23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
The. PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - I should like to remind the Senate that to-day is the 60th anniversary of the opening of the first Federal Parliament. To mark the occasion 1 have made a little survey which I hope will be of interest to the Senate.
The first Federal Parliament was opened on 9th May, 1901, by the Duke of Cornwall and York, who later became King George V. Our Federal Parliament came into existence by an act of the Britsh Parliament following two referendums which were held - one in June, 1898, and the other in June, 1899. Although a majority voted in favour of the Constitution on both occasions, in the former the majority in New South Wales failed to reach the minimum which the New South Wales Parliament had laid down as necessary, and consequently another referendum was held in the following year - this time on an amended Constitution. This was carried. Voting was not then compulsory. A bill to give effect to the wishes of the Australian Colonies was introduced in the House of Commons on 14th May, 1900. It passed both Houses of the British Parliament and received the Royal Assent on 9th July, 1900.
The original document signed by Queen Victoria herself empowering the lords commissioners to signify ‘her assent is housed in a glass case in King’s Hall and can be seen by any citizen who wishes to do so. On 17 th September, 1900, Queen Victoria signed a proclamation declaring that as from 1st January, 1901, the six Australian colonies should be united in a Federal commonwealth under the name of The Commonwealth of Australia. The population of Australia in 1901 was slightly under 4.000,000. To-day it is about 10,500.000. The size of the Parliament has been increased only once. That was in 1949 when the number of senators w::s increased from 36 to 60 and the number of members of the House of Representatives from 75 to 124.
Since the beginning of federation there have been fourteen Governors-General, 23 Parliaments, sixteen Prime Ministers and 32 Ministries, eleven of these being Labour ministries. In the Senate we have had, including yourself, Sir, twelve Presidents.
In the first few years of the Senate, senators were divided generally on the question of free trade and protection and in the view of some it was not what could strictly be termed a “ party “ House. However, from 1913 onwards the Senate became divided into clearly defined parties. The total number of senators who have been enrolled since 1901 is 253, 142 of whom have died. Of the deceased senators, fifteen have also been members of the House of Representatives.
Looking back over the list of senators, I find that the record for the longest term of service belongs to the late senator, the Right Honorable Sir George Pearce, who became a member of the first Senate and, having been re-elected at each successive election, remained a member until 30th June, 1938. Despite Sir George Pearce’s long period of office, one of our present senators, Sir Neil O’sullivan, has the distinction of .having held the office of Leader of the Government in the Senate for a longer continuous period than any other leader. Senator the Honorable Gordon Brown holds the record for the longest term of continuous service amongst us to-day, 28 years 10 months, 8 days, his service having commenced on 1st July, 1932. Senator Sir Walter Cooper has a longer period of service, with 29 years 5 months 22 days, having been first elected on 17th November, 1928, but his service has not been continuous. He lost his seat from 30th June, 1932, until 1st July, 1935.
Section 57 of the Constitution contains the formula which may be used in the event of a continued disagreement between the two Houses. Since 1901, there have been only two occasions when a double dissolution .of the Parliament has occurred. The first took place in 1914. The Government suffered such a defeat at the ensuing elections that little encouragement was given for the use of double dissolution procedure as a means of settling dead-locks. A period of 37 years elapsed before it was again used, this time favorably to the Government.
The main function of Parliament is to legislate, and from 1901 to the end of 1960 a total of 3,529 bills has been passed by both Houses and received the Royal Assent.
During the 60 years there have been three methods of electing senators. Up till 1918, the first-past-the-post system applied. From 1918 to 1949, the preferential block majority system was adopted. From 1949 onwards we have had our present system of proportional representation.
The first Royal visit to the Commonwealth Parliament was that of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, for its opening in 1901. Since then, there have been seven Royal visits, but only once has a reigning monarch visited Australia. That was when our Most Gracious Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second visited Australia in 1954 and opened a session of the Commonwealth Parliament. The Commonwealth Parliament has functioned in two places since federation - in Melbourne until 1927, and from that year onwards in Canberra. The first meeting in Canberra was opened by the Duke of York - the late King George VI. - on this day 34 years ago.
Section 128 of the Constitution provides the way in which the Constitution itself may be altered, that is, by the passing of the necessary legislation by one or both Houses and its submission to the people by way of referendum. Since 1901, 24 referendums have been held but only four of them were approved. One dealt with Senate elections, two with State debts and another with social services.
The work of the Imperial Conference in 1926 led to the passing of the Statute of Westminster in 1931. This statute, which was adopted by our Parliament in 1942, provides that the United Kingdom Parliament should not legislate for ‘ the selfgoverning States of the British Empire other than at their request and consent. It cut the legal ties, freeing the Commonwealth Parliament from the doctrine of imperial legislative supremacy and from the consequences of reservation and disallow ance. Since the passing of the statute, the British Empire has evolved into the Commonwealth of Nations, an association which is a living, growing and dynamic union held together by a symbol, the Crown.
Indeed, the legal connexion between the members of the Commonwealth is so slight that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which was founded in 1911 as the Empire Parliamentary Association - the name was changed in 1949 - performs the important role of maintaining association between the many parliaments of the Commonwealth. There are 68 main, auxiliary and affiliated branches, each of which is autonomous and has its head-quarters in parliamentary premises. There are also state branches in the States of Australia, provincial branches in the Provinces of Canada and the States of India and territorial branches in Rhodesia, Nigeria and the West Indies. The Senate takes satisfaction in the fact, Mr. President, that you are the only one of its members in 60 years to have held the high office of chairman of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
During the past 60 years, Australia has become a nation in the fullest sense of the word. We have passed from an age which was relatively simple to a complex civilization where this country’s economy and progress must be geared to that of the whole world. Australia has become a great trading nation; it has become one of the world’s great suppliers of minerals; it has developed a huge steel industry, and it has entered into almost every industrial field.
The task of government has never been easy and as the years have gone by the problems in an evolving world have become more intense. But since federation Australia has developed, vigorously and continuously. All of us here to-day recognize the fact that we have been honoured by the electors of our respective. States in being chosen to represent them in this Senate.
Recent events have illustrated that Australians support a bi-cameral system of parliamentary government, which indeed operates in 64 of the 92 central governments of the countries which comprise the free world as we know it. In conclusion, Mr. President, may I express the hope that the Commonwealth of Nations may remain united and free and that the next 60 years will see even greater progress than that which has occurred since federation.
– by leave - I think it most appropriate that the Leader of the Government (Senator Spooner) should direct attention to this day as the 60th anniversary of the first meeting of ihe National Parliament. I do not recall that we celebrated the golden anniversary of that very happy event. That would have been on 9th May, 1951. The explanation for that, I think, is that the Parliament was not sitting on that day and, in fact, had not been reassembled following the elections of 28th April, 1951. I feel indebted to the Minister, as, I am sure, do all honorable senators, for the vast amount of interesting and informative facts that he traversed in the course of his speech. There was possibly only one omission, which I will seek to rectify. It relates to what I think is a rather outstanding development in the federal sphere. Sixty years ago there were only the gentlemen of the House of Representatives and the gentlemen of the Senate. To-day we are in the position that there have been lady members of the House of Representatives and that there are five lady members of the Senate. I have only one grievance - that they have taken away from the Governor-General the right to address us as “ Gentlemen of the Senate “.
When I knew that this event was to be noted to-day in the Parliament I was interested to have the various newspapers of 10th May, 1901, scanned to see what the reaction of the press of Australia was to the notable event of federation in this country. One article reporting the proceedings in Melbourne struck me as a gem both of thought and of literary expression. I found it in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. I think honorable senators will excuse me for reading a brief passage from that very outstanding article, which was published on 10th May, 1901, the day after the Parliament had met for the first time. It reads -
In modern times the declaration of the German Empire at Versailles, in the Palace of the Emperor of France, and the crowning of the King of Prussia as Emperor of a united Fatherland, formed the most notable instance of the evolution of a disunited people into a unified Nation; but in that case the end was gained after a terrible and costly war that brought misery and desolation to many thousands of homes and the uprising of one nation was based upon the defeat and humiliation of another. The unification of Italy was brought about by Garibaldi the Liberator, after a war in which blood was shed freely and money waa poured out in the cause of patriotism. In the setting up of the republic of the United States the factors were oppression and rebellion.
How different are all the circumstances in Melbourne to-day! There was no yoke of oppression to throw off, no enemy to be humiliated, no internal unity to be brought about by blood and iron. With the nations of the world Australia is at peace, and to all she offers amity and cooperation. She has the goodwill of her Suzerain, the Mother Country, and to her she returns the filial love and unswerving loyalty of a daughter nation. Within her own borders there is the perfect agreement founded on the broad lines of justice; no compulsion has been used to bring all the States of the Continent into the fold of the Australian Commonwealth; no threat nor act of rebellion has been employed to gain the consent of the Great Mother of nations of which we are the offspring; no injury threatens any foreign nation by our action. Hence the eldest surviving son of the King of England and Heir to the Throne and Crown opened the first Parliament of Australia to-day amid a brilliant gathering, including the chosen representatives of six Australian States, the representatives of Britain’s Naval power, of Britain’s great journals and of the Consuls of the Nations of the world.
History gives no parallel for this, and whether stormy times or marvellous prosperity be the immediate future of the Australian Nation, no living man will ever see again the like of the great event witnessed by hundreds of thousands who made the air resound with cheers as the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York passed in state through the streets of the city of Melbourne, lined wilh the citizen soldiers of Australia on their way to open the Parliament in the name of King Edward VII.
The Duke of Cornwall and York will in the natural order of things have many great functions to perform but whatever the future may hold in store for him the act performed to-day was surrounded by such demonstrations of happiness and progress, and carried such historical and worldwide significance, that its peaceful glory can never be surpassed.
I think the Senate will agree that that was a magnificent commentary upon the notability of the occasion in question.
At this point I should like to interpolate the thought that this very day was also the day upon which the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party was founded. The fact is noted in Professor Crisp’s book in some detail at chapter 7, where he reports that of the sixteen Labour members of the House of Representatives and the eight Labour senators who figured in the Parliament on that day in 1901 nine came together a day or so before the Parliament met to found the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party.
The party was. functioning on the very day on which- the first Federal Parliament was opened1, under the leadership of Mr. J. C. Watson in the House of Representatives and of: Senator Oregon McGregor in the Senate. So the two notable events ran- together - the birthday of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party and the meeting of the first National Parliament.
I repeat, as being appropriate to the occasion, what I have said before from this place- on perhaps, two occasions. I have always- looked upon the Constitution and the first Parliament not as establishing Australian- nationhood but as being merely the conception of it, with the birth of Australia as a> nation coming in the travail of the First World War and’ its baptism, again in travail, during the course of the Second World War. As the Leader of the Government has’ indicated, the coping-stone in the structure of the Australian nation was set in 1,942 when the Statute of Westminster was. adopted and we achieved complete independence with power to legislate not only territorially but also extra-territorially. Tb-day as we survey the scene in. Australia, even with our great migration programme, we cannot but be struck by the homogeneity of our people in appearance, in speech and in outlook. I hope that will continue for ever, lt is a notable fact.
I took the trouble to scan the list of senators and members of the House of Representatives who figured on this day 60 years, ago. Looking’ down through history, I’ believe that it really is invidious’ to select any one or. more names; but I’ thought I might be pardoned, if I just referred to people of the stature of Sir Edmund. Barton, Sir Edward Braddon, Alfred Deakin, Andrew Fisher, Sir John Forrest, William Morris Hughes,, Sir Isaac Isaacs, King O’M alley, Sir George Reid and Mr. Frank Tudor,, to mention- only, a few. All are great, names; They include- the names of great, mem on both sides, of, the. Parliament - mem who subsequently figured- as Prime Ministers o£ Australia, in; war and- out of war; and a> noted judge of the High Courtof Australia-,, who, subsequently, became the, first Australian to be appointed as GovernorGeneral; They were: great men. They did a- great job- in- laying the- foundations of the Australian Parliament. To-day there is- no> survivor. The last of them, King: O’Malley,. died on 20th. December, 1953. He had the delightful: experience of living in very robust health for some- 52 years after the first Parliament met. All the people of whom, we speak, are. now, as it were, just names on. papen; but they still live in the memory of men and will continue to do- so by reason of their great personal contributions. Jj conclude with the thought- that one: day. all. of us who are now in this Parliament will’ just as surely; be merely names on. paper. But I’ think I may say that it is, and should be-, the ambition of each’ one of us also1 to- be remembered, as those1 men- were remembered, by reason of the contribution that we can make to the glorious name- of Australia- and the- promotion of- its nationhood’.
– by leave - The Australian Country Party would have, me commend the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner)- and also- the. Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) for the fine sentiments they have- expressed: in- regard to- theday that we are celebrating. Both honorable senators have paid, tribute to men who have rendered grand service: to- this young nation-. Perhaps-, the- greatest service- that they rendered’, was in implementing our system of government.. That system* to-day- embraces alb those, freedoms which we as a people- are far too prone to- take for granted. When we think that we- may elect, or discharge a government without the shedding of one drop of blood, it must be agreed that our system of government is one which many nations- of the world could well emulate. The Australian. CountryParty has, no illusions, whatever about the. forces of evil in the- world- to-day which? would, destroy our democratic system of government. Oni this, the sixtieth anniversary of the Commonwealth’ Parliament,, may I say to the people of Australia-:: Hold* fast to a system: which- is. so good.
– by leave - The Australian Democratic Labour Party joins in the felicitations that havebeen expressed by the leaders of other parties on this occasion. When one looks back at the first Federal Parliament one is. struck by the fact- that it differed in somerespects from our present Parliament. The affairs of the Commonwealth Parliament were conducted, in those days by a Cabinet of nine members. They were a rather remarkable nine, as is evident when one reads such names as Barton, Deakin, Kingston, Lyne, Forrest, O’Connor, and George Turner. But there were resemblances in the subjects with which they dealt. The first Parliament dealt with a matrimonial causes bill which was withdrawn and, by an odd coincidence, it also dealt with the question of members’ salaries. In those days, the salaries were set at the extravagant figure of £400 per year. There was a violent discussion on the question of whether Ministers should receive any additional emolument. Some members considered that Ministers should appreciate the honour to serve and should do so without any additional emolument. They obviously were giants in those days.
It was a different world in many respects. Australia was a little backwater. Between us and the outside world there were the forces of many other countries. In Indonesia we had the Dutch. We had the Germans in New Guinea, the French in Indo-China, and the British in India, Burma and Malaya; while China, the giant of to-day, in those days was so weak militarily that a small combined force of troops was able to land on her shores and fight its way, with practically no resistance, to her capital. The British Navy was our great protection against the rest of the world. Looking back to the first Parliament, we see that we live in a very different world. To-day, our own security has become our number one problem.
We all look forward to another 60 years in which parliamentary government will exist in this country. But we appreciate that if we are to maintain that form of government we will have to stand by the principles on which that form of government depends. I also join in the tribute to the pioneers of the past. I hope that the Australians of the future will not bc unworthy of them.
– by leave - I visited Cabawin No. 1 well on Friday, 5th May, in company with Mr. E. Babson and Mr. Doyle Graves of the Union Oil Company of California, Mr.
I have previously refrained from making public statements about the results as they have come to hand. The wisdom of that policy was impressed upon me during this trip. I was able to form some appreciation of the difficulties facing the professional advisers in interpreting and evaluating the information which becomes available. There are, indeed, still differences of opinion as to how the evidence should be evaluated, but the area of difference is being narrowed as more information becomes available. I thought that the Senate would be interested in a progress report and some information additional to that which has been made public.
I begin by saying that the information I give is approved by the Commonwealth’s own advisers and by the representatives of both the Australian and overseas companies which are interested. The Cabawin No. 1 well is 12,035 feet - about 2.25 miles - in depth with a diameter of 8i inches. The well was drilled by a National 80B rig under contract to Union Oil Development Corporation by Oil Drilling and Exploration Company. The well was drilled on the Cabawin structure, the presence of which was first suggested by seismic surveys carried out by the Bureau of Mineral Resources in 1958.
The holder of the tenement is the Australian Oil and Gas Corporation Limited, which is an Australian company with £1,250,000 subscribed capital and which has carried out extensive survey and drilling operations in the Sydney basin. In October, 1959, the Australian Oil and Gas Corporation Limited made an arrangement with the two overseas companies to which I have referred, both of which have substantial capital resources and extensive experience in oil exploration. Under that arrangement the overseas companies are to carry out an exploration programme in Queensland under Authority to Prospect 57P and in New South Wales under Petroleum Exploration Licences Nos. 2, 6, 7 and 8. On completion of a stated portion of the exploration programme, they acquire the licences subject to paying the Australian Oil and Gas Corporation Limited 20 per cent, of the net profits earned from any commercial oil or gas found.
The total area of the licences held is some 60,000 square miles. The size of the Cabawin structure is approximately ten miles by five miles. Since October, 1959, the two overseas companies have spent or committed approximately £900,000 in the licence areas, of which approximately £377,000 has been or will be provided by the Commonwealth under subsidy schemes.
Cabawin No. 1 well was spudded in on 6th October, 1960. The expenditure upon it to date is approximately £400,000. The Commonwealth has agreed to subsidize the venture to the extent of £179,000. The subsidy will be repayable to the Common wealth if oil is found in commercial quantities. During the drilling operation indications of oil and gas were found at several horizons. These indications became very marked at about 9,930 feet. After consideration of the information available, it was decided to continue drilling the hole to bedrock before commencing testing. Bedrock was reached at 11,662 feet. Difficulties were experienced in the drilling operation. The gas flow at 9,930 feet proved difficult to control and unfortunately failure occurred of some of the tools used down the hole. Special equipment and experts in its use were flown out from the United States of America to render help.
Testing of the hole was commenced on 22nd April. The Union Oil Company of California has since released the information obtained from these tests. It is in tabular form, as follows: -
It will be seen that the flow of oil from the well, expressed in barrels per day, was 85, 81, 78, 76, 71, 62 and 63 respectively in the first seven days of the test.
– But they decreased the size of the choke.
– That is apparent to those who understand the technical information.
When releasing this information in California, the chairman of the Union Oil Company of California, Mr. Reese H. Taylor, pointed out that the tests so far are inconclusive and that the information obtained could be interpreted differently by different technical officers. Tests on the sand at 9,930 feet will continue. It is also proposed to test higher sands from which oil and gas indications have been obtained.
This testing may take two or three months to complete.
The present indications are, however, that the deposit of oil is not, on its own, large enough to justify a commercial operation and it is unlikely that additional information will alter this view. A rough estimate of the cost of the development, including a 200-mile pipeline to Brisbane, would be of the order of £15,000,000. It is unlikely that this capital expenditure could be recovered from the available oil, which, however, is of high quality.
Cabawin No. 1 well could, however, be a useful ancillary deposit to another discovery in the same area. The possibilities are, therefore, that it will be developed if another strike is made in the area. The company has decided to test thoroughly the
No. 1 well in order to obtain the maximum information. It will bring experts from overseas, as required, to help in this task. Until this programme is completed the company will be unable to decide exactly what it will do in relation to the well. It is conceivable that the tests will yield information which may alter the present opinion either for the better or the worse. It is not possible to be precise at this stage, but it appears unlikely that additional information will show the oil deposit to be large enough to justify development on its own. In addition to testing Cabawin No. 1, the company will mount another exploration programme in search of a structure suitable for a second test. This programme is not being deferred pending receipt of the final results at Cabawin No. 1.
A seismic survey operation estimated to cost £88,484, which the Commonwealth has agreed to subsidize to the extent of £44,242, has already been commenced. The company is also negotiating for a second seismic team to begin another survey. Mounting a seismic operation is a substantial undertaking. A crew usually comprises from 20 to 25 men and costs approximately £17,000 a month to keep in the field. But money is not the most important item. It is necessary to have an organization with the required skills and experience, to select carefully the areas in which seismic surveys will be made and to evaluate the information which becomes available during the course of the survey. Hasty decisions could lead to wasteful expenditure and be very harmful in their results. In effect, the company is pinning its hopes to finding- within its area a large structure with geological conditions similar to those at Cabawin in the hope that it may locate a field which would be large enough to be worth developing.
The company has also said that it will not exercise its right to withhold information about the hole for twelve months as it is entitled to do under its subsidy arrangements. It is willing that the Bureau of Mineral Resources should issue a report immediately the testing of the hole is completed some two or three months hence. It will also make progress information available.
I suppose that many will be disappointed, as I am, that Cabawin does not appear to be a commercial proposition. But that is not the predominant feeling of the professional advisers of the Commonwealth or of the companies concerned. They approach the matter from a different angle. They point out that the discovery of oil is such a difficult task that it is too optimistic to hope that the first drilling operation is likely to be successful; that such an operation is approached more with the intention of getting information at depth rather than with the hope that oil will be found. The importance of Cabawin is that after only eighteen months’ work the Cabawin No. 1 well has, first, shown that an environment favorable for the formation and accumulation of oil and gas is present. Indeed, Cabawin No. 1 has demonstrated to the oil world that this part of Australia is an oil province and that, despite the difficulties which may be encountered, it is not too optimistic to think that success eventually will be attained. Secondly, the importance of Cabawin is that it has opened up the prospect of oil occurring in rocks of the same geological age in other parts of the Great Artesian Basin, as distinct from the Surat Basin in which this operation is located. It opens up a prospect of oil occurring in the whole of the Great Artesian Basin.
The net result is that the find will be of intense interest to those searching for oil throughout the world. This should lead to increased activity in Australia. The figures I have given show how expensive is the task. Cabawin has demonstrated again how opinions may differ on the information which is available - not only on basic information but on that which becomes available from day to day. This is understandable when it is remembered that that information is coming from some 2 miles underground through a hole which is only 83- inches in diameter.
– by leave - The Senate and I am sure the public of Australia, too, are indebted to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for the very informative statement ;that he has seen fit to put before us. The drilling company’s willingness to make available the immediate result when testing is concluded and, above all, to make interim reports, is, I am certain, greatly appreciated. I share the optimism of the Minister and his department that oil eventually will be found in this country in commercial quantities. On many occasions from this place, in that belief and on behalf of the Opposition, I have advocated pressing on with the search for oil. I hope to see the happy day when oil is found in commercial quantities.
It is very cheering to learn from the Minister that the oil coming from Cabawin, although in limited quantities, is of high quality. That is a matter of significance and importance. It is important to notice, too, that the Government is stepping up activity in that area; one seismic survey is under way, and another is about to be promoted in the same area.
It is encouraging to note that the drilling company proposes, with the knowledge it now has, to sink another hole in approximately the same area. I understand that other companies and other lessees in the Great Artesian Basin have also entered into agreements for drilling in the immediate future. I suggest to the Minister that, at some convenient time, if he has information upon that subject he might indicate to the Senate what is under way or what is foreshadowed by the various lessees in the area.
It is rather interesting, at this stage, to turn back to the report of the Petroleum Institute of France which, on a quick survey made in limited time under the difficult conditions of the absence of complete data of all the artesian basins of Australia, did not, in fact, recommend a programme in the Great Artesian Basin. The institute stated, at page 53 of its report -
No systematic programme is proposed for the other basins but certain investigations are recommended relating to the Great Artesian Basin from which information may be obtained which would allow a programme to be developed .
Since then, the Great Artesian Basin seems to have come into its own. The Minister also made some comment upon that at the time, in referring to the activity of the Petroleum Institute of France. His press statement on 15th December last year contained this passage -
Also it was soon realized that information about some areas, e.g., the Palaeozoic rocks underneath the Great Artesian Basin was so meagre that a long and costly programme of exploration would be necessary to establish the basic facts required for assessment of their oil possibilities.
In the very short space of a few months, the Great Artesian Basin has moved, I would say, into the top flight of prospects of oil of high quality in Australia. Like the Minister, I shall make no further comment. I think that final judgment should be reserved until more information is known. It is a very good thing from every public viewpoint that that information should be made available as it comes to hand.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1961.
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1961.
Northern Territory Supreme Court Bill 1961.
Marriage Bill 1961.
– I direct to the Minister for Customs and Excise a question which I preface by explaining that at the present time a very critical situation exists in the timber industry in Tasmania, with 2,000 of the State’s 6,000 timber workers having been either dismissed or put on rationed work. Has the Minister seen a statement by the chairman of the Tasmanian Timber Association, Mr. Leitch, to the effect that in refusing the timber industry’s request for an emergency tariff hearing the Commonwealth Government had related the present importing rate to a completely theoretical and inaccurate consumption figure, which did not allow for the build-up of unsold stocks of local timbers? Will the Minister urge his Cabinet colleagues to have immediate and substantial assistance made available to the house-building industry in Tasmania, in an endeavour to stimulate demand? Will the Government reconsider its refusal to refer the industry to the Tariff Board for an emergency hearing? Will the Government explain to timber interests in Tasmania whether it expects, without import licensing or tariff protection, to create conditions that will allow the industry again to operate on a reasonable basis, while retaining a fair balance between imports and local production?
– The matter that the honorable senator raises lies within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Trade. Naturally, as a Tasmanian, I am well aware of the position in Tasmania, have noted developments there, and have read in this morning’s Tasmanian press of the statement made by the chairman of the Tasmanian Timber Association after yesterday’s emergency meeting of representatives of the industry. As the Minister for Trade is the relevant Minister, I think it would be better if the honorable senator put the question on the notice-paper. 1 am sure that if a factual case is put forward at any time by this or any other industry, that industry will have ready access to the emergency procedure of the Tariff Board. I stress that the case must be factual. If such a case is put forward, I am quite confident that my colleague, the. Minister for Trade, will be prepared to consider it.
– I ask the Minister for National Development: Is it a fact that because of early completion of contracts under the Snowy Mountains scheme some 185 workers were dismissed during April? Has the Minister any information about the expected dismissals for May? In view of the fact that the scheme is as yet uncompleted, and as the Government has, for the last decade, quite successfully pursued a policy of full employment - more successfully than did the previous administration, I might add - will the Minister advise me whether he has any plan for the continuation of the scheme so that the dismissed men may be re-employed?
– The work force on the Snowy Mountains scheme has been substantially reduced as a result of two main influences. The first is that two large contracts have recently been completed. Thiess Brothers have completed their Tooma contract and the Utah Construction Company has completed its Tantangara contract. The second influence is that we are coming into the winter season, when, because of the climatic conditions, it is normal to have fewer people employed on the scheme than in the summer. Arrangements are in hand for additional contracts. Indeed, one contract is now being advertised and two more will be advertised in the near future. Contract work will soon be back in full swing. At the end of the winter season the work force will be again increased.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. On 14th March I asked the Minister for details of decisions given by the coordinator appointed under the Civil Aviation Agreement Act 1957 to decide upon disputes arising between Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. On 11th April the Minister advised me that if I desired the information urgently he would be glad to make it available. Accordingly, I wrote to the Minister to the effect that I desired the information. So far, it has not been given to me despite a further oral request as late as last Friday. I now ask: Is the Minister delaying the information until after the end of this sessional period, so that the Senate will not have an opportunity to discuss these matters before the Budget session? Does he intend to do as he did in the case of the report of Mr. Warren McDonald, former chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, that is, promise to make the information available and subsequently go back on his promise? Who is responsible for the long delay in providing information so readily available - the Minister or his department? If it is the Minister, will he say why? If it is the department, will the Minister act to ensure that the Senate is not denied information, to which it is entitled, through a desire of some departmental officer to conceal information which the Minister promised to produce?
– First, I want to make perfectly clear to the honorable senator and to the Senate that there is no desire at all to conceal this information. Indeed, in an amendment to civil aviation legislation last year it was specifically provided that matters of this sort would be reported to the Parliament at the conclusion of each year, and in the normal course of events that will be done. Now, let us have a look at the position that arises from Senator Kennelly’s request. It is true, as he says, that he asked this question some time in March. The collation of information of the type that he sought entails a pretty big job within the department. Thinking that to give him the facts, including the number of appeals and basic information of that sort, might suit his purpose, I had such a reply prepared for him.
He wrote to me subsequently and said, in effect: “Thank you very much. However, I should like to have this further detailed information. Will you get it? “ As I have said, that kind of information cannot be readily compiled in a department such as the Department of Civil Aviation, which is particularly busy. However, I heard last Friday in Melbourne from a member of the staff of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that he wanted the information, and as soon as possible after that I asked whether the preparation of the information could be hurried up. I have not had an opportunity to get in touch with the department since then, but I assure the honorable senator that I will get the information for him if it is humanly possible to get it. There is no attempt - nor indeed is there any necessity - to conceal this information, which, by statute, will have to be made available to the Senate anyway.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. A few weeks ago I asked the Minister whether improvements could be made to the next telephone directory - which is due to be issued in August, I think - to eliminate some of the present complications involved in looking up telephone numbers under the new extended local call system. I asked him also whether at least the necessary dialling code could be shown at the commencement of the section for each district. I ask him now: Can he give me an answer to my questions either to-day or before the Parliament rises?
– I promised Senator Buttfield that I would refer her question to the Postmaster-General in order to obtain further information. The PostmasterGeneral has now made the following information available: -
As promised, the suggestion that certain information be presented in the telephone directory has been given careful consideration.
The honorable senator will be pleased to know that action in keeping with her suggestion has already been taken in Sydney and Melbourne and suitable notices containing dialling codes are now being prepared for inclusion on the relevant pages of the South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania directories as well as the Brisbane publication.
Careful attention has also been given to the question of including information as to whether a particular call is to be charged at local or trunk rates but, as this varies depending on the zone in which an exchange is located, it is difficult to show details of this nature in the directory. However, when the new charging scheme was introduced, all subscribers were advised individually of the exchanges which are within their extended local service area.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer the following question: How can the Treasurer justify his statement in Brisbane on 21st April that the banks claimed they had funds for lending, when on the same afternoon, a Brisbane banking authority said that statement was rubbish?
– I have not any first-hand information of the Treasurer having made a statement on the lines indicated by Senator Dittmer.
– It was reported in the “ Courier-Mail “.
– I imagine that the Treasurer had in mind at that time the many exaggerated statements that had been made about the effects of the credit squeeze. He also would have had well in mind that the level of bank advances then was just over £1,000,000,000, that the volume of advances had been reduced between the previous November and March by about £80,000,000 odd, that it was continuing to be reduced and that, as moneys flowed in to the banks as the result of repayment of loans, those moneys became available to the banking system for re-lending. I am sure that the Treasurer had in mind, too, the steps which the Government had taken, and those it proposed to take, in certain special areas of the economy. I refer, for instance, to housing, with special application to Queensland. The decision taken and announced by the Government was that the level of advances by savings banks for housing would be increased. The Governor of the Reserve Bank reminded the trading banks that it was no longer necessary for them to restrict loans for housing and that they could make increased amounts available for housing within the limits of their increased resources .is a result of the flow-back of advances.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation: Are any plans afoot for the provision of night-landing facilities at country airports in Queensland where such facilities do not now exist and where the volume of traffic would warrant such expenditure, in the interests of flying safety?
– The provision of night-landing facilities and of airways facilities generally is a continuing programme, as I am sure the honorable senator is aware. Considerable progress has been made in the installation of night-landing equipment and in the provision of other such facilities in Queensland and other parts of the Commonwealth. I am not aware of the precise plans for Queensland, but I shall be pleased to have a look at the programme laid down and see whether there is any information which I can give to the honorable senator about what may be expected in Queensland in the near future.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister been informed that tobacco-growers in the Dimbulah and Mareeba districts will hold a meeting this week to protest against the selling methods applied to their tobacco? Will the Minister send a senior officer of the department to the meeting to hear the complaints of the growers in order that assistance may be given to solve a problem which appears to be creating great dissatisfaction?
– I have not seen any reference to the meeting to which the honorable senator refers. He asks whether the Minister will consider sending a senior officer of the Department of Primary Industry to the meeting so that an appraisal may be made of the difficulties under which the growers allege they are suffering. I shall be pleased to bring that request to the notice of the Minister and I shall let Senator Benn know of his decision.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. When he is preparing the estimates of the Department of Customs and Excise for the forthcoming Budget, will he again consider sympathetically the claims of the wine industry in Australia and, in particular, the level of the excise duty now levied on brandy, which enables this industry to compete with overseas exporters?
– This matter is one which comes before the Government on every occasion when a budget is being prepared. The representations of Senator Pearson, as well as those received from other honorable senators and from many South Australian sources, will be given full consideration when the Budget is being considered.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. Having regard to recent assurances by Government spokesmen that special action will be taken, where required, to deal with pockets of unemployment caused by the credit squeeze, will the Government direct its officers to pay attention to the Victorian town of Daylesford, where 90 employees out of a total of 145 employed in one of the town’s few industries - the Daylesford woollen and worsted mill - have been dismissed? Many of these employees have had years of service, and their position is serious because the area offers no prospects of similar alternative employment.
– I know that the situation in Daylesford has been brought to the attention of the Treasurer by a number of members of the Parliament, including myself.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation been directed to a newspaper report to the effect that recently an aircraft circled twice at very low altitude and at high speed over the city of Perth and directly over a tall building in the course of erection? As the report stated that fright and vibration caused one workman on a high girder to drop his hammer, will the Minister have an inquiry made into the incident and take precautionary measures to ensure that a more serious accident may be avoided?
– I was in Perth last week when this incident occurred and I Was able to make immediate inquiries. I established that the aircraft concerned was not a civil aircraft but belonged to the Royal Australian Air Force. It was rehearsing for the march past which was to take place on the following day in conjunction with the Battle of the Coral Sea celebrations. The honorable senator is no doubt aware that three R.A.A.F. aircraft flew low over the city just prior to the march. However, before the rehearsal was repeated the Air Force, on its own initiative, took the necessary measures to ensure that, before the airCraft would again be practising, a warning would be issued to those who might be inconvenienced.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that the Tasmanian Parliament passed the Stevedoring Industry Long Service Leave Act 1960 to cover all waterside workers in that State? Also, is he aware that this act has no obnoxious or penalty conditions and that it has the full support of the waterside workers in that State? If the legislation that the Government proposes to introduce in the Commonwealth Parliament, and which contains provision for many penalties and disciplinary measures, is passed, will the Minister consider having Tasmania exempted from the operation of that legislation, so that the Tasmanian act may be retained?
– Mr. President, perhaps you will indicate whether the question is in order. It is possible that this legislation is now under discussion in the House of Representatives.
– Order! I shall make inquiries and let the Minister know the result.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, by stating that recently, in a written answer to a question I asked about introducing a contributory insurance scheme to meet national disasters such as bush fires, floods and cyclones, the Minister said that it was impracticable to adopt the New Zealand scheme because disasters in that country were more widespread and were likely to occur in all parts of the dominion, with the result that the scheme of insurance was more acceptable to the people generally. Is the Minister aware that every State in Australia has in recent years suffered from disasters of great magnitude against which it is almost impossible for individuals to insure? Is it not a fact that, apart altogether from personal losses, the economy of the nation has suffered considerably and that the community generally is affected by such disasters? If this is so, will he again consider the possibility of instituting a scheme of insurance against national disasters based on successful schemes that are operating in other countries, particularly the United States of America, where the problems are perhaps more comparable with those of Australia?
– It is my recollection that the answer referred to by the honorable senator did contain a reference to the scheme that is in operation in the United States of America.
– No, it did not. It referred only to New Zealand.
– I know it did refer specifically to the New Zealand scheme. The answer pointed out the very sharp difference which exists between conditions in New Zealand and those in Australia. One of the basic differences is that large parts of New Zealand are subject to earthquakes and other disturbances of that kind which do not occur here. Therefore, whilst insurance against such disasters is a practicable proposition in that country, it is not’ practicable here. Frankly, I do not recall all the reasons that were given in the reply to the earlier question; but there were many. I am sure that if the honorable senator reads it again quite objectively she will find that the scheme suggested has been examined, that its practicability has been investigated, and that it has been found that there are other more economical methods of providing cover relief from the effects of national disasters than the scheme proposed by her.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether the Government will rectify the financial injustice that is suffered by the States by paying the small sum of 8s. per day for each hospital .patient who is suffering from mental disease. 1 mention the sum of 8s. because that is the lowest sum that is paid and is in contrast to the amounts of 12s and £1 that are paid to States other than Queensland in respect of patients in hospitals for ordinary diseases.
– I should think that the most urgent problem in the treatment of mental illness is the provision of adequate accommodation. The Commonwealth is assisting the States to meet this problem by providing capital grants towards the cost of new accommodation and treatment facilities at mental institutions. Under this policy the Commonwealth has paid approximately £6,000,000 to the States in the last five years. Only Victoria and Tasmania have taken full advantage of this assistance offered by the Commonwealth. Further sums totalling £4,000.000 are available for distribution amongst the other States as and when they wish to take advantage of the Commonwealth’s offer.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether a report has been received to the effect that, on one day last week a thief entered the Commonwealth Parliament Offices in Brisbane during the luncheon period and stole money from handbags belonging to some of the secretaries. Will the Minister direct that administrative arrangements be made that will allow one male officer to be on duty daily at the offices during luncheon periods?
– I have not seen the report. I myself have had the unhappy experience in recent months of having my own office broken into during a luncheon period.
– The thief was an optimist, was he not?
– He was an optimist. But he helped himself to the petty cash, the replacement of which made the maximum demand on mv capacity at the time, and other items. That money has not yet been returned. I made representations to the
Department of the Interior to have a lock placed on my door. That has been done, and there has been no further trouble. I am quite sure that, if the appropriate representations were made by the honorable senator for a security lock to be placed on the door, it would be provided. I shall bring these matters to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for the Interior.
– Can the Minister for the Interior say whether a start will be made in the near future on the construction of Commonwealth offices in Hobart as recommended by the Commonwealth Public Works Committee in 1949? Will the Minister give favorable consideration to commencing the building at an early date in order to absorb some of the unemployed building tradesmen in Hobart? Does he not consider it to be false economy to pay an annual rental of £46,768 for office accommodation when by the construction of the proposed building considerable savings could be effected by having the various departments housed under the one roof?
– The principles involved in the matter to which the honorable senator has referred are reviewed by the department from time to time. I have been informed that the Department of the Interior has purchased the old Tattersall’s building in Hobart so that more convenient premises may be made available for Commonwealth departments. I am aware, too, that the Government is displaying a very lively interest in the employment position and is examining every possibility to provide employment, such as the construction of much-needed buildings for government offices. I shall discuss the honorable senator’s specific questions with the Minister for the Inferior and let him know the Minister’s comments.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. In view of Australia’s increasing activity in all branches of research on the Antarctic continent, and because of the very high cost of renting the two vessels at present engaged in research work, will the Government again consider the advisability, both financial and scientific, of buying or building a vessel to enable us to continue this important research work? If it is decided to build such a vessel in Australia, will all the shipbuilders in this country be given the opportunity to tender for its construction?
– It is too easy, 1 think, merely to state that the cost of chartering for part of a year the ships which are at present chartered is less economic than would be the cost of building a ship in Australia and running it for the whole of the year. I do not think it is as well settled as it is assumed to be, that there would be a saving economically in building our own ships. Nevertheless, the matter is being considered by the Department of External Affairs at the moment.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If so, would the Prime Minister ensure
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer: - 1, 2 and 3. One of the purposes of normal Commonwealth loans is to provide funds for housing. Whether a special loan should be floated for housing purposes is a question for the Australian Loan Council to decide. A similar proposal to that mentioned in the question was considered by the Loan Council in 1956, and again by a Premiers’ Conference in 1959, but no action was taken. I might add that to the extent that funds in excess of the amounts provided for housing under present arrangements were raised by way of a special housing loan, they would largely, if not wholly, represent a diversion of loan funds now available for other public works.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has now supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– My colleague, the Minister for Immigration, has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that, as reported, in one week in March the following incidents were portrayed on television in Sydney: One hundred and five shootings, six stabbings, SO fist fights, nine beatings, one whipping and 21 other assaults, one death by holding a pillow over the victim’s face until she suffocated, and a scene which showed in minute detail how to bash a man to death with repeated hand blows on the head and heart?
Is it also a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has a code of standards for commercial television which is set out in a document styled “ Television Programme Standards “, and that this document in paragraph 8 on page 3 states, in part - “ (s) certain basic requirements must always be observed. No programme may contain any matter which is:
-The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– On behalf of Senator Gorton, I say that the Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answer: - 1 and 2. There is normally a high demand for seasonal rural labour at this time of the year in Western Australia when wheat seeding is in process, and it is usually difficult to find sufficient experienced labour to meet farmers’ peak demands. This year has been no exception and, although the Commonwealth Employment Service has been able to fill many of the vacancies notified, there were, at 30th March, 1961, 164 vacancies registered for rural workers. Many were for experienced hands and proving difficult to satisfy. The Commonwealth Employment Service has been making a special drive to interest suitable workers in farm work and employers in taking suitable inexperienced workers and training them.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
As many persons in Queensland who have been unemployed for several months are the holders of television licences which are becoming due for renewal, will the Postmaster-General give consideration to the possibility of extending the time for renewal of the licences to suit each case?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer: -
The Postmaster-General has no power under the Broadcasting and Television Act to extend the time for renewal of licences as suggested, but any extenuating circumstances will be considered in individual cases before action is taken to prosecute for non-possession of a current viewer’s licence.
– On 14th March, Senator Sandford asked me the following question: -
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Has he seen a recent report, which I think was in a Sydney newspaper of yesterday’s date, to the effect that quite a number of eminent Australian men and women had severely criticized the type of tripe that is being shown in programmes broadcast by Australian television stations? The programmes referred to depict shootings, bashings and killings, and, in fact, crime in every conceivable form. Does the Minister agree that such programmes may have a very bad effect on some adults and particularly on young and impressionable minds? Will steps be taken to ensure proper censorship of television films that come into Australia?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply: -
Television film programmes are subject to censorship by the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board and are classified in accordance with standards determined by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I think the work of the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board in this difficult field deserves high praise. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board informs me, however, that it is not satisfied that licensees of television stations always exercise sufficient care in selection of programmes for presentation in the early evening hours. This matter is under review at the present time.
– by leave - A little while ago I was selected by the Parliament to represent it at the council meeting of the InterParliamentary Union at Geneva. I should now like to make a very short report on that meeting. For the benefit of the Senate, I mention that the Inter-Parliamentary Union was formed as far back as 1889 and at the moment 60 nations with parliamentary institutions subscribe to it and attend the annual meetings. Approximately 40 nations were represented at the council meeting in Geneva which the Parliament honoured me by selecting me to attend.
The work of the council was to consider resolutions submitted by all countries represented in the union. The resolutions covered a very wide range of matters. At the council meeting they were discussed and referred to a drafting committee, from which have emanated resolutions which will be discussed in September at the annual meeting of the union in Brussels.
The meeting seemed to me to be a very important one. Sixty countries are represented at these meetings. It is not governmental representation, but rather parliamentary representation. The position is different from that at the United Nations, where governments are represented. This is a parliamentary body and, as such, it has a very special place in the world. I found that the debates were wide and frank and, at times, very tough. The range of subjects discussed was such that some times great heat was engendered. I attended every sitting during the week and what impressed me most was the need to have well-trained and well-briefed representation. All of the iron curtain countries were represented; it seemed to me that this meeting was another front in the cold war. When the drafting committees were nominated, it was interesting to see the instant reaction of the leader of the Soviet delegation. If, for example, the United Arab Republic was not nominated, he instantly rose and nominated the United Arab Republic to the drafting committees. The iron curtain countries sought adequate representation on the drafting committees, and representation on them was sought also by the Western countries. When the drafting committees met, it seemed to be the objective of the representatives of the Western countries to emerge with results that did not offend anybody. The desire of the representatives of the Communist countries seemed to be to get results within the drafting committees that furthered their propaganda war, that represented a little step forward in the fight for the so-called neutralist and uncommitted countries.
It seemed to me that this was a most important gathering, at which it was well that Australia was represented. It was evident to me that members of Australian delegations to Inter-Parliamentary Union meetings should be well briefed before leaving Australia and that they must be well advised and most conscientious while they are at the meetings. As this was a parlia- mentary organization rather than a governmental organization, I felt that the Australian delegation was placed at a disadvantage through not having the help of a parliamentary officer. I hope that a parliamentary officer will be1 at the big meeting in Brussels in September on a full-time basis to assist the members of the Australian delegation and enable them to make such an impact that Australia’s point of view will be effectively expressed.
I was interested to note the number of African nations that were represented at the meeting, and I was very impressed by the calibre of their representatives. The representatives of countries like Ghana and Liberia were highly intellectual men. At the same time, one was aware of the forceful representation of the United Arab Republic. Whether or not the propositions advanced on behalf of the United Arab Republic were logical, I shall not say; at least, they were strong representations and they were presented in a deep voice and in an impressive manner.
In my opinion, the fact that Australia sends a new delegation to each meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union places us at a disadvantage. As the members of each succeeding delegation lack experience in this sphere, they are at a great disadvantage, compared with the representatives of other countries. I believe that this can be overcome only by our delegations being very efficiently briefed before they actually attend a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
These meetings are regarded as being most important by great countries such as Russia and Britain. At Geneva, Great Britain was represented by a high-class delegation which was strongly advised. The British delegation had its own permanent secretary, the permanent secretary to the British United Nations delegation and also two or three supernumeraries, as it were, men on the outside of the delegation who advised the members of the delegation at every turn of the debate. This indicates the importance that the big nations attach to these meetings.
I appreciate the opportunity that has been afforded to me, Sir, to report, even briefly, to the Senate on the meeting of the Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union that was held in Geneva. Later in the year, when our delegation returns from Brussels, I hope that a full report of its activities will be presented to the Senate. At this stage, I thought it would be of interest to honorable senators if I outlined my impressions after attending the council meeting at Geneva.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the Australian Wine Board to operate an Australian wine centre in an overseas country to assist in promoting interest in Australian wines in export markets and to enable the board to purchase Australian wines and brandies for sale in such centres. The immediate object of the bill is to permit the Wine Board to acquire and operate, purely for promotion purposes, a suitable Australian wine centre in London.
The Wine Board is constituted under the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-1954 to supervise the export trade in Australian wine and brandy and is financed by means of levies collected on grapes utilized by wineries and distilleries under the provisions of the Wine Grapes Charges Act 1929-1957. The rate of levy at present being applied - 12s. a ton of grapes - yields about £100,000 in a normal vintage year.
Under the existing legislation, the board may expend its funds, inter alia, in activities likely to improve the quality or to promote the sale of Australian wine and brandy both in Australia and overseas. The board contributes annually to the scientific research programmes of the Australian Wine Research Institute and is committed to publicity campaigns in the Australian and United Kingdom markets.
At the request of the Federal Viticultural Council, which is the central organization of Australian wine-making interests - pro prietary and co-operative - the board has for some time been devoting its attention to the prospect of establishing a central point for Australian wines and brandy in the United Kingdom with a view to ensuring that adequate supplies of our best-quality wines, including table wines, are constantly available to the public in that country under Australian makers’ own labels. The industry considers that such a proposition would give great prestige value to the wine promotion campaign being conducted in the United Kingdom under the auspices of the Overseas Trade Publicity Committee.
A number of leading Australian wineries have given tangible support to the idea. They contributed to the share capital of an Australian wine centre which was established in London late last year and, in fact, have the majority of the shareholdings in the venture. The board has contributed to the establishment costs of the centre and, with the support of the shareholders, the Federal Viticultural Council, the Federal Grape Growers Council and the South Australian Co-operative Winemakers Association, has been negotiating to take a lease of the centre. The stage was reached some months ago where the board was in a position to effect suitable arrangements if its legal standing in the matter was undoubted.
However, in the consultations with the Commonwealth’s legal advisers, some doubts were expressed as to the authority of the board properly to enter into a trade promotion venture of this kind under its existin a statutory authority. The board, with the approval of all sections of the wine industry, therefore asked the Government to amend the Wine Overseas Marketing Act to make its legal status in the matter perfectly clear. The Government has agreed to the board’s request, and this bill has been introduced for the purpose.
Clause 4 of the bill gives the board the express authority to undertake activities designed to improve the quality or to promote the sale of Australian wine and brandy in Australia or overseas. Under the terms of the principal act, this authority arises by implication only - from paragraph (e) of section 22.
Clause 4 also authorizes the board to purchase wine or brandy as a means of promoting the sale of these products in overseas countries and consequential alterations are made by clause 6 to enable the Board to make arrangements for the handling and sale of the wine or brandy.
For the benefit of honorable senators, I may say that the United Kingdom is easily the most important export outlet for Australian wines and the annual sales level is about 1,250,000 gallons, mainly in fortified wines, namely sherry and port. Efforts to obtain a foothold in the United Kingdom market in recent years for our quality table wines have been largely negatived due to the inability of the industry to obtain a continuity of retail outlets. The Wine Centre operation is expected to provide a partsolution to this problem and its development will also serve to counter the criticisms which have frequently been expressed of Australian publicity activities in the past on the grounds that our best wines have not been readily procurable in London. The Australian authorities responsible for the conduct of promotion campaigns for Australian products in the United Kingdom see in the project a vehicle for intensifying wine publicity and public relations activities generally in that country.
The opportunity is being taken by the Government to tidy up some other provisions of the principal act, mainly relating to the banking and investment arrangements of the board. They are not amendments of substance. Reference is being deleted to the present necessity, under section 21 of the principal act, to require the appropriation from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of wine grapes charges collections to flow through a wine export fund into a bank account.
The appropriation from Consolidated Revenue will, in future, be directly to the board for crediting to bank accounts operated by the board for administrative Convenience. A substantial proportion of the board’s expenses is incurred on publicity activities in the Australian domestic market and continued reference to a wine export fund is misleading and confusing to the wine industry, as well as superfluous.
In addition, the banking provisions are being reframed to give the central bank its proper designation and to bring them into line with similar provisions in other marketing board legislation of this nature.
Finally, section 29 (2) relating to the tabling of the annual reports of the board is being revised to remove ambiguity in that connexion.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Flaherty) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of the bill now before honorable senators is to provide that producers may remove coal for exportation from mines licensed under the Coal Excise Act without payment of excise duty. Before proceeding further on the subject of the bill, I shall explain the reasons which led to its introduction and the necessity for certain complementary legislation which will follow.
A recent examination of the revenue collections on coal, at the present rate of excise, compared with the present and future estimates of expenditure chargeable against such collections, led the Government to decide that its policy of encouraging export markets could be extended to the coal industry by exempting export coal from excise duty. At the same time, the Government decided that the excise rate on coal for local consumption could be reduced from 5d. to 4d. per ton, thus reducing one cost item on coal consumed locally.
This bill removes from licensed coal producers the liability to pay excise duty on coal exported. Further, it provides the machinery whereby coal may be entered from licensed mines for removal free of duty to the export ship. The provisions of the bill meet the case of the bulk of our coal exports. There are instances, however, where merchants export duty-paid coal which they have previously purchased from a number of mines and blended. There could be the situation also where excisable coal is mixed with State-owned coal and the blend exported. Although the excise duty does not apply to Stateowned coal, an amount equivalent to the excise rate is paid by the States concerned, by agreement with the Commonwealth, for each ton of State coal produced. It is necessary, therefore, to provide separate legislation by which reimbursements may be made to those persons who export coal other than direct from mines licensed under the Coal Excise Act. A complementary bill for this purpose will be placed before honorable senators at a later stage.
In addition, honorable senators will be asked to consider a bill fixing the excise rate on coal at 4d. per ton from 1st June this year. The legislation to which I have previously referred will also operate from 1st June this year. This date has been fixed to allow for the issue of appropriate regulations and so that certain administrative details can be completed in the meantime.
I commend the bill for the favorable consideration of honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Ormonde) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is complementary to the bill to amend the Coal Excise Act 1949, the terms of which have previously been outlined to honorable senators. It provides for the repayment of the excise duty or State contribution, as the case may be, to those exporters who subsequently export coal in respect of which those charges have been paid.
I commend the bill for the favorable consideration of honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Ormonde) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Excise Tariff 1921-1960 by reducing the excise duty on coal from 5d. to 4d. per ton on and from 1st June this year. I explained the reason for the duty reduction when introducing the bill to amend the Coal Excise Act 1949. I commend the bill for the favorable consideration of honorable senators. As the bills which I have just introduced are related, I suggest that the three bills be debated together on the resumption of the debate on the first bill introduced.
Debate (on motion by Senator Ormonde) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 4th May (vide page 772), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), in his second-reading speech, said -
The purpose of this bill is to impose certain special duties of customs to provide protection for Australian industry against various forms of unfair trading. It also covers emergency action which may be taken against imports which cause or threaten serious injury to domestic producers or to producers in certain third countries. It is proposed that the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act be repealed. The bill incorporates those parts of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act which are in current use and in addition makes provision for some additional measures of protection against unfair trading. Its provisions incorporate the means of dealing with dumping and subsidies which have been internationally agreed upon in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. It also takes account of comments which have been made by the Tariff Board on problems arising from the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act
This measure has the wholehearted support of the Opposition, which feels that everything possible should be done to preserve, protect and safeguard Australian industries. The Opposition commends the Government for its action in introducing this bill. Since import licensing was abolished there has been a sharp rise in the number of complaints about dumping and that kind of thing. The Tariff Board has had this matter constantly under review and its advice to the Government has provoked the introduction of this measure. I do not think that the Senate should oppose the measure in any way because, as was clearly explained by the Minister, it has been introduced for the purpose of protecting Australian industry.
I repeat that everything that can be done to protect Australian industry should be done. I have not been very happy about the Government’s attitude to Australian industry during the past year or two. It has created the feeling that Australian industry has not been pulling its weight in the Australian economy. I believe that the more we can encourage Australian industry and strengthen it, the better that will be for Australia. I do not think that our industries take advantage of tariffs to the extent that has been suggested in certain quarters. The more we can encourage our secondary industries and strengthen them, the more efficient will they become and the better fitted will they be to compete on the world’s market. For that reason, I commend the Government for introducing this measure. I think it has done the right thing. Industry can be put at a disadvantage suddenly, and it is necessary to have machinery to give the necessary tariff protection quickly.
I believe that Australian industry will be stronger and more efficient if it does not have to worry so much about the marketing of its products. If an industry is unable to produce to its maximum capacity, then to the extent to which production falls below maximum capacity, that industry will become inefficient. I do not wish to transgress by departing from a consideration of the measure under review, but I want to say that I believe that the increased importation of goods as a result of the Government’s policy has contributed to the decline in our overseas balances. I do not think it has strengthened our economy. I believe that our economy would be stronger if our industries were more efficient, and they would be more efficient if they were not troubled so much by outside competition. I believe that the Government is now thinking along those lines and is prepared to assist any industries that may be hampered or injured as a result of the present flood of imports.
I repeat that I do not believe that the industries of this country deserve some of the criticism that has been levelled against them, particularly the criticism that they have been responsible for inflation. I think that inflation has been caused to a great extent by racketeering and land speculation and by the merging of big businesses and large importing concerns. The industries of this country have served Australia well and they deserve all the encouragement we can give to them. I should like to see much closer co-operation between the Government and industry. There has been a feeling for some time that there has not been the complete co-operation between the Government and Australian manufacturers that should exist. I believe that the secondary industries of Australia have played the game, and I think that this measure is a step in the right direction. I feel sure that all members of the Opposition will fully support the bill.
– I am pleased to hear that the Opposition does not oppose this measure. I should like to congratulate Senator Courtice upon his remarks. However, I want to refute the suggestion that, import licensing having been abolished, the Australian Parliament should afford additional protection to industry. It must be remembered that the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act was first brought into force in 1921 and that, when we signed the Japanese Trade Agreement some years ago, we amended that act so that the Government could take immediate action against the dumping of cheap goods on the Australian market. The measure now before us has been designed to prohibit the importation of manufactured goods at the expense of our own industries. Provided real costs are taken into account, provided a reasonable amount of profit is added in the country of manufacture, and provided reasonable freight costs are added, the present tariff duties chargeable under the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade should be sufficient to take care of our Australian industries.
If a country which is manufacturing goods at an index figure of 100 decides to sell those goods in Australia at an index figure of 80, under the proposed legislation the Minister for Customs and Excise may take action to enforce a charge until such time as the Tariff Board is able to examine the matter. Under the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act, which is to be repealed by this measure, the Minister could add an extra charge of only 20 per cent, to the cost of the goods, including freight costs and a reasonable charge for overhead. As I indicated earlier, in future, if the Minister believes that a country is selling goods in Australia at a price lower than that for which they are sold in that country, under the proposed legislation, he may impose a temporary tariff, or dumping duty, at a percentage that he believes is fair. Having done so, he will refer the matter to the Tariff Board immediately for consideration. As the importation of goods occurs quickly and because it takes some time for the Tariff Board to reach a decision, it is necessary to have protection of the kind envisaged in order to care for our Australian industries.
We in Australia can be proud of the rapid growth of our secondary industries. The net value of the production of Australian rural industries in 1949-50 was approximately £660,000,000, and the net value of the production of our manufacturing industries was some £662,000,000. It is interesting to note that in 1958-59 the net value of the production of rural industries was approximately £945,000,000, and that the net value of the production of our manufacturing industries had risen to £1,841,000,000. It will be noted that the rural industries expanded their production by approximately 50 per cent, and that the production of the manufacturing industries rose by 200 per cent.
I am sure that honorable senators and all sections of the community will readily agree that to ensure a really wealthy and expanding Australia, with an increasing population, it is necessary for the greatest encouragement and protection to be given to our manufacturing industries. It is pleasing to note that the Government is encouraging those industries by establishing trade posts overseas in order to promote the sale of Australian goods, and also by introducing legislation to provide for the remission of pay-roll tax. Australia is now selling diesel electric locomotives to New Zealand; farm equipment to Africa and Thailand; radio transmitters to India, Malaya and Pakistan, tank trailers to Pakistan; fountain pens to the United Kingdom; pumps to New Zealand; and plastic shoes to the United States of America. Iri 1958-59 our income from the export of manufactured goods was more than £100,000,000. We are now taking steps to ensure that within the next few years that amount will be doubled.
Australia’s manufacturing industries are well established. We intend to protect them against dumping. In a moment I shall explain the meaning of the term “ dumping “ as it is dealt with in this measure. We expect our manufacturing industries to compete with those of other nations. Australian industries enjoy the benefit of our ordinary tariff protection and of the protection that is afforded by the rather .high freight costs on goods that are hauled over a long distance to Australia. With that kind of protection, I believe that our industries can expand.
– We have a higher standard of living, too.
– Yes, we have a higher standard of living. There is a very high degree of mechanization in our industries. America, which is the greatest producer of manufactured goods in the world, has probably a higher standard of living than we in Australia have, and she is paying higher wages; but she can still export her goods. With mass production and mechanization, there is still scope for exploitation of overseas markets. Although we expect our industries to be competitive, we believe that if a country is dumping its goods in Australia and selling them for less than the selling price in the country concerned, we should have available to us protective measures that may be applied by the Australian Government in the interests of Australian industries. With that in view, Mr. Acting Deputy Prsident, I commend the bill. 1 think that it will achieve the desired result.
– I have much pleasure in supporting the bill. In my view, it is a corollary of the Tariff Board Bill that was assented to on 5th September last and which provided machinery for the ironing out of difficulties occasioned through our locallyproduced goods having to compete on disadvantageous terms with goods from other countries. The Tariff Board Bill provided for the. appointment of an additional deputy chairman of the board whose duty it would be, on a case being referred to the board by the Minister, to take evidence and, after a quick hearing, to make up his mind whether the evidence placed before him warranted the re-imposition of duties that previously applied until such time as the board could conduct a hearing in the ordinary course. Recourse has been had to that machinery on a number of occasions since the bill became law. On some occasions the applicants have been successful, and on other occasions they have failed, which indicates that the administration of the legislation has had the result that was intended for it. I intend to devote a little time to that bill, because, as I have said, I regard this bill as a corollary of that 1960 legislation.
Only recently, the timber industry unsuccessfully applied to have invoked the emergency tariff provisions that I have mentioned. The textile industries also made representations in this respect. I understand that although those industries approached the Minister out of the blue, as it were, and asked for a speedy hearing, the department decided, despite the tremendous amount of work that would be necessary, to buckle down to the task. At the end of four days, approximately half the applicants withdrew their applications because they were convinced that most of the difficulties that had been worrying them were not concerned with import licensing at all. That, I think, is a striking instance of the value of the legislation that was passed by the Parliament only last year.
The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), in his second-reading speech, pointed out that the bill incorporates those parts of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act which are in current use and, in addition, makes provision for some additional measures of protection against unfair trading. As Senator Scott has stated, the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act has been amended on a number of occasions. It was amended in 1922, 1933, 1936, 1956 and 1957. Action has been taken under the legislation on some 60 occasions, although such action has been taken on only a few occasions during the last twenty years. I think it can be claimed that the act has stood the manufacturers of this country in very good stead indeed.
Senator Scott has stated that the bill provides for the imposition of a dumping duty on goods from other countries, but I prefer to regard it as providing a protection against unfair competition for goods that are manufactured in this country. It may be as well to consider the nature of the goods to which the provisions of the bill will apply. The raw materials of the goods concerned may be subsidized, thus giving the overseas manufacturers a considerable start in the competitive race with Australian manufacturers. It is in this respect that 1 think the bill will play a very important part.
This measure will provide protection not only for the Australian established manufacturers but also for prospective manufacturers. That is important. Recently, we have seen incentives being given for the purpose of encouraging exports. If prospective manufacturers are assured that a certain measure of protection will be afforded them, that is all to the good. Although the bill is designed to deal with dumping and subsidies, its provisions are consistent with Article VI. of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, commonly known as Gatt. The wording of the provisions contained in the bill is not exactly the same as that of Article VI., but the principles laid down by the article have been retained. For instance, the provision of the bill which relates to dumping duty covers the types of cases which are now dealt with under sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act. Section 4 deals with dumping duty; section 5, with dumping below cost duty; and section 6 with goods on consignment. The principles embodied in those three sections have been incorporated in the bill, but the scope of the protection afforded is wider.
One of the difficulties which Australian manufacturers have experienced has been to ascertain costs of production in other countries. I understand that there has been no difficulty in ascertaining costs of production in Japan, but that has not been possible in the case of China, so that goods may be imported from that country to the great disadvantage of Australian manufacturers. Therefore, a measure of this kind, which provides the required protection, is necessary. Only recently, canned ham and canned chicken have been imported and sold at cheaper rates than those of the locally produced commodities. It is possible that the hogs, as they are called in some overseas countries, from which the ham came were fed on subsidized feed, thus giving overseas producers an advantage over the Australian producers. The same comment also could be made of the imported canned chicken, although in this respect it is widely accepted that the imported commodity is definitely inferior to the Australian. It consists of a great deal of water or soup, as the case may be, and has not nearly as much weight of actual chicken as the Australian product has.
One knotty problem that the party that 1 represent will encounter is that many primary producers think that it is quite all right to have protection, and that economic manufacturing should be encouraged, but they believe that the manufacturer who is receiving a high price for his article should meet competition from overseas. Unfortunately for primary pro.doucers, this rebounds occasionally. As T have mentioned, goods such as canned ham and chicken come into Australia at a price lower than that at which they can be produced here. So, opinions are apt. to change somewhat. I point out to primary producers that we cannot have our cake and eat it too. If overseas primary products can be imported at a price with which we cannot compete, we certainly have to put our own house in order.
That raises the question of costs in primary industry, in which the tariff plays a very large part. Many of us believe that a thorough review of the whole of our tariff system is well merited. I do not mean that all articles coming into Australia for the use of primary producers should be admitted duty free. I say that the whole of the circumstances under which the Tariff Board submits its findings to the Parliament should be reviewed. That would be in the interests of every one. We know that industries have the right to place their cases before the Tariff Board, but if they appear before the board on each occasion that it meets and give evidence on little items such as screws, bolts, screw-drivers and what-have-you, it will take a very long time for any major alterations to be made to the present system of tariff rates. I believe that the Australian economy would receive much benefit from a thorough review of the system under which the Tariff Board operates. I am not blaming the Tariff Board; the provisions under which it acts are laid down. In my opinion, the whole system should be looked at.
I agree with Senator Courtice that we need greater co-operation between the Government and the manufacturers than we have had in the past. Co-operation benefits both parties. I am quite sure that all honorable senators thoroughly deplore the pressure tactics that were tried out on the Government recently by a certain section of manufacturers in Victoria. That attempt met the fate that it deserved. I hope that any pressure tactics of a similar nature will meet a similar fate. We are here to govern in the interests of all Australia, not just a section of Australia.
I am very glad that the members of the Opposition support this measure, f give it my blessing. I have no doubt that it will operate for the benefit not only of the manufacturers, but of the people of Australia generally.
– in reply - I thank the Senate for its reception of this bill. When the measure has received the approval of the Parliament, the administration of this act will be far easier, particularly in dealing with injury to an Australian industry. As the Tariff Board pointed out. we have been labouring under some difficulty. If goods came into Australia and, on the matter being referred to the Tariff Board, it was found that injury, even infinitestimal injury, was being done to an industry, the board would have to find accordingly. This bill will allow a degree of common sense to be applied in the administration of the legislation. Very often the amount of injury is so small that it is of no real consequence. This bill clearly states the position of the board and the principles on which it is to work.
– To what degree must injury be established under this bill?
– Clause 11 reads -
A reference in any of the last four preceding sections to an injury does not include a reference to an insubstantial injury and a reference in section seven or nine of this Act to the hindering of the establishment of an Australian industry does not include a reference to an insubstantial hindrance to the establishment of such an industry.
We desired to follow the provisions of Article VI. of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, but the draftsman found difficulty, under Australian law, in using those provisions. So clause 11 has been included to safeguard the position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 817).
– The Opposition does not oppose this measure. I wish to say a few words about long service leave. It was granted to the coal industry in 1949, and the legislation providing for it is one of the most monumental pieces of legislation that Australia has known. Honorable senators will recall that the long service leave measure was one of the ingredients of the new deal for the’ mine-workers which a grateful and war-weary nation promised them in return for services rendered during the war and the post-war period. The early years of the post-war period were years of coal famine. Honorable senators opposite, particularly Senator Scott, often talk about what happened in 1 949, and very often they go so far as to blame the Labour Party and the mine-workers for the 1949 coal strike. I believe that if honorable senators opposite, and those on this side of the chamber, think about the matter they will realize that the actions of the mine-workers were only incidental to the coal shortages of 1949.
The trouble was that the Labour Government inherited an industry that was under-capitalized and under-developed. It was incapable of meeting the demands of the nation during the war and during the post-war period. The Labour Party remembers the 1949 strike to its sorrow. Our friends on the other side of the chamber, for political reasons at any rate, had much to gain from it, but we had everything to lose. I do not suggest for a moment, and I never did, that the 1949 coal strike was an act of brigandage on the part of the miners. It was not. It rose out of a state of war neurosis, a type of neurosis that affected the whole world. The Australian miner was no exception. He was promised long service leave by a Labour government.
– In what year was that?
– He was promised long service leave from 1947 onwards. Unfortunately, a Labour government has to do what other governments have to do. When an innovation or a reform quite clearly is essential and just, those for whom it is intended have to go through the legal process of stating a case to the tribunal and, almost axiomatically, their application is opposed by the other side.
– Why do you say “ unfortunately “? Do you not think it is a good thing that they must present a case?
– I do not think it is a good thing that justice should be delayed. If justice is delayed, justice is denied. I believe that if justice to the miners had not been delayed the coal strike of 1949 would not have eventuated. Annual leave was granted to the miners in 1949 and it should not have been necessary for them to strike. I was opposed to that strike, and I know what was the attitude of the men who went on strike. As we know, when crises develop, all sorts of things happen. Finally, that strike turned out to be a Communist strike, but it was not a Communist strike in the first place; it was a strike to obtain a long-promised redress of grievances. But let me get away from that emotional side of the subject.
– Why was action taken by the Chifley Government if it was a perfectly ordinary industrial strike?
– You have misquoted me. It commenced by being a perfectly ordinary and just strike, and then it became a Communist conspiracy. At that stage, the Chifley Government had to intervene. I was present with Mr. Chifley when he addressed his first meeting with the miners at Lithgow, and I know what his reaction was. The Labour Government was not happy about what happened in the 1949 strike.
I should like now to refer to some of the details of the bill. In my opinion, the measure does not go far enough. Undoubtedly, it will be of some assistance. Anything that helps to increase exports and tidy up the situation in the mining industry is good, but this measure does not so far enough. It reminds me of sending a boy on a man’s errand. The coal industry in this country has been hit by a number of circumstances. The lifting of excise duty on coal exported will not save the coal industry.
In 1954-55, New South Wales supplied 14,354,000 tons of coal, or 50.1 per cent, of the total energy market. Competing petroleum products supplied 17.8 per cent, of requirements. In 1959-60, New South Wales supplied 14,609,000 tons, or 43.2 per cent, of the market. Competing petroleum products supplied 23.7 per cent, of requirements. In the same period, expanded sales of competing petroleum products supplanted 2,000,000 tons of black coal.
Diesel oil. to the extent that it is used in diesel-electric locomotives, has displaced the coal which would have been required for the steam locomotives displaced. In the present state of knowledge of coal-burning techniques this displacement of coal by oil was inevitable. It is, however, instructive to note the consequences for the coal industry of Australia.
It is interesting to note that some of the major coal owners are not interested in the export trade, and I am very doubtful whether the Japanese are over interested in it, although they are buying coal from us at the present time, because of the inadequate facilities in this country to load coal on to ships. This Government is doing nothing to improve the harbour facilities.
– What is the New South Wales Government doing in that direction?
– The Commonwealth Government is refusing to assist the New South Wales Government in its mammoth task of modernizing harbour facilities. The Commonwealth Government is only playing with the coal industry’s problem.
In the Australian coal industry to-day, there is not one mine that is capable of producing in less than a fortnight 10,000 tons of coal to form the cargo of a ship going to Japan. It is one of the anomalies of the coal industry that, despite the introduction of mechanization, there are fewer mines now capable of producing 2,000 tons of coal a day than there were 20 years ago. There were then many mines that were capable of producing 3,000 or 4,000 tons of coal a day. With the advent of mechanization, men have been sacked from the mines. It should not be thought for a moment that the introduction of a machine into a mine cheapens the cost of production or does anything materially to improve the situation of the industry.
– Mechanization has been responsible for increased aggregate output.
– That is so, but I am not discussing that aspect of the matter. All I am saying is that an individual mine’s production has not increased. Probably the greatest individual mine production in the country to-day is about 1,000 tons. In the old days, with hand mining - I am not suggesting that we should go back to that - there would be 100 working places in a mine, each producing 30 tons a day or thereabouts. With mechanization, . it costs the mine owner £60,000 for a machine that can be used in only one or two sections of the mine. Consequently, with the mechanization that has taken place, there has been a decrease, not an expansion of the production of coal that would be beneficial to Australia.
– But you are not relying on one mine only.
– I am speaking generally. A new force has grown up in the coal industry, known as the third man. There was no such thing as an agent in the industry twenty years ago, but because the mines are now small, they have agents to do the business with Japan, and collect the coal from the collieries. Any saving in expenditure that results from the use of machines goes towards paying for this third force which did not exist to the same extent before. This Government is not examining the situation. I am expressing logical points of view-
– If they are logical points of view, they are not being expressed very logically.
– The honorable senator says that because he does not understand the situation. He chooses to blame all of the ills of the coal-mining industry on to the Communists. That does not solve the problem that is confronting the coal industry in Australia. I do not think that this Government is doing very much towards solving the real problem that exists.
– What about the Joint Coal Board?
– Every time the Joint Coal Board has made a move in New South Wales to discipline the coal owner, somebody has said “ If you do that, we will test your legal position “; consequently the board has had to pull out.
This brings me to the question of penalties. Why, when long service leave is granted to an industry, are penalties attached in respect of certain things? Supporters of the Government are labouring under the mistaken impression that provision for penalties influences men to continue to work. That is not so.
Sitting suspended from 5.49 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension I was a little involved with the issue raised by Senator Wright in relation to the 1949 strike. I want to clear that up. What I said was that the original causes of the 1949 strike were the grievances that the miners had. Miners, like many other workers throughout the world had a postwar neurosis and they had been promised a new deal. I agree with Senator Wright’s statement that when the strike did occur after eighteen months of jurisprudence and arbitration court hearings, it did become a conspiracy against Australia. Honorable senators know what the Labour Government of the time did.
I am not suggesting that the Chifley Government delayed action in relation to the granting of long service leave to mine workers. What I tried to explain was that the Chifley Government believed in this principle but, as is customary in our present set-up, before any reform is granted we have to go through the forms of legal processes, which means that by the time a reform becomes law it has lost most of the propaganda value it might have had and it seems that it had to be dragged out of a very reluctant society. My general complaint about reforms is that other people, who are not associated with Labour, sometimes get reforms very quickly. I did not want to introduce this thought into the debate, but this happens in relation to the salaries of top public servants, judges, and others who have not to wait. Their increases are made retrospective and they are paid very quickly in large lumps, but the worker always seems to have to wait.
Before sitting down, I want to direct the Senate’s attention to a very, very serious matter for Australia. I wish that Senator Spooner were in the chamber to hear what I have to say. We talk quite a lot about coal exports and I am all in favour of them. I am in favour of anything that helps ‘to keep the mining industry going and to keep the men in jobs. After all, three or four years ago 23,000 or 24,000 mine workers were engaged in the industry. To-day, there are only a few more than 11,000. I do not think that in the sacrifice of that man-power such great gains as we are told, about have been made in coal production and the cost of coal to the consumer.
– Do you recall off-hand what last year’s production was?
– It was higher than the production in the previous year.
– What was it?
– Over 14,000,000 tons.
– About 20,000,000?
– Throughout Australia. I was talking about New South Wales. The point I want to make is that we are exporting our very best coal. The Japanese want only coking coal. We produce the cheapest and best steel in the world only because we have the cheapest and best coking coal in the world. The Government and the industry seem to be operating as if there were no end to these deposits of coking coal. I want to warn the Government that some very learned coal-mining engineers have said that there is a limit to the available coking coal in Australia. The Government would be well advised to survey the various coal seams to determine what coking coal we have in reserve. We must remember that if supplies of coking coal become short our steel will be in short supply. It is of not the slightest use for the Government to talk about establishing a steel plant in Senator Scott’s State of Western Australia unless it can show the steel industry in Western Australia - if there ever is one there - where it is to get the coking coal that it will require.
– How can you operate a steel industry without iron ore?
– I do not know about that. I am certain that there cannot be a steel industry without coking coal and that the best coking coal in Australia is being transported overseas to supply Japanese steelworks. That is a matter that we ought to examine. About twelve months ago I made some mention of this subject in the Senate, but apparently nobody has done very much about it. Some very prominent authorities have directed attention to the possibility of exhausting supplies of this coal.
The final thought that 1 want to leave with the Senate relates to the attaching of penalties to such provisions as those in relation to annual leave entitlements. 1 shall not blame this Government or any other government, but it seems to be a custom, when such workers as coal-miners are given annual leave, to attach penalties on the basis that these will force better behaviour from the workers. That assumes, of course, that workers consider such things when they are talking about strikes or disputes with their employers. I think it is ridiculous to suggest that a group of mine workers, for example, before having a pit-top meeting or strike, or before going home over some local issue, first consider how such action will affect their long service leave. They never think of it. Workers do not look so far ahead. They are more interested in the immediate problems and how to remedy them than in looking ahead to what will happen when they are 60 years, of age. They do not think about this aspect. Undoubtedly, there has been a material improvement in the industrial behaviour of mine workers, which has led this Government to make point number three in Mr. Menzies’s policy speeches the magnificent production of coal. He always talks about it in his policy speeches, and rightly so. But what is the reason for this increased production? The reason is quite obvious. lt is not because of long service leave. It is not, as some honorable senators opposite might’ think, because penalties are forcing the miners to work. It is nothing of the kind.
– The reason is because we stood up to the “ Corns “.
– All right. I have heard it said that the penalties under the act apply to both sides, but whoever heard of an employer being prosecuted? Only one side is prosecuted. The employers are never prosecuted, because they never break the law - seemingly so, at any rate. Let me return to the reason why the coal industry is working so well and why it is a better industry to-day. This state of affairs has nothing to do with penalties. As Senator Scott knew I would say, sooner, or later, it has to do with the advantages that the Chifley Government helped to provide. Before 1949, what did we set out to do, apart from introducing annual leave and shorter hours in some cases. We humanized the coal industry.
– It is all very well to laugh, but the coal-mining industry was an inhuman industry before the Labour Government and its ancillary organizations and instrumentalities attempted to humanize it. The first thing that we caused to be done was to make the coal industry an industry in which there was payment by the day. We brought in a system which helped to abolish the contract system- whereby the miners were tugging at one another and were paid just for the amount of coal they filled. They were never at any stage under those conditions a normal group of workers.
They were all individual contractors, paid for what they did. They could knock off when they liked and start almost when they liked. When things were not going too well in the mine and a few days were to be lost, the owner would blow the whistle, and the miner would be tugging at him to see what day he was going to work and what day he was not. All that has been altered. To-day it is no longer a casual type of industry. It was almost so, but it is not casual now. The changes so far is one thing that has caused better industrial behaviour among mine workers. It has nothing to do with penalties, I assure honorable senators.
– That was prior to 1949?
– No, it had been coming about gradually. It came with the mechanization of mines.
– Since the establishment of the Joint Coal Board?
– Since the Coal Board. What. I am trying to stress is that the application of penalties to workers does not necessarily get the desired results. It may salve your conscience and let you go home to the people who keep your party in being and say to them, “ We are having a go at the’ Commo’s ‘ this way “. But you are not doing so, really. The important thing to do is to give advantage without tags and depend on men to do the right thing, as they usually will.
– Is that your general outlook on law enforcement?
– -No. Of course I believe in law enforcement.
– Why give a privileged pass against punishment?
-I do not think that these men ought to be punished. I think, as Senator Dittmer said, that this irritates them. Another matter which may not appear terribly important to senators but which has a great deal to. do with mine workers is that the men are. now paid once a week. That is also an important change. It is another contribution towards making the miner more like his fellowworkers. Previously he was. isolated and treated as some one who had to have a completely alien set of conditions and towards whom a different attitude had to be adopted. I do say that the present Government has done its best, within the limitations of its own philosophies, to allow those things to work out.
– Its best is very poor.
– That may be right. We support the bill, naturally, for the reduction of this excise. We support anything that reduces the charges on the industry. I direct honorable senators’ attention to the increase of agents in the coal industry. This means a third party coming in. That must increase the cost of coal production tremendously. I direct attention, also, to the fact that the Government, before it is too late, ought to examine whether we can afford to allow our best coking coal to be exported to Japan merely for the sake of solving temporarily the present problem of unemployment on the coal-fields. That is an urgent matter that I hope the Government will look at quickly. I do not want to quote the experts who agree with me on this, for it ought to be perfectly obvious to all. I remind the Senate that there was once a time when anybody who wanted to illustrate a point of absurdity would talk about bringing coals to Newcastle., It was just something that would not be done. But today coals are being taken to Newcastle. Industry at Newcastle is importing coking coal: - something it has. never had to do before - because it is in short supply in that district. The Opposition supports the bill and will now hurry it through, all stages.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed (vide page 818), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through itsremaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed (vide page 818), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from 4th May (vide page 774), on motion by Senator Wade -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The measure before the Senate proposes to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1953. We on this side of the chamber regard this as an opportunity for reviewing this most important part of the legislative machinery of the Commonwealth Parliament. It has been said that the Commonwealth Electoral Act is the hinge upon which swings the election of members of Parliament. We in this country can be justifiably proud that our method of parliamentary election can compare with that in any other part of the world. The main principles on which our elections are based are as near to the true form of a democratic election as has yet been developed; and in this country the elector has all the facilities that can be devised to make it convenient for him to cast his vote. In most cases he has the secret ballot. I shall refer to that in a moment. The candidate is allowed to conduct his campaign and put forward his views. He is given full protection, no matter what views he may wish to place before the electors. These very important features of our method of electing people to the parliaments in this country are admired by other countries. Many countries seeking self-determination use our Electoral Act as a model and incorporate it in their legislation when they achieve democracy within their borders.
The bill before us proposes amendments, the need for which has become obvious over a period of time. Perhaps it would be more appropriate that a detailed dis cussion of those amendments should take place during the committee stage. It is my intention to direct attention to some of the provisions contained in the bill and also to refer to some amendments that the Opposition proposes to move at a later stage. In view of the fact that people from Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands, who under our immigration laws have become Australian citizens, are entitled to a full franchise, I want to express very strongly to the Senate the view that we are doing ourselves a grave injustice and a disservice, from an international as well as from a domestic point of view, in continuing to skate round the issue of voting rights for aborigines.
It seems to me to be an anomaly that although aborigines in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia are entitled to vote at State elections and at Commonwealth elections, no provision has been made by the Government to grant full voting rights to aborigines living in the other States. To my mind, this is a reflection, not only on the Government itself but also on the Australian people, in the eyes of other nations. It has been said on many occasions, as an argument against granting voting rights to aborigines in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, that they are partly nomadic, are illiterate and do not fully understand the implications of democratic government, This argument falls to the ground when we consider that although aborigines living along the borders of Queensland at places like Thargomindah, Cunnamulla and Goondiwindi are precluded from voting, those living a few miles over the border at Bourke, Brewarrina and Narrabri enjoy the right to vote. How this distinction can be justified by this Government and by the State authorities is beyond my comprehension.
The Constitution itself specifically debars aborigines from exercising a franchise and from becoming enrolled, but we must realize that to-day we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the opening of the National Parliament. During those 60 years we have seen tremendous advances in every field of human activity. We have seen the conquest of the vast spaces of inland Australia that previously had been the hunting grounds of nomadic aborigines. We have witnessed the opening up of that country for grazing. We have seen roads built, airlines established and railroads driven into the hinterland. During that process we have also seen the detribalization of the aborigines of this country.
The argument is put forward that many aborigines are still “in their tribal state, but any one who travels through the back country of Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia must realize that during the last 60 years missions have been working amongst the aborigines, teaching them Western methods of living. They have taught them hygiene, have educated them, trained them in various crafts and trades and arranged for them to be employed on station properties where they learn the art of animal husbandry along with other station hands employed on the properties. That process has been going on to such an extent that to-day a large proportion of the aborigines who have become detribalized are entitled to full status in our community. To continue to deprive them of that basic democratic right is to perpetuate an injustice.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), when answering arguments against depriving aborigines in the northern parts of Australia of the franchise, stressed the fact that a committee of the House of Representatives had been established to examine this problem. Any one who knows how the aborigines have intermingled with the white population since becoming detribalized, and how they are employed as station hands and in other responsible positions in the community, must see the necessity to face up to the challenge that these people present to us. Perhaps their voice is not very strong collectively. But morally, we are presented with the challenge to grant them the franchise. The appointment by the House of Representatives of the select committee, which is to bring in its report by 31st October, in my opinion is just evading the issue. Amendments of the Commonwealth Electoral Act are very few and far between. Perhaps we should be grateful for the fact that it is not necessary to amend the legislation frequently. But it is quite obvious that the report of the select committee will not come before this chamber and that there will be no opportunity to debate it. The giving of the franchise to the aborigines was keenly debated in another place, and I should like to say that we on this side of the Senate supported the appointment of that committee. On the other hand, we are in favour of amending the existing act now in order to give the franchise to aborigines.
I ask the Minister for Air (Senator Wade), who represents the Minister for the Interior in this place, why his colleague was in such a hurry to appoint a committee which is constituted only of members of the House of Representatives. I think it is fair to ask him why a joint parliamentary committee was not appointed. Seeing that members of the Senate, by reason of the very nature of their election, will have a longer membership of the Parliament than I feel many members of the House of Representatives will have because of the outcome of the next election, I believe that the inclusion of representatives of the Senate on the committee would have been a very good move.
The point I wish to make is that the Minister has used the appointment of that committee as a means of evading responsibility for perpetuating a state of affairs in which Australian aboriginal people are deprived of the franchise - at a time when we are amending the Commonwealth Electoral Act to make provision for voting rights, under certain terms, for aborigines from Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands. In the eyes of the rest of the world, the Australian aboriginal has as much right to this country as we have. He is here as a birthright. Over a period of years he has had to accustom himself to a new environment, and the passing away of old tribal customs has been inevitable. To differentiate between the aboriginal and other Australians just because the former is an aboriginal basically is immoral. Figures have been cited to show the number of aborigines in the Northern Territory who are entitled to vote. I understand that, although originally 71 aborigines in the Territory were not declared to be wards of the State, only nineteen at present have that status. The declaration of aborigines as wards of the State is almost automatic, regardless of whether a person has any special talents or whether he could be encouraged to raise his standing in the community. Automatic declaration of aborigines as wards of the State perpetuates the placing of a stigma on these people. Aborigines who live in close proximity to townships and work on stations - many of them perform important duties in the larger towns in the northern part of Australia - should be accepted as being eligible for enrolment and the right to vote.
The bill makes provision for people whose religious beliefs preclude them from voting on Saturdays. That is an important development, because as a democracy expands and matures the views - particularly the religious views - of all people should be considered. Just as the views of members of religious groups that have prejudices in relating to fasting or abstinence are respected by fellow-citizens, so the beliefs of those who regard the seventh day as being the day of rest, that day being Saturday, should be respected. Of course, it is a matter of controversy; but the people to whom I am referring in their interpretation of the Scriptures believe that the seventh day was the day on which the Lord rested. If they wish to interpret the Scriptures in that way their views should be respected. As I said earlier the inclusion in the bill of provision to cover the views of those people is a good move; it gives greater freedom for expression of thought, which is a basic tenet of democracy.
The bill also contains a provision which is designed to enable an elector who is entitled to a postal vote to apply to the registrar for a sub-division which has been declared to be a remote sub-division. The disadvantages occasioned by distance in so many parts of Australia will be overcome by this provision. The inclusion of this amendment will strengthen the act. Postal voting facilities have been the subject of great controversy. For a long time it has been evident that there are quite serious anomalies in the postal voting system. The Government has strongly contended that ballots of any kind should not be rigged. The only opportunity that exists for rigging in an Australian election occurs when the voting papers are out of the hands of the presiding or electoral officer, and the only time that a vote is out of the hands of the duly authorized officials conducting an election is when it is being sent by post as a postal vote.
– It is completely corrupt.
– I shall develop my argument along those lines. When this bill was being discussed in another place recently, it was stated that conscientious organizers working for the various political parties whose candidates were standing for election waited at the doors of various institutions, such as aged people’s homes and hospitals, in order to assist the inmates to cast their postal votes.
I was most impressed by figures for the State of New South Wales that were given by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and which .illustrate the point I am making. In the last general election held in that State, in the Phillip electorate, 51 per cent, of the ordinary formal votes and 54 per cent, of the postal votes went to the Liberal Party candidate. In the electorate of Lyne, 68 per cent, of the postal votes and 53 per cent, of the ordinary votes favoured the Australian Country ‘‘arty candidate. In the Riverina electorate, 61 per cent, of the postal votes and 53 per cent, of the ordinary votes went to the Country Party candidate.
I suggest that if a gallup poll of a crosssection of the community were to be taken before an election, Mr. Deputy President, it would be found that there was a difference of only 1 or 2 per cent, between the results indicated by the poll and the actual results of the election. There are sometimes exceptions, of course. Postal voting, however, consistently shows a different result from that of the ordinary voting at the polling booths. Recently, in a State by-election in New South Wales, of 140 postal votes, nine went to the Australian Labour Party candidate and the remainder to the Liberal Party candidate. Excuses are sometimes made to the effect that more supporters of the Liberal Party are ‘likely to be travelling at election time, but I suggest that the people who travel to the Royal Show from country areas or who visit other places at election time conform to a set voting pattern.
There should be a complete review of the system of postal voting. I hope that I will be given an opportunity at the committee stage to move for amendment of the act with a view to removing the anomalies and the unsatisfactory practices that have been observed in the past. I can quite understand the enthusiasm of party organizers and their efforts to obtain for candidates every possible vote; but if temptation is open to them and if there are opportunities for malpractices to occur, it is the responsibility of this Parliament to act in the matter. I sincerely hope that the Government will accept the amendments that will be moved in committee on behalf of the Opposition.
The bill proposes also to deal with the size of electoral posters. During the war the size of electoral posters was reduced, and justifiably so, to save, paper and for other reasons. The Government now proposes to amend the act to allow the size of posters to be increased to 1,200 square inches or to correspond with the standard poster size of 40 inches by 30 inches. I cannot see any justification for the proposed increase of size, for the simple reason that the posters displayed by the various political parties are inclined to cancel one another out. As I am reminded by one of my colleagues, they may be covered up or disfigured. I think that a small poster serves the same purpose that a large one serves. In Tasmania, the law relating to the disfigurement of property forbids unsightly hoardings to clutter the countryside. It is forbidden to place posters of any description on trees on the roadside, regardless of whether they are growing on private or public property. That prohibition protects the tourist potentialities of the State. I believe that the proposed amendment of the act in regard to posters could well have been left aside. After all, there will be a temptation for people to duplicate the large posters which the law will allow and to plaster them on buildings and trees at the roadside, and so on, which will be a very bad thing.
– The city councils will look after that, surely.
– But not all the posters will be in city areas. As the honorable senator knows, these posters are to be found along country roads, on bridges and buildings - in fact, in almost every place where it is possible to put them. In my opinion, the proposed amendment of the act will not. enhance the opportunities of individual candidates to advertise. On the contrary., it will be an incentive to them to waste money on the printing of larger posters than are really necessary.
The bill also relates to the appointment of scrutineers at elections. This matter has been a contentious one over the years. In the past, a candidate could appoint a scrutineer to attend the counting of votes. Counting might be going on at several tables at once, but since the scrutineer was only human, he could carry out his duties at only one table. This amendment will give presiding officers discretionary power to allow scrutineers at the count. We on this side of the chamber want candidates to be able to nominate scrutineers to attend the count at every ballot box at every polling place where votes are being counted. That would be another means of ensuring that the ballot is secret. We have great trust in the people who are selected as presiding officers. Because of the provisions of the act there is never a breath of suspicion, but the appointment of an adequate number of scrutineers would provide an extra safeguard. It would make the ballot completely free of any skulduggery that any one might be tempted to indulge in.
This bill also deals with the fines that are imposed by courts for first offences of failing to enrol or notify changes of address. That is only a minor matter. The Minister has assured us that court action is taken only after other means of enforcing the law have been exploited.
The question of the entrances to polling booths has never been properly settled. In my opinion, it should be settled on this occasion, when we are reviewing the Commonwealth Electoral Act. At present, the act prohibits canvassing within 20 feet of the entrance to a polling booth. Many polling booths, such as schools and shire halls, have a number of entrances to their grounds. As long as the system of handing out how-to-vote cards prevails, a greater number of entrances will mean a great addition to the number of people engaged by organizing committees during elections to distribute the cards. The Opposition believes that the entrance to the polling booth inside the grounds should be the entrance as defined in the act, and that 20 feet is a sufficient distance to prescribe to prevent people from being molested or inconvenienced when entering the polling booth.
The points which have not been properly dealt with in this bill are the depriving of the aborigines of Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia of their right to enrol as voters, the size of electorates, redistributions and the period between redistributions. Those matters will be dealt with in committee.
The method of electing members of the House of Representatives should also be considered while we are discussing this bill. It has been pointed out that the placing of names on the ballot paper in alphabetical order gives an undue advantage to a person whose name commences with a letter in the early part of the alphabet. Figures were quoted in another place to show that the names of a great proportion of the members in that place start with letters in the early part of the alphabet, whereas in the Senate - where a ballot is held to decide the positions on the ballot-paper - the initial letters of senators’ names are evenly distributed throughout the alphabet. The Opposition believes that the act should be amended so that the names of candidates for election to the House of Representatives appear on the ballot-paper in accordance with the way the names are drawn in a ballot. In my opinion that would eliminate an advantage which a candidate gains because the initial letter of his name is in the early part of the alphabet.
In the past candidates have changed their names by deed poll in order to take advantage of the provisions of the act and have their names appear on the ballot-paper paper higher than they otherwise would. That is quite wrong. Political parties have purposely consulted prospective candidates whose names commence with letters earlier in the alphabet than the initial letters of the names of the sitting candidates, in order to gain the advantage of having their candidates’ names appear first on the ballotpaper. Such practices may give a shortterm political advantage, but they are against the spirit of a democratic electoral system. Those matters should be considered on an occasion such as this. Many other aspects of this bill could be discussed much better in committee than at the second reading stage. Therefore, I will reserve much of my comment for the committee stage.
– 1 support the bill. As the amendments are, in the main, fairly minor, I shall not discuss them at the second-reading stage. 1 should like to reply to one or two of the points made by Senator O’Byrne. In my opinion, the voting rights of aborigines is an important matter quite distinct from the matters with which this bill deals. I would not be prepared to vote on the question of voting rights for aborigines without having much more information than I have. I believe that that question is worthy of being dealt with in a separate bill. I fully approve of the setting up of a committee composed of members of the other House to inquire into this matter. I think that that committee will present a very valuable report, on which we can act. 1 believe that we would be very unwise if we criticized the action of the other place in appointing a select committee. As you know, Sir, we in this chamber have appointed select committees without consulting the other House. Some years ago, 1 proposed the appointment of a select committee, and my proposal met with the full support of every member of this chamber. Before I submitted that proposal, I did not consult one member of the other chamber, not even the leaders of the respective parties. We have the power to set up our own committees, and I am sure that we have enough confidence in the members of the other place to believe that its committee will make a thorough examination of this question and submit a satisfactory report.
I listened with very great interest to what Senator O’Byrne said in relation to postal voting and I realize that possibly there have been opportunities for manipulation in that field. But postal voting is not necessarily corrupt or not necessarily mishandled. I believe that postal voting is essential in order to permit citizens to cast a vote whose obligations take them away on polling day from the districts in which they reside. I think it would be quite wrong to deprive a citizen of his right to vote merely because his duties took him to another district on polling day. I may say that I belong to two bodies in whose elections I have always voted by post. They are the Australian National University and the University of Sydney. I happen to be a member of Convocation, and to my knowledge nobody has ever complained of abuse of this system. In fact, I think in both these bodies the bulk of the voting is done by post. We can have a close look at the relevant provisions at the committee stage and see whether it should be amended. However, I think I should say that I have read it, and, at the moment, I am satisfied with it as it stands. I certainly think it is wrong to give out the idea - as at least one honorable senator, by interjection, has done - that postal voting could be manipulated or is necessarily corrupt.
I come now to the matter of scrutineers. The bill provides that a candidate shall be entitled to be represented at the scrutiny at a particular polling booth by one scrutineer or by the number of scrutineers determined by the Chief Electoral Officer. At small polling places, it should be sufficient for a candidate to be represented by one scrutineer. I do not think it would be practicable to lay down in the measure the exact number of scrutineers there shall be at various polling places, because conditions vary and unprecedented conditions might arise. Therefore, I think it is wise to leave this aspect of the matter to the discretion of the Chief Electoral Officer. Doutbless, he will lay down some pretty general rules. I have acted as a scrutineer at polls for more than one party - for different parties - and irrespective of the party I represented on a particular occasion I have always found the returning officers to be courteous; they have always acted perfectly correctly and I have never at any time had any difficulties with them.
I come now to the question of Senate elections. Sir, I regret that the bill does nothing to correct the very serious evil that, on the very large Senate ballot-paper, a candidate whose name appears at the top gains an advantage. I think that the advantage is so much greater with the large ballot-paper that the system of drawing for position is better than the alphabetical method. I do not think that in a comparatively small poll in which there are a comparatively small number of candidates the initial position on the ballot-paper confers a great advantage. Certainly, it was of no advantage at the recent referendum in New South Wales when, “ Yes “ was at the top of the ballot-paper and “ No “ was at the bottom of it. At any rate, the “ Yes “ proposal was overwhelmingly beaten.
With the Senate elections it is a different matter. I realize ‘that my proposals have failed in the past. Some years ago, feeling something like Don Quixote, I introduced a private senator’s bill to deal with the matter. I can now say, Sir, that I have no intention for the rest of my life in again acting like Don Quixote. Anything that I introduce into this chamber will be very sensible and down-to-earth.
I deplore and regret the fact that we insist on compulsory voting. As a matter of fact, that term is a complete misnomer. There is so such thing as compulsory voting because voting is by ballot. Nobody must know what is on the ballot. If a person simply puts a ballot-paper in the ballotbox without recording anything on it, or writes rude or insulting words on it, he has a right as a citizen to do that; nobody can compel him to cast a vote. We could alter the act to require compulsory attendance at the polling place rather than compulsory voting. I believe that we could so frame the provision that people who have no intention of voting, who do not know what they are doing and who do not know the candidates will satisfy the law if they go to the polling places and get their names crossed off the electoral rolls. We should allow a person to do as he likes in this respect provided he goes to the polling place.
There are some people who follow the absurd practice of numbering the ballotpaper straight down. Why they do that, Heaven only knows! They must have a very poor type of mentality unless, of course, the order of names on the ballotpaper happens to coincide with their order of preference. Various estimates have been made on the advantage that flows to a candidate whose name appears at the top of the Senate ballot-paper; an estimate of as high as 3 per cent, advantage has been made. It is true that the parties placed first on the ballot-paper get a big advantage by this means - sometimes as many as four times the number of votes cast for candidates lower down in the alphabetical scale; the other parties benefit according to how close the names of their candidates are to the top of the paper. One has only to look at the result of Senate elections since proportional voting was introduced to see that this is so. I feel very deeply on this matter. I want to be sent here or not sent here according to the will of intelligent electors and not because of a lucky draw in the ballot.
I think, Sir, that people who advocate compulsory voting use a completely fallacious argument. To-day, we have heard two statements made in this ‘Chamber, one by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) and the other by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) concerning our ‘Commonwealth. The most serious issue that was ever put to the Australian people was whether they should federate or not. At the two referendums and also at the election of the delegates to the convention, the voting was, by our standard, low; a great number of people did not vote. I think that was a good thing for the country because the people who were determined that we should get a federal parliament voted .for it and the people who were likewise determined that we should not get a federal .parliament voted against it. Those who were indifferent or apathetic simply did not vote at all. I .think it would be a good thing if the major parties were to consider whether they are getting any real benefit by having compulsory voting. I know that each party thinks -that this confers a benefit on it. All I say is that elementary logic tells me that if one party gets an advantage the other does not; both cannot benefit. I think such advantage as is gained is outweighed by the foolish vote of people who do not know what they are doing. I may say, in :passing, that private members on this side of the Chamber have done a great deal. We .have considered this question very carefully and have appointed several committees to go into it. We found that we were up against indifference and conservatism - apathy, if .you like. I considered ‘One alteration very carefully and would have :proposed .it if there had been any hope of support for ,it, but I (found ,that :the general opinion was that it ‘would be ‘useless to persevere -with it. However, I think that the introduction of a circular ballot-paper should be co-sidered Some people seem to have an absurd idea about that. They ask, “How will you fold a circular ballot-paper? “. The actual paper would be rectangular, like the existing ballot-paper. The circle would be drawn upon it, the order of the names would be balloted for, and the names would be placed around the circle. The advantage of that system would be that the foolish vote would be distributed. People who start at the top of the present ballot-paper and go down could fill in a circular ballotpaper more easily. There would still be the foolish vote, but it would be distributed. It would not be lodged for a particular person. That is something for the future. The Minister might take note of it.
I have one other suggestion. It has been made in another place, but I thought of it independently and intended to raise it here. It was mentioned to me by a returning officer. I think that we should do our best to get votes from all our new citizens. I attend, as doubtless all honorable senators attend, many naturalization ceremonies, and I always tell the new citizens, “ Now you have the right to vote “. I have on occasion, not seriously but facetiously, said: “ You have the right to run for Parliament and if you run for Parliament I advise you to run for the House of Representatives, not the Senate”. Seriously, these people go away from those ceremonies with the belief that having been naturalized and having the right to vote, no further action on their part is required. I was told by a returning officer at a large polling booth in Sydney that he was very sorry for many honest new Australians who came up to him, fully believing that they could vote. He had to say, “You are not on the roll “, and they replied, “ We were not told we had to be “. I suggest that arrangements ought to be made by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. -Freeth), to give to each new citizen, with his naturalization papers, an application ‘form. It might even be arranged that the form be completed and collected on the night of naturalization.
– That is done in South Australia.
– That is very sensible. I believe that it is done by some municipal councils in New South ‘Wales.
– It is done generally.
– To make sure, it should be done at a federal level by arrangement between the Minister and the officers present at the naturalization ceremony. That is all I ‘have to say in general on the bill. lt is a good bill as far as it goes. It clears up certain anomalies and little inconveniences. Apart from the errors of omission that I have mentioned, I have no criticism. I shall vote for it and, of course, I shall listen in committee to see whether there is any substance in the objections that have already been raised.
– I suppose we might say that every Menzies government is a lazy government and that this Government is probably the laziest of them all. lt comes up with amendments but very rarely does it come up with consolidation of legislation. We shall be tolerant, as is our wont, because the Minister for Air (Senator Wade), who is in charge of the bill in the Senate, is comparatively new in the job. I think we owe to him a measure of tolerance on this occasion. He cannot expect similar tolerance after he has been in office for a considerable period. As I have said, rarely do we have consolidation of legislation. We have amendments constantly before the Senate and the other place. Is the Government so lazy that it cannot consolidate acts? Is it so derelict to its responsibility to the public as to make for the greatest difficulty in the following of legislation by the legal profession, its clients, and those other people who may care to read acts?
The Minister said that this was a comparatively simple bill. Of course it is; it is merely an amending bill and I suppose that there is not much wrong with its provisions. But I propose to mention certain facets of the electoral law because we aim, or we claim to aim, to have Parliament representative of all people, whether they are brilliant or dull, and to provide the maximum facilities for them to express their opinions on polling day. Senator McCallum, I think, gathered a false impression from Senator O’Byrne’s speech. Senator O’Byrne did not suggest the abolition of postal voting. He sought to clear up the irregularities associated with postal voting. If Senator McCallum thinks that there are no such irregularities, he is more naive than I thought he was. To start with, there is the pressure of the person interviewing the voter who is to exercise a postal vote. Then, postal votes are collected and, although I frankly do not think the Labour Party would do this, it has been known that envelopes have been steamed open and votes have been altered. That is shown by legal history; it is notorious. I do not think that Senator McCallum would do that.
– There have also been sliding ballot-boxes.
– Yes, I know that. The point is that there are irregularities. That is why we believe that there should be the most stringent attention to preserve the rights of the voter. We believe that it is the responsibility of the Government to see that an electoral visitor should approach a voter in relation to postal voting. This is not a novel suggestion. It would ensure that someone divorced from party, employed by the government of the day, a public servant without a vested interest in the outcome, would have this responsibility. Under present circumstances those persons who interview voters who wish to cast a postal vote exercise pressure or worse, either in their enthusiasm or with malevolent intent, and consequently frustrate the wishes of the voter. This is a matter that ought to have been cleaned up in this amending legislation.
Senator McCallum has said that position on the Senate voting paper is important, but he would not concede that it mattered very much on the ordinary ballot-paper. I take it that he was referring to voting for the House of Representatives. I shall refer to an example. It cannot be taken absolutely, because many factors could enter into consideration. One would have to analyse conditions applying to particular electorates. I mention the example as a broad generalization. In one Victorian election, a Democratic Labour Party candidate in No. 1 position polled 16.4 per cent, of the votes. Where the D.L.P. candidate drew a position other than No. 1, he polled only 9.8 per cent, of the votes. Other factors being absent, this suggests that position on the ballot-paper, even for the House of Representatives, could have a contributory effect and that the candidate in No. 1 position would benefit. As I have said, I realize that other factors enter into consideration. One would have to know the electorate, the type of people in it, the organization of the parties, and other matters. But that result is available for all to see. Where the party drew No. 1 position, it obtained 16 per cent of the votes; where it drew other than No. 1 position, it obtained 9 per cent, of the votes.
– Was that in the same State?
– Yes, it happened in an election in Victoria. The question, then, is one that is exercising the mind of the Minister, I take it. I know that it is comparatively easy to deal with redistributions in association with the census, but there is such a great disproportion in the representation of people in this Parliament. To-day we have seats in Victoria with over 70,000 electors because of the wait for the census. Possibly by the time of the next election, when the Government will be defeated, there will be 80,000 in one electorate. In other electorates there are 36,000 electors. This disproportion means that one can almost certainly say that there is not representation on the basis of one vote, one value, and that it is almost humanly impossible for one member of Parliament in the House of Representatives to represent 70,000 electors. It means that Government supporters are departing from the principle of one vote, one value, which, with a latitude of 20 per cent, either way, they had as an ideal. That was the ideal, but an impossible burden is imposed on the representative in the House of Representatives, whether he comes from the Liberal Party, the Country Party or the Labour Party. Surely it should not be beyond the ingenuity of the Government to devise a system of enrolments, associated with which there could be a redistribution, more consistent with the distribution of population so that there would be effective representation and an effective power in the votes of the people.
I think that the provision for postal votes for members of closed religious orders and those who have conscientious objections to voting before sunset on polling day is an excellent inclusion in the amending bill. The Minister is to be commended for it. Why he who is so sensible in so many ways has not seen fit on this occasion to fix the hours of polling from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. I just do not know. I believe some one suggested in the other place that the farmers worked on Saturday afternoon. They may do so on rare occasions, and in exceptional places; but very rarely to-day does the farmer work of a Saturday afternoon. He is more often at a race meeting, if one is being held, or at a bowling club. For years there has been no Saturday afternoon work for the ordinary people and the great majority do not work on Saturday morning. Why in heaven’s name they cannot get to the polling booth before 6 o’clock to record their vote passes my comprehension! Why you people in government, in your ultra-conservatism still adhere to the 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. polling hours I just do not know.
I thought that, with the appointment of a new Minister representing the Country Party which, on occasions, does show a measure of progressiveness by contrast to its major ally, some worth-while alteration of hours would have been effected on this occasion. But he had no intention of doing it and evidently the Minister will not accept my amendment when I move it. However, I commend it to him. He might think over it and, in his judgment more than in his tolerance, accept an amendment to change the closing time to 6 p.m. After all, the Government still admits, from the way it defines how far people shall be from polling booths before becoming entitled to a postal vote, that party helpers will be there. At least you assume that, even if you do not recognize it. You place in their way difficulties of having to provide lights and everything else that goes with the coming of night. You have paid no regard to their comfort or their needs. You have paid no regard to efficiency. I shall deal in some measure afterwards with the disgraceful state of the polling booths, and the actual boxes inside the booths in which people cast their votes. The Government is completely neglectful of its responsibilities towards party supporters. There is no reason why people cannot vote before 6 o’clock in the evening and there is every reason why an appropriate amendment should be included in this amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
– In plenty of places people cannot vote before six.
– In New South Wales, when farmers are harvesting - any number of them!
– They could not get to the booths before six?
– Yes, exactly. You would not understand.
– You mean elections are held every time they are harvesting? That is the exceptional circumstance. If these farmers are interested in voting they will make it, and if they cannot get in in time they can get a postal vote, for they will be over 5 miles from the nearest polling booth. After all, you do point out the exceptional case.
– Why make it hard for them?
– Why not make it reasonable for those who conduct the elections and who assist the candidate. That is all I am suggesting. Why provide for the exceptional? If Senator McKellar thinks that his example represents such a major exceptional circumstance, perhaps he will suggest to the Minister that provision be made for individuals who are so busily engaged in harvesting to cast a postal vote and, therefore, not go to the polling booth. They are so busy.
– It would probably suit you if they did not have a vote at all.
– It would not suit me in the next election. They will not be voting for you people. It will suit us if they all vote at the next election.
The question of order of candidates has been dealt with by Senator O’Byrne and I have given the figures of election results to show how percentages appear to have been affected. As to election of members of the Communist Party on occasions to the Senate, I agree this time with Senator McCallum. Where the Communist Party has drawn No. 1 position it has obtained 3.5 per cent, and over 5 per cent, of the votes cast. Where it is placed other than in No. 1 position on the ballot-paper its candidate has polled as low as .98 per cent, of the total votes cast, thus suggesting that there is a definite advantage in being placed first on the ballot-paper. This has occurred in State elections, and we are not entitled to assume that there has been less organization in Commonwealth than State elections. It could have happened, of course, for this matter cannot be approached in an absolute way. We admit that. However, it is not unreasonable to assume that the organization for success ar elections is equal on the part of all parties For that reason we say that the Government should give consideration to the form of the Senate ballot-paper.
I have shown how in the ordinary ballotpapers for election to the House of Representatives the position of candidates can affect the casting of votes. The matter should be considered in all fairness. A sense of fairness should dictate the judgment of the Government on this occasion. There is no reason why a person whose name begins with “ A “ should be ahead on the paper of a person whose surname begins with “ O “. I do not think you can justify it at all. There would be no irregularity in the drawing for position. The returning officer could do it in the presence of witnesses and this system would be absolutely fair to all candidates.
The other question that I think the Minister should consider relates to the raising of deposits for candidates. I hate to term any one who nominates for election to Parliament a ratbag, but we do have irresponsibles who have no possibility, of winning. Very often they do not address a meeting, advertise or seek to convey a policy in any way to the people. Yet they nominate and confuse the people who are voting. The question of preferential voting is one that has exercised my mind and, I take it, the mind of the Minister.
– What amount of deposit do you advocate?
– I would advocate £100. That would be comparable with the value of the amount provided for in the act when it was first enacted. The value of money has fallen since then. An inflationary spiral has developed under successive Menzies governments and it is likely to become worse, having regard to the way in which the Government is acting at present.
In the last Senate election, 246,000 informal votes were cast in New South Wales and over 100,000 in Queensland. Numbers such as that are sufficient to constitute a quota to elect a candidate. If the Minister had a sense of responsibility, he would have made a real contribution to the electoral legislation by seeking to reduce the numbers of informal votes cast at Senate elections. I realize that he could not eliminate informal votes altogether, but he could at least have endeavoured to reduce the numbers, lt should be sufficient if an elector expresses his opinion by indicating the candidates whom he wants to be elected. For example, if only five of the candidates are to be elected in a Senate election, it should be sufficient if an elector votes for five candidates only. If he wished to cast preferential votes for the other candidates, he could do so. We could have optional preferential voting. It does seem a tragedy that the vote of an elderly person - and of a younger person, too - who becomes confused and votes for only nineteen of 21 candidates, should be classed as informal. Surely he has expressed his opinion sufficiently, particularly if the two people for whom he did not cast votes had no chance of success. It is tragic that a person who votes in such a way should be disfranchised, as, in effect, he is. It would not be a very radical step to provide that people could vote only for the number of candidates required to be elected.
I should like to refer to the appearance of, and the facilities provided in, the booths themselves. They are a disgrace. We know that polling booths are temporary structures, but, on the whole, they are extraordinarily unattractive. They are very often badly lit, being placed in a room with only one central light. The facilities are completely inadequate, especially for people who may suffer from defective vision. I do not know why the timber of a polling booth should not be painted, but for some reason most of the booths are unpainted. I know that they get damaged and I realize that they are temporary structures. Nevertheless there is no reason why they should not be made more attracting and the facilities be such that people can adequately cast a vote for the political party that they wish to govern the country.
I pass’ now to the appointment of scrutineers. It passes my comprehension why the Minister should leave it to the discretion of the returning officer, or the presiding officer, to decide the number of scrutineers. He knows, as well as any one else, that all the boxes are opened at the same time. As soon as the poll closes, the boxes are opened and the votes are tipped out. The candidates, the scrutineers and the returning officer are all anxious for things to be done properly. I am not saying that presiding officers are dishonest. I have never known one who was dishonest, but you want to give the appearance that they are honest. You want to convey to the candidates and others closely assocaited with the poll that no injustice is being done.
Why will the Government not accept the principle of one scrutineer for each ballotbox? It would not mean overcrowding and would not cause difficulties in the counting. It would not cause any inconvenience to the presiding officers. The Government continues to permit the presiding officers to say how many scrutineers shall be appointed. Under the present system a presiding officer could allow one party more scrutineers than he allowed to another party. What would happen if he were to do that? I submit that it would not be unreasonable for the Government to face the issue simply and to provide that a candidate may have, if he so desires, one scrutineer to each ballot-box. That would convey an impression of fairness, and would not be inconvenient to any one.
Another matter that the Minister might consider is the calling of a conference of State authorities to deal with the varying voting procedures in State, Commonwealth and municipal elections. This suggestion probably has no relation to the bill, but such a conference would help to clear up the present confusion. We take pride in our democratic system. The results of elections, whether at the national, the State or the municipal level, should represent the views of the majority of the people, but it can quite easily happen that, because of the confusion that exists, they do not. It should be a comparatively simple matter to hold a conference at which the various State Ministers could try to iron out the difficulties that exist.
In Queensland we have what has been termed the Nicklinization of boundaries. The Minister might find the present Premier of Queensland somewhat intractable, because the electoral boundaries in Queensland have been drawn up for the purpose of frustrating Labour candidates.
– That sort of thing was first thought of by a Labour government.
– What happened then is nothing to what is happening now. As a matter of fact, the word “ gerrymandering “ has gone out of the dictionary and the word “ Nicklinization “ has come in. Mr. Nicklin has outplayed Playford. I suggest that, in the interests of democracy, the Minister call a conference of State Ministers. Perhaps he, in his own way - prone to create harmony - will be able to bring about a measure of harmony among the Premiers of the States on this subject. I feel certain that the Labour Premiers of Tasmania and New South Wales would be willing to co-operate. The Premiers of South Australia and Queensland may be intractable, but the Minister may be able to overcome any hesitancy they have about the matter.
Those are the points I wish to make. They are sensible and simple, and I cannot see any reason why .the Minister should not consider them. Some of them would not even necessitate amendment of the bill. My suggestion for providing better facilities in polling booths and for making conditions there more attractive falls within that category. Other suggestions, if accepted, would necessitate amendments to the bill, and I hope that the Minister will consider them to-night. I commend them to the Minister for his consideration.
.- I congratulate the Government on the worthwhile reforms proposed in this bill, which I support. I am disappointed at the remarks of Senator Dittmer. It would not be unfair to say that he has displayed a characteristic approach to a piece of legislation in which there is no party advantage, and which will be put on the statutebook simply for the purpose of assisting the electors to register their views more truly, without in any way relaxing reasonable precautions to ensure that ballots are conducted in a clean and proper fashion. I was horrified to hear the honorable senator refer to the steaming open of postal votes and the alteration of a vote which had been cast. If he knows of such an incident and has connived at its suppression
– I never connived at it and I was never a party to it. But it happens.
– As I understood the honorable senator, he said that he knew of an actual instance in which a postal vote had been steamed open and the vote had been changed.
– A former U.A.P. member for the seat of Oxley was guilty of it.
Santor HANNAN. - That is a terrible accusation to make. If the honorable senator has direct evidence of such an act, I believe it would be his duty to make it known so that the situation could be corrected. The honorable senator continues to interject. I remind him that I listened to him with a great deal of patience, though not with much pleasure.
– But you are not going to make accusations against me and get away with them.
– If the honorable senator has any specific evidence and if this is not just the usual airy-fairy, woollyminded sort of allegation that is dragged out of the air to support some absurd proposal- 1
– Seeing the honorable senator is such a smart lawyer, I point out to him that there is a case in law on the matter.
– The honorable senator should do something about it. After all, we do not want him to have a coronary occlusion in this chamber.
– Seeing the honorable senator is such a smart lawyer, I remind him that there is a case in law on the point.
– I believe that Senator Dittmer, who would have no truck with or no part in anything that was not right and proper, must have been drawing a long bow.
– I am telling you that there was a case in law. Go away and look up your law. Because of what happened an election was declared to be invalid.
– A new election was held.
– The reduction of voting time by two hours, as suggested by the honorable senator, would accomplish nothing. There are many workers, particularly lawyers, who because of the need to comply with their professional demands have to work on Saturday mornings. I often do it. Then by the time one goes, perhaps, to a test match in the afternoon, with stumps not being drawn until 6 o’clock, it is very difficult to get to a polling booth in time to vote. I cannot see that any advantage is to be gained by cutting two hours off the voting time. I do not know of any reason in the wide world why we should make it more difficult to vote.
I listened, almost with tears running down my cheeks, as Senator Dittmer referred to the inability of many people to fill in some of the complicated Senate ballot-papers, particularly where a large number of candidates are concerned. I remind the honorable senator that the electors are our lords and masters and that in the not too distant future he, I and the rest of us will be answerable to them. There is absolutely no reason in the wide world why we should make it more difficult for them to register their true and honest opinion. Quite apart from a desire one may have to attend a test match, there is a large number of instances in which the reduction of the voting time by two hours would work considerable hardship. I believe that Senator Dittmer was on sounder ground when he referred to the luck of the draw, particularly in regard to Senate elections. Senator McCallum outlined the difficulty associated with Senate elections very well. It should not be beyond the ingenuity of the Government and its electoral advisers to devise a scheme to wipe out the very substantial advantage that is gained by those who occupy the first place on the ballot-papers.
– Let them toss for it.
– At the present time it is virtually a matter of tossing for it. The envelopes with the names in them are put in the box, they are drawn out, and the whole thing is left to chance. If anything were needed to point out the importance of obtaining the first place in the draw, one would only need to compare the votes that are polled by Communist candidates when the
Communist team has the No. 1 position on the ballot-paper with the votes they receive when they occupy any other position.
– The same applies in the case of the Liberal Party.
– That is so. I concede the point. The same can be said of all parties. Whichever party has No. 1 position on the ballot-paper enjoys an unfair advantage. I do not know whether the circular ballot-paper that was suggested by Senator McCallum would be the answer to the problem, but it is worth serious and careful consideration. It is necessary that the wish of the Australian electors be accurately reflected in this chamber and, of course, in another place. But, as Senator McCallum pointed out also, the luck of the draw is not so important in elections for the House of Representatives, especially when there may be only two candidates for a particular seat. I was really amazed at Senator Dittmer’s criticism of the decor of the polling booths. Does he want them to be turned into attractive salons? They are used for only twelve hours on polling day.
– Does he want them to be mink lined?
– As Senator Robertson has suggested, does Senator Dittmer want them to be mink lined, festooned and garlanded with flowers? Does he want to have brass bands playing and to have marching girls there in order to attract the elector to the polling booth to discharge his electoral duty? The proposition has only to be stated to show how absurd it is.
The bill before us is very short. However, it is of cardinal importance, because it deals with the method of appointing the Commonwealth Parliament, which is the supreme law-making body in this country. By and large, the existing machinery has worked reasonably well. I think it would be universally agreed that it has worked magnificently since 1949. But that does not mean that it is perfect, or that improvements to the administrative working of the system could not be made. I believe that the first clause that is worth attention is the enabling provision, which will allow enclosed religious communities and persons whose religious beliefs preclude them from voting before sunset to apply for a postal vote. Although relatively few people will be affected by this provision, it is in accord with the true vein of a democratic community that the religious beliefs and observances of all people should be taken into account when they are discharging their public duty, such as casting their vote. Most honorable senators have visited these enclosed spaces - monasteries and convents - and they realize that very many of the persons who are in these institutions are devoted to a life of meditation and prayer and have a strong aversion to going into the city to vote. Because they appreciate the importance of truth, they are not prepared to make a false statement to the effect that they are sick or infirm and therefore entitled to a postal vote, although it would be so easy for them io do so. It is against their principles to make such a statement, and they refuse to do it. I think that the Government has been extremely just and thoughtful in providing for postal voting for people in that position.
The use of local time at polling booths is referred to in clauses 10 and 11. The bill proposes a further obvious correction of an anomaly which has been known to exist in regard to the ceasing time for voting. I think that honorable senators opposite have evinced a great deal of synthetic emotion in speaking of votes for aborigines. The attitude of the Government on this point is quite reasonable. It is true to say that the world is suffering in a sense from an excess of virtue-
– False virtue.
– Yes, perhaps I should say false virtue, because selfdetermination and other rights have been given to people who are unable to exercise them in their best interests. It probably would be admitted even in the Kremlin, if those in it had but a nodding acquaintance with the truth, that the events in the Congo might never have happened if the Belgians, whatever their faults - and certainly they are infinitely better than the present rump governments - had stayed until they had made adequate preparations for the transfer of independence to the African people. The British in Nigeria have provided a splendid contrast. There, the people were thoroughly prepared and trained for the great task of taking over the government of their country. For reasons which possibly are inter-related with the geo graphical structure of the Congo and the economic position of Belgium, similar measures were not taken in the Congo to prepare the people for self-government. We should see an analogy in those events.
Succeeding governments in the State sphere and, to some extent, also in the federal sphere, so far as the natives in our Territories are concerned, have had to take certain action to delay the granting of rights to aborigines for their own protection. I think that we do the aborigines an illservice when we attempt to put them on the same footing in all things as other Australians, regardless of whether the aborigines are educated or nomadic. If we do that, they will lose in the race. They will lose the protection that they already have and fail to obtain any substantial advantages. In most instances, their last position will be worse than their first.
The proposed amendment of the act to remove the anomaly that previously existed in relation to British subjects of nonEuropean extraction who hold certificates of registration, thereby allowing them to be enrolled as voters, appears to be a worthwhile correction. Regarding the proposal to allow for an increase in the size of electoral posters, I think that we must look at recent history. When the restriction was first imposed, Australia was experiencing a period of shortages. I do not criticize the Labour Government of the time for imposing a limit on the size of such posters. It may well be that the restriction was one of a kind with Mr. Dedman’s restraint on the use of pink icing and, as Senator McManus says, the shortening of men’s shirt tails, or to take a more serious example, the attempt to abolish Santa Claus. All those were emergency measures taken during a terrible conflict in which the life of the nation was at stake. However silly they may seem to us in retrospect, I suppose we should not make too much fun of them now. However, I think they have outlived whatever usefulness they had. In these days, when the medium of television is freely and openly available to all political parties-
– Freely - at £360 for fifteen minutes?
– I use the word “ freely “ in the sense that there is no restriction if you are able to pay for it. In that connexion, it is interesting to observe that during the last general election, in my own State of Victoria, the rate of spending by the Australian Labour Party was approximately three times that of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party.
– It was not enough.
– No, it was not. It will have to be a lot more than that before it makes much of an impact on the minds of the electors.
Approximately twelve months ago, during the debate on the Broadcasting and Television Bill, we had a long discussion on the use of the radio during election campaigns. Under the provisions of that legislation, virtually an open go is provided on the radio for political parties. That being so, it seems silly to retain the old maximum of 60 square inches for electoral posters. The use of posters measuring 30 inches by 40 inches will allow a political message with some punch in it to be put over and to be read at a reasonable distance. At the same time, the size of posters will be kept within reasonable limits.
I was interested to see in the legislation the provision relating to canvassing near the entrance to a polling booth. As the Minister has pointed out in his secondreading speech, over-enthusiastic supporters of political parties - I do not lay the blame at the door of the Labour Party, the Liberal Party, or even the Australian Democratic Labour Party for this kind of thing - have in the past embarrassed electors by getting too close to the booth. Hitherto, the presiding officer has had a substantial discretion, although the lines of that discretion were not clearly set out. At times when I have been working at a booth, handing out tickets in teeming rain, the presiding officer has invited me and the workers for other political parties to come inside the porch of the school or the hall where the ballot was taking place. In the past, this law has been very reasonably applied, and it will be only in the rare case involving the overenthusiastic type of organizer that it will be necessary for the presiding officer to rely on the increased authority that the legislation proposes to give him.
Senator O’Byrne suggested that postal ballots were of their very essence corrupt because, in the three instances which he cited, the figures seemed to favour either the Liberal Party or the Australian Country Party. I noticed that of all the electors in Australia he gave us only three examples. Had he taken a sample of other electorates of a different type, he might well have found the reverse to be the case. We have heard a hair-raising story from Senator Dittmer about the steaming open of postal votes and their alteration. Although I realize that, original sin being what it is, there always will be a strong tempetation in the way of keen workers on either side to do something which is not lawful, I feel that in the vast majority of instances the law is complied with and that the workers concerned do the correct thing. I do not want to get into trouble for saying this, but I have posted more than one postal vote, that I- had canvassed, which went to the Labour Party.
– My goodness, that must have hurt.
– It hurt, but I did it.
– “ Greater love hath no man than this.”
– It hardly deserved an encomium of that nature. That is the type of conduct which we can expect from most people who are serious and honest in their support of a political cause.
– What about the people who steam the envelopes open or do not even stick them down?
– I cannot be sidetracked into an examination of what should happen to people who steam envelopes open.
– What about the people who do not even stick them down? That happens.
– Possibly that is a difficulty. In my opinion, better education of the voter is the way to overcome that difficulty, rather than the elimination of postal voting as such. Undoubtedly it is needed by the sick, the lame and people who are more than a certain distance from a polling booth. There are many people to whom the casting of their votes presents quite a degree of hardship.
– I could tell you a good story.
– Such anecdotes, however interesting they may be, should scarcely be related during the time which the Senate has given me to discuss this matter.
– 1 think that you should let Senator Ormonde tell you his story. It would be a pretty good one.
– I hope that he will favour the Senate with it in his own time. The system of the electoral visitor, which is used in New South Wales State elections, might have something to commend it. I am not familiar with the details of its working, but from what I am informed, even that system is not completely foolproof. It is open to abuse in some ways. So, on the information I have, it appears that postal votes, with all their faults, are still the best way of doing justice to the people in the community who are not in good health.
– What about the people in the cemeteries who vote?
– I do not think that you should ask me now to attempt to solve all the problems which are created by dishonest people, whatever the political party to which they may belong.
In conclusion, I commend the Government for tying up the loose ends in the Electoral Act. I hope that these amendments will help our electoral system to reflect even more truly the will of the Australian people, because I know that if they do this Government’s majority will increase in leaps and bounds.
– One would have hoped that the Government, when thinking of bringing down this amending bill, would have given serious thought to removing as many anomalies as possible from the Commonwealth Electoral Act. It is a matter of very great concern to the Opposition that the Government has confined its thoughts to one or two minor matters only and has brought down an amending bill to cover those particular matters.
The Australian Labour Party cherished the belief that in committee we would be able to deal with, a series of amendments and new clauses which the Labour Party proposed and which were debated at length in another place. Unfortunately, the
Standing Orders of the Senate prohibit the Opposition from proceeding with those amendments. 1 think that that is a very great pity because it means that we may refer to them only in the course of this second-reading debate and we cannot place them before the chamber for its approval or otherwise in committee. It means that we are restricted in that we may refer to those proposed amendments and new clauses only during this second-reading debate.
For that reason, I believe that it is fair that we on this side of the Senate, who hold very definite views on reforms of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, should place those views before the Senate at this stage and at least give them an airing. I trust, Mr. President, that I am not unduly disturbing Senators Wright and Hannan in the committee work that they are apparently doing at the moment. I would not want to do that.
I wish to deal with some of the proposals which the Labour Party initiated in another place and which will not come up for decision in this chamber. Before I do so, I must refer to the following statement made by the Minister in his second-reading speech - i think it can be said that our electoral system compares more than favorably with electoral systems operating elsewhere in the world. When we examine matters which are vital to a democratic franchise, such as ensuring maximum opportunities for each elector to cast his vote, the preservation of the secrecy of that vote, the rights of candidates to campaign freely, with the protection of candidates and electors from intimidation, bribery, and other electoral malpractices, there are no great deficiencies in our law as it now stands.
I suggest that that statement is wishful thinking because our electoral system is far from ideal. At a later stage of my speech I shall deal with some of its deficiencies. I hope to direct the attention of the Senate to them.
– It is full of loopholes.
– That is true. For the moment I wish to devote my attention to the matter of malpractices. Senator Dittmer said that malpractices have occurred and will continue to occur whilst the Commonwealth Electoral Act is in its present form. He was pooh-poohed by Senator
Hannan and he was ridiculed by interjections from the Government side of the chamber. It was suggested that no malpractices at all took place and that Senator Dittmer was drawing the long bow and making wild statements which could not be supported. During the debate on this measure in another place, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) made the same claim that malpractices occurred in Commonwealth and State voting. He was supported by the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) who is a supporter of the Government. The honorable member for Bowman said, in effect - I think I am quoting him fairly, as reported in “ Hansard “ - that anybody who had actually taken part in an election was aware that malpractices did take place. So, although Senator Dittmer was ridiculed by honorable senators on the Government side, their view is not shared by one of their colleagues in another place. The honorable gentleman to whom I referred is one whose word is usually given great consideration whenever he engages in debates in another place.
– The liles of the electoral office in each State will show complaints of instances where malpractice occurred.
– Exactly. Senator McManus, as an ex-secretary of a political organization, knows these things, just as I know them. In my opinion the members of the Government are merely burying their heads in the sand if they continue to say that no such malpractices have occurred, do occur and will occur as long as the Commonwealth Electoral Act has sufficient loopholes to allow them to occur. This is one of the most common things that have happened down through the ages. The human element enters into this matter. Unless the human element - the frailty of human nature - is effectively covered in the framing of the act, malpractices will continue to occur.
There is no doubt that on occasions people are coerced into voting for certain candidates and certain parties. I even go so far as to say that on occasions people are tricked into voting for certain candidates and certain parties. That occurs because of the deficiencies that exist in the Commonwealth Elec toral Act. I suggest that when the Minister introduces an amending bill and says in an airy manner that we have reached the millennium in voting perfection, he is talking arrant nonsense.
I would like now to deal with some aspects of this bill concerning which the Opposition would move amendments in this chamber if the Standing Orders of the Senate so permitted. I think it is only fair that we should consider them. One of the most important of them is the question of informal voting. As we all know, the number of informal votes that are cast in elections in this country constitutes an absolute disgrace. I do not say that in each instance the fault is attributable to the voter. I suggest that when a person of average or above average intelligence is required to place a number against the name of every candidate on a Senate ballot-paper - up to 35 candidates may be involved - it is an easy matter for him to record an informal vote. I go further and say that even members of this chamber could quite easily vote informally in a Senate election when the ballot-paper contains the names of 20 or 30 candidates.
– You could get a second ballot-paper.
– Admittedly. I say - and I make this statement with a great deal of temerity, not wishing to reflect on honorable senators - that more than one member of this chamber could easily make a mistake in making a recheck of 30 figures not inserted in consecutive order from left to right or from top to bottom of the ballot-paper, but jumping the names of three or four candidates in order to vote for candidates of a particular party. It would be an easy matter for anybody to make a mistake and so vote informally.
The Labour Party believes that we should take a step in the right direction by amending the law to require voters to vote only for the number of senators to be elected. If that were done and five senators were to be elected for a certain State the electors in that State would be required only to mark the ballot-paper with figures from 1 to 5, according to their choice, in order to cast a formal vote. I know that when this proposal has been advanced from time to time, those who oppose the taking of any steps to eliminate informal voting have said that there would be just as much informality under the proposed system as there is now. I say that that argument could not be substantiated without submitting the proposed system to a trial over a period. That ought to be done. There is no doubt that the number of informal votes that are cast in elections in this country, particularly Senate elections, constitutes a national disgrace. 1 believe that, in many instances, informal voting is being caused by the outmoded machinery of the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
It is interesting to consider some of the voting systems that are in operation in other countries, particularly the United States of America, the electoral structure of which is very similar to ours. In more than two-thirds of the American States, voting machines are installed on which i person may record a party vote if he wishes to do so. Each party is represented by a symbol on the machine which is known to all persons who are interested in the election. It is a simple matter for a voter to vote on the machine for thi party ticket, thus disposing of the possibility of casting an informal vote. By the use of these machines, the task of those conducting the count is made much easier. The Government should ascertain the degree of success in reducing informal voting that has been achieved by the use of these machines in the United States of America. It is obvious that these machines have proved successful there because their use has grown from a very small beginning to the point at which they are now used in more than two-thirds of the American States. In those States however voting is not recorded exclusively by machine. The elector has the option of recording his vote on a voting machine or of voting on a ballot-paper in the usual way. 1 agree with Senator Ridley’s assertion, by interjection, that that makes for valid voting.
I think the time must soon arrive in this country when we will provide electoral machinery to ensure that once a person has made up his mind as to the candidate or the electoral party for whom he wishes to vote, his vote will be validly and correctly recorded.
It has been suggested that this Government is not very much concerned to reduce the number of informal votes, being motivated possibly by the thought that if, say, 100 informal votes cast in a particular area had been valid they would have favoured the Labour Party. Senator McCallum is smiling-
– That is a reflection on your own party.
– I said that that had been suggested; 1 am not making any reflection on anybody. I say that if honorable senators on the Government side were completely honest, politically, they would not be concerned to derive a benefit in this way but would provide every opportunity and facility to enable the electors of this country to cast valid votes.
– A person does not need to be highly educated in order to be eligible to vote; that is his right as a human being.
– That is completely true. I think we would all agree with that assertion. I repeat, that every voter should be given an opportunity to record an effective vote. It should not be the purpose of any Government or any electoral act to attempt to thwart the wishes of the people when they vote in either Federal or State elections. The electoral legislation should ensure that the wish of the voter shall not be frustrated.
As one who has taken part in the counting of votes at innumerable elections, I can recall many instances in which, although there was a clear indication of the voter’s preference, due to a technicality - frequently a minor technicality - the returning officer rejected votes which were lost to the candidates and the party concerned. I believe, as many people who have sat in at counts of elections must feel, that insufficient consideration has been given to ensure that people who place their votes in the ballotbox really take part in the election of the Government of this country. We should ensure a proper democratic system of voting.
I have mentioned the voting machines that are in use in America. I should be very interested to be informed whether, before this bill was introduced, the Government sought advice concerning the electoral systems that are in operation in the other democratic countries of the world, so as to ensure that the best system would be provided in Australia. When the Minister replies to this debate, I should like him to inform me whether the Government made any inquiries in that direction and whether an opinion was canvassed from the appropriate people in the United States of America concerning the efficiency of the voting machines in use in that country. Did he inquire from the American authorities whether the use of voting machines had resulted in a reduction of informal votes and an increase of effective votes for the respective political parlies? I should think that once people became accustomed to the machines, their use would reduce informal voting almost to nil. If informal voting has been reduced appreciably in the United States of America by the use of voting machines, we ought to be considering the incorporation in our own act of provision for their use here. I should be very surprised indeed if the Government had given any consideration whatever to seeking the views of people in other democratic countries who are informed on these matters.
A lot has been said on the question of reducing polling hours to the period between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. We would have suggested, had it been possible to place an amendment before the Senate, that the polling hours be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., because we believe that there is no good purpose in continuing a poll after 6 p.m. We concur quite readily in the statement that there might have been a time in the electoral history of this country when there was absolute justification for having polling hours extend from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. I can readily think of arguments that could have been advanced in favour of that proposition SO years ago, or 40 years ago, when no fast means of transport were available, when people had either to walk long distances to reach a centre where they could cast a vote, or go on horseback or by coach. There was no fast means of communication or of getting to a destination, and there was justification for a spread of twelve hours to be utilized for the purpose of enabling people to cast votes. Government senators, in resisting such a reduction, have said that it would interfere with the work of farmers. Let us be practical about that. I think that those people who know the farming industry to-day recognize that most farmers, except when engaged in some particular activity such as seasonal seeding or harvesting, regard Saturday afternoon as a half holiday just as does any other section of the community; and, indeed, they are entitled to do so. I would be the last to suggest that a farmer should work on Saturday afternoon when people in other occupations knock off on Friday afternoon or at Saturday lunch time at the latest, to enjoy the sporting activities usually associated with Saturday afternoon.
– Very few of them work on Saturday afternoon.
– I think it is fair to say that if a farmer were forced to work on a Saturday afternoon at harvesting or seeding time because a sudden seasonal change made it necessary, and that Saturday were an election day, be would need only to get into the family sedan or station wagon after lunch and drive to the nearest polling place, which would not be more than 10 miles from his farm, and then come back to do the seeding or other work without any great interruption at all. I want to convey to the Senate that it is nonsense to suggest that a farmer would be highly inconvenienced by reducing polling hours by two hours at the end of the day. Government senators, in order to justify opposition to such a proposal, should do better than advance the suggestion that it would prevent a farmer from doing his work. That suggestion does not hold water, and I think that all Government supporters will, on reflection, agree with me.
Let us have a look at some of the effects which would flow from the availability to electoral officers of those extra two hours between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. What is the situation at the present time? I think every one in this chamber has had some experience of what happens immediately voting ends. There is a desperate rush, on the part of officers in charge of sectional polling booths, to some central point, in order that votes may be counted and the results relayed over the air as quickly as possible. Broadly, the position is that Mr. Jones, the returning officer, and his assistants, have, to be at some central polling place no later than 7.30 a.m. on Saturday in order to get everything ready. Polling sections have to be arranged. Then the returning officer has a frenzied job through the day with people coming in, more at this hour, less at that hour, but with a more or less steady flow. He is working at constant pressure all day. At 8 p.m., because there is no hiatus between the end of the poll and the beginning of the count, he rushes pell-mell to some other central point to hand his boxes over to the person who will conduct the count. In some instances, the returning officer himself may be involved in the count, and may continue on until midnight.
I suggest that there is no excuse whatever for that, with present-day, civilized means of communication. The extra two hours between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. should be given to the persons conducting the poll in order that they may, at a decent pace, proceed with the count and effectively close their day. I can see no reason for the unseemly rush that prevails at present, other than that tradition dies hard. Government supporters are apparently so encrusted with conservatism that they find it difficult to change their ideas, even though those ideas would probably have done justice to the era of the horse and buggy.
I want to say something about compulsory voting, which has been rather sneeringly referred to by Government supporters in speeches and by way of interjection. They suggest that people should not be compelled to vote and that whether or not a person exercises the privilege of voting should be within his own discretion. I suggest that when the Electoral Act was amended to make voting compulsory, many malpractices which undoubtedly were associated with optional voting were cut out. My father used to tell me about his experiences when going to town on polling days 50 or 55 years ago. He told me of the free beer and free coach rides and, when the beer was circulated sufficiently, free fights. Everybody knows that in those days voting was as corrupt as it could possibly be. Everybody knows that votes were bought with beer and with money.
– Is voting corrupt in America to-day?
– I am dealing specifically at the moment with the early history of this country. If the honorable senator wants to take part in the debate and to dispute anything that I am saying, I shall be interested to hear his views. I am talking of things that happened in the early electoral history of this country. Everybody who is old enough to remember will, I am sure, concur with the statement of my paternal ancestor that these things did happen and that voting was rotten and corrupt in those days. People’s votes were bought at the price of filling a man with alcohol or, on occasions, crossing his palm with silver. The whole farcical procedure used sometimes to reach the stage at which persons would get a free coach ride, enjoy the free beer and then have great joy in telling others how they voted for the opposition candidate.
– It still happens with some car rides.
– Yes, it still happens with some car rides.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, 1 formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 May 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1961/19610509_senate_23_s19/>.