25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuilin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that the Commonwealth Statistician has advised that the cost of living in Sydney rose by 14s. a week over the past 15 weeks? In view of this alarming increase, will the Government consider introducing amending legislation in order to overcome the problems of the many needy citizens who are affected by the rise in the cost of living?
– I have not seen the statistics to which the honorable senator has referred. His question raises an important matter of policy. It is not the sort of question that should be asked at question time, and obviously does not call for any answer.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Treasurer. According to a statement by the Premier of Tasmania, as published in the “ King Island News “, the subsidy paid by the State Government to the King IslandTasmanian mainland shipping service has remained unaltered for many years. Because no comment or adjustment of the grant to Tasmania has ever been made by the Commonwealth Grants Commission on this account, is it not fair to assume that no adjustment of the grant to Tasmania would be made if the State Government brought this subsidy up to date, commensuratety with the increases in freight charges that have taken place since the subsidy was initiated?
– The honorable senator has raised an interesting point. It is quite true, as he says, that for many years the Tasmanian Government has been subsidising the intrastate shipping service between the Tasmanian mainland and King Island. I am not aware of any objection having been raised during that time, or of the matter of an adjustment of the subsidy paid by the Tasmanian Government having been raised by the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
– What is the amount of the subsidy?
– It is 10s. a ton, if I remember correctly. It was a little higher than that at one time, but I think the Tasmanian Government reduced it to 10s. a ton. I do not recall the Commonwealth Grants Commission ever raising the matter of an adjustment of the grant on this account. Therefore, if the subsidy were brought up to date on the basis of current day costs, as Senator Lillico suggested in his question, it would merely be an extension of a principle that the Commonwealth Grants Commission has already accepted. It would not be a new subsidy; it would just be bringing the subsidy more into line with current shipping costs. I believe that the point is very well taken.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation tell me why and on what grounds the Director-General of Civil Aviation objects to Philippines Airlines showing films in flight? Are air passengers in Australia to be denied this amenity when Ansett-A.N.A. and Trans-Australia Airlines seek leave to use this medium to relieve boredom on the long nights such as those to and from Perth?
– At present this matter is before the international conference which deals with such matters throughout the world. A dispute exists between a number of airlines on whether films should be shown in flight, under what conditions they should be shown, and so forth. I can say to the honorable senator that the cost of showing films in flight is tremendous. An examination is being made of the prices that can be charged for this type of entertainment. The honorable senator should not think for a moment that films would be shown on interstate air routes in Australia, if approval were given, and the present rate of fares remains unchanged. The cost of such entertainment is so high that a method of charging for it would have to be found.
Honorable senators should bear in mind that the aviation industry in Australia, as well as everywhere else, is working on a very slender profit margin when considered in relation to (he enormous amount of capital involved. In-flight amenities - particularly films - would necessitate an increase in present fares before very long.
– My question is directed to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research, Does the Government accept the principle that no student who is intelligent enough to complete a university course should be prevented from doing so by economic circumstances? ls it correct that a great number of students in Australia are, in i act, so prevented?
– I doubt whether a -really genuine and factual answer can be given to the .honorable senator’s last question. All sorts of statements can be made on it, but I doubt whether one can say with certainty that X or Y number of students are economically prevented from beginning or completing courses in tertiary education. I have no doubt that, in some cases, that would happen. However, I do not know whether the honorable senator means that, because of family circumstances, students have to become bread winners by going out to work.
– I am referring to lack of Commonwealth assistance for students.
– Commonwealth assistance is given to students, of course, particularly to the best 23 per cent, of those who apply to go to a university. I would think that the ideal of education would be to see that those who are capable of benefitting from tertiary education should have an opportunity so to benefit. In some cases, as the Martin report indicated and as we indicated in this Parliament, it could be a matter of benefitting from a university education; in other cases, from colleges of advanced education. Indeed, I would hope that when the scheme outlined by the Martin Committee and adopted by the Government and the Parliament is in operation, there will be chances for people to enter colleges of advanced education and then move across to universities at the end of their courses if they have done well enough; and for people who enter universities and are not successful in their year to move across to colleges of advanced education, so that the two movements mesh together and give greater effect to tertiary education in Australia, which was the object of the action taken by the Government.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration seen in yesterday’s issue of the Adelaide “Advertiser” a statement made by the secretary of the Riverland Co-operative Ltd., Mr. Newland, in which he said that fruit growers in South Australia’s upper Murray area were faced with very heavy losses in the coming season because of labour shortages? Is it a fact that approaches have been made to the Department Oi Immigration and that the Department has indicated that it cannot assure a supply of labour as in previous years? Are further investigations being made with a view to relieving this situation? If so, along what lines are tha investigations being made? Does the Minister expect to be able to give assurances at an early date that this urgent need for labour will be met?
– My attention has been directed to the statement. I understand that the general manager of Riverland Fruit Products Co-operative Ltd. wrote to the Minister for Immigration in April last thanking him for the assistance given by the Department in securing the services of approximately 230 Greek women migrants for employment during the preceding season. The general manager mentioned that this was an outstanding service to the industry as it would not have been possible to handle the record tonnage of fruit offered without that assistance. In the same letter the question of further assistance during the season ahead was raised. In reply, the Department of Immigration suggested that it might be difficult to repeat the operations which had been carried out over the previous two canning seasons. Everything would depend upon the availability of girls suitable for this particular type of work. The Department is at present carrying out inquiries to see what can be done to meet the industry’s needs.
– Is the Minister representing the Attorney-General’ aware that this week history was made in South Australia by the appointment of a woman to the position of Judge of the Supreme Court in that State, Her Honor Justice Roma Mitchell? Does not the Minister consider that this is a precedent which could well be followed in courts within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth?
– I am aware that a lady, who 1 understand is to be known as Her Honor Justice Mitchell, was appointed to the South Australian Supreme Court Bench. I should have thought that the parctice followed in the appointment of judges generally was to assess the capability of the candidate and to appoint that candidate on the basis of capability rather than of sex. I am quite sure that Her Honor Justice Mitchell had great capability and that in the future, as in the past, judges will be appointed on the basis of capacity.
– Does the Minister for Works recall the recent report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the construction of the airport at Tullamarine? Did the report urge that the completion of buildings at the airport should be hastened? Has the Minister taken any steps to comply with the recommendations contained in the report, which was adopted by the Parliament? If not, why not?
– I remember that the Public Works Committee submitted a report on constructions at Tullamarine about the beginning of last August. This report was presented to and approved by the Parliament. It dealt with the provision of engineering services, runways, roadways, water supplies and things of that kind. Action has already been taken on the work which was the subject of that report and work is proceeding. In some cases, people on the spot are able to continue the work now that it has received parliamentary approval.
It is true that the Committee’s report did strongly urge that the buildings at Tullamarine should be completed without delay, but we in the Department of Works are rather hampered because we are unable to go ahead with registering potential tenderers or calling tenders until the second report of the Committee, which deals with the buildings at Tullamarine, is presented to and accepted by the Parliament. Consequently we are unable to carry out the behest of the Committee’s first report. I may say that we are ready to go. If we are presented with this report in the reasonably near future we will endeavour to aim at a completion date for the buildings on or before July 1968. However, as I have said, we cannot take any steps until the report is presented to and accepted by the Parliament.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Are any Australian organisations active in Vietnam for the purpose of supplying Australian troops there with comforts and amenities, such as were provided to Australian servicemen in earlier wars? If not, will action be taken to encourage organisations to offer our men such assistance, particularly in view of the difficult conditions under which they are serving?
– I am not aware of the existence of any such organisations, but I shall direct this question to the Minister for the Army. I agree with the honorable senator that we should encourage as much as possible the provision of such amenities by voluntary organisations.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs been invited to the statement made in the New Zealand Parliament recently by the New Zealand Minister for Defence, Mr. Eyre, to the effect that Australia and New Zealand should become a federation, which would mean the creation of a great stabilising force in the Pacific? Has the Minister had an opportunity to study this and other statements made in the recent debate, and will he prepare a statement for the Senate on what the Government thinks of this idea of a federation of Australia and New Zealand?
– This is clearly a question which should be put on notice so that the Minister for External Affairs may provide an answer if he proposes so to do.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. In view of the fact that 1965 is International Co-operation Year, one of the objects of which is to secure the ratification by members of the United Nations of outstanding conventions, what steps is the Government taking to ratify any conventions not yet ratified by this country?
– I remember some planned conferences in relation to International Co-operation Year coming to my attention, but the details of them are not in my mind. I shall be happy to let the honorable senator know precisely what the Government proposes to do in relation to sending representatives to committees and meetings associated with International Cooperation Year. This matter came across my desk some time ago and the details are not in my mind now.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation again canvass with his Department and the two major airline companies the practicability of rostering airline services with a view to reducing increasing congestion at terminals, particularly in Adelaide, and providing for the travelling public a wider range of flight schedules?
– I can tell the honorable senator that on the day before yesterday I took this matter up again with the two airlines. I have written to them to see what can be done, particularly at some airports, such as Adelaide and Canberra.
(Question No. 541.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answer -
(Question No. 569.)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
In view of the Government’s repeated assurances of firm action to stop export of Australian fauna, will the Minister investigate the action of Harrods of London, a store which prides itself on being able to supply anything its customers want, including in its price catalogue the following items, (a) a wombat for £45, and (b) a platypus for £300?
– The following answer to the honorable senator’s question is now supplied -
Inquiries in London by the Senior Australian Customs Representative have revealed that Harrods has not listed the animals concerned in any catalogue and, within memory of senior personnel interviewed, the store has never had these species of animals for sale. An edition of a magazine “Knowledge” published in Britain during 1964 showed these and other Australian animals to be available from Harrods. However, Harrods claims that its representative was misquoted by the magazine.
(Question No. 583.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
In the Armed Services establishments at Canberra how many persons are employed in the undermentioned categories -
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions - 1. (a) 1,462. (b) The statistical information maintained in respect of applications/rejections does not include a specific category of rejection on security grounds. Such rejections are accounted for under a general heading of “ unsatisfactory civil record “ and include those with a disqualifying civil conviction or other character defects. The total for this group was 476. (c) 1,160. (d) 4,990 which figure includes those who withdrew their application, failed to complete their application, over-age, under-age, lacking parents consent, &c.
(Question No. 605.)
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
With regard to the introduction of a cadet pilot training scheme by Qantas Empire Airways, which includes 25 cadets, what are the details of State representation among the successful applicants?
– I now furnish the following information -
Trainees included in the first course of the Qantas cadet pilot training scheme were from the following States: New South Wales ten, Victoria three, Queensland four, South Australia four, Western Australia three, and Tasmania one.
Motion (by Senator Henty) proposed -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 5th October, at 11 a.m.
– I rise on behalf of the Opposition to oppose .the proposal. I move the following amendment -
Leave out “ 5th October “, insert “ 12th October “.
I point out to the Senate that right at the commencement of this sessional period the Government indicated to every member of the Parliament that it was proposed that both Houses should sit for three weeks and then rise for one week. That was a very sensible arrangement which was applauded by everybody. It gave .to all members of the Parliament an opportunity to return to their electorates to attend to business that accumulates there, and to take time to consider legislation.
Now we find that that arrangement is to be disrupted. This will cause very grave inconvenience to a great number of senators who took advantage of their advance knowledge that next week would be free of parliamentary duties to make commitments all over their electorates. I certainly am in that position, and I know that many of my colleagues on this side of the chamber are in a similar position. I do not doubt that that is the position of many Government senators, too.
We were informed only this week that this motion was likely to be proposed. No explanation has been given by the Government as to the need to cause that mass of inconvenience to honorable senators. It behoves the Government to indicate to us the need for this haste and why this firm arrangement is to be disrupted. It should not be disrupted without very grave reasons. Moreover, in the view of the Opposition those reasons, if there are any, should be put clearly before the Senate. We are unable to refer to legislation that is before another place, but I think I shall be at liberty to say that we all understand that certain legislation is to come before us when we next meet. If that is the reason for our return, I invite the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate to say what is the urgency or the reason for haste. I remind him in particular that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has indicated in another place that one of the main provisions in the legislation may never come into operation at all and that quite frankly he does not expect that it will. I ask why in these circumstances, and when in the view expressed by the Minister for Labour and National Service there is no urgency about the legislation, there should be this haste.
We on this side of the chamber object very strongly to being brought back next week. We will resist it by our vote, and I indicate that we will not be disposed to co-operate with the Government in speeding legislation through at short notice. The Senate should have regard to its own dignity and be concerned about its own rights. If we are to be presented with a measure on Tuesday next and are to be expected to proceed with it immediately, we will do so only under duress and with our most emphatic protest against the procedure. It is no answer to say that we will have had an opportunity to study the measure while it was in another place.
This House stands on its own feet and deals with its own matters. We are not prepared to be regarded as a mere appendage to another place. We want the legislation that comes to this place - we are described as a House of review - to be presented to us in such a way that we will have an opportunity to consider it maturely and not be rushed into instantaneous debate. It may be that we are competent to do it. It may be that enough of our members are interested in following proceedings in another place. But that is not a factor that should influence this chamber in the conduct of its business. There should be reasonable delay between the inrtoduction of a measure and its consideration by the Senate. To abdicate that position would be, in the view of this side, completely false to our duty as an Opposition. I suggest it ought to be beneath the dignity of the Senate to have the Government take up any other position. It is unfair to the Opposition. It is in derogation of the traditions and stature of this chamber.
For those reasons, I indicate that the Opposition hopes that the Government will see merit in the argument that has been addressed to it. I base the amendment, first, on the convenience of honorable senators and disruption of arrangements made, and, secondly, on the dignity of this chamber. I hope it will be agreed that I have played some part in upholding that position down the years. I do not think it is to our credit that any of us join in proceedings of haste except in something approaching a national emergency. So far as the Opposition can see, there is not only no national emergency but also no reason for haste. It behoves the Government to indicate clearly why it seeks to disrupt the arrangements that have been made.
– Mr. President, as this Bill has something to do with the Department of Labour and National Service, I should like to take the opportunity to reply to the remarks that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has made.
– I rise to order. I would like to have your ruling, Sir, whether the intervention of the Minister will conclude the debate? I should like to speak on this matter.
– There is do substance in the point of order.
– In considering what Senator McKenna has had to say - and I will return to this matter later to deal with some of the other points he made - we should remember that the Bill which is the subject of discussion was presented to the other House of this Parliament and was available to all members of this Parliament last Thursday week.
– Last Thursday.
– Last Thursday week.
– The Minister means last Thursday.
– I mean a week ago today. The debate will take place here next week.
– The debate will take place tonight in another place.
– If honorable senators want to quibble about a few hours, let me say that the Bill was presented to the House of Representatives last Thursday and will be debated here next week.
– The Minister could use that argument with every bill that comes here.
– Sure I could, and it would be a very valid argument. It is a very valid argument on this Bill.
– The Minister had better be sure of the numbers.
– I cannot answer for the way the Opposition is going to vote. I am not called on to do so. This
Bill, I think we all agree, is a measure of considerable importance. It deals with an industry of great importance .to Australia, which has considerable application to our export trade and the costs which are imposed upon that trade on the wharves. Clearly it is not just an amending measure. It is an extremely important measure in regard to the economy of this country. That is one significant point which must be taken into consideration when we are discussing this Bill.
If it is an important bill - and from the reaction of Opposition members at question time and other times, it is very difficult to think that they do not believe that it is a very important bill - then it is worth inconveniencing honorable senators in order to get it passed. I have no doubt at all that some inconvenience has been caused to all honorable senators including myself. But I suggest that the dignity of the Senate, of which we have just heard, is better served by the Senate not getting up for a fortnight’s holiday when this important bill is ready to come to it, tout by the Senate going ahead and passing it in the quickest possible time. I think that all senators on the Government side would have been subjected to considerable criticism by the Opposition if they had said: “ Let us get up for a fortnight and forget about it”. In my view, the dignity of the Senate would not be served by adopting that course.
With due respect to the Leader of the Opposition, I think it is tendentious to say that members of the Opposition will not have had an opportunity to study the Bill and to decide what they are going to do about it in the full dignity of independent members of a House of review. I suggest that not only has each member of the Opposition had an opportunity to study the Bill, but Caucus has had an opportunity to study it and has already instructed the members of the Opposition how they are to vote or, as Senator Cavanagh put it last night, has advised them on the actions that they ought to take in respect of the Bill. If that is the position, it is nothing short of ludicrous for them to say: “We have not had an opportunity to study the Bill and make up our minds independently on what we are going to do”. If it is considered that the Bill is not sufficiently important for the Senate to sit next week and that we should get up for a fortnight, and if some completely untenable argument is to be hung on the fact that members of the Opposition have not had a chance to make up their own minds, no doubt they will, as they have the right to do, vote to try to have the measure not brought on. But the dignity of the Senate and the interests of this country will be better served if the Senate sits next week and passes the Bill than they would be if it were to get up for a fortnight because of the arguments that have been advanced by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I agree with the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) when he says that this is important legislation. It is so important that we want time to consider, it. The more important the legislation the more justification there is for a period of time to elapse between its introduction and the debate on it. A longer period should be given to allow the Senate to seriously consider this legislation. The Minister referred to the importance of the legislation, but he did not mention the reason why it is so urgent to have it passed. I ask: What has happened since the commencement of this sessional period to have made the legislation so urgent at this stage? Why could it not have been introduced at the beginning of the sessional period? For some reason or other, someone is attempting to create an unreal atmosphere of urgency about this measure. The important point to be considered is the dignity of the Senate. Every honorable senator has made up his mind on how he will vote on the legislation, but we should not have to follow debates in another place to find out the details of legislation that we have to consider.
I visualised this situation arising when I asked Senator Henty a question yesterday. I asked him whether the Bill was to be introduced next Tuesday, and whether sufficient time would be given to honorable senators to enable them to make a proper examination of it before they were asked to debate it. The purpose of my question was to point out that it is our function and duty to examine the Bill when it comes before us. To say that we know now what is in the
Bill is to say that we are here not to represent the electors but merely to follow the dictates of somebody. At this stage we do not know in what form the Bill will be presented to the Senate next week. The Bill is being debated in another place today. That debate may result in important amendments to the Bill that we will have to consider next week. At this stage we cannot say that the Bill that has been introduced in another place is the Bill that will be introduced in this place. Recently we have seen differences in the Repatriation Bill, as presented to the two Houses of the Parliament. We may find that the Bill that is introduced in this place is different from the Bill that has been introduced in the other place.
With that in mind, yesterday I asked whether the dignity of the Senate would be upheld by, in accordance with long standing practice, granting the Opposition time to consider this Bill between the time when it is introduced and the time when we will have to speak to it. The Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty), in his reply, indicated, as Senator Gorton did today, that we have had a chance to consider this Bill, as introduced in another place. That concerns me and causes me to adopt the attitude that I am adopting today. I say that this procedure is not right. I raised this matter in the adjournment debate last night. As honorable senators know, in the course of that debate an argument arose as to whether Senator Wright or I had got off the track between yesterday afternoon and yesterday evening. Senator Henty, in replying to the adjournment debate, suggested that it was I who was off the track. He did that by quoting the following from his reply to my question -
We shall meet at 11 a.m. on Tuesday and when we finish debating it, but not before, we will lift, so there will be adequate time for debate, if the sittings extend to Wednesday or Thursday.
He read that from the pink typescript of the “Hansard” report. As that did not cover the suggestion that we should consider the Bill as introduced in another place, I interjected to say: “Carry on”. Senator Henty then said -
I know it is old hat–
I do not know whether that is a correct report - to get off a subject on which you are weak and try to get on to something else.
Senator McClelland then said ;
Read the lot.
Senator Henty replied ;
That is the end of the answer.
He said, in effect, that there was no more to read. Obviously, what he was saying was that there would be plenty of time to debate this matter next week. No-one disputed that there would be time to debate it. The point was the time for consideration of how we would debate it. That was what I was concerned about. We have Senator Henty’s assurance that there will be plenty of time to debate the Bill, but he did not refer in the adjournment debate to the Bill as introduced in another place. The answer that he gave to my question yesterday afternoon was -
The Bill will come to the Senate from the House of Representatives, I think, next Tuesday. I should think that there will be adequate time for honorable senators to examine the Bill because it has been presented in another place and will be debated there on Thursday night and Friday.
That is the portion of the answer which Senator Henty left out and refused to read. We were deceived in spite of my interjection and Senator McClelland’s interjection, when we asked Senator Henty to read the whole of his answer. We were deceived to the extent that he said: “ That is the end of the answer “, in reply to an invitation to read the whole of the answer. I say that that is an unfair method of replying to a matter that has been raised in this place. I thought the Minister would have been above such tactics.
– Read the next sentence of his answer.
– The Minister continued -
This will give to honorable senators who wish to debate the Bill a full week-end and Monday to examine it. Adequate time will be given for debate next week.
Then follows the portion that the Minister read in reply. Of course, as I have said, it is not a fair reply to a complaint raised during an adjournment debate. The Minister continued with the same attitude as he adopted at the commencement of his answer yesterday. The same attitude is adopted by Senator Gorton today. It is said, in effect: “ The Bill is in another place. Look at the Bill over there.”
– The honorable senator could bring it over here and read it.
– It is all very well for the Minister who knows whether sufficient copies of the Bill will be coming over here but the Opposition believes it is reasonable to expect to be told what legislation is to be brought before the Senate. The procedure adopted by the Government is not right and detracts from the dignity of this chamber.
As Senator McKenna has pointed out, such a practice might be justified in a case of national emergency. We are told simply that it is an important Bill. Are not all Bills important? Are not Bills dealing with restrictive trade practices and bankruptcy law important? Are such Bills all to be introduced in this fashion during this sessional period? The Minister has stated that there will be adequate time to debate the measure. No-one is doubting the correctness of that statement, but more time should be allowed to the Opposition to examine the Bill after its introduction and before the debate begins. The only alternative is for honorable senators on this side of the chamber to examine what has occurred in another place. It may be that on a future occasion when legislation is introduced in this chamber - bearing in mind that we have Ministers in the Senate - which is considered sufficiently important to justify immediate debate, we will be asked to look at consideration of the legislation by organisations outside this Parliament. That is a comparable procedure. It is not a right or proper position in which to place the Senate.
On the question of inconvenience, it is not only the inconvenience of members of this Parliament that must be considered. Consideration must be given to those people outside the Parliament with whom arrangements have been made for dates in the period during which it was planned that the Parliament would be in recess. In some electorates meetings have been arranged to be addressed by senators. Those meetings will have to be cancelled or arrangements made for substitute speakers. The people who organise such functions have been inconvenienced. In my own case, it was thought that I could assist in a hearing before an arbitration tribunal in South Australia. The date of the hearing was fixed specifically so that I would be available to attend it. As Senator McKenna has said, there would be justification for cancellation of such arrangements in the event of a national emergency, but no-one has told us the reasons why the Bill is urgent or what it is about the present period that distinguishes it from the time when the Parliament resumed for this sessional: period.
I therefore suggest that the Minister and the Government have not discharged their responsibility to show why the legislation is sufficiently urgent to warrant the disruption of the legislative programme mapped out by the Government for this sessional period.
– I call Senator Henty.
– Is he closing the debate?
– No, he will speak tothe amendment.
– I am speaking: to the amendment. I have listened to the comments of honorable senators opposite. I thought it was well recognised that our first duty is to the Senate. If the Senate is called upon to sit - it is the Government’s, duty to say whether it wishes the Senate to sit - then it is our duty to be in our places here. In the opinion of the Government, the legislation in question must be regarded; as a matter of urgency. Therefore, the Government has requested that the Senate meet, and finalise the legislation during next week. I regret very much that this has inconvenienced all of us, but experienced senators never make appointments except with the proviso that they are subject to cancellation if the requirements of the Senate so demand. I should have expected every honorable senator to make his appointments on that basis because it is our duty to be in our places in the Senate when required.
I was interested to hear Senator Cavanagh say that the Opposition has not had time to examine and discuss the Bill.
– We have not seen it.
– I thought it was discussed last Wednesday in Caucus. The honorable senator advised us that this matter had been discussed in Caucus last Wednesday and that he and his colleagues had been told how they were to vote on it. I know that honorable senators opposite who are interjecting are a little touchy about this matter, but I did not raise it; Senator Cavanagh raised it. He said this matter had been discussed last week in Caucus and that he had been told how he was to vote on it.
– The Minister does not know anything about what happens in Caucus.
– Noise does not make the Opposition’s case any better, Mr. President, nor does it prevent me saying what I want to say.
– We are not told how we shall vote.
– I will bet that the honorable senator will not vote contrary to the way that Caucus has told him to vote on this matter when the vote is taken next Wednesday.
There has been some reference to the dignity of the Senate. I think that we, as senators, should uphold at all times the dignity of the Senate. I agree with that sentiment in every way. But if ever the work of the Senate is prostituted, it is by the fact that one party comes into the House having been told how it is to vote. Is it an example of an individual right to review legislation and to have time to study it when honorable senators opposite have already been told what to do? If ever the dignity of the Senate was prostituted, it is in this case. The fact is that honorable senators opposite have been told how they must vote.
– Has the Minister seen the article in this morning’s “ Daily Telegraph “?
– I know that honorable senators opposite would not be able to live without what they read in the newspapers. In fact, they would not have a question to ask at question time if it were not for the newspapers. Quite frankly, I have not seen this morning’s “ Daily Telegraph “. The question was asked: Why is this now a matter of urgency? This is a matter of urgency and of the utmost importance to the export trade of this country. No one can reasonably accuse the Government of not taking every possible step to avoid the necessity for this legislation. No one can say that we have not done everything possible by means of conciliation and arbitration to find a way of overcoming the present difficulties, but the situation has now reached the stage at which we need urgent legislation to deal with it. And we intend to deal with it. As a government, we have said that this is an urgent measure. We have asked the Senate to resume at 11 a.m. next Tuesday, and as far as I am concerned, if the will of the Senate and the numbers are in favour of it, then it will meet on that day at that hour.
– Senator Gair and I, who are the members of the Australian Democratic Labour Party in this place, will not support the amendment because we think that it is belated. We all knew last Tuesday of the proposal to come back next week. Nothing was said on Tuesday or yesterday about a request for a postponement and, as a result, Senator Gair and I have completely reorganised our arrangements for next week. He has reorganised a visit to Western Australia which he proposed to make next week; he has put it off till the following week. After all, a possibility existed on Tuesday and Wednesday of taking action and that possibility was not explored, apparently. At this late hour today, after we have reorganised our arrangements and transposed them in the two weeks concerned, the suggestion is made that we should change back again. I think that the Opposition ought to have moved in this connection on Tuesday and it lost its opportunity, and it is not of much good to complain about it now.
I am fairly well informed upon this legislation and the attitude of a lot of people to it. I have been deeply touched by the letters which I have received from persons claiming to represent sections of the waterside workers and even the Seamen’s Union of Australia. I never knew that they had such a high opinion of me. They indicate that they regard me as a pure souled democrat of the highest water. That will last possibly until they read the division lists next week. I just want to say to those people who have been sending me telegrams and letters that I am not interested in the views of the Communists on the waterfront or the stool pigeons who run with them on unity tickets. I am not interested in their opinions at all, because they have no regard for the feelings or the rights of the man on the waterfront. They send me letters in which they write about having no political bar to a man on the waterfront, yet they were the people who stopped the Hurseys from working on the waterfront because they would not contribute to a political party in which they did not believe. I shall be back in Melbourne this weekend and I shall put in a lot of time. I shall consult people associated with my own union.
– Will the honorable senator consult Gus Alford?
– I shall consult Gus Alford, a man with a ton of courage who has never compromised with Communists and who has fought unity tickets in a way in which members of the Australian Labour Party have not been game to fight them. I shall consult rank and file members on the waterfront. I shall consult people associated with my union and I shall come back here well qualified to record a vote on this Bill.
– Will Gus Alford support the Bill?
– He can speak for himself. He has never been afraid to get up in front of 2,000 or 3,000 waterside workers and express a view to which many of them were hostile. He has more courage than a lot of people. They would not be prepared to do that. I always believe that, in the consideration of legislation, all the time that is required to enable senators to cast a reasonable vote, should be allowed but in this particular case I am prepared to put myself out. I am prepared to get the information. I should say that with the associations that members of the A.L.P. have they will certainly be in a position to get all the information that they want by next Tuesday.
There have been suggestions in the Press that an election is to be held. This indicates that there is a lack of confidence in the political community, and I think that the matter should be tested at an election. Let us therefore go ahead with this Bill and settle the matter. Let us remove uncertainty from the people’s minds. The Democratic Labour Party is prepared for an election tomorrow, particularly for a double dissolution. Because this matter is of such a serious and vital nature, we invite the mem bers of the Opposition to join us in seeking a double dissolution at once. We promise them every assistance and co-operation in doing so.
– The Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) has said that the Government considers the Stevedoring Industry Bill 1965 to be a matter of great urgency. To listen to honorable senators opposite, one would think that it was entirely new for the Government to say in the Senate that a matter is urgent and for the Opposition to say that it is not. It is rather ironical that Senator McKenna, the very person who moved the amendment we are considering today, had an interesting comment to make when he was Minister for Social Services and Health in the Labour Government. He is reported at page 1643 of “Hansard” of 29th June 1949 in the following terms -
The preamble is of particular importance to honorable senators because they have not had a previous opportunity to consider the measure. The Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives only today . . .
The Bill to which the honorable senator referred on that occasion was pushed through the House of Representatives after five hours and six minutes of debate. It was brought immediately to the Senate, introduced by Senator McKenna and pushed through this chamber in one hour and 28 minutes.
– What was the Bill?
– Never mind what the Bill was. That is what the Australian Labour Party did when it was in office. It considered that the Bill was one of urgency. At that time the Opposition of the day did not oppose the Government because it agreed that a matter of urgency was involved.
The Goverment has stated that the Stevedoring Industry Bill is one of great urgency, and if the Government considers that it is, surely it has the right to make such a decision just as the Labour Party did when it was in office and as Senator McKenna, who was then the responsible Minister, decided on the occasion I have cited. Today, the Opposition is playing at politics. Honorable senators opposite do not want to face up to this debate. They know that they are going to be in a cleft stick in relation to this measure. The left wing of the Labour Party will support the stand taken by honorable senators opposite, and rightly so if it agrees with it, but there are many people on the Labour side of politics whose hearts will not be in supporting the action the Opposition is taking.
.- I support the amendment. I believe that the Government and the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) are treating the Senate with the contempt that is more or less becoming the rule in the relationships between the other place and the Senate. Until the last few moments, when Senator McManus declared his position and that of Senator Gair, the Government had taken completely for granted the way that they would vote. The Government expected that it would be able to bulldoze the measure through the Senate. I remind Government supporters that the members of the Opposition and the honorable senators who sit on the cross benches are entitled to their say ki these matters and should not be taken for granted.
There is nothing more obvious than the reason for the so-called urgency for this legislation to be introduced. It is nothing more than a political gimmick. It is a buildup in an attempt, among other things, to add importance to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), the little Billy boy who is trying to show that he is cracking down on the wharfies for the benefit of people who are great supporters of the Government.
– The honorable senator should not describe a Minister of the Crown as “ little Billy boy “.
– I withdraw the word “little”. I am not prepared to see the Senate used as a part of the Government’s political gimmick or used to build up a fear campaign in the community regarding the urgency of this legislation. Senator Fitzgerald stated earlier this morning that we have in this country an economic situation in which the cost of living in Sydney has increased by 14s. a week. There are restrictive trade practices, and there are other matters which are exercising the minds of the electors. The Stevedoring Industry Bill is merely a smoke screen to divert the attention of the people from important economic factors that are worrying Australians today. The Government says that it is urgently necessary to introduce the legislation. I suggest that the Commonwealth Industrial Court has authority to do whatever it is proposed to do by means of the legislation. If the Court wished to deregister the Waterside Workers Federation it could do so. There is no urgency whatever about this Bill.
I wish to take up Senator Gorton’s comment regarding a holiday for honorable senators. There would be no holiday so far as I am concerned. The break in the sittings of the Senate would provide me with an opportunity to keep appointments in my State and to get in touch with people there concerning pending legislation. Far from being a holiday, I suggest that the practice of sitting for three weeks and rising for one week is a reasonable one for the Parliament to adopt. In my view it is sensible that honorable senators should come to Canberra from their States for three weeks and then go back for a week. Any other programme would be ridiculous. Senator Gorton should be the last one to raise this issue because he has a most important engagement during the time that the Senate will be debating this matter next week. He realises that some of the commitments into which senators enter are inescapable. Yet he says that everyone else can cancel their appointments and make other arrangements, and that whatever the Government says must stand.
– It is still different to the whole Senate taking a holiday from its job.
– -It is not a holiday at all. We made an arrangement at the beginning of the current sessional period that we would have a certain programme of sittings. I also wish to protest against the standover tactics that are becoming even more noticeable on the part of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). He has threatened honorable senators in connection with what will happen to them if they do not follow a certain line. I feel that it is most reprehensible for the Prime Minister to get up in another place and threaten members of the Senate with what he may do to them. We are supposed to be the masters of our destiny. The framers of the Constitution foresaw certain functions for the Senate. The rabble that is going on in another place)–
– Order !
– I meant the turmoil that is going on in another place.
– What about the water?
– Everyone will need umbrellas - not only the diplomats - if they do not look out. I am certain that there are people on the Government side of the Senate and also in the electorates who are looking to the Senate to retrieve the basic responsibilities with which this chamber was entrusted by the framers of the Constitution.
For a long time, by default and also by neglect, the Senate became a rubber stamp. It became a stooge and it became redundant. Now, with men such as Senators Wright, Wood, Hannaford, Turnbull and others, it is showing vigour and is trying to re-establish itself as a House of review and as a chamber in which there is a calm atmosphere for discussion. I stress, because it is important, that the Senate should not be pushed around by another place. I wish to record the strongest protest possible regarding the motion that has been moved.
I conclude by saying that the subject matter of the Bill has not been properly discussed. The time given to us has not been sufficient. Another week could well be spent in making investigations and in privately contacting various people so that we may be able to give a much better decision on the matter. I support the amendment.
Motion (by Senator Henty) put -
That the question be now put
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
The “Ayes” and the “Noes” being equal, question resolved in the negative.
– I rise to oppose the amendment that has been moved by Senator McKenna. I want to stress the urgency of the Bill that is to be introduced next week.
– I rise to a point of order. I point out to you, Mr. President, that the Standing Orders provide that you shall give the call to the person who first catches your eye. The unquestionable practice in this place has been for the Chair to give the call to a Government senator and then to an Opposition senator. You, Mr. President, have given the call to Senator Henty and to Senator Scott in succession.
– Order! Common sense would dictate what I have done to be the correct procedure. Senator O’Byrne spoke. I then gave the call to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate because he was about to move the closure of the debate. I have now given the call to Senator Scott. I think I have done the right thing.
– Before I was rudely interrupted I was saying that the Government had decided to declare this Bill to be an urgent Bill. The measure is to be introduced on Tuesday. According to Senator McKenna’s amendment, Opposition senators are eager not to come here on Tuesday next. They want to delay the Bill for a further week. That is probably what the Waterside Workers Federation wants. It wants the Opposition to indulge in delaying tactics, and the Opposition is playing along with it. When Senator Gorton, on behalf of the Government, was replying to Senator McKenna he said that honorable senators would have two weeks holiday. The Opposition has taken that as meaning two weeks holiday from work altogether. What Senator Gorton meant was that it would be a two weeks holiday from this place.
– Why did he not say that?
– Everybody understands that to be the position. We all know that no senator ever has a holiday. Senators are working either here or in their electorates. What Senator Gorton meant was that honorable senators would have two weeks holiday from the Senate. He meant that there would be a break of two weeks from this place. Why should Opposition senators be so concerned and touchy about this Bill, which is so urgent that we need to come back here next week even though it was agreed at the beginning of this sessional period that we would sit for three weeks and then rise for one week? Why have we to come back on Tuesday next to debate this Bill and pass it?
– Let the honorable senator tell us and we will all know.
– It is because of conditions on the waterfront. They have deteriorated to such an extent-
– Over the last week or two?
– They are deteriorating from day to day and from year to year. The Government has decided that the position is so urgent that steps should be taken to introduce a bill to amend the provisions of the Stevedoring Industry Act relating to the employment of labour. What is the Waterside Workers Federation doing? It is holding up this country to ransom. There is an urgent need for us to come back here next week and pass the legislation so that we may control members of the Federation, if that is possible. Over the last two years more hours have been lost through the actions of the Waterside Workers Federation than through the actions of any other trade union in Australia. That is why the Government has declared this Bill to be an urgent measure. That is another reason why I shall not vote in favour of the Opposition’s amendment. I think that the Government is quite right in insisting that the Senate should meet on Tuesday morning next at 11 o’clock.
– Mr. President, I followed the logic of Senator McManus very clearly when he welcomed a double dissolution. In the parlance of Australian Rules football, the honorable senator did not want to see only the Minister get a bath. He wanted to see the whole of the Liberal and Country Parties get a bath. I think that he also wanted to include the Labour Party. I could not follow the logic of the honorable senator’s argument when he said that the Opposition should have made, earlier in the week, its complaint about the proposal to meet on Tuesday next. This is the time that the Minister for Civil Aviation, who is the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate, has officially notified us that he requires honorable senators to return here next week, in spite of the sessional arrangements that have been already made and circulated to every member of the Parliament. Obviously this is the first and only time we can amend the arrangements which have been made regarding the sittings of the Senate. It is hardly the time to do so when such arrangements are still on a non-official basis.
I am very disappointed in this debate. I have been scraping my brains - the very few that I have - to try to work out the reason for this haste to have the legislation passed a week earlier than it would have been passed in the ordinary course of events. I have some pretty good ideas, after being in politics so long, why this legislation is being brought down. But why one week should make all this tremendous difference is something I have not been able to understand. I listened with more than ordinary attention to the speech made by the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton). He came up with the gem that this action is being taken because the matter has some bearing on export costs. The Minister suggests that the passing of this Bill one week earlier is going to make this tremendous difference to the export trade and the export costs of Australia. Who is the Minister trying to kid? The Bill is not going to make any difference to that situation. We have heard a great deal about the importance of this Bill. Senator Cavanagh said: “ What bill is not important to the people whom it interests? “ Social service legislation is important. Every bill introduced in this Parliament is important.
Senator Henty says that the Government has the right to take this action, and that the Government has every right to say when we should meet. Of course it has. But we still come back to the question: Why is the Government adopting this course in regard to this Bill? Why does the Government wish to break the arrangement that has already been made with respect to the sittings of the Senate? Mr. President, 1 wish to put forward a view that I think you will appreciate possibly very much more than most honorable senators. It is true, as I think Senator Gorton or Senator Henty said, that our first responsibility lies in this Parliament. Electoral work and that type of thing must take second place to our parliamentary work. We completely agree with that statement. But when the Government is handling the arrangements for the introduction and passing of such important and controversial legislation as this Bill is, it should remember that Parliament is not an entity completely to itself and that Parliament has a responsibility to the Australian people. One of the reasons why we claim the Senate was set up was to give the opportunity to those people who are not living on every word of every Minister, as we are, to know what is being done by this Parliament. The Press has the responsibility - much as politicians may dislike it from time to time - not only to report the news of the day but also to publish such things as contributed articles. We have a responsibility not only to the Press but also to those people who are interested - students and writers of civil rights and liberties and the like - to see that they and the people are informed on what is taking place here. Mr. President, you and I were in this place when the great debates on the banking legislation, complete with talk of double dissolutions, were fought. Does anybody deny that the people of Australia, because of the debates and the delays in respect of that legislation, and the Press reporting of that matter, are not better informed today on how our banking institutions work?
I remember the days of the debate on what was euphemistically termed the Communist Party Dissolution Bill but which provided a net wide enough to cover every person whom the government of the day did not like. I recall that we were being challenged to go to the people on this matter. The Government was using the old
Communist smear. Because of the long debates we had on, and the detailed examinations we had to make of, that tremendously complicated Bill, the people of Australia, who were then sufficiently informed on the matter, had to decide on it. They decided against the government of the day. I have heard Senator Wright refer to the decision as one of the greatest judgments of the decade.
– Hear, hear! But the final time when you deserted the cause was six months after the introduction of the Bill.
– That is my point exactly. There was time for the people to examine it. There was time for this Parliament to examine it. Finally, when the Government tried to get above even the High Court of Australia it went to the people with its proposal, it was rejected. That Bill was considered in an atmosphere akin to that which exists today, with the Government thinking it could stampede the people into a decision. It was time that came to the aid of the Australian people in this regard. It was time which enabled the decision affecting civil rights to be delivered by the High Court, a decision which Senator Wright in other days always regards as a very good decision in respect of fundamental human rights and civil liberties.
Why is this amendment to the Stevedoring Industry Act being rushed through the Parliament? Is it important to the Act itself? Is it important that the Act should be amended one week sooner than it would normally be amended? All that Senator McKenna asks in his amendment is that we debate this matter one week later. Is the action of the Government important to the legislative programme? Obviously it is not, because the Government is throwing out that programme? Is it important in the industrial field? Senator Scott has suddenly emerged as a great industrialist and has told us that the stevedoring industry has been deteriorating from day to day. But I remember that, when the honorable senator was my opponent in 1949, and a Labour government was in power, he was complaining about coal miners and waterside workers. So, in the opinion of Senator Scott this industry has been deteriorating for many days - since 1949. To anybody who knows anything at all about industrial work, this
Bill is the wrong approach completely. Not one Minister has been honest about this matter. But one Liberal member of the Senate, Senator Branson, has said: “This has got you in a cleft stick “. In other words, this is political stunting. This has nothing to do with the industrial field. It has nothing to do-
– That is the honorable senator’s interpretation.
– Senator Branson said: “ This has got you in a cleft stick.”
– Yes, but the honorable senator put his interpretation on it.
– I am perfectly entitled to do so.
– The cleft stick will be there next week or the week after, will it not? That stick will still be with us?
– Yes. This is a political stunt. The Minister for Civil Aviation has a lot of chances to talk and he has not convinced anybody that the introduction of this legislation is an industrial necessity. He has not convinced anybody that it is necessary to the working of this Parliament. The fact is that this is a political stunt by the Government in an attempt to create a sense of urgency, drama and haste in the industrial field. Once again the Liberal and Country Parties are showing that they know absolutely nothing about the industrial field. They are importing these emotive reasons into an area which should be the last place in Australia into which to introduce such things as high emotions and haste as the Government is doing today.
– Mr. President, I regret the time that is being taken up discussing this matter. After all, we are agreed that the Bill is to be brought forward. I would have thought the Opposition would welcome the bringing of the measure before the Senate for debate and would then debate it. The members of another place are going to be considerably inconvenienced in getting this matter finalised. Surely it is a minor inconvenience for us to come back a little earlier than we had anticipated. Every one of us will suffer inconvenience in this matter. I want to emphasise that our first duty is to our senatorial duties. That is what we are elected for; that is what we. should keep in mind. I become very led up at times with those honorable senators who say that they have arranged to do such and such a thing and cannot be here. This happens to all of us. Honorable senators are trying to forestall the passing of the Bill that will come before us. Surely to goodness, are we all not anxious to wipe out this cancerous sore - that is the only word we can use to describe it - that is present on the waterfront of Australia today.
– That is the Minister’s opinion.
– It is the opinion of the vast majority of Australians. Let us have the opportunity to test this matter at the polls. The honorable senator will have a rude awakening then.
What is happening on the Australian waterfront today? For years past, we have seen the economy of the nation slowly being drained away. We talk about the benefits which have come to waterside workers. But at what cost to the people of Australia have these benefits been gleaned? That is the thing honorable senators opposite should ask themselves. I am one who has always stood up for the rights of those people who earn the wealth of Australia. They should get a fair go. But I object to seeing them being led by the nose by the irresponsibles on the Australian waterfront today. We have an obligation to the many decent men on the waterfront to free them from the Communist domination to which they have been subjected for so long. The Bill is intended to rectify this position. We shall have more to say about this matter when the Bill is debated in the Senate. Rather than waste time, as we have been doing this morning, in debating whether the Senate should sit on Tuesday of next week or on Tuesday of the following week, I think that in the interests of Australia we should ensure that the legislation is passed at the earliest possible opportunity. That is why I say we should shut up and get’ on with the business of the Senate.
– I am one of the few senators in this chamber who have no friends in another place, so I have not yet got a copy of the Bill. Fortunately, those who sit just in front of me have friends in another place who have supplied them with a copy of the Bill. If we do not support the amendment which has been moved by Senator McKenna, we shall confirm my contention of some years ago that the Senate is redundant. The Senate might just as well be abolished as bc a party House. In the last few weeks there have been flickerings of hope that it might not be a party House but this hope was finally extinguished yesterday, not by a glass of water but” by the speeches which were made. We have now reverted to a party House.
The question that we must now ask is: Does the Senate have to do exactly what the other House tells it to do? If the Senate is a House of review, it does not have to dp so; but if it is a party House, it does. As I said last night, if the passage of this legislation were a matter of national emergency, we should sit over the weekend if necessary. But no honorable senator on the Government side has yet given us the reasons why the Government says this is an urgent measure. Even Senator Scott, who was left to carry the. baby and give us the reasons, did not make out a very good case. If the matter is as urgent as honorable senators on the Government side suggest, they accuse themselves of inefficiency and of being dilatory. Do they deny for one moment that the Bill has been ready for the last six or seven “months? Every day the position on the waterfront deteriorates. Do honorable senators on the Government side deny that fact?
– Senator Turnbull knows better than I do.
– I do not deny it.
– The honorable senator does not deny it; therefore, my statement stands. If the legislation has been held in abeyance for the last six or seven months, with the Government waiting for an appropriate time at which to bring it forward, this brings us to the point that Senator McManus made, that the Government wants an election. The only people who are happy at the prospect of an election are the two honorable senators who sit in front of me and myself.
– The honorable senator is not very happy.
– We are the only three senators who would benefit by it. The honorable senator can work it out for himself. After an election, the Australian Democratic Labour Party would have five senators sitting in the front row.
– And no independent senator.
– Yes there would be. The people of Tasmania are not so silly that they would not re-elect me. I want to refer to the statement of the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) that the economy will suffer if the Senate does not sit next week to pass the legislation. He is at variance with his own party, because the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has been going around the country making glowing reports that the economy has never been so good. I do not support what the wharf labourers are doing, but I ‘have not seen this Bill so I have not yet made up my mind which way I will vote. I want -to. see what it contains. The tendency of most people in Australia - which I share - is to be dead against the wharf labourers. I am not one of those who see a Communist in the shade of every wharf labourer’s hook. If a wharf labourer is a Communist, let us get rid of him. That is what I say. I am not frightened of the Communists, as the Government is.
This matter comes back to the point that the Bill is a political stunt. We were told that the Senate had a certain programme, and we all made appointments. But they can be cancelled. There is no doubt about that. But why should they be cancelled on account of this Bill? That is what I want to know. No one has given us a reason. If we are given a good reason, we will be prepared to cancel our appointments.
It has been suggested that there is a great deterioration in conditions on the waterfront. That cannot be the reason for regarding this Bill as urgent,, because the waterfront workers would not do anything in one week that the Government could not override. We only want to hold the matter up for a week, not for two weeks as Senator Gorton stated. Senator Branson tried to show that some years ago Senator McKenna did what the Government is trying to do now, but he admitted that the then Opposition agreed with Senator McKenna.
– It was more responsible.
– It might have been more responsible, but this occurred during the wartime period.
– The year 1949 was not during war time.
– Very well. Unless we are given the real reason why this legislation has to be passed next week, I must support the amendment which has been moved by Senator McKenna. As far as I can see at the moment, the Government wants to have something up its sleeve with which to fight an election. If that is true, this is an important Bill, not an urgent Bill. An important Bill is no reason why we should not sit next week. Why do we normally rise for a week after sitting for three weeks? We have been told that the Senate must sit next week because it has to pass this important Bill. There are other important Bills, but we still have a week’s break after sitting for three weeks. Until we are told the reason for the. urgency in passing this legislation, I am not prepared to support the motion which has been moved by Senator Henty.
– I support the amendment which has been moved by Senator McKenna. I suggest that honorable senators on the Government side should look at the position into which they are being placed as a result of an Executive decision to rush this Bill through the Parliament. We must be careful that the Senate is not pushed into what is virtually the position of a department that does, not know its business. It is idle for Ministers to say: “You know that the Bill has been introduced in another place. You have seen the Press reports about it. They should inform your minds. You can look at the legislation during the weekend and then be prepared to debate it next week.” I agree that there are facilities which would allow the Senate to deal with this matter next week, but I suggest that if the Bill is as important as we have been told it is we should be given an opportunity to carry out proper investigations so that’ we can debate it properly in this chamber.
The Senate possesses powers equal to those of another place except in relation to financial matters. Tt plays an important part in our parliamentary system. I agree that the Parliament should be given an opportunity to consider this legislation, but the Senate is not being given an opportunity to do so properly. There is a possibility that the Bill will be amended in another place. In that event, the Senate might be in a difficulty. The Government says that this is an important Bill from its point of view. We of the Opposition accept that it is an important Bill. However, there is a difference to emphasise here. We agree that the Bill relates to something that may be a hazard to trade, but we say that what is proposed is a hazard to industrial relations and to practices that have obtained on the waterfront over the years. Senator Henty has said that everything possible has been done to improve the situation of the waterfront. We know that that is not so. The Senate should have an opportunity properly to consider and to test these points. I know, as does everybody else, that proper consultations with the national trade union body were never held, although months have passed since the Government complained that the industrial conciliation committees were not working properly. That matter has to be tested. The Senate ought to be allowed to test it.
If the Government says, as it is saying in this legislation: “We have to take away from certain people in the community their right to natural justice,” are we to say: “ Yes, we will toady along; we will accept what you say, namely that this is a matter of urgency, and not resist it to the fullest possible extent?” Of course we should not do that. In recent years, the Senate has built up great prestige and a great reputation as a body that carries out its functions according to the Constitution. Is the Senate to lose that prestige? We are being asked to agree to an assessment of the position which could be wrong. We members of the Opposition say that the Government’s assessments are all wrong and that its thinking on industrial matters is completely wrong. It has failed to assess the possibilities of an important industry. The remedies that it proposes are not the right remedies.
This legislation is being brought down very late in the year. As Senator Turnbull and members of the Opposition have said, perhaps there is a political reason for everything that the Government is doing in connection with it. If that is so, we can understand the pattern of executive control. Members of the Government parties charge the Labour Party with predetermining its policy, whereas the fact is that they are being told what to do. If this is not a political stunt, at least they are being told to carry out a policy of industrial conscription which is the idea of a government department and is not in line’ with the views of the bodies that should be consulted on this matter. In the field of industrial relations, this Government has followed the policy of the previous Labour Government in that, on important economic and industrial matters, it has consulted with the national trade union body and has always been willing to hear suggestions from that body. On this occasion the Government is using the Communist domination of some branches of the waterfront union as an excuse for saying: “ We will completely control the whole industry. We will take away from Australians basic rights that they have as citizens. We will take away from the unions certain recruitment rights that are part of the stabilisation of the industry.”
The Government is not proposing to make any economic changes, such as the improvement of port facilities which is very necessary. Everybody knows that Australian port installations except, perhaps, in one respect, are antiquated. There has not been any improvement of port installations or provision of new machinery to cope with the growth of trade. The Government put certain figures to us and expects us to agree without testing them in the Senate. The Government’s proposals are only part of the answer. In fact, they are presented in a way which can only confuse the Australian public. For example, nobody says that between 1957-58 and 1963-64 the gross tonnage handled increased and the number of man-hours worked decreased. These things are set out in the 1964 annual report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority.
Of course, there have been some losses of time as a result of industrial disputes which have resulted from the unions wanting pensions for waterside workers. Who can say that pensions should not be available in an industry in which the work is only casual when workers in the same industry in other countries are entitled to pensions? We hope that the Senate, includ ing honorable senators on the Government side, will look at this situation. The Government is rushing headlong into an industrial catastrophe. It is not providing an opportunity for this House of the Parliament to test the assessments that have been put forward by people who, perhaps, do not know their business.
I want to emphasise a very important point that Senator Willesee made today. It is true that we are not all lawyers, but it is also true that many members of the Opposition have had long experience in the industrial movement and are as familiar as anybody is with the incidental matters which Senator McManus used as an excuse for his stand. We say that the Parliament has to make sure that these issues and the Government’s proposals are properly tested. The Government’s proposals will not achieve the stability that it says they will. Do Government senators really believe in their prescription for better relations on the waterfront?
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting the discussion on the proposal initiated by Senator McKenna agreeably had widened to encompass some issues which perhaps could be said to be the subject of the debate next week. However, I think this was justified because, obviously, in testing Senator McKenna’s proposal, Ministers had to indicate the reasons why such urgent arrangements had been made for the Senate. The Opposition considers that the legislation in relation to the waterfront is important, not only for the reasons given by the Ministers, but because of the great and wider issues of industrial relations in Australia. It is possible, under the procedure now adopted by the Government, that some measures may become law even before they have been properly examined by competent people. Certainly, the Stevedoring Industry Bill has not been discussed with the national centre of the trade union movement.’ Other than in dictatorship countries, it has always been the democratic practice to obtain from workers’ and employers’ organisations their opinions on such forms of legislation.
The Opposition sees the waterfront legislation as a readied-up proposition which has not been properly examined, even by honorable senators opposite. If that is so, we should proceed very slowly. We should proceed cautiously not only when the Bill comes before this chamber, but beforehand so that ample time may be allowed for discussion in another place.
We are informed today on the Government’s plans only by newspaper reports. The Senate cannot be expected to inform its mind about proceedings in this chamber only from newspaper reports or discussions with the people who are particularly interested in the legislation. It has been reported in the Press that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) was asked by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr. Monk, to meet him. The newspaper report said that they did not meet. This is not good enough for the Senate. The Senate should be able to inform its mind in the ordinary way on business coming before the Senate, and it has not been able to do so.
The possibility has emerged that the debate on the waterfront legislation could be interrupted. Amendments could be proposed and nobody would be in a position to proceed with the debate next week. I have suggested, as other speakers have done, that we are being asked to fit into a pattern formulated by the Government. This is not right. The Senate should examine in the proper way official statements made by leaders of the Government setting out the reasons for the Government’s actions. Those statements should be tested. It is not enough for the Government to say that the legislation is introduced to provide so-called remedies. In our opinion, they are not effective remedies and, at any rate, the reasons given are wrong. After all, the export season, except in relation to manufactured goods, is practically over, if not completely over. I suggest that Senator McKenna has proposed the logical solution which should be adopted by the Senate. I hope that some honorable senators opposite will examine the proposal having regard to its objective - that it will enable the Senate properly to perform its functions.
– 1 think that the Government is treating the Stevedoring Industry Bill very lightly. I was astounded to hear one Minister say that we had ample time to discuss this legislation. I believe that every piece of legislation that comes before the Parliament is of an important nature; otherwise the Government would not introduce it.
No honorable senator opposite has yet explained why the Government so urgently needs to have the Stevedoring Industry Bill carried through Parliament next week. I do not mind if the House meets next week, tonight or tomorrow. That does not worry me at all. However, if the Stevedoring Industry Bill is serious legislation, the legislation in respect of restrictive trade practices is just as serious. But what has the Government done with that measure?
– Order! I think the honorable senator is going very wide of the mark.
– I simply want to compare the waterfront legislation with the restrictive trade practices measure which is most important to a lot of people in Australia. In connection with that Bill, the Government has circularised all the people who are concerned, but in connection with the Stevedoring Industry Bill theGovernment is not even prepared to accept and respect- I say that advisedly - the opinions of the great Australian Council of Trade Unions. With all due respect to those people who live on the backs of the Communists, I do not think it can be said correctly that at any time in its history the A.C.T.U. has sponsored anything in support of Communism. It has always been liberal in its views toward legislation in this country.
I think it ill became Senator McManus, with his industrial experience, to speak as he has spoken today. He knows the waterfront as well as I know it. He is aware of what a turbulent industry it is. Times have changed in the last 40 years and so have conditions on the waterfront. When Senator McManus was an executive officer of the Australian Labour Party he found that, people opposed to better conditions for the workers declared waterside workers to be Communists. He cannot deny that. Today, to suit his own political views, he says that the men who work on the waterfront are stooges for the Communist Party. I say that they are not. Senator McManus is one man who should know that the waterfront-
– Order! The question before the Senate is not what Senator
McManus said. The matter under consideration is whether the Senate is to sit next week or the following week.
– Hear, hear.
– “Hear, hear,” says a stooge who was castigated last week or the week before for having an opinion of his own. If anything is important today it is the situation in the factories of General Motors-Holden’s Pty. Ltd. Why does not the Government bring down legislation to ensure that the employees who have been dismissed by General MotorsHolden’s Pty. Ltd. are found new employment?
– I would be prepared to come here next week.
– Senator Henty would not know anything about the waterfront. He knows where the water is, and that is all. It is very arduous work on the waterfront. It is a very important industry and conditions there must be given a lot of thought. Over the years, the waterside workers have been condemned. I had my first experience of the waterfront in 1922: At that time the protection of waterside workers was not the concern of the stevedoring authorities. They were concerned with the protection of the bosses’ merchandise. “Don’t let those goods get wet,” was the cry. They did not mind how wet the waterside workers got or what happened to them. It was the merchandise they were concerned about.
– Why does not the honorable senator save these remarks for the debate next week?
– All I want to say to Senator Hannaford is that he would not know anything about work because he has never worked in his life. The people on the waterfront know what work is and what the conditions are there. I have heard it said in this House and in another place that waterside workers get a very good wage. I remember the time when waterside workers probably did not get the basic wage. If the waterside worker attends for work - I want honorable senators opposite, especially Senator Gorton, to realise this - and he is not required, what does the boss say to him? He say: “ Here is a few bob attendance money. Go home and wait until tomorrow “. Surely the waterside worker is entitled to the basic wage. Surely if he is not required for work he should receive what he would have been paid had he worked.
Probably we will have only a very limited opportunity to discuss this matter. Several Ministers have said that we discussed it in our caucus. All we discussed was the principle. I want to remind the Senate that if the Government’s proposal operates in relation to the Waterside Workers Federation it will not be long before it operates in relation to other unions, and the privileges and the principles of the trade- union movement for which we have fought over the years will be taken away. I am most disappointed that one of my ex-colleagues, Senator McManus,- intends to support the legislation.
We do not mind at all if we meet next week, and if we do meet next week we should deal with the restrictive trade practices legislation. But the Government is not game to deal with that because the people who keep it in office do not want it to do so. Why should we of the Opposition agree to do what they want to do?
– I want to make a few brief but pertinent remarks on the motion now before the Chair. I do not propose at this stage to canvass the case of the waterside workers and the other unionists who could be affected by this and similar legislation if, in the process of time, the Government saw fit to put the screws on them, as it apparently is so anxious to do. If I am given the opportunity to do so, I shall participate in the debate on the legislation and express my views then.
There was an arrangement that the Senate would rise at four o’clock this afternoon. If there is any delay in the payment of the increased social service benefits, that must be debited against the Government and every member of the Government, because there was no need for the debate in which we are now engaged. Let us be quite clear on that. We could have dealt with the Social Services Bill today and the increased payments could have been made in the ordinary way, even if we disagree with the Government and claim that the increased payments should have- been made retrospective to 1st
July. Do not let us be under any misapprehension. Do not let any unfortunate pensioner be under any misapprehension. If, as Senator Hendrickson has said, the Government is so anxious that increased pensions should be paid without delay, let us sit tonight and tomorrow and deal with the legislation relating to social services and repatriation.
How has it suddenly become so urgent that the Stevedoring Industry Bill should be passed? It is all very well for Senator McManus to say that we knew when we returned to Canberra on Tuesday when we would be sitting, but I did not know. Some people said we would be sitting on Monday next, some said we would be sitting on Tuesday next and some said that the sitting would commence on Wednesday next. Apparently there was no agreement on when the Senate would sit. This is an encroachment on the rights of honorable senators. Over recent weeks the Minister has made announcements through the Press that strong measures would be adopted against the waterside workers.
– Order! Two hours having elapsed from the time fixed for the meeting of the Senate, orders of the day will be called on.
Debate resumed from 29th September (vide page 735), on motion by Senator Anderson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Fitzgerald had moved by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the motion - “but the Senate is of opinion that the Government should be condemned for its failure -
to increase age, invalid and widows’ pensions and other social service benefits to meet, at least, greatly increased costs and prices, and
to make retrospective to the 1st July 1965 the increases proposed by the Bill and is of opinion that a Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee or failing that a Select Committee of the Senate should be appointed -
to ascertain the extent and severity of distress, including distress due to poverty, within the community and recommend the provision of social services, community facilities and other assistance to ensure an adequate degree of well-being and security for the people of Australia, and
to review continually the operation of social service benefits”.
– When the debate was adjourned last evening I was referring to the specific benefits that this Bill will make available to pensioners and other recipients of social service benefits. For the record, let me briefly set out those benefits. The Bill provides for an increase of 10s. in supplementary assistance, together with a widening of eligibility by extending payment to pensioners whose resources exceed the present limits. There is also provision for the payment of a standard pension rate of £6 a week, as well as supplementary assistance, to a married pensioner who is otherwise eligible and whose wife receives a wife’s allowance. There is provision for the payment of a wife’s allowance where the wife of an age pensioner has the custody, care and control of one or more children under the age of 16 years or a student child under the age of 21 years. Provision is made for the payment of child’s allowance and additional pension for children where age pensioners have the custody, care and control of one or more children.
There is to be an increase in the age limit from 18 to 21 years for student children of pensioners. This also extends the eligibility for a widow’s pension where the widow has a student child. Provision is made for the payment of a guardian’s allowance of £2 a week to unmarried age and invalid pensioners who have the custody, care and control of one or more children, and there is provision for the payment of a funeral benefit of £20 to a pensioner who is responsible for the funeral expenses of a spouse, a child or another pensioner. That is the full extent of the concessions provided in the Budget, which will involve an expenditure of some £4.2 million this financial year out of a total Budget provision of some £2,600 million.
This is an important piece of legislation because it affects people who are totally dependent on social service benefits for their existence, people who are partially dependent on social service benefits for their existence and people who, in the years to come, will have to eke out an existence on the paltry handouts given to them from time to time by the Commonwealth Government. Despite an increase this financial year in Government expenditure of some £275 million, the increase in social service benefits is of the order of only £4.2 million.
The cold stark facts of life are that many unfortunate people in our community are living on nothing but a pension and, because of its total inadequacy, they are merely existing, many of them in lonely and desolate conditions even though they might be in a great metropolis. They are managing to live only with the aid and comfort of charity. I say that advisedly, because many of these unfortunate elderly and invalid people would not be able to exist were it not for voluntary and charitable institutions which have organized meals on wheels and similar forms of assistance. These have been of tremendous value. If honorable senators have not seen some of these people and the conditions under which many of them are living, it would pay them to visit some of these premises in the inner city area of Sydney and, no doubt, of other capital cities. One sees these people living in dingy, shoddy, single rooms, the world passing them by day by day. They are lonely in their old age, awaiting the arrival of the Meals on Wheels charity worker, to provide them not only with meals but also with a few minutes of idle chatter.
This applies to many, many thousands of people. They wait anxiously for meals to come from charity, hoping that something will occur next day to improve their lot. From time to time, a few paltry shillings are handed out in order to sustain them in some extra comfort for a short time until the next price rise. Any housewife or, indeed, any person living in Sydney is able to say that prices have risen out of all proportion in recent weeks. It was reported only this morning that the Commonwealth Statitistician had noted price increases of the order of 14s. in Sydney in the past 15 weeks. As I said last night during the adjournment debate, the Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament made reference last week to the fact that prices of essential household commodities - grocery items - will increase by between 4 per cent, and 30 per cent, as from 1st October next. These are the circumstances in which a great number of our unfortunate elderly citizens are existing.
Let us look at some of the figures that appear in the latest annual report of the Director-General of Social. Services. Last year there were, in round figures, 628,000 age pensioners and 107,000 invalid pensioners. All told, 735,573 persons throughout Australia were receiving some form of pension from this Government. We expended £213 million on age and invalid pensions, £23,500 on widows’ pensions, £3 million on maternity allowances, and a mere £43,000 on funeral benefits. Perusal of the report shows that 5.53 per cent, of the population are age pensioners and .95 per cent, are invalid pensioners. The fact must be faced that the number of age and invalid pensioners has more than doubled over the last 20 years. This has created a great national housing problem for aged persons. This is one of the enormous problems facing the aged and infirm in the Australian community.
Certainly, the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act have given relief to some people who are well enough to look after themselves, but unfortunately there are many who are either not in a physical state or not in a financial position to be able to assist themselves in this way. These are the people whose wants and requirements over the years have been ignored by this Government and who really deserve the special attention and consideration of the Government. They are men and women who have lived through two world wars and through the great depression and who, in a large number of cases, had to bear the responsibility of rearing and educating families at a time when the breadwinner was out of work and when, incidentally, no child endowment payments were available to assist them. Now in the eventide of their lives they are merely able to exist on a government pension supplemented by charity.
It is no wonder that recently members of the Parliament received from the General Secretary of the Original Old Age and Invalid Pensioners Association of New South Wales, which is associated with the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation, a letter which states that owing to skyrocketing prices the Government should be requested to grant an increase of £1 a week in the general rate of pension to all social service pensioners. Surely a claim of £1 a week in the general rate of pension is not an over-exaggerated claim, especially bearing in mind the ever rising cost of living. Members of the Opposition welcome the Budget provisions which will provide some amelioration of the conditions complained of, but surely as legislators of the nation we can do better than this Every honorable senator will agree that social’ services cases have been brought to his attention which indicate that there are anomalies, injustices and inequities in our present arrangements. Thousands of pensioners today are living in sub-standard rooms and houses. They virtually face starvation because of high rents and the high cost of living.
Recently, as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament I received - as I suppose everyone in this chamber received - a letter from the Welfare Officer of the National Pensioners Society which stated, amongst other things -
The millions of pounds spent by the Federal Government under the Aged Persons Homes Act have provided organisations with millions of pounds worth of property which still does not benefit the ordinary pensioner. To obtain a church home which is subsidised under this Act, retired people have paid in huge sums and have then had to go on the pension. Pensioners with money have paid key money and those who have owned their own homes have sold them, paid in up to £2,000 and have received not one penny in equity. The needy pensioner who has no money has no chance of obtaining a home under this scheme.
There are things which, amongst others, we of the Opposition suggest should be looked at in terms of the amendment that has been proposed by my colleague, Senator Fitzgerald. In his statement, Mr. D. J. Creary, as welfare officer of the National Pensioners Society stated -
The plight of the pensioner, particularly the single pensioner, does not need surveying. The stark real’ty of their problems is evidenced in their daily lives.
Those who belong to welfare clubs learn the art of mass begging and look to the community to provide them with extra amenities. Charity organisations such as Apex, Rotary and other bodies direct their attention to the clubs and take for granted that the members of these clubs represent the majority of pensioners needing ass:stance. This is not so as many pensioners do not wish to be segregated but wish to keep their dignity and remain in the community. Thus the reforms must be founded by reorganisation of the policies and legislation now in existence
We submit that there is no need to survey the poverty of the needy pensioner. This poverty stands as a monument to the mistakes and the apathy of both the Federal and State Governments.
The plight of our pensioners is well known to all and the remedy is of a basic nature - housing and higher pension. When will the Federal Government realise that this is their problem.
Whether we like it or not, these are the cold, stark facts of life affecting a great many needy people in the community. It is not sufficient for this Government, or any other government for that matter, to hand out a few shillings here and there from time to time. There must be a proper survey and assessment of the needs of the community to ensure that these people who have given a lifetime of service to Australia can hold their heads up with dignity and pride. AH I need say on this aspect of the problem is that I cannot comprehend how a single pensioner without any other income can exist on a mere £6 a week. I do not know how elderly married couples can exist on £1 1 a week and how a married couple, with only one of them eligible for the pension, can exist on £6 or £7 a week. Recently Mrs. I. Ellis, Honorary Secretary of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation wrote a letter to members of the Commonwealth Parliament in which she stated -
The Federation denounces the 196S Budget as a death knell Budget for pensioners for we believe many will sicken and die for want of nourishing food and from the worry of their old age and infirmity to cope with the business of living and meeting weekly commitments. In sober judgment, sett:ng aside party politics, can you condone the failure of the Government? The married pensioner has received since 1961 only 5s. a week rise - 8id. a day. Is this just?
This is the situation in which an elderly section of the community finds itself. These are not statements plucked out of the air or made up for political purposes. They have been made by responsible leaders of age and invalid pensioner organisations who have assessed the facts according to their own membership.
Now let us turn to the other end of the scale and consider the young married couples who are charged with the important responsibility of rearing families. Tha Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) had something to say about this in Newcastle recently when opening the office of the Department of Social Services in that city. The Minister expressed concern at the alarming drop in the Australian birth rate. Is it any wonder that the birth rate has dropped when one considers the high cost of living and the demand for consumer products? Surely it is understandable that recently married young men and women want to establish a home and buy household necessities before they embark on the important responsibilities of parenthood. Surely it is reasonable for married couples not only to have .a home of their own in which they can raise a family but also to have that home furnished adequately and to their satisfaction. Surely it is not considered a luxury in 1965 to have a refrigerator in the home. Anyone passing an electrical, retail shop can assess the high cost of electrical appliances and household commodities. Is it considered a luxury for a woman to have a washing machine or is such a machine now accepted as essential?
Speaking at Newcastle, the Minister for Social’ Services said - if he was reported correctly and I assume he was - that he did not think an increase in the maternity allowance or the rates of child endowment would overcome any of these problems. I suggest to the Government and the Minister that they try to do something about this. The rates of maternity allowance today are exactly the same as they were when they were fixed by the wartime Labour Government under Mr. Curtin in 1943. That was 22 years ago when the basic wage was £4 16s. a week. Now in 1965 the basic wage is about £15 8s. a week and the maternity allowance still ranges between £15 and £17 10s. as it was assessed by the Curtin Government in 1943.
Child endowment rates for the first child in 1965 remain exactly as they were when introduced by this Government in 1950. The rates of child endowment for the second and subsequent children are, I think, the same today as they were in 1941 when the basic wage was about £4 a week. It is well to remember that a family man with two children in 1949 paid 16s. a year in taxation. Now the same family man on the basic wage of £15 8s. pays £26 13s. a year.
Having regard to these figures, surely there is an anomaly in the rates of child endowment and maternity allowance paid to the mothers of young Australians. It is high time the Government decided to study and review rates of child endowment. Surely it is past time we had a look at the whole social service structure.
Senator Wedgwood mentioned deserted wives. She referred to husbands who deserted their wives and went to other States and said a wife in such a position would have great difficulty in collecting alimony. I wonder how sincere Senator Wedgwood is in her expression of concern. It will be remembered that 18 months or two years ago a vote was taken in this House on this very matter. If my memory serves me correctly, Senator Wright moved an amendment in relation to it.
– The Opposition voted in favour of the amendment. Senator Wedgwood should have expressed her concern at that time by voting in favour of the amendment and should not have waited for 1 8 months to. do so. I have mentioned these matters to show that there are anomalies in the whole social service structure. There are anomalies in relation to the aged and invalid members of our community, there are anomalies and injustices relating to deserted wives, and there certainly are injustices in relation to child endowment and maternity allowances. It is more than time that this Parliament considered these aspects of our social service structure, to which reference- is made in the amendment moved by Senator Fitzgerald. These benefits mean bread and butter for our elderly folk, and they concern all sections of the Australian community. I hope that this Government, which I suggest in the past has failed miserably in this respect, will have a good hard look at the requirements of humanity generally and will do more to assist those persons in the community who really deserve to have more leisure and a few more pleasures in everydaylife. Because of the anomalies that exist, I have pleasure in supporting the amendment.
– I rise to support the amendment that has been moved by the Australian Labour Party. I believe that the amendment is justified, particularly when one has regard to paragraph (a) which seeks an increase in age, invalid and widows’ pensions and other social service benefits to meet, at least, greatly increased costs and prices. Paragraph (c) adequately states what a number of honorable senators have endeavoured to say in other words, lt expresses the view that a joint parliamentary standing committee or failing that a select committee of the Senate should be appointed - to ascertain the extent and severity of distress, including distress due to poverty, within the community and recommend the provision of social services, community facilities and other assistance to ensure an adequate degree of wellbeing and security for the people of Australia.
I want to talk, on those lines and to rebut some of the criticisms that have been made by Senator Wedgwood. I am sorry that she is not in the chamber at the moment. If anybody cares to warn her of what I am about to say, she could come in and listen. I would prefer her to be here.
One of the big problems that is faced by people who are compelled to live on fixed incomes is the lack of purchasing power of the Australian £1, the Australian ls. or whatever other denomination of currency we may select. We will not know the full extent of the poverty that exists in the community until a proper survey is made by a responsible organisation or by the Government. The amendment makes provision for such a survey. In the Budget that was introduced a few weeks ago a few crumbs were thrown to the pensioners. I shall endeavour to elaborate that statement by pointing out that only a very small section of the pensioners will benefit from the adjustments that have been made.
Senator McClelland pointed out that recent increases in the cost of living have taken away to an even greater degree the purchasing power of the weekly pension of £5 10s. for each member of a married couple or £6 in the case of a single pensioner. I have no doubt whatsoever that it is again the intention of the Government to make pensions a political football and that when we get closer to the next election - if this Government remains in office for its full period, that will be at approximately this time next year or a little earlier - it will say to the pensioners: “ Here is another 5s. for you *’ or “ Here is another 2s. 6d.”. It will do that in an effort to buy their votes and not because of any humane approach. The Government does not care one bit what happens to the pensioners of Australia. But when it comes to trying to buy votes, it will stoop to this expedient.
As at 30th June of this year we had a total of 628,100 age pensioners in this country. The pensionable section of the com munity is in the vicinity of 800,000. The number of those who are in receipt of age pensions is increasing at the rate of approximately 50,000 per annum. So in 12 months* time the number of age pensioners will have risen to 670,000 or 680,000. These people are entitled to the sum that is passed to them each week and which is referred to as an age pension. It is not a charity handout. These people have built up this nation to what it is today. They have contributed to the rather affluent economy that we have at the moment. They have given the whole of their lifetime to this work, and it is only fair that in the twilight of their lives they should receive a little more than they are getting.
Although Senator Wedgwood is not in the chamber, she may read in “ Hansard “ tomorrow what I have said. I have no doubt that as a fellow member of the Senate she will not have any objection to what I am about to say. It is astounding that a person who occupies the position that is occupied by the honorable senator should see fit to congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) upon the provision that is made in the Budget for social services. What she has said can be readily read in the “Hansard” report. She referred to the various benefits and offered her congratulations. Let it be noted that a female pensioner is getting about £65 a week less than Senator Wedgwood and still has to manage on what she gets. I see no reason whatever why the Minister should be congratulated when that sort of comparison is made. Senator Wedgwood belongs to a Government that is strongly opposed to equal pay for women and that has no intention of granting them equal pay, in spite of the repeated representations that have been made.
The honorable senator referred to one or two organisations. The charitable organisations of this country should not have to contribute a single penny or a single article for the comfort of pensioners. The provision of help is the responsibility of the people of Australia and equally the responsibility of the Administration. I repeat that I know of no reason why any praise should be conferred upon the Minister. This year’s Budget provides for an increase of £275 million in expenditure. But the estimated increase in the cost of social services in a full year is only £7,720,000. That is only a tiny fraction of the total increase provided for in the Budget. Reference to the Budget Speech delivered by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) reveals that a sum of £23 million has been allocated for increased expenditure on defence and our commitments overseas. I suggest that this sum of money would almost be sufficient to give every pensioner in Australia an additional 10s. a week for a full year. But this expenditure is being incurred overseas on defence in places where the grandsons of these pensioners are going to be killed.
I repeat that there is a real need for the Senate to carry the amendment that has been moved on behalf of the Opposition. I believe that one of the most important requirements is to carry out a full investigation to ascertain in detail the degree of poverty that exists in our community, the needs of pensioners as a whole and, in particular, of that section of the pensionable public who cannot adequately provide for themselves. I refer to aged, people. That is the section which has earned every single penny that we can give to it. These are the people who deserve the best that any government can provide. I submit that the Opposition has made out a real case for the acceptance of the amendment proposed by Senator Fitzgerald.
.- I wish to speak only on the amendment, and the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Gair, which he will move in Committee. However, I point out that Senator Marriott said that if we tried to increase the rate of benefits to pensioners, the first thing we would have to do would be to find the money. That is the sort of parrot cry that comes from the Government side at the time anyone recognises the fact that pensioners should get something more to which they are justified. May I remind members of the Government that during an election campaign the Labour Party recommended the payment of some benefits which would cost £100 million. The Government said: “ This money cannot be found.” At the end of that year, strangely enough, there was a revenue surplus of over £118 million. In other words, the money was found. I think it is time that Government members who speak on pension matters forgot the cry that the money cannot be found to provide for pension increases. Money can be found. Senator McClelland surprised me by saying he was supporting the Labour Party’s amendment just after he read a letter which said that there was no necessity to ascertain the extent and severity of distress. I think we all heard the honorable senator read that letter. He concurred in the view expressed by the writer yet he said he was supporting his party’s amendment.
There is a marked difference between the amendment before us at this time and the amendment to be moved in Committee. 1 find that the amendment proposed by Senator Fitzgerald does not go far enough. First of all, in the amendment he condemns the Government. He is quite, entitled to do that, because the Opposition always con.demns the Government. He then goes on to say that a joint parliamentary standing committee should be established to ascertain the extent and severity of distress. But the appointment of a joint parliamentary standing committee or a select committee is not the ideal way to deal with this matter. Obviously, such a committee is subject to bias from the start and a fair judgment could never be obtained. The appointment of an independent tribunal is the only way to deal with this matter. I hope that we will not have a repetition of hypocrisy that we have witnessed in previous years when members of the Opposition, if their amendment is defeated, will not support a second amendment which is so necessary.
We also heard, again from Senator Marriott, that we could not get people to serve on an independent tribunal. That is a slur on thousands of Australians who could well come to the party and join the tribunal. The Government surely is not so bereft of talent in its own members that it needs a tribunal supporting its point of view. I know very well that the College of General Practitioners would be only too happy to provide a member for such a tribunal to give the medical point of view. I believe that we should appoint an independent tribunal.
I need not speak on the other amendment now because it is strictly a matter for consideration in Committee. I just wanted to give the Senate my point of view on the matter. I will not be supporting Senator Fitzgerald’s amendment because I believe that the amendment moved by Senator Gair is the correct one to be adopted.
– The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment moved by Senator Fitzgerald, who led for the Opposition in this debate. In the first place, it should be recognised that these proposals are budgetary proposals. In the nature of budgetary proposals regarding social services, as in other fields which we have been debating at another level, the Government has to take into account all aspects of the National Welfare Fund and social service benefits and make a judgment as to the benefits which, at this time, in all the circumstances, should be increased. It is not true to say that this Budget is lacking in respect of increased and improved benefits to recipients of pensions. There are seven special items in that category. I do not want to read them again. All honorable senators have a copy of the second -reading .speech which I made. Some honorable senators on both sides of the House have made references to that speech.
It is true to say that more than 150,000 pensioners are to receive increased or new benefits as a consequence of these Budget proposals. It is equally true to say that these increased or new benefits will cost an additional £5.7 million in a full year. The Opposition is supporting an amendment moved by Senator Fitzgerald. I think the Opposition would be prepared to concede that this is a window dressing amendment. If honorable senators analyse it, they will find that the amendment does not propose to negate the motion for the second reading of the Bill. The amendment simply begins with the words -
That the following words be added to the motion-
In other words, the Opposition is not prepared to move in a substantive way against the Government’s proposals. The Opposition recognises the worth of the proposals and is prepared to support them. The amendment, which is proposed for window dressing purposes, sets out certain things that the Opposition alleges the Government has failed to do. The first is -
I have already said that this Budget in seven particular ways meets a group of circumstances and certain people are to receive in creased social service benefits. This matter has to be considered in terms of the whole budgetary proposals. The amendment moved by the Opposition continues -
This is an interesting proposition because the question of retrospective payments of increased social service benefits is a hardy annual. It comes up every year. With relation to the proposition of retrospective payments, it may be of interest to the Senate to reveal that in the life of the Chifley Government this very proposition was canvassed. It is on record for anybody who wishes to do the research that Mr. Chifley, when he was Prime Minister, was confronted with the proposition at Budget time of making the payment of social service benefits retrospective. Mr. Chifley, stated in another place that his Government was not prepared to depart from the well-established principle. So, this is the principle which has been observed down the years in relation to Budget proposals. These proposals come into ‘effect when the legislation is passed by the Parliament and receives the Royal Assent. The Government, therefore, is not prepared to depart from that principle on this occasion. Senator Turnbull said that he would not give his blessing to the proposition to appoint a Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee to investigate the question of social service benefits, but he would support the amendment which has been foreshadowed by Senator Gair. We will deal with that matter when it arises.
The people who are best informed and best equipped to deal with the question of social services are the officers of the Department of Social Services. Every day the branches of the Department throughout the Commonwealth are dealing with problems in relation to social service benefits. These officers know the needs of the pensioners, and they are best able to advise the Government and the Minister on this matter. Of course, the parliamentary parties have their own committees which are continually studying this problem. The. Government is always willing to listen to the various groups of people who come to Canberra by way of pilgrimage to put a point of view to the Government, or who correspond with members and senators regarding problems in the social services field. The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment which has been proposed by the Opposition.
I think that the most significant matter raised in the debate was in relation to the problem of deserted wives. As has been pointed out in the annual report of the Director-General of Social Services, this is a very serious problem. We are all concerned about the percentages and age groups relating to deserted wives that are shown in the report. But I suggest that the matter does not come within the scope of the Bill that we are discussing at the present time. The States have a responsibility in this regard. I do not wish to open up or canvass this matter now. I suggest that this is not the appropriate time to discuss it.
Senator Toohey referred to the matter of supplementary assistance. He suggested that consideration should be given to providing supplementary assistance to pensioners who own their own homes. I point out that the various State Governments and local government authorities provide quite substantial concessions to pensioners by way of rebates in the payment of rates. This Bill implements a Budget proposal to provide benefits in specialised fields. It provides help and assistance to approximately 150,000 people in the social services field. I ask the Senate to pass the Bill.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Fitzgerald’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title and citation).
– I move -
That the clause be postponed.
As an instruction to the Government -
That, immediately on the payment of the present increases, provision should be made for the establishment of an independent tribunal to ascertain and inform the Parliament of suitable amounts which should be made payable for the comfort and needs of the recipients of age, invalid and widows’ pensions.
I do not intend to delay the Committee unduly in outlining the reasons for and the merits of this amendment. I believe that I did that adequately last night. In any case, similar amendments have been submitted by the representative of the Australian Democratic Labour Party in this chamber on previous occasions. We believe that this proposition offers a solution of many of the troubles and much of the discontent and dissatisfaction associated with the administration of the Department of Social Services. It would place the responsibility in the hands of qualified people with some knowledge of the difficulties of needy people and with a sympathetic approach to what is required in order to alleviate the troubles and to dispense that measure of justice which would give satisfaction to all sections of the community, and particularly to pensioners. A tribunal or commission independent of the Parliament would function in a similar way to other commissions which are doing work similar to that which we propose this tribunal should do.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I intimate that we will not support the proposal that this clause be postponed for the purpose that is detailed in the amendment. Senator Gair developed his argument for this proposal during the second reading debate. I indicate that we by far prefer the proposal embodied in the amendment that has just been rejected by the Senate. We believe that the reviewing of pensions and other matters in the social services field might well be committed to a joint parliamentary standing committee or, failing that, to a select committee of the Senate.
In our view, there is no more efficient and effective body than a select committee of this Parliament or of this Senate. Such a committee is armed with enormous powers. Its members have a great deal of knowledge. They are men and women of experience who have concerned themselves with social security matters during their very long tenures of office. If one wanted confirmation of the proposition that we have affirmed, one would find it in the history of the Joint Committee on Social Security, which was appointed by the Labour Government during the Second World War. Our good friend, Senator Sir Walter Cooper, was a very prominent member of that Committee. It was an all party Committee. It approached its work objectively. I have no hesitation in saying that it provided a blueprint for the whole social security programme that flowed from the period during which it existed. It did magnificent work. A select committee, being knowledgeable, being sympathetic and, above alt, being armed with power to call upon people who are qualified, who are interested and who have the ability to sift evidence and to reach conclusions - as has been shown by every select committee that has been appointed by this Parliament - would1 be the ideal body to conduct the type of inquiry for which Senator Gair contends in his amendment.
I need only add one more thing. Senator Gair has argued that if his proposal were adopted the question of the quantum of pen sions and social services generally would be taken out of the field of politics. I cannot accept that argument at all. No government could shut its eyes to the fact that social services have to be fitted into the overall budgetary position. They have to be regarded in the light of commitments which change rapidly from year to year. Nobody could entrust to an outside body the financial responsibility of committing millions of pounds. That must be left to the initial decision of the government, stamped with the approval of the Parliament. To accept blindly something that might be proposed by people whose hearts were in the right place but who did not have to dip their hands into their pockets would be a principle that we members of the Opposition would not support.
– Is it clear that this proposal would be financed from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, or is it intended that there would be a contributory scheme?
– The amendment does not indicate the matter in any way. However, in either case, there would be a heavy commitment from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Whether or not a contributory scheme is proposed, that element remains and, in my view, the argument that I have already addressed to the Committee is not affected.
It has been argued that this proposal would take social services out of the field of politics. I do not believe that at all for the simple reason that, inevitably, the government of the day must make its decision in the light of the overall budgetary position, its expected revenues and its expected expenditure, and dovetail social services into the general picture. It is completely certain that a government would not adopt, in their entirety, all the recommendations of a body such as has been proposed. The Opposition of the day - no matter which side of politics was in opposition - would make capital out of that fact and attack the government for not implementing the proposals of the body. There would be as acute a disputation on the findings of the body as we have in the Parliament at the present time.
– More acute.
– The disputation might be even more acute. For those reasons, the Opposition does not propose to support the amendment moved by Senator Gair.
– I believe that the attitude of Opposition members to the amendment unveils the greatest piece of hypocrisy ever witnessed in this chamber. It negates every word that they have said in this chamber about the rights of pensioners and what they want to do for pensioners. Now they sit here and oppose a proposition just because it happens to be included in an amendment moved by the Democratic Labour Party. That is the basis of their negation of this proposition.
– We want a parliamentary committee.
– All right. Members of the Opposition wanted a parliamentary committee, but their amendment, was lost. If they do not think the present proposition is a good one, at least it is the next best thing. At least it would do something for the pensioners.
– Not necessarily.
-Very well, but there is a hope that it would. Is not the attitude of members of the Opposition a negation of what every one of them has told us, namely that they support these poor unfortunate people? The tears almost rolled down their cheeks as they told us that. Because I believe that this is a better amendment than the one that was rejected -
– The honorable senator just said it was the next best.
– No, the honorable senator did not listen to me.
– He did say that.
– I said that it was the next best for members of the Opposition. Their amendment was rejected, and this amendment is now the next best thing for them, but not for me. All along I have said that I support this proposition.
This amendment proposes an independent tribunal to advise the Government on what should be paid to pensioners. That is what members of the Opposition wanted in the second part of their amendment. It was designed to ascertain the needs of pensioners and what, should be a fair payment.
That is exactly what this amendment proposes. It proposes an independent tribunal. I think it was Senator Marriott who said that nobody could be found to act on such a tribunal. How ridiculous can you get? I was surprised to hear Senator McKenna say that to accept the amendment would take control out of the hands of Parliament. Do we not have a Federal Public Service Board that increases the salaries of public servants when its own tribunal thinks fit? It does not come to Parliament, but the Opposition accepts that position. When members of this Parliament want to increase their salaries they do so through an independent tribunal.
– The honorable senator’s argument is ridiculous. If he quoted the example of the Commonwealth Grants Commission there would be more meat in his argument.
– The honorable senator can refer to the Commonwealth Grants Commission if he wishes to do so. I fail to see what it has to do with this debate. If the honorable senator wants to mumble he can have his say later on. If the amendment is accepted, pensioners will get the benefit of an outside valuation by a tribunal of what the pension rates should be. The tribunal will inform the Government. Members of the Opposition have been saying that the Government should act now on what they think is correct. If they vote for the amendment, an assessment will be available of the amount that should be paid to pensioners. If the Government fails to act on that assessment, the Opposition will have an opportunity to attack the Government. I am glad that honorable senators who are nodding their heads approve of my logic. I support the amendment.
– Senator Turnbull reminded me of the general who wrote his own despatches when he referred to his own logic. The Government opposes the amendment basically for the same reason that it opposed the amendment moved by the Opposition. However, it opposes the amendment before the Committee with more force because, if I may say so with respect, of many of the arguments advanced by Senator McKenna.
The setting up on an independent tribunal to determine pension rates has been suggested on various occasions but the proposition has never been accepted by the Government. In the first place, it is unnecessary, because the Government already has available to it the expert views of its own Department, the officers of which have made and are constantly making surveys of the problems associated with social services. They are in a position to make informed recommendations to the Government. Secondly, the setting up of such a tribunal would remove from the Parliament, which has the responsibility of raising revenue, control over its expenditure.
With expenditure from the National Welfare Fund - £470 million this year - forming such a large proportion of our total expenditure, the Government could not agree that it should be taken out of the hands of the Parliament.
I agree wholeheartedly with Senator McKenna that if the amendment were accepted, far from taking politics out of the matter, it would tend to give added emphasis to the political content of the proposal. Without going any further than that, the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment. As was the case with the previous amendment, it is a shop window amendment. It merely seeks to postpone the clause. I understand that if the amendment succeeded, the clause would merely be re-presented at the end of the Bill.
– The Minister cannot have it both ways. He cannot object to the amendment because it is defective and–
-I can and do, Senator. I suggest to Senator Wright that it is a shop window amendment because it refers to an instruction to the Government, which is not part of the motion. The motion seeks to postpone the clause. It is really a talking point - a means of expressing a point of view.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed (Senator Gab’s amendment).
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator I. A. C. Wood.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 5 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Section 28 of the principal Act is amended -
Three hundred and twelve pounds per annum; and
– r move -
In paragraph (b), after proposed sub-section ( Iaa.) insert the following sub-section - “ (1AAA.) The maximum rates of pension provided for by the last preceding sub-section shall be reviewed annually and shall at least be increased in accordance with any upward movement of the cost of living as measured by the weighted average retail price index for food, clothing and groceries as ascertained by the Commonwealth Statistician for the twelve months ending on the thirty-first day of March each year.’*.
I move this amendment because I believe that it is justified. I move it with confidence after having heard numerous speeches by Opposition senators on legislation relating to social services. In every case they have bemoaned the inadequacy of pensions and have stressed the deterioration in the value of pensions because of the unarrested increase in the cost of living and the irregular adjustment of pensions. On occasions, two or three years have elapsed without any adjustment being made. The last one was made in 1964 and the one before that was made in 1961. I believe that every one will admit that since 1964 there has been a meteoric rise in the cost of living and in the cost of services. The annual adjustment that I have proposed is, I believe, just and fair. It has the support of the trade union movement.
During the debate on another bill we heard much about the value of the opinion of the trade union movement. The principle contained in this proposed amendment is something to which the trade union movement subscribes. It is a principle which has been submitted to me in relation to other matters, one such being workers’ compensation. When I was the State Treasurer in charge of the State Insurance Office of Queensland, which administers workers’ compensation, we introduced legislation to provide for automatic increases in workers’ compensation rates in line with increases in the basic wage. That eliminated the necessity of frequent amendments to the Act and ensured that the injured worker was not disadvantaged by any delay that might occur if the Parliament was in recess.
This principle is a sound one and must surely receive the support of every honorable senator who is genuinely concerned about the depreciation of the value of pensions as a result of the increased cost of living. We ask for at least an annual review. My proposal should receive the support of the Senate, particularly the support of the Opposition, which has indicated its concern about the cost of living and its effect on pensions.
– I record the opposition of the Australian Labour Party to this proposal. I point out that the Senate, with the aid of Senator Gair and Senator McManus, rejected an opinion which condemned the Government for its failure to increase age, invalid and widows pensions and other social service benefits at least to meet greatly increased costs and prices. In fairness to Senator Gair, let me say that that proposal was bracketed with another element which was not acceptable to him.
Before us now is a much narrower form of amendment. In fact, as I shall show in a moment, the amendment relates only to two forms of social service benefits. As expressed, it relates only to’ age and invalid pensions. It makes no provision for increases in widows’ pensions, unemployment and sickness benefits, special benefits or benefits of any other kind which are provided by the Social Services Act. I do not think that Senator Gair intended that that should be so. Possibly he intended to cover all social service benefits.
– And primarily to establish a principle.
– We have to consider what is before us. The proposed new sub-section 1 (AAA.) states -
The maximum rates of pension provided for by the last preceding sub-section shall be . . . increased.
If one refers to the Bill, it reads - (1A.) Subject to the next two succeeding subsections, the maximum rate of age pension or invalid pension is . . .
Senator Gair’s proposed amendment really seeks increases in only two of the many forms of social service benefits.
– Would the honorable senator deny the pensioners in those groups that increase?
– No, we tried to get it for them and for all others. That remains the principle to which we adhere. There is another objection which must be expressed to the form of the resolution. Proposed sub-section (1A.), to which I have already referred, begins with the words -
Subject to the next two succeeding sub-sections, the maximum rate of age pension or invalid pension is . . .
Then the maxima are set out. The next two succeeding sub-sections are sub-sections (1AA.) and (1B.). Sub-section (1AA.) provides for an increased payment of £104 per annum in respect of certain children which is to be additional to the maximum rates set out in sub-section (1A.). Sub-section (1B.) provides for an additional £39 per annum for certain children other than those first mentioned. Maximum rates are stated in sub-section (1A.) but the position is carefully preserved that the payments for children mentioned in proposed sub-sections (1AA.) and (1B.) are to be additional. I believe that Senator Gair’s amendment should have sought to change the word “ two “ in proposed sub-section (1A.) to “three”. It then would have read: “Subject to the next three succeeding subsections . . . “
If Senator Gair’s proposed amendment is accepted, it will have the effect of cutting out the operation of proposed sub-section (1B.) which provides for an additional payment of £39 per annum for certain children. It would have to be regarded as forming part of the maximum rate set out in proposed sub-section (1A.). We would very much prefer a much broader amendment. Our own position is completely clear - we have expressed it and argued it - that there should be increases in all forms of social service benefits to compensate for increased costs and prices. We reject an amendment that deals only partially with the field and which discards a benefit of £35 per annum in favour of a group of children. Those are the reasons that primarily activate us in rejecting the proposed amendment.
– The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment proposed by Senator Gair. In truth, looking very critically at the amendment, one could produce a very powerful argument that this was in the nature more of a request than of an amendment. The purpose is to increase a rate of pension and the amendment proposes to include an element which is not predictable in the form in which it is put. In any case, the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment, largely because the Government does not feel that it is a desirable practice to base pensions on the proposition inherent in the amendment.
There were two previous occasions when pensions were automatically adjusted in accordance with variations in the cost of living, namely, from 1933 to 1937 and from 1940 to 1944, but this was never satisfactory and it was eventually abandoned by the then Labour Government. It should be realised that if the rate of pension had in fact been adjusted in accordance with variations in cost since this Government took office in 1949 the rate payable would now be £4 7s. 9d., which is £1 2s. 3d. a week less than the rate actually payable today to the married pensioner, and £1 12s. 3d. less than the rate actually payable to a single pensioner. The rates of pensions and, indeed, of all social service benefits, are reviewed annually by the Government and all relevant factors, including variations in the cost of living index, are taken into account in deciding what increases, if any, should be granted, and over what section of our system they should be applied. It equally applies that all of this has to be looked at in the broad argument as to the construction of a budget and the national commitments in all fields of budget function. For these reasons, the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a third time.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with an amendment.
Consideration of House of Representatives’ amendment.
After section 123 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “ 123a. The Commission may, subject to such conditions as it from time to time determines, provide medical and hospital treatment for a member of the Forces as defined in section twenty-three of this Act and for a person to whom section one hundred and twenty of this Act applies.”.
House of Representatives’ amendment -
Omit the clause.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
We are all familiar with the amendment that was moved by Senator Sandford, which produced quite a lot of debate last Thursday. We all have good cause to remember that this was the only occasion on which my friend Senator Sandford had a win. To dispel some of the doubts that have arisen since the amendment was moved, I say, first, that this is not a money bill and secondly, that in spite of what has been said elsewhere, the Senate did what it had a perfect right to do, namely, to amend the Bill in the manner in which it was amended.
Honorable senators who have been here as long as I have, or longer, should be convinced, surely, that since I have been here I have been a great stickler for the rights of the Senate. I hope that I always shall be. This is one of the reasons why I say that we acted as we had a perfect right to do. I feel that were we to persist in refusing to agree to this amendment we would not be fulfilling the function of the Senate, as I understand it, and I shall give some of the reasons for this. To begin with, if we persisted in this, it would or could have an effect on a budgetary decision. I agree with the statement made elsewhere that it is not our function to try to force policy on a budgetary measure on which the Government has decided. So much for that aspect; I know that all honorable senators will not agree with me.
This is a House of Review and we accomplished our purpose when we reviewed the legislation which was brought before us. I do not think that it should be part of our function to force our ideas upon the other place, where the financial provisions are brought into being, when this would mean increasing expenditure to the extent that our amendment set out to do. Honorable senators know that the amount involved is quite considerable, running to the vicinity of £5 million, with a recurring expenditure of about £2.5 million. It is entirely wrong to say that the Repatriation Department has not done anything for the people who are eligible for the repatriation benefits provided in the Budget. The amount that we shall provide directly under the new provisions will be about £1,150,000 in a full year. Do not forget that we have also introduced a very important breakthrough in the form of the intermediate rate of pension, which I am convinced will be of great benefit in the future. As I see it, my task as Minister for Repatriation is to get the best possible deal I can for those in need of repatriation benefits, but I am also a Minister of the Crown.
I have a duty, first of all, to carry out Cabinet decisions and secondly, as an individual, to see that the legislation decided upon is in the interests of all Australians and not only of one section of the people. Where my two roles, as Minister for Repatriation and Minister of the Crown conflict I must come down on the side of the Minister for the Crown and adhere very firmly to any decision of Cabinet, as I do in this instance. Given the opportunity I would be very happy to present this point of view to any ex-servicemen’s organisation anywhere and defend my- action - if that is necessary and I do not think it is - and the action that Cabinet has taken. Mention has been made of the fact that the pensions plan submitted to the Government by the Returned Servicemen’s League was not agreed to. I am firmly convinced that, had the last pensions plan submitted by that organisation been agreed to, no one would have been more surprised than those who presented it to the Government. I admit that, in the circumstances, it was quite a moderate plan from their point of view, but they put it forward in the hope that if they did not get all they asked for they would get a lot of it. To have put the plan into operation in its entirety would have cost something like £23 million a year- and, on top of the Budget requirements with which we were faced, that unfortunately was out of the question.
I want also to point out that the provision of the Bill that we amended in the Senate was not given great priority in the plan of the Returned Servicemen’s League. There were six requests contained in the plan and this item was No. 5, so it was not given great priority by those who submitted it and I think that our having been able to agree to some of the other requests offset the refusal of this one. I do not propose - nor do I think you, Mr. Chairman, would allow me to do so- to go back over the whole debate on this matter. I must confine my remarks to the Constitutional aspect and I will touch only briefly on that. The next point is the practicability of putting this plan into operation should we decide to force the issue and if we had the power to do so. One thing which I did not mention during the debate the other evening was that under the new pensioner medical scheme a greater strain will be placed on State hospitals by virtue of the provision which will enable more people to get free medical attention. Had we agreed to the amendment moved by the Opposition we would have had to rely on State hospitals, as we have not the extra accommodation in repatriation hospitals that would have been required. There would have been additional crowding in State hospitals and I cannot for one moment believe that the State authorities would have put up with that without saying to the Repatriation Department. “ These people are your responsibility. Look after them yourselves.” That is another aspect which would have had to be considered.
Let us glance quickly at what would be the procedure if this chamber decided not to accept the motion which is before us. The Senate has received a message from the House of Representatives saying that it did not agree to the amendment made by the Senate. I have just moved that the amendment of the House of Representatives be agreed to. If it is agreed to as I hope it will be, the resolution will be adopted by the Senate, the House of Representatives will be informed and the Bill will be presented to the Governor-General in the ordinary way for assent. If we disagree, the Bill will have to go back to the House of Representatives with a message stating the reasons for the Senate’s not agreeing to the amendment. The reasons will have to be drawn up by a committee appointed by the Senate for that purpose. This, of course, will take place after we have adopted the report of the Committee of the Whole.
The House of Representatives would then return the Bill to us again with a message insisting on its original amendment with which we had disagreed, and then we could either have a yo yo kind of debates or the matter could be allowed to stand pat. One of the results of all this would be that the extra benefits that we have set out to provide in these new provisions would not be payable until the matter was resolved. Without doubt pensions on the old scale would be payable, but the new benefits costing £1,150,000 which we have set out to provide would not be .available until the matter was disposed of. Seeing that the Government has made it quite clear that it will not accept the Senate’s amendment, I think that in following the course I have outlined we would be doing a great disservice to those who would get increased benefits through the passing of the Bill. I do not wish to take up the time of the Senate and I think I have said enough on that score. I know other speakers will follow me in the debate but I hope that the Senate will agree to the amendment of the House of Representatives.
– I agree with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) on two points. I agree, first of all, that there is no need to go into the merits of the amendment that the Senate made to the Bill and which is now the subject of the motion with which we are dealing. That was adequately canvassed in this chamber and the Senate passed judgment on the matter, so we need not go over that ground again. The next point on which I agree with the Minister is that he must, of course, accept responsibility, as a Cabinet Minister, for Cabinet decisions. That is well understood and whether or not, in his’ own mind, he favours a decision is immaterial. We recognise that he must either go along with such decisions or vacate his position in the Cabinet. We are not at issue on those two matters.
The point I find it hard to understand,: falling from the lips of the honorable senator, is that he said that at the time the Senate amended the Bill it had a perfect right to do so. Now he is claiming that the situation has changed, but how could it change? The only thing that has changed is that it is now Cabinet’s decision that the Senate’s amendment is not to be accepted, but the position of the Senate has not changed. It is not affected in any way. The Minister said that the Senate’s amendment could have an effect on the Budget position but, if it did that, it would be the Government’s own fault. Let us look at the terms of the new clause 11. It states -
That is the Repatriation Commission - may, subject to such conditions as it from time to time determines, provide medical and hospital treatment for a member of the Forces as defined in section twenty-three of this Act and for a person to whom section one hundred and twenty of this Act applies.
I underline the word “ may “. There is no compulsion on the Commission to do anything. All that the clause does is to empower the Repatriation Commission - to confer on it the power - subject to certain conditions to give certain benefits. It is clear that when the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said the other day that it could possibly increase the burden or charge on the people, he was considering the provision in the light of section 53 of the Constitution. He pointed out that if effect were given to the provision it would cost money. I underline the word “ if “. He went on to say - if carried on into the Estimates . . .
Again he uses the word “ if “. If it is passed into the Estimates, if effect is given to it, it can be as the result, not of this motion being carried, but only of a determination by the Government that it shall be put into effect and that the money will be provided. That is quite clear.
The Senate has done no more than to seek to empower the Commission to provide hospital and medical benefits for the classes that are indicated in clause 11. It is recognised that it would be impracticable to throw a new body of potential patients at the Repatriation Commission without giving it an opportunity to make sure that it had the necessary accommodation. The proposal leaves the Government quite free to please itself whether it instructs the Commission to exercise that power, and free to decide whether it is prepared to provide the money for it. Of course, the latter matter is completely under the control of the House of Representatives. If money is to be provided, it must be provided at the instance of the
Government and the proposal must originate in the House of Representatives. - Senator Wright. - It must originate in the House of Representatives.
– It must originate there. Both these matters - the question as to whether it is to be put into effect, and the methods that are chosen to be put into effect - are completely under the control of the Government. Accordingly, it is idle to say that what the Senate has done, has imposed a charge or burden upon the people. If any charge or burden upon the people arises out of the amendment, it can be only as the result of subsequent and deliberate action on the part of the Government. I do not think there is any doubt about that. The Committee might be interested to refer to the publication “ Senate Practice “ by Odgers at page 159, where the constitutional posi-tion as to what constitutes a burden or charge on the people is dealt with. There is’ no need for me to develop that matter any further.
One further point was raised by Senator McKellar with which I should like to deal. The honorable senator pointed out that if we reject his motion that we should accede to the desire of the House of Representatives that we drop what the Senate has deliberately done, it may be that the House of Representatives will send to us a further message insisting that we do as desired and that the benefits .proposed in the Bill will hot be paid as was originally planned. I point out that all existing pensions will con? tinue. I now seek information. Does the Bill specify a particular dare upon which the benefits shall be paid or is it stated in general terms that they shall come into effect as from the date of the passage of the Bill?
– They will be paid as from the date on which it receives the Royal assent.
– The worst that could happen would be that there would be some delay in making the increased payments that are provided for in the Bill. All I can say is that, if that happens, it will not be the responsibility of those who sponsored the amendment, for the simple reason that it will be the action of the Government itself that will prevent their being paid. If the House of Representatives says that it will not accept the whole Bill, it will be the
House of Representatives, and the Government, that will have decided not to accept a mere provision that confers power and requires no action other than at the instance of the Government. If the Government delays the passage of this measure, the delay will not be on the conscience of anybody on the Opposition side. It will not affect me or any of my colleagues in the slightest degree, because the Government will not be forced to act or will not be obliged to pay any money. Nobody with any understanding of the position would even pretend or argue that the Government was under any such compulsion. If we send the Bill back and a motion for the appointment of a committee and the drawing up of reasons has to be prepared the necessary formalities will take only a few minutes. I blushingly suggest to honorable senators, in hopeful expectation, that the necessary papers are already drafted. If the Senate resolves to adhere to what it did on an earlier occasion, it would not take very long to’ put the necessary machinery into operation.
For those reasons, and having regard to the whole situation and particularly the fact that the Government itself must accept responsibility for delaying the payment of the increased benefits, we oppose the motion that has been proposed by the Minister for Repatriation.
– I believe that this matter has been sufficiently canvassed, irrespective of whether or not we accept the amendment. However, I believe that I must speak, because I have not spoken previously on the matter and because of the burden that has been placed upon me as a result of pressure that has been applied to me from both sides.
– Name them.
– I shall not name anybody. What has finally convinced me is the fact that the Returned Servicemen’s League has not asked me to support this proposal. That being so, I can only assume that the R.S.L. is not really interested in the matter.
– It did communicate with everybody else.
– I have not had one request from the R.S.L. to support this proposal, lt is that fact that finally convinced me what I should do. Exservicemen of the 1914-18 war would now be aged 65 years or more.
– The honorable senator will be 65 years of age some day.
– I know that, and it will not be very long.
– The honorable senator did not name the Minister who approached him.
– I did not say that a Minister had done so.
– Which member of the Opposition put pressure on the honorable senator?
– I did not mention a Minister.
– The honorable senator did. Which member of the Opposition applied pressure?
– I did not mention a Minister. I said that representations had been made by both sides.
– Which member of the Opposition did so?
– I do not intend to discuss that here.
– Is the honorable senator telling the truth?
– It is up to the honorable senator to decide that.
– I would not know.
– I have considered this matter seriously. Most of these people will be 67 years of age or over, and I believe that they get free medical treatment and free hospital treatment. I do not believe that there could be an open escape for everybody, because we have a means test. That being so, I propose to support the Government.
.- The amendment that we are considering has evoked the comment of no less a dignitary than the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). From the point of view of focussing attention upon the deficiency of the Repatriation Act in relation to the people we are considering the amendment probably has already served a purpose. But an attitude has been expressed in the debate in another place which cannot be allowed to pass unnoticed. The first thing that one should remind oneself about is the motto of the Returned Servicemen’s League, which states that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. I propose, therefore, to detain the Senate for a little while to examine the Prime Minister’s speech. If it is accepted, liberties can be lost.
The second thing I want to bring to the attention of the Committee as a truism is the famous motto that rallied the Liberal Party in the great days when we were building up against the Labour Party at that stage. The motto was: “ All power corrupts “. I pause there because it is necessary that that part of the statement of itself be borne in mind in some quarters. The motto goes on: “ Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I direct those remarks to the claim that is made by Cabinet that it is the master of finance in this country. The House of Representatives supports the Cabinet, and the House of Representatives has a predominant place in the financial authority of this country. But it has not total authority with regard to this country’s finances. It is altogether a distortion of the Constitution, in my submission, for the other place to make that claim.
The Prime Minister, in the course of his submissions was good enough to the House of Representatives to refer to three passages from section 53 of the Commonwealth Constitution. The first one provides -
Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, shall not originate in the Senate.
The Prime Minister conceded that that was not applicable to this case. Then he referred to the next paragraph of section 53, which reads -
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
The Prime Minister was good enough to suggest that he thought, on the whole, that that provision was not violated by this amendment. The use of that expression “ on the whole “, coupled with the subsequent statement that the proposition as to increasing a charge is much more arguable, carries the implication that it is capable of argument, and that the amendment that we passed validates the provision that the Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
The third proposition which fell from the Prime Minister is in respect of the paragraph of section 53 which reads -
The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.
In so far as he suggests that it is arguable to say that that provision is infringed by this amendment, I venture to suggest that it is an opinion that stands alone. I do no more, in answering the proposition, than call attention to the fact that in section 53 of the Constitution it is made quite clear that there are some appropriation bills that the Senate may amend. I call attention to the fact that the section prohibits the origination of all appropriation bills in the Senate. But the section does not prohibit the Senate from amending some appropriation bills. The appropriation bills that we may amend have been the subject of purposeful political discussion, debate and decision between the two Houses as recently as the introduction of the Budget. Once again it was confirmed that a separate, amendable appropriation bill would be submitted each year to this chamber, and that bill should contain appropriations for expenditure on -
This of great significance to this Committee - grants to the States under section 96 of the Constitution; and (e)……
The description of items specifically appropriate to the amendment that we are discussing - new policies not authorised by special legislation.
All of those appropriations are to be the subject of a special bill which is amendable by the Senate.
The purpose of that part of section 53 which provides that the Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people is to provide that an amendment of those appropriations shall not result in an added or increased burden upon the people. That is plainly set forth in the original and abiding authority on this part of Section 53 because no better exposition of it has appeared in print than in Quick and
Garran’s “The Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth “, at page 671. The passage is not long, and the Senate is not in trouble regarding time, so I will read it -
The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people. This provision may be described as a limitation on the reserved power of the Senate to amend money bills, other than tax bills and annual appropriation bills. Seeing that the Senate cannot amend a bill imposing taxation, it may be naturally asked - how can the Senate possibly amend a proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people? The answer is that the Senate is only forbidden to amend tax bills and the annual appropriation bill; it may amend two kinds of expenditure bills, viz. those for permanent and extraordinary appropriations. If the Senate could propose an increase in the amount of money to be spent in a public work bill - say from one million sterling to two millions sterling that amendment would necessitate increased taxation in order to give effect to it, and consequently an addition to the burdens and charges on the people. The Senate may amend such money bills so as to reduce the total’ amount of expenditure or to change the method, object and destination of the expenditure, but not to increase the total expenditure originated in the House of Representatives.
I have quoted the whole section so that the positive purport of it will appear, and it will readily be seen that it contains not a suggestion that would support the proposition that was heard in the other place yesterday. So, after traversing the references made in another place to section 53, I suggest it is quite clear that in this country this Senate has some power even with regard to money bills properly so-called. The Senate is elected by the people, and in that way it is different from those assemblies that owe their existence to heredity or divine right. It is quite clear that the Senate has unqualified power to reject any money bill that comes before it. It has power to amend to the extent to which I have indicated. Therefore, those who say that the House of Representatives is the master of finance to the extent that it will not be dictated to by the Senate are, in effect, saying that any declaration by the Senate by way of amendment of a policy bill is dictation to the House of Representatives in a field in which the Senate has no authority. That is a proposition that I think should be firmly and steadfastly refuted.
I am one of ten senators who represent the State of Tasmania, which has a population one-hundredth the size of that of New South Wales but has the same representation in this chamber as New South Wales. Having regard to the development of Federal and State financial relations that is taking place at the present time, and realising the extent to which the States are dependent upon taxation reimbursement bills, loan bills and the special development bills that are becoming so prevalent in our present state of economic growth, are we going to stand mute and say that the House of Representatives is our master as far as financial measures are concerned? Indeed we are not.
– It must be master of the total amount of money provided.
– It is not the master of the State’s finances, which we will jealously guard. I am refuting the claim, in the sense in which it was made, that there is only one master of finance in this country, and that is the House of Representatives. That claim carries with it the inference that we in the Senate have no authority at all in respect of financial matters. I point out that the Senate has the power to reject money bills. It has the power to amend the bills that I have enumerated. It has a predominant duty to deal with measures that specifically impinge upon the existence and development of the States.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I intervene only to allow Senator Wright to continue his remarks.
– I am most grateful to the honorable senator. I remind the Senate of what I said in my speech in the second reading debate, when the amendment was foreshadowed. I am reported at page 534 of “ Hansard “ of 22nd September 1965 as having said -
This Senate has a unique opportunity to use its powers in the present session to great purpose, remembering, of course, that an Upper House has well defined constitutional functions and that failure to observe them would be a gross mistake.
The Senate will note that I have corrected the passage. I have substituted the word “ Observe “ for the word “ perform “. I made that remark because the House of Lords destroyed itself by reckless exercise of its powers in opposing every Liberal bill that came before it between 1906 and 1909 and then was emasculated by the
Parliament Act of 1911. 1 am an advocate of the most moderate use of the powers that we possess, but not of the surrender of any one of them. We can only be true to the institution of which we are members if we pass its traditions on to our successors untarnished by our occupancy. Therefore, I have taken the opportunity to state, with due respect, my opinion upon the constitutional powers which the Senate possesses in relation to this matter.
The amendment is not relevant in any real respect to the question of our constitutional powers in relation to money bills. As Senator McKenna pointed out, the amendment is simply a declaration giving power and authority to the Repatriation Commission to provide, subject to such conditions as .it from time to time determines, medical and hospital treatment for the members of the forces referred to. If the amendment is accepted by the Parliament, its implementation .as to time and quantity depends upon the Commission’s executive work, which can be carried out only if the Government accompanies the measure with an appropriation,’ which it has the prerogative to do under section 56 of the Constitution, I think, and which it is the prerogative of the House of Representatives to originate and our prerogative to reject if we are dissatisfied with it. Rejection may come if we are dissatisfied with the amount of the appropriation. The Government then has to take political responsibility for supplying no money at all if it will not supply what we think is sufficient. But I think it would be reckless for the Senate, except in emergent circumstances, to exercise that power.
I think it is most unfortunate that the Leader of the Government in another place diverted the debate from the merits of the Senate’s amendment and refused even to consider them. I think that he based his argument upon fallacious constitutional grounds. The merits of this measure have, not been attacked. I shall refer to them very briefly. It must be understood that at the present time there are 250,000 war service pensioners receiving hospital and medical treatment. The acceptance of this amendment would bring in for consideration another 50.000 in round figures, or maybe 60,000. The average number of days per eligible pensioner spent in departmental hospitals is 4.6. Honorable senators can make their own estimate of the number of beds required. I suggest that not more than 500 beds would be required in order to cater for all of these people as they become sick.
The annual report of the Repatriation Commission for 1964-65, referring to the quality of hospital services, states that associated with the continuing heavy demands on the Department’s treatment facilities are problems stemming from the fact that its institutions are more than 20 years old. The report states -
The major hospitals were built during the 1939- 1945 war and other institutions are of earlier vintage.
We vote about £23 J million for widows* pensions. The total expenditure on medical and hospital treatment of inpatients in departmental hospitals is £23.2 million. That indicates the degree of priority that we give to this matter. It is said that this amendment, if put into effect, would involve a cost of £5 million immediately and a recurring cost of £5 million per annum.
– No, a recurring cost of about £250,000 per annum.
– I thank the Minister. In line with the generous way in which he has discussed this matter, he has corrected me in favour of my argument. The amount that we are paying to deserted wives in the form of social service benefits is £5.2 million. Half of that amount could be saved by proper law enforcement against the husbands concerned, but for a stolid and obstinate disposition of people not to yield to ideas that emanate from this chamber.
The reason why I support this amendment on its merits is that I am convinced that there is inadequate understanding of what the Parliament requires under the onus of proof provision in relation to First World War veterans, whose war history is so long ago and who are faced with the production of records or corroborative evidence. Had we succeeded in getting an appeal from a decision based on the onus of proof provision, I would have had no occasion to vote for this amendment without achieving a further definition of that provision. I believe that the proper application of the provision would provide the answer in the case of most of the people who are aggrieved. Finally, let it be remembered that, as the Government has stated, in this year’s Budget we have ameliorated’ the means test and conceded to all social service pensioners the right to hospital and medical treatment. I believe that that is a wrong priority. 1 believe that the ex-servicemen should be treated first.
Our constitutional position having been established in my view and the merits of the matter having been unanswered, the next question is one of practical politics. It having been stated that we would go through the processes of conference - I hope that we will do that on occasions - in this instance, according to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), if we persisted in this amendment it would involve the laying aside of the intermediate pension rate, which will involve an expenditure of £1.15 million. If we indulge in these conference processes and then yield, we just incur delay.
I am not here in the slightest degree to combat criticism of my action in this matter. However, in the light of those considerations and having established the point, so as not to lose the cause for all time, after a vote is taken on this amendment, I will take up the matter of the appointment of a Senate select committee on the onus of proof provision and the question involved in this amendment, for attention if not under this year’s Budget then before the next Budget; and my intention is not to vote against the Government a second time. As I have said, the government of the day has a predominant responsibility for the revenues of the country. Having established my point of view, and since the Government carries the final responsibility, I propose to withdraw my vote and to let the Government prevail, because at this stage I believe that that is the best way of achieving the purpose that I have stated.
– I have read the powerful verbal castigation, which was delivered in another place, of those honorable senators who exercised their right to vote according to their convictions and their powers. My head is bloodied but unbowed. I assure Senator Sandford that, when the vote is taken on this amendment and he goes to the barricades to defend the action that was taken in this chamber last week, I will be with him and Senator Gair will be with him, too. This amendment is the result of a request that was made to the Government by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s
Imperial League of Australia. It was included in the 1965 pension plan that the League submitted to the Cabinet subcommittee. In this year, the 50th anniversary of Anzac, it would have been a graceful and noble act on the part of the Government to confer what had been asked for.
I regret that in another place there was so much exaggeration of the effect of this amendment. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), in his comments, did not exaggerate. He endeavoured to place the position clearly before honorable senators. But in another place there was exaggeration. The amendment that we carried said that the Repatriation Commission may do certain things; it was not directed to do them. The amendment stated that it may do them and that it could determine the conditions. It was only a recommendation. But in another place it was stated in so many words that the amendment was a direction. I believe that in that respect many people were misled.
My regret is that in respect of this amendment, as in respect of other amendments, the Government is so unyielding. In the great parliaments, such as the mother of parliaments in Great Britain, it is common for a government to accept an opposition amendment that has merit. In my six and a quarter years in this Parliament, I have noted that the attitude of the Government is that it will recognise no merit in any amendment that emanates from any source not associated with itself. Some members of the Government may consider that to be a sign of strength. I think it is a sign of weakness. AH the ability and brains are not in the Cabinet. I believe that the Cabinet would show strength if, on occasions, it accepted the merit of some of the amendments that are put before it.
In this instance, if it were such a great task to give these facilities to the men of the Boer War and the First World War, could they not at least be given to the men of the Boer War? Many of these men are over 80 years of age. Would that have cost so much? Would it have been impossible? I regret that the attitude of the Government is one of being completely unyielding. On the constitutional question, let me quote this statement by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) -
The fact is that the Government is flat against being dictated to by the Senate on this matter.
This is vital to the authority of government. Any government that will allow its own financial measures to be pushed around in the other House might as well give up being a government because it will have lost control of the vital element in government.
His concluding sentence was -
Sir, there can be only one master House on the finances of this country and that is the one that we are sitting in.
My mind goes back 30 years to an occasion when the conservative forces of this country - of which the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) was a member - vigorously applauded the fact that the Senate took out of the hands of the House of Representatives the control of the financial destinies of the country. I regret that the firm statement of the right of the House of the Representatives to control the country’s finances without interference from the Senate has only been made 35 years after the people concerned strongly and violently applauded exactly the opposite position. That is a warning to the Senate, in the light of the statement made and the attitude adopted, very seriously to consider the proposal to break the nexus between the numbers of the Senate and of the House of Representatives. Once that nexus is broken, the death knell is sounded for the Senate as a significant part of this legislature. When the numbers of the House of Representatives are allowed significantly to be increased while the numbers of the Senate remain as they are, knowing the power of the parliamentary caucuses on each side, the Senate is placed in the position that it can be nothing more than a rubber stamp.
In my view, if any action were taken to break the existing nexus, there would no longer be any reason for the existence of the Senate. In view of what has happened in relation to the amendment approved by the Senate, those people who believe in the bi-cameral system of Government had better think again before they support the proposal to break the nexus.
– I would like to make a correction to a figure I gave to Senator Wright by way of interjection. Senator Wright said that the recurring cost would be £5 million. I interjected and I am told that I said: “ £250,000.” I had intended to say that the recurring cost would be £2,500,000. I am sorry if I have misled Senator Wright and the Senate. Senator McKenna stressed that the amendment which the Senate had made contained the words “ the Commission may “. I point out to the honorable senator that we are dealing in practical politics. How on earth could we as a Parliament state that the Commission may give the benefits to the people concerned and not put that proposal into effect? It seems that the honorable senator does not know the Returned Servicemen’s League as well as I do. The League would not take it lying down. Nor should it.
Question put -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator I. A. C. Wood.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Wood) proposed -
That the Tuberculosis Ordinance 1965, as contained in the Territory of Christmas Island Ordinance No. 1 of 1965, and made under the Christmas Island Act 1958-1963, be disallowed.
– The Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) has examined the report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances and has discussed it with me. He wishes me to make the following statement to the Senate in connection with the report -
Under section 10 of the ordinance, persons detained in pursuance of sections 9 (1.) (e) and 9 (2.) have a right of appeal to the Magistrate’s Court and this provides a safeguard against arbitrary action by the Official Representative. The Minister agrees, however, that a more complete safeguard of the rights of individuals would be given if the power to order detention were vested in the Magistrate’s Court upon application by the Official Representative. Such provision would be similar to the provisions of the Australian Capital Territory Tuberculosis Ordinance under which this authority is vested in the Court of Petty Sessions on application by the Director-General. In view of the circumstances on the Island, the Minister would prefer such an arrangement to the establishment of a medical board.
The provisions of section 12 were included with the object of ensuring that the persons carrying out their functions under the ordinance were not exposed as individuals to claims against themselves. The inclusion of this provision arose from the wish of the society which conducted a recent survey that they have protection against claims. The survey has now been completed. In any event, on further consideration in the light of the Committee’s comments, the Minister considers that (his section should be deleted and reliance placed on other means of protection of persons acting in good faith in pursuance of the ordinance.
The Minister wishes to inform the Senate that a new ordinance will be promulgated conforming to these principles and repealing the present ordinance which he hopes will continue in force until such time as a new ordinance is promulgated.
– As a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, let me say that I am sure the Committee appreciates the respect implied in the Minister’s statement. I want to say only two things. The first is that as a member of this Senate and as a member of the Committee, I take some pride in the fact that our eye reaches to islanders in the far away Pacific Ocean - a mainly Chinese and Malay community of some 3,000 people. The second thing I want’ to say is that, additional to what we have reported to the Senate, I ask the Minister’s advisers to observe the very salutary provision in a Tasmanian act relating to tuberculosis, which, while recognising the necessity for isolating infectious cases from the public, also contains an authoritative provision to the effect that nothing in that act and nothing in any ordinance should authorise the subjection of any person to treatment for disease without that person’s permission.
– The Committee has already agreed that the Minister’s proposal is acceptable. As Senator Wright has said, it is a cause for gratification that our complete report has been accepted by the Minister. Therefore, there is no need to go into the merits and demerits of the case or the arguments that we were prepared to advance for the disallowance or this regulation. New members of the Senate will have grasped by this exercise - I think this is probably the most clear cut case we have had to put before the Senate - that it is not our obligation to concern ourselves with questions of policy but to judge regulations on certain criteria.
I am glad that Senator Wright mentioned that the island in question is not a part of the Australian mainland. The islanders are not constituents of any member of this Senate or of the House of Representatives; nevertheless we have to reach out to give them the protection that we have developed in this Parliament and in British Parliaments over many centuries. The situation also shows that although it is not our job to formulate policy it is the job of every senator to watch regulations, because although they are subordinate legislation they have the same force as statutes and are as far reaching as statutes without the benefit of the publicity that normal legislation gets from time to time. I am glad that the matter has been concluded in this way. We look forward to the new regulation and trust that it will meet the objection which the Committee has raised.
.- The Senate owes a debt of gratitude to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee for again exposing to the public what the bureaucrats are doing. This is the second occasion within a few weeks on which we have been confronted with a regulation which can only be described as iniquitous. This regulation is equally as iniquitous as was the one relating to I.P.E.C.-Air Pty. Ltd. I do not think it is sufficient that we should just say: “The Minister has had his nose rubbed in it and will now withdraw the regulation and substitute another one.” That is good. But what has happened to the person who put up that regulation? Who was responsible for it?
We have never learned who was responsible for the one relating to I.P.E.C. Is this evidence of a tendency for civil servants to put up regulations, such as the one in this instance, designed to restrain the rights of people, but without any safeguards being provided? As we did in the I.P.E.C. case, do we just forget this matter and say: “ The Minister has come to the party, so we will not do anything more “? Who is responsible for these things? Whoever is responsible should come out in the open and say so. If he is a civil servant the Minister will have to protect him, I presume, but at least the Minister should state the reasons why these bureaucratic, autocratic decisions are made against the rights of individuals.
I am still not quite clear whether Senator Gorton said that a new regulation willbe promulgated but that he hoped the present one would stay in effect in the meantime.
– It will stay in effect until it is repealed.
– The Department may give active consideration to a new regulation, but its promulgation could take two years. It is understood that no action will be taken under the present regulation until the new regulation is brought forward?
– That is all right. I wanted to make the point that we are allowing too many autocratic decisions to be made without anyone taking responsibility for them.
– I rise merely to say that the Opposition is grateful to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee on this occasion, as it has been on many others, for the excellent work it has done. It relieves members not only of the Senate but also of the whole Parliament of the obligation that otherwise would be directly on them to scrutinise all forms of delegated legislation. Had the Minister not undertaken to withdraw, we undoubtedly would have supported the Committee’s motion.
.- in reply - In view of the Minister’s decision to withdraw this regulation, I ask the Senate for leave to withdraw my motion for the disallowance of the regulation.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
– I bring up the ninth report of the Printing Committee. Copies of the report have been distributed to honorable senators.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed (vide page 762).
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 September 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1965/19650930_senate_25_s29/>.