successfully managed that even the ridiculously small initial capital of £10,000 was not needed. In 1924 the bank was still progressing - indeed its progress was so great that it had begun to interfere with the business of the private banks - and the anti-Labour Government which was then in office decided that something had to be done to curb its activities, lt, therefore, abandoned the former system of control and established control by a board.
– Under board control the bank made even greater progress.
– Not at all. The Minister’s figures are completely misleading. During the second-reading debate I cited figures relating to the business of the bank that I had extracted from the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems.
– The figures that I cited were issued by the Commonwealth Bank itself.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The Minister must refrain from interjecting.
– During the depression years the private banks issued far loss credit than they did in earlier years. Ir, cannot be denied that the private banks restricted credit and called up overdrafts at short notice in the depression years. As a result, thousands of small business people were forced out of business, while hundreds of thousands of working-class people were out of employment. Many lost their equities in their homes. Many workers lost almost everything that they possessed because the Commonwealth Bank Board did not face up to the national requirements of this country. The board was merely the agent of the private trading banks. Its policy was in consonance with the policy of the trading banks. It is well known that during the depression about 300,000 workers were out of employment in this country. When the Parliament required £18,000,000 to rehabilitate the farmers, the Commonwealth Bank Board refused to provide the government with accommodation, contending that such a. step would ruin the country by upsetting its equilibrium. What confounded rot and hypocrisy; The people were forced to starve. Since 1945 the Commonwealth Bank has been under the control of a Governor, assisted by an advisory council, which is absolutely independent of outside interests, and is composed of persons with no axe to grind. As a result the Commonwealth Bank has progressed tremendously. The greatest obstacle confronting it to-day is the difficulty of getting sufficient staff and. accommodation to develop still further. As honorable senators know, the Commonwealth Bank performed valuable work not only during the war period, but also during the immediate post-war years, by assisting the country to meet its financial obligations. Furthermore, it has kept the private banks under control. However, the Government wants to revert to the system of control by a. bank board, which would prevent the bank from expanding further. I repeat that this proposal is u pay-off to the trading banks by the political parties in office for the services that were rendered to them during the last general election campaign. I feel very hot under the collar about this matter. During that campaign the opponents of Labour made many untrue statements about what the Labour party would do if it were returned to office. However, prior to the commencement of tl at campaign, the Labour party had announced that it would abide by the decision of the Privy Council in relation to the proposed nationalization of banking. Although honorable senators opposite know of that announcement, they gratefully accepted the assistance of employees of the trading banks to spread the deliberate untruth that Labour wanted to socialize and interfere with banking in every possible way.
– What about talking a little common sense for a change? I have never heard such tripe in all my life.
– Order ! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I am possessed with as much common sense as is the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner). It is evident that he does not like the truth-
– The honorable senator is talking utter nonsense.
– There is no necessity to re-institute the Commonwealth Bank Board. It would be against the interests of the majority of the people of this country to do so.
– It would be treachery.
– I agree with Senator Ward that it would be treachery. Although some honorable senators opposite will not admit it, banking is a very lucrative business in this country. Provided the banks do not suffer any worthwhile competition, they oan exploit the people. I remind honorable senators that in the ‘nineties between 20 and 30 private trading banks were operating in this country. As a result of amalgamations and absorptions that number has been induced to nine, and in the near future it may be still further reduced to eight. Ultimately the position might be reached when there would not remain even one hank owned by the people, but only one owned by an organization that could dictate its terms to the people and to the Government.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- The clause provides for the reconstruction of the Commonwealth Bank Board, which is in accordance with the mandate that the Government received from the people on the 10th December last–
– It did not receive such a mandate.
– The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated in his policy speech -
We propose to set up, under control by Parliament, a small board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank, of which the Governor of the Bank shall be chairman.
In view of that statement, how can honorable senators opposite justify their contention that the Government did not receive a mandate to reconstitute the Commonwealth Bank Board ? The people of this country expressed their approval of the proposed action in no uncertain manner. Honorable senators opposite have greatly distorted the proposed functions of the body to be established. They have claimed that under one-man control the bank has progressed more than it did when the board system of control prevailed previously. I point out that under one-man control, the total profits of the Commonwealth Bank to date have been only about £17,000,000, of which the note issue has been responsible for approximately £13,000,000. During the period that I have mentioned the net profits of the Common/wealth Bank, including the Commonwealth Savings Bank, but excluding the profits from the note issue, were slightly more than £4,000,000. Over the same period the trading banks of Australia paid to th Commonwealth more than £11,000,000 in taxes. The taxes paid by shareholders on dividends were an additional return to the Treasury. During approximately three years of one-man control the Treasury has received more from the operations of the trading banks than it has received from the operations of the Commonwealth Bank. I suggest, therefore, that honorable senators cannot say with justice that the bank has made more favorable progress under one-man control than it did under the control of a board. Some honorable senators -opposite have alleged that the former bank board was responsible for the economic depression of the 1930’s. I remind honorable senators that the trade union movement generally in 1937 approached the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and asked for a prosperity loading on wages because of the splendid recovery that Australia had made from the effects of the depression. That recovery was largely due to the operations of the bank board. The board dealt with the problems caused by the depression so effectively that Australia was the last country to be affected by it and was also the first country to emerge from it. The banks of Australia generally expanded credit during the period of depression almost to a dangerous point. They financed the war effort and controlled the financial activities of the war in a masterly way. The board was not in any way responsible for the depression which, as has already been pointed out, was world-wide. A Labour government was then in control of this Parliament and Labour governments were in office in three or four of the States. I am not suggesting for one moment that they were responsible for the depression. They had no more to do with it than had the Commonwealth Bank Board. The economic position of Australia during the depression was the result of circumstances over which no government, whether Labour or Liberal, had any control whatsoever. That position was the result of the collapse of our export prices and the consequent collapse of our export industries.
The re-establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board will definitely not adversely affect the operations of the bank, but indeed will develop and extend them and give -them a fillip. More importantly, it will give confidence to the people to know that a board of experts, instead of one man, is in control of their financial affairs. Some honorable senators have mentioned the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems. T. point out that one of the recommendations of that commission was that the Commonwealth Bank Board should continue to operate. I submit that no business of any magnitude in Australia or anywhere else is controlled by one man only. There is always a board, of directors. Yet the Opposition wishes to retain one-man control of such an important institution as the Commonwealth Bank, which influences the whole of our financial affairs. The socialist government of Great Britain did not deem it advisable to abolish the board of directors that controls the nationalized Bank of England.
– That board consists of eighteen directors.
– Yes, there are eighteen of them. It is no innovation for a board to’ control a central bank. Indeed, it is the usual practice throughout the world. The only countries which do not have board control of their central banks are Russia and its satellite countries and Spain. The Opposition would like to see the banking methods of those countries used in Australia despite the wish to the contrary that the people expressed at the last general election. As I have said, the nationalized Bank of England has a board of eighteen directors. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is controlled by nine directors; the Bank of Canada by eleven directors; the Reserve Bank of India by fourteen directors; the South African Reserve Bank by eleven directors and the Bank of France by twelve directors. The Central Bank of Eire is controlled by a governor and thirteen directors. The national banks of Portugal, Roumania, Finland, and a number of other countries are all controlled under the board system. I suggest that if honorable senators are democratic they will accept the mandate that the people gave to this Government for the establishment of a bank board.
– The Government has no mandate in that respect.
– I arn sorry for the condition of the honorable senator’s intelligence, because the Prime Minister clearly stated in his .policy speech that if the present Government parties were elected to office, they would establish a board to control the Commonwealth Bank. If the honorable senator cannot understand plain English, I cannot supply him with the capacity to grasp facts, and I must leave him in his colossal ignorance.
– The case of honorable senators in support of this bill seems to rest on the fact that the parties now in office went to the country on many issues and received a mandate to govern. Having received that mandate the Government considers that it has nothing to do but implement legislation in a manner that it did not describe to the public when it sought their votes at the general election. It has been most interesting to hear Senator Cooper and Senator Guy cite figures to illustrate the progress of the Commonwealth Bank from 1924 to 1931. Up to the year 1930-31 there was a progressive increase of profits while the bank was under the control of the board. That is admitted, but what was also happening then was that throughout a period preceding one of the worst depressions that we have ever experienced, the Government’s policy was to borrow money overseas. All honorable senators will recall the “ Tragic Treasurer “, Sir Earle Page. I admit that the banks then made profits, but they were not serving the people’s interests at a time when there was an abundance of supplies and material and when workmen were falling into unemployment. The reason for that fact was that the policy of the banks was one of the development. I do not lay the blame altogether for that upon the board except in relation to one point which, curiously enough, honorable senators opposite have ceased to discuss. I refer to the position of the board in its relation to the Commonwealth Bank and in relation to the welfare of the people of this country. The report of the board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank in 1929 stated in effect that the bank had been so successful in making profits up to 1929 that it was actually becoming a challenge to the private banks in fields that had been very lucrative to them. So in 1929 that board, which was responsible for the conduct and development of the Commonwealth Bank, which had been established to provide an alternative to the private banks in case the private banks failed, as they have done on many occasions in this and other countries and which have failed to meet their debits-
– Why did they fail ?
– They collapsed. The statement in the report of 1929 to which I have just referred is an extraordinary one. It was to the effect that the Commonwealth Bank could only perform such services within the ambit of central banking as the inclination or desire of the trading banks allowed. That was in 1929, immediately before the depression, and it is significant of the attitude of the members of the board that they recommended to the Government that the Commonwealth Bank should not operate as a trading bank. At that time a Labour Government was in office and it was desperately endeavouring to cope with the unprecedented conditions which beset Australia. At the same time the board of the Commonwealth Bank insisted upon shackling the efforts of the institution which should have been Australia’s greatest stand by in its hour of need. When the board assumed control of the Commonwealth Bank the bank had 60 branches, hut instead of opening new branches the board decided to convert many branches into mere agencies, so that intending customers of the bank could be referred to the competing trading banks.
The Government has said repeatedly that there is nothing sinister in its proposal to revert to the system of board control of the Commonwealth Bank. However, I point out that in the few months that have elapsed since the last election the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), who had great business dealings with the United States of America, has induced a number of powerful industrial and financial interests overseas to acquire control of certain Australian enterprises with the result that the policy of those enterprises is being subordinated to those of their overseas competitors. The policy must inevitably undermine our economy.
Reverting to the depression, I remind honorable senators that in 1932-33, when it was apparent that despite the restrictive policy of the board. the Commonwealth Bank was making substantial inroads into the profits of the banks, the board recommended to the anti-Labour Government of that time that the bank should not be permitted to continue to engage in competition with the trading banks. In other words, the board wanted the bank to cease to function as a trading bank. As a result of the nation’s unhappy experience of the trading banks during the depression, a former Prime Minister, Mr. Scullin, had consistently stressed the need to nationalize those banks. However, in 1938 the present Minister for National Development introduced legislation to convert the capital of the Commonwealth Bank into debentures and inscribed stock which should be offered for sale to the public. The effect of that proposal would have been to destroy entirely the Commonwealth Bank as a national institution. The present proposal of the Government will enable it to establish a board which can make decisions on matters of policy, and so long as those decisions do not conflict with the views of the government of the day the Parliament need never be informed of its decisions. For instance, so long as the decisions of the proposed board coincided with the views held by the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), the Parliament would not be informed of those decisions no matter how important they might be. It is quite obvious that the trading banks did not pour out money to discredit Labour and to support the anti-Labour parties before and during the last election without any prospect of achieving something that they desired. Undoubtedly they hoped that the present Government would prevent the ‘Commonwealth Bank from continuing to compete with them effectively, and that ultimately they hoped to destroy that institution altogether as a competitor. The history of the Commonwealth Bank under Labour and anti-Labour administrations supports my argument. During the years that that institution, which was founded by a Labour administration,, functioned under the sole control of a Governor it expanded and prospered. In 1924 when a board was first appointed to manage the bank, the first period of expansion came to an end. Later, in 1929, when Labour attained office and removed some of the restrictions that were hampering the development of the hank, it again expanded. However, the activities of the board under the succeeding anti-Labour administrations effectively prevented the bank from developing and offering free and open competition to the trading banks. Instead, it was not until the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945, which removed the board and again placed the bank under the control of a Governor, was passed that it again began to expand. During the recent war, as in World War I, the trading banks were unable to provide the finance required for Australia’s war effort, and the Commonwealth Bank had to come to the rescue.
To give honorable senators some idea of the policy that might be pursued by a board such as the Government proposes to appoint, I mention that during the depression when the wheat farmers of Western Australia were in sore straits and were receiving only ls. lid. a bushel for their wheat, and they applied to the former board of the Commonwealth Bank for assistance to market their crop, their request was refused. They had to go to a co-operative bulk handling organization, which approached the cooperative movement in England and obtained a loan of approximately £4,000,000. The Commonwealth Bank- even refused to handle the transfer of the credit involved, and the bulk handling organization had to go to the English, Scottish and Australian Bank to handle the transaction for them, at considerable cost. I emphasize that the board, and not the bank itself, was responsible for that institution’s failure to assist the wheat farmers in a matter of national importance. The proposed board may decide to increase interest rates or to do a number of other actions which it is empowered to do as the central reserve bank, and so long as its decisions do not conflict with those of the Government those decisions may never be brought before the Parliament for review. Honorable senators will realize the harm that might be done by a board which, was not acting in the best interests of the nation. The proposed board, which will consist of three representatives of the Government and seven other members, will not be a small one. The Government has assured us that the individuals who will be appointed to the board will be competent, and I have no doubt that they will possess reasonable competence according to their qualifica tions. However, I think that any board appointed should act only in an advisory capacity to the Governor of the Bank. It is quite evident that if the views of the members of the proposed board conflict with those of the Governor of the bank, their views will probably prevail, notwithstanding that the Governor of the bank is an expert in banking and thoroughly understands the institution which he controls. After all, the most important attribute which the controllers of the national bank can possess is a thorough understanding of hanking. It follows, therefore, that the Government’s proposal to appoint to the board persons representing interests other than banking will not necessarily increase the effectiveness of that institution but, on the contrary, may do positive harm to it.
The bill represents a move by the Government to introduce a body to act as a buffer between the Government and the people. Its existence will enable the present Government to repudiate responsibility for actions taken by the board that coincide with its policy, and generally to carry out the negative policy that characterized the previous board. Once again I emphasize that unless the proposed board comes into direct conflict with the Government of the day the Parliament will be kept in ignorance of its actions. The only way in which the board is likely to come into conflict with the present Government is by taking action which adversely affects the interests of the trading banks and other financial concerns. When overdrafts were called up in 1931, the value of property was at a very low ebb. The farmer -lost, and the country lost, when foreclosures occurred, but the bank never lost. When the banks foreclosed, their advances were well covered by the proceeds from the sale of the properties, even when the values of those properties were at their lowest ebb.
Some form of control of the Commonwealth Bank is required whereby if it ever again occurs that there are plenty of commodities, workmen and materials and work to be done, it will be possible to formulate a financial policy whereby this . country, which is almost undeveloped
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I should think that there would be general agreement on both sides of the Senate that one of the most important institutions in Australia outside of this Commonwealth Parliament is the Commonwealth Bank. Clause 7 of the bill contains the formula under which the Government proposes that that Commonwealth Bank shall be managed and controlled. That being the case, I submit that this is probably the most important clause in the bill. Therefore, I cannot help but commence my remarks by being critical and by saying that during this debate the Opposition have given surprisingly little attention to that formula, under which it is proposed that the bank should he controlled and directed, and which establishes tho relationship of the bank to the National Parliament. Far too much time has- been devoted by the Opposition to dealing with what occurred during the depression. The Opposition must learn that the wheels of the world- move on, and that the depression occurred twenty years ago. This legislation has been designed to deal with banking in the year of grace, 1950, not that of 1930. The conditions provided for in this bill are entirely dissimilar to the conditions under which the Commonwealth Bank was controlled in 1930. This bill provides that the will of the National Parliament shall prevail. It provides that, in the event of a dispute, the Treasurer on behalf of the National Parliament may instruct the directors of the Commonwealth Bank upon what policy they shall pursue. That was not the position in 1930, so that all these sob stories which honorable senators have told about the depression are entirely inappropriate to- this measure.
– The Government wants to appoint the board again in order to damage the bank.
– After Rip Van Winkle had slept for 20 years he came back and found a new set of conditions. That, Senator Ward, is your situation. You listen to. the debates, you make the rudest remarks to everybody. You rely upon your old age to protect you from retaliation, and you are discourteous to everybody present.
– Order ! The honorable senator must address the Chair.
– I know what a Liberal government does.
– I suggest that the attention of honorable senators should revert to the bill. This clause provides the formula whereby it is proposed that the bank shall be controlled. That formula is within the four corners of the policy which the Liberal party placed before the people before the last general election. That party said to the people, “ These are our proposals with regard to this national institution, the Commonwealth Bank “. It was announced that a hoard would be established which would be subject to the direction of Parliament. The establishment of that board has been provided for in this bill. More important is the fact that this proposal is in keeping with the modern trend of banking conditions. So far as I am aware, there is no central bank in any democratic country which is not controlled by a board of a composite nature such as is proposed in this bill. The alternative to the board is that this great national institution shall be controlled by a small coterie of officers who would be under the political domination of the Treasurer of the day. The Government does not believe that that method of control should be retained. The Government believes that there should not be any hole and corner arrangement in regard to this great national institution. It considers that the clear light of day should be allowed to shine on all banking transactions of moment upon which there is a dispute between the bank and Parliament. That principle is embodied in this clause sothatin any great national crisis which may occur the Parliament which, in the final analysis, has to take the responsibility, will have all the facts before it.It will have the facts of the matter which is in dispute set out together with the views of the bank and the views of the Treasurer. A recommendation will be received from a board which will have been constituted in accordance with the recommendation of the banking commission, and in accordance with the modern world trend of banking in such a manner that all may clearly see the problem with its implications.
For those reasons I commend the clause to the committee.
Question put -
That the clause stand as printed.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator J. H. O’Byrne.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 8 consequentially amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 negatived.
Clauses 11 to 14 agreed to.
Clauses 15 to 17 negatived.
Clause 18 agreed to.
Postponed clauses 4 to 6 negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion of Senator McLeay) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now road a second time.
The Government and the Opposition in another place gave this bill their unanimous blessing. Five bills are involved, four being complementary to the first. I shall deal with the subject-matter of all the bills in this speech. I have given Senator Courtice a copy of my speech. The Government is anxious that these measures should be passed without delay so that the relevant department can set up the machinery to commence operations under the scheme on the 1st July. The.proposal envisages preparations for the possible establishment of a scheme of reserve prices for wool. This bill and the Wool (Contributory Charge) Bill (No. 2), which I shall introduce shortly, are designed to impose a contributory charge on the sale of wool foi- use in Australia or for export, in order to provide finance for a future scheme of reserve prices for wool. They will replace the existing Wool (Contributory Charge) Act 1945. The proposed legislation is of an unusual character in that it would confer authority to raise a levy for a scheme which has not yet been agreed upon. The reason why the Government is seeking that authority now is because the legislation would have to be passed during this session if the new charge is to be collected during the next wool season and so take advantage of current high prices. In a bill which will be dealt with later, it is proposed that, in the event of no scheme being in operation by the 30th September, 1951, the moneys collected under the contributory charge legislation shall be repaid.
There is provision that the legislation shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. That provision was included because the Government intended that the legislation would not be put into force until it was satisfied that the wool-growing industry generally approved of the principle of a levy. Before the legislation was introduced into the Parliament the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and the Australian Primary Producers Union informed the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that they approved of the imposition of the new contributory charge, or levy, on the conditions which the Government had announced. Since then the senior body representative of woolgrowers - the Australian Wool Growers Council - has also advised the Minister that it approves of the principle of the levy. When a conference was convened in London last January to review the operations of the Joint Organization it was considered by the governments and growers in the three Dominions that it would present an appropriate opportunity to consider whether some suitable arrangements, on similar lines to those of the Joint Organization, could be continued after the disposal of war-time stocks had been completed.
So far as Australia is concerned, the initiative in regard to proposals for a post Joint Organization scheme was taken by the wool-growers’ organizations. The most important difference between the proposals of the various organizations concerned the sources of finance. What was common ground was the proposal that there should be a scheme, embracing the four partners in the existing plan, for the maintenance of reserve prices. Before the Australian delegation left for London, the present Government made it clear to representatives of the woolgrowers’ organizations that in any scheme- the wool-growing industry would be required to provide the main capital. The Government also set out the essentials of the kind of scheme which was contemplated. These were first, the auction system of wool selling was to be maintained; secondly, reserve prices should be determined annually; thirdly, the three wool-growing Dominions should be partners in the scheme with the United Kingdom as the fourth partner if possible; fourthly, the wool-growing industry should have an effective voice in the controlling authority in Australia and should be at least as strongly represented as it is on the present Wool Realization Commission ; fifthly, the principal capital should be provided by the industry; and sixthly,’ any acceptable scheme should be backed by the ultimate guarantee of the Government. The London conference reviewed the operations of the Joint Organization and noted that its disposals operation was nearing completion. The conference recommended that the Joint Organization should continue its existing functions until the 30th June, 1951, unless before then it was superseded by another organization.
The conference devoted the greater part of its time to an examination of the question whether an arrangement similar to the wool disposals plan was practicable and desirable for the future. It drew up proposals for a reserve price scheme. Those proposals are generally in accord with the views of this Government and in their main principles follow closely the lines of the proposals submitted prior to the conference by Australian woolgrowers’ organizations. Before a scheme is finally evolved there will be opportunity for both the Government and the industry to give further consideration to all aspects of the matter. The United Kingdom delegation at the conference suggested that the proposals for a future scheme should be submitted to the international wool study group. It made this suggestion because the United Kingdom Government would .be unable to participate in any kind of post Joint Organization scheme unless the scheme had general international consent. The wool study group comprises representatives of the Governments of countries interested in the production, consumption and trade in wool. It is an advisory body set up to consider wool questions on the international plane.
The Australian Government decided that an approach to the wool study group was the best course possible in the circumstances, and informed the wool-growers’ organizations that it would do so subject to the following provisos: First, that the Governments of New Zealand and the Union of South Africa also favoured that course; secondly, that the woolgrowers’ organizations desired the Government to approach the study group; and thirdly, that the wool-growers’ organizations would agree beforehand to the principle of a levy so that the Government would have the assurance that growers were prepared to provide finance. The wool-growers organizations have indicated that they approve of an approach being made to the International Wool Study Group as soon as possible, and they have also agreed to the principle of the levy. This disposes of two of the provisos referred to above. In regard to the other proviso, I can inform honorable senators that the Government has been advised that the New Zealand Government is prepared to submit the London conference proposals to the study group. The latest advice of the position of the Government of the Union of South Africa in the matter is that that Government will make a decision very shortly following meetings of South African wool-growers. Acceptance of the principle of the levy by wool-growers’ organizations does not bind them to accept any scheme that might be evolved as a result of further international negotiations. It is appreciated that wool-growers will wish to examine any scheme very critically before they decide to accept or reject it. In this connexion it should be pointed out that this Government is fully aware that wool-growers do not want government control of the sale of wool.
The Government has said very definitely that it does not wish to have that control. The Government has said that if it is to back a scheme by giving a guarantee, so that the financial strength of any scheme may be unquestioned, the Government should have the final say in the determination of the level of reserve prices and would be concerned with the rate of re-offering of bought-in wool. The Government would not seek to exercise its authority beyond the obvious necessity to protect the Treasury. Honorable senators will note that the legislation lays down a maximum for the rate of the contributory charge that may be imposed in any season. That maximum is a rate of ten per cent, and it applies to the sum of the charge for the existing wool disposals plan and the charge to be imposed for a new scheme. The Government - and this is provided in the legislation itself - will consider the views of the wool-growers’ organizations as well as those of the Australian Wool Realization Commission in fixing the actual rate of the charge, or levy, that may be prescribed for a future scheme.
As the legislation is designed to promote the stability of the largest of Australia’s primary industries and as the Government has made it clear that any scheme which is evolved will be subject in the- final analysis to the approval of the wool-growers themselves, I feel that the legislation should command the support of all honorable senators. There should not, I think, be any doubt but that the present is the appropriate time to take steps to provide for the future security of the wool-growing industry. I therefore commend the legislation to honorable senators and ask that the measures be dealt with expeditiously in order that there will be parliamentary authority for the imposition of the levy from the start of the next wool season.
– The Government has been good enough to take the Opposition into its confidence on this measure. It has discussed the bill fully with members of the Labour party, who are keenly interested, and the Opposition believes that there is no occasion to oppose the measure in any way. It has been the policy of the Labour party for a long time to encourage schemes of this kind which lend themselves to stabilizing industries, particularly the primary industries. I believe that it would be wise to make provision for the wool industry when prices are high to help itself to meet the time when there may be a. reduction in prices. Woolgrowers are amply protected by the measure. Actually the bill is ahead of the industry because it has not yet decided whether it will agree to a scheme of this kind, but there are indications from various sources that something of the kind is desired by the industry. If the scheme does not come into existence for any reason, provision is made for any levy that may have been collected to be returned to the wool-growers.’ I think that the measure is a good one. It is in line with my own ideas and with the general policy of the Labour party. I think that the Government is to be congratulated upon planning to meet any situation that may arise. The scheme is purely voluntary. The wool-growers do not want any government control and are prepared to finance the scheme.
– I cannot allow this proposal to pass without congratulating the Government on adopting the policy of the Labour party. I am pleased that the Government has found that it is necessary to adopt stabilization schemes. Not long ago the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), who introduced the bill to-night, fought members of the Labour Government when they introduced stabilization schemes such as this one. The Government has now recognized that where it has to supply certain finance, it is necessary to have some control over the actual disposal of the commodity affected because it has to stand up to financial obligations, in this case on behalf of the wool-growers. I rise only to congratulate the Government on adopting policies that have been set out,
Mid propagated by the Labour party for a number of years.
Thursday, 22 June, 1950.
– I congratulate the Government on introducing this legislation. For a number of years I was engaged in the wool industry and I regard this legislation as a landmark in its history. This is the staple industry of the Commonwealth and the country’s greatest revenue producer, and I am pleased that the co-operative effort which I have assisted personally for twelve or fifteen months has been brought to a successful conclusion. I am certain that this scheme will give stability that was missing after World War I. I support the measure and congratulate the Government on a piece of progressive legislation.
– I, too, believe that this is a good piece of legislation. I am pleased that the Government is prepared to foster a socialization scheme among wool-growers whereby they can protect their industry. The Minister has said that the scheme is backed by the Government. I presume that if the amount levied on wool to carry out the stabilization of the industry a nd the marketing of the product is insufficient, or if the time should come when the purposes of the scheme cannot be met by the contributions that are levied, the Government will he prepared to take over the liabilities and ensure the stability of the scheme. In any circumstances this scheme should have the fullest confidence of the wool-growers since it is hacked by the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLeay) zen,(1 a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is complementary to the Wool (Contributory Charge) Bill (No. 1) 1950.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spicer) read a first time.
– I move -
The the hill be now read a second time.
This bill deals with a subject which, I believe, is in no way contentious, though it involves, in its minor aspects, some difficult points of law. At this stage, I propose to confine my remarks to the broader aspects of the measure, endeavouring to make clear its background and general objectives, and leaving to the committee stage the difficult technicalities.
The necessity for the bill arises from the fact that Burma ceased to be a part of His Majesty’s dominions on the 4th January, 1948. This has, of course, been recognized by Australia as well as by the United Kingdom and the other British Commonwealth countries. The United Kingdom Government passed the Burma Independence Act, which came into force on the 4th January, 1948, and provided, as a logical consequence of the change in
Burma’s status, that Burmese should no longer he British subjects solely because of their connexion with Burma. That act also provided that Burmese domiciled or ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom or in its dependencies should have the right to elect to remain British subjects. No corresponding statute has so far been passed in Australia. I am advised that in the absence of such a statute, the common law position is that Burmese who left Burma permanently before its independence was recognized or “ within a reasonable time afterwards “ are still British subjects under our law. British nationality was lost only by those who were inhabitants of Burma at the time when it became a foreign country.
This existing position under our law L° unsatisfactory because, first of all, it differs from the law of the United Kingdom, and this means that some persons who are aliens in the eyes of the United Kingdom Government, are British subjects under our law, and vice versa. This, in itself, is undesirable, being a contradiction of the long-accepted principle that persons who are British subjects in one part of His Majesty’s dominions should have the same status in other parts of those dominions. Furthermore, it is not considered desirable that native Burmese should remain British solely because they were not domiciled in Burma when independence was proclaimed ; some of these persons may have taken up residence in other foreign territory and may have as little connexion with the British Commonwealth as those who remained in Burma. ‘ In addition, the common law position is conducive to uncertainty in determining the national status of individuals; for example, it must inevitably be a matter of opinion as to whether some individuals left Burma within a “ reasonable time “ after that country ceased to be British. For many years, it has been the rule that the law pertaining to nationality should be defined by statute, so that there should be no more obscurity about this difficult subject than is absolutely necessary. Finally^ the common law on this matter is at variance with the general principles of our statutory law, under which a man’s British nationality, or his lack of it, depends upon specific factors, such as his place of birth and his descent, or upon some clearly described act of his own, and not upon such generalities as departure from an area within “ a reasonable time “. These are, I think, sufficient reasons for the introduction of the bill, and I shall now endeavour to deal briefly with the main clauses, which are clauses 2 and 3.
Clause 2 provides, in effect, that persons who have ceased to be British subjects under the Burma Independence Act of the United Kingdom shall cease to be British subjects under our law also. Since the bill, therefore, seeks to bring a part of a United Kingdom statute into our law, I have caused to be made available to honorable senators the relevant extracts from that statute, and I propose to outline its provisions. The latter are not by any means simple but their effect is not in doubt, namely, that under the act, no person ceased to- be a British subject if either he himself, or his father, or his paternal grandfather, was born in British territory, or even- in British protected territory; and, moreover, no woman whose husband possessed any of these qualifications ceased to be British, even if she had no other claims to British nationality. These effects of the United Kingdom act are the effects that are sought by this bill. The idea may be expressed in the positive way by saying that the only persons who did cease to be British subjects under the Burma Independence Act and who will, therefore, lose British nationality by reason of this bill, are those whose only claim to be British subjects has been their birth in, or some other connexion with, Burma. It may, therefore, be reasonably claimed that clause 2 of this bill represents the natural consequence of Burma’s departure from the British Commonwealth.
Clause 3 gives to those few former Burmese who became Australian citizens on the 26th January, 1949, that is, upon the commencement of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948, an opportunity to retain that citizenship, by a simple declaration. It is, I think, only logical that persons upon whom this country so recently conferred its citizenship should not now be summarily deprived of it. This right of election, being confined to persons who are already Australian citizens and therefore, have every right to reside permanently in Australia, in no way affects the long established immigration policy of the Commonwealth in relation to nonEuropeans.
I sum up my remarks by saying that this bill deals with no great question of policy, but rather seeks to “ tidy-up “ our nationality law, to bring it into line with that of the United Kingdom and with the accomplished fact that Burma is a foreign country. I commend the bill for the approval of the Senate.
– The Opposition has given consideration to this bill, and regards its objectives as a necessary adjustment of our nationality law. On behalf of the Opposition, I have pleasure in stating that we support it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Senate very briefly to a matter of public importance, namely, the importation of newsprint from the dollar area. I do not pretend that this is the first time that the Government has heard of the subject, and I have no doubt that honorable senators generally have heard references to it from time to time. A case has been submitted to me, and after having closely studied it, I am convinced that those who have made representations to me have reasonable grounds for their claim. I feel that I should preface my remarks by repeating the words of Voltaire: “Although I disagree wholeheartedly with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it “. We on this side of the chamber do not plead innocent to the charge that we have said some hard things about the newspapers, but they have returned the compliment, probably with much greater effect than we have been able to achieve.
I put forward three considerations: the newsprint requirements of the industry, the efforts being made to buy newsprint outside the dollar area, and a proposal in regard to the Government’s machinery for handling dollar expenditure in relation to newsprint. The newspaper proprietors had long-range contracts with Canada, which produces five times as much newsprint as does the rest of the world. Because much of the nondollar newsprint comes from European countries that are not outside Russian influence, the position is unstable. When the 1949 contracts expired, the newspaper proprietors tried to renew them but, because of the worsening dollar position, the matter came under government control. The early negotiations were for the importation of 130,000 tons. No doubt, that allowed a considerable margin for saving. Eventually, the proprietors signed contracts for 45,000 tons because of the need to conserve dollars. During 1949, those 45,000 tons were imported, together with an additional 5,000 tons from the 1950 allocation.
It is recognized that any industry seeking to import goods from a dollar area should first convince the Government that it has exhausted all possibilities of getting its requirements from other than dollar areas. The newspaper proprietors have bought all the newsprint obtainable from England, Scandanavia and France, and still find themselves 25,000 tons short. In addition, they have expended another £3,000,000 on the newsprint plant in Tasmania. As for the allocation of dollars for imports, committees have been appointed to consider the needs of various industries, and I should like to know whether there is a committee to inquire into the importation of newsprint. I understand that the committees make their investigations, and then report to a central committee which submits recommendations to the Government. Perhaps the time has arrived when this machinery should be overhauled. The position in regard to newsprint could be very serious, because Canada is the only effective source of supply. If Aus. tralia were to drop its Canadian contracts, Lt would have to depend upon the limited
European market for supply. Other British-speaking countries have allocated considerable amounts in dollars for the purchase of newsprint. If there is a scarcity of newsprint, the employment of many skilled workmen will be jeopardized. It has been claimed that some newsprint is misused, or that the newspapers could save considerable quantities of paper. If it is possible for them to do so, they should. Most honorable senators have received representations on- this subject, and I know that the Government, too, has been approached. I have examined the case of the proprietors carefully, and I believe that it is worthy of consideration. Perhaps some industries which receive dollars for the purchase of such goods as tractors, motor cars, &c, could obtain their imports from non-dollar areas, thus releasing dollars for the purchase of newsprint.
– On the 14th June, I asked a series of questions regarding the dismissal of Dr. P. B. James from the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital. I understand that the Parliament is going into recess to-morrow, and I have not yet received a reply to those questions. Dr. James had war experience, and was later, for a’ considerable time, employed at the Heidelberg Hospital. He is regarded as a very efficient doctor. His superior officers have said that he is competent and trustworthy, and has worked efficiently and well. The professor of Physiology at the University of Melbourne has eulogized Dr. James for his work and skill. Patients and doctors at the hospital have signed petitions praying the department to reinstate Dr. James pending an inquiry. While one person was getting signatures of patients to a petition a security officer asked. her what she was doing. When she told the officer, she was asked to go to the office. There, the security officer took the petition from her, and it has not been seen since. It is a strange thing that security officers should be interesting themselves in the matter. Many people believe that Dr. James has been victimized. A lot of rumours have been floating about at the Heidelberg Hospital, some of them not to the credit of Dr. James. The doctor has written to his superior officer asking why he was dismissed, but no reply has been forthcoming. Dr. James would welcome an inquiry into his work, but it has been denied to him. On the 31st May, I asked the Minister for Repatriation (‘Senator Cooper) a series of questions, one of which was as follows: -
Is it a fact that, when this doctor’s annual leave became due, the authorities requested him, owing to the pressure of work, to defer taking his holidays?
To that question the Minister replied, “ No “. According to information that has been given to me, the departmental officers have supplied the Minister with incorrect information on that point. I have been informed that when Dr. James’s annual leave became due he was asked, owing to pressure of work, to defer taking his holidays. The Minister has also been misled in respect of the next question that I addressed to him. It was as follows : -
Is it a fact that Mr. H. C. Laussen, Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation, wrote to the Medical Superintendent of the Heidelberg Repatriation General Hospital, informing him that the Public Service Board had decided that the temporary appointment of Dr. P. R. James would be terminated as from Wednesday, the 7th June, 1950, and that he would not be eligible for pro rata payment in lieu of recreation leave?
To that question the Minister replied -
Yes, but Dr. James has since received payment in lieu of all recreation leave not availed of by him.
I am informed that that statement is not correct. The Minister is an honest man, and I have no doubt that he has accepted information that has been supplied to him by his departmental officers. I have shown that those officers have supplied incorrect information in two instances. Does not that fact raise a doubt about whether Dr. James’s dismissal may have been due to a mistake or to some misunderstanding? After all, it is a serious matter when a Minister, in replying to questions, supplies information that is incorrect. I again appeal to him to give to Dr. James the opportunity to have his case investigated by a board of inquiry. I have no doubt that he would be able to convince such a body that he had not contravened the hospital regulations, and that he had carried out his work satisfactorily at all times. Considerable concern has been evidenced about this case in many quarters. Several newspapers which have taken up the matter have emphasized that the dismissal Has cast a serious slur upon Dr. James’s character, particularly as it could be related to a particular measure thatwas being debated by the Parliament at that time. I again appeal to the Minister to reconsider his previous decision, and to set up a board of inquiry to investigate the circumstances of Dr. James’s dismissal.
, - Several questions that still appear on the notice-paper in the name of Senator Morrow will be answered in due course. I am satisfied that 1 have not been misled in any respect by my departmental officers in the information that they have supplied to me.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Vnblic Service Act - Appointment - Department of the Interior- -J. H. Hunter.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1950 - No. 3 - United States EducationalFoundation in Australia.
Superannuation Act - Fifth Quinquennial Report on the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund covering the period up to 30th June, 1947.
Senate adjourned at 12.39 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 June 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1950/19500621_senate_19_208/>.