23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMulIin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health the following questions: - How much of the £10,000,000 which the Commonwealth is to provide, has so far been granted to the States for capital structures for use in the treatment of mental diseases? What are the amounts for the respective States? How many additional beds have been provided in each State as a result of the Government’s parsimonious efforts, in the light of Dr. Stoller’s forecast in 1956 that by 1965 there would be a shortage of 25,000 beds in mental hospitals?
– The honorable senator’s reference to the provision of £10,000,000 by the Commonwealth as a parsimonious effort shows how completely removed from reality is his thinking on this matter. In my opinion, £10,000,000 of anybody’s money is a lot of money.
– It is a question of preserving a sense of proportion.
– Yes, it is, and when we think of Queensland’s position we realize how lacking in a sense of proportion some people are. I inform the honorable senator that of the £10,000,000, an amount of £6,045,073 has been made available as follows: -
Amounts paid under the States Grants (Mental Institutions) Act 1955 as at 30th April, 1961.
As at 30th June, 1960, the following additional accommodation had been provided with financial help from the Commonwealth:- New South Wales, 1,327 beds; Victoria, 1,500; Queensland, 412; South Australia, 150; Western Australia, 70; and Tasmania, none. Tasmania is building a new mental hospital to replace the old sections of the Lachlan Park Mental Hospital which are ‘more than 100 years
Old. That is the reason why no additional beds have been provided in that State.
– I address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it correct that a substantial quantity of timber has been imported by companies which own and operate sawmills in Tasmania?
– There are in Victoria, I understand, timber merchants who handle Tasmanian timber and who also own timber mills in Tasmania. In addition, they import timber from overseas and distribute it. I believe that a significant part of the timber that is imported into Victoria is imported by companies which have a direct financial interest in Tasmanian mills.
– I ask the Leader of the Government whether he has read the following statement by the president of the Master Builders Federation, Mr. P. C. Hornick, which appeared in the “ Canberra Times “ this morning under the caption “ In Queensland This Week “ -
There is an inherent folly in using a domestic policy of internal credit restrictions to help the external payments problem.
Is it beyond the wit of man to devise an internal, humane banking system capable of ensuring that available labour and material will be used? How can we help the external financial situation by keeping Australian labour unused, when locally produced material could be made available to satisfy the needs of the people?
– I did not read this newspaper report, but the argument is familiar to me. It is that a reduction of internal demand has no effect upon the demand for imports. That argument is wrong. Boom conditions or inflation conditions give rise to a substantial demand for imports. A lessening of inflationary conditions has an effect upon the demand for imports as well as upon other economic conditions. As I have said before, it is a difficult exercise so to reduce internal demand that both imports and internal costs will be reduced, without causing unemployment. That is the task. We claim that we are proceeding successfully. We claim that we have reduced imports, that we are reducing costs within Australia, and that we are not creating unemployment. The most difficult task of all is to avoid creating unemployment, because Australia is a big country, with conditions varying from place to place. When pockets of unemployment occur in particular industries or in particular localities, we aim to absorb the people who are unemployed, and I think we are doing that successfully.
– I ask the
Minister for Air whether it is true that the Royal Australian Air Force has decided to purchase eight single-engined helicopters and that the Royal Australian Navy is contemplating the purchase of 30. Also, is it a fact that if private enterprise wishes to establish a helicopter service in Australia it is compelled to purchase multi-engined aircraft? As the services undoubtedly need big helicopters which would include automatic stabilization and other technical equipment, why does the Government not set an example when it demands that private operators use multi-engined aircraft, especially from the stand-point of safety?
– It is a fact that the Royal Australian Air Force has decided to purchase eight helicopters of a specific type to meet its peculiar needs. The helicopters are required, in the main, for search and rescue work. There is no comparison between the work required of Air Force helicopters and that required of Navy helicopters. In this regard, of course, I must be somewhat restrained, because the Minister for the Navy is sitting beside me, as the Senate well knows. Even a cursory glance at the requirements of the Navy in relation to the employment of helicopters in marine warfare indicates that their work is of a much more varied nature than merely search and rescue operations. In reply to the latter part of the question, T point out that the requirements of commercial services, too, are different from those of the Air Force and that for that reason commercial interests are advised to buy multi-engined helicopters. In my opinion, that is a very good policy.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been directed to an article which appeared in “ Muster “ last week to the effect that there was a possibility that the Hawaiian Government would take action either to restrict or to prohibit the entry of Australian beef to Hawaii?
– Yes, I did see that report. I read it with some concern. I immediately took it to my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, and I was delighted to learn that even at that stage, he and the Minister for Trade had made the strongest submissions to the Hawaiian Government in an endeavour to protect Australia’s interests. The. matter has not yet been finalized, but I am in a position to say that I am confident that the threat to the Australian beef industry has been removed.
– Has the Minister for National Development seen recent press statements to the effect that Sir Arthur Fadden claims to be the sole accredited agent for some seven Japanese steel mills which require, iron ore from Mount Goldsworthy in Western Australia? Can he inform me whether those statements are correct, and can he also tell me the latest developments in relation to the Mount Goldsworthy iron ore deposits?
– In common, I expect, with other honorable senators I have seen reports of Sir Arthur Fadden’s statement that he is interested in the acquisition of this iron ore deposit and that he has sole accreditation from a series of Japanese steel mills. I suppose the arrangements are a matter between Sir Arthur Fadden and the Japanese people concerned. We are aware that other companies are interested. I have been informed that inspections of the deposit have been made by the Rio Tinto company, the Hanna coal company of America, the British Metals Corporation, and another company. Whatever the arrangements may be, the Commonwealth’s responsibility in the matter relates only to the granting of an export licence for the ore.
The Commonwealth has laid down the conditions under which it will be prepared to grant an export licence. They have been made public and I do not think that I need to go through them. They are public knowledge. One of the conditions is designed to protect existing deposits that are needed for the steel industry. With regard to new big de-posits, the quantity of ore that may be exported is limited to 1,000,000 tons. In addition, the prospective exporter must also submit proposals for an exploration programme because the policy is aimed at increasing our iron ore resources in addition to earning export income.
In this case, the position is that the Western Australian Government will call tenders, deal with them when they are received and make a recommendation to the Commonwealth. We will issue a licence on the basis of the recommendation that comes to us. Sir Arthur Fadden has come out into the open and stated his interest in the matter. He claims that he has the sole rights of buying. A number of other companies are investigating the .position and seem to be prospective tenderers. There is no secrecy about the circumstances. They have all been made public.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services the following question: - Will the Government cease the practice - I had intended to use the adjective “ inhumane “, but in view of distortions of an adjective that I used yesterday I have deleted the word from the copy of the question that I handed previously to the Minister - of stopping the payment of pensions to ‘pensioners when they are admitted to hospitals for the treatment of mental diseases?
– I can start on the basis that Senator Dittmer apologizes for any thought he might have had of using the word “ inhumane “.
– He withdraws it and at the same time uses it.
– I deleted it from the copy of the question.
– So long as it is conended that I have scored a victory and that the practice is not inhumane, I shall pro ceed to answer the question. This is a matter that has been raised over and over again. The States make the claim that the Commonwealth should continue to pay this social service benefit to people in mental hospitals. The Commonwealth replies that this is a classic instance of a division of Commonwealth and State responsibilities, in that the Commonwealth accepts responsibility for social services and the States accept responsibility for hospitals. Since the inception of the social service scheme, the payment of a pension has ceased when a pensioner has to go into a mental hospital. The Commonwealth believes that that is equitable. When the pensioner comes out of the mental hospital, his -pension payment is resumed and always in such cases the Commonwealth grants an extra month’s pension to help the poor person concerned.
– There is no hope for a future change of the practice?
– I think that the matter has been raised and argued so often that the practice is likely to continue.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer him to my inquiry last week about the position of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation relative to rumoured sales of wheat to red China on credit. In view of the mystery surrounding Sir John Teasdale’s announcement this morning and the conflicting statements in this morning’s press on the reported sale of £60,000,000 worth of wheat to red China on twelve months’ credit, will the Minister announce to the Senate the correct details of the sale? Can the Minister advise the Senate whether the suicidal risk of £60,000,000 in this transaction has been underwritten by the Export Payments Insurance Corporation? Can the Minister advise the Senate whether, in the almost certain eventuality of default in this transaction, such a claim would render the Export Payments Insurance Corporation insolvent? If it would, will the Government take appropriate action to prevent that contingency?
– I well remember the question that I was asked concerning the position of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation if or when a sale of wheat was made to red China and given protection by the corporation. The honorable senator has now asked me whether 1 am in a position to make a specific statement on the transaction. The answer is, “ No “. I can assure him that the Government has not received any proposals in connexion with this transaction. Therefore, it has neither approved nor rejected any such proposals. Having a very lively interest in this matter, as have Senator Hannan and many other honorable senators, I took the opportunity this morning to ask my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, to give me what specific information he could on this matter. He said that Sir John Teasdale, the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, would be making a statement on the position in the very near future. At this stage nothing further can be said on the matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. In view of the tendency of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to overload the national news broadcasts with a large number of sporting items, such as the result of a soccer match in London between two suburban teams, which are of little or no interest to Australian citizens, will the commission extend one morning and one evening national news broadcast each day from fifteen to twenty minutes in order to include items of great Australian interest from all the Australian States, instead of concentrating on items which seem to be of interest to the people of Sydney and which could well be included in the New South Wales news section?
– I readily recognize the implication that Senator Hendrickson comes from the most enlightened sporting State. Victoria, where all sporting events have a great national appeal.
– Not soccer!
– He referred to some intrusions which do not find favour with many people in that State. As Senator Hendrickson has asked a specific question, T think the proper procedure for me to adopt is to place the question before the PostmasterGeneral and ask him to reply directly to the honorable senator, as the Parliament, very soon will be going into recess.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. My interest was aroused by his statement in reply to a question by Senator Scott about the proposed export of iron ore from Australia. I ask the Minister whether I am to understand clearly that the accreditation that Sir Arthur Fadden has announced is solely a matter of commercial arrangement and, secondly, whether I am to understand quite clearly that the right to iron ore deposits for which the Government will give export licences will be offered by public tender.
– I do not think that Sir Arthur Fadden has done more than claim that the arrangement to which the honorable senator has referred is an entirely commercial arrangement between himself and the people overseas. I express no opinion on that. It is a matter in the commercial world. It is a matter between Sir Arthur Fadden and the people whom he represents. I welcome the question. It gives me an opportunity to make a public statement so that interested parties may know the facts.
The second part of the honorable senator’s question dealt with public tenders. Again, that is a matter for the Western Australian Government. It is not within the province of the Commonwealth. The Western Australian Government owns the iron ore deposits in question. It made its own decision. It said that it would call public tenders. The Western Australian Government approached the Commonwealth and asked whether, in view of the fact that the State Government was calling public tenders, the Commonwealth Government would lay down the specific terms and conditions which a tenderer would have to observe in order to obtain an export licence. The Commonwealth laid down those conditions. Speaking from memory, I think it said that exports were not to exceed 1,000,000 tons a year. The ore in the deposits is of different qualities and the Commonwealth stipulated that exports should be of fair average quality. The exporter could not take out all the good ore and leave behind air the lower grade ore. The Commonwealth said that the successful tenderer would have to carry out an exploration programme in order to ascertain whether any further deposits existed. There may have been other conditions. The Commonwealth told the Western Australian Government that those conditions must be observed before an export licence would be granted. The Western Australian Government was advised to include those conditions in its tender advertisement.
– Was any number of years stipulated?
– Speaking from memory, a number of years may have been stipulated indirectly. The estimated size of the iron ore deposit in question is 30,000,000 tons. It is Commonwealth policy that not more than one-half of a deposit of that size may be exported and that the rate of export may not exceed 1,000,000 tons a year. So, indirectly, a fifteen years’ limitation is imposed on the basis of an export of 1,000,000 tons a vear.
– Does that apply to that particular deposit?
– Yes, it applies to any deposit of that size.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, by stating that in relation to the present football season in Melbourne a dispute seems to have arisen between the Victorian Football League and television stations over the televising of the last quarter of the matches. The policy adopted by the national station in Melbourne is causing tremendous hardship to elderly and ill people who have enjoyed watching this sport for a number of years. I can understand why commercial stations may refuse to televise the last quarter of the matches, but >I am at a loss to understand why Channel 2 - the national station - refuses to do so. Will the Minister make inquiries and ascertain why ABV - Channel 2 does not now televise the last quarter of football matches in Melbourne although it did so in other seasons? I point out that Channel 2 is not a commercial undertaking.
– As a Victorian, I am aware of the dispute that has been raging between the administrators of the Victorian
Football League and the television stations concerning rights to televise the last quarter of games during the current football season. I agree with Senator Kennelly’s contention that many aged and infirm people would, greatly appreciate the televising of the last quarter of games, as was the case last year. While those who live in other States are inclined to ridicule our game as a spectacle-
– Order! This is not a discussion concerning codes of football.
– It sounds like one to mel
– Sir, those who have had the privilege of witnessing the Australian game on television know that it is very fascinating and that the progress of the game can be easily followed. For that reason, I think that the rights of those whose physical condition prevents them attending the matches should be considered. My understanding of the dispute is that there has been prolonged discussion between the two parties concerning what amount should be paid for the televising rights, and in that regard this Government and the Postmaster-General’s Department I am sure-
– Do you mean to say that people pay to see the Australian Rules game played?
– Mr. President, I should like to have an opportunity to reply to that interjection. However, I continue my reply to Senator Kennelly’s question by saying that 1 feel that this Government and the Postmaster-General’s Department cannot, in line with their avowed policy, enter into this controversy and give a direction to the Australian Broadcasting Commission; they certainly cannot give a direction to the Victorian Football League.
– I am not worried about the commercial stations; I am worried only about the national station.
– In answer to the specific question that Senator Kennelly has asked, I shall request the Postmaster-General to bring him up to date on the position and furnish him with specific reasons why a telecast is not being done over Channel 2 this season.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. As in this year two very important fiftieth anniversaries are being celebrated, namely, the Australian Antarctic Expedition 1911-14 that was led by the late Sir Douglas Mawson, from my own State, South Australia, and the formation of the Royal Australian Navy, as we know it to-day, will the Minister consider issuing suitable stamps to commemorate these two great events in our history? I suggest to him that, in respect of the Australian Antarctic Expedition commemorative stamp, an emperor penguin should be included in the design.
– If my memory serves me correctly, the Postmaster-General has advised me on a previous occasion that he has authorized the issue of a special stamp this year to commemorate the Sir Douglas Mawson expedition to the Antarctic in 1911-14. Again speaking from memory, I believe that the Royal Australian Navy did make representations to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for the issue of a commemorative stamp, and that those representations were rejected. Should any honorable senator contemplate making a reference to the Royal Australian Air Force, I should say that I have no doubt that by the time that arm of the services prepares to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary the occasion will merit recognition by the issue of a commemorative stamp.
– I desire to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, or the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, whoever is the appropriate Minister. Does the. Commonwealth Government regard mental illness as an illness or a crime? If mental illness is not a crime, why does the Department of Social Services treat the mentally afflicted as criminals by depriving them of their pensions upon their admission to a mental hospital? Will the Minister consider treating mental institutions on the same basis as other institutions where the recipients of social service benefits are treated, that is, by paying a part of the pension to the institution and the remainder to the pensioner inmate? In this respect, a differentiation is made in the case of mental institutions. In view of the financial straits in which the State governments find themselves in regard to mental hospitals, would not such a scheme be of value to them in their efforts to improve the present inadequate facilities for the treatment and rehabilitation of mental patients?
– Frankly, I do not think that Senator Tangney’s question did her justice. It was very wrong of her to stand up in the Senate and ask whether the Government considered that mental disease was a crime or an illness. In my view, that is taking party politics too far. I object to the question and I will not answer it.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General, relates to the attempt that is being made to evolve uniform company law throughout Australia. By way of preface, I mention the fact that for some time past the AttorneysGeneral of the States have been discussing with the Commonwealth Attorney-General the possibility of reaching agreement on this very important question. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the stage that those discussions have reached?
– Other than the information which the honorable senator gave in the preface to his question, to the effect that discussions between the State and Federal Attorneys-General have been proceeding for some time, I have no knowledge of the matter. I do not know the precise stage that the discussions have reached. I think that the best thing to do would be for me to bring the question to the attention of the Acting Attorney-General and ask him to write direct to the honorable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. As the Minister is well aware, Australia needs a greater population, and to help to achieve that objective ‘ more than 100,000 migrants come to this country each year. Many of them come from countries where soccer is played. As a matter of fact, that game is played in 93 countries of the world. I ask the Minister whether the Government will make representations to the Australian Broadcasting Commission with a view to having the sporting programmes shown on television extended so that migrants may be able to satisfy their longing to see the world’s best football game. I suggest, too, that they be given the opportunity to see on television the world cup matches and the English and Scottish cup finals. I should like to see television sporting programmes extended to provide for a greater coverage of the test matches, in which a keen interest is displayed by sporting people in Australia. I ask that the programmes be extended to provide for greater coverage of important matters of world interest, such as international tennis, cricket and soccer matches. Is there any relationship between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the British Broadcasting Commission? If there is, I should like the British Broadcasting Commission to televise the finals of soccer matches played in Australia, with a view to attracting migrants to this country.
– I was sympathetic until the last part of the honorable senator’s question. I thought that the earlier part related to his advocacy of the merits of rugby union, but when he made it plain that he was referring to soccer, I lost a little interest. I do not think that we could usefully do as he suggests. The allocation of television time for sporting programmes is the subject of a lot of thought by the programmes director of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The commission has a responsiblity to cater for the tastes of a wide variety of audiences. I have seen telecasts of overseas soccer matches and I thought they were most interesting, but I suppose that if we were to advocate more sporting programmes, other people would advocate the desirability of showing more programmes of a different kind. The commission has to decide how the programmes should be balanced.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister of Trade, concerns the very severe effect on the Tasmanian timber industry of the present trade dislocation, to which I referred recently. I now wish to ask the Minister some questions concerning the emergency Tariff Board reference procedure. He will be aware that last month the Minister for Trade refused to refer to the chairman of the Tariff Board an application by the timber industry for an emergency hearing. The submission has been made to me that, in his refusal, the Minister compared the quantity of production in the industry with the quantity of imported timber, whereas the industry claims that what should be related is the quantity of timber consumed and the quantity of timber imported. Will the Minister for Trade reconsider the matter in the light of that contention? It seems reasonable, I suggest, that if timber stocks have increased because mills have continued to produce timber which the market cannot consume, an emergency Tariff Board hearing might be justified with a view to providing protection against the suppression of one of our vital industries.
– My colleague, the Minister for Trade, recently either answered a question of a somewhat similar nature to that asked by the honorable senator, or made a statement dealing with the matter. Realizing the importance of his remarks. I made a summary of them and placed it with my papers, but I now cannot find it, so I shall have to speak from memory. The fact is that there has been a fall in demand. That is the basic cause of the present situation; but there has also been a fall in production, as well as a fall in imports, so that if we correlate imports with either demand or production we arrive at a similar answer. The purpose of references under the special tariff legislation is to cover a situation in which imports are excessive.
By all accounts, and on the basis of all the analyses that have been made, I think it is now generally agreed that the difficulty that is facing the Tasmanian timber industry, and also the industry in other places is due not to an excess of imports, but to a fall in the level of home building. It is also due partly to the fact that the industry, in Tasmania as elsewhere, is over-geared in relation to the quantity of timber that is required. In other words, there is surplus production in an industry which has faced a fall in demand. That fall in demand is a more potent influence than is the volume of imports. The only remedy is to step-up home building to take up at least some of the slack. That would have a delayed action, because large stocks of timber arc held. If the industry is over-geared for production, increased home building will not result in the whole of the slack being taken up. However, one approach to the matter is to increase home building, and Senator Wright will know that we are very busily engaged in endeavouring to do that.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry seen a statement in the press this morning to the effect that the Australian Woolgrowers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation have agreed to recommend to the members of their organizations that a levy of 12s. a bale be imposed on wool from 1st August next for a period of twelve months? Does the Minister believe that increased sales promotion will help considerably to sell wool in competition with man-made fibres? Will legislation have to be introduced to implement this proposal? If so, will the legislation be made retrospective?
– I read with a great deal of pleasure the announcement that the Australian Woolgrowers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation have finally agreed to double the levy of 5s. a bale from 1st August next. The end results of wool sales promotion must be in the best interests of the industry. The chairman of the Australian Wool Bureau, Sir William Gunn, faced this problem ably and eventually convinced both of these organizations of the validity of his arguments. Any legislation that is required to implement this proposal will have the earnest consideration of the Government which, I am sure, will do all that it possibly can do to meet the wishes of the organizations.
– May I be permitted to direct yet another question on the subject of Tasmanian timber to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade or to the Minister for Customs and Excise? I am impelled to do so because I want it to be recognized that there is great concern about the present position of timber millers in Tasmania and that the closure of mills, which could otherwise be avoided, may occur unless the industry is convinced that immediate tariff protection could not be justified. If an emergency reference to the Tariff Board cannot be reconsidered, will the Government consider sending to Tasmania an officer of the Department of Customs and Excise, as an unofficial deputy to hear the timber millers’ case and explain why the industry should have enough confidence to continue producing during this temporary period of restriction of demand?
– With the consent of the Minister- for Trade, I have already arranged for Mr. Carmody, one of the senior officers of the Department of Trade, to go to Tasmania and discuss the proposals with the Tasmanian Timber Association. When this discussion will take place is a matter for arrangement between the association and the officer concerned. My department has been giving me almost day to day particulars of timber imports. I realize that an industry employing 6.000 people is of great importance to Tasmania, with its small population. The April figures have just been presented to me. They are subject to revision, but I can almost vouch for their accuracy. Timber imports in January amounted to 29,000,00 super, feet; in February to 27.000,000 super, feet; and in March, to 24,600,000 super, feet. In April they dropped to 14,300,000 super, feet. I can assure the honorable senator that this matter is being watched very closely indeed.
” BASS TRADER”.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following replies: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers: -
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act relating to Financial Assistance to the States for the purpose of Housing.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
.- I moveThat the bill be now read a second time.
The bill authorizes the Commonwealth to complete a housing agreement with the States, the form of which is presented as a schedule to the bill. The need for a new housing agreement arises because the current five-year agreement, which was completed in 1956, expires at 30th June, 1961. During the five years of its operation, the 1956 agreement allowed the provision of about £180,000,000 in Commonwealth advances to the six States for the construction of dwellings. About £129,000,000 of this sum has been made available to the State housing commissions for the purpose of their housing programmes, which will allow . the construction of about 47,000 houses by the end of June next. Nearly £46,000,000 has been advanced through the agreement for the finance of home builders, mainly through building societies, and this will have allowed the construction of over 18,000 houses. Lastly, a further sum of about £5,000,000 has been advanced to the States for the construction of dwellings for serving members of the Defence Forces, this sum being matched by a like amount from the funds which are available to the State housing commissions.
Altogether, the housing agreement has made a considerable contribution to the finance of dwelling construction in Australia. Construction of homes under the agreement has provided a stable component in the national housing programme. It is aimed, moreover, at the. construction of dwellings for families of low or moderate means; and the home building which has been financed under the home builders arrangement has also been relatively low in cost. A special feature of the agreement has been the provision of advances by the Commonwealth at a specially reduced rate of interest, which has been maintained at 1 per cent, less than the current rate upon long-term Commonwealth bonds.
When the 1956 agreement was completed there was clear evidence of a very considerable housing shortage throughout Australia. Since then this shortage has been greatly reduced. I believe, in fact, that it is now a real problem only in some States, particularly in New South Wales and perhaps in Victoria. There is still, however, the desirability of making houses available to families on small incomes. Since the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement funds, whether expended on State housing schemes or through building societies, particularly cater for such people, it is this special part of the housing backlog which is most relevant to the decision upon a new housing agreement.
This is one reason why 1 believe that we should enter into a new housing agreement with the States. In addition to this reason -
The building society movement has great potential for further development and has been greatly encouraged by the evidence of Government support. I believe that it has an increasingly important part to play in the future of Australian housing.
The bill which is before the Senate includes a draft agreement which has been written in the form of amendments to the 1956 agreement. It has taken this form at the request of the States. The object is to allow the administrative arrangements under the old agreement to continue without a break and to reduce the cost of statistical recording and financial administration which would otherwise be incurred. Broadly, the amendments which are included in the new agreement do not involve any major change in the substance of the present agreement. The bill authorizes the execution on behalf of the Commonwealth of an agreement with the States substantially in accordance with the form of agreement set out in the Schedule,
Let me now take the amendments to the agreement in turn. The amendment of sub-clause (1.) of clause 5 has the effect of extending the period of operation of the agreement for a further five years from 30th June, 1961. Under the old agreement the States, for the last three years of its currency, were obliged to allocate at least 30 per cent, of their total advances for the provision of finance to home builders, through building societies and other approved institutions. The amendment of clause 6 has the effect of imposing this same obligation upon the States’ for the period of the new agreement.
Clause 7 of the 1956 agreement provided that each State, on being requested by the Commonwealth Minister, should set aside up to 5 per cent, of the finance available to its housing authority for the purpose of providing dwellings for defence personnel and that the Commonwealth would match this amount, thus allowing further houses to be provided by the State for the same purpose.It is now considered that in States where a large number of defence houses is required it may be possible by arrangement with the State concerned to allocate increased amounts for defence housing which will similarly be provided by the state housing authority and leased to the servicemen concerned. Under the amendment to clause 7, either the Commonwealth contribution to defence housing, or the provision made by the State from the finance available to its housing authority, or both, may be increased at the Commonwealth’s request on condition that the State agrees.
The interest rate to be charged on Commonwealth advances is provided in clause 9. Under the old agreement it would have been possible during the last three years for the Commonwealth to advance money at an interest rate3/4 per cent. less than the current long-term bond rate. In fact, the Commonwealth maintained this rate, by agreement between the Treasurers, at a full 1 per cent, below the bond rate. Under the amendment to clause 9, the Commonwealth will agree to maintain a full 1 per cent, concession for the period of the new agreement. The proposed new sub-clause (4a.) in this amendment has the object of avoiding ambiguity which had appeared in the interpretation of the expression “long term bond rate”. It is now made clear that when there are various issues of Commonwealth bonds for different terms, the rate applying to the loan of longest term will be taken for this purpose.
Sub-clause (2.) of clause 11 of the 1956 agreement required the approval of the Commonwealth Minister for the construction by the States from Commonwealth advances of flats of more than three stories in height. Under the proposed amendment to sub-clause (2.) of clause 11 the Minister’s approval will be required only when the flats are to be built outside the inner metropolitan area, which will be defined in each case by agreement between the Commonwealth and the State Minister.
Sub-clause (3.) of clause 11 stated inter alia, that the State may use advances which are available for the construction of dwellings for “ forming, making, paving, kerbing or draining any streets roads or thoroughfares for the purpose of the dwellings “. The addition of the word “ developing “ to this list of activities was made at the request of one State - Tasmania - to clarify the interpretation of the provisions.
Under the provisions of clause 16 in the 1956 agreement the States were able, through individual agreements entered into between the Ministers, to allocate portions of the advances which, under the agreement, were to be available for use by building societies, to other institutions for financing home ownership. Under this arrangement funds have in fact been allocated to State banking institutions in South Australia, Tasmania, and Western Australia. The agreements between myself as Commonwealth Minister and the State Housing Ministers also had considerable variations in respect of the detailed terms of allocation of home-builders’ finance.
The amended agreement has been written with the object of obtaining greater uniformity between States on this matter. It provides that in any year the allocation of finance to home-building institutions other than building societies requires the specific approval of the Commonwealth Minister. Tn sub-clause (3b.) it defines the basis upon which this approval will be given. Tt will still be necessary for me to enter into detailed agreements with the individual States on the administration of the home-builders’ funds. I shall endeavour to ensure that these funds are used to the’ maximum extent practicable for the purpose of encouraging a further growth of building societies.
Clause 3 in the proposed agreement has the effect that before that agreement comes into force, the Commonwealth may advance moneys under the agreement as amended, which shall be deemed to be subject to the conditions provided by the amended agreement.
The last part of the suggested new agreement provides for amendment to the provisions of the Housing Agreement of 1945, which was requested by the States. Under the 1945 agreement, amended in 1955, the States were permitted to sell dwellings on terms. These terms, including minimum deposits payable and maximum advances to be made, were specified in the agreement. Under the 1956 agreement, however, States may sell houses built under the agreement on terms decided by them. The proposed amendments to clause 14 in the 1945-55 agreement have the effect of allowing the sale of houses built under the 1945 agreement on the same basis as the sale of those built under the 1956 agreement.
At the present time I cannot say positively that all the States will accept the agreement. I believe however, that they will do so. The principal issue which has yet to be negotiated to finality is the proportion of funds which will be made available to State banks in some States in which the building society movement is not yet sufficiently developed to absorb the whole of the 30 per cent, which is earmarked through the Home Builders’ Account for the use of building societies and other approved institutions. However, these issues will, I hope, be settled in the context of the agreements between myself and the State Ministers concerned.
From the Commonwealth point of view 1 believe that a new agreement is desirable to maintain Commonwealth assistance to the provision of low-cost housing, and to continue our support to building societies throughout Australia.
Finally I may say that in the administration of the legislation one of my objectives will be to encourage the development of the building society movement so far as it is practicable to do so. Building societies in Great Britain and the United States of America make a greater contribution to housing than they do in Australia principally because they have developed savings schemes to a greater extent and in addition are able to attract more private borrowings. I hope that the assistance they will receive under the Bill will encourage them to extend their activities in those directions in Australia. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
.- On behalf of the Opposition, I move -
Leave out all words after “That”, insert - “ the bill be withdrawn to permit of the conclusion of negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States, to afford an opportunity to the States to examine the proposed agreement and that it be redrafted -
to ensure the provision by the Commonwealth of all monies required for the erection of dwellings by the States;
to reduce interest rates payable on those monies by the States;
to include a system of rental rebates of the type in operation under the agreement established pursuant to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1945; and
to include a provision that when the Commonwealth, for purposes of the Commonwealth, resumes in any State, land upon which any occupied dwelling house is erected, the Commonwealth shall make available to the State additional monies to enable the State to provide alternative accommodation for the occupant of any such dwelling house”.
Before I get down to a consideration of the main features of the bill I shall make some comments on the manner in which it comes before the Senate, particularly in regard to its timing. It should be pointed out that the existing agreement between the Commonwealth and the States is due to expire on 30th June of this year and that the proposal now before us, if adopted, will become effective then. This seems to me to be another instance of the cavalier manner in which this Government treats the States of the Commonwealth. They will have perhaps only six weeks in which to consider the provisions outlined in the bill. That is not long enough to enable them to consider all the points involved and to indicate their acceptance or rejection of the altered agreement.
It appears to be a habit of the Commonwealth Government in these matters - this agreement, after all, is designed only to bring about a proper degree of cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States in building activity - to adopt methods which cause irritation to creep into its relationships with the States. This irritation has the effect, on occasions, of causing the States to jack up on measures. If they were given more opportunity to examine them and, particularly, more time in which to reach decisions, perhaps the relationships between the Commonwealth and the States would be much more cordial. That point needs to be stressed: In view of what has happened in relation to the housing agreement between the Commonwealth and the States in the last year or so, the Commonwealth should be aiming at establishing more cordial relationships. There is no doubt that a good deal of disaffection exists at present.
At this stage it is fitting that I refer briefly to the history of the 1945 agreement, which was the first attempt by a Commonwealth Government to bring about a real degree of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States in the field of home building. Sometimes, perhaps, we tend to forget that a tremendous amount of credit must go to the Federal Labour Government at that time, which saw fit to say that there should be co-operation in this field between the States and the Commonwealth. More importantly, it laid down a structure which endures to this day. Unfortunately, the only alterations that have been made to it by the present Government are alterations that detract from its efficiency. They are certainly not alterations which add any merit such as was associated with the 1945 housing agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. The 1945 agreement provided that the Commonwealth should supply to the States all moneys - I stressed that - needed for housing in the respective States. It laid down the basis of an economic rent which made provision for people on low incomes. It provided for a repayment period of 53 years. This Government saw fit, in terms of the 1956 agreement, to reduce that period by eight years to 45 years. The 1945 agreement provided for arrangements to be made for dwellings to be erected in the city and the country in certainproportions. An unfortunate feature of the alterations made by this Government is that no such arrangement exists in the present agreement.
In my opinion the 1945 agreement was ideal. I think it is fair to say that relations between the Commonwealth and the States were harmonious in the ten years for which it operated. I think it is equally fair to say that since the 1956 agreement superseded the 1945 agreement we have had nothing but trouble, disaffection and hostility in relations between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to the housing agreement.
– On what grounds7
– There are various grounds. I will come to them at a later stage of my speech. At this stage I will content myself with establishing the point that since the commencement of the 1956 agreement there has been serious disaffection between the Commonwealth and the States and a serious breakdown in the manner in which the agreement has operated. I do not think that that can be gainsaid. As I said, I will deal with the reasons for that at a later stage. They may not be reasons with Senator Wright, who interjected, would agree. Nevertheless, I will endeavour to give what I consider are the reasons for the States more or less jacking up on the Commonwealth in respect of housing.
One of the features of the 1945 agreement which, unfortunately, is not included in the existing agreement was that any losses that were sustained by expenditure exceeding receipts were borne on the basis of three-fifths by the Commonwealth and two-fifths by the States. Senator Wright, who has just left the chamber, wanted to know the reasons why disaffection had occurred. The decision of this Government to depart from that principle and thus throw upon the States the onus of making good all of those deficiencies to which I have referred is just one of a host of reasons why disaffection and disharmony have crept into relations between the Commonwealth and the States in respect of the housing agreement.
Another reason why the States are now attacking the Commonwealth in regard to those relations is associated with interest rates. The 1945 agreement prescribed in quite simple terms that the interest rate should be equal to the current long term bond rate. So the States knew exactly where they stood. The formula which superseded that formula, under the 1956 agreement, left the States in a most uncertain position. As everybody knows, under the 1956 agreement the interest rate was altered to the long term bond rate less three-quarters of 1 per cent, per annum if the bond rate did not exceed 4i per cent, per annum, or 1 per cent, per annum if the bond rate exceeded 4i per cent, per annum. That sounds quite involved, but in effect it meant that interest rates were increased under the 1956 agreement. That is another reason why the States are wary in their relations with this Government.
– Would you mir.d explaining how you reach the conclusion that the interest rate was increased in 1956?
– The interest rate was increased because the current bond rate in the years between 1945 and 1956 did not approximate 41 per cent, and it is quite clear that the States could be required to pay 4i per cent, under the existing formula.
– But the 1945 agreement provided that the interest rate was to be the long term bond rate.
– That is true.
– The 1956 agreement provided a lower rate - the long-term bond rate less a certain percentage.
– But it still had the effect of increasing interest rates. The States know that full well. That is borne out by the fact that, as the Minister knows, the States demanded that the interest rate be 4 per cent. That would broadly approximate or perhaps be even higher than the interest rate provided under the 1945 agreement. It is fair to say that the States are displeased with this arrangement and have demanded that the interest rate be 4 per cent.
Another objectionable feature of the 1956 agreement was that it abolished the rental rebates which were a feature of the 1945 agreement. Senator Wright asked me, at an earlier stage of my speech, why the States are hostile, why there is a complete lack of co-operation and why there is severe disaffection. The matters to which I have referred make it obvious why this position exists. They make it obvious that under the 1945 agreement all of the States’ requirements were covered adequately. There was harmony between 1945 and 1956 largely because of the careful thought that was put into the 1945 agreement. That thought was designed not to embarrass or irritate the States in carrying out the agreement pursuant to the joint obligations that the Commonwealth and the States had accepted. It was designed to smooth things over. It is regrettable that the Government saw fit, in the terms of the 1956 agreement, to throw grit into the smoothly running machinery of the 1945 agreement. I will not suggest that there were not some provisions of the 1945 agreement that should have been altered and would have had to be altered to meet current requirements. I am not suggesting that that agreement was ideal in every respect, but I say that it met the requirements of the States far more adequately than the 1956 agreement or the amended agreement which is now before the Senate.
In my opinion the position can be summed up quite truthfully and fairly by saying that the general effects of the 1956 agreement were, first, that it caused increased rents to offset increased interest charges. There is no doubt about that. Secondly, it reduced the finance available to the States by 20 per cent, and by 30 per cent, in the last three years of its operation. Those percentages, of course, were the amounts allocated to the building societies. That is one of the reasons for the disaffection that exists between the Commonwealth and the States at the present time. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) refers in glowing terms to the operations of building societies. I do not desire or intend to belittle them. The money should have been given to the States without any strings attached. If the States had seen fit to spend all of the money through their housing instrumentalities perhaps their interests would have been better served. In any event, in South Australia the. building society movement is poorly developed and a good case exists for all of the moneys expended in that State to be ear-marked for the State housing instrumentalities.
– Are you not in favour of developing building societies?
– I have no objection to the development of building societies. I agree that the activities of building societies are a valuable supplement to the general housing scheme. But I do not believe that they should operate at the expense of the State housing instrumentalities or in such a way as to cut across the activities of those instrumentalities. I am supported in that contention by the Liberal Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford. I propose to read an article that appeared in the Melbourne “Sun” on 20th May, 1960, under the heading “ Spooner-Playford Clash on Housing “. The article reads -
The Minister for National Development, Senator Spooner, claimed to-day that the Commonwealth was getting better value for its money through co-operative housing societies than through State housing authorities.
His claim, at the State Housing Ministers’ conference, was disputed by the S.A. Premier, Sir Thomas Playford.
Senator Spooner said “ We are getting about 20 per cent, more houses from money put into building societies than if the same amount were put into Housing Commissions “.
The boom in housing, he said, was due to private investment - the average person in the community arranging to get his own home built in his own way. It was not due to Governmental housing activities.’
Sir Thomas Playford said that his Government had always found the opposite.
If the Government put £lm. into housing, it immediately got back the deposits to build more houses, he said.
Senator Spooner replied that, in the final result, Australia got more houses through building societies for the same money.
The article further states -
Sir Thomas Playford objected when Senator Spooner said, that as the present arrangement had 15 months to go, legislation for a new agreement should wait until the autumn session of the Federal Parliament.
Sir Thomas said that such a delay would involve a break in the planning of housing programs.
That article supports my contention about building societies in South Australia at least, and it supports the criticism that I levelled at the Government at the beginning of my speech when I said that this agreement was placed before the Senate far too late and would be placed before the States far too late for proper consideration to be given to it. I think that we should look again at this matter as it applies to building societies, particularly in South Australia.
I want to deal briefly with the building of homes by the South Australian housing instrumentality for purchase. Before doing so, however, I want to refer again to the obvious disaffection that exists between the Commonwealth and the States. I propose to read an article that appeared in the “ Canberra Times “ on 18th February, 1961, under the heading “ States Turn Down Housing Agreement. Unanimous Rejection of Offer “. The article reads -
Stave Housing Ministers yesterday rejected unanimously a Commonwealth proposal to incorporate new terms in the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement.
They were meeting Commonwealth representatives to arrange a new five-year housing agreement.
The terms they rejected were:
An increase in interest rates from 4 per cent, to 4) per cent, in the loan - a new agreement.
Is it still suggested by the Government that there has been no increase in interest rates?
State representatives had sought a reduction in the interest rate under any new agreement.
The article also states -
The meeting of Ministers which was chaired by the Minister for National Development, Senator Spooner, broke up without coming to any arrangement for a new agreement.
The article refers to instances of Liberal Premiers castigating the Federal Government because of its attitude to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
– That shows the irresponsibility of the present Commonwealth and State financial set-up.
– It may. I do not propose to be side-tracked at this stage into an argument on that subject. I am seeking to establish that there is serious disagreement between the States and the Commonwealth - something that was denied by honorable senators opposite. The case that I am putting supports my contention. I could quote other newspaper articles which show clearly how much disaffection exists between the States and the Commonwealth, but there would be no point in doing that because I have already established my case.
– What is the point of fostering acrimony that is based only on irresponsibility?
– Senator Wright may support the Opposition’s amendment at the appropriate stage. His sympathies obviously lie more with the amendment than with the Government’s proposal. I suggest that he give some consideration to the amendment.
I wish to refer now to a remarkable statement made by the Minister for National Development during his secondreading speech. He said -
When the 1956 agreement was completed there was clear evidence of a very considerable housing shortage throughout Australia. Since then this shortage has been greatly reduced. I believe, in fact, that it is now a real problem only in some States, particularly in New South Wales and perhaps in Victoria.
I prefer to allow honorable senators from New South Wales and Victoria to indicate to the Senate, just what is the housing position in their States, but to suggest that the housing position in South Australia has eased, or has been in any way met, is absolutely ridiculous and completely foolish. A desperate housing shortage exists in South Australia, particularly of homes for rent. I suggest that the Minister place himself in the position of an ordinary wage-earner in South Australia who wants to rent a home.
– What is the average rental charged for a housing commission cottage in South Australia?
– I do not know. Rentals vary, as the honorable senator well knows. It is impossible to strike an average rental. For example, people may occupy a flat at a rental of, say £4 a week. If they leave that flat the incoming tenant may be charged £4 17s. 6d. a week by the housing instrumentality, despite the fact that tenants in adjoining flats have been paying only £4 a week for perhaps three or four years.
– The same thing happens in the Labour Government State of Tasmania.
– I am not in a position to say what is happening in Tasmania but I know something about conditions in South Australia.
– We should exchange information.
– That would be very helpful.
– You are not blaming the Minister or this Government for the situation you have described, are you?
– I am pointing out the utter absurdity of this statement in the Minister’s second-reading speech -
When the 19S6 agreement was completed there was clear evidence of a very considerable housing shortage throughout Australia.
– You are not complaining about increases of rentals?
– No. I was diverted from the main theme of my argument by an honorable senator asking, by interjection, what is the average amount of rental for housing commission homes in South Australia. That was not appropos the aspect of this matter to which I was referring. 1 have said that the Minister’s statement that the shortage of housing in m> State has diminished and that there is now, in fact, no shortage, is ridiculous.
– What is the extent of the shortage?
– If there were another 7,000 homes available for rental in South Australia there still would not be sufficient to satisfy the number of people who desperately need homes. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not criticizing the South Australian Housing Trust. I think that this body, within the limitations that the Minister has mentioned and other things that tend to stultify the provision of housing, has done a first-class job; I make no criticism of it. I am not suggesting that the current shortage in South Australia is due to inefficiency on the part of the trust; indeed, I think that its efficiency in this field has be.n marked. What I am saying is that it was utterly irresponsible for the Minister to imply that there is now no housing problem in South Australia.
– He did not imply that.
– I think that he implied that quite clearly when he said -
Does not that statement indicate that the Minister would have honorable senators, believe that there is now only a very slight, housing problem in South Australia,. Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia?
– No, you are wrong,, senator.
– If that is so, perhaps at a later stage of the debate the Minister will be good enough to tell us. what he meant by that statement.
At the present time, South Australia is. experiencing a very grave housing shortage - 1 refer to homes for rental - and due to this Government’s credit squeeze many people are unable to pay the required deposit, to purchase homes which have been built by the South Australian housing instrumentality. When I was last in South Australia. I was informed that there was a lag in the purchase of such homes due to the credit squeeze. The State housing instrumentality finds itself in an extraordinary position. Many people desperately need the homes that it has built for purchase but,. I repeat, due to the application of thecredit squeeze by this Government, prospective buyers are unable to get finance topay the deposit required. I think that this position constitutes an absolute disgrace. The South Australian Housing Trust, assisted by this Government under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, has built homes which are available for purchase. In many instances, these homes are deteriorating because the people who want to occupy them cannot find the necessary amount of deposit due to the restriction of credit.
– Do you suggest that the Cabinet, by applying the credit squeeze, is handicapping the Minister who is responsible for housing, Senator Spooner?
– I do not know whether the Government is deliberately setting out to handicap Senator Spooner, but I do think that it would be very difficult for anybody to handicap him; he is well-equipped to look after himself.
– Am I to infer from the honorable senator’s remarks that there is not really a housing shortage in South Australia because there are no buyers?
– That is a poor argument. As Senator Ridley points out, the Government believes, that if there- are. enough people- out of. work there will not be a housing shortage. I think that an argument of the character contained kt the Minister’s interjection does not do him. justice. The position is that people want these- homes - they want them’ desperately - but because of the financial restrictions that have been imposed1 by the Federal’ Government they cannot obtain credit andthey are unable otherwise to get the amount of deposit, required.
– What amount is required to be paid as a deposit on the homes you have mentioned?
– The amount of deposit required varies according’ to the type of home. The prices of these homes range from about £4,000 to more. than. £5,000.
Before the credit squeeze, the housing instrumentality in South Australia required a minimum deposit of about £L,000 for a £4,000 home and up to £.1 ,400- or £1,500- for the dearer types of homes. That was. before the credit squeeze manifested itself and caused dislocation, of the housing programme. ‘
Let me emphasize the present position, in South Australia. There is a desperate lack of homes for rental. On the other hand, due to the credit squeeze, the housing instrumentality is experiencing difficulty in selling very good homes that it has built for purchase.
I think that another matter that requires, the closest examination is the type of homes that the States are building for aged people who cannot afford to pay what might be considered a normal amount of rent for a home. The Government should, provide money to be earmarked specifically to step up the programme of. building homes for aged people. In. South Australia- and doubtless, this position exists. also> in. other States - there are blocks of homes, available, at rentals as. low as 37s. 6d. a week for an individual aged person and about £2. 1.0s.. a week for a pensioner couple or an aged, couple. These homes- are not reserved exclusively for pensioners-, hut are. available: to other aged persons. They are splendid, homes, which are fulfilling the needs of the section of the. community that deserves, the greatest amount of consideration.. I think it is a tragedy that more of these homes are not being, built. As I have said, there are blocks of them im South Australia but there is a waiting list a mile long, figuratively speaking, of people who require homes at these reasonable rentals. Old age is given dignity when people can afford to pay from their meagre pensions rent for this class of home. I think that an effort should be made by both the Federal arid the State Governments to build more of these homes, so that the aged people in the community will be far more adequately catered for than they are at the present time.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– When the sitting, was suspended, Mr. Deputy President, I was referring to the need for a new approach to be made to the provision of” homes for aged persons. I had pointed out that in South Australia, the Housing. Trust had constructed some excellent units for aged persons, but that unfortunately there were not enough of them. There isa very long, waiting list of people who wish to. secure accommodation of that kind,, toenable them to live with a reasonable degree of graciousness in their old age. I think we all agree that, that is. something towhich they are entitled.
Earlier in. my speech I referred to theamount of the deposit which horner seekers must find, and- in reflecting on thematter during the suspension for lunch, it. occurred to me that I might have given an incorrect impression to the Senate. In order’ that there shall be no doubt, I now state that when. I referred, to- deposits of “ more than £1,000 which home-seekers in. South Australia had to. find, I was referringto the purchase of brick houses. It is true, of course, that certain types of weatherboard, houses may be purchased in thesuburbs of Adelaide and that, for those houses deposits, of from £500 to £700 arerequired; but the bulk of the houses that are built, in South Australia by the Housing Trust are of brick construction. The minimum deposit for houses, of that kind is. £1,000. Senator Ridley informs me that the Housing Trust has. almost ceased’ tobuild timber-frame homes, and I. think that that is so. I make this point, Mr. Deputy President,, because it might have been? thought that my earlier comments related to timber-frame homes, whereas I was referring only to brick homes. 1 have already mentioned a passage in the Minister’s second-reading speech to the effect that the housing backlog had been largely overcome in some States of the Commonwealth. It might have been more helpful to the Senate in its consideration of the proposed renewal of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, if a more specific statement had been made. Surely the provision of figures showing the number of applicants on the waiting lists for rental homes, and also those waiting to purchase homes, in the various States, would not have imposed a great burden on either the Government or the Minister. Perhaps the Minister would consider including such figures on the next occasion that he is preparing a second-reading speech on the subject of housing agreements. I think that the figures would be very helpful to the Senate. At the same time, they would serve to remove any doubt which may exist concerning statements to the effect that the housing shortage had been largely overcome. I, of course, stand by the statement that I made earlier that at least 7,000 people in South Australia are waiting to occupy rental homes. I do not know the position in other States. I shall leave it to other honorable senators to acquaint the Senate of the position elsewhere. I make no bones about the South Australian position. It is just as bad to-day as it was five years ago. That is understandable, because with the large influx of migrants from overseas, the increase in the marriage rate, and for other reasons, it is obvious that a very great effort would have had to be made if all the people who required rental homes were to have had their requirements met.
At the beginning of my address I made the claim that the Government had introduced this measure at a very late hour, leaving only six weeks between the date of the expiry of the current agreement and the commencement of the proposed agreement. I am informed - and I make this statement deliberately - that the States have not been advised, up to this stage at least, of the intention of the Government, as indicated in the Minister’s second-reading speech, regarding the amendments of the agreement that it proposes to make. I am informed that the States know nothing of the matter. I think it is an indictment of the Government that in a matter as important as this, the States should not have had advance information of the Government’s intentions, or some forecast of those intentions, which would have enabled them to consider the matter and perhaps to make plans of a longer range than the bill will allow.
– There is something wrong with the honorable senator’s information. The States have been informed, and I have had letters back from them.
– For how long have they been informed?
– The honorable senator said that they had not been informed. They have been, and most of them have accepted the proposals.
– I am reliably informed that the States have not been acquainted with the full terms fo the Government’s amendments. I am speaking of the last few days.
– Would the honorable senator care to disclose his source of information?
– -Yes. My source of information is the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
I return to the amendment which I moved earlier. I point out that we ask for nothing extravagant in respect of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The amendment deals with four points. First, it suggests that the proposed agreement be redrafted to ensure the provision by the Commonwealth of all moneys required for the erection of dwellings by the States. In effect, all that that part of the amendment seeks is a return to the terms of the 1945 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, under which the Commonwealth Government advanced to the States all moneys that were required for housing. The arrangement worked very well. Perhaps the disaffection that exists at the moment has been in large part due to the alteration of the 1945 agreement in regard to’ the allocation of money to the States.
The second point of the amendment seeks a reduction of interest rates payable by the States on money for housing provided by the Commonwealth. That is not an unreasonable proposition. As everybody knows, the increase of interest rates adds to the financial problems of the States and also increases costs, to the disadvantage of people who wish to purchase homes. Thirdly, the amendment seeks the inclusion of a system of rental rebates of the type in operation under the agreement established pursuant to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1945. Again, we are asking for a return to one of the very desirable features of the 1945 agreement. Finally, the amendment seeks the inclusion of a provision that when the Commonwealth, for Commonwealth purposes, resumes land on which an occupied dwelling house has been erected, the Common’wealth shall make available to the State concerned additional money to enable the State to provide alternative accommodation for the occupant of the dwelling. That is a simple proposition which I, and the Opposition generally, think should be included in any housing agreement that is entered into between the Commonwealth and the States. 1 leave the position there. The amendments of the agreement proposed by the Opposition are reasonable. If accepted, they will dispel to a large degree, if not completely, the very serious discord that exists at the present time between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to the housing agreement. Any step that could be taken by the Senate to enable the States and the Commonwealth to proceed harmoniously with the important task of housing the people of Australia should have the most earnest consideration.
– I rise to support the bill and to oppose the amendment moved by Senator Toohey, which, if carried, would have the effect of withholding moneys, urgently needed by the States for the continuation of housing projects, for a period that could extend well into the next financial year and possibly well into the Budget session of the Parliament. If the amendment were carried, there would be no Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement on and after 30th June next, because that is when the current agreement expires. Even if the State Ministers and the Commonwealth Minister got together and concluded another agreement on housing before 30th June, a validating act of this Parliament would be needed, and that would mean calling both Houses of the Parliament together before 30th June next, when the present agreement expires. I do not believe that the course proposed by the Opposition would be of much advantage to the people who are evidently so desirous of having homes built for them under the agreement.
– Are you proud to present to the Parliament a fait accompli?
– The point is that we must have a new agreement.
– You could have tried to get it earlier.
– We have gone a long way towards getting it, as the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said in his second-reading speech. I understand that we have almost reached agreement. The whole purpose of the bill is to authorize the execution as from 30th June next, of an agreement that may be made, or that must be made, by the States and the Commonwealth before then. To make that quite clear to the Senate, I should like to read clause 5 of the bill. It states- (1.) Before an agreement, the execution of which is authorized by this Act comes into force in respect of a particular State, the Treasurer may. subject to this section, out of moneys lawfully available for the purpose, make such advances to that. State as he would be authorized to make under the last preceding section if such an agreement were in force. (2.) An advance to a State under the last preceding sub-section shall be made on such terms and conditions as the Minister determines, being terms and conditions substantially in accordance with the terms and conditions that would be applicable to the advance if an agreement the execution of which is authorized by this Act were in force in respect of that State. (3.) Advances shall not be made in pursuance of this section after the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-two.
I was wrong about the date. The agreement must be made within twelve months of 30th June next. One can see the plight in which home seekers would be if this amendment were carried. No housing finance would be available to the States probably until well after the beginning of the Budget session.
I want to advert to Senator Toohey’s reference to interest rates and the selling of homes. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1945 states- -
The whole idea of that agreement was that there should be finance for rental homes. “There was no provision, as far as I can see, whereby a person who was granted a rental home could purchase it from the housing authority. As I think was said in a speech in 1945 when the bill for the act was being discussed, the Commonwealth Labour Government wanted to prevent the people from owning their own homes, in order to avoid encouraging a State of little capitalists, which the socialist Labour Party opposed.
– That has mucked it all up.
– I do not know whether it has. I am telling the Senate what was said in the debate that followed the introduction of that legislation. I do not know whether arty honorable senator opposite would be prepared to contradict the statement of a Labour spokesman to the effect that to allow people to purchase homes would be to create a lot of little capitalists within the community. Looking at the matter in perspective, I should think that the greatest achievement of an Australian is to buy a home. I think it will be agreed that a person looks after a home of his own better than he looks after a home rented from a State housing authority.
– lt is mot of much use to buy a home if a man is unsure whether he will remain in his job.
– That is the reason why most of the people who go to the polls vote for this Government. They know that under this Government they will have security of employment. They know from looking at the records that Labour would regard as satisfactory a situation in which 5 per cent, of the work force was unemployed. That level of unemployment has never been reached in the twelve years that we have been in office. I do not want to develop that angle to-day.
Senator Toohey has said that we are charging far too high a rate of interest on :.housing loans. An examination of the legislation enacted by Labour will show that there is no provision for a reduction in the rate of interest payable by the States to the Commonwealth, or by the owners of houses, for finance for home building. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945 contains this provision -
Each advance shall bear interest at a rate not exceeding the rate payable in respect of the long-term Commonwealth Public Loan last raised prior to the date of the advance, or if a Loan is being raised at the date of any advance then that advance shall bear interest at the rate of interest to be paid in respect of the long-term Loan then being raised.
If my memory serves me correctly, in 1945 the rate of interest on long-term loans was approximately 34 per cent. There was no mention in the 1945 agreement of a reduction of 1 per cent.; there is in the amending agreement we are now considering. As we know, the interest rate on long-term loans at the present time is about 5i per cent. A reduction of 1 per cent, will bring the rate down to 41 per cent., which is only a little more than 1 per cent, higher than was the rate in 1945.
– It should not be higher at all.
– That is what you say. What we have to do is to compare the standard of living in that era with the standard in existence to-day. In those days the basic wage was approximately £3 10s. per week; to-day it is about £15.. All you have to do is to go out and ask the people whether they would rather be living back in the days of 1945, paying 3i per cent, for money borrowed, and drawing £3 10s. per week, but not enjoying the amenities that they are now able to enjoy.
– Do not kid yourself.
– I am saying, Senator Ridley, that all you have to do is to go out and ask the people what they prefer. We have asked them at numerous elections, and they have said that they do not want to go back to the conditions that existed under Labour’s administration. At this stage I should like to congratulate the Minister for National Development and the Government on the excellent work they have done in providing finance and making possible the erection of large numbers of homes for the people of Australia. If we examine Senator Tooheys’s statement that there is just as big a housing shortage to-day as there was in 1956-
– Who said that?
– Senator Toohey said it.
– He did not.
– Senator Toohey said that within five minutes of resuming his seat.
– You are wrong.
– He said that there was just as acute a housing shortage-
– In South Australia.
– He said there was just as acute a housing shortage in South Australia to-day as there was in 1956. In fact, I think he mentioned the whole of Australia. However, Senator Toohey can correct me if I am wrong. I do not think it is very nice of Senator Ridley to do it. Senator Toohey knows very well that he said that. When we look at the figures relating to the number of houses that have been built by the Government, we find that the number has risen consistently. I do not want to go back to the figures applicable to the days when Labour was in office. They are not even shown on the paper I have before me; apparently they were not worth including. The number of new houses commenced in Australia in the March quarter of 1955 was 17,517. In the March quarter of 1960 the number commenced was approximately 19,000. The total number of houses erected in the respective years was 7.2,972 and 80,578. In 1955 a total of 2,896 flats were built. In 1960 a total of more than 16,000 flats were erected - nearly seven times as many. Having looked at the figures for each State, I agree with the Minister when he says that to all intents and purposes the housing problem has been overcome in all the States, with the exception probably of New South Wales and Victoria.
– They have bigger populations.
– Yes. That may be the reason. When it is noted that the housing shortage has been whittled down to the extent that a shortage exists now in only two States, it can be said that substantially we have attained our objective. In parts of Western Australia there is no housing shortage at all. I understand that there is no longer a housing shortage in Perth. In some of the country towns unoccupied houses are for sale.
– Because of the credit squeeze, nobody has the money to buy the houses that are empty.
– That is a stupid statement. I do not want to reply to it.
– It is not stupid.
– In the last ten years we have passed through the most prosperous era there has ever been in the history of Australia. I do not want to name the senator concerned, but the statement that no one has any money to purchase homes is quite ridiculous. The people of Australia have never been better off than they have been during the last ten years.
I can speak personally only of the situation in Western Australia. I have to examine ministerial statements to ascertain what is happening in the other States. I repeat that there is definitely no housing shortage in Western Australia - certainly not in the metropolitan area and in various towns. So, with the exception of the two most populous States, we can say that to all intents and purposes we have attained the objective that we sought to attain. 1 have no doubt that the shortage in those two States will be overcome within the next five or six years. Senator Toohey is a little bit out when he says that we have not whittled down the housing shortage. In fact, he is well out in relation to Western Australia. In 1956 there was a housing shortage in that State; to-day there is none.
– I made no reference to Western Australia.
– I did not say you did.
– You mentioned my name.
– I said you had stated that the housing shortage is as acute now as it was in 1956. If you do not believe me, have a look at the “ Hansard “ report. I will not go back on what I said. I believe you said that; perhaps I am wrong.
I now wish to refer to some of the amendments to the existing agreement. One which I think is of great importance to the Government’s way of thinking but not in Labour’s thinking is the provision of machinery whereby homes that were built under the 1945 agreement may be sold on terms that are satisfactory to the State concerned. Houses which up to date have been let will now be able to be purchased by persons who have rented them. I believe all honorable senators will agree that is a good provision. Another amendment which is of interest to me is that which provides that the cost of all roads and pavements attached to a particular house may be included as part of the cost of supplying that house. 1 want to say something about the building of homes in outback areas. I believe that the Commonwealth and the States should pay particular attention to the rapid growth of our mining industries. In almost all cases, the company concerned has to provide all the housing required for its employees. The Commonwealth Aluminium Corporation, for instance, has to set up an establishment at Weipa where 1,000 homes are required. The cost of each home will be from £4,000 to £5,000, so that a total sum of about £5,000,000 is involved. That is an establishment that will last for 100 years, yet that company cannot obtain any finance from the Commonwealth or the State, as far as I know, for the construction of those homes.
All new mining ventures have to supply practically the whole of the finance required for the housing of their employees. I know that under the mining acts they are entitled to deduct 20 per cent, of the cost by way of depreciation, which is quite good. However, a great burden is placed on mineowners who, because they have mines in outback areas - mines which might have a life of from ten to 100 years, or more - must find the whole of the finance needed to provide houses for their employees. If the person or the company concerned were starting a processing works in a metropolitan area, however, he would not have to worry about providing housing for his employees. I do not believe that that is quite what we want in Australia, and I should like to see something done about this matter.
– Would the houses that you spoke about be company houses?
– They would be company houses, yes. We know that the Commonwealth has agreed to pay, for the hous- ing of service personnel, a sum equal to 5 per cent, of the total amount paid to the States, provided that the States agree to finance that operation on a 50-50 basis. We know that under this new agreement an amount greater than 5 per cent, of the total will be paid by the Commonwealth if it is required in any State. Therefore I cannot see any reason why a reputable mining company, approved by a State Mines Department or by the Bureau of Mineral Resources, if you like, should not obtain finance for the building of houses for its employees.
– Is there any reason why a State government cannot do that?
– I do not think the State governments do it under the agreement.
– Can they?
– I am sorry, but I do not know. I know that it is not being done. I should like the Commonwealth to make finance available, on a percentage basis, for housing in outback areas. Go to mining areas throughout the land and you will find that most of the mines have inadequate housing for the members of their staffs. I cannot see why that state of affairs could not be altered.
I conclude my remarks by saying that I cannot support the amendment. I want to see this housing agreement carried on. If the amendment is agreed to, it will have the effect of withholding finance from many people throughout Australia who require homes. The States will not be able to go ahead until the new agreement is signed. If the amendment is carried, the agreement will not be signed and finance will not be made available. I oppose the amendment and support the bill.
Senator O’BYRNE (Tasmania [2.501.- Senator Scott went to great pains to put words into Senator Toohey’s mouth relating to a comparison of the number of homes being built to-day with those being built in 1956. He did not put the correct interpretation on what Senator Toohey said, and he failed to give any figures to support his submission that the position in Western Australia to-day is better than it was in 1956 and that there is no shortage of homes in that State. When an honorable senator advances an argument, he should be able to give some figures to support it.
While the honorable senator was speaking, I picked up a booklet entitled “ Housing Priorities “, issued by the Brotherhood of St. Laurence. It makes some telling points - many of them critical of the Commonwealth Government’s housing policy. This booklet sets out the figures for Victoria, which show clearly what has happened. It states -
In 19SS-S6, the last year in which the first Commonwealth-States Housing Agreement operated, the Housing Commission received from the Commonwealth under the Agreement, £10.8 million and with this sum it built 4,152 home units.
In the current financial year the Housing Commission will receive £7.2 million plus a small contribution towards the cost of housing servicemen. It will build only 2,300 home units.
The effect of this reduction in funds for the Housing Commission is directly reflected in the number of applicants on the waiting list for the Housing Commission. As at June, 1956, there were 11,000 applicants on the waiting list. Today, thanks to -the Commonwealth policy of reducing its allocation to the Commission, the waiting list has increased by more than 50% to 17,500 unsatisfied applicants, and while there may have been an increase in the number of homes built through building societies the number of Housing Commission homes being built has dropped by 44%- -from 4,152 units in 1955-56 to 2,300 in 1960-61.
Let me quote another extract from this booklet. It is as follows: -
It is true, of course, that not all of the 17,000 applicants if offered homes to-day by the Commission would want to take up the offer, but the same situation has always applied to the Housing Commission waiting list and it is perfectly valid to use the raw statistics of application to obtain a picture of the relative trend in demand.
The Brotherhood of St. Laurence is doing an excellent job, as all honorable senators know. Its members are concerned at the trend since 1956 in the availability of homes for those who are least able to pay high rentals or to find deposits. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and the. Government seem to think that deposits of £800 and £1,000 are easy to obtain, but they exclude from their thinking a very big section of the community who receive age pensions or are on low fixed, incomes and have r.ot had the good fortune to be able to own homes. Many such people live in flats in inner metropolitan areas. Many spinsters and bachelors also live in rooms in inner metropolitan areas. Those people find that because of the development of business areas they have to vacate the rooms and flats in which they have lived for a number of years and when they find alternative accommodation they are asked to pay rentals which are beyond their capacity to pay. This is a very great problem in the community. Rental homes should be available to give shelter to the people in the community who are on low fixed incomes or pensions.
The trend of the Government’s policy of reducing the amount available to the State housing instrumentalities and diverting money into other sources is accentuating this very grave problem. I have every confidence that the building societies throughout the Commonwealth are doing a very good job, but they are catering for a special section of the community which can afford to go along to them and pay deposits of up to 40 per cent, in order to obtain finance. When building societies have advanced money up to their limits, other people have been known to be asked to pay 10 per cent, interest. I know exservicemen who have had to borrow money in the period before funds became available to them from the War Service Homes Division and have had to pay 10 per cent, interest during that interim period.
– More than 10 per cent, sometimes.
– That is the fact. If they can obtain finance at 10 per cent, interest they consider themselves fortunate. These pressures that are being exerted on the unfortunate home-seeker and homebuilder to-day seem to have escaped the notice of the Government because it says that the overall statistics for each year show an improvement on the figures for the previous year.
Another great problem has been forced on to the State governments in finding homes for the 100,000 migrants who come to Australia each year. As the population increases and the migration policy is carried out, so the pressure on the State governments increases. Many new Australians come to Australia, work hard and then buy cheap houses. But often, when they purchase houses, families who have been renting them are unable to find alternative accommodation. Since 1956 there has been a trend towards the unavailability of rental homes. Rents have been increasing progressively and those increases have been incorporated in the cost-of-living structure. The Minister has given the Senate the impression that the agreement before the Senate is an excellent agreement and that the States are more or less satisfied with the situation, but I remind him that it does not solve the grave problem that exists. In order to refute Senator Scott’s statement that the present position is not as bad as that of 1956, I have quoted those figures.
I have in my hand a copy of a letter that was written by the State Housing Commission in Western Australia in answer to an inquiry by Senator Cant. He asked whether it was possible to obtain a house for a new Australian settler. The letter reads in part -
The Commission has now considered this application and granted emergent approval for accommodation. As soon as suitable accommodation is available, applicant will be advised.
Senator Scott says that there is no housing shortage in Western Australia, but that is part of a letter written on behalf of the Western Australian Housing Commission.
– What is the date of the letter?
– It is dated 4th May, 1961, a week ago, and is signed by Mr. A. D. Hynam, the manager of the State Housing Commission. Therefore, I say that Senator Scott tried to give to the Senate a false impression when he said that the housing problem has been solved in Western Australia.
In the drawing up of this agreement, the Commonwealth has taken a different attitude from its traditional attitude. In 1945, when the original agreement was drawn up, the Commonwealth and the States got together and said, in effect: “We have a common problem. What is the States’ problem eventually becomes a national problem and in what is a national problem the Commonwealth has to be assisted by the States.” That is my interpretation of the approach to the making of an agreement.
The Melbourne “ Herald “ of 20th February last, contained an article in relation to the preliminary talks on the agreement now before the Senate. The article carried the heading, “ State Fight for Housing. Minister Hits at ‘ Dictation ‘ “, and read -
Victoria will continue to fight for the right to decide how to spend its share of the CommonwealthState housing agreement finance.
I interpolate that the State governments throughout Australia must feel that the pressure tactics and dictatorship of the Commonwealth Government in these matters are intruding on their sovereignty. I admit that they are not the tax collectors, but they have no other sources from which to borrow. The Commonwealth Government’s financial and fiscal policies are such that, the Commonwealth being the tax gatherer and the official loan floater for the nation, the State governments are obliged to apply to the Commonwealth Government for their finance for housing. There should be a degree of harmony and reciprocity in these matters. The State governments feel that as they have to carry the responsibility for the administration of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and the building of the- houses, which is the ultimate object, there should be a greater degree of harmony and’ reciprocity rather than dictation of the terms under which, they are to administer the funds made available to them. The newspaper article also contains these words -
The Minister for Housing, Mr. Petty, said today, “Victoria is not alone in its fight. The other five States are- unanimous that they should decide where their housing money goes.”
The Commonwealth’ told’ the States last week that it would’ renew- the: present agreement due to> expire on July 1 on two conditions.
The Commonwealth Government’s conditions are -
The allocation by the States for co-operative housing to be increased from 30 per cent, to- 334 per’ cent, of the total allocation.
Interest paid by the States to be raised from 4 to 44 per cent.
The Government, has made a great play of its claim, that the interest rate has been set at 1 per cent, below the ruling Commonwealth bond rate. But as a direct result of the Commonwealth Government’s fiscal policy that rate has got out of hand. The Government has allowed the fringe institutions to become a law unto themselves. They have become a threat to the whole monetary system in this country.
– Allowed what to come in?
– It allowed the fringe institutions - the hire-purchase companies, the lend-lease corporations, the vending machine organizations, the people dealing in convertible notes and people operating other lurks outside the orthodox banking system - to insert huge advertisements in the newspapers appealing to the greedy desire inherent in many people to get more for less. The Government’s action has resulted in pressure being applied to the sounder organizations. The people concerned with the “ Delfino “ project, the vending machine people and all the other fly-by-night people have done a great disservice to the economy of this country by offering interest rates of 12£ per cent, and 15 per cent. I have even heard of a rate of 2i per cent, per month being offered by some of these Johnny-come-lately getrichquick organizations. Their actions have caused pressure to be applied to the orthodox lending authorities - the insurance companies, the building societies and the banks. Also, the Commonwealth is forced to increase the interest rate on government loans in order to fill loans raised to finance national undertakings. This is a vicious circle. The Commonwealth is supplying the money to the States for the building of homes but the interest rate is continually rising. The interest rate has risen since the last housing agreement was entered into. The various State Ministers have estimated that the raising of the interest rate will mean an increase of between 7s. and 10s. a week in the rental charged for a home.
– Have you any figures of the cost of building a cottage in 1954 compared with 1960?
– I am afraid I have not but I have made some other interesting calculations. Of the £180,000,000 that has been made available to the States in the past five years, £129,000,000 has been allocated to State instrumentalities, £46,000,000 to building societies and £5,000,000 to the erection of homes for ex-servicemen. On my calculations the cost of each unit erected by the State instrumentalities has been about £2,550.
– What is the average rental charged by the States?
– The latest rentals charged in Tasmania vary between £4 and £4 10s. a week.
– That means that an interest rate of 10 per cent, is being charged on the capital cost of the home.
– The States are making a pretty good profit if ti 3y charge 10 per cent, on money that tfr y obtained from the Commonwealth at 4i per cent.
– The States must obtain the land on which to build the home. They must pay rates. Th:y must provide kerbing and guttering . nd pay subdivision charges.
– A capitalist could make a good living if he could borrow money at 4£ per cent, and lend it at 10 per cent.
– I have not gone into those figures, but the point of my argument is that the State instrumentalities are at least tackling the problem of the housing shortage. Many speculative builders in the community are catering for the home seeker who desires the more luxurious type of home. If people want to buy specbuilt homes they are entitled to do so, but they will need a deposit of 40 per cent, or 50 per cent, of the total cost of the home. If they wish to borrow money to finance their purchase they will have to pay an interest rate of between 7 per cent, and 10 per cent.
– Did you say that these people borrow 40 per cent, or 50 per cent, of the cost of the home?
– If you wish to buy a spec-built home you invariably must provide a deposit of 50 per cent, of the cost of the home. I am speaking not about homes built by State instrumentalities but about homes built by speculative builders, who are catering for a section of the community.
The original purpose of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was to provide homes for people who were unable to pay for or had no desire to obtain a luxurious home. They were people who simply wanted a shelter for their family - a place they could call their castle. All they wanted was a place in which to rear their children, preferably in proximity to a school and other facilities. Such people would become good Australians. They would have a stake in the community. They would have ambition for the future and pride in their simple home.
– This is no longer the bachelor talking.
– The former bachelor! We are losing sight of the main purpose of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. We have allowed portion of the money made available by the Commonwealth to the States to be diverted from the State instrumentalities to other avenues. Formerly, building societies were to obtain 30 per cent, of the money provided to the States. It is now proposed to increase that percentage. The position now is that the building societies will use their funds, on a £1 for £1 basis, to finance a section of the community that normally obtained money for homes through savings banks, insurance companies and like institutions.
– I do not think that is quite right.
– It is right. The building societies are now assuming a greater responsibility in housing than formerly. The savings banks and the insurance companies are now providing less money for housing. At one time the Commonwealth Bank would provide advances for housing, but if anybody goes to the Commonwealth Bank to-day he will find that that avenue of finance has dried up. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is no longer fulfilling its original purpose of providing homes for renting. Many people in the community are required, by the very nature of their work, to move from one area to another. They do not want to commit themselves to the purchase of a home over a period of 45 or 50 years. Engineers, mechanics, iron workers, steel workers, miners - even waterside workers - find that the introduction of mechanization and automation has lessened or destroyed employment opportunities in a particular town. If those people are anchored to that town because of house-purchase commitments and are forced to accept employment in an industry other than the one in which they have been trained, the nation suffers a loss because the talents of those people are applied in wrong directions. But if they are renting their homes they can go to another city and rent another home. The agreement should make better provision for homes for renting. The canker in Australia’s financial and economic system is manifested in this agreement. On every side, the Government has allowed the inflationary process to get out of control and to destroy values. On every side, the getrichquick merchant has battened on his fellow man to the limit.
– Does that apply to-day?
– Yes, the Treasurer has stated that everything in the garden is rosy. Things may be rosy for some people.
– When did he say that?
– He said it at the conference of women members of the Liberal Party last week-end.
– What he said was that everything is not rosy.
– The Treasurer said he had his finger on the economic pulse. He must have been at the morgue. It is evident that the Treasurer has not got his finger on the economic pulse, because in many instances this pulse is at present beating at three times its normal rate.
The same trend is evident in respect of housing throughout this country. It is disturbing the normal development of community life. This Government is not tackling the problem in the way that the people of Australia expected it would. As I have previously mentioned, there are now more applications on hand for houses than there were in 1956. We will place the facts of the matter before the people of Australia in the near future, and I am confident that they will then bid good riddance to the Menzies Government, which may toe likened to a chicken going to the wood heap. When Labour is returned to office it will ensure that this agreement is varied to provide that adequate moneys shall be made available to the States for housing.
As we know, the existing agreement, is about to expire. Of course, if it were not renewed before 30th June, there exists provision whereby the Commonwealth has power to continue to provide the States with finance for housing. The agreement is not satisfactory to the State authorities, because it restricts their ability to carry out the job for which the agreement was introduced. The State housing authorities are receiving many applications for homes, whereas very few applications are being received by the Commonwealth. Therefore, the Commonwealth is able to skate over the matter. The States are required to provide homes to meet the needs of an expanding population and a consequential increase in the marriage rate. The States have to bear final responsibility to provide homes for the hundreds of thousands of migrants who are coming into this country. I do not believe that the agreement takes these very important factors sufficiently into consideration. The amendment submitted by Senator Toohey proposes that in the motion -
That the bill be now read a second time. all words after “ bill “ be left out, with a view to inserting - be withdrawn to permit of the conclusion of negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States, to afford an opportunity to the States to examine the proposed agreement and that it be redrafted -
to ensure theprovision by the Commonwealth of all moneys required for The erection of dwellings by the States;
to reduce interest rates payable on those moneys by the States;
to include a system of rental rebates of the type in operation under the agreement established pursuant to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1945; and
to include a provision that when the Commonwealth, for purposes of the Commonwealth, resumes in any State, land upon which any occupied dwelling house is erected, the Commonwealth shall make available to the State additional moneys to enable the Stale to provide alternative accommodation for the occupant of any such dwelling house.
As to the last paragraph of the amendment, I point out that it has been the practice of the Commonwealth, whenever it has resumed land for Commonwealth purposes nceessitating the displacement of occupiers, to say to the States, “We make money available to you for housing purposes. Therefore, it is your responsibility to provide housing for these people “. My experience as vice-chairman of the Public Works Committee over the last few years has convinced me of the necessity for a provision along the lines of paragraph (d) of the amendment to be made. When it was proposed to extend Elizabeth-street in Sydney and to construct Commonwealth offices on land including an area of Phillipstreet north of Hunter-street, the Public Works Committee was faced with a problem. People would have to be displaced from tenement buildings in Hunter-street that would have to be demolished to enable Elizabeth-street to be extended. Before the committee drafted its recommendation for submission to the Parliament, it tried to bring about an arrangement between the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments to provide alternative accommodation for the people who would be displaced or evicted. The committee found that those governments were as far apart as the poles. Tragedy resulted from the attitude of the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments at that time. One old fellow who, I understand, had resided in one of the tenement buildings for many years became broken-hearted at the prospect of eviction and committed suicide. I believe that the tragedy was due to the fact that both governments were inflexible and closed their eyes to the situation that had been caused by the decision of the Commonwealth Government to build Commonwealth offices at that location in Sydney.
The Public Works Committee also investigated the proposal to construct a mail exchange building at Redfern, Sydney. The committee found that the site at Redfern was suitable for the proposed building and, consequently, its construction was recommended. At the same time, the committee stated that it was desirable that the Commonwealth and State housing instrumentalities should confer with the object of providing alternative accommodation for the occupiers of homes on the site who would be displaced.
This unhappy situation has existed for some years. Homes on land that was to be resumed were torn down almost round the ears of the occupants. Some people were put out onto the streets. It seems to be beyond the powers of public servants and governments to handle the problem. But the difficulty could be overcome m a simple way. A clause could be incorporated in the agreement to empower the Commonwealth to withhold certain moneys from a States housing allocation in order to provide accommodation for people who have to leave premises on land that is to be resumed. By that means good citizens would be spared the hardship and heartbreak associated with eviction.
I realize that, unless there is an unexpected development, we on this side of the chamber have not the numbers to ensure acceptance of the amendment. I hope that that state of affairs will be corrected before very long. This Government is ignoring completely the vital needs of the ordinary people of Australia, the ordinary wage-earners. It is depriving them of their rights as honest Australian citizens. Despite the housing shortage in this country, this Government believes that a housing problem no longer exists. Instead of increasing interest rates, the Government should be reducing them as a part of the deflationary processes that we hear so much about. As every one knows, the cost of accommodation has a considerable effect on the cost of living. In renewing the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the Commonwealth Government has an opportunity to stabilize the cost of accommodation for the next five years, but that opportunity is not being taken. Instead, there is to be an increase of the rate of interest charged on money made available to the States. I support the amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition. I hope that honorable senators opposite will see the light and realize that now is the time for the agreement to be amended for the better. I trust that they will support the Opposition amendment.
– I am sure that Senator O’Byrne’s plea on behalf of the young married man who is just setting up a home struck a sympathetic note in the hearts of all of us. I regret, however, that I shall be supporting the bill and opposing the amendment. I think that the amendment is impractical. I do not know of anybody who would be more gravely embarrassed than the members of the Opposition if this bill were to be defeated. I have every sympathy for suggestions that interest rates should be reduced. Low interest rates are essential in housing finance. Rent rebates, in special cases, also are essential in any properly ordered State, and I am heartily in favour of adequate compensation in the case of resumption.
As for the other matter proposed by the amendment, namely, that the agreement should be amended so as to ensure the provision by the Commonwealth of all moneys required by the States for the erection of dwellings, I suppose that we all would be in favour of that, but we have to admit that it is pretty steep to suggest that the Commonwealth should provide all the moneys required by the States. When I see the Opposition making such a demand, I cannot help recollecting that every year my party has moved for amendment of the Social Services Act for the purpose of establishing an independent tribunal to consider the just entitlement of pensioners. When we ask for that to be done, not only the supporters of the Government, but also members of the Opposition, tell us that the Government must retain the right to control the purse-strings and that it cannot hand them over to any other body. In those circumstances, it seems to me that there is a certain amount of contradiction in paragraph (a) of the > Opposition amendment.
The suggestion is that we should delay the renewal of this housing agreement at a time when there is a credit squeeze, when the building unions are complaining that widespread unemployment is beginning to be observed, and when steel workers are being put out of work because the demand for steel for building purposes is being reduced. Apparently, the suggestion is that this is a good time to hold up a housing agreement.
– It does not make sense, does it?
– I suppose it could be a matter of principle, but with two elections in the offing, one in Victoria and the other in the federal sphere, it hardly seems to be sound tactics.
We have been told that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement will expire on 30th June next. So far as I can see, nobody has produced evidence which conflicts with the following statement that the Minister for National Development (Senator Sponer) made in his secondreading speech: -
In default of a housing agreement, the States would presumably need to base their housing finance upon money borrowed at the full longterm bond rate rather than at a concession rate such as that provided under the present agree.ment. This would increase the cost of State housing. If there is no agreement, some of the States at least will be likely to reduce their financial allocations to home builders, particularly through building societies. The building society movement has great potential for further development and has been greatly encouraged by the evidence of Government support.
If that is what will happen should we not agree to this bill, other people may accept responsibility for trying to hold it up, but I certainly will not be prepared to do so.
The suggestion has been made that fresh negotiations should be entered into. We have to be practical. I understand that negotiations have been going on for months and that the Commonwealth and State Housing Ministers have reached the stage at which they are able to agree on many matters. In some respects, they have agreed to disagree. They are now about to reach an agreement along certain lines. The negotiations have been carried on in all kinds of ways. There have been negotiations around the conference table, which is a normal method of negotiation. In my State the Minister for Housing has adopted the rather abnormal method of conducting his negotiations through the press and by means of pamphlets which he issues on behalf of the Government.
It appears to me that all the negotiation that has been possible has been indulged in and that we have now reached the point at which a decision has to be made. For my part, I think we should make a decision on the matters about which we can agree and then continue, in the coming year, to negotiate on the matters about which agreement has not been reached, such as the need for lower interest rates, rebates, and so on. Everybody realizes that there must be a new agreement after the end of June, and now that we have passed beyond the stage of blood, sweat and tears, I do not see anything to be gained by trying to postpone the passage of this measure to enable the holding of further negotiations, which obviously would be abortive and which might take three, four or five months. Therefore, if the Parliament were to adopt the unusual procedure of not agreeing to the bill, while retaining the right to enter into further negotiations at a later date, we would have to make an explanation to the people of
Australia and, in particular, to the members of the building trade unions.
I commend the provision of the bill which indicates that it is proposed to’ continue the allocation to building societies of 30 per cent, of funds for housing. That provision has always been subject to a certain measure of attack. I do not know why that should have been so, because it is an excellent provision. Nobody has ever been able to prove to me that more homes will be built by placing the money in the hands of the State housing authorities instead of providing money for co-operative housing. Some people have suggested that only the comparatively well-off members of the community, or middle-class people, who have big deposits are able to build homes with the assistance of finance from cooperative building societies. I do not think that that is so. I know many a working man and his wife who have built their home with the assistance of co-operative building society finance. They have been very well treated and have been entirely happy with the terms they have received.
I should like to see more than 30 per cent, of the housing funds allocated to the building societies, but as there is some difference of opinion on the matter I am happy that agreement has been reached to retain the 30 per cent, provision. I know that the claim is sometimes made that the money that is allocated to building societies ought to be available for such things as slum clearance.
– And education.
– Yes. I was interested to learn recently that in the suburb in which I was born, certain slums had been cleared and flats erected where they had been; but the people who had lived in the slum dwellings are not living in the flats. A number of them are occupied by university professors.
– They come from other areas.
– Yes. The trouble is that the people who have been inhabiting those sub-standard houses cannot afford to pay the rents of the flats that are often put in their place on the plea that the authorities are engaging in slum clearance, One of Australia’s most distinguished professors was until recently inhabiting a new flat in a block that had been erected on a certain area on the basis of slum clearance.
I believe in low interest rates and 1 shall support any practical method of endeavouring to bring them about. I think that they are necessary, particularly at present, when some people who have entered into housing contracts, even with co-operatives, are going to be in trouble if unemployment results. Many entered into contracts on the basis that the husband and wife were both going to work. Wives are becoming casualties in the initial unemployment and it is possible that the husbands will become casualties. Many also took on commitments on the basis that the husband was to get the £2, £3 or £4 a week in overtime in the future which he had been getting probably since 1946. I think that overtime will be cut down and there are many homes where the money coming in will be drastically reduced. I hope that the housing authorities will be very patient with people who find themselves in trouble, possibly over the next year or two.
Complementary with any measure to provide money for housing should be some action to try to reduce the price of land for housing or to keep it within reasonable limits. Let us be candid. Apart from all the other things stopping the provision of the number of houses ‘that we would like, one of the biggest factors that has militated against home building has been speculation in land, particularly around our cities. In this respect, Melbourne is probably the worst city in the Commonwealth. The people of Melbourne have the unenviable distinction of having been the victims of land speculators to a greater extent than the people of any other city in the Commonwealth. I saw on television a leading official of the World Bank, who was in this country. He was asked what were the good features he had seen in Australia and then he was asked about the bad features. He said that in his opinion one of the bad features was the price of land, particularly in the neighbourhood of the cities. He said, “ I own land quite close to a big city in the United States. Boy, would I like to get the values for it that your people are getting here.” We have been told recently that land in the heart of Melbourne costs more than land in the heart of New York. Obviously, in this country we have been the victims of land speculators. I say with great definiteness that any measure of this nature to provide money for housing should be complemented by some action to try to keep the price of land within reasonable limits.
– Is that not a State matter?
– Unfortunately, it is to a large extent a State matter. There is one thing that might be done in regard to some of these speculators. The States and municipalities should examine the right, which I understand they have under law in certain circumstances, to charge land speculators a betterment tax. We are rather remarkable in this country in that we expend large sums of money in providing services on land that had practically no services and then we allow a speculator to take the full benefit of the expenditure of all that money.
– Not in most modern cities.
– In quite a number of modern cities.
– Surely your municipal laws provide for the defrayal of the cost of water, sewerage and streets.
– That is so in regard to some things, but other services, apart from what one might call elementary services, are provided on many occasions, and nothing is done in the way of levying a betterment tax to compensate the public purse for the expenditure of that money.
In conclusion, I say that I am sorry that whenever the question of doing something about the price of land is raised, everybody says, “ It is too hard. What are you going to do? “ In the last six months we have seen the present Government take very firm action with which some agree and some disagree. There has been extremely firm action in certain directions, because the Government said that certain undesirable features had to be checked. I think that the Commonwealth and the States are in a situation in which they ought to be prepared to take firm action, as far as they can do so, about this matter of land speculation. It is time that the question of who has what powers was finally determined. It is time, that something was done to save the young men and young women who want to get married from having to pay extortionate prices for land in the neighbourhood of cities. That is one of the big problems in this country and I am sorry that more is not done about it.
.- I intervene in this debate only to contribute one thought. It follows most conveniently the submission made by Senator McManus. It has to be recognized that if we provide a good supply of cheap money at subsidized interest rates for housing in particular areas, in this instance metropolitan areas, the people who wish to build houses in those areas will lose the benefit of that subsidy because of enhanced prices resulting from land speculation. I know that that is no answer to the charge that an excess profits tax should be applied specifically to returns from the sales of suburban and city land. There are difficulties about doing that, but it is not impossible.
I rise to ask the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to consider whether, unlike what was done in the period from 1945 to 1961, the emphasis should be placed mainly, not on urban house development, but on rural farm development. We provide city houses by making money available at a rate of interest 1 per cent, less than the bond rate, but at the same time permit the Development Bank to continue to charge 6 per cent, for all loans that it makes. The cost of the programme of urban housing has been £180,000,000 in five years. The Development Bank last year, taking into account the credit that it took over from the Industrial Finance Department of the Commonwealth Bank, made 770 advances totally £5,300,000. We have the comparison of £5,300,000 in advances by the Development Bank and from £30,000,000 to £35,000,000 a year made available for urban housing. When we consider that another £30,000,000 to £40,000,000 a year is provided for war service homes, it is apparent that we are aggregating a great degree of wealth in already overgrown cities. The emphasis should be shifted to the places that produce for export. The emphasis should be on rural development. It surprises me to find that on 30th June last the total rural advances outstanding to the Industrial Finance
Department and the Mortgage Department of the old Commonwealth Bank, and to the Commonwealth Development Bank, were £6,700,000. Industrial advances outstanding at that time were nearly £8,800,000. When we compare the advances made under this housing scheme with the money needed for the purposes of rural development to increase our exports, it will be seen that we should restrict this rather unreal enthusiasm for urban housing, which creates the artificial and inflated values to which Senator McManus has referred. If we do that, we shall achieve something like a balance between city and country and that will enable the country to develop and to increase its production.
– I wish to intervene briefly, mainly for one purpose. Senator Toohey, who led for the Opposition, put the Opposition’s viewpoint so clearly and so rationally that I feel I am completely absolved from the need to traverse many of the details upon which he touched. I refer to the following passage in the second-reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) -
At the present time I cannot say positively that all the States will accept the agreement. I believe, however, that they will do so. The principal issue which has yet to be negotiated to finality is the proportion of funds which will be made available to State banks in some States in which the building society movement is not yet sufficiently developed to absorb the whole of the 30 per cent, which is ear-marked through the Home Builders’ account for the use of building societies and other approved institutions.
I now direct attention to the first portion of the amendment that has been moved on behalf of the Opposition. It provides that the bill “ be withdrawn to permit of the conclusion of negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States, to afford an opportunity to the States to examine the proposed agreement”. I want the Senate to realize just what we are now being asked to do. We are being asked to pass a bill to approve an agreement which is complete to the last detail at a time when negotiations, according to the Minister, have not been concluded and when the agreement at which we are looking has not been seen by the States.
– The Minister said that he received letters from the States.
– I have no doubt that that is so, in relation to the subject matter of the agreement; but 1 am in possession of a copy of a telegram sent to-day to a Minister in one State in which the Minister for National Development explained his plight and said that he had to introduce the bill now because the 30th June was approaching, and in which he apologized for not first submitting the agreement to the State Ministers. The Minister for Housing in Tasmania wrote to the Minister for National Development on 4th May last in these terms-
– Do you mean the fourth of this month?
– Yes, 4th May. The Tasmanian Minister said -
Before arriving at a final decision as to whether it should become a party to the new Agreement my Government considers it should have an opportunity of examining the terms of the proposed new agreement or amendments to the new agreement.
That was as recently as 4th May. The Tasmanian Government - I believe the same can be said of the other State governments - has not had before it the document that we are now asked to approve. Earlier to-day Senator Toohey developed the theme of the lack of proper co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to this matter. He gave reason after reason for his assertion. Here, right at the outset of floating a new agreement with the States which is to endure for five years, we are asked, far from the spirit of federation, to pass a bill to approve an agreement which is expressed to have been made between the Commonwealth and the States but which the States themselves have not seen.
The position is this: The National Parliament, if it passes the bill in its present form, will be saying to the States, “ There is the- agreement; take it or leave it “. What kind of approach is that to co-operation in relation to a matter which is fundamental to the needs of many people in the States? There has been a grave default somewhere in relation to the bill. The 30th June is approaching rapidly. Every one in the Minister’s department has known for five years that the agreement will expire on that date. Why are we asked to consider this measure almost as the last bill that is to be passed on almost the last day of this sessional period? The agreement will get off to a most unhappy start if it is approved in these circumstances. There is a natural resentment on the part of the States at the fact that this Parliament should say, “ There is the agreement; take it or leave it”. That is what the situation boils down to.
Although the Minister has expressed the belief that the States will accept the agreement, according to my advice that belief is not justified, in that letter of 4th May, to which I referred, the Minister for Housing in Tasmania voiced his objection to what is proposed in relation to the home builders’ account. The Tasmanian Government objects very strenuously to the fact that the Minister for National Development is to be responsible for approving all institutions other than building societies. The Tasmanian Agricultural Bank has been operating magnificently in that very field for the past 40 years. In Tasmania, two authorities deal with the matter of housing. There is the Government’s housing department, which handles houses for people who pay no deposits or very low deposits, and the Agricultural Bank which up to date has participated in the 30 per cent, provision and which builds homes for people who have deposits of approximately 10 per cent. It is quite clear that under the proposed agreement it will be competent for the Commonwealth Minister to say to Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, in particular, “There is nothing for your banking departments - nothing at all”. It is quite obvious that that is the point in relation to which the States are being difficult with the Minister for National Development.
Within the last week or so the Tasmanian Minister for Housing wrote to the Minister for National Development in these terms -
While due regard will be given to the intentions of the Commonwealth concerning the encouragement of building societies, Tasmania is only prepared to become a party to a new Agreement or an extension of the present agreement with such amendments as have already been agreed upon after you as Minister will acknowledge the State will have complete discretion of the allocation of fund’s to the home building account and that the Agricultural Bank will be accepted as an approved institution for the purposes of Clause 6 for the full term of the agreement. In other words Tasmania would expect the same rights in this matter as are now apparently enjoyed by at least one other State.
There is a very clear statement of intention by that State. I should be very surprised if the Premier of South Australia does not adopt a similar attitude.
How unfortunate it is that we should be asked to-day to throw the agreement in the face of the States and say “ Take it or leave it”. It is most unfortunate. There has been improper delay in bringing this bill before the Parliament. For the bill to have been introduced before the negotiations were concluded was quite wrong. There will now be no time available before the Parliament rises for those negotiations to take place. Senator Scott and, I think, Senator McManus, raised the objection that, if the bill were withdrawn, money would not be available as from 1st July. We could do in five minutes what was done in 1956. Then the provisions of the old agreement were continued into the new period pending the seeking of ratification of the agreement. A bill containing one clause could be drafted in a minute and passed by the Parliament in a minute. We would support it. Such a measure would hold the position as from 1st July. That is why the first part of the Opposition’s amendment has been drafted in the form in which it appears.
– For what period do you suggest that proposal should last?
– I would suggest that it should apply throughout the whole of the twelve months from 1st July next. The present agreement should continue until a new agreement is reached. It will be an unhappy position in Australia if one State after another drops out of this agreement. It would seem to me that the agreement has not been given a fair chance of success by getting the co-operation of the States.
There is a very simple piece of machinery available, now that the Parliament will be sitting next week. Ample thought can be given to the matter, too. The Treasurer could be authorized to make advances pursuant to the current agreement for the next twelve months or until a new agreement is concluded with the States, whichever happens first There would be no hold-up in the provision of funds; the Opposition would not be a party to that under any circumstances, that point can be met quite adequately.
– This is an afterthought to your present amendment.
– No, it is an essential ingredient of the proposition that has been put.
– But it must be an afterthought following the drafting of the amendment.
– No, it is not.
– You could not have had a copy of my telegram at the time.
– No. Your telegram was sent only to-day.
– And your amendment was drafted yesterday.
– Perhaps earlier than that. It may have been- drafted on Tuesday.
– So this is an afterthought.
– It is after knowledge. It would have to be after knowledge because your telegram, I repeat, was sent only this morning. The Opposition is as Clearly aware as is the Government that if the present agreement is allowed to expire on 30th June, without some action such as the passing of a bill such as I have mentioned, no moneys would be available. Whether we thought of this suggestion when the amendment was drafted or now, it is an essential concomitant of what we are putting. We would support the introduction of a bill to hold the position in the coming financial year. I would say that that would be good common sense.
– Would not the States have to agree to your suggestion about the extension of .the present agreement into the new year?
– What would be done would be to authorize our own Treasurer to make advances to the States pursuant to the terms of the existing agreement. Of course, in every case that would involve the co-operation of the States, and every State would accept, pending the conclusion of the negotiations for a new agreement.
This matter has been handled most untidily on behalf of the Government. The position can still be rectified and the whole thing can proceed in a spirit of good feeling and of co-operation with the States if the suggestion that I now make is adopted. Let us withdraw this bill. Let us conclude the negotiations with the States. Let us endeavour to reach agreement with the States at the beginning, instead of having a long series of fights with them and perhaps one or more States dropping out of the agreement. The present situation is an unhappy one. I rose particularly to say that. I merely wish to add that I am advised that the waiting list for homes in Tasmania contains the names of more than 800 people, many of whom have been on the list for two years. That shows among other things, the need for more adequate finance being supplied to the States.
– That is a considerable reduction, compared with five or six years ago.
– I do not doubt that, but it is still not a good position. One cannot claim that the housing shortage has been relieved when there are 800 persons on the waiting list in Tasmania and many of them have been there for at least two years. That indicates a pretty serious lag that has still to be overcome.
I am indebted to my colleagues who have already spoken from this side, putting the case for the Opposition. I feel that the Minister has done something for which he must answer in floating an agreement under the circumstances that I have outlined and by delaying the introduction of this bill. He and his department knew that the date of expiry of the present agreement was approaching and they should have had their negotiations concluded and the States in possession of a copy of the agreement long before now. I think the present position is distinctly unfortunate. 1 support the amendment which has been moved by Senator Toohey, and we will proceed to a division on it if necessary.
– I regret the circumstance that Mr. Madden made available to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) a copy of the telegram that I sent to him. I can only say that that action is not characteristic of Mr. Madden as I thought I knew him. I have had a number of negotiations with him. I had quite a high opinion of his general approach to these matters. I regard the telegram that 1 sent to him as being in the nature of a personal message, apologizing because there was no time to send a copy of the bill to him. I did not say in the telegram that Mr. Madden’s delay in writing to me was one of the principal reasons why it was not possible to circulate the bill. I did not get a letter from Tasmania outlining that State’s position in relation to this agreement until, I think, Tuesday morning. I think I am correct in saying that my officers telephoned to Tasmania, asking the authorities to expedite their reply. Tasmania’s delay has been one of the principal causes for the failure to circulate the bill. I am not denying that there are faults on the part of the Commonwealth. If I did not admit to some faults, I should not have sent that telegram. However, I never contemplated, having regard to the good personal relations that I have had with Mr. Madden, despite our political differences, that he would put that telegram in the hands of the Leader of the Opposition.
– What is wrong with his doing that if he wants to do so?
– I am making that point because I remember when the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, speaking on the Bell Bay legislation, purported to speak for and to express the view of the Tasmanian Government. If my memory serves me correctly, the Tasmanian Premier was pretty forthright in his denial of the views that the Labour Party in the Senate then put in relation to that transaction.
– That is not right.
– I should like at some time, when I get the chance, to go back and check the circumstances. In these matters one always runs the risk of getting personal conversations mixed up with public declarations, but I am in no doubt about the discomfort and the objections of the Tasmanian Government on that occasion. That Government felt that its interests were being misrepresented and badly handled in the Senate by the Labour Party here. I hope that the same situation does not arise in this case.
– You do not deny or contradict the telegram or the letter, I take it?
– No. Senator Toohey said that we had been treating the States in a cavalier sort of way. There is no substance in that claim. 1 should be surprised indeed if that was the view expressed by the States themselves.
– I did not say it was cavalier treatment. I said it was dictatorship.
– Senator Toohey’s expression was “ cavalier treatment “. You have to remember that there have been two conferences on this matter with the State Housing Ministers. In addition, there has been an exchange of correspondence about it. Really this is not a new agreement at all. Whatever the legal description of it may be, it is really an extension of the present housing agreement with comparatively few alterations to the present agreement. Speaking from memory, I think there are only four major alterations in respect of the interest rate, additional Service housing, the selling of houses covered by the 1945 agreement, and one other point. There may be other alterations in phraseology.
At the present time I have letters from four of the six States saying that they accept the new agreement. The other two States are in the same situation as that in which they have been in each year of operation of the housing agreement. Those two States have their own instrumentalities and they prefer to spend the money through their instrumentalities rather than through building societies. That is the only point at issue between those two States and the Commonwealth, and as far as I am aware there is no major point at issue between the other four States and the Commonwealth.
Everybody is very familiar with what happens in these matters. There was a delay on the part of the States. Two States had not replied at all until Monday morning of this week. They were taking the matter casually. Last week it was ascertained, a bit tardily I have to admit, that the present agreement expires on 30th June and that it would be necessary to take action before the Parliament rose. The strange point about this is that history is repeating itself because the same thing happened in 1956:
The present position is that I believe that there is complete agreement between the Commonwealth and four States and there is disagreement with the other two States on one point only. That disagreement has been the subject of negotiation in each year of the operation of the agreement Those two States have wanted more money for their State banks than I wanted to give them. I wanted to give them more for building societies and they wanted more for their State banks. Each year we have had to argue that out and each year we have reached agreement. The agreement as it now stands provides that we will review the situation at the close of each year. I am quite satisfied that each year for the next five years we shall have a friendly argument with the other two States as to how much money should go to building societies and how much should go to the State banks.
– But it is written into this agreement
– As it was written into the last agreement also.
– It is not the same.
– It is exactly as it was under the last agreement.
– It is not the same.
– Yes, it is. Under the last agreement the Commonwealth had the final say and under this agreement the Commonwealth has the final say. In this agreement the point is spelt out in greater detail and the formula is provided.
– That is right That is the difference.
– There is good ground for my opinion that agreement will be reached. It is not accurate to overstress the possibility of trouble and argument developing among the various governments.
The next point made was about the channelling of the money. Senator Toohey said that this agreement was worse than the earlier agreements because the 1945 agreement provided that all the States’ financial requirements would be met. With respect I say that that is not an accurate statement. The 1945 agreement contained the same formula as the 1956 agreement and this agreement to the extent that the States decide what proportion) of their total loan moneys- they will allocate to housing. The: idea that the Commonwealth, had to foot the- bill for whatever might be the requirements of the’ States, according to my recollection, did not arise until late in the period of operation of the 1945 agreement. . I think it was Mr. Clive’ Evatt from New South Wales who suddenly put forward the proposal at a meeting of the Australian: Loan Council, greatly to the surprise and 1 think a little- to the amusement of every one’ concerned. He made the legal point that tha claim could be substantiated under the terms of the agreement. However, in practice, of course, that did not come to pass; In practice it would not be possible for the Commonwealth to give a State government a blank cheque for any activity.
I do not think that there is much point in raking over the events of the past in regard to the 1945 agreement, and the 1956 agreement. The whole scene and the whole character of government housing have changed in the years that have passed since 1945. The whole concept of the 1945 agreement was to provide cheap or subsidized rental housing to overcome the bad housing back-log which had been created during the war years. At that time we on this side of politics objected to .the agreement. We objected because the weight was too much on rental housing and encouragement should have been given to home ownership. In the debate on that agreement the famous last words of Mr. Dedman, as honorable senators will remember, were that he did not want to create little capitalists.
The provision of rental housing was the concept of the 1945 agreement. Under that agreement the States could not sell houses. That agreement contained the provision that if a State sold a house it had to pay to the Commonwealth in cash the value of the house at the time the sale was made. In other words, the States could not sell houses on terms. The agreement was designed to prevent houses being sold and to encourage the building of houses for rental only. Since then the whole scene has changed and the change is a most interesting one. As soon as the 1945 agreement ceased to operate, we put into operation what might be called our political philosophy of encouraging homeownership, providing: a fair share of government finance for homes built for sale and not providing all the money for rental housing.
At that stage it was: not altogether a question of political philosophy: it was a question of the straight-out facts of life. I believe I am correct in saying that by 1956 the States had had such a bitter experience of being landlords and trying to look after houses that they were anxious to sell the houses. They did not want to rent houses; they wanted to sell houses. We made progress in stages. First, at their request the Commonwealth gave them permission to1 sell some of the houses covered by the 1945 agreement on certain terms and1 conditions; As a government, our approach to this matter of housing has always been that the circumstances are so different in the various parts of Australia that the correct policy to pursue is to allow the States to evolve and carry out the housing policies that they believe are best. As each set of negotiations has concluded, the Commonwealth has withdrawn further and further from any attempt to lay down terms and conditions. Increasingly we are leaving the States to carry the responsibility. In all our negotiations since 1956 we have said that two types of people are involved in the need for housing. AH our arrangements are aimed at providing house accommodation for people on low or moderate incomes. I have said that two types of people are involved. Some people are more thrifty than others. Some people join building societies and we have always, as a matter of policy, said that we will set aside portion of the housing money provided to the States for use by building societies. But the building society movement has not been strong enough in all States to absorb the full amount of money allocated to it. Undoubtedly the Commonwealth’s actions have helped to develop the building society movement. Building societies in Queensland can now take their full allocation of housing finance. That fact was one of the matters that prompted the sending of the letter quoted by Senator McKenna. The building society movement is developing in Tasmania. I am not sure of the figures but I think that, a few years ago, there were only two or three building societies operating in Tasmania, whereas to-day there are nine or ten. As a result of the encouragement given to them by the Commonwealth, building societies are increasing in number. The Tasmanian Government would prefer all of its housing allocation to be used by its own instrumentalities, but we would prefer to see the building society movement grow stronger and stronger.
To-day, the States do not want to be owners of homes. They want to sell homes, even though those homes were built with money provided at 3 per cent, and were built prior to the period of inflation. The States do not want to be landlords; they want to sell the homes. The amendment of the agreement will allow the States to sell houses built prior to 1945 on whatever terms and conditions the States think desirable.
I have obtained some figures which show that in five years up to 1960 New South Wales sold 72.3 per cent, of houses built by instrumentalities in that State. The figures for the other States are -
The policy , of the Tasmanian Government is to sell houses without asking for a deposit. That is a situation that we must face and it is one reason why the rate of interest charged under the new agreement must vary from that charged formerly. In the early days the agreement provided money at low rates of interest for the erection of houses for renting. At present the money provided under the agreement is being used to build houses for sale at low rates of interest in competition with private enterprise builders. If the housing commissions are willing to sell houses without a deposit, or on a deposit of £50 or £100, there will be a never-ending demand for such houses. If the States sell houses in that way they will undermine the activities of private builders, who are forced to charge higher rates of interest. If the States continue these activities there will be no end to the housing shortage, if the housing shortage be judged by the number of names on the waiting lists of the housing commissions. This is one of the real problems confronting governmental housing in Australia to-day. Nobody denies the desirability of provid ing substantial or reasonable amounts of money at reasonable rates of interest for people on low or moderate incomes. The Commonwealth is at present providing funds of the order of £35,000,000 a year for housing. Would any government be prepared to see that figure grow, thereby placing the State instrumentalities in a highly favoured position compared with private builders of houses?
– Private enterprise will not build ordinary houses to-day.
– Nonsense! About £350,000,000 a year is being spent in Australia on housing. Of that amount about 10 per cent, is provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I think a further 10 per cent, is provided by the War Service Homes Division. The remaining 80 per cent, is accounted for by private investment. Supporters of both sides of politics must tread carefully before subscribing to a view that the Commonwealth should make increasing amounts of money available in order to enter into a field in which private enterprise is willing to engage when we have so many unsatisfied demands for money for so many other undertakings that we must carry through to completion in order to bring about a balanced development of Australia.
I challenge Senator Toohey’s assessment of the position in South Australia. For instance, I do not think the officials of the South Australian Housing Trust would subscribe to his view that there is such a desperate shortage of houses in South Australia. One of our great problems arises from our inability to measure statistically the extent of the housing shortage. A great flurry is taking place among the pundits who are trying to estimate the actual demand for houses and the level of houses available to supply that demand. In 1956 my department made an estimate of the number of houses needed in Australia, but there has been such a divergence of opinion among professional officers in relation to statistical data that the department has not been prepared to produce another estimate since then. A decision has been made to wait until the next census is taken so that we may get a fresh start. Figures have become so confused as a result of people moving from State to State that we have decided to wait and see what the statistics reveal.
I recently read in a professional magazine an article written by two demographers from the Australian National University. The article was very complicated but I understood it to mean that the demand for houses in Australia was now of the order of 70,000 a year. It is many years since the number of houses built annually has fallen below 70,000. We have been taking up the back-log year after year. I think it is correct to say that, except in New South Wales there is no great housing shortage in Australia to-day. I must say, however, that my Victorian colleagues contradict that statement very strongly. They say that there is still a big housing shortage in Victoria. However, I do not think my colleagues from South Australia would argue with me about my assessment of the position in their State.
– Would you not say that if an applicant was told that he would have to wait three years for a house, the position was desperate?
– There are about 10,000 people on housing commission waiting lists in Australia to-day. There are about 16,000 people waiting for a war service home. That is a total of 26,000 people waiting for homes. Senator Toohey would claim that that is evidence of a tremendous demand for houses. But if we recall that, throughout Australia, 80,000 or 90,000 houses are being built each year, we will see those waiting lists in better perspective. Then you must subtract a very substantial proportion indeed from the number on the housing lists, because people put their names down on those lists and subsequently fill their requirements in some other direction. The War Service Homes Division works on the basis that 40 per cent of applicants for war service homes, when the time comes for their applications to be dealt with, do not want to go on because of one reason or another.
– They run out of patience.
– No, that is not the explanation at all. During his speech, Senator Toohey spoke in terms of a deposit of £1,000 being required for the purchase of a house; subsequently, he qualified that by saying that that amount of deposit was required on a brick house. When I heard his first statement, I obtained the relevant figures, and I have not had an opportunity since to ascertain the position in relation to a brick house. I am able to inform the honorable senator that the average amount of loans in respect of houses sold by the South Australian Housing Trust is £2,821 and the average amount of deposit paid is not £1,000 but £346.
– That is nonsense.
– The honorable senator says that is nonsense. I assure him that I am not plucking figures out of the air; I am quoting the advice I have received from my officers. I am quoting the figures that have been supplied by the South Australian Housing Trust itself. I am not making up thesefigures; I am quoting the official figures. One of the troubles that one runs into arises from all these exaggerations, all these fantastic-
– No, not understatements, but fantastic errors of judgment on the situation, which make it hard for one to see all these factors in the correct perspective.
Mr. President, for the reasons that Senator Scott and other Government senators have stated, the Government is unable to accept the amendment. 1 ask the Senate to pass the bill without amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Toohey’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
[4.35]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this bill and the associated measure, the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1961, the details of which I will explain shortly, is to introduce taxation concessions as financial incentives to export. The reasons why it is vital for us over the years ahead to secure a steady increase in our export income will be familiar to honorable senators.
We cannot achieve our basic policy aim of building up the population and industrial strength of Australia as rapidly as possible unless we can find the means to finance the growing volume of imports that will be needed to sustain such a rate of expansion. Less than 20 per cent of our current imports are consumer goods and within that 20 per cent there are many substantial items which cannot be produced in Aus tralia. The great bulk of the remaining 80 per cent of our imports are goods required to sustain Australian industries. Without a rising flow of imported capital equipment, raw materials, components, fuels, fertilizers and the like, the expansion of both our primary and secondary industries would be seriously retarded.
Imports of overseas capital can assist us in financing the imports needed for steady economic growth; but fundamentally we must look to export earnings not only to pay for imports but also to meet other commitments abroad. Increased export earnings are thus an essential prerequisite if we are to maintain our immigration programme, build up our industrial strength and provide adequate employment opportunities for our growing work force. It is for that reason that the Government has been pursuing a broad programme to encourage and assist the growth of exports of all kinds and is now adding to the measures already taken these new export incentives.
Honorable senators are, of course, aware that the Government has been considering ways of increasing export income and other measures which would assist our balanceofpayments situation. As part of this programme, it was announced recently by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) that the Government has decided to introduce taxation concessions to assist Australian producers and provide them with an incentive to increase their exports. It is proposed that the measures should operate for an experimental period ending at 30th June, 1964. They will then be reviewed in the light of the results achieved and a decision will be taken on whether or not to continue with them.
Our exports of processed primary products amount at present to about £230,000,000 a year and our exports of other manufactured goods to about a further £100,000,000 a year. The Government is, however, convinced that there is considerable additional potential for expansion of exports by Australian manufacturers. There is evidence that, in the past, many Australian manufacturers have not been interested in export but have tended to concentrate upon the domestic market. Consequently, in the field of industrial products Australia is a relative newcomer to the export field and there is no tradition of export or accumulation of technical skill and experience in the export field which exists in the older industrial countries. Further, Australia is geographically remote from most markets. One of the purposes of these measures is to induce manufacturers to reassess their attitude towards exports.
Considerable thought was given to the best methods of encouraging a change in this attitude on the part of manufacturers. In the light of discussions with representatives of the Export Development Council, the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council and other industry associations - and I should like to pay a tribute to the assistance afforded by these bodies - it was decided that the measures which I am now introducing would provide the most effective incentives. One concession, which involves rebates of pay-roll tax, is designed to attract businessmen to the possibilities of export and to persuade them to examine closely the export potential of their own products. The other concession, in the form of a special income tax allowance for market development expenditure, is designed to encourage and assist firms to enter new overseas markets. The Government considers that, taken together, these two taxation concessions should direct the attention of manufacturers to export possibilities and encourage them to seek markets for their products overseas.
Both concessions may apply, irrespective of the commodities exported or the markets to which those commodities are exported. All countries outside Australia, including, for example, New Guinea, are covered by the scheme. The term “ exports “ will include re-exports where the goods concerned have been in some way processed in Australia or incorporated with other Australian products. However, goods which are re-exported in precisely the same form and condition as when they were imported will not qualify as exports for the purposes of the scheme. Goods which are supplied in Australia to overseas ships and aircraft for use outside Australia will qualify as exports.
The proposed pay-roll tax rebates* details of which I will be explaining shortly, will arise only as a result of exports of physical goods together with patent rights, trade marks, designs and copyrights.. The income tax allowance for market development expenditure, however, which is designed to encourage export promotion, will apply also to specified expenditure on the supply of services outside Australia, including technical assistance. Producers of rural products in general pay very little pay-roll tax and, for this reason, will obtain the benefit of a rebate of pay-roll tax only in isolated cases. However, primary producers have, for many years, had the benefit of special taxation concessions which are not available to other sections of the community. Although the main purpose of the proposed measures is to stimulate an expansion in the export of manufactured and processed products, primary producers should nevertheless gain indirect benefits from the proposed measures through the assistance afforded to exporters of both processed and unprocessed primary products.
The income tax allowance for market development applies to specified expenditure incurred by all exporters and potential exporters. Entitlement to the allowance for market development expenditure is not dependent in any way on the results achieved in the form of export sales. The allowance is specifically intended to encourage firms to incur promotion expenditure in advance of sales and to build up methodical and regular selling arrangements and to ensure the continuance of sales. All market development expenditure incurred on and after 1st July, 1961, will qualify for the allowance.
On the other hand, entitlement to the rebate of pay-roll tax will be dependent on export achievement. It is no part of the Government’s intention merely to provide a reward for firms which export no more than they have in the past. For this reason firms will have to achieve an increase in the value of their exports in order to qualify for the rebate. This principle ensures that firms will be given a financial incentive to increase their export business. It also ensures that taxpayers generally Will only be called upon to meet the cost of rebates when increased exports have been achieved. These export incentives form part of the Government’s programme to increase exports, and we feel confident that, along with other action being taken, they can make a useful contribution in that direction.
As I have said, I will be explaining the operation of the proposed scheme of payroll tax rebates when I introduce the relevant bill shortly. The bill currently before the Senate will authorize an income tax allowance for specified classes of expenditure incurred in promoting the sale overseas of Australian goods and services. I do not propose at this stage to give more than a broad outline of the proposal as details of the allowance are fully set out in the explanatory memorandum to be circulated for the information of honorable senators.
Briefly, the income tax allowance will be in the form of a special deduction to be allowed in addition to the deductions ordinarily available in respect of the specified classes of expenditure under existing provisions of the law. The special deduction will be equal in amount to the existing deduction so that a total’ deduction of £2 will be allowable for each £1 of expenditure qualifying under the new provision. The maximum tax saving from the double deduction will be limited to 16s. for each £1 expended. The special allowance will be available in respect of expenditure incurred during the period of three years from 1st July, 1961, to 30th June, 1964. In particular, it will apply to costs of carrying out market research or obtaining market information; advertising, securing publicity or soliciting business; supplying samples or technical data, without charge, to persons overseas; and preparing tenders.
I should mention that the opportunity has been taken to include in this bill two minor amendmentson other matters.. The first will extend for a further three years, to the end of the income year 1967-68, the present exemption from tax of income from the mining and treatment of uranium ore in Australia or in Papua and. New Guinea.. The second amendment is designed to make clear the obligation of persons in Australia to make deductions for withholding tax purposes from dividends received by them for crediting to nonresident investors. Further details of both these amendments will be found in the explanatory memorandum. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Armstrong) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As I have just explained, this bill is the second of two taxation measures to introduce taxation concessions as financial incentives to export.
This bill proposes to authorize the allowance of a rebate of pay-roll tax which will be available not only in relation to increases in the export of physical goods but also where additional income is earned from the grant or assignment of rights exercisable overseas in respect of patents, trade marks, designs and copyright. The rebate is to apply in relation to increases in exports during the current financial year 1960-61 and for each of the three succeeding financial years.
The amount of the rebate will be ascertained from a formula set out in the bill. Perhaps the simplest way of expressing the matter orally is to say that the fraction “increase in export sales over the gross receipts of the trade or business carried on in Australia” will be applied to the payroll liability of the year for which a rebate is claimed. The resultant amount will be multiplied by 121/2 in order to arrive at the rebate allowable. For the purposes of these calculations, interest, dividends, rents and other receipts in the nature of income from property will be excluded from the gross receipts of the business.
The formula means that if the value of a firm’s exports increases by 1 per cent of its gross income from Australian trade or business, it will be entitled to a rebate of 121/2 per cent of its pay-roll tax liability. This applies proportionately so that if the increase in export sales in a financial year is not less than 8 per cent of gross receipts from Australian trade and business, the total pay-roll tax liability will be rebated. Stated in broad terms, entitlement to a rebate will be available in the first place to persons who by manufacture, production, assembling, processing, sorting and grading, or by packing in an original container, bring goods into the form or condition in which they are exported. It is, however, a feature of the proposals that a producer having the primary entitlement to a rebate and who had increased his export sales will be entitled to issue an export certificate to a person who has supplied components physically included in the final product exported from Australia. The export certificate may specify an amount in relation to the value of the components supplied and the supplier of the components will be entitled to have that amount treated, for the purposes of any rebate he may claim, as an increase in his export sales for the year concerned.
Each producer of goods that have been exported will be entitled to specify in export certificates for any year amounts which, in total, are no greater than the increase in his export sales for that year. The amounts specified will, however, be deducted from the producer’s increase in export sales for the purpose of calculating the amount of any rebate to which he may be entitled. A corresponding procedure will be available where a supplier of components wishes to issue a certificate to a person who has supplied to him materials physically included in the final product.
The bill does not contain provisions requiring the issue of export certificates and the question whether a certificate should be issued will be a matter for determination by the person having the prior right to claim a rebate. The amount of an increase in export sales will be determined by comparing the export sales of the year for which a rebate is claimed with the average of the annual export sales of a two-year base period that ended on 30th June, 1960. In order that a measure of flexibility may operate in the ascertainment of the base period export sales where abnormal circumstances have applied in that period, producers of goods exported will be entitled to have the amount of those sales reviewed by an independent Taxation Board of Review.
The bill includes a number of special provisions relating to marketing authorities which export goods, to gold produced in
Australia and to procedures by which producers may obtain particulars upon which to base claims for rebates in respect of goods exported by an export merchant. A detailed explanation of the provisions of the bill is given in the explanatory memorandum which will be available to honorable senators.
I should, however, add that, in addition to authorizing the rebate in relation to exports, the bill proposes to extend the list of international organizations exempt from pay-roll tax. The various specialized agencies of the United Nations and the South Pacific Commission have for a number of years been entitled to such an exemption. It is now proposed to add to the list a further three organizations of which Australia is a member. These are the International Atomic Energy Agency, the South-East Asia Treatry Organization, and the Customs Co-operation Council. At present, none of the three organizations pays salaries or wages in Australia that attracts a pay-roll tax liability and the amendment will not involve a cost to revenue.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Armstrong) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 10th May (vide page 903), on motion by Senator Wade -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– In supporting the measure, I should like to say at the outset that anything that makes it easier for the people of this country to record their votes is desirable. The privilege of voting is very precious and should be appreciated more than it is appreciated by many voters. The opportunity to record a vote to elect the government one wants is a privilege that is not given to everybody in the world. Some people do not get a vote of any description. When others vote they are permitted to vote only for one party. The voting system that we have in this country is a symbol of democracy. It gives each individual an opportunity to say what type of government he wants for the ensuing three years. That right should be more deeply appreciated. Each and every voter should be conscious of what he is doing, why he is voting and for whom he is voting. There is no doubt that the greater is the intelligence displayed by electors in recording their votes the better will be the type of government that they get. People get the type of government they deserve. Therefore, it is to their advantage to record their vote according to the highest possible level of thought. To my mind, the purpose of voting should not just be to ensure individual gain but to ensure the greatest benefit for the Commonwealth, the State or the municipality, as the case may be. So this bill has been designed to make voting much easier for people, or to achieve a better purpose.
One of the interesting features of the measure is the provision which will enable members of religious organizations or other bodies, who are not allowed to go out on a Saturday, to vote. Over a period of many years I have come in contact with people who have not been able to go outside their order on a Saturday to vote. Now it is proposed that those people shall have the right to record a postal vote. This is a right which could have been afforded to them long before now. However, now that such a provision has been included in the bill I am sure every one will be happy about it. I do not think any one will oppose the provision. It represents an effort to give more people an opportunity to vote. The aim of our electoral legislation should be to give every one the widest possible opportunity to record his vote so that the verdict will be the true verdict of the people generally.
I note that in 1943 under the national security regulations the size of electoral posters, as they are called, was restricted to 60 square inches. When one realizes that that means that a so-called poster is 12 inches by 5 inches or 10 inches by 6 inches in size, one realizes just how small it is. Any one who has had any association with an election knows that a poster of that size is of no great significance. That size was introduced during war-time because of shortage of materials and so forth. That being so, the size of posters has been deserving of consideration long before this. Even now it is proposed to limit the size to 1,200 square inches, which means a poster of the size of 3 ft. 4 in. by 2 ft. 6 in. Even so, I would not consider an advertisement of that size as being a poster; I would regard it rather as being a bill - something like the bill which the motion picture theatres used to put out for many years.
The purpose of erecting a poster on the roadside is that it may be seen by passersby. I am not at all in favour of the restriction of the size of posters. In my opinion, the size of posters should be left to the judgment of the requirements of the respective parties. Whilst I am happy to know that the size of posters is to be increased, I really think that a better approach would have been to apply no restriction at all. I know that the Minister for Air (Senator Wade) said, in his second-reading speech, that posters of larger size than that proposed would lead to undue extravagance and disfigurement of the countryside. No one is keener than I am about the preservation of the beauty of the countryside. In fact, I have always fought for the preservation of national parks and I hate to see the countryside disfigured. But, no matter what size is fixed for a poster, it is still disfiguring. Very often small posters are wrapped around trees on the roadside. That, I think, is more disfiguring than is a properly constructed poster of much larger size.
I am not very keen about having posters scattered all over the countryside, but the fact remains that a large poster can be prepared attractively. Often countryside areas come within the responsibility of local authorities, and control can be exercised by them. So I am astonished to see that a limitation upon the size of posters is still to be imposed. Now that we have started on the road to giving more freedom in relation to such matters. I hope that eventually the limitation will be removed altogether. It is amazing just how difficult it is, once a restriction has been imposed, to set people back to the old way of thinking. We can see just what restrictions do to our mental make-up. However, we are progressing and, as I have already indicated, I am pleased to note that the size of posters is to be increased. But. to my way of thinking what is envisaged will still not be a real poster; I would call it a bill.
Another very good aspect of the bill is the provision relating to scrutineers. At the present time the number of scrutineers that a candidate may appoint at a polling booth is limited. Because of alphabetic subdivision there are many voting boxes at some polling booths. I believe that, if a candidate desires to scrutinize each of those boxes, he should have the opportunity to do so. We know, of course, that in many cases no scrutineers are provided. Some people do not bother about them. But I repeat that, if candidates or parties desire to have scrutineers, they should be able to have them. It is possible for mistakes to be made. For that reason, the provision of scrutineers is a very wise step. I have known of cases where the voting has been very close and where, if a scrutineer had been on the job, possibly there would have been some alteration of the result. Very often, even with the presence of a poll clerk or a presiding official, a doubt arises; but because scrutineers from both sides are able to confer, satisfaction is achieved. I believe that every one will be happy about this provision to which I have referred. The Government is to be commended for giving to candidates the fullest opportunity to provide scrutineers.
The majority of the other provisions in the bill will find favour in the minds of most folk. Provision is made for people in remote areas to be able to vote more easily by casting postal votes. All such provisions will make it possible for a larger number of votes to be recorded. Therefore, I do not think there can be any quibble about them.
I should like to say a word or two in relation to the provision which precludes canvassing. I, as chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, am pleased to note that a provision which formerly existed in the form of a regulation is now to form part of the act. I am sure other members of the committee who have taken a very great interest in this matter will likewise be very pleased. It should be the desire of the Parliament to legislate in regard to such matters rather than to have them dealt with by way of regulations. The provision in question is designed to control the distance at which canvassers may stand from a polling booth.
The Government is to be commended for having included the provision in the bill.
Various schools of thought have existed in relation to the subject of canvassing. Quite a number of people believe there is no need for canvassing outside polling booths on an election day. If I remember correctly, there are some countries - I think New Zealand is one - where canvassing outside polling booths is not allowed and where publicity advertising is not permitted for two days before an election. If the public was educated in the subject of voting, there should not be any need for howtovote instructions or other forms of canvassing on polling day. Often people are neglectful about electoral matters and they become confused. To my way of thinking, it is disgusting to see people come to a polling booth without knowing how to vote. I am not referring to the ordinary working man or young woman who is employed in a shop or office, but to business people. Unfortunately, there is a tendency amongst many such people to show little interest in electoral matters. They rush into a polling booth, hardly take time to vote, and rush off again to some form of sport or recreation. I have been staggered to hear people of standing in the community ask “ What have I to do?”
– Such as a farmer who is rushing back to his shearing shed?
– No. I am speaking about people of standing in the community who, by reason of their education and so forth, should show a much greater interest in the running of this Commonwealth. The administration of the Commonwealth is the business of every one who lives in it. I have been greatly concerned to see businessmen, professional men and others in the city of Mackay rush into a polling booth and ask “ What have I to do? Whom do I vote for? “ They have not given any thought to it. Their one concern is to get off to play golf or whatever their recreation may be.
– They often vote for the wrong party.
– I have always given them the right advice. The party that I believe in voting for is that which does the greatest good for the nation. To my way of thinking, the Liberal Party and the
Country Party fulfil that ideal. It is a sorry fact that many people do not take sufficient interest in the running of the affairs of this country and that they come to the polling booths at election day not knowing how to vote or for whom to vote. Speaking seriously, that is something that should be driven home more to the people. I have tried to think of ways in which we could make people understand better what is required of them at election times. Perhaps it could be done by a process of education in the schools.
– Do not blame the schools. You are always blaming the schools.
– When I went to a State school - the only school I have attended - I was told about the Federal Parliament. 1 remember the constitutions of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, for instance, from what I learnt in those days. Some thought should be given to how we can instil into the minds of the people what is required of them, as citizens of the Commonwealth, in the way of knowing something about the Federal Parliament and in being able to exercise the right, granted to them by the Constitution, to record a vote on election days. All this may be clear to a man with Senator McCallum’s educational qualifications and great experience, but it is not clear to many people. This may be a task for the secondary schools, or for some other bodies - I do not know. However, it should give us food for thought.
I come back to the thought that unless people know what they are voting for, the country will not get the government that it should have. The question is whether people should be taught how to vote properly before an election occurs or whether we should rely on the propaganda that is handed out by political parties to careless, thoughtless people who arrive at the polling booths not knowing how to vote. New Zealand has managed to do away with canvassing outside polling booths on election days. I sometimes think these thoughtless people would get a shock if they arrived at a polling booth only to find that no one was there to help them. That might set them thinking about the right way to go about voting in the future.
The other point that I want to speak on concerns polling hours, which are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for all federal elections. In the State and municipal elections in Queensland, the voting hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. A reduction of the polling hours for federal elections has been talked about quite a lot, and reasons have been given why they cannot be reduced. It has been argued that the closing hour of 8 p.m. enables members of religious orders who cannot come out before sunset to cast their votes, but that argument is no longer valid in view of the provision for postal voting. I believe that consideration should be given to a shortening of the present voting period. No difficulty is caused by the shorter time allowed in Queensland. I saw a statement by the Minister that staggered me. He said that the time should be lengthened. If people could not vote between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. because they could not get to a polling booth between those hours, they could avail themselves of a postal vote.
– They must lodge an application for a postal vote not later than one week before the election.
– People usually go to work between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Few men work beyond 6 o’clock at night in the ordinary way, unless they are on night-shift. I am of the opinion that from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. is quite long enough for voting purposes.
– I am asked why. We could easily work out the period of time that it would take for all votes to be recorded if everybody voted promptly. If all votes were not recorded between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., that would indicate that some people did not have a strong desire to record their votes.
– I thought that you wanted to make it easier for people to vote?
– So I do. The Government wants to retain the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., but somebody has suggested longer hours. If the hours are extended, sooner or later we will reach the stage when voting will be spread over a couple of days. I am not suggesting that it should be made difficult to vote, but I still say that from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. is quite long enough for people to vote. As 1 have said before, those who have a deep appreciation of the great privilege it is to have the franchise want to record their votes. It would not be necessary to extend the voting hours so that they could cast a vote after they had finished their work or play for the day. It is all very well talking about some classes of people. Industrial employees find the time to cast their vote in their lunch hour or before or after work. People should not be encouraged to think that they are doing the country a favour by casting their votes. It is a privilege that they enjoy.
– They do not have to drive 25 miles to a polling booth.
– Those who have long distances to travel may avail themselves of a postal vote. If a person knows well beforehand that on polling day he will be 15, 50 or 100 miles away, there is no excuse for him not voting. Some farmers are not able to start harvesting before 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. and the suggestion has been made that they could vote in the mornings.
– What about those who have to feed their fowls?
– This is not a matter for laughter. I am surprised at my colleague, Senator Vincent - a man of long experience - uttering such nonsense. I am trying to encourage some serious thought upon this question.
I commend the Government for bringing down this legislation. As I have said before, it is a step in the right direction to make it easier for people to vote and to encourage more people to vote. All of us who are imbued with the national spirit want people to record their votes, for the higher the number of votes cast, the better will be our understanding as parliamentarians of what the people want. I commend the measure to the chamber.
– During the debate honorable senators have mentioned a number of the matters covered in this measure. Let me refer briefly to some of them. They are hours of polling, postal voting, the size of election posters, defining the entrance to a polling booth, informal voting, the condition of polling booths, the placing of names of candidates on the ballot-paper - particularly in elections for the House of Representatives - voting rights of aboriginesand number of scrutineers. When one speaks so late in a debate, there is very little to say that has not already been said. I agree with Senator Wood when he said that many people in Australia are not very interested in voting. Their only concern is to. have their names crossed off the roll so that they do not have to pay a fine of £2 for failure to vote.
Senator McCallum discussed whether or not compulsory voting was a good thing. I believe that if voting was not compulsory in most Australian elections the percentage of votes cast would not compare at all with that of countries where voting is not compulsory. In South Australia, where voting in municipal council elections is not compulsory, a 33 per cent, poll is considered a very good one. On most occasions the precentage is down around the 22, 23 and 24 per cent. mark. I do not know whether it is because of the natural make-up of Australians, but most of them are not very interested in political affairs. In moving among people who have come to Australia from other countries, I find that they are more politically minded than our own people are. If voting was not compulsory the percentage of votes cast in Australia would be very low.
– Would that be bad? It is the quality that counts, not the quantity. If it is a stupid vote, you are better off without it.
– The percentage of stupid votes would not be very high, although I admit that there are some. Anybody who has worked at the counting of votes after the closing of polling booths knows that ballot-papers sometimes contain stupid remarks and even obscenities. I can remember one occasion when I saw a ballot-paper on which there were two tips for the trotting in South Australia that night.
– Did the horses come home?
– They did. I intended to say that I took particular notice of them and they were two winners.
– Did you back them?
– No. I was too late to back them because the counting did not finish until after 11 o’clock.
In my opinion, one of the most important omissions from this bill is a provision to overcome the abnormal number of informal votes cast at each election, particularly in Senate elections. I believe that some alteration should be made to the definition of an informal vote. I am not suggesting that the system of proportional representation should be changed. I believe that more latitude should be allowed to electors in order to reduce informal voting. It is true that a person does not cast an informal vote under the present system if he or she votes for the candidates in numerical order and leaves one square blank. I believe that that provision should be modified in some respects. I support the amendment that was proposed by the Opposition in another place that an elector should be required to vote for only the number of candidates required to be elected. Senator McManus supported that proposal, but that he said that he would go further and require an elector to vote for the number of candidates required plus one.
– Have you tried to work it out? It does not work out.
– It does.
– I believe that it could work out if it was given a trial. I consider that if a person votes in numerical order for the number of candidates required his vote should be regarded as a formal vote. Senator Kendall says that that would not work. Perhaps he has in mind that difficulty would arise in the distribution of preferences. I suggest that the preferences could be counted up to the number of candidates required, or even up to the number of candidates that have been marked on the ballot-paper in numerical order up to the point where the elector made a mistake which under the present system, would make that vote informal.
– You are referring to Senate voting, are you?
– Yes, I am referring particularly to Senate voting.
– An elector can obtain another ballot-paper if he spoils the first.
– That is true, but a number of people would not bother to obtain another ballot-paper because they would feel that the request would show some lack of care on their part.
– They are diffident about doing that.
– As Senator Ridley says, they are diffident about it.
– Probably they do not know that they can do that.
– That is quite true. A great number of people do not know that they can obtain a fresh ballot-paper. Whenever I am working at a polling booth I tell the electors that should they make a mistake on the ballot-paper they can apply to the presiding officer for a fresh one.
If a person receives a ballot-paper containing the names of, say, 20 candidates and correctly completes the ballot-paper up to, say, No. 15 and then makes a mistake, I believe that that should be defined as a formal vote, provided that the numbers are in numerical order. If the person made a mistake after No. 15, the preferences could be distributed up to that point where the mistake occurred and the balance after No. 15 would be cancelled out.
– But you would not be able to get enough quotas if you took off all the people at the bottom of the ballotpaper.
– I do not agree with that. I will clarify that point a little later. If a vote such as I have described was accepted as a formal vote, the intention of the elector would be clearly expressed and he would have his say as to which party he desired to govern the country. However, 1 still say that electors should be urged to place a number in each square, as under the present system.
I have noticed, as has every honorable senator who has participated in a count at a polling booth, that Senate votes are usually declared informal because of mistakes which occur after the numbers 8, 9, or perhaps 10. The average voter casts a vote for the party of his choice. He then distributes his preferences, but he becomes a little careless when he has to place numbers against up to twenty names. It is then that he makes mistakes. The definition of an informal vote should be revised. I have seen people vote correctly for eighteen or nineteen candidates out of a total of 24 on a ballot-paper, but they then make a mistake, as a result of which their vote is informal. In those circumstances those eighteen or nineteen candidates for whom the elector has voted are deprived of the benefit of his vote because he made a mistake when registering his twentieth preference. Generally speaking electors desire to cast formal votes but they sometimes make mistakes when they are confronted with ballot-papers bearing a long list of candidates.
– The electors do not get much practice. They vote only once in every three years.
– Yes, and most of them go into the polling booth not out of a sense of patriotism or political enthusiasm but because they wish to avoid a fine of £2. When they emerge from the polling booth they heave a sigh of relief and say, “ That’s that for another three years “. But when they are reminded that a State election will be held in the next year they are disheartened again. Informal voting is a very serious matter. The Government should define more clearly what is meant by an informal vote. This would be of assistance not only to electors but also to presiding officers.
The matter of voting rights for aborigines has been discussed at length. The Government has seen fit to appoint a select committee to inquire into voting rights for aborigines. I believe the Government’s action is an admission that something should be done to give those people the rights to which they are entitled. I do not oppose the appointment of the select committee. When the committee has presented its report to the Parliament I hope that the Government will take immediate steps to give effect without delay to any recommendations that the committee makes. We know that voting rights for aborigines is a difficult question. If the committee had been selected some time ago and its report had been presented to the Parliament, we would have been able to discuss it fully as a prelude to the consideration of this bill. At present we have no report to discuss.
A good deal has been said about the duration of polling hours. At present polling booths are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on polling day. One of the amendments moved by the Opposition in another place sought to close polling booths at 6 p.m. That would have meant a reduction of two hours in the hours available to electors in which to record their votes. One of the main objections raised by Government supporters to the Opposition’s amendment was that it would inconvenience farmers. It has been said also that the average farmer has to make a special effort to find time to vote in an election if the election takes place when he is in the midst of harvesting or seeding operations. I do not think the average farmer is confronted with much difficulty in casting his vote prior to 6 p.m.
– He is faced with difficulties if he is harvesting.
– The act states that if a person is not within five miles of a polling booth on polling day, he is entitled to a postal vote. If the farmer is within five miles of a polling booth and he is busy harvesting, I do not think he would lose more than 45 minutes in going to the polling booth and casting his vote.
– It is easy to see that you have not done any harvesting.
– I admit that I have not done any farming, but I submit that it is a matter of inclination. If a farmer wants to attend a sporting fixture on a Saturday afternoon he finds the time to do so. I am not prejudiced against the farmer.
– I did not think that farmers farmed at night.
– There are a lot of things you do not know about farmers. That is why your party does not represent them.
– The claim has been made that a farmer needs all the hours of daylight when he is harvesting. Harvesting takes place generally between the beginning of December and the end of January. At that time of the year there is a maximum of daylight hours. Very often it is not dark until after eight o’clock. If the farmer wants to make use of all the daylight hours he would be working until after eight o’clock and would not be able to vote even with the present spread of hours.
– If polling booths remain open until eight o’clock farmers must use some of the daylight hours at certain times of the year when casting their votes.
– I admit that once a farmer commences his seeding he works day and night until the job is finished. He would, of course, take time off to have his lunch. Not many farmers would work right through their lunch hour. With all the modern facilities at his disposal I think a farmer could find time to vote before 6 p.m. If he is 20 miles from a polling booth he could apply for a postal vote.
– He does not know a week before polling day that he will be working on that day.
– I think that the argument advanced by honorable senators opposite is very weak. Polling hours could be reduced without undue hardship even to farmers. With the great improvements that have taken place in transport in recent years I feel that the number of hours during which polling booths are open could be reduced. When the doors of the booths near my home shut at eight o’clock, the count starts immediately. It is after eleven o’clock before the count is finished. In some cases, when polling has been heavy, it may even be after midnight before the count is completed. I believe that no undue hardship would be inflicted on anybody if polling booths were to close at 6 p.m. I have worked at polling places in country areas where, in previous elections, only 20, 30 or 40 people have voted. In one instance, there were only 30 names on the electoral roll for the subdivision, and I noticed that by mid-afternoon 28 of these people had voted. Yet the polling booth had to remain open until 8 p.m.
– In case the other two people came along to vote.
– -Yes, although they may have cast their votes at another polling place in the subdivision. I believe that even if the closing hour for polls were extended until midnight, some people would rush into the polling places at one minute to twelve o’clock to cast their votes.
A feature of the bill that has been commented upon by a number of honorable senators is the provision that enables members of enclosed religious orders and other persons whose religious beliefs preclude them from voting before sunset on a Saturday, to avail themselves of a postal vote. Although the members of closed religious orders have very little contact with the outside world, many of them maintain a very keen interest in the affairs of the country.
– At least, they are not misled by newspapers.
– That is so. I believe that this provision should have been inserted in the electoral legislation years ago.
Senator Dittmer has referred to the appearance of polling booths and the inadequate facilities that are provided at some of them-. I think we all agree that polling booths are temporary structures that are used, normally, only once every three years. Some of them are not very convenient places for persons, especially those who are up in years, to cast their votes. In many cases, the lighting is poor. I have noticed that in the wooden shelf provided in some of the cubicles there is a gap of from one-quarter of an inch to half an inch between the boards. A ballotpaper may be spoilt by being pierced by the pencil when a voter tries to record his vote. The ballot-paper may be placed over the gap between the boards so that the elector has not a continuing surface on which to write. The vote in such a case is informal. There is another and minor point that I should like to mention. In many instances, the pencils provided in polling booths are blunt or worn down almost to the wood.
Senator Hannan, without apparently having given very much thought to this subject, derided Senator Dittmer’s remarks concerning the appearance of polling booths. The “ Hansard “ report of Senator Hannan’s speech reads, in part -
I was really amazed at Senator Dittmer’s criticism of the decor of the polling boths. Does be 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 duties? The proposition has only to be stated to show how absurd it is.
I remind Senator Hannan that people do not require these things to entice them to a polling booth. In many instances, they attend at polling places in order to avoid a fine of £2 for failure to vote. I pose this question to Senator Hannan: Does he not think that the best facilities should be provided for - to use his words - our lords and masters?
I conclude by saying that I regret that the Standing Orders prevent our proposing amendments that were submitted by the Opposition in another place. Although this measure has some good provisions, I believe that there will still remain in our electoral legislation many anomalies that should be removed. One anomaly relates to informal voting. Something should be done to improve the position in this regard as soon as possible.
.- I believe that, if we are to merit the goodwill of the people towards our system of government, our electoral organization should be efficient. I want to make it clear at the outset that I have nothing at all to say against the electoral officers with whom I have come in contact in official capacities in other spheres over the last 30-odd years-. I have nothing against their work and their honesty of purpose, and they have always been courteous to me within the limitations imposed by the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I must say, though, that I have always had some qualms about the act itself. After all the years that the Commonwealth Electoral Act has been in force, we should be able to say to the people: “ We have laid down in this act the method by which the Government of the country shall be elected. The system is as simple as it has been possible to make it.” But that is not the case. The bill before us deals only with extremely minor matters.
Before directing my attention to specific provisions of the bill, I should like to thank the Minister for Air (Senator Wade) for his very informative second-reading speech, and I trust that my thanks will be extended to the departmental officers who participated in its preparation. I hope that second-reading speeches on other bills that are introduced into this chamber in future will be equally clear.
Many honorable senators have referred to the provisions of clause 10. Paragraph
Paragraph (c) of the clause is a welcome amendment provision. The registrar of a subdivision declared to be a remote subdivision, such as subdivisions of the division of Kalgoorlie, should have the power to grant applications for postal votes. This provision is not so important, of course, in Victoria.
Proposed new sub-section (2A.) of section 85 of the principal act makes provision in relation to the observance of local time for polling hours. When eastern standard time in Victoria is 8 p.m., it is only 6 p.m. in Western Australia. If a Victorian elector is in Western Australia on polling day, he will be permitted to cast his vote only up till 8 p.m. in that State - not 10 p.m.; he should abide by the closing time of the poll in the State that he happens to be in on polling day. I think that the position would average out, taking into consideration the number of electors from one State who happen to be in another State on polling day. I commend this as a practical suggestion.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– As I have said, Mr. Deputy President, the Australian Labour Party objects to clause 4 of the bill because the party believes that at this stage of the history of Australia we should be going out of our way to give voting rights to Australian aborigines. I am not unmindful of the additional administrative work that that would entail. The bill proposes to grant voting rights to British subjects of non-European origin who come from Hong Kong, Singapore or Fiji. They are to be given the right to enroll, and of course that will mean the right to vote. In common with other honorable senators, I should have been very pleased if the Government had delayed the introduction of that provision.
It seems to me that the Government is putting the cart before the horse. It has appointed an all-party committee of the House of Representatives to consider the question of voting rights for aborigines. I understand that that committee is to present its report some time in October next.
– By 31st October.
– Yes. I should say that the wisest course would have been for the Government to delay the introduction of the provision relating to voting rights for British subjects of non-European origin until that committee had presented its report. Not only would the granting of voting rights to Australian aborigines enlarge the scope of the provision, but it would have a tremendous effect internationally. If two birds can be killed with the one stone, I think that should be done.
I turn now to the proposal to increase the maximum size of electoral posters, for which clause 14 provides. What is the reason for that amendment of the act? Surely a poster of 12 inches by 5 inches, or of 10 inches by 6 inches, would be a handy size. Posters of that size could be placed in many locations, and even where some people might object to seeing them. Incidentally, I have never noticed posters on electric light poles or on tram stop poles, and I am certain that Senator McManus has not either. What is better than creating interest in an election?
– Winning it.
– That is a very cogent interjection. We are striving to inculcate in our young people and the migrants who come here from other countries the virtues of the Australian way of life, of our freedoms and of our right to elect the candidates that we select, whether they belong to one of the major political parties or not. I am amazed that the electoral authorities have proposed to increase the size of posters. The cost of electoral campaigns is always of interest to me. I have ascertained that 100 posters of the 12 inches by 5 inches size cost £14 or £15, while for an additional 100 the cost is only £1 10s. For the 40 inches by 30 inches posters, the cost will be at least £30. In addition, it will probably cost another £2 for the hire of space on which to display them. Those figures have been given to me by one of the biggest electionadvertising men in Australia. No doubt
Tasmanian paper will be used for the posters, so that there probably will be no call on our overseas reserves. Nevertheless, I cannot see any justification for the increase. I do not think that the employment of one additional person will result from it.
I know some of the people who do this kind of work in Melbourne and who did it in the years when the 28 feet posters were allowed.
– It will take a lot of men to pull these bigger posters down.
– That is so. I think that the proposal is a retrograde one. In effect, it is laughing at a provision of the act. I say to the Minister, with the greatest respect, that all he is doing by this amendment is enticing people to break the law. Under the act as it stands at present, a candidate who is contesting a House of Representatives election may spend not more than £250. That is a fantastically small amount, and it is laughed at - not by the individual candidates but by the party organizations. I speak from a little experience.
– It is laughed at by the people, too.
– Any law that is laughed at creates a bad impression, because people tend to think that if they can get away with one thing they can get away with another. I doubt whether the proposal to increase the size of electoral posters comes from the electoral authorities. Perhaps it represents only the ministerial point of view.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the Treasury might know something about it?
– Why should the Treasury have anything to do with the matter?
– Because we disclose our expenses in our taxation returns.
– It does not matter whether, as a Senate candidate in an election, you spend £1 or the maximum amount. You put down the amount because you are allowed to do so. I can speak for honorable senators on this side, and I speak for myself without making any bones about it. I put, “ Nil, nil, nil “ in my income tax return and I think that every one else does, too. We may have out-of-pocket expenses incurred in travelling here and there, but the fact is that the organization with which we are associated spends money on our behalf. That applies not only to members of the Opposition but also to Government supporters. I do not think that increasing the size of electoral posters will have any effect on the outcome of elections, but it will give the person with the most money the opportunity to plaster a whole electorate or State, if he wants to do so. I think it is bad. I cannot see any virtue in it and I do not know the reason for it. If there were a reason, such as reviving the decaying fortunes of my friends opposite, I would not mind, but there is no reason.
– There must be a limitation.
– There is a limit under the law, but the honorable senator knows as well as I do that there is no limit in practice. That is what I am concerned about. It is a matter of laughing at the law.
– We have a statutory limit.
– It is there, in the same way as penalties are prescribed for people who do not enrol and people who do not vote. The law is there, but it is never applied. If a person receives a letter asking why he did not vote, and he replies saying that he was sick, that is the end of it. We used to pay postmen for notifications of changes of address, so that the electoral rolls could be kept up to date, but there was a dispute with the Postmaster-General over this, and now the job is less than half done. We want our system of government to last. Why should we make the law an ass so that people have no respect for it?
I shall be interested to hear any one who can show any justification for increasing the size of election posters from 60 square inches to 1,200 square inches.
– So that we could have a better picture of you on them.
– I admit that that would adorn them, but I still do not think that it would get me any more votes. I say this is wrong. If the Minister, when replying, or any one else opposite, can justify the increase in size, I shall be pleased to hear him.
There is also a provision in relation to the appointment of scrutineers. As every one knows, votes lodged at federal elections are brought from the polling places to one centre in each sub-division. It is so many years since I was actively engaged in that work that I really forget what happens, but I know that the votes lodged at the various booths are counted at that centre. The intention of the provision is to allow a candidate to appoint at each counting centre a number of scrutineers up to the number of tables at which ballot-papers are being scrutinized or are being prepared for scrutiny. That is the intention, but a statement of intention is not much good. A presiding officer in a sub-division who has worked for twelve hours may have a bit of a needle, which I can understand in certain circumstances. It is not a matter of what the intention is; he is bound only by the act. My attitude has always been that once the votes are in the box, there is no point in worrying. As far as I am concerned, some one else can count them, because I have implicit faith in the returning officers.
– You are a very trusting sort of bloke.
– When you have dealt with the electoral officers for over 30 years you can have nothing but praise for them. I do not agree with the acts that they have to administer. It is of no use to say that a provision is effective if one has to rely upon an intention. One may put some provision in an act, saying that it is qualified by an intention. If I can win in accordance with what the act actually states, we can forget about the intention. A person can be governed only by the provisions of an act.
There is one provision with which I heartily agree. It removes the need for electoral officers to attend courts. When charming young ladies from solicitors’ offices come to political parties’ offices to have a look at the rolls, they expect some one to dance attendance on them. In Victoria there are now 33 sub-divisions; in my time there were nineteen. One has to be a bit tough and say, “ Listen, lady. Find out elsewhere.” They come to see the rolls because some person is taking divorce proceedings, has not paid a debt, or has to be traced for some other reason. These calls are a nuisance to any one who wants to fulfil his duty in a political party’s office; they are more than a nuisance to a Commonwealth officer, who is not appointed to make the going easy for legal men. I am delighted with this provision. If lawyers want to perform their functions for clients, let them get the information they require by other means, without wasting the time of people who are paid to do another job.
– They can still use the State cards.
– They cannot. I can say with certainty that in Victoria one card suffices for both State and Commonwealth purposes. In relation to electoral claim cards, may I have the attention of the Minister and his officers for a moment? On the claim card now in use, there is no room for the inclusion of a flat number. I am not speaking from the point of view of federal elections. Possibly I am not strictly in order, but I crave your indulgence, Mr. President, for a moment. Many municipalities in Melbourne have compulsory voting and some even use our rolls. Others do not; the majority have ratepayers’ rolls. I ask that when new batches of these cards are being printed a line be included on which a flat number may be written. In Melbourne, and more particularly in Sydney, there are tremendous blocks of flats. While the electioneering of members of the Country Party - I exclude the Minister - is easy, for those of us who live in the Melbourne area it is hard. It would be made easier by the inclusion of a voter’s full and correct address. Without precise information, it is difficult to locate a person in a building containing 40 or 50 flats.
Nothing would please me better than the appointment of a select committee of the Senate to examine the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I believe that such a committee should be appointed. Surely no one can be proud of the fact that informal votes in the Senate elections amounted to 10.76 per cent, of the total votes in 1949; 7.13 per cent, in 1951; 4.56 per cent, in 1953, when the election was for the Senate only; 9.63 per cent, in 1955; and 10.29 per cent, in 1958. Why those who had the oppor- tunity did not put into operation here the Hare-Clark system as it operates in Tasmania I do not know. In Tasmania, under the Hare-Clark system, there are seven candidates for a division. If an elector votes for three candidates, his vote is regarded as being formal.
It is of no use saying that candidates always have to poll the quota in order to be elected to the Senate. A person may be elected to the Senate without having polled the quota even if he is fifth on the list. Let us look at the voting figures for the last Senate election. In New South Wales, the level of informal votes was 12.4 per cent. The quota in that State was 245,757 votes. Informal votes totalled 244,828 - fewer than 1,000 under the quota. Can we be proud of a system which permits that kind of thing to happen? The level of informal votes in the various States was as follows: -
We always ask ourselves why there should be a higher degree of informality in relation to the Senate than in the case of the House of Representatives. The position is that in an election for the House of Representatives there are three or four, and occasionally five, candidates for each seat. The names run straight down the ballotpaper. All a person has to do is to run an eye down the side of the paper and mark the order of his choice. The figures prove that as a rule there is a very small informal vote in an electorate of approximately 40,000 electors.
But what do we find in relation to Senate voting? Speaking of Victoria, there are about sixteen candidates. Four parties are concerned. First, of course, there is the Australian Labour Party and then there are the Liberal-Australian Country Party candidates. May I say here that in Victoria I have seen - I suppose I shall see it again - the Liberal Party putting up three candidates and the Country Party putting up three candidates. In addition to those parties there is the Communist Party and the Australian Democratic Labour Party. There may also be a Douglas Credit Party candidate and three or four independents.
– And Henry George!
– And there may also be a Henry George candidate. Unfortunately, in Victoria there are various other candidates whose names clutter up the ballot-paper. A candidate may have his name in group A, or group B, or group C and so on. The various parties mark their how-to-vote cards with their candidates in perhaps group A, and then their second choice might take one over to group D. I know who introduced the present system. Its introduction is one of the mistakes that political parties make when they do not inquire from persons who have had experience in these matters. I say that we must expect the present level of informality in voting unless we adopt the Hare-Clark system as it operates in Tasmania. I do not think it is to the credit of honorable senators to perpetuate a system under which in the larger States - even in my own State - there is such a high percentage of informal votes.
– According to the figures you quoted, Tasmania had almost the highest percentage of informal votes.
– That is true, The reason why there is such a large percentage of informal votes in Tasmania is that in the State elections the electors have to place a number against the names of only three candidates. I do not think any of us can be happy about the present position. In a Senate election they have to put a number against the name of every candidate.
I hope the Minister’s departmental advisers are listening to what I have now to say. Why should we fool ourselves into believing that the roll is clean? Those who are in the game want the rolls to be clean, but they are in a bad state. I know that the Electoral Office apoints persons to go around at odd intervals to check the rolls. I believe that officers should be appointed permanently to ensure that the rolls are clean. I do not know what the position would have been in Victoria to-day if it were not for the scarcity of houses. The fact is that very few persons move from the houses in which they live because they know that they will find it difficult to find others. I point out to the Minister that the state of the rolls for the new areas in my State is particularly bad. I may as well be candid about the matter and say that the number of persons whose names did not appear on the roll for the division of La Trobe at the last election was fantastic. I am not blaming the electoral officers. I am blaming a system which does not make provision within the Electoral Office for a division of qualified men whose task it would be to ensure that people were enrolled. I conclude my reference to this aspect of the matter by saying: When you find that persons’ names are not on the roll, do not laugh at the law but put it into operation.
Now let us look at another important matter - electoral expenses. A candidate’s one thought is to win an election; he does not worry about expenses. I discovered that in the 1950 elections in Britain neither the organization that backed a particular candidate nor the candidate himself spent more than the amount of money that was permitted. I was astonished to see that all parties religiously kept the law.
– What is the amount there?
– I forget. But all parties are strict in their observance of the law. That affects the organization, too. Here, while the candidates may pay some respect to it, the organizations can do what they like. Therefore, I say that if you have a law, either observe it or repeal it. Nothing is worse for newcomers to this country than to see a law scoffed at and laughed at.
Various things have been said about postal votes. I do not want to discuss that subject at any great length, but I say that everything that has been said is, to a large extent, true. Wonderful people - I have found them in hospitals - and charming people on all sides influence votes. If you want the system to be clean, the only way is to follow the New South Wales act. However, do not take any notice of Senator Maimer’s remarks on that legislation. He said that under the New South
Wales act postal voting had been eliminated except for people who live beyond 5 miles from the nearest polling booth. I understand why he made that statement. He read only a portion of the act and did not turn over the next few pages. I am amazed here at times by the misleading statements that are made. It seems that in some instances only what suits the speaker at the time is said.
– Has not postal voting been virtually abolished in New South Wales?
– No, it has not been abolished. Mr. President, I shall leave this book here for the honorable senator. There is an envelope marking the pages that he might read. When he has done that, he can come back and continue the argument.
– Do you not think that you should read it to him?
– No, but I think it is wrong to make a misleading statement. I do not accuse any one of wilfully saying such things as were said here the other night, but when a person wants to speak on a bill he should at least go to the trouble of reading the principal act. In New South Wales there is provision for postal voting by persons living beyond a 5-mile radius of the nearest polling booth, by people who are ill or approaching maternity, and by other people who are unable to vote at the polling booth or for other reasons. They are required to apply for a postal vote and then the returning officer or an officer appointed by him visits the applicant who votes in front of him. Therefore, neither Senator Mattner nor Senator Kennelly gets the ballot-paper to post. You should never allow any one to post it for you. Post it yourself. I say that the only way in which we can satisfactorily clean this matter up in federal elections is to adopt the New South Wales system.
All that this bill does, as I said at the beginning, is to effect a few minor amendments: It does not touch the main issues. Surely no one in the Senate can be proud of the fact that at the last federal elections 10.9 per cent, of all votes cast for Senate candidates were informal. It is useless to tell me that a great number of those votes were deliberately made informal. You will find that there are exceptionally few deliberately informal votes. They make up only .001 per cent, of the total number of informal votes. It is very rare for some one to write a stupid, insulting word across his ballot-paper. He may be right in bis opinion although he never was right when I was a candidate at an election.
I think that the Senate would be doing its duty if it appointed a select committee to consider the electoral laws. I recognize that that could not be done before the next elections, but, whoever wins, it is a job to be done. Let us make the procedure so simple that the people’s wishes can be expressed through the ballot-box, especially in elections for the Senate, in such a way as to ensure the return of those whom the people want to be elected. If we did that, and if we adopted the other amendments that I have spoken about, we could all be proud of our system. I hope that we or our children will live to see the electoral system improved in the way in which we want it to be improved, while retaining its basic principles.
– in reply - I should like to commence my brief reply on a happy note by telling Senator Kennelly that his suggestion for leaving room on the electoral claim form to put in a flat number relates to a matter that comes under ministerial control and that I am confident that the Minister will be happy to give consideration to the view that he has expressed.
I listened with a great deal of interest to the speeches from both sides of the chamber in this debate. I should like to commend Senator O’Byrne, who led for the Labour Party, on the standard that he set. He said something like this -
Australia has every reason to be proud of its electoral system for it embodies the highest standards in the world to ensure that every person has the opportunity to cast a free and intelligent vote.
He went further and said that our electoral act could well be claimed to be a model act. I think that that exemplifies the spirit of the debate on both sides of the chamber. Our act is not such a model act that it cannot he improved from time to time, but basically it is an act designed to do just what Senator O’Byrne said it should do - provide free and easy access for all those who are entitled to vote.
The first point that he made is one of great interest to the Senate. He said that the challenge of the aboriginal franchise must be faced. I want him to know - probably he and the rest of the Senate do know - that that is precisely what the Government is doing. Only a few days ago, in another place, the Government brought down a proposal to appoint a select committee to go into all the pros and cons of the question and to advise the Parliament of what should be done to extend the franchise to those aborigines who do not now enjoy it.
– Thereby giving the Opposition an opportunity of expressing a view, too.
– The composition of that select committee is four members from the Government side of the House of Representatives and three members from the Opposition side. If any evidence were needed to prove the bona fides of the Government, that evidence could be found in its acceptance of an amendment moved by the Opposition which claimed - and I say quite rightly - the right for any individual member of the committee to present a minority report if he chose to do so. Surely that is an indication that the Government realizes that there is a problem and that it wants to ascertain the facts. It has provided that the committee may submit either a unanimous report or a majority report and a dissenting report. The Government wants the facts. A point that is of great interest to us is that 31st October has been set down as the latest date upon which that committee shall conclude its deliberations and submit its report. It might interest honorable senators to know that even to-day that committee has been sitting. I am quite sure that no thinking person either inside or outside this chamber would advocate giving the franchise to all Australian aborigines just at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately that cannot be done.
Like most honorable senators - although perhaps not all - I have always had a very lively interest in the Australian aborigines. My imagination was fired many years ago when I was told of the feats of an aboriginal cricket team that went to England before the turn of the century and gave a very good account of itself. In my own area
I have seen aboriginal footballers who would be the pride of any team.
When I went to Darwin recently to inspect the Royal Australian Air Force base, I asked the commanding officer, “ What are you doing to try to help these aborigines?” He said: “T am particularly interested in the aborigines. From time to time I endeavour to employ the maximum number that I can and I generally average about 30 to 35 men.” I asked him, ‘* Are you succeeding in bringing them to the standard of mental and physical efficiency that you expect from your own men? “ He said: “I wish that I were. My problem is that they come to me sometimes underfed, ill-clothed and looking for a job. So I take them, clothe them and put them to work. Soon, to all intents and purposes, they are perfectly happy employees. But as a rule they stay only until they purchase for themselves a rifle and push-bike. Then for unaccountable reasons, they go walkabout.” We cannot fathom the psychology that takes a man from a life of comfort and usefulness to go walk-about, but it is an inherent trait in aborigines. Whether or not we may yet remove that from their characteristics I do not know. I related that conversation to convince honorable senators, if I needed to, that the problem is not an easy one to solve.
I have in my hand a letter dated 24th April from a group of people who work in an honorary capacity and who have given a great deal of their time and abilities to studying the problems of the aborigines in order to make a worth-while contribution to a better way of life for them. I refer to the Victorian Aboriginal Group which is amalgamated with the National Association for the Advancement of the Native Race. So that I shall not be accused of quoting out of context, I ask the indulgence of the Senate to read this short letter. It is addressed to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) and reads, in part -
At our last meeting reports in the Age of April 14th 16th and 19th, were brought to our notice that a committee has been appointed to consider whether the right to enrol and vote should be conferred on all aboriginal natives. We hope it will be taken into consideration that probably SO per cent of the unenfranchised natives are naked myalls, and that compulsory enrolment or voting for nomadic aborigines is absurd, unjust and well-nigh impossible; also that the only means of avoiding discrimination, if that is the desire of the Government, would be to remove all compulsory provisions from the electoral act
The letter is signed by the secretary.
I confess quite freely that no one in this chamber, to my knowledge, has advocated during this debate that it should be compulsory for aborigines to enrol and they should be obliged to vote. That letter makes it abundantly clear that the conditions under which the aborigines live are such that finding a solution to the great problem of providing the franchise to them will be very difficult. If anybody suggests discrimination, let me warn him that to-day we live in a race-sensitive world. I know of nothing that would touch off public criticism more quickly than this Government, or any other government which might be in office, suggesting that one section of the people should be made to vote in one way and another section in another way. I am quite sure that the setting up of the select committee is in the best interests of these people. I am confident that before long a bill will be introduced into this Parliament to provide the aborigines with the franchise on the best possible terms in their own interests.
I pass very quickly to postal voting. A great deal has been said about malpractices. If one denies knowledge of malpractices, one is accused of being so naive that one should not be in a responsible position in this Parliament. Since the allegations were made I have gone to the trouble of checking in great detail some of the statements that were made. No specific instances have been mentioned. I am not querying the sincerity of the people who make the allegations. They obviously believe that letters have been opened and that ballot-papers have been altered. All in all, it has been suggested that malpractice is rife and is a blot on our electoral system.
However, as a result of my inquiries from the federal electoral office I am advised that complaints have been received, that every complaint that is received is investigated thoroughly, but that there has not been one occasion on which a charge could be proved. So, I suggest that there are some people in the community who will adopt these methods to gain their own ends. To what extent such people exist I do not know. I suggest that this matter can be put forward in a way which does not give a true and clear picture of what happens.
It has also been argued that postal voting favours the Liberal and Country Parties. Any government that would sponsor a postal voting system that favoured its own interests would not be worthy of the name of a government and, furthermore, would not be realistic because, strange as it may seem, governments change. The time could well come when a government that stooped - I use the word advisedly - to implement or maintain a system in its own interests could suffer from that system. In an endeavour to suggest that postal votes favour the Liberal and Country Parties, an honorable senator referred to the Liverpool Plains byelection. I think it was said that of the 150 postal votes that were cast, all but nine went to the non-Labour candidate. That does not prove anything. I am quite sure that the people who referred to that byelection were not suggesting that any malpractice caused that result. If they were suggesting that, I can give a specific case which came under my notice some years ago. It was in a municipal election.
– They are pretty clean in Victoria.
– I am speaking of a rural municipal council election. I make no allegation in respect of urban or city municipal elections. If Senator Kennelly makes such an allegation, I do not. In the rural election to which I am referring, two candidates were standing for election. Each took out from the municipal clerk the same number of applications for postal votes, all of which were posted by the clerk to the distant resident ratepayers. They in turn applied for their votes which were sent to them and then returned to the municipal clerk. In every instance the application and the ballot-paper were handled by the municipal clerk and the postal authorities only. One candidate received one of those votes and the other received 49 of them. So, when any one suggests that malpractices are proved by producing a set of figures, I say to him as bluntly as I can that circumstances often alter cases. I am sure that not one honorable senator would condone or encourage malpractices in postal voting. If that is so, each and every one of us can lift the prestige of this Senate if we categorically declare that we will not have assisting our campaigns any person about whose integrity we have any doubt. If we adopted that attitude it would have a very salutary effect on that small percentage of people whose integrity was suspect. If malpractices are discovered they should be brought to the notice of responsible persons, who have an obligation to report them. Very effective penalties are provided.
– You are being sanctimonious.
– I am not being sanctimonious. I am being realistic. I will not be stampeded by claims that malpractices have swung elections. Not one specific case was given and for that reason one must accept with some reservation the allegations that have been made.
A great deal has been said about the hours of voting. Honorable senators opposite have argued that the hours should be reduced so that polling booths close at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m.
– That argument came bom your side also.
– My remarks are directed to the argument that came from my side of the chamber as well as from the Opposition side. I want to be factual. I presume that the argument for reduced polling hours is advanced by people who are concerned because certain public servants are asked to work exceptionally long hours on polling day. I presume that is the only basis on which the plea has been made. I remind the Senate that the officers concerned are paid adequately for their work. They are paid overtime. Elections are held once in every three years. I think it is something of a criticism of the spirit of these people to suggest that they are not prepared to work long hours of overtime once in every three years in order to render a service to the people. If polling hours were reduced it would mean that the facilities available to voters would be reduced. I am definitely opposed to any proposition that will reduce the facilities that the people have enjoyed for many years.
– Why not give them two days?
– I thought Senator Toohey was too well informed to make that suggestion. The people do not want the poll spread over two days. They merely want to retain the facilities that they have enjoyed for so many years. I do not argue that in the interests of the farming community polling hours should remain as they are at present. However, a very good argument may be advanced in their interests. Any alteration or reduction in the hours of voting will cause nothing but confusion. If that happened the people would be entitled to criticize the Parliament for trying to take from them privileges that they have enjoyed for many years - privileges which, as far as I am concerned, they will continue to enjoy.
A good deal has been said about the advisability or desirability of drawing for positions on the ballot-paper for the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives rejected that proposal by a very substantial majority. Are we as a Senate to intrude our point of view into the affairs of the other place to such an extent that we would dictate the manner in which members of the House of Representatives shall” be elected? I suggest that honorable senators would be the first persons to rise in their places and condemn the other House if it intruded into our affairs - if it carried a resolution that we should be elected in some particular way. For that reason, if for no other, I reject out of hand any proposal that candidates should draw for positions on the House of Representatives ballotpaper. That matter is the prerogative of the House of Representatives and as far as I am concerned it will remain its prerogative.
– Why are we considering them at all? AH of us are in the same category.
– I do not know why we are considering this matter because it is an absurd suggestion.
I want to make passing reference to scrutineers. The bill has been criticized because of the provision relating to scrutineers. Some honorable senators want scrutineers for every table and some honorable senators opposite want scrutineers for every box. This bill makes provision for a sensible approach to the reasonable requirements of the people. It makes the presiding officer responsible for providing a sufficient number of scrutineers to cover adequately each table. If a scrutineer were provided for each box it may well be that you would have the votes from two tables going into one box and when the votes were counted you would be one scrutineer down. This legislation provides quite specifically that the presiding officer shall have the right to nominate the number of scrutineers required adequately to meet the needs of the booth.
The bill has been criticized also because of the provisions relating to the entrance of a polling booth. The only reason for the inclusion of the clause dealing with this matter is because the validity of regulation 92 is in doubt and has in fact been questioned on several occasions. All that the clause does is transfer regulation 92 into the act. How can honorable senators spend their time criticizing the transfer of a regulation into an act?
Senator McCallum made a most interesting contribution to the debate. He suggested that compulsory voting should be eliminated and that compulsory attendance should be substituted in its stead. In only four countries is voting compulsory. Those countries are Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Singapore. Prior to compulsory voting a much smaller percentage of intelligent votes was cast than is the case to-day. Before the introduction of compulsory voting about 60 per cent, of the eligible population voted. To-day, under compulsory voting, 95 per cent, of the eligible population votes. I suggest with great respect that compulsory voting, despite its defects, has increased the poll by 35 per cent. That in itself must give a true reflection of the wishes of the people.
Senator Dittmer made some reference to a proposal to increase the amount of a deposit. I think his words were, “This proposal would eliminate rat bags from the field “. I hope I am not misquoting the honorable senator. He contended that many superfluous names would be removed from the ballot. That could well be so, but I want to make this point, for the benefit of Senator Dittmer specifically and the chamber in general, that this Government will not take any action that might imply that a man must be in a substantial position financially before he can offer hh services in the National Parliament. We stand firmly on the plank that any man in this country, no matter how lowly the place he occupies on the financial ladder, has a right to nominate. That is what has made our democracy what it is to-day. Senator Dittmer is interjecting again. I shall be a little easy on him and give him some encouragement, because he has worked very hard for the cause that he has espoused to-night; I think I should make some compensation to him for the help he has given me.
The honorable senator criticized the lighting and other facilities provided in polling booths. I am informed that if a responsible person - I place Senator Dittmer in that category - brings such matters to the notice of the electoral officers, they will be attended to. If the honorable senator allows the facilities in polling booths to remain as they are and they are unsatisfactory I suggest that he is not discharging his responsibility in the matter.
Senator Toohey made a very interesting reference to voting machines in America. As I was not informed on the methods practised in that country, I went to the trouble to get some information on the subject. The United States of America is the only country in the world where voting machines are operative for general elections. It is true that in some parliaments in the world mechanical facilities for recording votes are installed in the chamber.
I point out that it is possible to invalidate a vote cast on a machine. I was unable to obtain figures relating to the number of informal votes cast in American elections because they are not kept. In that country, informal votes are regarded as spoilt votes and it is not compulsory for records to be kept in relation to them.
Honorable senators will be interested to know that as long ago as 1907 a select committee was appointed in this country to investigate the desirability of introducing voting machines to cater for the electoral needs of this country, and the proposal has been kept under review ever since. When it is remembered that there are almost 10,000 polling places in Australia it will be readily realized that a tremendous cost would be involved in equipping with voting machines even only the polling places in the most populous centres. Up to this time, no machine has been produced that can record a preferential vote.
– Could not poker machines be converted for that purpose?
– If I had my way, poker machines would not exist. However, to return to a serious note, I repeat that up to this time no machine has been invented that could record our preference votes, and I have not heard any member of this chamber suggest that the preferential voting system does not give the most adequate reflection of the people’s will.
A good deal has been said in this debate, particularly by Senator Kennelly, about the retention in the act of the existing limitation on electoral expenses. I think the honorable senator suggested that whilst there is provision in the act for the imposition of penalties on those who contravene the Commonwealth Electoral Act and the regulations under that act, they are honoured more in the breach than in the observance - that enforcement is not applied. According to a note with which I have been supplied, more than 3,000 persons paid penalties for their failure to vote in the 1958 general election. I suggest, therefore, that people sometimes speak glibly about these matters and without a full knowledge of the facts. I think that such statements are a reflection, perhaps unintentional, on the department that administers the act. I would like the honorable senators who have made such statements to understand that the department has a responsibility in this matter.
This Government is not interested in the proposal to remove the limitation on the maximum of electoral expenses that may be incurred by candidates, for the very good reason that such action might be construed to imply that this Government says, in effect, “Well, now, you are perfectly free to nominate for election to the federal Parliament but you will not have much chance of election unless you are prepared to spend a lot of money on your campaign “. The psychological effect of the limitation of electoral expenses is important. As a matter of principle, this Government believes that the limitation of such expenses, at fixed amounts, should remain. That is where we stand on this matter. If anybody breaks the law, he has to answer for his actions sooner or later. It is this Government’s policy to allow the provision in relation to fixed limitation of electoral expenses to remain. We believe that no man in the land should be discouraged from offering to serve his country in the National Parliament.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I move -
That it be an instruction to the Committee of the Whole on the bill to consider -
the amendment of the following sections of the principal act, viz. - Nos.19, 25, 106, 111, 123, 133 and 145;
the insertion of a new section 102a in the principal act; and
the insertion of a newPart XIIa in the principal act
The amendments - new clauses - the Opposition has in mind have been circulated. In order to save myself the effort and to save honorable senators from tedium, I ask for leave to incorporate them in “ Hansard “.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I thank the Senate for its approval. The proposed new clauses are as follows: -
After clause 3, insert the following new clause: - “ 3b. Section twenty-five of the Principal Act is amended -
Alteration to proposed new clause 11a contingent upon amendment No. 2 to clause 10 being negatived.
Substitute the following for section 97a. - (1.) - “ 97a. - (1.) An elector whose place of living as appearing on the Roll for any Subdivision is situated not more than five miles by the nearest practicable route from each and every polling booth open in the State for which he is enrolled and who is seriously ill or infirm, and by reason of such illness or infirmity will be precluded from attending at any polling place to vote, or, in the case of a woman, will by approaching maternity be precluded from attending at any polling place to vote, may, if he has not already made an application under this section, in respect of the same election, and if he has not mad? application under section eighty-five of this Art for a postal vote certificate and postal ballotpaper in respect of the same election, make application to record his vote under this section before an electoral visitor.”.
The bill is one to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The Opposition feels disappointed that a wider canvass of the act. was not undertaken by the Government, particularly in view of the fact that an election is due in the reasonably near future. The matters that are put in issue by the motion for an instruction rely upon a good deal more than the thinking of the Australian Labour Party. They are supported by practice in many instances in other fields. They are supported by committees of this Parliament in other directions. After the debate that has taken place, somewhat discursive, necessarily, at the second-reading stage - ranged backwards and forwards over all these matters - I do not propose to go into the merits of the proposals by propounding them. I think that is unnecessary. I strongly suspect that you, Mr. President, would inform me that that was not in order. So I have two important reasons for not opening up argument on the proposed new clauses. I merely indicate them very briefly.
We propose to look at section 19, the subject of the first amendment that is in contemplation. We propose to correct that part of the section which requires the distribution commissioners to adopt a margin of. allowance one-fifth up or onefifth down. The idea underlying our proposal is to uphold the principle of one vote one value, so far as that can possibly be done. It cannot be done absolutely under all conditions, nor can it be held to such a standard from time to time; but the Opposition thinks that there is too wide a margin if the quota for a division for the House of Representatives may vary by as much as 20 per cent, below the quota or 20 per cent above it.
The typical instance that has been referred to is that of a quota of 40,000 electors which, under the terms of the act, may fall to as low as 32,000 in the one case or rise to as high as 48,000 in the other. In other words, one electorate may have 50 per cent, more electors than another one, although both comply with section 19 as it is now. If a variation of only one-tenth were permitted, the margin between the two electorates would be reduced. Even if the limit of one-tenth were reached either way, there would be 36,000 electors in the one case and 44,000 in the other. Instead of the variation being 50 per cent., it would be only 18 per cent.
In support of that proposal, we adduce the report of the Constitutional Review Committee. The members of that committee unanimously recommend that, in the interests of the principle I have affirmed, there should be written, not merely in an act of Parliament, but in the Constitution itself, a requirement that the variation between electorates on re-distribution should be not greater than one-tenth, instead of one-fifth as provided by the act. I leave the matter on that base, with that very powerful support from a committee of the Parliament.
I return to section 25 which authorizes the division of a State into electoral divisions whenever the Governor-General, by proclamation, directs that that be done. The matter, so far as time is concerned, is left to the discretion of the Executive. Again, the Constitutional Review Committee, by a uniform decision, recommended that every ten years at least there should be such a proclamation. Just as the committee thought that that provision should be written into the Constitution as a democratic safeguard, now that we have the Commonwealth Electoral Act, we can by act of Parliament write it into the law. We have complete control of electoral law and it is competent for us to amend the law in that way. Both of those proposals have powerful support.
I come now to the third proposed amendment, which is coupled with the proposed amendment No. 2. It relates to the question of postal voting, in particular. The Chifley Government, in 1949, was satisfied that there was a great deal of malpractice in connexion with postal voting. Authorized witnesses were limited to a few categories of people. Justices of the peace, who were among those authorized to certify postal votes, were in great demand: We were convinced that malpractice was occurring and we took steps to prevent it. We hoped that we might be able to eliminate it altogether. Any elector was permitted to be an authorized witness. Very extensive penalty clauses and prohibitions were inserted in the act to deter people from influencing electors who were either making application for or recording postal votes, and to deal with those who interfered with the secrecy of such votes or those who even sought to take possession of votes or to pass them on. It was hoped that the whole matter would be left to the elector, with his immediate family or friends to help him.
– Any one who steamed open a postal vote would be a criminal.
– Yes, and would attract the penalty that is provided by the act. We are aware that these days there is an unseemly rush by organizers of the major political parties to be present at postal voting. There must be a reason for that. There is keen competition amongst the organizers of all parties to be present when the postal votes arrive to be recorded. Is that merely a matter of concern for the person who is sick or incapacitated? Of course not. A person with any common sense at all must recognize that those organizations, or some of them at least, think that there is party advantage to be gained from doing so.
It is proposed - and it is referred to in the document that has been circulated in the Senate - that a procedure which has been operating in New South Wales since 1949 should be adopted. The idea is that persons within 5 miles of a polling booth may be visited by an electoral visitor who may be accompanied by scrutineers.
– On request.
– Yes, on request. Very extensive provisions, set out in great detail, are to be found in the notes that have been circulated. This is not a novel idea. It has been a part of the law of New South Wales for more than a decade, and it should attract the consideration of the Senate.
– It has failed to attract consideration . by the Commonwealth Government for years.
– Yes. It is certainly worthy of discussion in the Senate. That is the case I am putting at the moment. I do not propose to argue the proposition further at this stage.
Associated with that proposal is the suggestion that a system which has been in operation in New South Wales for more than a decade also should be adopted by the Commonwealth. It is that polling booths, one mobile and one stationary, should be provided in hospitals so that sick people may not be disturbed unnecessarily and so that the secrecy of their voting may be assured.. If the proposal were adopted there would be no opportunity for malpractice, because the matter would be under the control of the official electoral officers. That proposal might well be considered by this chamber.
– Is there in any State a law to provide for the system of postal voting that the honorable senator proposes?
– Yes, in New South Wales, where there is provision for the establishment of polling booths at hospitals, one mobile and the other stationary. That has been a part of the law of that State since 1949. I think that the provisions of proposed amendment No. 4, under the heading “ New Clauses “, are a verbatim copy of the provision in the New South Wales law which, I understand, has operated quite successfully. My argument at this stage is that the proposal is worthy of consideration and discussion by the Senate when we go into committee. The purpose of my motion is to interest the Senate in considering that and other matters which otherwise could not be considered at the committee stage.
I come to proposed amendment No. 5 under “ New Clauses “. I am dealing with section 106 of the act, which relates to House of Representatives ballot-papers. The committee is to be asked to consider the proposal that the names of candidates in a House of Representatives election be placed on ballot-papers in an order to be determined by law, just as is done in Senate elections. At the moment the names are placed according to an accident of birth, as it were, or according to the result of a deed poll. The Senate might be invited to consider, Mr. Deputy President, whether that system becomes our Commonwealth electoral law.
Proposed amendment No. 6 deals with section 111 and hours of voting. Quite apart from Labour Party thinking, this has been the law in Queensland for four or five decades. It is not a matter, therefore, of conjuring something out of the air. The exact system that the committee is being asked to consider has been functioning well in a State for some SO years. The one semblance of argument that I put is- that if the system has worked satisfactorily there and is retained, it is worth this committee’s spending some little time in considering its virtues or defects.
The next proposal is designed to help cure, not to cure, informal voting in Senate elections. We know that many factors operate in regard to informal voting, but we think that one of the greatest of them is that electors are compelled to vote for all the candidates whose names appear upon the ballot-paper. With the backing of the Hare-Clark system operating in Tasmania, we invite the Senate to give to this committee an opportunity to consider the virtue of voting only for the number of candidates required to be elected.
– Just the number, or one more?
– The proposal is that voting be for the exact number of vacancies to be filled. If five senators are to be elected, under the system contemplated a valid vote will be recorded by voting 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, with the alternative of voting from 1 right through the ballotpaper. If preferences are required, they may be carried to the limit. I merely comment that in Tasmania, where six candidates had to be elected at one time, a vote was completely valid if one voted only for three. Tasmania has a form of optional preferential voting. The committee is invited by the Opposition to consider the efficacy of that system. We would be happy if we were given an opportunity by the Senate to put to the committee arguments upon the proposition. The next proposal is really associated with the lastmentioned proposition and is consequential upon its adoption. This is designed to help cure informal votes in Senate elections.
Finally, we invite consideration of the subject that has already been discussed this evening, namely, alteration of the limit for electoral expenses, fixed at £500 for a candidate for the Senate and £250 for a candidate for the House of Repre.senatives. I concede the point that the figures are completely unreal, having regard to what is expended by the various parties on account of each Senate candidate and each candidate for the House of Representatives. If there is any virtue in having a placard with psychological effects, as we were told to-night, let us have something that looks like a real placard. We should like an opportunity to put to the committee that having regard to inflation the amounts might be reviewed. The figure* were last fixed in 1946. I do not think that any one will argue with the proposition that figures fixed as a fair amount to expend per capita upon candidates then would, in the light of the inflation that has taken place in the meantime, be reasonable now. Therefore, we should like an opportunity to put to the committee an argument in favour of amending section 145 in relation to that point.
I am obliged for the hearing that the Senate has given me upon proposing a motion of this type, which rarely comes before the Senate. The matters to which the Opposition has addressed itself on this motion are not matters of little con-, sequence. They are major matters, associated with ensuring clean ballots and above all with trying to cure informal voting in Senate elections, which is unfortunate and disgraceful. One certainly can do nothing about legislating to cure apathy and indifference. It is impossible to do that. One is staggered from time to time at the indifference that one encounters. I have been asked by adults, seemingly normal in intelligence, “What is the Senate? “ I felt that they had been under a legal obligation to vote on many occasions. Having regard to the total absence of knowledge, I have never accepted the invitation to educate the persons who asked me that question. I think that we as a Senate are obliged to take very seriously the vast number of informal votes cast in Senate elections. As we are dealing with a bill to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act, it is unfortunate that the Government has not addressed its mind to that very grave and important problem.
– I hasten to assure the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that the Government has made a most exhaustive examination of the points that he has raised, and of many more, and has come to the conclusion that the motion is not acceptable. I do not want to detain the Senate by canvassing the Government’s reaction to the proposals, but I shall touch briefly upon one or two. Senator McKenna dealt with a proposal to reduce from 20 per cent, to 10 per cent, the proportion by which enrolments in a division may vary from the quota. The Government is opposed to that proposal, as it cuts right across the basis upon which divisions were designed, taking into consideration community interest and diversity of interest. We say that the maintenance of these factors is fundamental, that an industrial area is best represented by a man versed in industry, a business area by a business man and a rural area by a rural man. For the preservation of the basis of community interest, we believe that the 20 per cent, margin must be preserved.
The honorable senator has advocated the electoral visitor system in relation to postal voting, and the establishment of mobile booths in, hospitals and institutions. The Government has given a great deal of thought to these proposals, which are not novel, but has concluded that nothing is to be gained by them. The system that we have to-day is a proven one. We have an obligation to take a stand against procedures that may confuse people and to prevent chaos as the people approach the polls. Quite bluntly, the proposals are not acceptable, because they offer nothing that is not already available to the people. In addition, their cost would be excessive, although that was not a deciding factor in the Government’s decision.
Senator McKenna advocated the closing of booths at 6 p.m. on polling day. So much has been said from this side of the Senate in opposition to that suggestion that there is no need for me to canvass it. The Government believes that at least one day in three years should be set aside for the people, who are our masters, to say at their convenience whom they will have as their representatives for the ensuing three years. The Government will not be a party to reducing those facilities.
The Leader of the Opposition also had a good deal to say about informal voting. There is no evidence to suggest that the reason for informal voting can be pinpointed; but there is evidence to suggest that lack of interest is a contributing factor, if not the greatest factor, in informal voting. Rather than adopt a system which, to the knowledge of the Government, has not been tried successfully - I emphasize the word “ successfully “ - the Government suggests that an education campaign for the people generally should bring the best results. All of us should do our utmost to inform the people of their responsibilities when they go to the poll, because voting is a very serious matter. Surely in the year 1961 we will not say that the people are so ill-informed that they cannot mark a ballot-paper; but we have a responsibility to educate those who, because of lack of interest, are not in a position to do justice to the responsibility that rests upon them in marking their ballot-paper.
The Government has considered very seriously the removal of the limitation upon electoral expenses, but it is not prepared to be party to legislation which would mean that only those who were endowed with plenty of this world’s goods would be enabled to be elected to the Parliament. For those reasons, Mr. President, we oppose the motion.
– We have heard a lot about the procedure by which we should be elected to the Parliament. I suppose our purpose in seeking election to this place is that we may speak our mind. An omnibus proposal such as the one now before us is quite inappropriate, especially when it is remembered that the end of this sessional period is near and that the amendments inherent in the proposals have been heavily defeated in another place. Even if the matters in question were to be considered by a Committee of the Whole, there does not remain in the sessional period sufficient opportunity for them to be considered properly. I say that, because I believe that the proposal relating to the prevention of gerrymandering deserves further consideration. Having joined in the recommendation of the Constitutional Review Committee that there should be a certain number of electors in each electorate, with a variation of not more than 10 per cent either way, I am still to be persuaded that there is a valid reason for rejecting that recommendation.
Reference has been made to the number of preferences that should be marked on a Senate ballot-paper to make the vote valid. Senator McKenna, in support of his argument, referred to the Hare-Clark system of Tasmania. I ask the Senate in all humility and with great respect to consider the theory behind that system of voting, which was adopted but truncated when it was applied to the Senate. A lot of argument from the Commonwealth Electoral Office would be needed to persuade me that the proposal was not sound.
It is quite inappropriate to suggest that the Senate should resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider these matters. I suggest that we would do more credit to ourselves if the bill were to be disposed of now and, if there is sufficient support on both sides of the chamber for a purposeful examination of this and other proposals, if a select committee were to be appointed to consider them. The recommendations of that committee could be forwarded to the House of Representatives at the beginning of the next sessional period. I do not wish to be presumptuous, but that appeals to me as being a reasonable approach. The earnestness of Oppo-: sition senators who have pointed out defects in our electoral system has impressed me immensely. I am greatly indebted to those honorable senators who, having detected irregularities in this present system, have been prepared to make their contribution to preventing a repetition of those irregularities. Having regard to the criticism that one finds in party quarters, I believe that Opposition senators have been earnest in their effort to prevent a repetition of irregularities.
I believe that we should adopt the procedure I have suggested rather than persevere with the omnibus proposal that is now before us. We would do ourselves a disservice if the Senate were to resolve itself into a Commitee of the Whole to consider the matters in question. Let us reserve them for consideration by a select committee which could submit a considered recommendation.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 966) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Section thirty-nine of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (5.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-sections: - “ (6.) An aboriginal native of Australia is not entitled to enrolment under PartVII unless he -
.- I move -
Leave out proposed sub-section (6.).
The Opposition cannot support the exclusion of aborigines from the franchise, for the many reasons that were put forward during the second-reading debate. The Minister himself admitted that this, challenge must be faced and he stated that in another place a select committee has been set up for this purpose, but we are evading the issue when we say that that select committee can do the job. It has been requested to report back to the Parliament on 31st October. By that time this House will have gone into recess, the Parliament will have been dissolved and there will be an election campaign in progress. The report of the select committee will never come before the Parliament. So I submit that we are evading the challenge by not taking the matter up at this stage when the Commonwealth Electoral Act is being amended.
The Minister said that most people would not grant the franchise to aborigines at the drop of a hat, and he went on to say that a large proportion of the aborigines are naked Myalls or partly naked Myalls. I point out that provision is made for aborigines who have been members of the defence forces to vote. They were good citizens of Australia who joined in the defence of their country, and it is reasonable to say that many others who were not old enough to be in the defence forces are equally intelligent, equally loyal and equally valuable in this society. The Minister supports voting by aborigines in his State. He has never raised any objection to the colour of the aborigines in his State, to their race or their methods of hygiene. He, as an elector and as citizen of Victoria, supports the granting of the franchise to all aborigines in his State,
– All of them?
– Yes, all of them.
– There are not many in Victoria.
– Whether there aire many or few, the same principle applies. They are all entitled to vote in Victoria. I notice Senator Mattner, who comes from South Australia. In that State the aborigines enjoy the franchise. They participate in the State elections, and that automatically entitles them to participate in federal elections. As to New South Wales, the Leader of the Government in the Senate and other honorable senators whom I notice in the chamber, come from that
State. Senator McKellar has raised no objection to the fact that aborigines in New South Wales are entitled to the franchise. But there are good people, like Senator Agnes Robertson, for example, who will not support extension of the franchise to all aborigines in federal elections. I am surprised that she has not been on her feet on a matter such as this. The same applies to Senator Vincent. They should all be supporting the extension of the franchise to the aborigines.
– If you had listened to me last night you would have heard me do so.
– I did listen to you last night and I heard you mention qualifications. We on this side of the House doubt the sincerity of the Government in appointing a select committee. The Government knows very well that on the date specified for the submission of the committee’s report the Parliament will have risen. The Parliament will never be in a position to accept the report of the committee, because all committees automatically are dissolved when the Parliament is dissolved before a general election.
– The report does not become dissolved.
– The report could never be presented by the committee because the members would have no status when the new Parliament began.
– Why not?
– Because committees last only for the duration of the Parliament in which they are appointed.
– They can be reconstituted.
– Yes, in the next Parliament.
– If there is sufficient energy on the part of the committee, there would be nothing to prevent the members from putting in their report by September or even by August.
– But 31st October is the date on which it has to submit its report
– That is the deadline.
– Yes. At that time the Parliament will have gone into recess for the elections.
– The Cabinet can act, can it not?
– No. The report has to be presented to the Parliament and be accepted. We on this side of the chamber are very conscious of the colour problem and the principle of apartheid that is inherent in depriving the aborigines of the franchise. That is a segregation of the native people of this country provided in an act of this Parliament, the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
Only to-day I have been reading in the press about the segregation of aborigines in hospitals in northern New South Wales. I give great credit to the New South Wales Minister for Health, Mr. Sheehan, for having drawn attention to that segregation. It is no good our burying our heads in the sand and thinking that we can get away with this on the international level. Today we are living in a colour conscious world. We have granted voting rights to the natives of New Guinea more or less to show the world how we are bringing them up to the level of the Western world. Yet we are perpetuating an anomaly by depriving our own aborigines of voting rights. Many of them are entitled to vote. But because the Commonwealth will not accept the responsibility in the Northern Territory and the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia will not accept it in their States as other States have and give aborigines voting rights, many aborigines are being deprived of voting rights.
Therefore, I have moved this amendment in the hope that we will make it possible for aborigines who wish to be enrolled and to exercise the franchise to do so and so take their places in a democratic community as they are justly entitled to do despite their colour and their race. They are all Australians and they should be treated in the same way as other Australians and be given the franchise.
– Senator O’Byrne has seen fit to move an amendment to what I believe every honorable senator regards as an objective and conscientious attempt to do something about a very contentious, diffi cult and somewhat sensitive problem of the moment. The speech that Senator O’Byrne has just made can do the Senate and this country no good at all in the forums of the world. In fact, it could do us great harm. I do not think that even Senator O’Byrne would argue that the Government merits such criticism from anybody. I very much regret that he should start talking about apartheid in relation to the Australian aborigines. It indicates that he has not the faintest idea of what apartheid really means. I am terribly sorry that he mentioned it. Not one other honorable senator on either side of the chamber has made a similar insinuation. I am very surprised that Senator O’Byrne should have started something in this debate which honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have attempted to make an enlightened discussion on some very important questions.
As a matter of fact, I think that more than one speaker on both sides of the chamber could be truthfully quoted as being definitely in favour of votes being given to as many Australian aborigines as know how to record a vote. I believe that that would express in general terms the views of many honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. For any one to say that the Government and bom parties on the Government side are opposing those principles is not to state the truth. I think that Senator O’Byrne is very well aware of that and I think other members of the Opposition are also very well aware of it.
Having made those remarks, I wish to refer to the select committee that has been appointed. Senator O’Byrne does that select committee no justice and, in fact, insults it by the amendment that he has moved to-night. His attitude is an extraordinary one to adopt, having regard to the fact that three of his own colleagues are sitting on the committee. The Government very properly invited the Opposition to be represented on the committee, which is not to be involved in matters of party politics at all. This question is far too big and far too broad for party politics. The Opposition very properly accepted the Government’s invitation. The committee is at present considering the question which is now being discussed in this chamber. I do not believe that it would do the chamber any good at all to accept an amendment such as this, which I hope will be defeated by a unanimous vote of honorable senators, when representatives of both the Government and the Opposition are in the process of doing something about this matter.
I suggest that the amendment is an insult to both the Government and Opposition members of the other House who are members of the select committee. The feeble excuse advanced—-
– Senator, has the Opposition a majority—-
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order!
– Has the Opposition
– I am only asking a question, Sir.
– Order! The honorable senator will have an opportunity to speak if he wishes, but I will not permit continual interjections from either side of the chamber.
Senator Dittmer. - I was not continually interjecting; I was only asking a question.
– I was seeking information.
– Order! Senator Vincent has the call.
– The feeble excuse that Senator O’Byrne made about the select committee, that it would not have a proper opportunity to submit its report to the Parliament, is not correct. That committee can present its report to Parliament at any time before 31st October. Even if it does not have its report ready by that date, there is nothing in the world to prevent it being reconstituted and submitting its report next year. Does Senator O’Byrne or anybody else seriously suggest thatthe Government would go to the trouble of settingup this committee to investigate this very sensitive subject and them, merely because the committee no longer existed next year, refuse to accept its report? Does anyone suggest that any parliament or any government would do that?
– What is the position about the reconstitution of the committee if some of its members are defeated at the elections?
– There is nothing at all in the rules of this chamber or the other place to say that the select committee cannot be reconstituted for the purpose of presenting its report. That could go on for the next ten, years.
I believe that it is high time we dropped this attempt to make political capital out of this question. Our native people are far too good for that sort of thing and it does us no honour to drag the subject in the gutter, as is being done now.
– I did not intend to enter this debate because I thought that the matter under consideration had been fairly well covered in the second-reading debate. But I am prompted to enter the debate by the remarks made by Senator Vincent. The whole tenor of his remarks was an appeal to honorable senators on this side of the chamber to appreciate the position mat Government senators are in when they have to answer criticism from this side of the chamber such as is embodied in the amendment moved by Senator O’Byrne, which is designed to give to aborigines the right to vote. I fully appreciate the position in which Government supporters find themselves but it is a position oftheir own making. This matter was dealt with in the other place by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) who said that the Government should not have included this clause in the billat this time and then appointed a select committee. The Government has put the cart before the horse. It should have appointed the select committee first and then, on the basis of recommendations made by the committee, it should have amended the act to provide voting rights for aborigines. I appeal to honorable senators opposite to appreciate the position in which we on this side of the chamber find ourselves. This bill was on the noticepaper in October of last year. It was considered by the Labour Party. The bill was discharged from the notice-paper at the end of last year. At that stage the Labour Party had decided that it would not agree to any differentiation between aborigines from one
State and another or between aborigines of Australia and aborigines of other countries. But the Government’s decision in another place to appoint the select committee automatically prevented the Labour Party from expressing the view that it held last October. The Government could have postponed consideration of the provisions of this clause until after the select committee had tendered its report. The government could have saved the Labour Party from being in the position of having to place its imprimatur upon a proposal with which it does not agree. There is no need to canvass the obvious difficulties associated with allowing aborigines to exercise a right to vote. All that we on this side of the chamber ask is that they be given the right to vote. Some anomalies may arise if aborigines are allowed to vote but at least we would not have the situation that exists to-day whereby the right to vote is determined by the colour of a person’s skin and the State in which he resides. After all, the total number of votes cast by aborigines in Australia would not equal the number of informal votes cast at an election. I support the amendment.
– The proposal sponsored by Senator O’Byrne is not acceptable to the Government for reasons that have been canvassed adequately to-day and to-night. There is very little that I can say in reply to suggestions that have been made in support of the Opposition’s proposal.
Senator Ridley referred to this measure having been on the notice-paper last year. As far as I know the bill has never been on the notice-paper of the Senate except during the last few days. If I am correctly informed on this matter, the whole of Senator Ridley’s argument falls to the ground because in this place the only notice-paper with which we are concerned is the Senate notice-paper.
The Government’s opposition to Senator O’Byrne’s amendment is based on the fact that the Government has appointed a select committee of members of both sides of the House of Representatives to investigate, inquire and report. I am sure that that policy is the best one that can be pursued. For instance, honorable senators know that in Western Australia and Queensland no provision at all is made for a franchise for aborigines. As realists honorable senators opposite must know that this Government must confer with the State Governments before this matter can be resolved. The matters that have been raised have been canvassed so thoroughly during the debate on this bill that there is no point in my saying anything further and delaying the passage of the bill.
– The debate on the Opposition’s amendment has brought forth from Senator Vincent and the Minister for Air (Senator Wade) declarations that the Government is really in earnest in this matter. Earlier I had very strong thoughts that the Government was evading the issue by setting up a committee that would not fulfil its function because of the time element. I take it that the Government is genuinely interested in giving to aborigines who are capable the right to enrol and exercise a vote. I sincerely hope that as a result of the discussion that has taken place, honorable senators opposite will apply themselves diligently to this matter rather than make excuses of the kind that we heard from the Minister a few moments ago. He said that Senator Ridley was in error in stating that this bill was before the Parliament last year. The bill was before the Parliament. It was read a first and a second time in another place.
– Not here.
– It was read a first and a second time in another place and was then discharged from the notice-paper before any debate ensued. At that time the Government was not seised of the importance of this matter. It did not make any move to set up a select committee at that time. But the government found it expedient to delete objectionable parts of the act relating to natives from Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands. Yet it still refrained from giving Australian aborigines a vote. The Government was in a cleft stick. It had to appoint a select committee. This debate has served to indicate just how sincere honorable senators opposite are in wishing to tackle this problem and bring it to an equitable conclusion.
– The Minister for Air (Senator Wade) said that my argument fell to the ground because I stated that the bill was before the Parliament last year. I meant to say that the bill was before another place. I know as well as the Minister knows that the bill was not listed on the Senate noticepaper. My argument was based on the fact that the bill was before the Parliament in another place. It was considered by the Labour Party and a decision was reached on it. So my argument did not fall to the ground for that reason.
– The Minister for Air (Senator Wade) said that two States, one of which was Western Australia, do not guarantee a franchise to aborigines enabling them to vote to elect the members of the popular Houses in those States. On two occasions bills designed to give to aborigines full citizenship rights have been brought before the lower House in Western Australia. On each occasion those bills have been defeated in the upper house.
– Who introduced the bills?
– The Labour Government in Western Australia. The bills were defeated in the upper House, which is controlled by the parties that form the government in this Parliament. Aborigines in Western Australia are entitled to a vote for the popular House in that State if they have obtained citizenship rights. There are many natives in Western Australia who qualify for citizenship rights but who object to making an application and paying a fee in order to become Australian citizens in terms of the legislation when, in fact, they were born in Australia. Amongst those who are deprived of a vote in elections for the National Parliament, by the legislation of this country, are schoolteachers.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator O’Byrne’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . - . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Scrutineers at scrutiny).
Senator O’BYRNE (Tasmania) 110.16]. - I move -
Leave out proposed sub-sections (2.) and (3.), insert the following sub-section: - “ ‘ (2.) A candidate is entitled to appoint as many scrutineers to represent him at the scrutiny at a polling booth as there are ballot-boxes at that polling booth from which ballot-papers are being counted at any one time.”.
I believe that the intention of this amendment is quite obvious. Just as a presiding officer or another electoral officer will be permitted by the provision as it stands to permit each candidate to be represented at the scrutiny at the polling booth by such number of scrutineers as he determines, so the Opposition feels that a candidate himself should be given the prerogative to appoint as many scrutineers to represent him as he feels are needed in order properly to scrutinize the count. We believe that candidates should have teat right. The provision enables a presiding officer to determine, in the wide and just exercise of his discretion, the number of scrutineers who shall be appointed to supervise the count. In this way, the interests of the presiding officer are protected. We think that the interests of a candidate should also be protected by empowering him to appoint to act on his behalf at the count as many scrutineers as there are ballotboxes at the polling booth from which ballot-papers are being counted at any one time.
110.18]. - Consideration has been given to the proposed amendment. It is considered that at the physical counting of votes at a polling booth the best interests of all candidates will be served and, indeed, the count of the ballot will be hastened, if the provision in the amending bill is left as it is. That is, the Government believes that the divisional returning officer in whose division the polling booth is situated should have authority to appoint the number of scrutineers that he considers should be allotted to conduct the scrutiny. This arrangement will permit of the desired degree of flexibility. In the case of a big count, the divisional returning officer may appoint more than one scrutineer per table for the purpose. For these reasons, the amendment is not acceptable to the Government.
– If, in the considered opinion of the Government, it is right to give to a divisional returning officer discretionary power to appoint the number of scrutineers he deems to be necessary to conduct a ballot, I think there should be a statutory provision to ensure that one candidate will not be given an advantage over another by being permitted to have more scrutineers than his opponent. Furthermore, it should be mandatory for a divisional returning officer to inform each candidate of the number of scrutineers that he will be permitted to have at the count. It would be very unfair to a candidate if several persons were sent down to act as scrutineers on his behalf, only to find that they were not allowed to act. If the divisional returning officer were to say, “There shall be four scrutineers for each candidate “, or, “ There shall be one scrutineer for each candidate “, candidates could arrange to have scrutineers present to watch their interests when the count was being made. Can the Minister give us an assurance in that respect? This is a matter of some importance. In the counting of votes in the Swan electorate on a certain occasion, I found that 200 votes which should have been given to me had been given to the other candidates, thereby making a difference of 400 votes in the count. I think that we should be scrupulous in this matter.
Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia - Minister for Civil Aviation [10.22]. - I have a distinct recollection of the incident to which the honorable senator has referred, but that apart, his knowledge of the practical procedures adopted at the counting of votes should suggest to him that a returning officer would not do as he asks. He has suggested that the returning officer might permit one candidate to have more scrutineers than were permitted for another candidate. The honorable senator should know, as I know, that when counting is in progress at a polling booth, the returning officers are meticulous to see that all candidates are given equal treatment. Having regard to past experience and to the traditions which have grown up in the department over the years, I think that the fear which the honorable senator has expressed is not founded on reality. Something might occur, as it did in the electorate of Swan in relation to the 200 votes to which the honorable senator has referred, but I suggest that such an occurrence would create so much public interest and have such a sharp reaction, that no malpractice would result.
– I do not wish to be misunderstood. I have not suggested that there has been malpractice or favouritism on the part of returning officers. Nevertheless, one candidate might know the number of scrutineers which the returning officer was prepared to allow, while another candidate might have no such knowledge, so that the first candidate might have four scrutineers and the other only one. Could it be provided that the returning officer shall inform candidates of the number of scrutineers that they may have, so that candidates might make arrangements accordingly? If such a provision could be made, either in the act or by way of regulation, I think it would be of advantage for candidates.
– I seek information as to the meaning of the words “ in writing “. The Minister will see that proposed new section 130 (4.) provides that the appointment of a scrutineer to represent a candidate at a polling booth shall be made by notice in writing signed by the candidate. Does that mean exactly what it says? If so, is it intended to prohibit the sending of typewritten notices signed by candidates? I make the point because in the case of a Senate election candidates are represented by scrutineers at polling booths in widely scattered parts of a State. Would a typewritten notice conform with the act, or is it suggested that the notice must be in writing?
– I assure the honorable senator that a typewritten notice would conform with the requirements of the act provided, of course, that it bore the signature of the candidate.
– There is a special form.
– That is correct. There is a special form which all candidates are required to sign.
– I think the position is amply covered by the interpretation of “ writing “ in the Acts Interpretation Act.
– I accept the honorable senator’s word for that. In any event, it is not proposed to change the present conditions. As I have said, a typewritten notice that was signed by the candidate would serve the purpose.
I invite Senator Cooke’s attention to the wording of proposed new section 130 (3.). It is as follows: -
The officer who is to conduct, or is conducting, the scrutiny at a polling booth may, subject to any directions given to him from time to time by the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State in which the polling booth is situated or the Divisional Returning Officer in whose Division the polling booth is situated, permit each candidate to be represented at the scrutiny at the polling booth by scrutineers not exceeding in number such number as that first-mentioned officer determines.
I think the honorable senator will agree that the situation could not get out of hand, as he has suggested.
– Generally speaking, members of the Senate sign as many as 500 scrutineer forms when an election is to be held. Is it necessary for an honorable senator to sign every form, or may he stamp them? I know that electoral officers in some States have accepted stamped forms, but others say that we must go to the trouble of signing them. I have had both experiences.
– I am informed that a facsimile signature will do. May I express my personal delight. I have always signed the forms.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator O’Byrne’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
Clause 14 (Display of certain electoral posters prohibited).
– The clause reads -
Section one hundred and sixty-four B of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from subsection (1.) the word “ sixty “ (wherever occurring) and inserting in its stead the words “ one thousand two hundred”.
We believe that there is no necessity whatever to increase the size of electoral posters. We have already at the second-reading stage, discussed the amount of money that a candidate may expend in his campaign. Section 145 of the act provides -
A candidate shall not, in respect of any candidature, incur or authorize electoral expenses exceeding in the aggregate -
in the case of a Senate election - Five hundred pounds; or
in the case of a House of Representatives election - Two hundred and fifty pounds.
One hundred posters of the dimensions mentioned in the bill would cost £250, so the Government is making provision for the breaching of section 145 of the act. I put it to the committee that it is ridiculous to make provision for the expenditure of additional money by candidates or campaign committees. We on this side believe that there should be no alteration in the permissible size of posters unless there is an alteration in the prescribed limitation on expenses that may be incurred by a candidate. A candidate may provide at reasonable cost 200 or 300 posters of the size now permitted. Upon the passage of this bill, his opponent may increase the size of his posters to 1,200 square inches. One may rest assured that the display will be handled by publicity agents. Possibly the posters will bear reflecting tape and their cost will be still further increased. It will be impossible for any one to meet this extra expenditure while complying with the limitation upon expenditure. To make provision for larger posters in these circumstances is merely to flout the law. We oppose the clause and hope that the Senate will recognize the need to retain the present provision relating to the maximum size of posters.
– I should like the Government to tell me why the clause is necessary.
– Curiosity killed the cat.
– If the honorable senator plays that game, he may forget about the clock. There is no need for the provision. As Senator O’Byrne said, on present-day costs, with the preparation of 100 posters of the proposed new dimensions, a candidate will be up for at least £250. What need is there for the provision? Has the Government got the paper industry in such a state that the Government wishes to help it out? Advertisements of the size now prescribed are big enough for newspapers. I cannot for the life of me see the justification for altering a provision that has been in operation since 1943. No candidate would want this alteration. Tell us the reason, and we shall have a look at it.
– Senator Kennelly’s remarks have provoked me. One might as well ask this question of the Opposition and of the Government: Why should we have any restriction at all on the size of posters? At one stage in this country’s history, people had a democratic right to put up posters of any size. That democratic right was curtailed only because this country happened to be short of paper. One might as well ask: Why not return to the conditions when we had some modicum of freedom in regard to this matter, and permit candidates to erect posters that are as large as they wish to have them? I can see that Senator Kennelly does not think very much of that proposition, but I suggest that it is just as sensible as his proposition.
– I suppose that each of us may think as he likes.
– Exactly. Ifthese propositions are equally silly, perhaps the Government is trying to compromise, while respecting the views of those who have equally silly ideas, by deciding to increase the size of posters to some degree, having regard to the fact that plenty of paper is now available.
– I want to make only a very brief comment. The current provision was introduced as a war-time measure in 1943 to conserve paper and cotton. It is generally conceded that there is now no need for that restriction. I can quite confidently allay the fears of Senator O’Byrne and Senator Kennelly as to the costs that must of necessity be involved. The proposed size is the maximum, not the minimum. The organization to which Senator Kennelly belongs, or any other organization, may spend on posters what its budget will permit. I should imagine, Mr. Chairman, that individual candidates and political parties would draw their budget and consider what would be the best method of propagating their case. There is no need for honorable senators opposite to talk about the cost involved in increasing the size of posters when, if they so desire, they may use posters of the size at present prescribed.
There are certain features of bigger posters that will be quite unacceptable. First, it will be necessary to find trees big enough to put them on, and it will be necessary to find people who are prepared to spend a lot more time on and put more work into the preparation of them. So in the final analysis a poster of the size that has been accepted for many years may well be considered to be adequate. I repeat that there is no need for honorable senators to be concerned about the cost involved, because it is for the individual or the party concerned to decide what size, within the prescribed limits, the poster shall be.
– Let me say to the Minister for Air (Senator Wade) and Senator Vincent that all this talk about democracy as it applies to the amount of money that is spent on posters is quite absurd, especially when it is remembered that there is a limit of £500 in the case of Senate candidates and £250 in the case of House of Representatives candidates in relation to electoral expenses. When we suggested that those amounts should be increased by £250 and that the ceiling of democracy should be raised accordingly, the Government rejected the proposal. It is quite absurd for the Minister to say that parties may spend as much as they like.
– I did not say that.
– You implied it.
– I did not say that.
– If the proposal now before the committee is agreed to, electioneering costs will be increased and there will be an increase of malpractice or, should I say, a greater breaching of the Commonwealth Electoral Act as it applies to electoral expenses. What will be done with these posters in practice? I believe that irresponsible members of probably all political parties will stick them up on walls, with the result that metropolitan and country councils will come down on them like a ton of bricks. Civic pride will be violated. When all is said and done, if you prepare a poster having an area of 1,200 square inches, you must put it up somewhere.
– There would be a by-law to prevent you from doing it.
– We would not want to enforce the by-law; but I should say that the proposal now before the committee means that honorable senators opposite will want to do the same as the Corns are doing. They will want to put the poster up somewhere. Only occasionally will we find trees big enough to accommodate these monstrosities. I can see no point in having posters of the size proposed. I can certainly see no force in the arguments that have been submitted so far by Senator Wade and Senator Vincent.
– I was amazed to hear the Minister for Air say that the poster could be of either paper or cotton.
– I did not say that.
– You used the word “ cotton “.
– I said that in 1943 the size of posters was reduced to conserve paper and cotton.
– But there is nothing in the clause to say that cotton fabric shall not be used. Perhaps I should not say that we have wasted a lot of time, but I certainly say that we have spent many hours discussing the import of cotton to this country. We have passed a lot of legislation and given away many things to certain people to induce them to increase their exports to enable us to balance our overseas payments. Those who have to fight their own campaigns and who have to go out and do the Johnny Higgins part of the work know what is involved in sticking up posters. If the proposal now before us is agreed to, people who desire to prepare cotton fabric posters up to 1,200 square inches in size will be able to do so without breaking the law.
We are about to consider a bill which is designed to provide for a reduction of pay-roll tax to encourage exports and we have heard a lot recently about our economic troubles; but the clause now before us will open the way to waste. I say with the greatest of respect and the greatest of friendliness that the only reason why the Government will not accept our suggestion is that it has emanated from this side of the chamber. We have heard a lot of talk about democratic rights. More sins have been committed in the name of democracy than are referred to in the Book.
– The Labour Party refused to help the cotton industry.
– I do not intend to go back to those days. I am talking about the waste that will occur if this clause is agreed to.
– We introduced the cotton bounty; Labour did not.
– If you want me to recount the facts from 1941 onwards, I could keep going for hours. I shall forget what you say, and then we will get on much better. The Government has not submitted a case in support of the proposal we are now considering, lt is only providing an opportunity for the organizations that support it to spend more money on this material. I am not saying that we will spend any less than supporters of the Government if we can get our hands on it. Make no mistake about it, we will fight just as hard and as tough as anybody else; but unfortunately, we have not the avenues to explore that the Government has.
– Not much!
– I know, because I have had a little experience in trying to get money.
– What about Mr. Calwell’s statement?
– He may ask for it. In fact, I hope he gets it. The Government may have a reasonable case in support of the rest of the bill, but it has no argument in support of the proposal we are now considering. If the Government’s supporters had to fight their own campaigns, probably the position would be quite different. To fight one’s own campaign is quite different from having an organization to fight it. If the clause is agreed to, cotton fabric will be used for posters. Therefore, in order to help the economy of the country, the proposal ought to be defeated.
– The Government has insisted that this amendment of the Commonwealth Electoral Act is necessary, and it has selected an arbitrary size of 1,200 square inches for electoral posters in lieu of the 60 square inches for which provision is now made.
– Candidates are getting bigger!
– They probably want full-length photographs instead of normal-sized ones. It certainly will give an opportunity for those people who go around drawing moustaches and hornrimmed glasses on the photographs of candidates. I say that the selection of 1,200 square inches is an arbitrary action. Why has the Government selected that particular size?
I might mention another point, which T did not raise previously when I was speaking. In Tasmania, the State where I live, I am a member of a scenery preservation board, which administers the Defacement of Property Act. Under that act, posters of this size are forbidden to be displayed in public places in the State. That means that this Parliament proposes to make legal something that is illegal in Tasmania. Therefore, the other States, perhaps, will be able to get the advantage from it. Incidentally, it might help the Minister in his electorate if the bill provided, not only that the posters may be 1,200 square inches in size, but also that they must be of wool.
– An excellent proposition.
– It would help the wool campaign. I believe that the Government’s proposal itself is woolly. The Government has chosen arbitrarily a size of 1,200 square inches. It should either make the sky the limit or keep the size down to 60 square inches. I repeat what I said before to the Minister - that it will not be possible to use: these larger sized, posters in view of the section of the Commonwealth Electoral Act which prescribes a limit of £250 for expenditure by any candidate in an election campaign for the House of Representatives. As that is coming up in the next clause, I shall have something to say about it then. The Opposition opposes this proposal and we will vote against it.
– Senator O’Byrne has asked why the Government has chosen a poster size of 30 inches by 40 inches. That is the size of the standard single-sheet poster.
– I should like to put one thought to the Minister, namely, that all the States are very much concerned with road safety.
In Western Australia at the present time a campaign is being waged to remove from main highways and the like all signs and posters which can become traffic hazards. If one party puts up these posters, other parties and individuals will do likewise, and the posters may be traffic hazards. This is an aspect that has not been given very much consideration.
I feel, also, that the printing of such posters would be a complete waste of money and time, because you find in some electorates that as fast as posters are put up they are pulled down by opposing parties. I do not see that any good purpose would be served by these posters. I know that some people have endeavoured to get around the restriction on the size of posters by putting three, four or five together and making a composite poster. That practice had to be discouraged by local electoral officers. I would prefer the original size to remain, and I do not think that any good purpose would be served by increasing the size to a maximum of 1,200 square inches. The maximum will become the standard size for posters during all election campaigns, and I think they would be a waste of money.
Question put -
That the clause stand as printed.
The committee divided. (The- Chairman - Senator the Hon. A.. Dl Reid.)
Majority . . . .. 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 15 (Prohibition of canvassing near polling booths).
– This clause proposes to amend section 171 of the principal act, which begins -
The following acts are, on polling day, and on all days to which the polling is adjourned, prohibited at the entrance of or within a polling booth, or in any public or private place within twenty feet of the entrance of a polling booth, namely . . .
The operative words in that section are “ of the entrance”. The provision proposes to amend that section by substituting the words “ an entrance “ for the words “ the entrance “. Honorable senators on the Government side know that most polling booths are in schools and halls which are in fenced-off areas to which there are several entrances. The substitution of the words “ an entrance “ could mean that every gate leading into the enclosed area would become “ the entrance “. The Government is making the position much more difficult by amending the act in this way.
The opinion of the Opposition is that the section should remain as it is, under which “ the entrance” means the front door of the building in which polling is taking place. We believe that it would be much more convenient for the people who are manning the booths and handing out howtovote cards to people as they come along, if the words in the section were “ the entrance to the building “ rather than words which mean that one of the outside gates leading into the enclosed area is an entrance. Therefore, the Opposition will vote against this clause.
– As I interpret this provision, it seems to give the presiding officer authority to determine and proclaim which part of a: building being used for the purpose of polling on election days is an entrance. In the vast majority of cases, we could rely on the wisdom and common sense of the presiding officer to handle the situation which, as Senator O’Byrne- has pointed out, exists in the case of a school which- may have anything up to four entrances. If a presiding officer so determines, he can say that any one of those entrances, which are only entrances to the school grounds, is an entrance to the polling booth. I think that that is a fair summary of what the clause could be construed to mean.
In my opinion it is unfair that any political party should have to conform to the wishes of a man who may decide to be petty about these matters, and have half a dozen booth attendants, as we call them, at all of the entrances through which people may come. I hope that the Government will consider placing this matter beyond doubt. In our minds there is nodoubt about what constitutes’ the actual entrance to a polling booth. If polling is taking place in a room of a school, the entrance to the polling booth is. the actual entrance to the building- or the room in which the voting is taking place. There is no doubt that the amending provision proposed by the Government could be interpreted by a presiding officer to mean that he could define any one. of the gates into a school-ground as an entrance and could! enforce the provisions of the act accordingly. I hope that the Government will have another look at this matter.
Question put -
That the clause stand as printed.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 16 (Production of claims for enrolment, &c).
.- By this clause the Government proposes to insert an entirely new provision in the principal act. It is a provision of an entirely different character from any of the amending provisions considered to date. The proposed new section provides for the first time since the Commonwealth Electoral Act was enacted that an officer of the electoral office should’ have absolute privilege in a court of. law from producing a document called “ a claim for enrolment or a document called “ a transfer of enrolment”, and also absolute privilege from divulging or communicating to. a court any matter or thing in relation to a claim that has come under his notice in the performance of his duties. That provision has not been part of the Commonwealth electoral law up to date. A provision that a court of law shall not have produced to it evidence that it considers to- be legitimate evidence should be justified. The first question one would ask is whether there is any comparable provision in British law or in any State law dealing with electoral matters..
I have sought information from the Commonwealth Electoral Office on that subject and I have been told that no precedent can be cited from the electoral laws of the United Kingdom or of any Australian State. So the innovation starts with a considerable handicap.
Consider this matter from the point of view, not of precedent, but of principle. Certain documents that are committed to the custody of public officials are, in all justice, kept confidential. Personal statistics on a census form or the contents of one’s income tax return have always been recognized as confidential matters. But take an electoral claim which has on it the name and address of a person, whether he or she is a British subject and the date of his or her birth. How can it be suggested that there is any real merit in the claim by the electoral office that it should not be subject to the ordinary obligation to produce that document in evidence in a court? If we recognize that no undue restrictions should be placed upon the evidence that is made available to a court of justice, the claim that the Commonwealth Electoral Office makes for privilege in respect of these documents is quite untenable.
Honorable senators will note the terms in which the provision is couched. The provision states that the officer shall not be required to produce to the court certain documents. Great emphasis is placed upon that form of words. The office has been careful to retain a discretionary right to produce those documents to a court. So far as the law is concerned, there is no provision in the statute prohibiting the office from producing those documents to any other person. This provision is an attempt to place the discretionary authority of officers of the Commonwealth Electoral Office above the courts of justice. The provision is designed to make the criterion of their wisdom or convenience the discretion of a public official. I think that often the criterion of the judgment of those officers would be determined by convenience.
I hope that this chamber will stand by the principle that no inroads shall be made upon the availability of evidence to a court of justice unless an over-riding public interest so demands. I submit that the innovation should not be accepted by the committee. I hope that the committee will negative the clause.
.- I think that Senator Wright should go further in his arguments if he seeks to convince the committee that there is in this matter anything departing from the principle embodied in other laws, either in principle or in point of language. He has spoken purely of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. He said, I understand accurately, that when he asked the Parliamentary Draftsman whether an electoral act in any State contained a provision of this nature or whether an electoral act in England contained such a provision, the Parliamentary Draftsman was not immediately able to cite an example. I doubt very much whether in fact the Parliamentary Draftsman was given time to ascertain whether there was such a precedent. But in a number of other acts that we have passed in this Parliament in relation to other matters this precise wording appears. I refer honorable senators, for example, to section 17 (3.) of the Social Services Act, which states -
A person who is, or has been, an officer shall not, except for the purposes of this Act, be required - (a) to produce in court any document that has come into his possession or under his control … or (b) to divulge or communicate to a court any matter or thing that has come under his notice. . . .
That is precisely the same form of wording as is now objected to in the bill before the committee. I direct the attention of honorable senators to section 16 (3.) of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act which states -
An officer shall not be required to produce in Court any return, assessment or notice of assessment, or to divulge or communicate to any Court any matter or thing coming under his notice in the performance of his duties as an officer, except when it is necessary to do so for the purpose of carrying into effect the provisions of this act. . . .
In each of the acts to which I have referred the wording is similar to that contained in this bill. In each case the point is made that the officer is not required to produce certain documents. There is no new or sinister significance in wording of that kind.
– Under the acts to which the Minister referred the officers would be handling much more confidential information than would be handled by officers dealing with the legislation now before the committee.
– That may or may not be so, but the wording is precisely the same. The provision in section 24 of the Census and Statistics Act goes even further. I admit that that act does not leave any discretion in an officer to provide information if a client wants him to provide it. That section provides -
The Statistician, an officer, or the occupier of a dwelling, shall not, except as allowed by this Act, divulge the contents of any form filled up, or any information furnished-
I was told by way of interjection that in some of the acts to which I referred - not, I suggest, in the last one - information of a more confidential nature would be encountered. I point out to honorable senators that a person may have a reason for not wanting matters that he considers to be personal to himself made public. In all these acts the principle that is followed is that if an officer is forced by law to give certain information for certain purposes, that information will be treated as confidential except with respect to the purposes for which it is given. Under section 45 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, a man is forced to make an enrolment or else he commits an offence, and as in the case of all the other acts I have cited, it seems to me a perfectly reasonable proposition to say to somebody, “ If you are going to be made to do something for specific purposes, then the information which you may regard as confidential which you give will be kept confidential except for these specific purposes “.
– I do not agree with the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) who hangs his argument upon the degree of confidence which should be regarded as being the motivating force behind such a section. There are innumerable illustrations in law of the most confidential information being regarded as public information, public property, and for the payment of a prescribed fee a person may make a search and get that information. But while I do not agree with the honorable senator’s argument, I agree with his conclusions. I think that the proposed new section has to be looked at from a very different angle from that on which Senator Gorton based his comments. 1 do not think that the proposed new section is concerned with confidential information at all. The yardstick that should be applied is whether or not an enrolment card is a public document, and if so whether it contains information of public interest - I emphasize the words “ public interest “ - which should be available to the public either on payment of a prescribed fee for search or in pursuance of legal process properly issued by a court and served - for any reason whatever.
I do not think that the reason is of any consequence because a public document is public and is available to the public. If it contains matters of public interest, because of that fact a member of the public is entitled to see it, whether it is confidential or not, and his motive for wanting to see it does not matter. For example, any member of the public can go to any court of law and search records and obtain the most confidential details of a person’s will, because when a will is lodged for probate it becomes a public document. An inquirer may not be asked why he wants to inspect the document. By paying the prescribed fee he can get the document out and look at it. I could go on citing illustrations almost ad infinitum. Once a document has been made public, it is a sacred right of British law that it shall be available for all time for the general public.
Mr. Chairman, I think we had better have another look at the proposed new section, in the light of what I have said. I do not think .there can be any doubt at all that the electoral roll as compiled by the electoral office is a public document and is available to the public. That is axiomatic. It is very doubtful, I think, whether the records that go toward the compilation of that public document, including electoral cards, are themselves public documents. I do not think that enrolment cards contain information of public interest and should be produced to members of the public either on payment of a search fee as of right or produced as evidence in a court of law for or on behalf of, or against any person.
I think I am fortified in that contention by this very important factor: The electoral office will refuse any member of the public the right to inspect those cards, and there is law extant at the moment prohibiting any member of the public from walking into an electoral office and demanding as of right to see a person’s electoral card. That information, that card, will be refused to the general public.
An electoral officer has no right to produce that card, nor has a member of the public a right to see it. I think that one can argue from that, that notwithstanding its contents - because the contents can be got from any other source at all - it is not a matter of public interest in which the members of the public have of right the right and opportunity to inspect a person’s electoral card.
– The public can examine all the other cards at the registrar’s office. I object to that.
– I think that is the criterion behind this problem. I agree entirely with Senator Wright’s contention that there is no precedent for it. That does not mean, of course, that because there is no precedent it is wrong - not at all! I think that the fact that there is no provision extant, no law or regulation, permitting the general public to examine these cards is of the highest importance and is the strongest evidence to indicate that an enrolment card has never been regarded as a public document containing information of public interest. Therefore, on that principle, I think that the proposed new section can stand on its merits.
However, I do not think that the section is very well or very happily worded to assist one to interpret it and understand its meaning. It gives an electoral officer a discretion to produce to a court a claim for enrolment or transfer of enrolment. I think that is the inference that one must draw from the proposed new section as drafted. There is no indication as to how that discretion should be used, or for what purpose. Is it to be used, for example, in criminal cases to the disadvantage of the signatory to the card or is it not to be used, for example, in a divorce case against the signatory, or is it to be used in his favour? These are all matters of discretion.
I feel that so much discretion is involved that the fact that discretion is allowed at all denies discretion to the electoral officer.
That may sound confusing. It merely means that as there are no indications in the bill or the regulations as to how the discretion is to be used, the matter of using discretion becomes completely hopeless. How could an electoral officer, in his discretion, decide that an enrolment card should be used in petty debt cases but not in respect of divorce, that it should be used in civil cases but not in criminal cases, or vice versa, or that it should be made available only to members of the security service and not to the police, or vice versa? These are all matters in which discretion is required. There is no indication in the proposed new section that discretion should or should not be used in a certain connexion. The actual interpretation of the section really means that there is a complete and absolute bar against the production of the documents. There is a discretion, but it is a discretion which I think that no department would be sufficiently brave to use. It would be most dangerous to ‘Use it in certain circumstances, though not in others. It really means that there is no discretion at all and that there is an absolute bar to the production by anybody of such a document.
– Is that a bad thing or not?
– No. I think that the section is vague in that respect. Not sufficient thought has been given to it. With great respect, the department should have another think about the matter. If there may be objection to production of such a card in a court, I cannot see why there should not be a complete and absolute bar to its production. If there is to be a discretion, the department should come out in the open and say, *’ In these circumstances, the discretion will be used “.
– What kind of information could you get from an electoral card that you could not get somewhere else?
– I do not think that has anything to do with this argument. Certain facts appear on one’s birth certificate, and they will also appear on one’s marriage certificate and death certificate. lt could be argued that as those particulars appear on the birth certificate they should not also appear on the marriage certificate and the death certificate.
– But a member of the public cannot get access to those particulars, surely.
– Of course, he can, because they are matters of public interest. There is only one exception, which is that a person’s illegitimacy is not disclosed.
– Yes, it is.
– Not in Western Australia.
– lt is.
– The fact that a person is illegitimate is not disclosed on his birth certificate. I assure honorable senators that that is the law in Western Australia. It is a good law, too; but for legitimate people, certificates relating to birth, marriage and death are matters of public interest. It is important that the public should know they exist. The fact of a birth is certainly a matter of public interest.
To say that a document that is used in the compilation of an electoral roll is not in quite the same category as a birth certificate has nothing to do with my argument. Whilst a birth certificate is regarded as public property, the departmental records that are used in preparing it are not public, and the public cannot demand to see them.
For those reasons, Sir, I think that the clause is good and can stand, but I ask the Minister to have another look at it. While its meaning is clear in the sense that there is a discretion, much trouble could arise in the interpretation of that discretion. I think it would be much better to have an absolute bar to the production of documents in a court if it is alleged that there are difficulties associated with it. That would be much better than allowing for discretion to be exercised because I think it could be used to a person’s disadvantage, and even to the disadvantage of the person who signed the card. Eventually, he might want to produce the document in a court for his advantage, and the electoral registrar could say, “I am terribly sorry, but I am going to use my discretion against you for a particular reason “. In that case, I think the person who signed the card would have cause for complaint. After all, it is a document which concerns both him and the department. He could rightly object to the officer’s refusal to allow its production. While I think that the section should stand, I should like to see it looked at on a future occasion.
). - The matter that has been raised is important and deserves consideration. Although the Opposition is not right in the course of the, argument at present, I should not like merely to cast a silent vote on the matter. The Opposition considered this clause and decided to do nothing about it. I personally would have been embarrassed if it had decided otherwise, because I learned to-night that in section 17 (3.) of the Social Services Act there is a section in exactly similar terms for which I personally would have to accept responsibility, having sponsored the consolidation of the Act in 1947. I cannot now recall whether such a provision was to be found in the law before that date, but I do recall very clearly discussing it and considering it at the time. I remember how the provision was administered during my period as Minister for Social Services.
The first thing to note about this clause in that the discretion that is conferred upon an officer in regard to the production or otherwise, relates to only two documents - claims for enrolment and transfers of enrolment. It does not apply to documents that are required for the purposes of the act. If there is a prosecution under the act, or if the defence to a prosecution under the act requires the production of either of those documents, it has to be produced. If the matter is in issue before the Court of Disputed Returns - and that is where the production of the documents is most likely to be required - there is no prohibition. The officer concerned may be subpoenaed and the documents produced in court. So that for everything concerned with the administration of this act, there is no prohibition at all.
– There is no argument on that ground, is there?
– I should think not.. That is the first point I make. My second point is that the provision relates to only two types of document. Senator Tangney asked how they could be relevant to court proceedings, apart from the administration of the act. My own experience tells me that they could be relevant in a thousand ways. They could be of supreme importance in a case of forgery. In such a case it might be as important to the defence as it was to the prosecution to get a duly witnessed signature. They also could be relevant in cases of forged wills. I have had personal experience of their importance in cases of that kind. v The basis of the administration of the provision in the Social Services Act, during my term as Minister for Social Services, was that production was never refused if a matter of justice was involved, either of public justice or of justice between individuals. The only evils to be guarded against were the stickybeaking activities of certain people who wanted to make a quick pursuit of a debtor. The Department of Social Services resisted any attempt to turn it into a kind of debt collection agency. I do not know the experience of the Commonwealth Electoral Office in this respect, but I think that the clause is directed primarily at persons with debt collecting responsibilities. When they find that the bird has flown, they go along quickly to the Electoral Office and bother the officers by presenting a sheaf of names. If they were only prepared to wait for a little while they would find that the particulars appeared on the roll in due course. I should like information from the Minister on this point, but I imagine that that is the kind of evil that the clause seeks to guard against. From the experience that I have had of a similar provision in another context, I can say that no person who had a legitimate interest involving his rights or any matter of justice between parties or otherwise, was ever denied access.
I can see that there may be virtue in the argument addressed by the Minister in the course of his second-reading speech, that if these documents are to be made available and it becomes generally known that that is so, there will be no prohibition, and a great number of people may be persuaded not to enrol. That is the argument that has been addressed. I do not know how well it can be sustained, but it appeals to me as having some base. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to take to my party the argument to which 1 listened to-night and to carry it further. I do know that the matter was considered by the party and it was decided that the section should not be disturbed. I should like to be informed by the Minister as to the evil that the provision is aimed at, but I intend now, unless the clause is postponed, to oppose any amendment to it.
.- I have been impressed by the argument put forward by Senator Wright. To me as a layman, it seems that there is merit in it. Senator Vincent, another member of the legal fraternity, spoke on this issue and referred to the basis on which it could be considered, that is, the basis of the roll being a public document. To a layman’s mind, if the roll is a public document we as a Commonwealth instrumentality, through the electoral officer, are just collectors of information in order to make that roll, which is a public document. The contents of that roll belong to the people, not just to the department or to the Government. It is the people’s roll and, therefore, the information in it should be at the disposal of the people.
– The cards are not available to the people. Would you advocate that the cards be made available to the public on application?
– On application through the court.
– I am talking about application to an electoral office.
– This provision is concerned only with production to a court.
– I am talking about the people’s rights through a court. If the people are not supposed to know what forms the basis of the roll, what is the reason for section 52, which provides -
Any name on a Roll may be objected to by objection in writing lodged with or made by the Divisional Returning Officer.
We have in the Queensland electoral law a provision whereby objections may be made to persons being on the roll. That gives an indication that the people have a right to certain information as to why names are on the roll. As Senator Vincent said, it is a public document, therefore, it belongs to the people. In this instance, as Senator Wright pointed out, this is a matter of getting information from electoral cards through a court of justice. 1 see nothing wrong with it, in view of the fact that the roll is a public document of the people.
– 1 wish to make a few remarks, in view of the debate that has taken place. I am sorry that Senator Gorton, the Minister representing the Attorney-General, is not here, because he has spoken for the Minister in charge of the bill. He said that I stated quite accurately the information that had been given to me on inquiry, but he was in error in saying that that information was given to me by the Parliamentary Draftsman. I stated that it was given to me by the Chief Electoral Officer, but I resent the implication of his sneer, that he thought that perhaps the officer had not been given time to provide precedents. The inquiry was made and the information was given to me before 8 o’clock last night, and I would be appalled to think that the Chief Electoral Officer was so remote from the precedents of the British electoral law and the State electoral law as not to be able, within the space of 24 hours, conveniently and properly to provide me with the precedents if they did exist. I regret that that was the attitude adopted in the reply.
I select a proposition that fell from Senator Vincent. When the whole of his submission is examined in the record, I submit with great respect, it will provide within itself some mutually destructive arguments by reason of its inconsistencies. One of his propositions was that when any obligation is placed by statute upon a person to provide information for a public register, or to make an application, it should be privileged from production. It is regrettable that reflection did not immediately provide the answer to that. There are hosts of statutory forms and applications to which no court or no parliament has yet thought to attach privilege. Under a traffic act a person applies for a licence and, in good registries, states what his eyesight is. When a question arises in a case of negligence as to whether he was driving without sufficient care, one is able to produce the record showing that he stated he had been to three oculists who had certified him as having good eyesight. One sub poenas other evidence showing that certificates have been provided to the effect that he is not of good eyesight. That is the sort of office that this evidence provides in a court of justice. Senator McKenna has mentioned others, such as disputed wills and cases of forgery. I cite others of mere proof of identity and of deserting husbands who have gone miles and miles away from home, when a woman has been left with no means of pursuing maintenance and a public department is called upon to pay social service benefits to her as a deserted wife. Should the records be concealed? How idle, how absurd is the suggestion.
The details of a personal nature that these documents record are of no consequence, when one considers that ever since birth registries, death registries and marriage registries have been established the most personal details recorded in them have been available, not only to courts but also to any member of the public merely on payment of a fee. My objection to this provision is that it denies to a court the assistance of the evidence in the public office, when it is necessary, in the judgment of the court, which judgment should be superior to the discretion of the official, lt is that cardinal principle that my opposition to this clause seeks to contest.
Senator GORTON (Victoria - Minister for the Navy [11.48]. - Although one is frequently absent from the chamber, one is not always out of earshot of what is said in the chamber. Consequently, I was able to hear the beginning of Senator Wright’s speech. He rather objected to what he called a sneer from me, on the ground that I had indicated that it was possible that he had not given time for a proper answer to be prepared to the question which he asked. I am sorry if he regrets that I should take that attitude, but I state emphatically that I take that attiude because I believe I have evidence of occasions when that course has been followed by Senator Wright.
I shall now move on to something that is of greater importance. I shall refer to two matters. First, may I say that I was not speaking for the Minister for Air, as Senator Wright suggested. The Minister is quite able to speak for himself. I was speaking as a senator who has the same right as that of Senator Wright to advance arguments on matters that are before the chair. Secondly, I reiterate that I believe that the case propounded initially by Senator Wright was quite incorrect. The way in which he has sought to bolster that case in his latest argument, too, shows that it was quite incorrect. All these matters which he has mentioned and which Senator McKenna said could be of use in a court of law in cases involving forgery, disputed wills-
– And divorce.
– Yes, and divorce. A person who is required by law to provide confidential information in order to obtain a social service benefit, who is required to nil in a statistical form, or who is required to fill in an income tax form, is granted exemption from having that information produced in court in cases involving divorce, forgery and so forth, but not in cases involving matters covered by the act under which he gave the information. I do not see any reason whatever why the same principle should not apply in an electoral case. If it is easy for a court to obtain from a public roll the information that it wants, no harm can be done by this provision. But if it is not easy for the court to do so, and if matters relating to a claim for enrolment come to the notice of an electoral officer and that information could be used by some police court lawyer or some lawyer who appears before the High Court, the person concerned is as entitled to protection as are other citizens who receive protection under the acts I have mentioned.
I make no excuse or apology for that point of view or any other point of view expressed by me in this chamber in any way I choose.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I present the first report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed (vide page 947).
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator O’Byrne). - There being no objection, that course will be followed.
Friday, 12 May 1961
– The witching hour of midnight, when this debate is beginning, is a good time to give a measure of encouragement to the exporters who are to be given some incentives through the two bills to which we are now devoting our attention. It is convenient to discuss the two bills together because they have identical objectives. Both are designed to encourage exports by Australian manufacturing industries. It does not follow that, because the Opposition supports the measures, we agree that this is all that could or should be done.
It seems to me that by these bills the Government is trying to cure a self-inflicted wound. The damage that has been done to the economy and to the balance of payments position is now being looked at belatedly and in a weak and a half-hearted fashion by the Government. In these two measures it sets out to give encouragement to the exporting industries. The Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1961 will give relief to exporters by way of income tax deductions. To sum up the concessions proposed in that bill, one could say that the special deduction will be equal in amount to the existing deduction, so that a total deduction of £2 will be allowable for each £1 of expenditure qualifying under the new provision. The maximum tax saving flowing from the double deduction will be limited to 16s. for each £1 expended - that is, on developing, marketing and producing for the export trade. The second measure, the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1961, will give exporters considerable deductions from their pay-roll tax, according to increases in the export income earned. If we apply the formula, it means that if the value of a firm’s exports increases by 1 per cent, of its gross income from Australian trade or business, it will be entitled to a rebate of 12i per cent, of its pay-roll tax liability. This applies proportionately so that if the increase in export sales in a financial year is not less than 8 per cent, of gross receipts from Australian trade and business, the total pay-roll tax liability will be rebated.
My main criticism of these bills is that, they have arrived so late and, having arrived, are so meagre. The time for strong and earnest efforts to develop our export trade was not last year but ten or twelve years ago. In the Labour Prime Minister’s policy speech of 1947 he advocated that we should set up a special ministry for export. This was repeated by Dr. Evatt in the 1952 election campaign. It was obvious then that, with the growth of manufacturing industries in Australia and the tremendous influx of migrants, and with the knowledge that men must depend for their employment on manufacturing industries, every encouragement should be given to Australian manufacturing industries to sell their goods abroad. This effort is being made now, after all those years. It is a meagre and belated effort. It should have been considered before the Government decided to lift import restrictions as far back as February, I960. It has taken a long while for these measures to emerge. Having lifted import restrictions and in that way affected the balance of payments position adversely, the Government has been forced to try to rectify an adverse balance of trade by encouraging exports. We are in the extraordinary position of trying to encourage exports through reductions of taxation which, in effect, mean subsidies by the Government. The public purse is being called upon to help in this matter, but I do not complain about that.
In the nine months to March, 1961, the value of our imports was £846,000,000, compared with £672,000,000 in the corresponding previous period. There was an increase of £174,000,000. The first job is to get back that £174,000,000. Having got that amount back, whatever we gain from the export trade will be a clear gain and will be automatically reflected in the balance of payments position. There is the
Government’s first problem. As the Minister said in his second-reading speech 80 per cent, of our imports consists of materials that are almost essential for manufacturing. They are the raw materials needed by industry and commerce. The remaining 20 per cent, consists of consumer goods.
Of course, one realizes that even 20 per cent, of our import bill represents a substantial amount of money in these days, and one sees that much of that money is being completly wasted on the importation of items that have no real place in the community. I can remember other days when this happened, and I did not think it would happen again. We see American oranges, lemons and grapefruits in our fruit shops. That seems to me to be absolutely ridiculous and unnecessary. It is a state of affairs that we should not put up with. A great proportion of our increased imports have come from America. A great deal of them have been textile goods. We see the matter taken to the limit when we can buy American rice in 1 lb. packets in our retail shops and when Senator Tangney can ask where the reindeer steaks at 22s. per lb. come from. One realize* that much of our debt is caused by completely useless commodities coming into the country. The first problem facing the Government is to try to recover what we have lost. The Government should have the courage to face up to the position confronting Australia and reintroduce a system of selective import licensing so that many of the unnecessary imports could be eliminated.
Look at what has happened, with canned chicken. In the eight months ended last April, we imported 3,000,000 lb. of canned chicken. In the view of the Tariff Board, this would have been about 12 per cent, of the Australian broiler bird production. So not only are we upsetting the balance of payments position, but also destroying the chicken industry that was just emerging here. The Australian industry is in a state of uncertainty because on the home market it has been hit by new and very definite opposition in the form of supplies of canned chicken from America.
If our lifting of import restrictions had met with some small response from the United States, these commodities could come i:to Australia and foe absorbed, and we would have to .put up with that if the benefits which we derived more than offset the disadvantage of having these unessential imports. But has the United States been any more anxious to buy our wool since the Government lifted import restrictions? Has the United States treated us with any more generosity iis. respect of its purchases of our lead and zinc? We know that the lifting of import restrictions has not made any ‘difference anywhere else in the world, but it has made a very substantial difference in the Australian community by forcing many industries which employ thousands of Australians to dispense with very large numbers of workers.
It looks as if the unemployment figure will be more than 90,000 when the next report is issued by the Department of Labour and National Service. That figure does not include the thousands - I say thousands advisedly - of people in the textile industry who are working short time. In some factories employees are working only four days a week, and other factories are giving employees only two days’ work a week rather than put them on the unemployed market. Those people are not included in the unemployment figures. They are part-time employees and they are only partly remunerated. Their standard of living has been destroyed and they are in a very serious position because full-time employment cannot be found for them.
If these encouragements to exporters will do what the Government suggests they will do, I will be pleased, and surprised. I remember looking at figures for the importation of handkerchiefs. Speaking from memory, 1 think that in the years from 1957 up until this year the importation of ready-made handkerchiefs has risen from just under 600,000 dozen per annum to 1,400,000 dozen per annum. That is the expectation of the figure for this financial year ending on 30th June, 1961. The impact of imports of that nature on the handkerchief industry in Australia is disastrous. We have seen what has happened in regard to imports of other goods. The Tariff Board is reluctant to act in the case of the chicken industry. Despite the fact that 3,000,000 lb. of canned chicken has come into Australia in eight months the board says that these imports are not upsetting the industry, that the industry is settling down under that terrific impact, and that there is a substantial amount -of canned chicken now in store.
– What about the chocolate-coated ants?
– It becomes ridiculous if you go through all the commodities. The importation of canned chicken is affecting an Australian industry that could well be important in the future. That has been the decision of the Tariff Board despite the fact that it admits that the imports represent 12 per cent, of the broiler production in Australia. I heard in Sydney only last week that the demand for canned chicken is as high as it ever was. The chain stores are searching for wholesalers to supply them because their own shipments of canned chickens have been delayed. Their last shipment which came in a month or so ago was sold out in only a few days. So, in my opinion it would be worth while considering whether the story that I have heard within only the last two or three days is true or whether the Tariff Board has stated the position correctly. As we have seen in the case of the general import position, the figures start to settle down and then something makes them increase again. My impression is that the importation of canned chicken is still a very serious problem for the Australian chicken industry. The position is the same in the textile industry.
Now the Government has introduced these two measures which I suppose will be helpful, but they do not deal with the big problem of exports. The Government has realized after many years that exports are one of the main arteries of Australia’s economic life. If we do not export larger quantities of goods, the import restrictions that will have to be imposed will be much more severe than those that were lifted in February, 1960. We have to reduce the gap between imports and exports. I do not know how long the £78,000,000 that the International Monetary Fund was good enough to lend Australia will last. The Government borrowed that money to show the people that it was determined not to reimpose selective import licensing so that the rubbish about which I and Senator Tangney have been talking could be kept out of the country and so that our overseas balances could be protected.
I wish to make several important suggestions. I suggest that the Government should go a good deal further in encouraging exports. In my opinion we should be doing all that we can to encourage exports because every encouragement is needed if we are to attract markets in South-East Asia, the United States of America, Canada, Europe and the United Kingdom. A long-range credit scheme, up to five years, is essential for exports because exporting is a long-range business. It is not something that we go into for twelve months, then get out of and re-enter later. Once you get into the export trade you should try to keep yourself in it at all costs.
I also suggest that there should be an export insurance scheme to cover special risks if it is important in the national interest that particular commodities should be exported to a particular country. The risk might be great, but it should be underwritten by the Government. That would be quite easily done. In fact, it might have been done already. I do not know whether the Government will do that in the application of its policy.
I suggest that customs and excise duties and sales tax on materials used in the manufacture of exports should be reimbursed automatically. Provision should be made for industries to write off depreciation more rapidly. In the last week the Reserve Bank of Australia has discovered that with one exception, every textile factory in New South Wales has employees on part-time work. The Reserve Bank is making such surveys because, as we all know, it is tremendously worried. Nobody wants to see unemployment. The Government seems to think that it is an important part of the medicine, but I just cannot realize that. The Reserve Bank is very worried about the deterioration in the textile industry. It has been suggested that the bank should advise the Government that the way to reduce this tremendous flow of imports quickly and effectively is to impose primage so that there will be no need for an industry to go before the Tariff Board for a fullscale investigation. Primage can be imposed without legislation to’ hold the situation in which we are to-day. We are rapidly losing ground and each yard that we lose will be very difficult indeed to pick up.
I am sorry that I have taken so long at this hour of the morning. There is a great deal that one could say on this matter. I commend the Government for its efforts, meagre as they are. I have suggested that it should go further in this field than it has gone. I have tried to point out that the great problem that the Government faces and the great need for export incentives have been caused by its own actions. It is a wound that the Government has inflicted on the community and now it has set out, in this tardy and inefficient manner, to cure that wound. The Opposition does not oppose the measures.
– I was under the impression that-the national interest demanded a great increase of exports. I regret very much that the Senate should see fit to commence to debate this subject after midnight. Senator Armstrong’s speech, to which I have just listened, has been heard by seven honorable senators. I would have thought that any government with the sense of responsibility that this subject demands would have initiated this debate at a time when the Senate could have engaged most purposefully in a discussion of these measures and any other measures designed to promote exports. I sincerely regret the circumstances and the manner of this debate. At first I proposed to content myself with the remarks that I have just made because I believe that debates in these circumstances are frustrated and rendered almost futile. Notwithstanding that, I regard this subject as of such importance that I intend to place on record my views on it. I disclaim the chagrin and dismay that pervaded Senator Armstrong’s speech. I do not regard these proposals as epoch making.
Dealing with the proposals for tax incentives and tax assistance, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) in his second-reading speech said that the provisions relating to income tax relief were to operate for three years and then were to be reviewed. The proposals are experimental in nature. The relief that is offered by way of exemption from pay-roll tax should be a potent factor in inducing people to engage in export trade. But if trade reacts to measures such as these I do not think that the Government will regard these proposals as the full contribution that could be made. These measures provide some relief to the taxpaying public. Therefore they provide a positive inducement for an expansion of trade. They are not restrictive in character and they do not increase taxation. Therefore they deserve very emphatic support.
I am. very pleased to be able to say those things, because recently, when sales tax was being increased to a savage degree, I recall claiming that these difficulties of imbalances between exports and imports may be corrected by positive measures designed to increase exports. I am in complete agreement with proposals, coming so early in the year, showing that the Government has taken into account the need to give tax incentives in order to expand export trade.
I trust that these proposals will be fully explained in the committee stage. I have not had an opportunity to read fully the explanatory memorandum that has been circulated to honorable senators. Indeed, I found it very difficult to read and to digest. Over the past four or live years the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has pursued a vigorous policy designed to increase our export earnings. The importance of the Department of Trade was foreseen four or five years ago - not, as Senator Armstrong said, when the crisis was upon us - when the Government dissociated the Ministry of Trade . from the Ministry of Customs and Excise. The Government said that trade was so important that it demanded a separate portfolio. Mr. McEwen did his best with the portfolio, despite the restriction of import licensing. To surmount the difficulties .associated with working under that .awkward, incongruous and unjust system -while at the same time maintaining respect for it, required courage and enthusiasm. The Minister discharged his responsibilities with great credit. The formation of the Department of Trade is sufficient reminder that some members of the Government were far-seeing and were determined to stimulate our export trade.. Npt .long after the creation of the Ministry of jra.de the Export .Payments .Insurance Corporation was .established. That corporation has been the subject of discussion so recently that J. content myself to-night with, a mare mention .pf it. There has been an expansion of our trade commissioner service so that we may engage in trading activities in an increasing number of countries.
I remind Senator Armstrong of the attitude that his party adopted to the Japanese Trade Agreement. In the negotiation of that agreement we were confronted with most awkward circumstances. If we had given way to weak sentiment Australia would not have enjoyed the benefits that have flowed from it. Honorable senators will remember how the agreement was preceded by prescient preparation of appropriate legislation designed to provide the government of the day with the means to restrict imports if they threatened Australian industry. Subsequent to the signing of the agreement we experienced a terrific expansion in trade. Only this morning honorable senators received a pamphlet from the Department of Trade.
– How do you manage to read pamphlets on the day upon which you receive them?
– It is merely a mysterious endeavour to content a troubled mind. I do not have the pamphlet with me and if I summarize its contents incorrectly I hope that some of my less tendentious colleagues will correct me. The pamphlet indicates that Japan’s recent budget provides for the importation pf about 5,400,000 tons of coal, of which 1,000,000 tons will come from Australia. The figures relating to Japan’s imports of sugar are very striking, although they do not come readily to my mind. The degree to which Japan has increased her purchase pf Australian wool is well known. She has surpassed the United Kingdom as pur best customer for wool. Those facts should remind people with a sense of responsibility how errors can be made. The Labour P.arty must admit that it made a grave error by opposing the trade agreement with Japan po grounds that made the Government’s policy unpopular - deservedly .sp - .in view of the sentiment .that existed here .at the conclusion pf the war with Japan. However, when you conclude a peace treaty you .acknowledge the fact. But we .had to bear the obloquy in .negotiating that agreement in circumstances pf falling wool prices and th.e.need to .expand .the wool marist -in order to maintain a fair degree of prosperity in that important industry.
Had wool realizations been £20,000,000 less at the present time, the industry would have been in a serious plight. I completely reject the idea that the proposals that we are now discussing can be viewed in isolation because they are an experiment and are not earth-shattering in their magnitude. I submit that the Labour Party should recognize that they are designed to expand our external trade. If they are successful at the outset, they can be developed. That is a significant factor. Of course, they go with other proposals to expand the export industries and to develop the country in the north that can produce exports, and our sea ports. I am dismayed that neglect in the matter of the reconstruction of our ports and harbours, even if it is due to the Government of New South Wales-
– That is not true.
– I said “ even if it is due to the Government of New South Wales “.
– It happens that that is true.
– It is a fact. I have seen some of the ports and harbours in New South Wales. They are in a terrible condition.
– Do not let us argue ‘ that. It should be within the capacity of the people concerned to get together and agree to have the first concrete poured next month in the reconstruction of the ports and harbours facilities to make them suitable for the export of coal. Unquestionably, that must be done in view of the market for coal that exists in Japan and the fact that the coal industry has been geared to such a degree that it can contribute significantly to an expansion of our exports.
Mr. President, I do not pretend to understand the intricacies of trade, either external or internal, but for the dynamic, positive and forward-looking policy that has been pursued with regard to external trade I give credit, of course, to the Government, but I give special credit to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) who has guided that policy with energy and vision.
But there is a perilous threat that the whole of that effort will be undermined if we continue to allow the economy to generate inflationary costs. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has been hearing argument in favour of an increased basic wage. I shall say nothing more about that at the present time.
– This Government gives tax concessions to the wealthy section of the community but does not give anything to the wage workers.
– It is not a matter of that at all. The important thing is to make the workers’ increments genuine, not a form of deception based on inflation. However, I shall not argue that matter at present because I have already troubled my colleagues on that score. Never shall I yield until I get a convincing answer. AH political parties owe it to this country to see that there is genuine wage justice on a basis of responsibility to maintain real value in the wage-earners’ increments, not value of an inflationary, fleeting, fugitive character.
It may be that the Government could look at some of the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee. That committee pointed out that the Interstate Commission was a ready-made institution which, if given legislative power, could let sections of Australian industry know that it had the right to inquire into increases in profits and prices. The very existence of such an institution might readily provide that restraint against avaricious increases that we have taken other steps to reduce on recent occasions. It has proved to be impossible, without an amendment of the Constitution, to get into gear and operative within this Commonwealth this year legislation restraining monopolies and restrictive trade practices. Owing to the difficulty of securing the unanimous concurrence of the State’s in legislation of that character, I am not too hopeful of its being achieved by means other than constitutional reform. So that is not a ready made answer to the problem, and it cannot be a contribution to the immediate stabilization of our economy.
Are there not a few other things that we ought to look to? 1 do not want it to go unnoticed that I am conscious that this legislation provides no real incentive to the primary industries. When the Government’s proposals were first announced, I took the occasion to call attention publicly to the fact that the incentives would not assist the primary industries on which we depend for 80 per cent, of our export potential. Having regard to that, I think that the Government should adopt Sir Thomas Playford’s suggestion for a superphosphate subsidy. And in view of the impoverished condition of local government bodies, and the degree to which they are increasing land rates at the present time, the Government should give some immediate relief by ameliorating the increased load of rates on the farmers. The Government should pay attention also to the oddity whereby the Commonwealth Development Bank charges interest at 6 per cent, on developmental loans when, in this chamber within the last 24 hours, we voted to provide money for the construction of houses in suburban areas in the States, on which the rate of interest charged will be 1 per cent, less than the long-term bond rate - and this has no export potential! If we give a few positive inducements to our export producers, to go along with all the other farseeing proposals of the Government, I believe we may still improve on the present contribution.
I support the bill, Mr. Acting Deputy President, with more enthusiasm than has been possible with many recent measures. This is a positive proposal. It is a step in the right direction. I sincerely hope that it will have the effect of so interesting the trading community in market possibilities beyond the Commonwealth that the Government will feel encouraged, within a twelvemonth, to extend this kind of incentive in the interests of our export trade.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I should like some information regarding the permissible deduction for advertising expenses. I appreciate that this is a bill to encourage exports by allowing as a taxation deduction promotional expenses in connexion with external markets.
– To which clause is the honorable senator referring?
– It is clause 3, in which reference is made to “ expenses of advertising in Australia in relation to the supply of services outside Australia “. Due to heavy income tax, the trading community in Australia has indulged in advertising to a degree which is really inflationary. One of the inflationary effects of high income tax is that companies enjoy the benefit of being able to claim advertising expenses as a deduction from, their trading schedule. I know that advertising is a great inducement to the promotion of markets, but I should like the Minister to tell me whether the bill contains any safeguards in respect of the allowance. If I remember aright, the rate of company tax is now 8s. in the £1. The benefit of this provision is that a company will be entitled to an additional deduction from its assessable income of 8s. for every £1 that is spent on advertising of a certain kind. I think it is legitimate to inquire, in the circumstances, whether any safeguards are proposed.
– I think that the type of advertising expenditure which may be claimed as a deduction is well defined in the explanatory memorandum that has been circulated. The memorandum states that allowable outgoings will include the cost of advertisements in newspapers and magazines circulating overseas, as well as in trade journals and other publications designed primarily for the export trade. The provision will also extend to the costs of participating in overseas exhibitions, trade missions and similar activities for the purpose of promoting Australian exports: The costs of soliciting business will include expenditure incurred in negotiating with representatives of overseas enterprises, or in maintaining permanent sales representatives overseas.
The effect of the provision in clause 3, to which Senator Wright has referred, is to place outside the definition of “ prescribed outgoings “ expenses of advertising in Australia in relation to. the supply of services outside Australia, for example, advertising in local newspapers by transport companies in respect of travel services from Australia. An example of that is advertising in Australia by Qantas Empire Airways Limited for the purpose of inducing people to travel from Australia to places overseas. Such expenditure clearly would not make any contribution towards increasing our exports. For that reason, advertising of that kind is excluded. Advertising within the very broad bracket to which I referred earlier is permissible. The division between the two categories of advertising is well defined, and I think it is a realistic division.
– I regret that on the spur of the moment, in answer to a query from one of my colleagues, I gave the Minister a wrong reference. I should have referred to proposed new section 5 IAC (2.) (a) (ii) which relates to advertising or other means of securing publicity or soliciting business, including business of a person other than the taxpayer where that business will be beneficial to the business ofthe taxpayer, but not including the expenses referred to in (f), which relates to expenses of advertising in Australia in relation to the supply of services outside Australia. With that more complete reference, I hope that the Minister will be good enough to say whether or not there are in the bill limiting provisions regarding such advertising or other means of securing publicity or of soliciting business.
– I refer the honorable senator to proposed, new section 5 Iac (6.) which provides -
Where the amount of any outgoing constituting or forming part of any export market development expenditure exceeds the amount that, in the opinion of the Commissioner, would reasonably be expected to be payable, in the ordinary course of business, for the services or goods upon which the outgoing was incurred, the Commissioner may, for the purposes of this section, treat the outgoing as being reduced by the amount of the excess.
– It is within the discretion of the commissioner?
– That is so. ‘
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 947).
– This bill was covered by my speech on the previous bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative .
Bill read a second time.
– I desire to raise two matters in relation to this bill. I notice that the relief or incentive to be provided is by way of rebate. I think I am correct in saying that. On my reading of the bill, I believe it is for the Commissioner of Taxation to make the rebate the subject of a determination. I think that I detect in the phrasing of the bill and the explanatory memorandum a distinction between a determination of rebate and an assessment of tax. I want to be assured that there is some form of appeal from a determination of rebate, first to a board of review and secondly, as in other cases of taxation law, on points of law to the courts of the land, as distinct from boards of review. That is the question on which I seek some elucidation from the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who represents the Treasurer in this chamber.
– Yes, a taxpayer has access to the Taxation Board of Review, and to the courts on questions of law, in relation to a determination of rebate.
– What safeguards does the bill provide in the case where a company is paying pay-roll tax and this incentive gives it the prospect of reducing that pay-roll tax by 1 2i per cent, for every 1 per cent, by which it expands its export trade over the base period? What is there to prevent a situation arising whereby a company might starve the home market of an essential commodity and divert that commodity to external trade in order to reap the advantage of this incentive? I wonder whether the Minister can, without inconvenience, show what provision has been made in the bill that would correct any tendency of that sort.
– There is nothing in the bill which would prevent such an occurrence as was referred to by the honorable senator, but I suggest that the possibility of such an occurrence is remote in the extreme. I think that the difficulties of export and of finding markets are such that in the foreseeable future the attractiveness of the export market to the Australian manufacturer will not compare with the attractiveness of his home market to the point of attracting business away from his home market to any export market which might conceivably be uncovered. In any case the constitutional power over exports would be used to prevent a serious situation of this nature developing.
– I regret detaining the committee at this hour, but it will not be for long. I confess at once my inexperience of these matters, but I had an idea that such a commodity as zinc might attract different prices at home and abroad. I have a recollection of recent discussions about exports of steel at a time when the home market was hungry for it and could not be satisfied by home production. While steel was being exported we were importing steel at hugely increased prices. Is there any possibility that trade advantages will dictate an untoward situation in that respect and make it more advantageous for producers to export, even if essential supplies of that sort are not forthcoming at home?
– It is difficult to make a general statement in reply to a query of this sort, as I am sure the honorable senator will appreciate. The strong probability is. that such an occurrence as he has in mind would not be likely to occur.
– It has occurred.
– Do not for one moment believe that I am trying to convey the impression that if one looks around the entire Australian economy he could not somewhere, at some point of time, find that particular circumstance. That is always possible, but I repeat that in the generality of things the strong probability is that it would not occur.
– You would soon correct it.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Animal and vegetable fats and oils.
Barium sulphate (including barytes) and witherite (including calcined witherite).
Canvas and duck and substitutes therefor.
Cotton piece goods (sheeting, &c).
Hand tools (excluding power-driven tools).
Umbrellas, sunshades and parasols.
I am also tabling three other Tariff Board reports on -
Compressors for use with air-conditioning plants.
Tinsmen’s snips and shears.
These do not call for any legislative action. The board’s findings have in both instances been accepted by the Government.
Leader of the Government in the Senate: Tribute.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– The Senate will pardon me for rising at this hour when it knows the purpose that actuates me. I have a very pleasant duty to perform on behalf of the Opposition. By chance, late in the evening, I learned - I am proceeding on the assumption that we are still in the day on which this sitting began - that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) to-day celebrated the tenth anniversary of his swearing-in as Minister for National Development. We of the Opposition feel that the occasion should not be allowed to go unnoticed. Therefore, we take advantage of this opportunity to proffer to him our warmest congratulations upon the honour ‘ it has been for him to occupy that office for so long. The Minister has achieved a very unusual record. It is a tremendous honour for one to be a Minister of the Crown in the National Parliament in any circumstances or for any length of time; but it is a signal honour for one to occupy such a responsible and important office for a period of ten years.
The Minister has another record to his credit in that he walked into the Parliament for the first time after the 1949 election as a fully fledged Minister of the Crown. One of his great defects is that he has never had experience as a back-bencher. I hate to see a flaw of that kind in a person; of such excellence, and I hope that before long the electors will realize that he should have at least a little training in the role of a back-bencher.
I should like to say also that we of the Opposition respect the Minister. He is a tough and competent opponent, but I can say quite truthfully that throughout the years from 1949 till now although he and I and senators on this side of the chamber have fought hard inside and outside this place from time to time, as he will! recall, there has never been one really angry word or any rancour. Throughout the whole of that period we have been able to preserve our mutual self-esteem and self-respect.
Sp with all the cordiality in the world I offer, on behalf of the Opposition, hearty congratulations to the Minister on the birthday that he celebrates to-day. I regret that I cannot add to that the wish that he may have many happy returns, because the period for which he has held office has been a bit too long. However, I should like him to feel that what I say now is said with real sincerity and real cordiality. May I say in conclusion that, despite the rigours and the arduous nature of the work of a Minister, I am delighted to see him looking as fit and as well to-day as he did when he walked into my office and took over from me the portfolio of Social Services. Whatever happens to us politically in the future, I hope that he continues to be as well and to look as well as he does now.
– Mr. President, I take advantage of this opportunity to express publicly to Senator Spooner the congratulations, good wishes and thanks of those who sit behind him. I shall say no more than that now publicly, because during the day honorable senators in their own way have taken advantage of the opportunity to convey personally to Senator Spooner their good wishes.
– Members of the Australian Country Party would like to join in this tribute to the Leader of the Government in this place. As Leader of the Government he has earned the same respect from members of the Country Party as that which he has been accorded by his Liberal colleagues. That respect has been engendered by his interest in the contributions that we of the Country Party try to make to the joint effort. We do wish him many happy returns of the day.
– in reply - It is not easy to say “ Thank you “ to Senator McKenna, Senator Paltridge and Senator Wade who have spoken on behalf of honorable senators generally. You have all paid me a very nice tribute, and I am proud of it. My mind goes back to the day when I came to take over from Senator McKenna in a little room across the corridor from this chamber. That was” a long while ago - in fact, eleven and a half years ago. I was green then - I am still green in many ways - and Senator McKenna helped me, just as he has helped mc throughout the years when help has been needed. That shows that people can be political enemies but still good personal friends. I say to all my friends in the Senate, “ Thank you very much “.
I have no ambition in politics other than to lead in the Senate. I believe that we have yet to see the Senate come to fulness of stature. We have yet between us to evolve ways and means to make the Senate an even more powerful influence than it is to-day in the parliamentary life of the community. All that I ask to be permitted to do is to try to find the formula for doing that in the circumstances in which we are placed because of party alinements in this place. Therein lies the problem. I do not want to administer any other portfolio. I am happy in the portfolio which I now administer, I am happy in the offices *I have in the department, and I am proud of and happy in the task of leading in the Senate. Only one cloud could pass over the horizon; only one thing could happen to mar the perfect picture. But surely that will not happen! I again say to all, “ Thank you very much “.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1.7 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 May 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1961/19610511_senate_23_s19/>.