25th Parliament · 1st Session
Th« PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I should like to ask the Leader of the Government a few simple questions. Does the Minister believe in the Divine injunction: “ Seek ye the truth and the truth will make ye free “? Should the people know the truth concerning matters debated in Parliament? Did the Minister note that in the important “ Voyager “ debate in another place a Labour member, Mr. Benson, followed Mr. Menzies and that his speech received no publicity? Mind you, I do not blame the Press in any way because there could have been reasons for that. Does the Minister agree that the speeches of leaders in all important debates should reach the public? Would it be too expensive to have such speeches printed and distributed throughout Australia to various organisations, parties and individuals? Has the popularising of “ Hansard “ ever been discussed by the Government? Would the Minister kindly provide the Senate with statistics concerning “ Hansard “, such as the number of copies distributed and to whom; the price, singly or in quantity; and whether copies of speeches by leaders could be printed in quantity, and at what price?
– Answering the last of the questions first, I do not know whether such statistics have ever been kept. I shall make inquiries, and if I find that it is possible to let the honorable senator have information on some of the matters about which he inquires I will be pleased to let him have it. I oan assure the honorable senator that this Government has followed a practice which, I believe, has been followed by all Australian Governments. It has set no limits to, and has discouraged in no way, the distribution of “ Hansard “. My own experience as a member of Parliament and as a Minister is that whenever a request is made for copies of “ Hansard “ every effort is made to see that they are provided. Copies of “ Hansard “ go to libraries, schools, trade union organisations, trade organisations and a multipli city of other organisations. It is not and never has been the intention of this Government - nor, 1 repeat, has it been the intention of any previous Government - to place any limitation on the distribution of “ Hansard “.
I think it is very desirable that on important questions at least the speeches made by the leaders of parties, and other important speeches, not necessarily made by leaders, should be read and made as widely known as possible. I just cannot agree with the honorable senator when he says that the speech delivered by Mr. Benson in another place did not receive publicity.
– The speech was probably delivered too late for the Press to give publicity to it.
– In any case, it was my own very strong impression that Mr. Benson’s remarks on the “ Voyager “ report had received very wide and very full publicity throughout the Press of Australia.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Has the Minister seen a letter which was published under the heading of “ Marketing Methods for our Produce Abroad “ in the “ West Australian “ of 23rd September? Will he cause an investigation to be made into the allegations, especially that Australian butter is being mixed with Polish butter and is being sold as Australian butter?
– 1 have seen the letter to which the honorable senator refers I Was perturbed to read that this blending of butter is taking place and that the butter is then sold under the Kangaroo brand. I understand that in some markets of the world blending of butter takes place, but I can see no entitlement for butter from Australia that is blended with butter from other countries being sold under the Kangaroo brand. This same letter refers to the blending of wine. Australian wine is blended with wine from other countries and it is then sold under, the Emu brand. I can see no entitlement for selling sweet wine, which has been blended with wine from another country, under the Australian Emu brand. I am not saying that these allegations are correct. I know nothing about them. I certainly shall refer the question to the Minister for Trade and Industry and ask him to investigate the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. On 26th August, when replying to my question concerning an application from the Interstate Parcel Express Co. Ltd. for a licence to import and operate five DC4 freighter aircraft, the Minister stated that he expected that the matter would be decided in two or three weeks, and that the policies enunciated in the Prime Minister’s letter to the State Premiers on legal issues in respect of aviation matters would not impede this application. I now ask: Did the Prime Minister’s advice to the State Premiers have any influence on the consideration of the application? Has the application been approved?
– The application has nol been finalised as yet. At present it is in the hands of the Attorney-General. I am seeking some information from the AttorneyGeneral but I have not yet received it.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Can he advise when the Government intends to honour its election promise to provide a subsidy that will bring about a balance between the prices of petrol and oil in country areas and the prices in city areas?
– Yes. This is a matter, of course, which has excited the interest of a number of honorable senators, as well it might. I have been advised that it was the intention of my colleague, Senator Sir Walter Cooper, to ask a similar question this morning. Senator Fitzgerald having asked the question, I will take the opportunity to supply the information simultaneously to both honorable senators.
– It is a double barrelled question - one from each side.
– Yes. You cannot complain that I am not versatile. The announced objective of the scheme is to bring about a change in the price of petroleum products other than fuel oil so that nowhere in Australia will the normal price bc more than 4d. a gallon above the level of capital city prices. As stated by my colleague, the Minister for National Development in reply to a question in another place on 16th September, before the Government was in a position to decide the form of the legislation for giving effect to this policy, it was necessary to obtain a considerable amount of information on wholesale and retail prices of petroleum throughout Australia. Not only was this information’not readily available in the industry but also inquiries have revealed a surprising number of anomalies. Good progress has been made, however, and it is expected that final discussions will be held with the industry and with State Governments very shortly. Financial provision has been made for the implementation of the scheme in the current financial year.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Defence, relates to the formation of an Australian instructional corps for the training of Citizen Military Forces similar to that in existence before World War II. I ask the Minister whether he has considered the possibility of establishing an Australian instructional corps from (1) the trained men who have not re-enlisted in the Australian Regular Army or (2) those who have reached the retiring age.
– The difficulty about the establishment of an Australian instructional corps in the present circumstances will be appreciated, I am sure, by. the honorable senator. I underline, for the moment, the words “ in the existing circumstances”. To subtract from the existing forces men suitable for this particular job of training would necessarily subtract from the efficiency of the Army units as they are now established. The honorable senator will, of course, be aware of the Government’s plans, announced in June, for the establishment of an emergency reserve for each of the three arms of the forces. The purpose, of the establishment of this emergency reserve is to make available the opportunity for further service in case of need of those men who formerly had served in any of the three Services. It will depend entirely upon circumstances existing at the time of the formation of this reserve whether it will be possible to make these men available as instructors. That is not, and I emphasise this point to the honorable senator, the prime purpose of the creation of the emergency reserve.
The creation of the emergency reserve is, as 1 am aware he understands, for the purpose of having more men available in case of need. I can only add in answering his question in a general way that all these matters are continually, as I have said repeatedly, under the notice of the Government and will receive a thorough going examination in the near future.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Has the Government received numerous requests from the National Nursing Education Division for assistance in financing nursing research, especially into the serious problem of the wastage of nurses both during and after the completion of their professional training? Is it not time for the Government to recognise some responsibility for research in this field, having regard to the effects of the shortage of nurses on the standard of nursing care in Australia? What is the Government’s attitude to these requests?
– It is true that we have received several requests for assistance in this research project. They have been directed to me as Minister for Health, but I think it proper that I should inform the Senate that, in the field of research and grants to research projects, the Prime Minister accepts responsibility. These matters have been referred to him. I do. not feel at liberty to say what his attitude will be, because I might make an incorrect assumption. However, my own attitude is that nursing is directly a State responsibility. As I understand, this project was undertaken by State interests, without any reference whatever to Commonwealth participation. It has gone some way along the line and is now in need of further financial assistance. It is appropriate to suggest to the people who have undertaken the research which I concede is very valuable to the profession, that they might well explore ways and means of continuing their project under the same aegis as that under which they commenced it.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the Australian Government contributes to the capital of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development? Is the International Bank financing the construction of a dam on the Indus River in Pakistan, costing in the vicinity of £60 per acre foot of water conserved? Has the Western Australian Government had an application before the Commonwealth Government for assistance to complete the construction of the Ord River dam in the northern part of Australia? Is it a fact that the cost of this dam, per acre foot of water conserved, will be less than £5? In view of these considerations, when can the Western Australian Government expect a favourable reply from the Commonwealth Government?
– We arc contributing capital to the International Bank, and I understand that the Bank is assisting in the financing of the Indus waters scheme. I am unaware of the cost of that scheme in terms of each acre foot of water conserved, but I am prepared to accept the figure which the honorable senator has mentioned. I am sure the Pakistan Government and other authorities interested in the scheme would wish to secure it at the cost of the Ord River scheme, which the honorable senator states is much lower. The other portions of the question relate to matters which are for the Treasurer himself to decide. I ask the honorable senator to put those on the notice paper, and I will try to obtain an answer for him.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. During recent years I have asked his distinguished and most pleasant predecessor several questions relating to the exclusive use of Australian motor cars by Australian Government instrumentalities abroad, but apparently he was not very enthusiastic about the exportation of this most valuable Australian product. I now ask the Minister: Is he aware that Holden motor cars are now being fully assembled in the Philippines, Indonesia, South Africa and New Zealand, that the majority of these cars are left hand drive specials and that they do not present any difficulties in regard to servicing? Is the Minister aware also that 60,000 Holden motor cars have been shipped to 60 export markets, in addition to regular shipments to New Guinea, Papua and the Solomon Islands? As Japanese car manufacturers are making an all-out drive to capture trade in Australia and to defeat the Australian product in some of our new-found markets, will the Government show that it has faith, hope and charity so far as the Australian product is concerned, and issue a directive that Australian Government instrumentalities abroad shall use exclusively Australian-made motor cars for all official purposes?
– Much of the information provided by the honorable senator is, of course, well known to me. I note with the same pleasure as he does the expansion of the motor car industry in Australia and its subsequent development to assembly point - and, I am told, beyond that - in parts of the world. This is a matter of great encouragement to the Australian motor car industry and to all Australians. ) have noticed, of course, the quite striking increase in the export of Australianmanufactured and Australian-assembled cars to countries in the Asian area.
Frankly, J was not aware that the honorable senator had pursued this question with my predecessor. I do not know, for example, what is the policy of the Department of External Affairs in matters of this nature. J can envisage - as I think the honorable senator also can envisage - that there would be some occasions when it would be diplomatically advantageous to purchase a car of local manufacture at some location where we had a diplomatic post. However, I shall not pursue the matter further now except to say that, as the honorable senator has raised the question, L shall certainly inquire whether there is a general policy on this matter and. if so, how it operates. I shall be pleased to give the honorable senator any information that I may obtain.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Is the Minister aware that four young men uncharitably, I believe, described as deserters from the United States aircraft carrier “ Enterprise “ have been picked up on the north coast of New South Wales? Was their apprehension the work of Commonwealth officers? If so does not the Minister think that the officers could have been better employed hunting out some of the other unwanted and illegal immigrants now in Australia?
– There is no doubt that these sailors were picked up. That is common knowledge so the answer to the first question asked by the honorable senator is “ Yes.” As to the remainder of the question, I do not think anybody would deny that there is a certain responsibility on the Government in relation to anybody who is in Australia illegally. Australia very properly carries out the normal function of arresting illegal immigrants. In this case, the authorities have an added responsibility because the men who were apprehended were members of the crew of the United States aircraft carrier which was visiting Sydney. I think the honorable senator has given all the circumstances of this particular case a wrong twist by suggesting that Australian officers should not be carrying out their normal duties and that they should simply ignore the fact that certain American sailors of the United States Navy were illegally in Australia and concentrate on some other normal function. The law does not operate in that way. Whenever officers of the relevant Commonwealth Departments receive information that there are persons illegally in Australia, they have an obligation to arrest them and put into action the normal processes of the law. That was done in this case and I do not think it should attract any adverse criticism. Officers of the Department concerned carried out the normal processes of the law.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Health by reminding him that some months ago I directed the Minister’s attention to an epidemic of German measles in the United States of America and other countries overseas. I stated then that, in the general pattern of past years, a similar epidemic might be expected in Australia. Has the Minister seen in the Press today that there is an unusually large number of cases of German measles in Canberra? Due to the dangers inherent in this disease to the unborn children of pregnant women who may contract the disease, will the Minister inform the Senate whether there are any indications that the present outbreak is general throughout all States or whether It is confined to Canberra?In any case, are sufficient supplies of vaccine available to deal with any such outbreak that might occur?
– I have seen the report and, anticipating a question on this matter, 1 asked the Director-General of Health to give me an authoritative statement on it. This statement has not been made available to me yet because of the research involved, but I shall take steps to put it in the honorable senator’s hands as soon as I get it.
– Has the Mini ster for Health seen a report from the British Home Office that last July it banned the importation of some plastic toys from Hong Kong after a discovery that some had more than 10 times the safe lead content? Has the Minister seen a statement that the British Home Office has informed the importers that all plastic toys brought into Britain in future should have the lowest possible lead content and that it should not in any circumstances exceed 250 parts a million? Has the Australian Government placed any maximum limit on the lead content of toys imported from Asian countries for use by Australian children? If not will the Minister make a close examination of the British report to see what can be done in this direction to protect the health of young Australian children?
– The lead content of toys presents a very complex problem. Senator McClelland asked me a couple of days ago whether 1 had seen the report. I had not seen it but I have endeavoured to get it. However, at this point of time it has not been made available to me. I have asked that it be obtained with the least possible delay. After I have read and studied it, I shall certainly write to the honorable senator and give him our considered opinion on it.
I should like the honorable senator to be assured, however, that an examination is currently being made of the question of controlling the lead content of toys. This is a difficult matter, because it affects not only the importer but also the local manufacturer. I am sorry to say that our examination has not yet been completed. As soon as it is, I shall make the result available to the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Government has given a 50 per cent, drilling subsidy to companies searching for oil in Australia? Has this contributed largely to the finding of oil and gas? In view of the large quantities of gas that have been located in the past two years, can the Minister give me an assurance that the Department of National Development and/or the Government will see that a comprehensive plan is prepared to provide adequate piping facilities for the transport of gas already found and for additional quantities which will surely be found in the next year or so?
– I think it is now quite generally accepted throughout the Commonwealth - indeed throughout the world - that the policies pursued by the Commonwealth Government in respect of support of drilling operations by oil companies have had a stimulating and successful effect upon the industry. Indeed, I think it is safe to say that without the practical interest shown by the Government much of the exploration which has been successfully undertaken would not have been undertaken. The honorable senator asks me now whether I can give him an assurance on behalf of the Minister as to the Commonwealth’s participation in a programme for the provision of pipes for carrying gas. He will appreciate, of course, that I cannot give that assurance. This is a matter of policy.I shall certainly refer the question to my colleague, Mr. Fairbairn. I have no doubt that he will, as in the past, look at such matters with the greatest sympathy.I repeat that this is a matter of policy for consideration by the Government. Any decision can be announced only by the Minister for National Development.
(Question No. 201.)
Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Acting Treasurer has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
After the report is received the normal processes connected with consideration by the Government and printing of the report will apply. The report will be released as soon as possible thereafter.
(Question No. 264.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following information -
(Question No. 228.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
What are the prospects of using nuclear power to exploit the mineral wealth of the north of Australia?
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer -
The possibility of using nuclear power in the north for the mineral industry has been examined on a number of occasions. One difficulty is its high capital cost. However, both capital and operating costs for nuclear power stations are decreasing as more plants are built and operated overseas.
The use of nuclear power for large-scale smelting and refining purposes will depend on the location and type of product and on the cost of alternate’ sources of power. In general terms it can be said that the outlook has improved significantly in recent years and that for large-scale operations nuclear power stations come seriously into consideration.
The Australian Atomic Energy Commission, in co-operation with my Department, is continuously investigating such possibilities.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to -
That Government business take precedence of General Business after 8 p.m. this sitting with the exception General Business, Notices of Motion Nos. 2 to 5.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr. President, the purpose of this Bill is to amend the Post and Telegraph Rates Act to give effect to proposed changes in certain Post Office charges. The changes involve the introduction of a 30 per cent, discount on the normal postage for the delivery of articles under the posting scheme commonly known as the householder delivery service and the adjustment of certain telegram rates. Before looking at these particular matters 1 would like to make some comments about the Government’s general review of Post Office charges, the result of which was announced with the presentation of the Commonwealth Budget for 1964-65.
The last major increase in Post Office charges was in October 1959. In the five years since then there has been a substantial increase in Departmental costs. With a full time staff of some 90,000 employees, even minor alterations in salaries and wages and general conditions of employment have a substantial effect on the Post Office’s wages bill. Since 1959 there has been a number of decisions taken by the wage authorities which have resulted in higher wage costs. Increases of this nature are beyond the Department’s control. Progressive increases in staffing costs and prices of materials and supplies flowing directly and indirectly from these decisions, have added about £11.5 million to the 1963-64 operating expenditure, as compared with 1959 levels. It is expected that the most recent basic wage decision will add a further £7 million a year to costs, including £5.5 million on the operating side.
The duty of any undertaking, public or private, is to endeavour at all times, by increasing efficiency, to absorb as much as possible of higher costs before considering increases - in the charges for its services. The Post Office is continually exploring ways and means of improving its efficiency and one indication of the results of its efforts is the fact that during the last five years business has risen by 40 per cent., but the administrative, operational and maintenance staff have risen by only 4 per cent. However, improvements in productivity and efficiency and the greatest practicable use of mechanisation have not been sufficient to absorb all the inescapable extra costs, and overall operating losses were shown in 1962- 63 and 1963-64. With existing charges for services, a further loss would be inevitable for 1964-65. The Government does not consider that the Post Office, as a business undertaking, should continue to operate with recurring losses. It considers that the users of the service should provide sufficient revenue to meet the cost of Post Office operations, rather than to have them financed from other sources by the community as a whole. With current costs it is impossible for the Post Office to continue to operate on a sound financial basis at the existing level of charges.
The extension of telephone facilities is a very costly business. As each new subscriber’s service is added io the network, it involves much more than the simple connection of a telephone to a pair of wires provided in a subscriber’s premises. With a few exceptions each subscriber requires his own separate pair of wires all the way to his suburban or local exchange. Then each subscriber must be able to speak with any other subscriber, not only in the same local area, or town, city or country, but throughout Australia, or if he so desires, the world. As the network extends, an increasing amount of facilities is required by way of cables, junctions and exchange switching plant to ensure that the subscribers may be suitably connected to each other. Today to provide all the facilities which. I have just mentioned, it costs the Post Office on the average about £570 for each additional subscriber added to the telephone network. This figure is arrived at by relating the net increases in investment in telephone plant and equipment for the year with the increased number of telephone subscribers in the same year.
In 1963-64 the Post Office spent £68.5 million on capital works. The Government intends to allocate £77 million in 1964-65, an increase of £8.5 million - 12 per cent, higher than last year’s record expenditure. Of this amount, £70 million will be devoted to the extension of the telephone network and the connection of new subscribers. It is estimated that this will enable the connection of a record number of more than 115,000 new services. In addition it is expected that 80,000 services which are disconnected after cancellation will be reconnected. A further estimated 115,000 services which customers have relinquished will be re-allocated before disconnection, giving a total record figure of 310,000 applications satisfied during the year.
As 1 indicated previously, the Government considers that the people who have telephones and who already get the maximum benefits from the services should provide sufficient revenue to cover the normal expenses that any business undertaking sustains. These include the actual operating costs, provision for depreciation of plant, and some allowance for a reasonable return on the capital that the undertaking is provided with. This is particularly so when, in the case of the Post Office, such a large investment is involved each year. The Post Office now receives the largest single grant of any public utility - Commonwealth or State - for its capital works programme. In the last three financial years the telephone service has incurred financial losses totalling some £5 million. Unless existing charges are increased, therefore, the telephone service would show further losses in J 964-65.
The Government has therefore reviewed the existing tariffs. It has been decided that the local call rate of 4d. should remain unchanged. It has also decided to secure the additional revenue by increasing the connection fees and rentals for telephones and also for the various additional services and facilities that are available to all subscribers. At the same time the tariffstructure has been simplified. The new charges will bring rentals more into line with the inescapable annual costs associated with providing and operating the services.
Under the new scale of basic rentals for telephones, there will be only three main rental groups, namely:
The lower rental for a residential service compared with business services has been abolished. The cheaper rental dates from the 1930s when the government of the day introduced the concession in aneffort to stimulate the demand for telephones. Today there is a high level of demand for new services, all of which necessitate heavy expenditure in additional plant and equipment. The average cost of providing a subscriber with a basic telephone service and access to his local exchange is substantially the same for business and resident users and it is considered that there should not be any distinction between these services.
Other features of the proposed rentals are:
Charges for some miscellaneous subscribers’ facilities, such as extension telephones, cord and cordless switchboards, intercommunication units, leased coin attachments, portable services, alarm bells, etc., will be varied and rationalised to bring the charges into line with present-day costs generally.
The existing telephone connection fee of £10 was introduced in 1956 so that new subscribers would make some contribution to the high costs of adding services to the telephone network. It has been decided to increase this fee to £15. Some adjustments will also be made in the charges for leased private telephone and telegraph lines which are rented largely by the business community for both short and long distance requirements. Minor adjustments are also envisaged for trunk line fees with a reduction in the number of charging steps. As is customary, the proposed telephone charges will be introduced by telephone regulation or executive decision, but 1 have taken the opportunity of outlining them in some detail for the benefit of honorable senators in order that the Senate may be properly informed on the Government’s proposals. They will bring in about £8.5 million in 1 964-65 and £9.5 million in a full year. No change is necessary in the basic postage rate of 5d. which was introduced in 1959 in conjunction with the all up air mail arrangements for most of the ordinary letter class mail. Variations are proposed, however, in the rates or fees for three special postal facilities. In the main they will result in reductions in the amounts paid by the public for these services.
Clause 3 of the Bill covers a proposal to introduce a discount of 30 per cent, on the ordinary postage rate for the householder delivery service, by which postal articles are delivered to every address in an area. They are addressed to the householder rather than to a specific address. It is expected that the increased business flowing from the lower charges will more than offset the reduction in the rates. The new rates will adequately cover existing and foreseeable increases in delivery costs.
The postal regulations are being amended to vary the fees for the registered post and the cash on delivery service. The existing sliding scales of fees for these two services will be replaced by flat rate fees of 2s. and 3s. respectively. The maximum compensation cover on such articles will remain at £50. The present minimum fee for registered articles is 2s. so that no member of the public will pay more for this service. The cash on delivery fees vary with the amount to be collected on behalf of the sender. At present the fees range from a minimum of 2s. 9d. up to 3s. 6d. for delivery of articles valued up to £2. Higher fees arc paid where the value exceeds £2. The new flat rate of 3s. will result in the existing charges on about 97 per cent, of cash on delivery articles being either reduced or remaining unchanged.
The Bill also provides for increases in certain telegram rates. Under the present rates, ordinary telegrams cost 2s. 9d. for twelve words within a radius of fifteen miles, and 3s. beyond that distance. The existing basic rates fortelegrams were fixed in 1956. It is proposed to introduce a flat rate charge of 3s. for twelve words, regardless of distance. It should be noted that over 80 per cent, of the traffic now handled is for destinations beyond fifteen miles of the office of lodgment. It is expected that the extra revenue will amount to about £30,000 in 1964-65 and £40,000 in a full year.
It is proposed that the new charges will apply from the 1st October 1964. The adjustments have been carefully considered by the Government and we believe that the new rates represent reasonable charges for the services which are available in present day conditions. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a first time.
– I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr. President, the Bill which I am introducing seeks to amend the licensing provisions for radio and television sets as currently provided for in the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1963. The significant changes proposed in this Bill seek to give effect tothe Government’s intention of increasing the licence fees for television sets and of introducing a combined receiving licence for families who possess broadcast and television sets ordinarily kept at the same address. As indicated by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his Budget Speech, the collection of the excise duties on television picture tubes has been subject to serious administrative and legal difficulties. The Government has decided, therefore, to forgo the £6 excise duty on each television tube and to increase the basic fee for a television receiver licence by £1. The proposed fee which will apply for a television viewer’s, a hirer’s or a lodging house licence will be £6. The cost of a concession licence for pensioners will rise to £1 10s. representing, as at present, a quarter of the normal fee as laid down in the Broadcasting and Television Act. This quarter rate concessional payment by pensioners was approved by Parliament when television viewers’ licences were introduced in 1957.
The increase of £1 in the licence fee is not directed towards securing an overall increase in Commonwealth revenue. The additional revenue of £1,725,000 during 1964-65 from this measure is estimated to be the same as the revenue which the Government intends to forgo with the abolition of the excise duty on the picture tubes. It will result, however, in sufficient revenue being derived from those people who have television receivers to meet the cost of the national television service rather than have it financed by the community generally. The Government expects that the effect of the abolition of the excise duty will be passed on. to the purchasers of television sets.
In presenting this Bill I should also mention that the present licence fees have remained unchanged since their introduction in 1956-57. Since then the expenditure on the national television service has increased considerably due to the effects of wage rises and to the progressive expansion of the service. The yearly cash expenditure incurred in the operation of the service has risen from about £920,000 in 1956-57 to an estimated £9,173,000 in 1964-65. The Government has incurred substantial expenditure in the establishment of the national television transmitting stations as part of the planned extension of the national television facilities throughout Australia - plans which by the end of 1966 will have brought television to over 90 per cent, of our population. This year, it is also expected that £3,688,000 will be spent on the establishment of new television stations, and on the improvement of stations which are already operating.
Clause 6 of the Bill seeks to introduce a combined receiving licence which will be issued to cover those cases where broadcast and television sets are in the possession of a family and are ordinarily kept at the same address. Today something like 62 per cent, of Australian homes have licensed television receivers and, as most of these also have broadcast sets, it has been decided, following repeated requests from the public, to introduce a single combined licence to simplify the licensing system generally and, at the same time, give a reduction in the combined fee as compared with the total fee for separate licences.
A person who has both broadcast and television sets will be required to take out a combined receiving licence for £8 10s. a year, which is 5s. lower than the cost of separate broadcast and television licences. The consessional payment by pensioners who take out a combined receiving licence will be £2 a year.
Because of the administrative procedures involved, the combined receiving licence will not be available until early next year. The provisions of the Bill concerned with the new form of licence are intended to operate from a date to be proclaimed. Meanwhile, broadcast listener’s or television viewer’s licences due for renewal must, of course, be renewed on the duc dates. To facilitate the orderly development of the combined licence system, it is proposed to issue the combined licence to holders of both broadcast listener’s and television viewer’s licences as their television viewer’s licence becomes due for renewal. At the time of issue of the combined- receiving licence, an appropriate credit will be allowed for the unexpired portion of the then current broadcast listener’s licence which will be surrendered to the departmental officer. Where the licences for broadcast and television sets at the same address are held by different members of the family, provision is being made for the issue of the combined receiving licence subject to the consent of the holder of the licence to be surrendered. Persons who have broadcast sets and only a broadcast listener’s licence and who after the proclamation of these proposed amendments acquire a television set would be required to obtain a combined receiving licence.
While it is intended that it will be compulsory for a person possessing both broadcast and television sets to take out a combined receiving licence, provision has been made for separate broadcast listener’s and television viewer’s licences to be retained for issue to those who possess only one type of receiver. The only variation in the conditions governing the grant of these licences is that a person who applies for the grant or renewal of a television viewer’s licence shall bc required to sign a statement to the effect that to the best of his knowledge neither he nor a member of his family possesses a broadcast receiver of any kind, or if there is a broadcast receiver at the address, a member of his family is the holder of a broadcast listener’s licence in respect of the address concerned. The arrangement proposed should act as a deterrent to the evasion of payment of licence fees for transistor and other portable type broadcast receivers by persons who hold a television viewer’s licence only. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator OByrne’ adjourned.
Debate resumed from 22nd September (vide page 644), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the Bill be now read a second time..
.- When the debate was adjourned. 1 had commented that each State in the Commonwealth had several road construction authorities. In each State, there is a main roads authority, usually termed the Main Roads Department. The city councils are road constructing authorities and so also arc the town councils. All the shires throughout the Commonwealth construct roads. In the past, all these authorities have done very important work in providing the population with good, suitable or trafficable roads.
We are now well out of the horse and buggy era. Therefore there is a greater demand today for more good roads. This is due, of course, to the large number of motor vehicles which are using the roads today. A motor vehicle requires a good road to give the best service and the increasing use of motor vehicles constitutes a compelling force behind road construction. A study of the number of motor vehicles on the Queensland roads at present indicates how the use of motor vehicles is increasing generally in every State, lt will be admitted that the motor car is an integral part of our economy and our social life. In existing circumstances, the motor vehicle is something we cannot do without.
In Queensland in 1954 there were 284,207 motor vehicles on the roads. At the end of last year this number had increased to 462,831, an increase of 178.624 in nine years. I think all will acknowledge that a further marked increase can bc expected. Of course, ‘some roads do not cost very much. In the shires, roads are formed and spread with gravel which is then rolled and watered. The farmers and others use such roads for their personal convenience and to transport their produce to railheads or to some place where their goods can be sold.
In Queensland there are 245 miles of concrete roads. I understand that these are the most costly roads to construct. We have 10,771 miles of paved sealed roads and 19,850 miles of paved unsealed roads. Unpaved roads total 41,265 miles and the total length of roads in Queensland is 72,131 miles. If a genuine endeavour were made to bring all the roads to a good trafficable standard, the cost would be tremendous and far beyond the capacity of the people of Queensland. Brisbane has the largest municipal area in Australia but it has only 79 miles of concrete roads. In the other cities and towns of Queensland there are 18 miles of concrete .roads. In the shires, there are 148 miles of concrete roads. Brisbane has 939 miles of paved and sealed roads and 585 miles of paved and unsealed roads. There are 398 miles of roads which are just made and paved and left in that condition. In the cities and towns of Queensland, there are 1,602 miles of paved and sealed roads and 249 miles of paved and unsealed roads. In addition, there are 227 miles of road unpaved. The position in the shires does not seem to be so good. They have 8,230 miles of paved and scaled roads, 19,016 miles of paved and unsealed roads and 40,640 miles of unpaved roads. This makes a total of 72,131 miles. lt happens that Queensland is rather fortunate in respect of the construction of roads, lt has ample materials available and a fair amount of machinery and it has the men with the capacity to build roads. But there is a shortage of the necessary money to carry out the work. We come now to the question whether the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads is necessary. Of course, the States have been dabbling in the work of road construction ever since the development of Australia commenced. Up to 1927, the main roads departments used loan funds raised by the States to construct roads. If one examines the cost of those roads and compares it with the cost today, one asks why the authorities did not construct thousands of miles more of roads in that period.
When dealing with the question whether it is necessary to have the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, one notes that the States have had functions in respect of road construction over the years and have a wealth of information relating to it. It is their information. If the Bill is passed, the Bureau will be established and its officers will have the right to collect information, 1 should say. from main roads departments of the States, and from shire, town and city councils. I believe that there should be a central office somewhere in the Commonwealth which has information about where roads have been constructed, the type of roads that have been constructed, and their probable life. We are reaching a stage where new techniques are being observed in road construction. Because of the numerous accidents that are constantly occurring on roads, it is necessary for a different type of curve to be constructed. Some grades have to be improved. If this Bureau is established, there can bc an exchange of information between it and State authorities.
Of course, there will be bottlenecks in cities. As a matter of fact, they exist in sonic cities already. These will have to be overcome in some way. On the picture as I see it, in Sydney and in Brisbane on occasions, if these bottlenecks continue on the existing roads it will not be possible for traffic to move on them at any fast speed. lt will be a very costly process indeed to relieve the bottlenecks that have already occurred. There are dangerous intersections. These matters must be considered by some authority and information must be obtained about them.
A little while ago I mentioned finance. Until 1927 the States had to provide their own loan funds by their own endeavours. Since the formation of the Australian Loan Council, the States have received allocations from loan funds raised by the Commonwealth. When loans are made available to them, the States are responsible for the payment of interest and the repayment of the loans. The States have to meet the cost of their road construction. I imagine that the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will have an office which will be an adjunct of the Department of Works or the Department of the Interior, and that there will be an officer in charge, who will have the qualifications of a civil engineer and who probably will have had administrative experience. He will be required to do other work with other departments. I could not imagine him going into the job immediately and being required to give the whole of his time to this service. He will also require a secretary who will have to correspond with State authorities about the roads they have constructed or propose to construct, and about many other matters relating to motor traffic and the use of roads generally. Somebody will be required in the office to deal with people who call there for various reasons. There will not be a very large staff. The Bill provides that the Bureau will get information from the States. It will process that information to suit its own requirements? It will have to fix a goal. It must have an objective and work towards the objective, so that it can give the service that will be required of it. It will not be costly.
I think that we have reached a stage in our development when there should be one central office which will have all the knowledge and information that are required by parliaments, and by engineers engaged in the shires, towns and cities of the Commonwealth, and which will know everything that is to be known about roads and their construction. There was a complaint about the lack of a requirement for a report to be made by the Bureau to the Parliament. One would imagine that we were to he deprived of some important information, but it is not unusual for a bill to be without that requirement. A passage in yesterday’s Melbourne “ Age “ reads -
The Apprenticeship Commission of Victoria in ils annual report strongly criticised the effect of federal awards on apprenticeship training in Victoria.
Under the act that operates in Victoria, the Apprenticeship Commission does furnish a report to the Victorian Parliament. Under the Queensland Apprentices and Minors Act no report whatever is furnished to the Queensland Parliament. It is not unusual to find a bill of this nature that does not contain a requirement to furnish a report to the Parliament.
There is an expanding need for the construction of more and better roads. Motor cars will be used to a greater extent than at present for the transport of passengers and for general haulage purposes. If the Bureau is able to do some good as regards the supply of technical information to the various road constructing authorities in the Commonwealth, it will be worth while. If it can do anything at all to reduce the number of fatal accidents that are occurring currently on roads throughout the Commonwealth, it will be worth every penny spent on its establishment and maintenance.
– In the thin condition of the Senate, 1 feel somewhat reluctant to speak and engage the attention of senators who arc here. Therefore, I rather regard what I am about to say as something which a senator of the United States of America would call speaking for the record. I do not rise to support the amendment moved by the Opposition. I rise to support the Bill with some reluctance. Having said that, I shall have to make my attitude clear to honorable senators who are present in the chamber. The ostensible reason for the creation of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads is to enable the Ministry from time to time to receive accurate information in relation to the submissions that are placed before it by the various State Ministers in charge of transport when they meet in Canberra accompanied by the chairmen and executive officers of the various State road building authorities. The Commonwealth must bc in a position to examine and scrutinise the submissions that are made to it by the States in their quest for the funds which the Commonwealth gathers. I accept that. I also accept the view that the Commonwealth must have some centre of expertise where it can examine problems associated with standards, particularly those that are related to the defence requirements of the Commonwealth Government, because the .road network in Australia is of paramount importance to the defence of this continent.
Having said that, I am left with the uneasy feeling that these objectives could have been achieved without establishing a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. I remember a distinguished public servant who came to serve in Australia but who after a few years returned to the British Treasury. When I asked him on the eve of his departure why he was returning to the British Treasury from Australia, where his great administrative capacity would have been of substantial value and importance, he said he believed that effective and efficient administration could be achieved only if it were decentralised and if the decentralised centres of administration had a high degree of autonomy. He added that during the few years in which he was stationed at Canberra the position was quite the reverse and that the financial power of the Government was being used at the Public Service level to extend the tentacles of the Commonwealth Government into every element of administration in the States.
I know of my own personal knowledge that as far back as 1951 there has been a constant pursuit within the Department of Shipping and Transport for the establishment of a Bureau of Roads. I have the gravest fears that within the next ten years the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will grow into a monster, notwithstanding that there is embedded in the Bill a clause which provides that the Bureau cannot expand except with the consent of the Minister. Notwithstanding that very small check to the capacity of the Bureau to grow, I prophesy that within ten years this organisation will be sending out instructions to the State authorities as to how they are to make roads, where they are to make them, and what standards shall be observed in the material used for roads and bridges.
– That does not say much for the efficiency of the Government.
– I think that will be so irrespective of which Government is in office. A characteristic of any bureau in the Commonwealth sector is that once )’OU establish it, it grows like a chemical cell by splitting and multiplying. It becomes a cancerous growth which eventually begins to overbear State instrumentalities and to inhibit their capacities. All the technical efficiencies of nearly every aspect of Australian administrative and political life reside in the States, not in the Commonwealth. I hope Senator Dittmer, who is trying to interject, will agree with me when I say that the effective work that is done in the medical schools is under the complete control of the States. The effective control of ports and the engineers who are capable of handling port facilities are to be found in the States. When it comes to a question of roads, the only competent engineers are to be found in the States.
To get back to the medical sphere, I heard an interesting story just recently. I was talking to a professor at one of our great Australian universities. We were discussing the problem that confronts the dean of a scientific faculty when he has to make up his mind whether a prospective scientist who has been under his training for some years should be passed or rejected. He told me of a particular instance in which he decided after a great deal of heart searching to allow a young fellow through so that he could obtain his degree. Being an ambitious young man, this fellow decided that he would not stay in the State. He moved to Canberra where he attached himself to the Australian National University, which seems to attract to itself most of the third rate academics of one kind or another. Having surveyed the scene at the Australian National University and the opportunities which exist in the Commonwealth Public Service, he joined the Public Service. Within two and a half years, this dean of a scientific faculty in a great universtiy was getting instructions from his erstwhile student who was sitting here in Canberra behind a big polished desk. He told me in a half humorous sort of way that the greatest mistake he had ever made in his life was to pass that young fellow. He said: “ I should have failed him “. Canberra seems to have the quality of attracting those who tend not to’ be competent but to be ambitious.
Where will the Bureau of Roads get its staff? I know where it will get its staff. Immediately it will set down conditions that will enable it to siphon staff from the road constructing authorities in the States. When the Bureau wants quantity surveyors, it will go to the roadmaking agencies in the States. When it wants engineers, it will get them from the roadmaking authorities in the States.
– It could go outside Australia for them.
– It will not do that. To do that would not conform to the pattern. When it wants draftsmen, it will go to the State road constructing authorities. The great problem which confronts the road constructing authorities in the States is to get enough draftsmen to produce drawings for roads, bridges and culverts. As inevitably as night must fall this new Bureau of Roads will begin to siphon off from the States competent engineers, quantity surveyors, draftsmen and testers of one sort or another. As long as I am a senator and as long as I have breath in my body I shall watch the new Commonwealth Bureau of Roads with the greatest interest. I am sure it will have the characteristic of a great big lump of flour and water with the power of yeast added to it and that eventually we will see this great incubus standing over the efficient road constructing authorities in the States.
Let me say for the benefit of Senator Dittmer, who is still trying to interrupt me, that earlier this year or perhaps last year I was interested in the alleged crack-up of the beef roads in north Queensland, lt was stated in the Press that a great delegation from the Australian Labour Party was going up to Queensland to examine the faulty roads that had been built by the State instrumentality in Queensland, and the holes in which trucks were going to be lost. 1 repeat that these great surveyors who believe in a centralised Bureau of Roads - that is what they have been advocating here and in another place - went up to see the bad road which runs from Normanton out towards the boundary of the Northern Territory and which it was said had holes that trucks were falling into.
– Senator Dittmer was there.
– Yes, Senator Dittmer was there. Then suddenly, even though I searched the pages of the newspapers, I could find no reference to this great new expedition by modern Leichhardts who were going up to discover a great inland sea. I was interested in ascertaining why they suddenly lost interest in the Queensland beef roads. I discovered, of course, that the roads which had cracked up were roads in the Northern Territory which had been constructed by the Commonwealth Department of Works. That is why there has been no further references in either the Senate or another place to the incapacity of the States to carry out their own road constructing programmes. It seems to me that the only places where there are bad roads arc where the Commonwealth is constructing them, and that where there are goods roads the States have constructed them.
On the basis that the Commonwealth needs expert information for its own purposes I am prepared to support the. proposal to establish the Bureau of Roads, but if ever I discover that the Bureau is preempting the rights of the States in their proper function to construct roads within the States, I shall propose in the Senate at the drop of a hat a matter of urgent publicimportance with a view to having the position examined. For the purpose of this particular exercise I support the Bill and reject the amendments.
.- Senator Cormack, in saying that he rejected the amendments, was under- a misapprehension because no amendment has yet been moved. For the sake of the record I inform him that amendments will be moved at the committee stage and I hope that the honorable senator will participate in the debate then because the amendments will deal with the objections that we on this side of the chamber have to parts of this Bill. Speaking generally, I note that the purpose of the Bill is to provide for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. That is a very good concept. There is no doubt in my mind, and in the minds of people throughout Australia, of the great need for such a Bureau.
The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) apparently realised the public interest in the matter that we are discussing, because he said in his policy speech -
Many people and organisations have advocated the establishment of a national roads authority to provide a focal point for the planning and development of a comprehensive system and to help in co-ordinating the activities of Commonwealth and State Governments in the roads field. Our own study suggests that this is desirable. We will helpfully discuss wilh the States the desirability of establishing such an authority.
It is apparent from the fact that the Prime Minister referred to the matter in his policy speech that he recognised the great desire of people throughout Australia who had directed their attention to the vast problem of roads, for Federal action to be taken and for the establishment of an organisation with teeth in it to plan and develop a comprehensive roads system.
The impression created by the statement in the policy speech has not been borne out, but so far as it goes the Bill indicates that the Government is moving along the way. The Prime Minister stated that the Commonwealth would - . . helpfully discuss with the States tho desirability of establishing such an authority. The nation would benefit from a thorough-going survey -
– That is what the Opposition has been saying for the last 30 years.
– That is right. Tho Prime Minister continued -
The nation would benefit from a thorough-going survey and appraisal of the existing roads system and of foreseeable road requirements.
Throughout the whole history of roads in this country there has been a great lack of co-ordination between the various in; strumentalities concerned with roads. The Commonwealth is becoming more and more involved in the provision of money for the States. In turn, the States are shouldering responsibilities in connection with a rapidly developing population. After all, as a part of Commonwealth Government policy, more than 100,000 people are arriving in the States from overseas each year. A small proportion of them go to Commonwealth Territories, such as the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, but the overwhelming majority of new settlers go to the States.
In addition to all the other responsibilities which the States have, they must provide additional schools, more hospital accommodation and a multitude of other services to meet the needs of the new settlers. At the same time, there is the problem of land development, or real estate development, on the fringes of the cities. The increasing number of cars using the highways in the various States also is posing a problem. Local government authorities face a big responsibility because of the growing traffic problem within built up areas. Senator Cohen stated in his speech on this Bill that the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities had made a number of surveys of the needs of the nation in the development of roads. He went on to say -
It appears from a survey conducted by N.A.A.S.R.A. in 1962 that over the next five years there will bc a deficiency of £431 million in capital, and from a survey made by Mr. R. D. Munro, Senior Lecturer in the School of Traffic Engineering in the University of New South Wales, over a period of 20 years there will be a deficiency of capital amounting to £2,200 million.
When we speak of such tremendously high sums it drives home the vastness of the problem that the Bureau will have to tackle. The setting up of an authority such as this is desirable even if it is only a step towards greater things. The Bureau has been described as toothless. 1 think that it has been rendered toothless by the provision in the Bill that it is to be only an advisory body.
The Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) stated that it had been advocated that a Commonwealth body to deal with roads should be given responsibility for the planning, construction and maintenance of major roads in Australia. The Government has not taken a long range view. It has not taken what I believe is the practical view in this matter and has not incorporated in the Bill provision for the functions of the Bureau to be extended so that they might include the planning, construction and maintenance of major roads in Australia. The various road authorities throughout Australia all have been seeking in their own field the appointment of a body of this kind. There are shortcomings in the Bill, and for that reason it will be a disappointment to many people who expected that the Bureau would have a wider field of activity and that machinery would be provided to enable it to produce something concrete rather than merely ideas, suggestions or advice which will be the exclusive property of the Minister.
I had the fortunate experience to serve on the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety with some of my colleagues in this chamber, including Senator Anderson, Senator Wade, my good friend Senator Drury, and former Senator Sheehan. Our primary purpose was to try to find out why so many people were being killed on the roads and we found that two main factors contributed to road accidents. We found that most accidents were caused by the human element, but that a big contributing factor was the condition of the roads.
We had the good fortune to have evidence presented to us by Professor Orchard of the Institute of Traffic and Highway Research of the University of New South Wales. It was very satisfying for the members of the Committee to know that an organisation has been established in that University for the purpose of providing a nucleus of trained and qualified people to study the problems of highway engineering. Professor Orchard spoke of the necessity for a highways research organisation. He referred to the difference between the requirements for highway engineering research and traffic research, and drew a strong line of demarcation, but he stressed the importance of co-ordination of the two branches of research. He said that research into highway engineering should be expanded considerably, but admitted that the limiting factor was the resources available.
The present research effort is a divided one. The various States are doing the best they can with the resources available to them, but there is still a long way to go before we reach the stage when the knowledge accumulated by each of the individual research organisations is brought to a central point. Professor Orchard mentioned also that in the Institute of Traffic and Highway Research many varying disciplines were necessary. For instance, he spoke of the need not only for mechanical engineers, but also for electronic engineers, chemists, statisticians, physicists and others to cover the very wide range of investigation that is involved in the study of highway engineering. We have in Australia men of great capacity who understand the practical problems that must be faced in dealing with road construction and design and all the other physical factors connected with roads. The main barriers to success in this field are State borders and economic factors. 1 suggest that the prime responsibility of this Bureau should be to tie together all the loose ends that are to be found at the three levels - Commonwealth, State and local government. 1 believe that the Bureau should be able to bring before the Parliament the results of its co-ordinating activities, and to me it seems a great pity that limitations are to be placed on the availability of the reports that will be made.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p ni.
Senator O’BYRNE__ Before the sitting was suspended I had been stressing, in general terms, the view that we did not oppose this measure. We feel that it is a step forward in the right direction. It is recognising the great problem that confronts us with roads and the great challenge that has been presented to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. In the amendments that we, on this side of the chamber, propose to move in the Committee stage, the main stress will be placed upon the relationship between this Bureau and the Parliament itself. 1 think that, on second thoughts, the Government will probably recognise the value of this suggestion because, after all, the Bureau will become a very important instrumentality in this Commonwealth, irrespective of the fears of many people that it may tend to become a bureaucratic organisation. I do not agree that it will become a bureaucratic organisation, because once the Bureau applies itself to this tremendous problem of roads, it will create a national vision and the concept of a co-ordinated roads system of the highest level that the country can afford to finance.
If our amendment is accepted, the Bureau could present to the Parliament, and thus to the people, a resume of the different factors that it had encountered during each preceding year. It could report on the recommendations on roads from the various local authorities, and from the instrumentalities of the State Governments. The fact that they prepared a report, to give to Parliament and thus to the people, on what they were doing and on what they intended to do would give added stimulus to the Bureau itself and would disseminate in many ways the valuable accumulation of information that it had been able to collect and collate in the previous year. I believe that this, in turn, would be transmitted down through the various organisations, both at State Government and local authority levels, and would thus help the whole concept of road planning and road construction.
There are a few matters which are crying out for very serious consideration. I believe that the Bureau will apply itself to these. One such matter is the overlapping that occurs between the three levels of administration of roads - the Federal Government level, the State Government level and the local authority level. I believe that the Bureau could apply itself to this problem. I believe that the time will come in the future when there will have to be an equipment organisation, similar to the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool, which will be able to finance the purchase of the most modern road making equipment. When one travels over the roads of the various municipalities one finds that they are adopting expedients and makeshift methods in every direction of road planning and construction. A lot of the equipment is too small for the job. 1 believe that there is a tremendous amount, of overlapping and, as a result, overspending by each municipality having a separate pool of equipment for roadbuilding. There could be much saving by having the equipment co-ordinated on a wider level.
Another matter on which I think the Bureau could make recommendations is the advantages to local authorities of building good roads right from the beginning. Because of shortage of finance, many roads are lightly sealed. Quite a considerable amount of money is expended on such roads, and within a very short period of time we find deterioration in the road surface because there is no proper substance in the road. As a result, there is a considerable amount of money wasted because of the maintenance that is required on these roads. As I said before, the whole concept of roads will be a challenge to the Bureau, lt will have to tie up all these loose ends that I have mentioned.
Another matter to which 1 wish to refer is the development of public relations. I believe that the Bureau could do a great service to the country by developing its image in the eyes of the people of Australia. After all, it is expected that there will be a tremendous increase in the number of motor vehicles on the roads in the ensuing years. Therefore, there will have to be a co-ordinated effort, which we believe the Bureau will be able to bring about. I think that there should be a public relations section in the Bureau which could go out and sell the idea of a co-ordinated road system to the people of Australia. We have to start from the grass roots. We have to have people with good brains working on the most modern form of research into road construction and all the other factors associated with it.
When we look at the roads system of Australia we find that the people who arc getting the greatest benefit from it are the transport companies and other organisations that use the roads to carry goods. The ordinary car driver uses his car for going to and from his place of employment and for enjoyment at the week-end. Tremendous profits are made by the transport companies and the other organisations which use the roads to carry goods. As has been mentioned before, road transport has a big effect on costs, yet I have not heard of any move being made by those people to sponsor research into road construction. I understand that one or two companies have sponsored research students at the University of New South Wales. Large organisations, such as the major car companies, expect the taxpayers of the Commonwealth to be able to provide roads so that thLir products may be used. I. believe that the Bureau could encourage companies to sponsor research students in every field of. road engineering, design and construction.
Then there is the matter of the insurance companies. The statistics that have been cited and the findings of the Select Committee of the Senate on Road Safety indicate that the accidents that occurred through faulty engineering and the cost to the nation in repairs and other such things are of such a nature that the insurance companies themselves should take an active interest in this important matter of road engineering.
The haulage contractors who ply their interstate trade have a pretty big interest in the type of road that is constructed. They often create hazards on the roads that are of great inconvenience to other motorists. But that is part of our business life. I believe that, as they are able to carry on their businesses through having suitable roads on which to transport heavy goods, they, in turn, should be encouraged by the Bureau, when it is established, to look at the need to have more and more people direct their intelligence and their capacity to research into this matter. The same thing applies to oil companies, which obtain so much of their revenue from the use by the public of our road system. This is also the case with the big and ever growing combines .which supply concrete for culverts and other requirements of our roads, and to those in charge of quarry operations which supply the basic metals for modern road construction.
Overall, the idea of setting up this Bureau is a good one. Unfortunately, 1 feel that the Government has not gone far enough. The main problems concerning roads which will eventually arise in this country will be solved only when we have an organisation that will plan, design and construct our roads. Although the States, have their borderlines, our road- system should be like a stream - it should know no borders. We should have a uniform road scheme throughout Australia. Our highway code, road engineering, road , signs and all those other facets of a road system must be of a national nature. We just cannot afford the luxury of having too many fingers in the pie to the disadvantage of Australia’s overall national development.
The Commonwealth Bureau of Roads can be of great advantage also in the matter of defence. I hope there will be very close co-ordination between the Bureau and the Services which need, of course, good, reliable, all-weather, roads for logistics. This opens up a most exciting field for those people who will be responsible for the administration of the Bureau. I do hope that, to complete the best features of this measure which is now before us, the Government will give serious consideration to allowing the Bureau to fulfil its purpose as a fully fledged instrumentality working for the good of Australia, and that the Bureau will present to the Parliament a report on the result of its work each year so that we in turn can praise it or, if necessary, criticise it. Praise or criticism is the lot of any body in a new field of activity. I believe that, in the long run, the lifting of the status of the Bureau would give those working in it more satisfaction from knowing that their work was distributed throughout the country. In doing so, the Bureau would be fulfilling the view held by the Minister when he said in his second reading speech -
We believe that the establishment of the Bureau will carry forward into a new stage the valuable forms of co-operation which have grown up between the Commonwealth and the Slates in this field.
I believe that the giving of the highest possible status to this Bureau will bring about that very desirable objective.
– I listened very carefully to the remarks of Senator O’Byrne. I am very glad to know that he and his party are supporting this measure. However, the honorable senator has picked out a few matters in regard to this Bill on which his party disagrees with the Government. I want to make mention of one of those matters. That is the point that he and his party are in favour of the establishment of a body with the responsibility of planning and constructing roads throughout Australia. The honorable senator gave as his reason for advocating the establishment of this authority that bodies throughout Australia interested in roads want this authority established. I do not know to which bodies the honorable senator is referring. I have here a copy of a broadcast made by the President of the Shires Association of New South Wales, wherein he quotes Alderman R. S. Luke, O.B.E., the President of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations who, when commenting on these proposals which are now before us, had this to say -
While it is true to say that the Commonwealth contributes a little over one-third of total expenditure on roads, local government makes an even greater contribution - approximately 38 per cent.
The Australian Council has expressed itself as opposed to the creation of a Road Construction
Authority on a Commonwealth basis but I can see no conflict with this in the establishment of tha Bureau in an advisory capacity to the Commonwealth Government as is proposed in the legislation. lt is to my mind a most significant step and an acknowledgment that the Commonwealth Government has a responsibility to share to a greater extent in meeting the road needs of the Commonwealth.
I ask Senator O’Byrne: If the President of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, which has representatives in every district in this country, is opposed to. a planning and constructional authority, and the State Governments also are opposed to such an authority who is in favour of it? Apparently, the only answer is that the Australian Labour Party is the only body in favour of such an authority.
I am not going to discuss in this debate the highways of the Commonwealth and say what should be done to them. But I do want to make a few points on this Bill. Let us have a look at the background of this legislation. As has already been said, the Bill seeks to establish the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. I remind honorable senators that, in his second reading speech, the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) described this authority as being an investigating and advisory body. It was in no way to be, he said, a road construction authority; nor will it have power over the States. That is the Bill in a nutshell. I remind honorable senators also that this Bill arises from a portion of the policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) last November, in which he had certain things to say about roads. It will be recalled that, at that time, he promised that it his Government were returned to office it would make available at least an extra £100 million to the States under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement. He also said that his Government, if returned, would have a look at the desirability of establishing a national roads authority. We now see the results of those promises.
First of all, we have had a new agreement under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. The Commonwealth Government has made available £125 million to the States for roads and, in so doing, has more than carried out its election promise to provide at least an extra £100 million to the States for that purpose. Now we have this legislation before the Senate. So the Government has carried out its election promises.
This Bureau, I think, is a very desirable one, despite what Senator O’Byrne said, because I feel that most thinking people realise that, in this vast country, our road system will play an ever increasingly important role in our development. It is quite evident that, like the railways in the early days of our history, our roads are now becoming the arteries of this nation. Evident also is the fact that provision must be made for the continuing development of our roads system if we are to ensure that the progress of this country is not to be impeded.
The necessity for improving our roads is brought about, I think, by the spectacular growth of population and business activity that has taken place in recent years, particularly the increase in the number of motor vehicles using our roads. Although the figures have already been quoted in this chamber, I would like to mention certain of them again. Before 1944, we had fewer than one million vehicles on our roads. At present about 3,300,000 vehicles are travelling on Australian roads. It has been estimated by National Association of Australian State Road Authorities that by 1974 there will be something like 5,900,000 vehicles In addition, it has been estimated, on the commorcial side of road transport, that about 1,000,000 tons of goods are carried on our roads on an average working day and that something like 200 new vehicles take their place on the roads every day.
Bearing these figures in mind, the ques tion that arises is: What is to be done for the maintenance and improvement of our roads? That is a question in which the Commonwealth now is vitally interested. That is why it has proposed setting up the Bureau, which will advise it on the position existing in the various States and make recommendations on the cases submitted by the State Governments. If we are to develop an efficient road system, which I believe we all want in Australia, there is ho doubt that vast sums of money must be found. Wherever you travel, whether in country’ areas or in the State capitals, you will be told that the only source of finance for roads is the Commonwealth, so State Governments and local government authorities look to the Commonwealth for additional road funds.
There are some very live issues in the development of road systems in Australia. I recall reading only recently of a case put forward by the authorities in Melbourne, who claim that to remove traffic hazards in that city more freeways and ring roads must be constructed. They estimate that to solve the existing problem they will need to spend something like £40 million. However, it is estimated that even if they do spend £40 million they will construct only about 140 miles of new roads and modify something like 210 miles of existing roads. Melbourne is not the only city that has this problem. Sydney has it too.
– We have no problems in Sydney.
– I am glad to hear that. If Sydney has no problems, my State capital, Perth, certainly has a problem. We are trying to build ring roads to solve the traffic problems that now exist in the city and the other problems which no doubt will arise in the future. When the Premiers come to Canberra seeking finance to help them remove traffic hazards and solve the problem of constructing new roads and so on, they state their cases to the Government, but the Government has no special authority at present to advise it on the substance of the cases advanced by the States.
– What about the economic section of the Treasury?
– Let mc make this speech. It is true, as Senator Murphy has stated by way of interjection, that the Government can obtain statistics from one of its departments, and it is true also that the Government receives the views and assessments of the various States, as well as a good deal of information from local government authorities and other bodies, but quite often this information has relevance to a particular aspect whereas the Commonwealth is seeking information which will give it an overall picture.
– National information?
– Yes. I have only to remind the Senate of the representations made on the situation that existed before the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement was renewed. Representations were made from day to day not only by the State Governments but also by the Lord Mayors of the capital cities, by shire council associations and by other local government bodies. All of them approached the Commonwealth for increased financial aid because of particular problems that existed in their respective States at that time. What was the Commonwealth’s position? It had no one to whom it could turn for advice. It had only the statistical information that was made available by one of its departments. Because of the representations that were being made by various State authorities and because the Government needed some organisation to advise it, it was decided to set up the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads.
The functions of the Bureau are set out in clause 14 of the Bill in this way -
The functions of the Bureau are -
The Minister may refer any matter relating to roads or road transport, either for or in connection with any purpose of the Commonwealth, to the Bureau for investigation and report, and the Bureau must, as soon as possible, investigate the matter and furnish a report to the Minister. Those are the functions of the Bureau as laid down in the Bill.
How will the Bureau go about its job? Nothing has been specified other than what is contained in the Bill and what the Minister stated in his second reading speech. No doubt the people appointed to the Bureau will listen to, or read the reports of, the debates in both Houses of the Parliament in relation to the functions that the Bureau should perform.
To my mind, probably one of the Bureau’s first jobs will be to look at the highways connecting the capital cities. It is most important that we have good highways between all capital cities. In Western Australia we have a problem. The State has made representations to the Commonwealth for assistance to seal the main east-west road but the Commonwealth has said that roads arc a State responsibility and that the States must use the money made available to them by the Commonwealth Government. This means that the Western Australian Government can only attack this great problem in a piecemeal fashion. In other words, it can seal only a certain portion of the road each year. South Australia is in a similar position. This is one situation that the Bureau should consider. If it did, I have no doubt that it would recommend to the Commonwealth that financial assistance be given to those two States to enable them to seal the road in question. I believe it is a very important road particularly because vehicles travelling between Melbourne and Perth use it a great deal. The fact is also that the State Governments of Western Australia and South Australia do not collect any revenue in licence fees from vehicles which use the road because they are registered generally in Melbourne and Sydney.
I believe that the proposed Bureau could also examine the case put forward by the Lord Mayors of the capital cities. There is no doubt that these civic authorities have a great problem in trying to overcome the traffic congestion in the cities. I believe we could devise ways and means of alleviating this congestion, not only by building highways and ring roads but also by offering inducements to people to move to less densely populated areas.
I turn now to the personnel of the proposed Bureau. The Minister stated in his second reading speech that there would be a full time chairman, who would be chief executive officer of the Bureau, and two part time members. A great responsibility will rest on these men. First they will have to look into the problems of roads and highways and then they will have to present reports to the Government. Because they will have this responsibility, the Government must make sure that it gets first class men with a wide experience of the problems of the various States and a thorough knowledge of roads and what is needed. I hope that the men appointed to the Bureau will also have a very wide knowledge of the country areas and their problems. I am not saying that the men appointed should be from the country because I realise the Government will have difficulty in finding men with the qualifications it has in mind, but I hope that the men they chose will have a thorough knowledge of the country areas. Clause 18 (2.) of the Bill provides -
The Minister may, from time to time, determine the maximum number of officers who may be appointed under the last preceding sub-section and the maximum number of employees who may be engaged under the last preceding subsection . , .
While I realise that the Minister for Shipping and Transport has power to see who is appointed to the staff, I endorse what Senator Cormack has said. I hope this Bureau does not become another organisation, the staff of which will be built up until you have people running everywhere when they could be used somewhere else to advantage, and increasing the cost of the organisation. I believe this is a good Bill and I only hope that it works as we all intend it should work. I support the Bill.
– As Senator Drake-Brockman has said, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) promised in his policy speech prior to the last general election that he would do monumental things for roads in Australia. This measure has been introduced in support of that promise. What the Prime Minister has in mind, as the Bill provides, is to appoint a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. In the English language, a bureau means a couple of officers and probably a couple of typists. The Bureau will be asked to examine the whole roads position in Australia as to finance and future programmes. I would have thought that that information was already available.
At one time I asked in the Senate why the reports given to the Premiers’ Conference were not distributed among the members of Parliament. Most of the reports of the Premiers* Conferences are secret documents so the information that goes to the Commonwealth Government through the various Premiers is not for our edification at all. Apparently, the Commonwealth Government, as an institution, does not get it either because the Government proposes to appoint a Bureau to get this type of information.
I suspect this Bill. I know the Australian Labour Party, which I support, believes in Federal powers and I am probably taking a great risk in saying this, but I always suspect these moves into State affairs. This is a sort of Indonesian tactic. It is an infiltration move. If we are going to get new powers we should get them honestly and by referendum in the open. Instead we use the Sukarno tactic of confrontation. We move in with a little committee. I remember that we once had a little committee called the Commonwealth Office of Education. I know I am worrying my Deputy Leader, Senator Kennelly, because he is a man who favours Federal powers. But this Commonwealth Office of Education was really set up to control and distribute a little bulletin called “ Information “. This body grew and grew until finally, in the past 12 months, it has become the big noise in education. But it is doing only things that cause trouble. It is not really taking over education as a whole and finding £100 million a year to run. the education system. Instead, it is introducing little reforms - good and all as they are - without really centering the responsibility for education on the Commonwealth.
Sir Robert Menzies said recently: “No, we don’t intend to interfere in education at all. We would not think of entering the field of the States in regard to education. That is something the people have to decide. We are only helping a little on the side.” Honorable senators know I am referring to science education. I am not saying I am not in favour of it; but that is the sort of infiltration being undertaken by the Common. wealth. Ultimately the Commonwealth takes over. The Labour Party, more than the Liberal Party and the Country Party, believes in extension of Federal powers. The Government should be honest and say what it is after. This is a move of the same kind. It is infiltration of a most doubtful character. For example, I can understand the mendicant States being in favour of it. I can understand Senator Drake-Brockman being in favour of it. Those States that have comparatively few people and want to build roads over great distances between remote areas will be in favour of it. I can understand their being interested in the Bill, because the Commonwealth is going to help them. It is going to come in with money. What does the term “ Commonwealth “ mean in this context? It really means New South Wales. What the Government is saying is that the great and prosperous State of New South Wales must do more to help the States that cannot help themselves. I think that that is probably right in a national sense, but that is the reason for this Bill.
Eventually, I am afraid; when the Commonwealth get the type of information that it wants it might say to Minister Hills, in Sydney: “ You are doing too well. After all, in the past 12 months or 2 years you have taken 300 turns out of the road between Sydney and Newcastle. You have widened it and you have a dual road from Newcastle nearly to Sydney. You can do the 100 miles in 2 hours, whereas once it took 4 hours. What more do you want? On the coast road from north to south, where 10 or 12 years ago there used to bc a ferry over every second river, today there is not one.”
– Have you read the Bill?
– Yes. I want to make a speech; I do not want to get back to the Bill. I am talking about what the New South Wales Government has done. There are roads everywhere. One of my colleagues - I think it was Senator O’Byrne - spoke about roads in one State meeting roads in another State at the common border. He said that they had to be coordinated. I have never driven on a road out of New South Wales on which I could not cross into another place. It might be accidental, but in most places the roads almost seem to join. Only a few weeks ago I drove with Senator Murphy from here to Griffith. I think we went there in three hours. That is not bad. I cannot find any bad roads. I get a particular type of application for assistance from senators, and they are not all under 30. They are stopped for speeding somewhere on New South Wales roads. The trouble is that they come from South Australia, find themselves in New South Wales, and start to speed. The police pick them up. I have some contacts and I help a little.
– What about the road from Bega to Cooma? It is not even bitumen.
– I shall cite some figures. Through the Department of Main Roads, the New South Wales Government is making a tremendous effort to provide modern highways in all parts of the State and first class communications, such as new bridges and new surfaces ->n existing roads. The Commonwealth wants to take over this Department, which is one of the greatest departments in the country. Why the Commonwealth wants to move in and try to co-ordinate its activities, I do not know. The New South Wales Main Roads Department is a wonderful department, because it does the work. It supplies the labour, the know-how, the machinery and the technique, without any assistance from the Commonwealth. It has now surfaced wilh bitumen 11,000 miles, which is 48 per cent, of the total main road mileage of 22,281 in the State. That is not a bad effort. Nearly 50 per cent, of the roads in New South Wales have bitumen. Senator Morris spoke about Cooma. I can quite understand that senators do not know anything about the roads here, because they are never on them.
– We are talking about the Bureau, not the building of roads.
– I realise that. I am putting the case of New South Wales and its road programme. If Senator Morris, for instance, speaks after me, he will be talking about roads in Queensland.
– I spoke on the first day of the debate on the Bill.
– Yes, and spoke of nothing but Queensland. He spoke about the condition of roads there and about Senator Dittmer stepping into a hole in a beef road.
– I did not mention it.
– Well, the honorable senator must have. I heard it from somebody.
– I would not waste my time doing that.
– Somebody made the speech, and most of the speeches from Queensland were in favour of doing something for Queensland roads.
– I was seriously asking you why the road from Bega to Cooma was not bitumen.
– I could not answer the question. I do know that 50 per cent, of the roads in New South Wales have bitumen. Surely this Government would know that without setting up the bureau. The Bill has caused a lot of argument. I do not think there is much in it. There is very little in it, so it appears that the Government must have other plans. This is a sort of secret weapon. I referred to infiltration of the States which, after all, provide most of the things that matter in the Commonwealth. That is a reasonably true statement. They certainly provide the work force. I do not think that the credit due to them should be taken away from them. Here is some information for the Government - it docs not need a bureau to get this: the New South Wales Government is concentrating £100 million on rural main raods in the next six years. I can tell the Bureau that now. An amount qf £54 million will bc spent on main roads and expressways in the Sydney metropolitan area. Honorable senators should drive on the roads a little. One cannot see everything from the air. That is one of the disabilities of travelling by air; one does not see the roads. I think that the roads all over Australia are generally pretty good, I do not know what people growl about, 1 have made a study of roads. I wonder whether a senator can tell me how much it costs to put down a mile of road.
– It depends on the type of road you want.
– Travelling on some of the roads, one wonders how they can pay for themselves. You would not see more than 10 cars go over them in a day.
– That is why the authority is to be set up.
– The truckiesthe people who really use the roads - do not pay their rightful proportion of the cost, I believe. Where are the great problems? Leaving Sydney or Brisbane, one finds that the roads are all right. Coming to a town or a shire, one finds that the road is no good. If it is one of those places where municipal rates are low, the roads are bad. For instance, take the roads from Newcastle and Maitland out to the coalfields area, where municipal rates are always low because the mines have a limited life. You cannot drive on the roads. That is where the Commonwealth ought to come into the picture. If we were to go throughout New South Wales to find where the roads were not good, we would find that that was in shire or municipal areas where there was not sufficient income to provide good roads. This indicates that, as was suggested by Mr. Luke, to whom Senator Drake-Brockman referred, the Commonwealth ought to be directing its attention to the problem and that the municipal councils and shires must be assisted with their road programmes. It is in the shires that our roads system breaks down. The roads that we have to build into the hinterland are of national importance, but they cannot be financed by the States or by municipal or shire authorities. I repeat that that is where the Commonwealth Government ought to come into the picture. Prior to the last war there was no back road to Sydney from the New England Highway. In 1942 the Americans built a first class road in a very short space of time around the back through Wollombi. They called it a defence road. I think they built defence roads in other parts of Australia also.
Senator Marriott said that I was not talking about the Bill, but really there is not much in the Bill to talk about. It is designed only to establish the Bureau of Roads. If the Commonwealth has in mind moving in in a big way to participate in road construction programmes, we will support that. I do not think any State Government would resist real support for its roads programme. Honorable senators ought to visit the city of Sydney to see the wonderful things that have been done in the metropolitan area. Other cities will grow and will need to avail themselves of the experience gained in Sydney. The Cahill Expressway should be studied.
– It is very good.
– It is. One-third of the people who come in from north Sydney travel across the harbour and under the city. People laugh about the proposed eastern suburbs railway. Of course, the problems vary in different areas, but the eastern suburbs railway will eventually come into being. If you do not look at the Opera House as you are traversing the Cahill Expressway
– The Cahill Expressway is the best thing that was ever built in Sydney.
– I think it is. No other city in the world has more difficulty in developing its roads and its transport programme than has the city of Sydney, which is built around Sydney Harbour. The construction of roads costs a lot of money, which in turn means heavy taxation. Despite the fact that Sydney has great wide roads and the city tunnels for transport, the streets are still choked. On next Saturday, I think, Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Kent, is expected to open the Gladesville Bridge over the Parramatta River. That will provide another exit from the city.
– It is a beauty, too.
– It is a beauty. As I travelled past this bridge and watched progress, I used to say to my passengers: “ We are going to drive over the top of that arch, not under it”. That is exactly what we will do; we will drive over the top of the big arch. I understand that by building a bridge in that way the cost has been halved and that from an engineering point of view the structure is quite foolproof. The use of that bridge will remove a bottleneck which caused a lot of congestion and great economic loss.
The point 1 am coming to is this: While we are doing all these things, we still do not seem to have any influence on the behaviour of people. The present state of affairs is largely the result of soft living. Most of the transport systems do not pay because they have gone too far in trying to eliminate the exercise of walking for the man in the street. Everybody in the Bellevue Hill-Bondi area used to walk down the hill to the main Bondi parade and board a tram to go to work. Today, as a result of political pressure and politicians promising to provide people with buses outside their doors, buses run into Sydney on different routes from all over the place.
– They must be crook politicians in Sydney.
– The position is lbc same in Brisbane. Because of pressure to make living easier for people, buses, which are often almost empty, take twice as long as they did ten years ago to complete their journey to the city. People would be much better off if they had to walk a couple of hundred yards to a corner to get their transport. The people have been spoilt in regard to transport.
I do not know how many millions of pounds have to be provided for road programmes all over Australia. Why should we have to find millions of pounds to allow, say, 20,000 cars, each carrying one person, to travel into Sydney on the Parramatta Road each day? Why is it not possible to restrict the number of vehicles that travel into the city? I know that presents difficulties, because honorable senators on the other side of the chamber believe in freedom of action and in not telling anybody what he should do. They do not believe in controls. But surely there ought to be enough social consciousness on the part of governments to lead them to prevent people from choking the roads.
– Would such action not need a terriffic amount of policing?
– I de not know. Politicians all over the world do not seem to be game to face up to this problem. The same thing happens in London. I do not know the answer to the problem. I believe that individuals should give a lead in the matter, because there does not seem to be any solution at the governmental level. People should co-operate with governments in making greater use of the transport facilities they already have.
– That is the trend, because of the congestion that occurs.
– Yes. The people are given privileges in regard to transport to which they are not entitled. Governments ought to do something about it. I have always thought that if we could encourage a new attitude towards public transport there would not be such a colossal waste of public moneys. 1 have before me a report of the Commissioner of Main Roads in New South Wales. Senator Marriott said that I was talking about New South Wales roads. Well, if one talks about the Commonwealth One must talk about New South Wales, because it is half of Australia.
– Fair go!
– It produces all the things that matter. Let us put it that way.
– You would be on the rocks if it were not for Queensland’s exports.
– Victoria could go out of business tomorrow and there would be no great loss, materially and physically. The wealth of Australia comes largely from New South Wales. When the wealth that is extracted from the earth in New South Wales is shipped to Victoria and Queensland it becomes even more valuable. There could be a strike in Victoria or Queensland and it would not cause much trouble to the rest of the Commonwealth, but the same kind of strike in New South Wales would hold up production in vital industries, such as the steel and coal industries. This situation does not apply in other States.
We support this Bill, of course. We also support the setting up of the Bureau of Roads. We hope that it is the intention of the Government really to do something to assist the State Governments, the municipalities and the shires in developing their road programmes. We hope that the Government’s attitude to roads is not going to be like its attitude to education and, in a sense, to hospitals. The Commonwealth interest in the hospital situation is terribly hard to defend in relation to quite a lot of things. It costs nearly £6 10s. a day for a bed in a hospital, but the Commonwealth does not make a real contribution to that cost although it gets all the credit and the publicity in connection with the national health scheme and matters of that kind. I think that is wrong. The Commonwealth should not attempt merely to exploit, if I may use that word, the public relations aspects of State instrumentalities. I shall leave the matters there, Mr. Deputy President. I understand that we have an amendment which is designed to improve the Bill, lt is to be moved at the committee stage and I, along with the other members of the Opposition, will support it.
– I have listened to a good deal of this debate with much interest. I think it has been a very good debate, but it really boils down to a discussion of one or two points. Perhaps the most important point is whether the authority of the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads does or docs not go far enough. It has been said that the Bureau will have no teeth. As one who believes in the States, I say that it will have enough teeth for me. As I listened to Senator Ormonde’s contribution to the debate I thought that some light was thrown on this aspect. The honorable senator gave a very good description o”f the traffic density on the roads in and around Sydney. That is only one part of a general roads problem. It is a problem which I think lends itself very well to a complete study by an authority because at the moment it is nothing more or less than an engineering problem. In regard to Senator Ormonde’s remarks about other States, I think he has lived in Sydney for too long.
No great opposition to the Bill has been expressed by honorable senators on the other side of the chamber. Their opposition has been concerned mainly with the extent of the authority of the Bureau. The States have their own road authorities. They are very good ones, with plenty of experience in the construction of roads and the requirements of the States. I think it would be a shame to upset that position in any way. If an authority were to be set up to obtain information without using the resources of the relevant State departments, I should say that no action would be achieved for five or six years at the earliest. To go to the other extreme, like Senator Cormack I worry about the monstrosity that could bc set up if we were to take the matter further 1 than the Bill proposes and set up anything more than an advisory authority. I believe that the Bureau will have a very good function to perform and a sound part to play.
I want to refer again to statements made by Senator Ormonde concerning the problems in the cities. They are not so much general transport problems as traffic problems. There is a great difference between those problems and the problems involved in meeting the requirements of development and defence. It is in this respect that I think the Commonwealth will show the greatest interest. I know that the Commonwealth is interested in national’ road development, and I think that the proposed Bureau will have enough teeth to cope with that matter. I think it was Senator Prowse who stated that in the view of the Opposition not enough money was being spent on defence, roads, education and so on. I think the matter can be summarised by saying that there simply is not enough ‘ money. We have to spend within the limits of the earning capacity of the nation, and I do not think that the Government is unaware of this fact.
I believe that the Minister concerned with roads and transport would be well informed on some of the future requirements, but it, is in this, respect that I think we get into trouble. I think that a national authority would get into trouble, too, because we can. only assess for the future on the standards of today. By that, I mean that it is possible to project fairly accurately what will be the position in regard to vehicular density in, say, five or tcn years time, having regard to the trends in a community which is in a pretty fair condition financially, but I do not think it is possible to assess the earning capacity of roads and what may be required in the interests of development, lt is in this respect that the advisory authority will have some measure of responsibility to the Commonwealth to talk matters out with the States and establish a system of priorities. But I believe that the initiative must remain with the States to put forward proposals for development which, of course, may or may not entail expenditure on roads.
J do not think that we in this place get into trouble for talking about the States we represent. I am with Senator Ormonde in that regard. 1 like to get in a plug for Queensland where I can. Often, we speak of our own States because we know more about conditions there than elsewhere. I happen to represent the richest State, a State which has had very little development but which can nevertheless hold its own, especially in export earnings. We shall have a great future if a little more of the kind of thought behind this Bill is applied to the development issues which will arise.
We have had discussions on development on previous occasions in this chamber. It is a fact that out of the knowledge gained from research carried out by the Northern Division of the Department of National Development, we are about to see things which will change our present outlook. We have a changing pattern of development, and because it will continue to change for some years we have to be very careful, if we look at the position as it exists today, about arriving at firm conclusions on roads. I should like to give. a classic example of this. 1 do not think there is a better example than, the proposed road from Mr Isa to Bourke. This proposal was the baby of the Federal Inland Development Association, which I think is based around Bourke in New South Wales. For years the Association has clamoured for a first class highway to be built between those two centres. The thinking, based on the general movement of cattle through the centre of Queensland and the Channel country, could be right. I do not know what the distance is, but I think it is somewhere between 750 and 1,000 miles.
In view of the pattern of the movement of cattle today, there could be justification for this clamour, but already we have seen a development which could represent an intrusion into this movement of cattle. I refer to the development of the brigalow areas. This development could have an effect on the value of the proposed Mount Isa to Bourke road. It was not known at the time that the road was proposed that the brigalow lands would be developed, but now we see the possibility that such a road would cut across a very desirable pattern of decentralisation which is developing in the provincial cities of Queensland. When we have meatworks on the coast of Queensland operating for only half the year, I think the logical thing would be to develop roads running west and east rather than north and south. The brigalow scheme’ indicates that cattle could well not go so far south, but travel from various points towards the coast. This development could render a north-south road very ineffective, if not useless, in the long run. The brigalow lands scheme is only one of the developmental schemes suggested in Queensland. A number of other schemes are to be submitted to the Northern Division of the Department of National Development by the State Government. Offhand, I cannot think of any specific scheme that would interfere with the movement of cattle north and south, but generally these schemes would tend to divert cattle towards the coast, to the vicinity of the meatworks. Unless the whole pattern of development is considered, errors of the type I have suggested could be made.
I would not be surprised if, even at this late stage, some of the beef roads have to be repositioned. This is because these roads have not been tied to a central planning arrangement. A central planning system might induce the States to comply, not only with the needs of the States for roads, but also with the national road needs in terms of defence as well as development. Central planning could lead to an accelerated building of roads in what I may call permanent positions. Under the present system - I point out that we cannot yet see a fully developed pattern - we may make a stab at building roads, only to find out in ten years time that the roads have been built in the wrong places. Roads are too costly to fiddle around with.
During the debate mention has been made of the condition of beef roads. 1 have not seen the pot-holes that some honorable senators opposite talked about. I have seen roads in Queensland before and after the wet season. I have seen the terrific damage and the wash-outs caused by falls of 40 inches of rain, sometimes in a week and sometimes in a month, but never spread over as long as three months. There is a lot of flat country and a lot of range country, so the run-off does terrific damage. I was pleased that honorable senators on the other side talked of surface damage only when they referred to these roads, lt would bc shocking if they were able to say that the foundations of the roads has been incorrectly laid.
There is a tendency in road building today, because of a desire to get as much foundation work done for the money as you can, to concentrate oh the foundations and not to worry so much about the surface. I believe that is a correct approach to the problem. When a road is build for a special purpose, the point of access and point of delivery become very important. Such a road cannot be used at all, in many cases, until it is fully completed and is in a trafficable condition. The surface necessary to put it in a trafficable condition may not be the surface that we would wish it to have ultimately. This was true in the case of the beef roads. They were pushed ahead so as to cover the greatest distances, because the ability to carry stock over long distances is the real money earning factor in these roads, which are build for a special purpose. As I have said, the foundations are the main concern.
There is no real need to run heavy vehicles on the beef roads during the wet season. It is practically impossible to muster stock during the wet and therefore the roads are used normally during the killing period from June to November, when the meatworks are operating. This period does not run into the wet season and therefore the roads are not required to carry a heavy volume of traffic in the wet season. Because of this, the surface of the roads is not so terribly important. The ultimate objective, of course, is to seal the roads, because in the long run that will reduce the cost of maintenance.
Much has been said in this debate which is of great interest. I believe that the proposal to establish an advisory Bureau is correct, and I think that an advisory Bureau is all that is required in the interests of national development. I cannot see any prospect of success if an authority were formed which had power to interfere with the advancement of developmental schemes or with the interests of the States as a whole. I support the Bill.
– in reply - Shakespeare made one of his characters say: “ Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” I was reminded of that quotation today when listening to the speeches made by Senator Cormack and Senator Ormonde. I knew, of course, that they both had reservations about the Bill, but I did not think they had been reduced to that point of misery where we would find both of them in the same political bed. I hasten to assure both of them that it is not the intention of this Government to use this measure to infiltrate what is regarded as a proper field of State Government activity. I might say in passing, with all the sweetness of which I am capable, that I would like to be present when Senator Ormonde is settling with Senator Cohen the points of difference between his and Senator Cohen’s approach to this measure.
The criticism of the Bill - I understand there is no opposition to it - centres on three or four points that were raised by Senator Cohen, leading for the Opposition. The first criticism was that the functions of the proposed Bureau are not wide enough - that they do not supply a sufficiently broad base for it to engage in road planning on the grand scale. Indeed, when Senator Cohen, leading for the Opposition, spoke, he made references to the American Federal Bureau of Public Roads. The implication was that for his part, and for the part of his party, he would like to see the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads undertake functions somewhat similar to those undertaken by the American Federal Bureau.
Another criticism which was made, and which was somewhat in conflict with the first, was that the work which was proposed to be undertaken by the Bureau might just as. well be performed by the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities. Then there was the criticism that no report was to be submitted to the
Parliament by the proposed Bureau; and the further criticism that neither House of the Parliament would have the opportunity nor the authority to ask the Bureau to undertake certain investigations. If one :takes all these criticisms together, it will be seen at once that they spring from a misunderstanding of the intentions of the work which the Government has for the Bureau.
We do not propose that it should be a planning authority or a construction authority. We do not propose that it should impinge, except in the most minor ways, on State Government activities. Indeed, the only possible way in which there could be, not conflict, but some confluence of activity between the State and the Federal authorities in, this respect is that the Federal authorities should undertake some work which is of benefit both to the Commonwealth and the States. I have in mind beef roads which were mentioned by Senator Sherrington and Which will improve the export potential of the nation and, at the same time, will assist the States.
We are naturally influenced by the fact that year after year, as a Commonwealth Government, of necessity we undertake greater financial commitments to the States for all sorts of road works. Because of these financial commitments - underlined, if I may say so, by the recent 50 per cent, increase, from £250 million to £375 million, over the next five years in the Commonwealth’s grants to the States for roads - the Commonwealth seeks to equip itself with a Bureau which will give it the benefit of expert knowledge and experience so that it can examine the various projects in which it might interest itself. Because our expenditure on grants to the States for roads has reached £375 million for the next five years, is it not only desirable and natural that a responsible government would seek to have available to it ‘the sort of advice which every State Government has available to it before it undertakes works costing the amounts of money which roads now cost?
In order to get the Bureau proposal under way in pursuance of a policy speech undertaking the Government took the opportunity, at the Premiers’ Conference in March of this year, to confer with the Premiers as to how this undertaking ought to be put in hand. As one honorable senator mentioned, the proceedings at the Premiers’
Conference are naturally confidential. However, I think one might get some indication of the way in which the majority of the States were thinking if one looks at the statement on roads which was made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) immediately after the Premiers’ Conference, to which I have referred. His opening remarks were -
Some of the Premiers had drawn from the Policy Speech by the Prime Minister the idea that the Commonwealth was thinking of a body with functions not unlike those of the Federal Bureau of Public Roads in the United States although, of course, on a much smaller scale and with adaptations to meet local requirements.
It was clear, was it not, that some of the Premiers had obviously expressed misgivings that the Commonwealth might be moving into a field which the States regarded and, as this Government thinks, properly regarded, as their particular sphere of activity?
So when we introduced the legislation to establish the Bureau, we made it perfectly clear that that was not the intention of the Government. It is not our intention to construct roads as does the Federal Bureau in the United States. Indeed, that Bureau has a number of statutory powers. The powers of that Bureau include undertaking the construction of specific projects. I am sure I have only to say that to illustrate the big difference which exists between the set-up in Australia and the set-up in the United States. As a government, we do not undertake specific road projects except in the very isolated instances to which I have referred We have regarded our part in road building, maintenance and construction in Australia as being that of lending financial support to the States so that they can undertake their own road building programmes.
Under the Bill which is now before the Senate, that will be the relationship which will continue between the Commonwealth and the States. The only difference will be that the Commonwealth Government for the first time, because it has engaged on greatly increased expenditure, will have available to it the advice of an expert body. We will continue to make grants. In the natural course of things, it can be seen that we will continue to make increasing grants for road construction, maintenance and repair in Australia over the years.
When Senator Cohen was speaking he asked me specifically to comment on clause 14 of the Bill, under which the Bureau is given certain functions in connection with its work. As he rightly pointed out, clause 14 (a) limits the work of the Bureau in this field to giving advice to the Minister on work which would normally be done within the framework of our existing Commonwealth State roads legislation. Having regard to what I said about the functions of this Bureau, I suggest it is only proper that its functions should be so limited. We are not giving to this Bureau the planning or construction powers which Senator Cohen finds so attractive. It is to meet a situation where it may be advisable in the interests of the States, or in the national interests, to engage in some work outside that which is currently financed under our Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement. The Minister is equipped with the power - a very, very broad power - to ask the Bureau to report to him on virtually any other work on which he may seek advice. I think that, having said what I have about the nature of the set-up, this is a very proper provision to carry into the Act.
I recognise at once that neither this provision, nor the broad framework of the Bureau itself, nor its function, corresponds with what Senator Cohen or the Australian Labour Party want. But the fact of the matter is that we, as a Government, do not want what the Opposition wants. We want something completely different - something which will preserve our relationship with the States as it presently exists.
There has been some suggestion that if this is all we want then the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities might undertake the work. Here again, I suggest, with great respect, that if this proposal is a sincere one, and I am sure it is, then there is a vast misunderstanding about how N.A.A.S.R.A. is composed, and what work it does. It was my pleasure while I held the portfolio of Minister for Shipping and Transport to have something to do with the Association. I do not speak in derogation of that body or its membership, whose work I have long admired, when I say that it is a completely inappropriate body to carry out the functions of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. The Association consists of the Director of Roads, or the equivalent of this position, from each of the States and has Commonwealth representation. The Comonwealth representation incidentally is almost token, having regard to the fact that Commonwealth representation springs from Commonwealth activity within the Commonwealth Territories which is something less, as I remember, than 2 per cent, of the total road work undertaken in Australia. Those gentlemen represent each State, and their representations are nothing more nor less than an aggregation of seven different State programmes. They are not co-ordinated, as has been said here. They do not adopt a national outlook, as has been said here. They are representatives of their own States, each adopting the outlook of his own particular State. If I must emphasise that point, may I tell the Senate that in the 30 years of its existence, good though it is in its own sphere, N.A.A.S.R.A. has not been able to resolve a common definition of a highway or a main road.
When honorable senators talk about this sort of body as representing the national outlook, I repeat that it can only be because there is no real understanding of the work which this splendid body does. I am reminded, in this connection, that my friend, Senator Branson, has asked me questions time and time again about the intentions of the Government of South Australia and the intentions of he Government of Western Australia regarding the construction of an east-west road. The position is that while the Western Australian Government has undertaken to construct the black top to the border, Sir Thomas Playford, for his own reasons has to date said that will not undertake such work to the border. I put it to the Senate that if N.A.A.S.R.A., as it does, represents seven single States - one being the Commonwealth in this sense - it is understandably motivated by the desires of each of those States in connection with roads and therefore it cannot be held to be a national body. Indeed, I have never heard the Association claim for itself that it is such a body or that it could undertake the work of this proposed Bureau, which, I repeat, is to act in an advisory capacity to the Commonwealth Government, and not between all the States.
There have been other criticisms of the Bill. Senator Cohen has been good enough to indicate to me that he proposes moving a number of amendments in Committee. I will have more to say when we reach that stage, but in respect of the contention with regard to the non-submission of a report to Parliament, and in respect of the suggestion made by the Opposition that either House of the Parliament should have the authority to move the proposed Bureau to inquire into certain works, let me say that such action would completely throw out of shape the pattern of the functions which are proposed for this Bureau. For that reason, this suggestion will not be accepted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 13 - by leave - taken together.
– There is just one matter I would like to raise in relation to clause 11. The inclusion of clause 11, or part of it, may be somewhat formal. The Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) says, and I accept this as being the view of the Government, that the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will have no authority as a construction body. Incidentally, the Opposition never suggested that the Bureau should be a constructing body except in relation to the planning of a national Federal highway system and also defence roads. We on this side have not suggested that there should be any interference with the job of road construction being done by the States. I ask for some clarification as to what is the point of clause 11 (3.) which prohibits a member of the Bureau from having a direct or indirect interest in a contract made or proposed to be made by the Bureau otherwise than as a member of what substantially amounts to a public company. I appreciate that a clause to this effect appears regularly in bills providing for the setting up of Commonwealth authorities, but if the Bureau’s functions are to be as limited as the Minister suggests they will be, why do we need this clause? What kind of circumstances are likely to arise which will invoke the operation of this clause?
– The kind of thing that comes readily to mind is that one of the members, through his association with a firm of consulting engineers or the like, may have some indirect connection with a project which is carried out after having been examined and recommended by the Bureau.
– On that view, the Chairman could be disqualified and the whole of the operations relating to that particular matter would have to be carried out by the two part time members of the Bureau.
– Yes, or it might well be, as is the case with many statutory boards, that following a declaration of interest, he would retire from the discussion and would not vote on a proposal, but he would return to superintend or to play his part in its implementation.
.- Clause 11 (3.) relates to a member or an acting member of the Bureau who is directly or indirectly interested in a contract. What kind of contract does the Minister envisage would be entered into by the Bureau, seeing that this is to be a purely advisory body?
– I thought I had just stated that. I am sorry if I did not make myself clear. A member may belong to a firm of consulting engineers which has been retained by the Bureau to give it an expert opinion on a particular aspect of a project which the Bureau has under investigation.
.- I refer to clause 6, which deals with part time members of the Bureau. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), when mentioning the proposal to establish the Bureau, said -
The nation would benefit from a thoroughgoing survey and appraisal of existing road systems and of foreseeable road requirements.
In view of that, I was interested when the Leader of the Government said that in the main this Bill - I hope I do not misrepresent him - was concerned with beef roads and no doubt other roads in which the Commonwealth will have an interest. I am a little concerned about the two part time members. Has the Minister any idea how much work these two people will put into the Bureau?
The Bureau will carry out a very important task in the interests of the nation, having regard to the fact, as was mentioned in the Minister’s second reading speech, that 75 per cent, of our goods are carried by road. Quite candidly, I am one of those who do not believe in the appointment of part time officers. I do not think anyone can give proper attention to his work on a part time basis. What function will these part time members perform in carrying out a thorough-going survey and appraisal of existing road systems?
According to clause 12, the chairman shall, on receipt of a written request signed by the other two members of the Bureau, convene a meeting of the Bureau. Surely the part time members will not be able to carry out the job envisaged in the Minister’s speech. I have no doubt that the Minister intends that they shall. This may be a good idea in theory. Will the full time member collect his staff, which is the usual thing, and then conduct a thorough-going survey of certain roads in this nation? Will the two part time members then come in and read the report? What time will they devote to the Bureau’s activities? Will they take any part or interest in the thorough-going survey? This is a most important matter, because everyone agrees that our road system is vital in regard to both trade and defence.
I do not think the position would be satisfactory even if the Minister proposed a three man full time Bureau, one man being the Chairman, one being an engineer and one being a financial expert. In that case, there would have to be a financial expert. I do not think the Minister would be overpleased if they submitted a nice line of reports to him without mentioning the cost of implementing their recommendations. If I were in his place I would say: “ Do not advance any grandiose schemes that will cost millions of pounds unless you tell me where to get the money to implement them.”
I cannot see how the two part time members of the Bureau can fulfil any useful function, so I am interested to know what the Minister has in his mind about them. To be honest, I do not believe in part time appointments to commissions or similar bodies because I do not think that the appointees can give sufficient time to the job. It is not fair to them and it is certainly not fair to the undertaking. I trust that theMinister will tell me what is in his mind in relation to the work to be performed by the part time members of the Bureau.
– It can beassumed that when consideration was given to the establishment of the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, the question of its composition and its functions was given very close scrutiny. It was considered, for example, whether this might be a function: which could be undertaken by a man acting: alone. On deeper consideration, we saw theundoubted advantages of having, instead of one view which would be conclusive, threeminds directed to the one problem. I think, by and large, this is a concept which isaccepted in all undertakings of this kind now. For the first year or two it might have been advantageous to have only one man, but on deeper thought it was considered that from the start, one man should have theadvantage of the collaboration of two other men.
Therefore, as is provided in the Bill, wepropose to appoint a chairman who will be’ also the chief executive officer of the Bureau. We have added two part time members. I think it will be obvious to Senator Kennelly that one man, who is also the chief executive officer, might be greatly assisted’ by the views, let us say, of a man who iswell versed in road traffic matters. I take this merely as an example because there is no stated intention to appoint that type of man. On the other hand, he might equally be assisted by someone who is an engineer of some sort. This is what led to the proposal to establish a bureau with a three man commission - one full time and two part time.
I know that Senator Kennelly has his, own views about part time commissioners and part time appointments to boards. They are his personal views and I respect them although I do not agree with, them. If you look at almost any statutory body today, you will see that almost all chairmen and other members are part timeappointees. Look at Trans-Australia Airlines, for example. That is one.
– I know the honorable senator’s views. The Australian National Line is another. Both are highly successful and profitable Government undertakings. These organisations are run as large private commercial organisations are run generally - by men who do not give their entire time to boards but who move around in related fields and, by enriching their own knowledge and experience, are able to apply them to the particular problems of the statutory board of which they are members.
– I wish to direct a brief question to the Minister for Defence concerning clauses 11 and 12. Senator Cohen referred to the provisions of clause 12 relating to the inadmissibility of members of the Bureau to meetings when they are directly associated with a contract. It is possible that the three members of the Bureau might be involved, not only in the provision of machinery and equipment but also with consultation contracts. Let us suppose that for these reasons the members of the Bureau are disqualified from attending a meeting. From the clause, it appears to have been assumed that only one member would be disqualified but supposing so many ‘became involved that the Bureau became inoperative. What would happen then? Would the Minister for Shipping and Transport refer the matter back to the Parliament? What action would he take to make the Bureau work?
– I tried to meet the possibility the honorable senator has suggested when I answered Senator Cohen’s question. I pointed out that a situation might occur in which a member of the Bureau was interested in a certain firm of consulting engineers. He would declare his interest and would then take no further part in the discussion. After a decision had been made he would return to the discussion to play his part in superintending the contract.
– But suppose two members are affected.
– It is a question of .possibilities. I say at once that the possibility of more than one having an interest in the same firm is remote, having regard to the way the men will be chosen. But as a question of practical administration, let us assume that two of the three are interested in one consulting firm. That would leave one free to exercise an opinion. I can imagine that in those circumstances the one man would go to the Minister and say: “ Smith and Jones are not taking part in .this deliberation because of their interest in such and such a firm. I ask for your guidance.” Again as a matter of administration, the Minister might well say: “ On the facts and the figures, this is the decision. Do you concur? “ He might even decide that this was the sort of thing he would like to take to Cabinet.
– To whom will this Bureau be responsible? There will be a full time chairman and two part time members. I suppose the two part time men will be responsible to the Chairman but to whom will the Bureau be responsible? We have had mention of other boards which come under the direct responsibility of a Minister. I have read the Bill but there is nothing to say to whom this Bureau will be responsible. Will it have a roving commission? I ask that question now in relation to clause 13 because I intend to ask a question on clause 15. Will the members of this Bureau be a law unto themselves?
– ‘Most of us, particularly if we have been mothers or fathers, have watched an infant take his first steps hesitantly and fearfully. We have watched him with a measure of affection and fear. We realise that the Government is taking a new step with this Bill. The Government is hesitant and lacking in a sense of adventure. It is fearful and does not realise the natural assets of Australia. It is not game to venture forth in a big way. We recall what Senator Cormack said today. The honorable senator said, in effect, that this proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads would grow into a monster within ten years. That would be the responsibility of the Government of the day. It might happen under an anti-Labour Government but I am certain that when Labour comes to office it will be seised with a sense of responsibility towards national road needs. It is all very well to talk of the administrative responsibilities of the States. We know the constitutional limitations and we know also that the money flows from Canberra. Power must in the process of time be more and more centralised in Canberra. Irrespective of what anyone may say, I am dealing with the clauses under consideration. Just what will be the function of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, consisting of the Chairman and his two associates who, I understand, will be part time? How great will its responsibility be?
I realise only too well the difficult position in which the Chairman will be placed. A tremendous responsibility will be imposed upon him in regard to the overall network of roads. The Government should accept full responsibility in this matter. It must appreciate that it has a national responsibility. The Chairman will be placed in an invidious position when one thinks in terms of two part time associates. I do not know whom the Government will get. It will probably get persons to take those positions, but they could not do a real job. In fact, this Bureau can only become a gossip shop from the point of view of roads, a centre to which certain information will flow.
Many honorable senators have referred to what roads mean to the nation. The area of Australia is near enough to 2i million square miles, much of it undeveloped because of the neglect of successive Menzies Governments. This Government has only recently been facing up to its responsibilities. I would be the last one to accuse the distinguished senator from Victoria, Senator Cormack, of ignorance when he talks of beef roads. I know that he was not telling an untruth; he would be the last one to tell an untruth. But he just was not accurate when he said that I spoke in terms of condemnation of the Normanton Road. Someone helped him out with the name of the other terminal - Julia Creek. What I did say on the second last night of a session of the Senate was that an amount of £650,000 was being provided for this particular road by the Commonwealth Government, and £350,000 by the State Government; that this would not be enough; that the road would have to be sealed; and that there would have to be adequate provision for the difficult climatic circumstances of the area.
– To which clause does this relate?
– Clauses 1 to 13. I am dealing with the responsibility of the Chairman of the Bureau.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator McKellar).You are making a second reading speech.
– No, I am not making a second reading speech. I have had this before. If a chairman is to be appointed, surely one is entitled to deal with his responsibilities, or his likely responsibilities.
– You are making a second reading speech. We are considering clauses 1 to 13. You must confine your remarks to those clauses.
– I am not contradicting you. Far be it from me to do that. What I am trying to convey in a limited way to honorable senators is what the responsibilities of the Chairman of the Bureau may be in relation to the limited approach of the Government to this major problem of national development. Not only does it affect national development. After all, roads are used for defence purposes and for tourist activities. Surely I am entitled to deal with what may be the responsibilities of the man who is likely to be appointed Chairman and to visualise for the Government in advance what the difficulties may be. There is nothing wrong with that, is there, Sir?
– As long as you do not go back to a second reading speech. Confine you remarks to clauses 1 to 13.
– I did not make a second reading speech and I am not making a second reading speech now. I am dealing with clauses 1 to 13 and I am dealing with the members of the Bureau, as proposed in the Bill.
– Get on with it.
– I will get on with it, if I am not interrupted. The Government is thinking of having three men, one full time and two part time, as members of the Bureau and a minimum of staff. It is all very well for Senator Cormack to say - I am sorry that he is not here - that this Bureau will grow into a monster. If it grows into a monster, that will be the responsibility of the government of the day, whether it be anti-Labour or Labour. I feel certain that when Labour is in control of the treasury bench, this Bureau will not grow into a monster. It will grow into an efficient administrative set up, seised of a sense of national responsibility. Far be it from me to claim that I am an expert, but I do accept the word of experts who should know. They say that the cost of damage occasioned to vehicles by bad roads throughout Australia today amounts to £1 million. I know that we cannot have bitumen roads all over the country, but at least this damage could be minimised. I say that the people who use the roads, particularly those who carry the goods, should pay, but the Government should be fair to those people when they do pay, and provide them with roads for their vehicles. The Government has not done so. The Government is doing so now, or close enough to it. The Government proposes to give the States £375 million for roads in the next five years. That sum will be completely inadequate. In addition, people who own vehicles pay licence fees - term it what you will - to State Governments.
How the Chairman of the Bureau and his two associates could do a really worth while job with a limited staff passes my comprehension. It would not pass the comprehension of Government supporters, because they just do not understand. They just would not know. They are not seised of their responsibilities in regard to this problem. When we think in terms of wear and tear on the roads, and the demands that have been submitted to meet requirements over the next ten years in relation to roads, we realise that the Government is totally inept in handling the problem. Does the Government not realise that inadequate collection of taxes - not from motorists but from road hauliers - has not meant really cheap goods to consignees? It has meant extraordinary profits, and many people in every State have built up tremendous enterprises because of those extraordinary profits, associated with low taxation for the utilisation of roads. These are the people who are wearing down the roads.
I would not know, from reading this Bill, including clauses 1 to 13, what the Government is prepared to do in relation to research, the maximum utilisation of materials for roadmaking and the maximum utilisation of routes. I did hear one distinguished senator - I should hate to mention his name as he is such a great friend of mine - say that when this Bureau was established it would in the process of time bleed the State roads departments. He did not use the word “ bleed “ but I suppose I am entitled to use it. The Government is to be condemned for lack of foresight in making provision for an adequate supply of qualified people. How can one say that this Bureau will bleed the State roads departments when the Government has not had the foresight to make provision for roads for various purposes, for development, tourism and the carriage of goods? When asking those questions I am not listening to the muttering that is coming from honorable senators opposite; I have not time.
– What section are you dealing with now?
– I am dealing with administration and the responsibility that will be entrusted to the Chairman and the two associate members of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. You would have known that if you were smart enough.
– That comes within the ambit of clauses 1 to 13?
– Yes. The Chairman will deal with me if I am out of order. I shall bow to his wishes at any time, but not to those of Senator Scott. The only government that has realised its responsibility for the construction of reasonable roads and the training of personnel has been the New South Wales Labour Government. It has sought to establish, and has established, within the University of New South Wales the Institute of Highway and Traffic Research. The construction of roads is becoming increasingly difficult. The problems are becoming greater. Because of the use of heavier vehicles and the heavier loads that are carried by those vehicles, in some cases the problems are almost incapable of solution. Until now the Commonwealth Government has done nothing about the construction of roads except to filch from the people taxes which they were entitled to have returned to them. Only this year has the Government come close to returning for the purpose of road construction the money that has been raised by way of petrol and fuel tax. Being filled with a sense of national responsibility, if I were in control of highway engineering I would make the people pay for the roads. But at least I would see that that which they paid was returned to them. I would be aware of the necessity to provide an adequate highway system throughout the Commonwealth. Australia is a land of21/2 million square miles and a population of 11 million people. This nation is crying out for development and for the provision of adequate defence facilities. A nuclear weapon may never be dropped on Australia and we may be forced to take up the ordinary types of arms.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I think I can best reply to the question asked by my friend, Senator Mattner, about the responsibilities of the members of the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads by referring him to the Bill itself and by saying that the proposed authority will be an independent statutory body. The Bill sets out the constitution of the Bureau, its functions, the method of appointment of commissioner and the provisions governing the termination of office. The honorable senator will note that clause 5 provides that for the purposes of the Act there is to be established a bureau which shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession. Clause 6 provides that it shall consist of a chairman and two other members. The relevant part of the clause reads -
The members shall be appointed by the Governor-General.
It might be held, and properly so, that they are responsible to the Governor-General. The honorable senator will realise what that entails. The Bill provides that a member of the Bureau must apply for leave of absence and that his remuneration shall be determined by the Governor-General. Provision is made for acting membership and, as I have said, there is a special clause dealing with the termination of office.
I have used the word “ independent “. A member, in the proper execution of the functions delineated in the Bill, will not be responsible to anyone but will be free to carry out those functions as best he can in accordance with his appointment. I suggest that the purpose of establishing this statutory body is to appoint for the task in view people who are adjudged to be capable of doing the job, to give them their charter, and to let them act.
Clauses agreed to.
The functions of the Bureau are -
.- I move -
In paragraph (b), after “ Minister “ insert “ or either House of the Parliament as the case may be “.
Clause 14(b) would then read - to investigate, and report to the Minister or either House of the Parliament as the case may be on, any matter referred to the Bureau under the next succeeding section.
For the assistance of honorable senators, I wish to indicate the scheme of the amendments that we propose to move so that their pattern will be seen. It will be noted that only two or three questions of principle are involved in the amendments, although several will be moved.
It is proposed to let clause 14(a) stand as it is, although I want to pursue with the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) one or two further questions about the functions of the Bureau. I have already moved am amendment to clause 14(b). We shall move that a new paragraph (c) be added at the end of clause 14.
It will read -
In other words, clause 14(c) will provide for the submission of an annual report to the Minister. So three kinds of reports would be covered in clause 14. First, a report would be submitted by the Bureau to the Minister on work which the Bureau itself had initiated. Paragraph (b) would provide for the submission of reports to the Minister or either House of the Parliament on any of the matters referred to the Bureau under clause 15. Then paragraph (c) would deal with annual reports. We will also propose the addition after clause 27 of the following new clause -
It will be seen that we want all the reports referred to in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of clause 14 to be laid before each House of the Parliament. That disposes of amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 4 on the sheet that has been circulated. I repeat that I am merely sketching the scheme of our amendments.
Amendment No. 3 on the circulated list provides for the insertion of certain words in clause 15 consequential upon the amendment of clause i4(b). So in clause 15 wc would merely be providing that where the Minister had referred a matter for investigation and report under clause 14(b) the report would go to the Minister, and where cither House of the Parliament had referred a matter to the Bureau for investigation and report the report would go to the particular House of the Parliament which had referred the matter for investigation. Finally, although this is not by way of amendment, we will be voting against clause 14 in its entirety.
Clause 17 provides the key to the Opposition’s attitude to this Bill at the Committee stage. The clause provides that the Bureau shall not make public except with the approval of the Minister information obtained by the Bureau in the cause of carrying out any investigation, or the results of any investigation carried out by it, or the whole or any part of the contents of a report furnished by the Bureau to the Minister. Our argument is that that clause should be deleted from the Bill and that there should be provision for reports in the manner 1 have indicated.
I now propose with your permission, Mr. Chairman, to address myself to the first of the amendments. I said during the second reading debate that we take the view that the Bureau should not be a kind of private advisory service to the Minister, as though it were his own Department, so that any officer of it would merely be available to advise the Minister and matters passing between the Bureau and the Minister need never become public. We take the view that this Bureau will be operating, even within its limited terms - and we are critical of the limited scope that the Government has given to the Bureau - under a statute passed by this Parliament. We also take the view that the Bureau should report to the Parliament and should not be any different in that respect from dozens of statutory authorities which, by virture of the statutes which set them up, are required at least to make an annual report to the Minister. These statutes also provide that the Minister shall lay the reports before the Parliament within 15 days of receiving them. I could cite - and I shall do so when I come to proposed new paragraph (c) of clause 14 - instances of other statutory authorities to which that precise provision applies.
Under clause 14 there are two different functions which the Government proposes that the Bureau shall fulfil. First, there is the limited function of investigating matters which it is decided should be investigated, and secondly, there is the function of investigating and reporting to the Minister on matters referred to it by the Minister. The Leader of the Government in the Senate, who is the Minister in charge of the Bill, has indicated his agreement with the view that I put the other day, that that function is limited to providing information and reports to the Minister on matters broadly within the present scope of Commonwealth interest in roads. As I put it the other day, that is in furtherance of the purpose of the Commonwealth as set out in section 96 of the Constitution, dealing with grants of financial assistance to the States. Read in that way, clause 14(a) does not permit the Bureau of its own motion to report, for example, on a national interstate highway system. It does not permit the Bureau to report on defence roads because those are not matters which, in the ordinary way, would fall within the purview of financial assistance to the States for roadmaking.
The Minister concedes that clause 14 (b) has a much wider scope; that whereas the Bureau is limited, so far as initiating matters is concerned, to matters within the present power conferred by section 96, when it comes to references to the Bureau the Minister is at large for any purpose of the
Commonwealth provided it is connected with roadmaking. Let me give an example which may illustrate the difference. Currently, there is a good deal of interest in road safety and in the problem of whether the installation of seat belts in motor cars should be on a compulsory or voluntary basis. That is a matter relating to road safety. It may be that the Minister would like to have the Bureau investigate it. 1 do not know whether that is in his mind. One can assume that that is a problem relating to roads or road transport not falling within clause 14 (a), which could be referred to the Bureau under clause 14 (b).
Assume that the Minister does not care to refer such a problem to the Bureau. Assume also that it is the view of this Parliament, or of this chamber, that the problem is of sufficient importance to warrant the Bureau being asked to investigate it and report on it. I would have doubted whether it could properly come under the power provided in clause 14 (a). In our opinion, the distinction between the powers in paragraphs (a) and (b) of clause 14 should be removed. If it is not to be removed by the Government amending clause 14 (a), the power ought at least to be enlarged sufficiently to enable this Parliament, or either House of it, to refer a matter to the Bureau. This is especially so as it is not to be an executive bureau. Since it is to be a research and investigatory body, what is the argument against allowing the Parliament, or either House of it that may be interested in the problem, to say: “ We would like the Bureau to investigate this problem and make a report to us. Otherwise, we may set up a select committee to investigate the same problem “?
Our argument on this paragraph is that the power should be enlarged to enable either House of the Parliament to request the Bureau to investigate a matter and report to that House, and that the power under paragraph (b) should be enlarged to enable the Bureau to report to the particular House as well as to the Minister. Our amendments to later clauses are consequential upon that one, but it seems to me that that is the kernel of the matter. I again invite the Minister’s attention to the fact that everything would seem to depend upon two factors, both of which’ relate to areas in which there can be human frailty. In the first place, the Bureau may take a very limited view of its functions even as they stand under clause 14 and allot itself only a few tasks each year.
– Its functions are definitely limited under clause 15.
– They are limited in that way, but what I am putting is that the Bureau may take a conservative or narrow view of its functions under clause 14 (a), by setting itself merely two or three tasks a year on which to attempt an investigation and report.
Secondly, when it comes to clause 14 (b), I think the Minister will concede that everything depends upon the manner in which the Minister approaches his task. If there is an inactive Minister who does not bring to his job some positive qualities of leadership, he may never refer questions to the Bureau. He may take the view that the Bureau is an expert body which is sending reports up to him which are very interesting. He may be very satisfied with the way it is functioning. A Minister with a more aggresive and positive approach to his responsibilities might say: “ I can think of a dozen things I would like to refer to this Bureau.” There would bc all the difference in the world between the situation that would apply under a Minister with the first approach and that which would apply under a Minister with the second approach, particularly as there is no suitable provision in the Bill as it stands, unless we can persuade the Government to accept the’ amendments.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I rise merely to give the honorable senator an opportunity to continue.
.- I am. grateful to the Committee. I do not pro-, pose to take very much longer in putting the view of the Opposition. I was saying that the position could arise that a passive Minister would not refer any matters to the Bureau under clause 14 (b). In that event, as the Parliament would not be getting reports, and in any case would not be entitled to reports from the Bureau or from the Minister unless the Minister chose to make them available, we would be cut off fromthe Bureau’s sources of information and deprived of the ability to exercise a watchful scrutiny over the activities of the Bureau.
Our argument is that we should have power, as a Senate, to decide these matters, just as the other place should have power to decide them. We might wish to consider an aspect of road safety involving interstate highway construction. The Australian Automobile Association, in its “ Federal News Letter” of 8th September, had something to say about that very problem, so it will be clear that 1 am not putting forward merely an academic argument but am dealingwith something real. Discussing the debate on this Bill in the other place - I do not know whether the comment was accurate - the news letter said -
Apparently none of the speakers suggested that the Bureau should have specific responsibilities in connection with the planning and development of a National Interstate Highway System. Presumably they were satisfied-
That is, those in the other place - thatthe Minister would refer this matter to the Bureau under the authority given him in section 15 (1) of the Bill.
The news letter then went on to make something of an understatement. It said -
The danger here is that this discretionary power might not be invoiced.
For those who think it would be worth while to investigate the development of a national interstate highway system, it would be of the greatest importance that that matter should be referred to the Bureau. The Parliament should have the power to take the initiative and make such a reference. I think I have put the Opposition view sufficiently at this stage.
– I desire to pose a question to the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge), but first of all I should like to pose a question to you, Mr. Chairman. Are we confined now to discussing clause 14?
– At the moment, yes.
– Senator Cohen referred to other clauses. He made reference to clause 17.
– Senator Cohen gave an outline of the proposed amendments, and then he confined his remarks to clause 14.
– Aslong asI am not precluded from referring to the other clauses later, I am satisfied. Clause 14 provides -
The functions of the Bureau are -
to investigate, and from time to time report to the Minister on, matters relating to roads or road transport for the purpose of assisting the Government of the Commonwealth in the consideration by the Government of the grant of financial assistance by the Parliament to the States in connection with roads or road transport; and
to investigate, and report to the Minister on, any matter referred to the Bureau under the next succeeding section.
We will deal with that later. We know that in relation to beef roads the Treasurer had authority to say where the roads should go and what standards should be observed. I ask the Minister whether it is proposed that the Bureau should have similar authority, and whether the errors that were made in the past will be rectified. The GeorgetownMt. Surprise Road was approved by the Government of the day, but an argument has arisen in relation to 21 miles of the road. The contractor states that he laid the road down according to specifications, but I have been informed that the work has been condemned on the ground that the metal used is not satisfactory, although the State Government had agreed previously that the metal was satisfactory as a base for the foundation of this road. I have said before that I visualised the deficiencies that would arise in relation to the Normanton-Julia Creek Road, the construction of which was decided upon hastily by the Government of the day in an endeavour to lure the electors to vote for it. I was justified in what Isaid. Other deficiencies have been revealed, of which I had no knowledge at the time. I was informed of them subsequently.
– Order! You are getting right away from the clause under consideration.
– I am posing this question to the Minister.
– You are giving a long history of something that is not applicable to the clause.
– One of the functions of the Bureau is to investigate the matters referred to in the clause, which I read to the Committee. SurelyI am entitled to deal with these things. After all, they are of national importance. The people’s money has been wasted, and the people are entitled to know whether they will be adequately protected in the future. May 1 proceed?
– As long as you confine your remarks to clause 14.
– I am dealing with the functions of the Bureau and I am asking whether the Bureau will correct the errors of the past. I do not think it will bc able to do so, because of its limited staff. 1 disagree with the distinguished senator from Victoria who said that the Bureau will grow into a monster. The Bureau should be a responsible body. I think that the present Minister has sufficient sense of responsibility to ensure that the Bureau will carry out its work efficiently and that an efficient staff will be engaged.
I should like information also on the responsibility of the Bureau in relation to roads in the Northern Territory and other Territories under the control of the Commonwealth. In describing the damage to beef roads in the Northern Territory, I did not ask anyone in this august chamber to accept my. word; I asked honorable senators to look at pictures published by the anti-Labour Conservative press. I am now asking the Minister whether the errors that have occurred in the past will be remedied. Millions of pounds have been wasted on the construction of these roads. Graziers, particularly in the Northern Territory, are complaining that the locations of certain roads were changed and that the estimates were changed. An instance of this is the Wave Hill-Top Springs Road, in relation to which a new submission is being made to the Public Works Committee. The road is now to be sited where the graziers first wanted it, and where, personally, I thought it should have gone in the first place. But far be it from me to put myself up as an expert in these ma Ite rs. 1 again pose my questions to the Minister. Will the errors of the past be corrected by this Bureau? Will he see that the Bureau engages sufficient competent staff to enable it to discharge its functions, despite the efforts of the State righters on the Government side who say that the Federal Government should nol have power in this field. Power inevitably will flow to Canberra. This Bureau in the process of time will become a large body. It must co-ordinate road works and carry out the investigational responsibilities entrusted to it. It is all very well for honorable senators opposite to talk about the States being the administering authorities. The States have certain administrative responsibilities, but they can discharge them only if money is doled out to them in generous fashion by the Commonwealth Government. Money is taken from the people by the Commonwealth Government, which misuses it in many cases. Some of that money is handed to the State Governments, which pass it on to the local authorities. The local authorities are squealing that they do not get sufficient money to carry out their work. In the process of time, even though there may be amalgamations of shires and municipalities, local autonomy will go and power will be vested in the Commonwealth. That is where the money flows to, and that is where the money flows from. I simply pose that question, through you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to the Minister. The Minister knows that when I seek information I always seek it in my own way from him. He has always been gracious to me. He has always been prepared to provide answers for me. However inefficient, on occasions, he might be, or however limited his knowledge might be, at least he is prepared’ to go and look up the story and tell me. I ask the Minister through you, Sir, not to permit a repetition of the waste of money that has occurred in the past. I ask him to see that this Bureau adopts a national approach to the problem of road transport. I ask him to ensure the Bureau will advise the Minister as to how money should be collected, and that the people of Australia who use the roads shall not be unduly penalised. I ask him to give attention to the road hauliers who, from very little capital, have built up large enterprises out of tremendous excess profits. If the Minister gives me those assurances I shall be quite happy to support this Bill, although not in its entirety. But knowing how hesitant the Minister has been, how lacking in adventure he has been, how fearful he has been of the future, and how lacking he has been in a sense of responsibility for the defence of this country and for its natural endowments. I am doubtful.
– Before the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) replies to Senator Cohen, I just want to draw attention to a matter which to me seems important in view of the amendment that he proposed. lt scents to me that the Minister has recognised the reasons for the Opposition’s amendment. Whilst previously he argued that he did not appreciate the intention of the Opposition, it is obvious that he realises that what we want is a more effective Bureau. Unless clause 14 is amended, it will mean that projects which might be submitted to the Bureau by the Minister could have repercussions on the roles of the legislature. 1 want the Minister to consider this matter because he referred to the fact that the Minister might refer certain projects to the Bureau. Take, for example, the beef roads in South Australia. This Bureau could have a great deal of information including facts and figures on beef roads. The Government would be advised on this matter, not the Parliament, and the Government would make a decision in this respect. Having studied this information and after discussions with the Bureau, the Government would then determine the policy. The clause in its present form inhibits the legislature. It could mean that we, as senators who are required to advance State interests and to argue about national projects and State projects, could, in fact, be at a disadvantage. The real purpose of the Parliament could be upset in this way. As we sec it, the Governnent has to put something more into the Bureau. If the Government votes against the amendment, it has to accept the responsibility that this sort of situation will obtain.
The other matter to which I wish to refer is the powers invested in the Bureau under clause 14. Reference has been made to this matter in this chamber by Senator Laught, by myself and by other honorable senators. Reference has also been made to it in another place. It could well be that this particular clause encompasses things other than roads. Irrespective of what has been said, it still seems to me to be important that the Government of the nation ought to try to correct the mistakes in the lack of co-ordination which appeared in our first railways organisation. I ask the Minister to consider what action might be taken in respect of the matter I have raised.
.- There is one matter that 1 would like to make clear to the Minister. I thought it would have followed from what 1 said, but it might not be entirely clear that it does so. We have not sought to offer an amendment to clause 14 (a), although we are critical of the limited scope of the Bureau. It is being set up by this Government to perform the functions that this Government has in mind for it. Therefore, although we have not sought to amend clause 14 (a), we would have liked to have seen the powers made coextensive, so far as sub-clauses (a) and (b) are concerned. The functions have been set for the Bureau, not by the Opposition, but by the Government. We have attempted to deal with the position by widening the area of reporting to include Parliament as well as the Minister.
.- I think that the whole nub and the whole purpose of the Bill itself is contained in clause 14 which relates to the functions of the Bureau. Clause 14 provides that the functions of the Bureau are “ To investigate, and report to the Minister “ which circumscribes the functions of the Bureau relating to roads or road transport for the purpose of assisting the Commonwealth Government. This Bureau will be the first of its kind in Australia. State Governments, local authorities and the electors of Australia have sought such a Bureau, and it is to be set up pursuant to a promise that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) made to the people of Australia. Yet I believe that this clause circumscribes the principle that was involved in the message that the Prime Minister gave to the people because the control of it is being kept entirely within the Government.
The Bureau will advise the Commonwealth Government on the amount of grants of financial assistance by the Commonwealth to the States. I believe that this Bureau would be a more effective body if it were able to extend its activities in accumulating information not only for the purpose of advising the Commonwealth Government, but so that it would be a ready reference body for other people who are engaged in this problem of roads and road transport.
The amendment that we have moved, of course, is one of vital principle. After all, I do not think that anyone envisaged that this would be a hole in the corner Bureau. I do not think anyone believed that the matters which the Minister would refer to the Bureau, and all the other matters that, perhaps, would come up from time to time, would be kept secret. Everyone believed that the Bureau was being established for the purpose of collating scientific, factual and constructive data. In every other field we are trying to gather the great products of human intellect together into manageable proportions. That knowledge is then easily disseminated amongst people who wish to have access to it.
Earlier on I mentioned one of the activities to which I thought the Bureau could apply itself. That was research in universities. I am quite certain that this Bureau could collect valuable information that could be sent to universities for further research or for further consideration. As we will learn later on, the Bureau will be completely restricted to being a highly specialised ‘ and very secret adviser to the Minister and to the Government. I believe that the great value of this Bureau could be enhanced if its findings were laid on the table of each House. The contribution from the Bureau towards the solution of this big problem would bc very valuable. I would like the Minister to tell the Committee the real reason why the work of the Bureau is to be such a closed field pf activity and why information from it is to go to the Minister along a secret, well guarded track.
What would influence the Minister or the Government to keep the Bureau on such a narrow path with respect to the distribution of information? Does the Government forsee the Bureau overlapping into defence matters? It doss not, because provision has been made that the Bureau shall have nothing to do with defence roads. Does the Government foresee the Bureau advising the Treasury what to do? It does not, because the activities of the Bureau do not extend into that area, although it will assist the Government in the consideration of the granting of financial assistance by the Parliament, but only in an advisory capacity. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Government and the Minister want to keep the operations of this Bureau so circumscribed. I hope the Minister will not bo secretive about this matter, but will be quite candid and assure the Committee that the best thing is being done by keeping the Bureau within such narrow confines.
– I do not think the Committee expects me to traverse the various points in the speech made by Senator Dittmer. I think most of the points to which he referred were covered, and very adequately covered, during the debate on the motion for the second reading of this Bill. Perhaps I should make just one reference to what he said in the course of his long address, because this is important. Senator Dittmer asked specifically whether, the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads would have control over road standards. This gives me the opportunity to say again, and to say emphatically, that the Bureau is not to be set up to control anything. The Bureau is to be set up to advise the Government in pursuance of the Government’s own policy. The Bureau will not be setting standards; it will not be giving directions and making suggestions as to how roads should be constructed. As has been said from 20t:i May last when this Bill was introduced in another place, the Bureau will bc an advisory body set up for the purpose of advising the Government.
Before I come to Senator Cohen’s submissions I shall refer to a matter which was raised by Senator Bishop. He raised again a question discussed by Senator Laught as to the ability of the Bureau to deal, on reference to it, with matters other than roads or road transport matters. 1 think the honorable senator will agree with me that that particular power is implicit in the Bill. If he will look at clause 15 he will see ti provides that -
The Minister may, for or in connexion wilh any purpose of the Commonwealth, refer any matter relating to roads or Toad transport to the Bureau for investigation and report.
There is no specific reference to other forms of transport, but I think the honorable senator will perceive that the specific reference to roads and road transport must in fact imply a consideration of other forms of transport and their effect on road transport.
For the moment. I address myself only to the proposed amendment to clause 14 (b). I do want to say to Senator Cohen that I very much appreciated his lucid general explanation of the entire scope of his amendments. As he specifically pointed out, in reference to his last amendment, this additional clause, if carried, would have reference back to the earlier amendments. I think it is important for the Committee to appreciate that point. But, in respect of his proposed amendment to clause 14 (b), he takes the point, which is agreed between us, that clause 14 (a) does in fact impose a restriction on the Bureau. That restriction limits what can be done by the Bureau at its own instigation, and the scope of the work which now falls within the general arrangement under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement. Senator Cohen then goes on to clause 14(b) and indicates again quite accurately that this paragraph reposes a very broad and sweeping power in the Minister. He goes from that point to say that this is, in effect, good enough; this gives the Minister the power. I point out in passing’ that this paragraph gives the Minister power to include everything that can bc excluded by clause 14 (a). The Minister can refer anything to the Bureau. The honorable senator says that this power should be reposed also in. either House of the Parliament. We do no? accept the amendment.
The amendment is not accepted for the reasons which I gave in closing the second reading debate. We do not accept the amendment because the very purpose of this Bureau is to advise the Government. Surely, if its purpose is to do this, then it has to advise the Government on matters on which the Government seeks advice. But Senator Cohen goes further. I noted his point. He says that this is right, but that the Minister might be some slothful fellow who is not doing his job. The Minister might need to be prodded along. In reply, I need only say that, in this Govern ment, that sort of thing docs not occur. If a Minister shows any sign of slackness he is very quickly told by his colleagues where he gets off. But let us assume this point thaI the Minister does become lazy, or does not do his job-
– Or takes a narrow view of his functions.
– Or, suppose as the honorable senator says, that he takes a narrow view of his functions to the point where the Parliament becomes resentful of his actions. I emphasise the Parliament because I really suspect that what Senator Cohen has in mind is that the Opposition should be in a position to direct the Minister. There is a difference-
– Only if the Opposition could persuade enough members on the Government side to join it.
– That is true enough. But the honorable senator’s reference is to the Parliament, and the Minister Ls in the command of the Parliament the whole time, whether these amendments go through or not; and I do not anticipate that they will be accepted. But that does not mean that the Minister does not remain in the command of the Parliament. The Parliament can direct or request the Minister to do something. I put it as a practical possibility.
The honorable senator read from a document in which it is pointed out that there is a danger because the Minister may not direct the attention of the Bureau to a particular project. May I take this further and point out that if the Parliament wants that particular project examined by the Bureau, the Parliament is in a position to direct the Minister to put it to the Bureau. I leave it there. I have put the Government’s view as fully as I can. The amendment is not accepted.
.- It is good to hear the Minister say that the Parliament is in a position to direct the relevant Minister if it believes that a particular matter should be referred to the Bureau for investigation. The occasion may arise when the Parliament will want to do so.
– I . thought the Minister and the Government were rather inconsistent in the appointment of the members of the Bureau. It appears to me that we are getting another three faceless men. The Government has set a record in handing over the powers of the Parliament to committees, minor boards and all kinds of organisations that are really outside parliamentary control. The Minister has said that the Parliament will always exercise control, but that is not my experience. My experience has been that these boards are always on the job, always building up empires outside the purview of the Parliament and that the Parliament is dealing with other problems while this empire building process is going on.
I should like the Minister to give us some confidence that the members of the Bureau will not be regarded in the same way as Government members usually regard the Labour Party Executive. They refer to members of the Executive as faceless men. I should like an assurance that the members of the Bureau will not be three more faceless men for the Government to blame and hide behind when it sees fit to do so. It is not enough to say that the Parliament can do this or that when it wishes to do so. Decisions are being made behind the Parliament’s back. My experience, in this Parliament at any rate, is that very often we rubber stamp decisions that we do not know much about. 1 hope the Minister will give me some assurance that this will not be just another faceless men proposition.
– My friend seems obsessed with the possibility of the Government choosing to appoint to the Bureau three members of the Federal Executive of the Australian Labour Party. I give him my assurance that that is not the
Government’s intention. I give him my assurance also that I am sure the gentlemen appointed to the Bureau will meet with his approval and with the approval of all reasonable people.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Cohen’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
At the end of the clause add the following paragraph - “ (c) to prepare and furnish to the Minister, as soon as possible after the thirtieth day of June in each year, a report on the operations of the Bureau during the year ending on that date.”.
I think I explained sufficiently in my speech during the second-reading debate that we were concerned that the Bureau should not be a body so private, as between itself and the Minister, that the Parliament could never exercise proper surveillance or scrutiny of its operations. Whatever may be said of the proposed amendment which has just been defeated, there seems to me to be an extremely strong argument, which I put now on behalf of the Opposition, that at least the Bureau should be required to make an annual report to the Minister and that the Minister should be required to present that annual report to the Parliament.
Many statutory bodies of this kind have been set up by authority of the Parliament. Some 32 reports are mentioned in the report of the Joint Select Committee on the Printing of Parliamentary Papers and Government Publications, which was published just a few months ago. It is the practice to make this provision in statutes of this kind and we want to know what possible reason there can be for the Government’s declining to include such a provision in this Bill,
I refer the Minister to statutes which include this provision. They cover statutory authorities connected with transport such . as the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, the Australian National Airlines Commission, Qantas Empire Airways and the Commonwealth Railways. All are required under statute to submit an annual report on their work and operations so that the Parliament can have some opportunity to scrutinise their work and say whether it is satisfied with the work.
Without such a report to the Minister in the first place and without such an obligation on the Minister to go to the Parliament, we will always be in the hands of the Minister. He can simply turn his back on requests for reports. He can say: “ I am not obliged under the statute to make any report to the Parliament and the Bureau is not obliged to make any report to me except as set out in section 14. I am not obliged to reveal its contents to Parliament and, indeed, the Bureau itself is forbidden by section 17 to make any disclosure of the results of any investigation or information obtained in the course of an investigation in whole or in part. I am not required to disclose to the Parliament any of this information and the Bureau is not required to disclose information to anybody other than myself.” That would effectively frustrate any kind of intelligent supervision by the Parliament of the work of the Bureau.
Once a year, bodies which perhaps are more important and whose work is more secret than the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will be required to report to a Minister and through him to this Parliament. We put it as a simple proposition to the Minister for Defence: Will the Government reconsider its attitude on this matter at any rate so far as annual reports are concerned? Why should we be denied an opportunity to read of the work of the Bureau except with the permission of the Minister?
I know the reply of the Minister for Defence will be that the Opposition has misunderstood the nature of the Bureau.
He will say it is really a private little show, lt has nothing to do with the Parliament. lt is the Minister who is to be advised on these problems. But it is very important that it should be stipulated that the work of bodies such as the Bureau should not be the private preserve of the Minister and the Government. For all we know, the Bureau may tender some advice to the Government which the Government will not accept. The Government will then put to the Parliament some other proposition. If the Minister so decides we need never bs told that this very important investigatory body has recommended otherwise than in accordance with what is presented to the Parliament. That is a very important matter and one that the Government should not be allowed to pass over lightly. It is not for the Minister or the Government to have such private sources of information on such non-sensitive, non-security matters nor should they be excluded altogether from the Parliament. I make a strong plea, especially to honorable senators on the Government side who arc forever and a day talking of the importance of maintaining the supremacy of the Parliament. It arises in the case of many statutory bodies. Even in my limited time in this Parliament we have had debates in which that principle was asserted. Let it be asserted today in the vote on this amendment. In conclusion I press the Minister to undertake that he will support this amendment calling for an annual report and not merely reply by asserting that we have misunderstood the functions of the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads.
– I am sure it will- come as no surprise to Senator Cohen that, despite his hotly pressed request, the Government does not accept the amendment. Actually it falls into two parts.
– Like Gaul.
– Gaul fell into three parts, if I remember correctly. The first of these two parts has reference to reports from the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. That is adequately covered in the provisions of the Bill. Whether a matter is instigated by the Bureau or not, the Bill provides that the Bureau shall report and the report shall be made to the Minister. So the question virtually comes back to the matter we have been discussing - a report to the Parliament. Again I am sure I am going to disappoint Senator Cohen but I must tell him that, having regard to the nature of this Bureau, its function will be exclusively to act as an advisory body to the Government. Might I emphasise that?
– It should not be such a function.
– It is to be set up as sucha body. Senator Bishop might not agree with that but that is what the Government wants and it is what the Government’s Bill provides. Having regard to that, the Government does not accept the amendment. As a matter of practical fact - and we will come to this in the next clause - the fact that this provision is going into the Bill docs not necessarily mean that much material will not be made available to the Parliament. A Labour Government would act in precisely the same way as this Government if it were in office. There is good reason why information or advice, confidentially prepared and confidentially given, should be treated as confidential. The Government’s proposal only seeks to make that possible.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Cohen’s amendment) be added.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 15 (Investigation by Bureau of matters referred by Minister).
.- -I have circulated three amendments to this clause, which reads - (I.) The Minister may, for or in connexion with any purpose of the Commonwealth, refer any matter relating to roads or road transport to the Bureau for investigation and report. (2.) Where the Minister refers a matter to the Bureau under the last preceding sub-section, the Bureau shall, as soon as is practicable, investigate the matter and furnish to the Minister a report in respect of the investigation.
The first two amendments provide for the insertion, after “ Minister “, first and second occurring, of the words “ or either House of the Parliament”. The third amendment provides for the insertion, after “Minister”, third occurring, of the’ words “ or that House, as the case may be”. Having regard to the fate of the amendment moved to clause 14 and as these amendments would have been consequential upon its acceptance, I do not desire to put them.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 (Affairs of Bureau not to be made public).
.- The Opposition is opposed to this clause and will vote against it. As was indicated in the course of the second reading debate, this provision preventing the Bureau or its members from making public information obtained by the Bureau in the course of carrying out its investigations, or the results of any investigations carried out by the Bureau, or the whole or any part of the contents of a report furnished by the Bureau to the Minister is, in the opinion of the Opposition, highly objectionable. I have made a reasonably diligent search through the statutes and my researches have failed to discover any comparable clause in any other act. 1 should be obliged if the Minister would indicate whether there is any precedent for this kind of positive prohibition directed to an authority that is being set up by a statute against disclosure of its reports.
We arc not dealing here with security information. We are dealing with matters of great public interest on the great national problem of roads. What possible justification can there be for saying to the Bureau, “Thou shalt not publish the results of any of your investigations unless J say so “ - keeping it away from the Parliament, keeping it away from the people? This is something that in our view cannot bc justified on any proper basis of principle. One can understand the position where there is no provision about a report. Most of the acts setting up statutory authorities require the submission of an annual report at any rate to the Minister, and then the Minister presents that report to the Parliament. One can understand that in some cases an act may be silent on the question of whether there should bc an obligation on the Minister to make a report. But a provision of this kind positively prohibiting the disclosure or the making public of any of the information that is covered in this clause cannot, on any reasonable view, such as we would consider proper in the conduct of public business, be justified.
I draw attention to the fact that- under the Commonwealth Crimes Act, the definition of “ Commonwealth officer “ includes a person in the service of a public authority under the Commonwealth. It is, by section 70 of that Act, an offence punishable by imprisonment for two years for a person who is a Commonwealth officer to publish or communicate, except to some person to whom he is authorised to publish or communicate it, any fact or document which comes to his knowledge or into his possession by virtue of his office and which it is his duty not to disclose. One has only to read that provision, which incidentally applies also to persons who have been Commonwealth officers, to realise–
– Will these be Commonwealth officers?
– They will be Commonwealth officers under the definition in the Crimes Act because they are persons in the service of a public authority under the Commonwealth. The Bureau - its members and its officers - will be in jeopardy under the Crimes Act, because plainly section 70 makes it their duty not to disclose information except with the permission of the Minister. So it is a serious matter. It is not merely the insertion into a statute of a pious provision about non-disclosure, it is the insertion of a provision which would put a member or an officer of the Bureau in peril of his liberty if he made any disclosure of information obtained by the Bureau in the course of carrying out any investigation. It will be obvious that this clause is in very wide terms. Information obtained by the Bureau may include some statistical information about road accidents in Queensland or in Western Australia. It may include statistical information about road mileage or the composition or condition of roads. These do not seem on the face of them to be matters that ought to require any obligation of secrecy.
I know that the Minister will say that this is putting an extreme case, because in such an instance no doubt the Minister would give his approval for the publication. But the point is that it is not a trivial matter that is being dealt with in this clause, lt is a highly serious and important matter having effects which could ultimately rebound upon the liberty of the person involved. I do not anticipate that there will be any such breach of the provision if it becomes law by any member of the Bureau or by any of its officers, .but we are now engaged in the serious business of enacting a statute of this Parliament. When it becomes law, it will not be a good answer for anybody who is caught up in this net to say: “ Oh, well, that really was not in the Parliament’s mind when it passed this statute.” That is what the words mean. The clause is objectionable, and if the Government does not agree to its deletion we shall vote against it.
– Mr. Chairman, often great principles are decided in minor bills. 1 think this Bill is a case in point. I join with Senator Cohen in what he said about the great principles that are involved in this matter. I ask the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) for some clarification of a further matter. We know from what has already been determined by the Committee that the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will not have to report to the Parliament. There will be no obligation upon it to do so. But is it intended in clause 17 to prevent the Houses of Parliament themselves, by delegation to their committees sitting separately or as joint committees, from getting information from the Bureau or members of the Bureau except with the approval of the Minister? In other words, I would like the assurance of the Minister for Defence that it is not suggested that, with the enactment of clause 17, the Houses of this Parliament and committees of this Parliament will be impeded in their functions and in obtaining information in such a way as they see fit.
One would think that these wide words would not be intended to trespass upon the privileges of the Houses of Parliament and that something very specific would be needed before there would be any interference with the right of a joint committee or a committee of either House to seek and to require such information as the Bureau or a member of the Bureau might have - that any such committee would be entitled to seek that information, because of the ancient privileges of the Houses of Parliament, without the approval of the Minister or any other person. I should like the Minister for Defence to give an assurance that that is not intended to interfere with that privilege.
– I shall reply to Senator Murphy first. I should like to make it quite clear to the honorable senator that the Minister would want to ensure that information given to a committee would not be made public. But that would impose no strange or novel restriction upon a committee. I am sure that the honorable senator is well aware that the existing practice is that committees do arrange with Ministers, upon giving an assurance in relation to secrecy and nondistribution, to obtain certain information. That would be the situation in relation to a committee inquiring into anything dealt with in the Bill.
– That is ambiguous.
– It is not. I think it is quite clear. It is not my intention to be ambiguous in any way. Let me repeat that I believe the Minister would take steps to satisfy himself that, when making information available to a committee, he had the assurance of the committee members that they would not make the information public. I suggest that that is reasonable.
– Are you saying that this does apply to committees of the Houses of Parliament?
– I am not saying it does apply. I am not under crossexamination. I have answered your question fairly.
Let me deal with the opposition to the clause. This clause is designed to ensure that the affairs of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads shall not be made public. Senator Cohen submits that the provision is objectionable. I put the contrary view. I suggest that, having regard to the fact that the Parliament has decided that no report shall be submitted to the Parliament, this provision is a natural corollary. We see nothing objectionable in it. Under the clause, it will be possible to release information with the approval of the Minister. The honorable senator referred to statistics relating to road mileages, traffic and so forth. It is only proper in the. circumstances, and having regard to the functions of this body, that the permission of the Minister should be obtained before that information is released publicly.
– Will the Minister direct his mind to my question about whether he can suggest a precedent for this clause?
– I know the hour is late and that it is hoped that this Bill will have passed through all stages within a few minutes. However, a very serious matter has been raised, and the answer given by the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) is not satisfactory. If, as Senator Paltridge is implying, the Minister would have to satisfy himself that the information given to a committee would not go any further, that rather suggests that it is intended that the clause should apply to a committee of the House of Representatives or the Senate. If it is intended that a committee of the Senate or House of Representatives may be prevented from pursuing a course of inquiry unless it has the approval of the Minister, a most serious and dangerous precedent will be established. To my mind, no such clause should be enacted. It may be that, notwithstanding what has been said by the Minister for Defence, the real position is that no-one could say that the privileges of the Houses would be invaded where no reference is made to those privileges. If the privileges of the Houses are not being invaded, it means that they may pursue their inquiries whether or not the Minister approves and that this approval will not be sought. If the position were otherwise and if this clause invaded the ancient privileges of the Houses, we would be establishing a most dangerous precedent which I am sure every honorable senator who is now present would, upon reflection, reject.
– In answer to the matter raised by Senator Cohen, I am not presently aware of such a provision in other legislation.
– This is unprecedented?
– So far as I personally am aware, yes. I do not know of any act in which this particular provision is included. I come now to the matters raised by Senator Murphy. Let me say that I admire the special pleading, if I may so describe it, in which he sometimes indulges in this chamber. He makes something of a heartrending case about the ancient rights and privileges of Parliament. Let me state the situation. Much of the information that the Bureau will receive probably will be provided on the basis of confidence - it will be confidential information. Is Senator Murphy suggesting that the confidence should be broken, or that the work of the Bureau should be impaired because it is not permitted to receive information and treat it as confidential as between itself and the Government? We mustalways bear in mind that the very function of the Bureau is to advise the Government. That is its purpose and the reason for its establishment. I have indicated to the honorable senator that the probable course of events is that in the case of a committee such as that suggested by him, the Minister would first assure himself that the confidential nature of the information was respected, and 1 suggest that that is a fair thing.
Question put -
That the clause stand as primed. .
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) agreed to-
That leave bc given to introduce a bill for an act to alter the Constitution with respect to the terms and rotation of senators.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I do so on behalf of the Australian Labour Party, which constitutes the Opposition in both Houses of the Parliament. This Bill and the three succeeding Bills are the first step towards giving, effect to the recommendations regarding Commonwealth legislative machinery of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. The Committee’s recommendations are set out in Part Two of the Committee’s report dated 25lh November 1959, which supplements its report dated 1st October 1958. The Committee was first appointed in May 1956 and comprised the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the then Leader of the Opposition as ex officio members, together with six members of the Government parties and six members of the Opposition drawn from both Houses. Neither the Prime Minister nor the then Leader of the Opposition attended the sittings, participated in the deliberations or signed the reports of the Committee.
Each of the four Bills, if passed by the Parliament, will need the approval of the electors in terms of section 128 of the Constitution at a separate referendum. As already stated, the Committee’s recommendations in Part Two of its 1959 report affect the legislative machinery of the Commonwealth. They are concerned with the composition and functioning of the Federal Parliament as constituted under. Parts 1 to III of Chapter I of the Constitution and the relationships of the two Houses of the Parliament with each other. This Bill deals with only two of those recommendations. These two are related and interdependent, but are independent of the other recommendations in Part Two of the report.
A periodical Senate election to fill the places of 30 retiring Senators must be held before the 30th June next year. The probability of this election being held without a simultaneous election for the House of Representatives, presents, in the view of the Opposition, the best foreseeable opportunity for an objective consideration of the recommendations of the Committee on the subject of Commonwealth legislative machinery. At such an election the fate of the Government is not involved; it is not a time for rival election policies; the simultaneous holding of referendums is relatively insignificant in cost and focuses attention on the Commonwealth Parliament itself rather than on rival political parties and policies. The high degree of accord reached by members of the Committee encourages the hope that the Committee’s proposals may find favour with the electors. The recommendations in Part Two of the, report of the Committee were supported by 1 1 of its 12 members.
This Bill has three main purposes. The first is in relation to terms of senators. Th: Bill seeks to repeal the existing provision in section 7 of the Constitution that a senator shall be chosen for a term of six years, and to replace it with a provision that a senator shall hold his place until the expiry or dissolution of the second House of Representatives after he was chosen or until the dissolution of the Senate whichever first happens. The second purpose relates to the rotation of senators. The Bill repeals the existing provision in section 13 of the Constitution that following a dissolution of . the Senate, the Senate itself should divide the senators into two classes, the places of senators of the first class becoming vacant at the expiration of three years and the places of those of the second class at the expiration of six years from the beginning of their term of service; and replaces it with a provision that following a dissolution of the Senate senators shall be divided into two classes according to their relative success at the election resulting from the dissolution, the places of senators of the first class, namely those who achieved the greater degree of electoral success, to be held until the expiry of the second House of Representatives to expire or be dissolved after they were chosen, and the places of senators of the second class, namely those who achieved the lesser degree of electoral success, to be held until the expiry of the first House of Representatives to expire or be dissolved after they were chosen. Thirdly, the Bill preserves the terms of sitting senators. It provides that senators holding places at the time this Bill becomes law shall continue to hold their places until the expiration of their unexpired terms of service. The other provisions of the Bill are largely incidental to these three main purposes and it is not proposed to traverse them at this stage.
I commend to the Senate the reasons for the Committee’s foregoing recommendations set out in Chapters 5 and 6 of Part Two of the 1959 report, pages 34 to 42. The proposals in the Bill preserve the concept of continuous existence for the Senate through the periodical retirement of only one half of the Senate subject only to the circumstances, hitherto only twice occurring, in which the Senate may be dissolved; they also preserve the Senate’s responsibility to the electors; they accept the Crown’s constitutional right to dissolve the House of Representatives before it has served its full term of three years as necessary for the maintenance of responsible government.
The great disadvantage of the allotment of fixed terms for senators is that it is always possible for a general election of members of the House of Representatives to take place without being accompanied by an election for senators. This occurs readily when the House of Representatives is prematurely dissolved. A second premature dissolution of the House of Representatives may again synchronise the elections of the two Houses. Such dissolutions, however, would have a disruptive effect on constructive government. Even without a premature dissolution of the House of Representatives, it is quite possible for elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate to occur at different times because of the fixed terms which senators have under the Constitution.
The following extracts from the Committee’s 1959 report, at page 36, emphasize the disadvantages of the allotment of fixed terms for Senators - 241. The allotment of fixed terms for senators may nave pronounced effects if a double dissolu tion of the two Houses occurs. Section 13 of the Constitution provides that the terms of senators next elected after a double dissolution should commence on the 1st July preceding the day of election. This day might be just before the elections taking place after a double dissolution but it could, on the other hand, bc lbc greater part of a year earlier than the elections. In such circumstances, it may be necessary to hold the next elections for senators long before the House of Representatives has run the full term of three years which the Constitution contemplates. 242. The events following the double dissolution of 1951 are themselves a sufficient commentary on the position which may arise after a double dissolution. The ensuing elections took place in April, .1951. the senators’ terms commenced, therefore, in July, 1950. which means that the terms of one-half of them expired at the end of June, 1953, and the terms of the remainder expired at the end of June, 1956. Obviously, Senate elections had to be held before the middle of 1953. th,71 is, at a time falling substantially in the middle of the working life of the House of Representatives. The Senate elections were held in May, 1953, and the election for the House of Repre-, sentatives, which practically served its full term of three years, was not held until a year later. Since the terms of senators alloted six year terms following the double dissolution expired at the end of June, 1956, further separate elections of senators were necessary if the House of Representatives was to be accorded anything near a three year term. Only an early dissolution of the House of Representatives, occurring less than seventeen months after the previous election in 1954, made it possible to conduct elections simultaneously. 243. The Committee concludes from Parliamentary experience since Federation, firstly that the existence of fixed senatorial terms has increased the number of elections and secondly, that the number of occasions on which there would have been separate elections for senators and members of the House of Representatives would have been greater unless the House of Representatives had been dissolved before the expiration of ils full term. 2*4. The Committee believes that the weight of public opinion is opposed to the holding of separate elections for the two Houses of the Federal Parliament. The Australian people already have to vote frequently because they are also called upon to elect members of the Parliaments of their States, in some States, for two Houses at different times. 245. Separate elections also tend to emphasise the component parts of the Parliament at the expense of the Parliament itself. It is not conducive to sound government that the future of a recently elected government should depend upon the eventualities of elections of senators which take place during the normal life of the House of Representatives. 246. … If separate elections for senators are held, work of the Parliament is completely disrupted. Members of the House of Representatives, as well as senators, must devote their energies to the task cf obtaining the best possible results for their respective parties at the elections.
For reasons set out in paragraph 252 of the report the Committee stated -
Adverting to the fact that section 13 of the Constitution provides that the terms of senators elected at elections for onehalf of the Senate places should commence on 1st July following their election, the Committee commented- ^ 253. It sometimes happens that, even though elections for members of the two Houses are held simultaneously, this does not bring together the newly elected members of the Parliament at the same time. For instance, if a general election is held towards the end ‘ of a calendar year, it is likely that a new Parliament will be convened seme months before the terms of newly elected senators commence. Accordingly, the first weeks or months of the term of the House of Representatives will pass during which the Senate continues to be composed of senators all of whom were elected al either of two previous elections, ordinarily one three years earlier and the other six years earlier. Elections took place in November, 1958 for members of the House of Representatives and also to fill Senate vacancies but the senators elected to replace senators whose terms had expired did not take their places until the 1st July, 1959. 254. The carry-over of senators’ terms into the life of a freshly elected Parliament, depending upon the chance of an election date, is, in the’ opinion of the Committee anachronistic. It could also fetter the effectiveness of the new Parliament. For example, although the Labour Party, which held office immediately before the general election for the seventeenth Parliament in August, 1943, was returned with an increased majority and its candidates also won all the Senate vacancies, it was not until July, 1944. that the Government had a majority in both Houses. Although the House of Representatives lasted the full three years allowed by the Constitution, the Government had a majority in both Houses for only the last two years of the three year period.
Adoption of the proposals in this Bill will assure the simultaneous holding of elections for .the Senate and the House of Representatives after a double dissolution and regardless of whether or not the House of Representatives is prematurely dissolved. The senators will take office as from the date of their election thereby abolishing anachronism that senators defeated at an election may continue in office for almost twelve months. Senators in office when the proposals are adopted will complete the terms for which they were elected. I commend the Bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Paltridge) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to alter the Constitution with respect lo the Number of Senators and Members of the House of Representatives.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time. 1 introduce this Bill on behalf of the Australian Labour Party, which constitutes the Opposition in both Houses of the Parliament. The Bill seeks to give effect to the recommendations in Part Two, chapter 3, pages 6 to 18, and chapter 9, pages 54 to 56, of the .1959 report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. It accordingly provides as follows - 1. The number of members of the House of Representatives should be no longer tied to being as. nearly as practicable twice the number of senators. 2. The Parliament should have power to determine the number of senators, provided equal representation of the original States is maintained, but there should be not less than six nor more than ten senators for each original State. 3. The Parliament should continue to have power to make laws for increasing or diminishing the number of members of the House of Representatives, and the number of members chosen in the several States should remain in proportion to population. However, the power of the Parliament to determine the number of members of the House of Representatives should be subject to the qualification that the number of members to be chosen in any State should be determined by dividing the population of the State by a figure determined by the Parliament which is the same for each State and is not less than 80,000, thus providing that there should be on average at least 80,000 people for every member. Where, upon a division, there is a remainder greater than one-half of the divisor, there should be an additional member to be chosen in the State concerned. 4. The power of the Parliament referred to in sub-paragraph (3) should be subject to the present constitutional provision that there should be no less than five members chosen in each original State. 5. Section 127 of the Constitution is repealed.
The rest of the Bill is concerned with incidental and consequential matters including the repeal of Sections 24, 25, 26 and 27 of the Constitution. The composition of the Senate is dealt wilh in Section 7 of the Constitution. The section provides in substance that - 1. The Senate should be composed of senators for each .Stale; 2. Senators are to be directly chosen by the people of the State voting, until the Parliament otherwise provides, as one electorate; 3. Until the Parliament otherwise provides, there should be six senators for each original State; 4. The Parliament may make laws increasing or diminishing the number of senators for each State but the equal representation of the original States must be maintained and there cannot be less than six senators for each original State; and 5. Senators are to be chosen for six year terms.
The number of senators for each State stood at the original figure of six until 1948. In that year, the Parliament passed the Representation Act, 1948 to increase the number for each State to 10 and since the elections for senators in 1949 there have been 10 senators for each State providing a Senate of 60 members. Senators have always been chosen by the people of each State voting as one electorate.
The composition of the House of Representatives is mainly dealt with in section 24 of the Constitution. The first paragraph of that section is important as requiring that - 1. the House, of Representatives should be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth; and 2. the number of members must be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of senators. This is commonly known as the two to one ratio. Section 24 also provides that - 1. the number of members chosen in the various States should be in proportion to their population; 2. five members at least must be chosen in each original State; and 3. until the Parliament otherwise provides, the number of members chosen in the several States should be ascertained according to a formula laid down in the second paragraph of the section.
It is an historical truth that the Senate was created for two main purposes, although one of its purposes undoubtedly overshadowed the other. The first was that the Senate should serve as a chamber of review. The second, and more dominant purpose, was that the Senate should represent the States and protect the interests of the States as partners on equal terms with each other in the Federation. It is the Committee’s view that inexorable historical processes of the twentieth century have precluded the Senate from becoming the practical expression of . the founders* intentions.
In the opinion of the Committee, the influences at work in the course of the Federation debates which led to the attempt to constitute the Senate as a States house and an independent chamber of review elected by the same body of electors who were to choose members of the House of Representatives were oblivious of the inevitability that the party political system would permeate both Houses of the Federal Parliament. Many of the representatives of the colonies did not foresee, furthermore, the rising importance and increased number of national issues which would overshadow the immediate interests of the States as propounded by many of the founders in the course of the debates. These considerations have affected the role of the Senate both as a States house and a house of review. The cases in which the fate of a bill has been determined by reason of offending a particular State’s interest are, to say the least, uncommon. There would be few today prepared to maintain that the role of the Senate as a type of States assembly has had a material influence on the history of Commonwealth parliamentary government.
There are relatively few issues which can be isolated as being peculiarly an interest of such importance to a State that an unequivocal attitude is adopted by individual senators for a State on that account. The instances of senators of different parties voting together as representatives for the States are not only rare but have not involved major legislation on which the parties represented in the Parliament hold opposing views. More significantly, however, the balance of the Federal compact has been profoundly influenced by the growth during the century in number and importance of the subjects of national concern under the stimulus of an expanding and vigorous national life and the pressure of world events. By comparison, the importance of State issues has either tended to diminish or else matters which were at Federation either exclusively or primarily the domain of the States have since assumed a national guise. It is not a’ criticism of the founders to say that much of what has taken place in the twentieth century was not predicted. A concomitant of the developing nationalism has been the increasing interest of the major political parties in winning Federal elections.
In paragraph 81 of its 1959 report the Committee lists a relevant few of the factors that led to increased national interest and conception. They included two costly world wars, the international emergence of the Commonwealth as an independent country, the development of one Australian economy, the increasing industrialisation of Australia accompanied by an intensive use of various Commonwealth powers, the undertaking of national works and development through the exercise of Commonwealth powers, rapid progress in matters of transport and communication, provision by the Commonwealth of a wide range of social service benefits, the emergence of the Commonwealth as the financially dominant member of the Federation and changes in the relative size of Commonwealth and State Budgets. The division of government and opposition in terms of parties now finds as ample expression in the proceedings of the Senate as it does in the House of Representatives. In fact, in the history of the Parliament, the number of independent senators has been far fewer than the number of independent members of the House of Representatives.
It has been characteristic of the Australian political scene that there have been only a few political parties of major importance in the Commonwealth and State Parliaments. The parties fashion their policies for submission to the electors mainly in respect of national matters. Policies which aspiring candidates for the Senate and the House of Representatives advocate on the election platform, are the national policies of the parties to which they belong. It is on the popular appeal of these policies, and not on particular State interests, that senators as well as members of the House of Representatives are almost invariably elected. The predominance of party political considerations in the election of senators is exempli1fied by reference to past electoral returns on the occasions on which elections for senators’ have been held concurrently with an election of members of the House of Representatives. Almost invariably, the party or coalition of parties forming the government following the elections has won a majority of the Senate vacancies.
The Committee’s conclusion, which it regards as inescapable, is that the original notion of the Senate as a States house was not realised and, therefore, does not justify further increases in the number of senators even though future increases in the number of members of the House of Representatives will probably occur. To the extent that the’ Senate should represent State interests, as distinct from Commonwealth interests, those interests are sufficiently safeguarded by a Senate of 60 comprising 10 senators from each of the original States. So far as the Senate expresses the notion of equality between the States, the proportionate strength of one State to the whole is the same whether the Senate comprises 6, 10 or 20 members for each original Slate. Iri ordinary circumstances, where the government has a majority in both Houses, experience has shown that the Senate cannot be expected to exercise an independent role. The Committee considers, therefore, that the reflection in the Senate of a party structure corresponding to that which exists in the House of Representatives has also been decisive in determining the extent to which that House is able or prepared to review the legislation of the other House. The Committee’s view is that the Senate can perform the orthodox functions of review only withinthe permissible limits of the party system of Federal politics. The Committee’s conclusion is that the functions which the Senate performs or may perform as a house of review do not justify any further increase in the number of senators chosen for each of the States.
The effective performance of the function or review does not rest on numbers and, indeed, larger numbers could, as for example, by the need to impose restrictions on debate, impair the effectiveness of an upper house in the discharge of functions. Even in the United States, which has a population of more than 170 million and 50 States and where senators, by reason of the legal powers, some exclusive, of their House and their comparative freedom from party discipline, are frequently able to vote independently, there are only 100 senators.
The Committee considers that a Senate comprising ten senators for each original State should always retain its prestige and standing. Dignity does not rest on numerical strength. Nevertheless, it is proposed that the present power of the Parliament to increase, at its discretion, the number of members of the House of Representatives should be made subject to a constitutional restriction which will prevent the number of members of the House of Representatives being increased arbitrarily at the expense of the Senate. It is proposed that a provision should be written into the Constitution providing that the maximum number of members of the House of Representatives should be such that there are on average not fewer than 80,000 persons in the community for every member. On this ratio, the average electorate would comprise some 46,000 voters and the House of Representatives would consist of 137 members elected from the States.
As recently as 14th September last the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) commented - . . If the complexity of modern affairs and the demands made on Governments both continue their pressure, there will be more Ministers and more Ministers in time to come, and a bigger and bigger Parliament in time to come.
The Bill repeals and replaces section 24 of the Constitution. Section 25 has never operated. The operation of section 26 is now completely exhausted. Section 27 becomes redundant in view of the proposed new section 24. Accordingly, clause 3 of the Bill provides for the repeal of sections 24. 25. 26, and 27.
In chapter 9, pages 54-56, of Part Two of the Committee’s 1959 report, the repeal of section 127 of the Constitution is recommended. Section 127 reads -
In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, Aboriginal natives shall not be counted.
Apart from its statistical significance, the main effect of section 127 is to preclude the Aboriginal population of a State from being taken into account when determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen for the State. Section 24 of the Constitution provides that the number of members chosen in the several States should be in proportion to the respective numbers of the people of each State. Since the Aborigines of a State must be taken into account for governmental purposes, a State can rightly assert that they should form part of its population for constitutional purposes.
Since the Committee made its report the right to vote at Commonwealth elections has been conferred on Australian Aborigines. Section 127 has no direct bearing on the question of the eligibility of Aborigines to so vote. Its repeal would receive international approbation. As it is, section 127 is liable to be misconstrued abroad. I commend the Bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Paltridge) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to alter the Constitution with respect to the division of States into electoral divisions.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I present this Bill on behalf of the Australian Labour Party, which constitutes the Opposition in both Houses of the Parliament. The Bill is designed to give effect to the recommendations in chapter 8 of Part Two of the 1959 report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review.
The COmmittee considered that a constitutional amendment should bc made to ensure that all electoral divisions for which members of the House of Representatives may be chosen were single member electorates, and that the number of electors for each division was as nearly as practicable uniform. lt is proposed that an alteration to the Constitution be made to provide that - 1. The Parliament may make laws dividing each State into electoral divisions equal in number to the number of members to be chosen in the State with one member to be chosen for each division. 2. Upon the division of a State into electoral divisions, the number of electors in a division in a State should not exceed by more than one-tenth, or fall short of by more than one-tenth,’ a quota ascertained by dividing the total number of electors in the State by the number of members to be chosen in that State. 3. The division of a State may be reviewed at any lime, but the division of every State into electoral divisions should be reviewed at least once in every ten years and where, upon review, the number of electors in a division in a State is found not to be within one-tenth of the quota, there should be a further division of that State into divisions. 4. For the purposes of the division of each State into electoral divisions and any subsequent division of a State into divisions, including the required decennial review, the Governor-General in Council should be required to constitute an Electoral Commission for each State to make recommendations to the Parliament in connection with the division of the State into divisions. 5. The division at any time of a State into electoral divisions should not take place until the Electoral Commission constituted for the State has reported to the Parliament. 6. Each Electoral Commission should consist of not less than three members and all Electoral Commissions in existence at the one time should have the same number of members. Section 24 provides for determining the number of members for a State. It is left to section 29 to state, in effect, that the Parliament may make laws for determining the divisions in each State for which members of the House of Representatives may be chosen and the number of members to be chosen for each division. The section states that a division shall not be formed out of parts of different States, which means that the boundaries of the States also become boundaries of electoral divisions.
The section reads -
In the absence of other provision, each State shall bc one electorate.
Obviously section. 29 leaves the Commonwealth Parliament unfettered as to the means it may adopt in dividing any State into electoral divisions. As the .Committee observed in the first report, Parliament could cause the number of electors in one division in a State to be twice the number of electors in another division of the same State or it could make some divisions single member divisions and, at the same time, provide that others should return more than one member.
The Commonwealth Parliament has in the Commonwealth Electoral Act exercised ks powers under section 29 of the Constitution. Part III of the Act requires each State to bc divided into the same number of electoral divisions as the number of members to be chosen for the State and one member has to be chosen for each division. There has not in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament been any division returning more than one member. For the purposes of distributing a Stale into divisions, the Act authorizes tha Governor-General to appoint three Distribution Commissioners. The function of the Distribution Commissioners is to draw up a proposed distribution of a State into divisions. Of the three Distribution Commissioners for a State, one must be the Chief Electoral Officer or an officer having similar qualifications and, if his services are obtainable, one must be the SurveyorGeneral of the State or an officer with similar qualifications.
The machinery of redistribution under the Act must be set in motion, by the Chief Electoral Officer ascertaining a quota of electors for each State by dividing the whole number of electors in a State, as nearly as can be ascertained, by the number of members to be chosen for the State. After the quota for a State has been ascertained, the Distribution Commissioners may proceed to a proposed distribution. In so doing, they are required to have regard to the matters specifically laid down in section 19 of the Act. The section reads as follows -
In making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration to -
Section 24 of the Act provides for a proclamation of divisions if both Houses of the Parliament by resolution approve a proposed redistribution. The section also authorises the Minister to direct a fresh distribution if either House disapproves the proposed distribution submitted to it by the Commissioners. Thus, Parliament retains the final authority in the matter of redistribution.
Section 25 of the Act sets forth the occasions on which the redistribution of a State must be undertaken. The occasions are -
The Committee acknowledges that the redistributions which have occurred since Federation, that is in 1903, 1906, 1912, 1922, 1937, 1948 and 1955, have been strictly in accordance with the Act. Moreover, except for the period during which World War II intervened, they have been at sufficient intervals to safeguard the parliamentary system of government against abuse.
The Committee feels constrained to say, however, that the one-fifth margin on either side of the quota for a State which the Act allows may disturb quite seriously a principle which the Committee believes to be beyond question in the election of members of the national Parliament of a Federation, namely, that the votes of the electors should, as far as possible, be accorded equal value. The full application of the margin each way to two divisions in a State could result in the number of electors in one division totalling 50 per cent, more than the number of electors in the other division. Such a possible disparity in the value of votes is inconsistent with the full realisation of democracy.
The Committee has, in the course of its constitutional review, been concerned to preserve or increase the flexibility of the Constitution wherever practicable. In this instance, the Committee’s proposals impose some restrictions on the power of the Parliament to deal with the determination of electoral divisions in each State. Yet the Committee feels that developments since Federation now make it provident to include in the Constitution itself provisions to require the regular redistribution of States into single electoral divisions with near uniformity in the number of enrolled voters in each division in a State.
The inherent flexibility of the present section 29 of the Constitution may, it seems, have been dictated in part by the consciousness of the founders that, if more specific or complicated provisions had been included, it would have prejudiced the acceptance of the Constitution at the referenda subsequently held in the various colonies. Another relevant fact is that in 1900 there was no compulsory voting but compulsory voting has been a feature of Federal elections since 1924 and is, moreover, as far as the Committee is able to foresee, likely to endure. Compulsory voting makes it possible for a government which the electors have returned to claim quite validly that it represents the majority opinion; it also makes all the adult members of the community participants in the affairs of government and acts as a stimulus to the democratic way of life. These purposes tend to be defeated if electorates can be so arranged that some contain far fewer electors than others.
The main principles of the Electoral Act, so basic to our form of parliamentary government, have stood practically unchanged despite the many changes which have occurred in the course of the development of the Commonwealth and it is, in the Committee’s opinion, fitting that they should have the safeguard now of being written into the Constitution. If the. Constitution should be altered, as the Committee recommends, to provide that each division of a State should return one member of the House of Representatives and that the number of electors enrolled in each division in a State should be as nearly as practicable uniform, an important step will have been taken amounting in substance to a constitutional assurance or guarantee to each individual elector of a fair value for his vote.
The principles of distribution which the Committee recommends to be inserted in. the Constitution do not affect the number of members of the House of Representatives chosen in a State. The Committee’s proposals operate purely within the limits of each State, the number of members of which is determined under section 24 of the Constitution with a minimum of five for each original State, or, in the case of a new State, by action of the Federal Parliament taken initially under section 121 of the Constitution.
The Committee considers it appropriate, at this stage of Federal history and having regard to recent and contemporary world events, to recommend a constitutional amendment to protect the position of the elector and the democratic processes essential to the proper functioning of the Federal Parliament. Thus, the Committee concluded that it should recommend the inclusion in the Constitution of provisions ensuring the regular review of the electoral divisions of each State and also accord near uniformity to the value accorded to the votes of the electors for each of the States.
One form of gerrymandering is the creation of electoral divisions in which there are substantial disparities in the number of enrolled voters so securing for a political party greater representation than it should have. In all its forms, the device is thoroughly subversive of the democratic process. In making possible minority governments, the majority can be deprived of the government of its choice’ and the way is opened for arbitrary action impairing the freedom of the individual even though that action stands condemned by the majority of people who comprise the electors of the
Commonwealth. The Committee decided that it could not do better than to take certain long standing principles of the Electoral Act to provide the basic framework of its constitutional proposals.
Section 29 of the Constitution does not permit the Parliament to vacate its power to make laws for determining the electoral divisions in each State and nothing in the Electoral Act relieves the Parliament of the need to approve a proposed division under the Act. Convinced of the inherent strength of parliamentary government, the Committee believes that the legislative body and not an extra-legislative body, lacking in popular responsibility, should continue to be the final repository of legal power. The exercise of power, however, should be subject to the safeguards which the Committee has recommended.
The Commonwealth Parliament has observed the principle that one member of the House of Representatives should be chosen for each division of a State. The Committee believes that any departure from the principle would lessen contact between members and their electors and it is important that this should not occur in a country as large as Australia. The principle also operates to prevent single member and plural member divisions being established in the same State or single member divisions in one State and plural member divisions in another State. Unquestionably, there should be uniform treatment of electoral divisions throughout the Commonwealth.
The crux of the Committee’s recommendations is that the Constitution should require the Parliament to exercise its discretion, in making laws for determining electoral divisions, in such a way as to ensure approximate uniformity in the number of electors for each division into which a State is divided. The Electoral Act allows the Distribution Commissioners 1o submit proposed divisions for a State in which the number of electors in a division may vary as much as one-fifth either way from the State quota. In paragraph 316 of its 1959 report the Committee stated that a margin of this order was capable of creating serious inequality in the number of electors in particular divisions in a State.
Whilst appreciating that complete uniformity in numbers upon redistribution is not practicable, the Committee considers that a permissible margin of one-tenth on cither side of the quota for a State should allow sufficient flexibility in determining the electoral divisions for the election of members of the House of Representatives of the Federal Parliament. The adoption of a maximum margin of one-tenth would make a very material contribution towards preventing possible manipulation of the divisional structure of a State for political purposes. Since this aspect of the Committee’s proposal involves a restriction of the margin of allowance which the Electoral Act permits, the Committee examined it at some length in paragraphs 345-364 of its 1959 report.
The Committee has also recommended that the division of every State into divisions should be reviewed at least once in every ten years, and that where upon the general review being undertaken the number of electors in a division in ‘a State is found not to be within one-tenth of the quota for that State, there should bc a further division of that State’s divisions. The Act does not, at present, require a review of electoral divisions at fixed periods, but it is important, in the Committee’s view, if the objective of avoiding disproportion of numbers in the electoral divisions is to be achieved, that there should be some machinery requiring periodic review. Otherwise, electoral divisions originally fixed in conformity with the requirements which the Committee has recommended could, over a period of years, become seriously, out of adjustment and yet nothing be done about it. Under the Committee’s proposal it would be necessary upon redistribution to bring all divisions within a one-tenth margin of the quota in a State at least once every ten years. It remains open to the Parliament, without being obligatory, under the proposal to make laws for the review of the divisions of individual States to be undertaken at greater frequency.
The Act now provides for three Distribution Commissioners in each State to undertake the spade work of redistribution. The Committee considers that the practice of having independent Commissioners to do this work should be written into the Constitution and so make it obligatory in connection with all future redistributions. It is recommended that the Governor-General in Council should appoint an Electoral Commissioner for each State to make recommendations to the Parliament in connection with the division of a State into divisions. Each Commission should consist of not less than three members and all Commissions in existence at the one time, as for example when the proposed decennial review is being undertaken, should have the same number of members.
The Committee proposes that the Parliament may authorise the division of a State into divisions only after receiving the report of the relevant Electoral Commission. The Parliament should have the power to refer a proposed distribution back to a Commission. Although no division of a State should be made until the Commission has reported, the Committee does not recommend that the Parliament should be precluded from authorising a division which a Commission has not recommended. The Committee repeats that the final determination of electoral boundaries should continue to be the Parliament’s responsibility. The Committee’s concern is that the Constitution should provide the manner in which that responsibility is to be discharged and that the Parliament’s power will not be exercised beyond the limits laid down in the proposed constitutional alteration.
To sum up, the Parliament’s powers to make laws for dividing into electoral divisions will be governed by the requirements that there must only be single member electorates, the groundwork of distribution and redistribution is to be performed by the Electoral Commissions, there must be a review of the entire divisional structure of every State at least once every 10 years, and the boundaries of every division of a State must be so drawn that the number of electors enrolled in each division is within one-tenth of the quota for the State. The Bill proposes, that existing section 29 of the Constitution should be repealed and that it should bc replaced by a new section 29 and new sections 29a., 29b., 29c, and 29d. to cover the various matters that I have indicated in the course of this speech. I commend the Bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Henty) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to alter the Constitution with respect to Disagreement between the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I do so on behalf of the Australian
Labour Party, which constitutes the Opposition in both Houses of the Parliament. The Bill seeks to give effectto the recommendations in Chapter 4 of Part Two at pages 19 to 34 of the 1959 report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review.
Section 57 of the Constitution deals with disagreement between the Senate and the House of Representatives and provides, in short, that the Governor-General may dissolve both Houses simultaneously in the event of a deadlock occurring. After a great deal of consideration, rhe Committee decided that the section was no longer appropriate to modern conditions of parliamentary government and should be modified to draw a distinction between money bills and other bills and to provide the government with more than one possible means by which the resolution of a deadlock might be obtained.
The Committee recommended in paragraph 43 of its 1958 report -
That the Constitution be amended by the repeal of section 57 and its replacement by a new section which will provide, in substance, for the following:
A deadlock should be deemed to arise in respect of a proposed law imposing taxation or appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government, if, during any session of the Parliament, (he Senate has not, at the expiration of a period of 30 days after receipt of the measure from the House of Representatives, passed the proposed law or the proposed law with any amendments it has requested and which the House of Representatives has accepted. It should not be necessary for that House to have to pass the bill for a second time before a deadlock can arise.
In respect of other proposed laws, the House of Representatives should be required, as at present, to pass for the second time a bill which the Senate has resisted and the Senate should be given a further opportunity to consider the measure before a deadlock arises. Conditions of deadlock should be deemed to arise if -
during a session, the Senate has not. at the expiration of 90 days after receiving the proposed law from the House of Representatives for the firsttime, passed the proposed law as transmitted to it or with amendments in respect of which the House of Representatives has expressed its concurrence;
the House of Representatives againpasses the proposed law in the same or the next session cither with or without any amendments made by the Senate; and
after receiving the proposed law for the second time, the Senate either again rejects it or has not, at the expiration of 30 days during the session, passed either the proposedlaw or the proposed law with amendments which the House of Representatives has found acceptable.
When a deadlock arises, the GovernorGeneral, acting on the advice of the Federal Executive Council should have power to dissolve both Houses except that a dissolution should not be possible within six months of the expiry ofthe House of Representatives by effluxion of time.
As an alternative to double dissolution, however, the Governor-General in Council should be empowered to convene a joint sitting of the members of the two Houses to deliberate and vole upon the proposed law in dispute together with any amendments which have been made by one House but not agreed to by the other. A disputed bill may only be presented for the royal assent if at the joint sitting it is approved by an absolute majority of the total number of members of the two Houses and by at least one-half of the total number of members of the two Houses chosen for and in a State in at least one-half of the States.
If a deadlock is not resolved at a joint sitting, or if a bill passed by the House of Representatives is rejected at a joint sitting, the Governor-General in Council should also be authorized to dissolve both Houses provided that, as at present, the double dissolution does not occur within six months of the expiry of the House of Representatives by effluxion of time.
As a further alternative to double dissolution, either without a joint silting being held or where disagreement persists after a joint sitting, if the House of Representatives should be dissolved within twelve months of the deadlock first arising, for the purposes of the proposed section the dissolution of the House of Representatives should be treated as a stage in the settlement of deadlocks in similar manner to a double dissolution, as to which see sub-paragraph (7) hereunder. (7)If after a double dissolution, or if after a general election of members of the House of Representatives has occurred us contemplated in sub-paragraph (6) above, the House of Representatives again passes the proposed law within six months of the commencement of the first session of the new Parliament’ and the Senate either rejects the law or otherwise has not, at the expiration of a period of 30 days after the transmission of the bill to it, passed the law or the law with any amendments acceptable to the House of Representatives, the Governor-General in Council may convene a joint sitting. If the proposed law together with any of the amendments in dispute is affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of members of the two Houses, then the bill should be deemed to have been duly passed bill may only bc presented for the royal assent.
The section has been the subject of a good deal of controversy since its provisions were first applied in 1914. On the one hand, there is the view that the section is either contrary to or impairs the principle of responsible democratic government; on the other, it has been argued that the section offers protection to the States, in particular to the smaller States, against Federal encroachment and thus helps to maintain a principle of Federation that laws of the Commonwealth should have the assent of the States as represented in the Senate as well as of the people directly represented in the House of Representatives. Moreover, the Senate, as a chamber of review, is in a better position to exercise the ordinary checks of an upper house in its review of legislation passed by the lower house if its constitutional position is protected by a section such as section 57.
The section has become more prominent in the political scene since the adoption of the system of proportional representation for the election of senators, because membership in the Senate is now more evenly divided between the parties than hitherto. Proportional representation was introduced by the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1948 and first applied to the election of senators at the end of 1949.
In 1950, the newly formed LiberalCountry Parly Government experienced difficulty in obtaining the passage of legislation through the Senate. A double dissolution occurred in 1951 after the Senate had failed to pass the Commonwealth Bank Bill (No. 2) 1950. The Senate had amended an identical measure in a manner unacceptable to the House of Representatives more than three months earlier. In the life of the twenty-second Parliament the Government twice failed to obtain the passage of its banking legislation but a double dissolution did not occur and the Parliament continued for a normal term.
It may be helpful to state the substance of the existing section 57 in the following terms - 1. The section applies to any proposed law passed by the House of Representatives. It is not restricted to financial measures. 2. The section does not apply to proposed laws which are first passed by the Senate. 3. The Senate must first reject or fail to pass a proposed law or pass it with amendments which the House of Representatives will not accept. The Senate cannot, of course, by reason of section 53 of the Constitution, amend a bill imposing taxation or appropriating moneys for the ordinary annual services of the government, although it may reject such a measure or suggest amendments to the House of Representatives. Neither can the Senate amend any bill so as to increase any charge or burden on the people but, again, it may reject the bill or suggest amendments. 4. The House of Representatives may then, after an interval of three months, in the same or the next session, again submit the proposed law to the Senate either with or without any amendment or suggested amendment of the Senate. 5. If the Senate again rejects or fails to pass the bill or makes amendments unacceptable to the House of Representatives, the GovernorGeneral may dissolve both Houses simultaneously provided that the dissolution does not take place within six months of the expiration of the term of the House of Representatives. 6. If the House of Representatives, after the double dissolution and the ensuing general election, again submits the proposed law, whether with or without amendments or suggested amendments, to the Senate and the disagreement still persists, the Governor-General may convene a joint sitting of the two Houses. 7. The joint sitting should vote, after deliberation, on the proposed law as last passed by the House of Representatives and any amendments made by one House which have been unacceptable to the other. Requests by the Senate for amendment, as for example, in respect of bills which it may not amend, cannot be dealt with at a joint sitting. 8. If the proposed law, with or without amendments, is carried by an absolute majority of the total number of members of the two Houses at the joint sitting, it is taken to have been passed by both Houses and must be presented for royal assent.
Leaving aside for the moment the practical effects that section 57 has so far had in the functioning of the machinery of government, the Committee considers that the section as framed in 1900 is out of touch with the conditions in which parliamentary government now operates. When the electors of the Commonwealth go to the polls, they do so, in the Committee’s belief, with the consciousness that the result of the Australia-wide vote should be the establishment of a government whose policy meets with the will of the majority as expressed in the election results and further, that that government should have a life of approximately three years during which time it should be capable of giving effect to the policies it advocated on the election platforms. But section 57 is capable of disrupting continuity in government. The rejection by the Senate of a bill which has passed through the House of Representatives will, unless the government chooses to accept the frustration of its policy, inevitably require a double dissolution and a fresh election if the deadlock is to be solved and this gould take place even so early as to be within a year of the previous general election at which the government was returned. These circumstances, in the opinion of the Committee, engender a widespread feeling of dissatisfaction among the Australian electors and do little to promote the prestige of the National Parliament.
The Committee considers it to be quite inconsistent with the principle of responsible government at the Commonwealth level that a party or a coalition of parties returned with a clear majority in the House of Representatives and, for that reason, fully entitled and expected to form an effective government, may almost at once be unable to give effect to its policies because of party political opposition in the Senate, unless it either threatens or obtains a double dissolu-tion. One particularly adverse consequence is that a government may choose to forgo the implementation of its legislative policy rather than face another general election. In these circumstances, there is a danger that there will be government only in name and such a possibility is harmful to democracy.
The Committee, having agreed that the necessity for a double dissolution for the settlement of a deadlock is not in the best interests of responsible government, has also concluded that the section should be modified to obtain a more equitable balance between the conception of the Senate as a chamber of review and a States chamber in a Federal system and the principles of responsible government which requires the government in office, by reason of its strength in the House of Representatives, to be anwerable to the electors. At the same time, the Committee has only reached this further conclusion after satisfying itself that the problem is of sufficient practical importance in the light of experience and likely developments in Federal parliamentary government.
The most potent illustrations of the disruption in government which section 57 is capable of causing have, in the opinion of the Committee, been provided toy the relationship which has existed between the two Houses since the introduction of the system of proportional representation in. Senate elections. In the earliest years of Federation, senators were elected by a system commonly known as first past the post. The system was abandoned as from the Senate elections in 1919 in favour of the preferential block majority method of counting votes. The feature of both the methods adopted before the introduction of the current method was the disproportion between the representation of the parties in the Senate and the number of votes that were obtained by the parties’ candidates. For example, after the double dissolution in 1914, Labour won 31 of the 36 Senate seats although the Opposition had obtained almost half the votes that were cast. Three years later ^Labour failed to win a Senate seat and in 1919 won only one seat. From 1947 to 1950 Labour held 33 seats and the Opposition only three. In these circumstances, not only did the state of the parties in the Senate fail to provide true representation of the general body of electors but debates and other proceedings in the Senate suffered from the lack of an effective opposition. The Committee considers that, even if the present Senate voting system should undergo some modification, it is most unlikely that the Parliament will ever revert to either of the systems which operated in the first 49 years of Federation, lt may be, therefore, that too much significance should not be attached to the experience of those years. Nevertheless, the Committee considers that experience under the two previous systems unequivocally demonstrates the possibility of deadlocks arising under different systems of electing senators.
One of the main reasons why governments on taking office have not had a majority in the Senate is that, under the principle of continuity provided for in sections 13 and 14 of the Constitution, only one-half of the total number of senators retire at any one time. Thus, when a new government comes into office following a general election of members of the House of Representatives one-half of the senators who will hold their places during the life of the new Parliament, have been elected on the political issues and in the political atmosphere of elections usually held some three years earlier. It is not the Committee’s intention to make any recommendation for the abolition of the principle of continuity which has been a feature of second chambers in other countries as well, but it does wish to draw attention to the fact that as long as the system is maintained, there is always a likelihood of a government commanding a majority in the House of Representatives being opposed by a hostile Senate.
The Committee’s, first recommendation in relation to section 57 is that a distinction should be drawn between proposed laws which impose taxation or appropriate revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the government, and other proposed laws. The Senate is precluded, by section 53 of the Constitution, from amending proposed laws of the .firstmentioned category but it has a constitutional right to amend other proposed laws except that it may not amend a proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people. At present, a deadlock arises under section 57 only when the Senate for the second time rejects, fails to pass or passes with amendments to which the House of Representatives will’ not agree, a proposed law which has been passed for a second time by the House of Representatives after an interval of three months.
The provision of finance by the Parliament is essential for the maintenance of responsible government. The Commonwealth is called upon to provide moneys for multifarious purposes, and the inability of the Government to obtain the passage of its financial legislation, except perhaps by use of the leisurely processes of the existing section 57, could produce most unfortunate and harmful consequences, particularly in view of the interlocking of the finances of the Commonwealth and the States. Section 83 of the Constitution inhibits the withdrawal of money from the Treasury of the Commonwealth except under appropriation made by law. The Committee considers that it should not be necessary for the House of Representatives to have to pass financial measures for a second time following a failure to obtain the approval of the Senate to the measure submitted in the first instance. It also considers that the time which has to elapse under the provisions of the present section before a deadlock arises is unduly long in the case of financial measures.
The Committee recommends that a deadlock should be deemed to arise in respect of a proposed law dealing with financial matters if, during any session of the Parliament, the Senate has not, at the expiration of thirty days from the receipt of the measure from the House of Representatives, passed the proposed law or the proposed law with any amendments it has requested and which the House of Representatives has accepted. At the end of the period of thirty days it should be immediately possible to initiate action with a view to obtaining a resolution of the deadlock. Sub-section 2 of proposed clause 57 in the Bill gives effect to the Committee’s recommendations.
The Committee considers that a deadlock should not arise in respect of other proposed laws unless the House of Representatives passes for the second time a bill which the Senate has resisted and the Senate is given a further opportunity to consider the measure. In this respect, therefore, it does not consider there should be any change in the present position. But there are substantial doubts “as to the meaning of some of the language now used in the first paragraph of section 57 which provides the conditions to be fulfilled before the House of Representatives can pass a disputed bill for the second time or the Governor-General may dissolve both Houses following continued resistance by the Senate.
If the Senate having received a bill from the House of Representatives rejects the bill or passes it with amendments unacceptable to that House, the House of Representatives may proceed to pass the measure for a second time. The House of Representatives may also proceed to pass the bill again if the Senate “ fails to pass it “. On the second occasion of a failure to pass the Governor-General may also dissolve both Houses, lt is not clear, in some circumstances, as to the stage at which the Senate can be considered to have failed to pass the bill. In 1951, the view was taken, in the prevailing circumstances, that the Senate had failed to pass a bill which it had not rejected but had referred to a select committee for consideration and report.
A kindred difficulty arises by reason of the fact that the House of Representatives may proceed to pass a bill for a second time if the Senate “passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree “. The GovernorGeneral is empowered to dissolve both Houses if the Senate having received a bill from the House of Representatives for the second time “passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree “. Doubts arise as to the stage in the proceedings of the House of Representatives it can be considered that the House “ will not agree “. This question also arose in 1951 after the Senate amended the Commonwealth Bank Bill which had first been passed in the House of Representatives.
A further difficulty of meaning arises from the expression “.after an interval of three months “, the period required to elapse before the House of Representatives can pass a bill for the second time as a step in the procedure before a disagreement is finally established. There is room for various opinions. For example, does time commence to run from the date on which the House of Representatives first passes the bill or at some later stage, as for instance, when the Senate rejects the bill or fails to pass it? The Committee considers that certainty is essential in the operation of the procedural requirements of the section, and that whilst the House of Representatives, consistently with the constitutional powers of the Senate, should bc required to pass for the second time proposed laws which do not deal with the financial matters of the kind already mentioned, the section should be amended to leave no doubt as to when the conditions necessary for the establishment of a deadlock have been fulfilled. At the same time, it is important that the Senate be given adequate opportunity to consider a proposed law which has been transmitted to it by the House or Representatives.
The Committee recommends that conditions of deadlock should be deemed to arise if, first, during a session, the Senate has not at the expiration of 90 days after receiving the proposed law from the House of Representatives, passed the law as transmitted to it or the proposed law with any amendments in respect of which both the Senate and the House of Representatives are in agreement; secondly, the House of Representatives again passes the proposed law in the same or the next session either with or without any amendments made by the Senate; and, thirdly, after again receiving the proposed law, the Senate either again rejects the proposed law, or has not at the expiration of 30 days during the session, passed either the proposed law or the proposed law with amendments which the House of Representatives has found acceptable.
In substance, therefore, the Senate must be allowed at least 90 days to make up its mind on a Bill which it has received for the first time from the House of Representatives. That period of time must elapse before the House of Representatives again passes the Bill even though the Senate should reject the Bill within the prescribed time. Upon the submission of the disputed measure to the Senate for the second time, the conditions of deadlock arise immediately upon rejection of the measure, or otherwise at the expiration of a period of 30 days. Sub-section 3 of proposed section 57 in the Bill gives effect to the Committee’s recommendations. The sub-section seems, on its face, to require the Senate to pass a proposed law transmitted to it without amendment. In paragraphs 199 and 200 of the Committee’s report, however, it is made clear that the deadlock conditions do not apply in cases in which the Senate and the House of Representatives are in agreement as to the amendment. lt has been indicated above, in dealing with proposed laws which the Senate may not amend, that where the Senate, in accordance with section 53 of the Constitution, requests an amendment to the House of Representatives and that House concurs with the suggestion and makes the amendment, there should be no call for the application of section 57. Moreover, amendments made by the House of Representatives upon return of a bill with a request for amendment may differ from the amendments requested by the Senate under section 53 of the Constitution. The Committee considers that the Senate should, in such circumstances, if it wishes, not be prevented from passing the bill in its original form and so avoid conditions of deadlock.
Under the Committee’s proposal, a deadlock arises in relation to bills which the Senate may not amend at the expiration of 30 days from the date of the receipt of the Bill from the House of Representatives. Since part of this time can be taken up in awaiting a reply from the House of Representatives to a request for an amendment even though the Senate might not intend to press the request if it were rejected, a situation could occur where the conditions of deadlock arose merely because the Senate had not received a reply from the House of Representatives. In these circumstances, it is provided that if the Senate should return the proposed law to the House of Representatives not less than fourteen days before the expiration of the period of 30 days, and does not have the proposed law returned to it at least seven days before the expiration of the period of 30 days, a deadlock shall not be deemed to arise.
As to other proposed laws, it should also bc made plain that section 57 is not involved where the House of Representatives and the Senate are not in dispute as to an amendment made, or for that matter suggested, by the Senate in the exercise of its constitutional power. Again, the Committee considers that the Senate should not be precluded from passing the Bill in its original form if the House of Representatives should further alter the proposed law which the Senate has amended and the Senate finds the further alterations unacceptable. Subsections (12.) and (13.) of the proposed new section 57 give effect to the foregoing.
When a deadlock has arisen the only action which the Government can now obtain with a view to settlement is a double dissolution of the two Houses granted by the Governor-General.
The Committee recognises that, in some circumstances, a double dissolution could be a desirable course of action, as for example, in the position which prevailed in 1914 when the Government did not have a working majority in either House. It is proposed, therefore, to retain provision for a double dissolution substantially as the section at present provides, except that it should be expressly provided that the GovernorGeneral should act on the advice of the Federal Executive Council.
The Committee’s further recommendation is that government should have the choice of possible courses of action following the occurrence of a deadlock which will not necessitate immediate resort to the electors who, only at the most recent election, will have been responsible for the Government holding office. The Committee recommends that, upon the deadlock arising, it should be within the power of the Governor-General, acting on the advice of the Federal Executive Council, to convene a joint sitting of the members of the two Houses as an alternative to double dissolution. The joint sitting should deliberate and vote upon the proposed law in dispute together with any amendments which have been made by one House but not agreed to by the other.
The Committee recommends that a disputed bill should not be affirmed at such a joint sitting unless it is approved by an absolute majority of the total number of members of .the two Houses. This is the position which obtains if a joint sitting should be held after a double dissolution. Although the Committee does not think it is likely to happen, apart from rare occasions, it is possible that cases will occur of a closely balanced conflict between Commonwealth and State interests to which expression is given in the Senate. In this event, the attainment of a simple majority alone would perhaps not sufficiently recognise the State interest 1 involved or .he constitution of the Senate by an equal number of senators for each State. The Committee has sought a solution which will be consistent with the Senate’s position, in the light of the proposal to fix a maximum number of senators and the continuing likelihood of numbers in the Senate being fairly evenly shared by the parties. In the opinion of the Committee, the Senate’s position can be preserved by expressly recognising the composition of the Senate by senators for each of the States. It is recommended that a disputed measure must also be affirmed at a joint sitting by at least one half of the total number of members of the two Houses chosen for and in a State in at least one half of the States.
The imposition of the double requirement as to voting, in order to obtain the affirmation of a disputed measure at a joint sitting, will mean that a government which is well down in numbers in the Senate will usually be unlikely to obtain the passage at the joint sitting on the measure which has given rise to the deadlock but, where the Senate is equally divided, the formula appears to offer a reasonable prospect of an equitable solution. To have set a more rigid second voting requirement, as for example, to need at least one half of the votes of the total number of members in and for a majority of States instead of one half of the States would, in the opinion of the Committee, after an analysis of the voting on several major measures introduced in the Commonwealth Parliament since 1950, usually make the holding of a joint sitting purposeless, lt may become apparent, even before a vote is taken, that there is no possibility of the joint sitting succeeding. Moreover, discussion could be prolonged at a joint sitting with a view to avoiding the possibility of a double dissolution occurring. Hence the Committee also recommends that provision be made which will empower the Governor-General in Council to terminate a joint sitting, and further proceed to dissolve both Houses. Sub-sections (4.) to (8.) of the proposed new section 57 give effect to these recommendations.
The Committee also proposes a second alternative course of action to a double dissolution which simply consists of utilising an approaching general election as a stage in the settlement of a deadlock. It seems to the Committee that, if the Govern ment is unable to obtain the passage of its legislation through the Senate and a general election occurs within twelve months of the . occurrence of a deadlock, the electors should remain sufficiently seised of the issues when casting their votes at the election for members of the House of Representatives. It is recommended that if a general election for members of the House of Representatives occurs within twelve months of a deadlock first arising and the House of Representatives, in the new Parliament, again passes the proposed law which was the subject of the dispute, and the dispute still persists, the question should be dealt with in the same manner as the continuance of a deadlock following a double dissolution. That is to say, a joint sitting should be convened and if the proposed law, together with any amendments which have been passed by the one House but not agreed to by the other, is affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of members of the two Houses, the proposed law should be presented for the royal assent.
Usually, although not invariably, a general election of members of the House of Representatives is accompanied by elec- ‘ tions for half the total number of senators. If the general election for the House of Representatives occurs within twelve months of a deadlock arising, the government which is formed as a result can, in the opinion of the Committee, properly claim the right to give expression to the confidence which the electors place in it, even though elections for senators did not take place at the same time . as the general election. However, in making its recommendation, the Committee has been influenced by its further proposal, already dealt with in one of the Bills before the Senate, that the places of one-half of the number of senators should become vacant at each general election of members of the House of Representatives instead of senators having fixed six-year terms with one-half retiring every three years. Although the Committee’s present recommendation is not conditional upon acceptance of the further recommendation, it would obviously be a better test of public opinion if the elections were simultaneous.
The Committee considers that its present proposal is consistent both with the interests of responsible government and with the principle of continuity of existence of tha
Senate which, of course, a double dissolution violates. The most recently elected senators, that is, those senators whose terms commenced during the life of the Parliament in which the deadlock occurred, will retain their places whereas the senators whose terms commenced in the life of the preceding Parliament will, even if there should be no change in the constitutional provisions as to senators’ terms, ordinarily have to face the electors at the same time as members of the House of Representatives.
Section 57 now provides that if, following a double dissolution, the House of Representatives again passes the measure which has been in dispute and the Senate again “ rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree” the GovernorGeneral may convene a joint sitting of the members of the two Houses to deliberate and vote upon the bill and any amendments to the bill which are in dispute. If the proposed law and any of the amendments are affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of members of the two Houses then the bill is deemed to have been duly passed and must be submitted for the Queen’s assent.
There has not been a joint sitting after a double dissolution because the intervening election results have removed any doubt as to how the dispute between the two Houses would be resolved. But some machinery is necessary and the Committee recommends the retention of the substance of this method in dealing with a deadlock which persists even though there has been a double dissolution or a general election has occurred. It considers, however, that the House of Representatives should be enjoined to act promptly once the electors have been consulted and that the House of Representatives should be required to pass again the proposed law within six months of the commencement of the first session of the Parliament following a double dissolution or a general election. Consistently with its observations in paragraphs 186-192 of the report, the Committee considers that amendments should also be made to overcome the difficulty caused by use of the expression “ fails to pass “ and “ amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree “. It recommends that it should be competent for the Governor-General in Council to convene a joint sitting upon the rejection of the proposed law by the Senate or otherwise upon the expiration of 30 days during session from the date on which the bill was transmitted to the Senate.
It should also be made plain that a joint sitting should not be convened where the Senate has obtained the concurrence of the House of Representatives to its request for amendment or amendments made to bills which have been transmitted to it by the House of Representatives. The observations and draft provisions set out in paragraphs 196-200 of the Committee’s report also apply to the proposed law being submitted again by the House of Representatives after a double dissolution or a general election. Since the ordinary functioning of Parliament is impossible while a joint sitting continues, it is also recommended that the GovernorGeneral in Council be empowered to terminate a joint sitting. It is further recommended that questions of procedure arising at either joint sitting contemplated by the proposed new section be determined by a majority of the members present. Subsections (9.) to (14.) of the proposed redraft of section 57 deal with these recommendations. I commend the Bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Henty) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Henty) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 29th September at 2.15 p.m.
Consideration resumed (vide page 747).
Clauses 18 to 27 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 28.
– I move -
After clause 27, add the following new clause - “ 28. The reports referred to in section fourteen of this Act shall be laid before each Mouse of the Parliament.”.
I have already advanced, in dealing with earlier amendments, the reasons why the Opposition believes that a nexus should be established between the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and the Parliament; that there should be reports to the Minister from the Bureau; that the Parliament should have the authority to refer questions to the Bureau for investigation and report; that there should be an annual report from the Bureau to the Minister; and that such report should be brought before each House of the Parliament by the Minister. Clause 28 is designed to draw all these proposals together so that the several types of report that are referred to in clause 14 may be laid before each House of the Parliament. lt will be recalled that there were three types of report envisaged if the Opposition’s amendments had been carried; firstly - this is in clause 14 (a) - the reports initiated by the Bureau itself after investigation; secondly, the reports resulting from a referral by the Minister to the Bureau of particular matters to be investigated; and, thirdly, annual reports furnished to the Minister.
As a result of what has transpired in the earlier stages of this discussion in Committee, paragraphs (a) and (b) of clause 14 as proposed by the Government have not been amended. Notwithstanding that this is an application of the principle to a rather truncated version of our approach, we still ask the Committee to insert new clause 28 which will have the effect of securing the submission to each House of the Parliament not only the reports which arise from investigations which the Bureau itself undertakes of its own motion, but also reports resulting from referrals by the Minister for investigation. I do not propose to elaborate any further the reasons which actuated the Opposition in pressing for the adoption of this principle in the legislation.
– For the reasons that the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) has already advanced, the Government is not prepared to accept this amendment.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 9.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 September 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1964/19640924_senate_25_s26/>.