26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMulIin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., aud read prayers.
Senator MURPHY presented a petition from the President and Secretary of the Wyong High School Parents and Citizens Association praying that Parliament will provide adequate finance to the States for the improvement of certain education services and that a Commonwealth inquiry into the needs of pre-school, primary, secondary and technical education in Australia be instituted.
Petition received and read.
Senator MURPHY presented a petition from five members of the Boronia Park Infant School staff praying that Parliament will provide adequate finance to the States for the improvement of certain education services and that a Commonwealth inquiry into the needs of pre-school, primary, secondary and technical education in Australia be instituted.
Petition received and read.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. I refer to the joint communique issued by President Johnson and the Prime Minister on 28lh May last on the occasion of the Prime Minister’s visit to the United States of America wherein, after expressing their gratification at the existing scientific cooperation between the two countries, it was agreed that a special assistant to the President in the field of science and technology and a team of leading United States scientists visit Australia and meet the Minister for Education and Science in order to identify additional areas appropriate for co-operative activity. I ask: Has the special assistant or the team of scientists visited Australia? If not, when is such a visit expected? When such a visit occurs, could the discipline of oceanography in Australian waters be considered as a useful field of joint scientific activity, seeing that Australia is surrounded by oceans and detailed knowledge of its oceans could be of great scientific and practical use in meteorology?
– Order! The honourable senator is giving a lot of information.
– I am about to finish. Such detailed knowledge could also be of great scientific and practical use in the expansion of fisheries, the protection of beaches and harbours, the search for oil and minerals and naval defence.
– The visit by the American scientists referred to in the joint communique of the Prime Minister of Australia and the President of the United States has not taken place, but communications have been exchanged between the two governments. It is expected that an understanding will soon be established in regard to a conference. I am particularly indebted to the honourable senator for suggesting that oceanography should be included in the study and I will pass his suggestion on to the Minister for Education and Science. Oceanography is of vital importance to Australia, particularly in regard to the Great Barrier Reef and fishing in Australian waters.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I ask: Did he read the front page feature in the Sydney ‘Sun’ of 2nd August headed ‘The Secret of Pine Gap’ which stated that a massive $200m highly secret United States defence complex at Pine Gap in the middle of Australia had reached the testing stage and that the complex covered 10 square miles? Is that the installation described by the Prime Minister in answer to questions by Senator Bishop on 13th April 1967 and myself on -22nd August 1967 as a ‘joint United StatesAustralian defence space research facility’? Is it a fact that in reply to Senator Bishop the Prime Minister stated that there was nothing about the operation or location of the station to support any suggestion that the installation would be singled out for special attention in time of war?
– I have not seen the article to which the honourable senator referred. The establishment of such a station at Alice Springs is not within my personal administration; it is a matter for the Minister for Defence. In the circumstances, I think it proper that the question be put on notice.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Works. Having regard to the scaling down of Commonwealth works in South Australia in recent years and the Minister’s own observations whilst he was in Adelaide in March last, when he is reported to have said that the relative proportion of Commonwealth works built in Adelaide had not been encouraging, I ask the Minister whether he will investigate the possibility of early commencement of planned or approved works in South Australia, including the newly announced programme for the Waymouth Street telephone exchange.
– If Senator Bishop and all South Australian senators were to examine the programme at present proposed in South AustraliaI should think that they would be very pleased. At least three major projects are under consideration and are at various stages of commitment for the city of Adelaide at the present time.I will not detail those works at the moment, but information about them is available at my office at any time.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General: Although many telephone cables are being placed underground at present, will the Postmaster-General give consideration to increasing the practice, particularly in rural areas, to facilitate better telephone services for country people and to reduce the high cost of maintenance associated with overhead telephone lines?
– I very much appreciate the points raised by the honourable senator and I shall be pleased to put them to my colleague, the Postmaster-General.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation give favourable consideration to extending to Australian troops serving in Vietnam the benefit of acceptance of pulmonary tuberculosis as a war caused disability in accordance with the provisions of section 37 (3) of the Repatriation Act?
– I would like firstly to offer reassurance to the honourable senator as to the incidence of tuberculosis amongst Australians serving in Vietnam.It was felt by members of the Federated T.B. Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Association that because tuberculosis is rather rife amongst the civilian population of Vietnam, our troops stood in very grave danger of contracting that disease while serving there. However, I am pleased to inform honourable senators that up to the present we have had only one case of tuberculosis amongst our troops in Vietnam. This could be attributed to a variety of reasons which I do not propose to detail at this juncture.
Approaches have been made to me by representatives of the Federated T.B. Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Association for the acceptance of pulmonary tuberculosis as a war caused disability. The position is very different from the circumstances of previous wars because the incidence of tuberculosis in those times was very much higher than it has proved to be at present. The present thinking of my Department is that there is very little danger of our troops contracting this disease. One of the fears expressed by the T.B. Association is that although our troops are not so much in danger of contracting the disease at present while they are young, well-trained and fit, it is possible that they could contract it in future years. If this proves to be the case, provided that it can be shown to be war-caused, naturally the servicemen concerned will receive the compensation due to them because they have contracted the disease. The latest approach of the T.B. Association has been somewhat different and 1 intend to examine it in the course of the next few days.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is he aware that the Esperance aerodrome has been closed on several occasions this year due to rain damage and is currently unserviceable due to flood conditions? Is he aware that the Esperance Shire is financially unable to meet the cost of providing an all-weather strip? Will the
Minister regard this matter as one needing urgent attention having regard to the need for adequate airport facilities for this important but isolated area?
– The Esperance aerodrome runways are constructed of earth and when there is heavy rain in the district the runways become unserviceable. I understand that the aerodrome is controlled by the local authority and that the Commonwealth Government, under its development plan for aerodromes controlled by local authorities in country areas, subscribes 50% of the cost of its upkeep. The Commonwealth provides this assistance in some cases for aerodromes which are owned by local authorities and which are serving country districts. 1 know of the importance of the air service to Esperance and therefore, seeing that the honourable senator is so interested in this subject, I shall take the matter up with the Minister for Civil Aviation, obtain a reply for the honourable senator and send it to him personally.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, ls it a fact that the Australian Government has agreed to support the United Nations Security Council sanctions of 30th May against the reactionary Rhodesian regime? Is the Senate to be provided wilh a statement outlining the Government’s new policy on Rhodesia and its reasons for delaying for so long a decision on the United Nations sanctions declaration?
– The honourable senator has asked whether the Minister for External Affairs proposes to make a statement on Australia’s attitude in relation to Rhodesia. T shall seek the information for him and let him know whether it is intended to do so. If the Minister made a statement in another place the statement would be made here also as expeditiously as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Is he aware that yesterday a bulletin dated 19th August was made available in Canberra by the Embassy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics?
– Order! The honourable senator may not read from a newspaper.
– I would like to know whether it is a fact that a bulletin was made available by the Embassy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in which aggression by the United States of America and Israel was attacked; which referred also to the unity of the Soviet Union; and in which all the words which are usually used about co-existence appeared. If it is a fact, will the Government make this bulletin widely available and ask the mass media to publicise it in order to show the anomalies and absurdities of the double talk by the Soviet Union?
– I am not aware whether a bulletin was issued by, presumably, the Charge d’ Affaires or a representative of the USSR on 19th August. I shall endeavour to find out whether that happened. As to the substance of the final part of the question, 1 shall refer it to the Minister for External Affairs for his consideration.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Supply. Is there any truth in the rumour circulating in the Geelong area that the Government Aircraft Factory at Avalon in Victoria will close down completely?
– I think this question stems from one that was asked in another place yesterday, although I do not suggest that the honourable senator has not asked it because of stories that he himself has heard. There is no substance in this rumour. I acknowledge that because of the availability of orders the position of the Geelong establishment has always been critical. We have ebbs and flows in the work load there. But no submission nas been put to me that there is to be any closing down at Geelong. 1 have had it put to me that in the short run there may be some slight turnback; but during the remainder of this year and well into next year the general employment position there should remain static, lt will depend on the availability of some outside orders. If we receive sufficient outside orders there could be an increase in employment, but that is not apparent at the moment. What is apparent is that the position at Geelong should be fairly static for some time.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer seek from his colleague information about a book which 1 have in my hand, which is entitled ‘The Australian Economy 1968’, the foreword of which says that it came from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, in July 1968, but which gives no indication of who the authors are? Will the Minister ask the Treasurer to inform the Senate why some person or some department continues to issue a most informative economic survey entitled The Australian Economy’ without having printed thereon any indication of who are the authors and which is the authorising department? I also ask whether the views and opinions expressed in the survey can be taken as being those of the Government or of the Commonwealth Treasury?
– I will treat that question as a straight out request to the Treasurer. I will refer it to him and obtain an answer for the honourable senator and other honourable senators.
– Can the MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities inform the Senate of the outcome of representations which I made to him in the last sessional period and in which I urged him to intervene on the ground of tourist value and to request the Queensland Government to have the Mon Repos Beach near Bundaberg made a protected rookery for various types of sea turtles?
– I am pleased that the honourable senator has given me the opportunity to inform the Senate of what has taken place on this matter. J have had the utmost co-operation from the Queensland Government with regard to it, and 1 would like to acknowledge that. I wrote to the Minister for Tourism in the Queensland Government, bringing to his attention Senator Mulvihills representations. On 1 8th July the Queensland Government issued an order-in-council prohibiting the taking of any species of turtles in any Queensland waters. That prohibition also applies to all turtle eggs. Furthermore, the Queensland Government has referred to its Minister for
Lands the proposal that that prohibition should apply above the high water mark. Let me add that the question of fishing in this area and the Great Barrier Reef area generally is under the urgent and immediate consideration of the Commonwealth Government in respect of ways in which we can extend the protection that would derive from our jurisdiction supplementing the State jurisdiction.
– Can the Leader of the Government inform the Senate whether the Australian Government has made any protest to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics following the cruel and shameful invasion of Czechoslovakia by that country and its satellites?
– I can inform the Senate that in another place this morning the Prime Minister indicated that the Russian Charge d’Affaires called on him this morning to inform him, by way of a personal message to the Australian Government, that Russian troops and other satellite troops had entered Czechoslovakia at the request of the Czechoslovak Government. On behalf of the Australian Government, the Prime Minister informed the Charge d’Affaires that he found that impossible to believe, particularly in view of the broadcasts from Prague itself to the effect that an invasion was taking place. He told the Charge d’Affaires that the people of Australia would find it absolutely impossible to accept the statement that had been made. He asked the Charge d’Affaires to inform his Government of the distress, concern and revulsion which the Australian Government and people feel in relation to its action. The Charge d’Affaires said that he would convey this to his Government. At a later stage today I shall seek to read a statement which is to be made in another place by the Minister for External Affairs. This may well be when we resume sitting after lunch. J. am having some discussion with the Leader of the Opposition as to what we should do after I read the statement.
– Is the MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities aware that the order-in-council of the Queensland Government prohibiting the taking of green turtles will be ineffective in preserving the Mon Repos turtle rookery. Land is being subdivided there and sold and Dr Bustard and other naturalists have said that the settlement there, with all of the activity associated with it, will drive the turtles away and destroy the rookery.
– I only partially heard the honourable senator’s question but the substance of it I believe to be whether f am aware that the prohibition by the order-in-council to which I referred would probably be ineffective as to subdivisional land. I did indicate that the Queensland Government exercised its authority under its Fishery Act in making the orderincouncil to which I referred. I said that it was recognised that the authority under that Act extended to high water mark and that having taken that action with regard to water the Government was submitting the matter to its Minister for Lands for immediate consideration of extension of the prohibition to turtles and turtle eggs on land.
– Will the Leader of the Government inform the Senate of the amount expended on maintenance, including repairs, new parts and general overhaul during the 12 months preceding sale, on each of the seven Dakota aircraft recently sold by the Royal Australian Air Force?
– 1 shall seek the information for the honourable senator.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the Senate when extensions to the main runway at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport will be completed? What arrangements are planned for the extension of runways at Tullamarine airport? In relation to a question which I raised over 12 months ago in the Senate, can the Minister assure the Senate that the provision for a residential buffer zone at Tullamarine is quite adequate for the present and for the future?
– I understand that the runway at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport will be completed to a length of 13,000 feel in 1971 in time for the introduction of jumbo jets. The runway at Tullamarine is at present capable of handling a jumbo jet which is on a short haul but not a long haul. It, too, will be developed and completed, I understand, in time for the jumbo jets in 1971. I shall obtain from the Minister for Civil Aviation a reply to that part of the question which relates to the noise level at Tullamarine.
– In addressing my question to the Minister for Works I refer to his statement during the adjournment debate last night that the foreshore damage at Kurnell, Botany Bay, cannot be attributed to dredging work which has been carried out by the Commonwealth as part of the development of Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport and that the Wallingford Hydraulics Research Station had confirmed that opinion. Will the Minister agree that the Commonwealth already has accepted responsibility for the very serious beach erosion that has occurred and which is still occurring at Brighton-le-Sands, Botany Bay, and that it has agreed to meet the cost of the repair work involved, which includes repairing the very serious damage to the storm buffer at Brighton-le-Sands swimming baths? Will the Minister ensure that in any further extensions of Kingsford-Smith Airport every precaution is taken by his Department to maintain or to restore the normal wave pattern existing in Botany Bay so that no further beach erosion or damage will be done to this historic bay?
– I repeat what has been said already in this chamber with regard to the contribution which the Commonwealth will make towards the cost of repair and restoration works in Botany Bay to the extent to which the extension of the runway carried out by my Department has disturbed the wave pattern and contributed to erosion. The Commonwealth has said already that it will continue to participate in the restoration of the damaged area until the beach has been restored. As to the extension of the runway by 4,000 feet, to which my colleague. Senator Scott, referred this morning, the honourable senator would know, and 1 inform the Senate now, that we have taken the opinion of the Maritime Services Board and of Wallingfords as to the places where, and the formation in which, the sand should be removed from the Bay in connection with these further works. The advice is that when the additional sand has been removed the seabed in the Bay will bc given attention with a view to restoring the wave pattern, and the sand taken from the beach will be replaced. When that has been done the locality may be assured that every effort has been made to restore that delightful beach.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for National Development give the Senate any information arising from the inquiry being conducted into the matter of the possible construction of water storage facilities in the Mitta Mitta River?
– I presume the honourable senator is referring to Dartmouth on the Mitta Mitta River.
– There is not any tate information. The last information that 1 had concerning this proposal was that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, at the request of the Department of National Development, was carrying out a survey of the Dartmouth site on the Mitta Mitta River to see whether it is a satisfactory site for a dam and that the Authority would be reporting direct to the River Murray Commission, who would examine the report and no doubt compare it with information relating to the Chowilla Dam site and make a decision as to where the dam to supply South Australia with water will be built.
(Question No. 353)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 356)
asked the MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 415)
asked the Minister for Cus toms and Excise, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
By-law admission was not refused on single engined aircraft on the ground that the matter was under reference to the Tariff Board.
– During question time on 14th August Senator Bishop referred to the downturn in activity in the Government aircraft factories and at Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and asked whether special efforts would be made to ensure that Australian industry be given opportunity to manufacture Service requirements, particularly as he expected work at Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation to slump as the Mirage and Macchi programmes drew to a close.
I would like to assure Senator Bishop that in planning defence requirements there is a close liaison between the Armed Services and my Department to ensure that every opportunity is given to Australian manufacturers to meet suitable defence orders.
In the case of the Army purchase of light aircraft to which Senator Bishop referred, the numbers involved would not have warranted local purchase. However, there is under preparation a joint Service specification for one aircraft which would fulfil a number of roles. This may result in a requirement for a quantity of one aircraft which would make it feasible for local production. There may also be a potential civilian demand for a similar aircraft.
I am not sure to what the honourable senator referred when he mentioned mobile equipment. If the honourable senator would care to provide further details of what he has in mind I would be pleased to investigate the matter further. I can advise that some ground handling equipment for the F111 is being produced in the Government Aircraft Factory.
I would now like to comment on the present position and future prospects of the Australian aircraft industry. Very briefly, the current situation is that the Mirage production programme comes to a close at the end of this year. This has been a large project engaging substantial numbers of production staffs. Some retrenchment has been inevitable. Other parts of the industry are also causing grave concern.
As the successful Mirage production programme tapers off it has been necessary to make a reduction in staff at the Government aircraft factories. In May of this year it was announced that one month’s notice of dismissal had been given to111 employees at the Fisherman’s Bend factory, but because of wastage it was only necesary to retrench 42 employees at the factory. For the remainder of the year wastage is expected to avoid retrenchment of wages staff at Fisherman’s Bend but some light reduction of salaried staff seems likely. Whilst only three employees have been retrenched at Avalon, further retrenchments will be necessary. Unfortunately notices of intention to retrench were issued to seven employees last week and further notices will be issued this week. Similar measureswill be necessary in other sectors of the industry.
Personnel being retrenched receive at least 4 weeks notice that their tenure of employment is limited and not less than 3 weeks after this advice they receive 1 week’s notice of the date upon which they will be retrenched. Final payment to these people includes all annual leave entitlements, including accrued and pro rata entitlements.
Possibilities of alternative employment in other Department of Supply undertakings are being kept under close surveillance. Severance pay as such is not applicable to Commonwealth employees. Should there be any personnel retrenched who have had 4 years Commonwealth service or more, they would be eligible for an additional lump sum payment in accordance with relevant provisions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act.
We have been endeavouring to develop other projects which will provide economic workloads for the facilities needed for defence purposes. For example, there is the possibility of producing a close support/ advanced trainer as a collaborative effort with the British Aircraft Corporation. This could involve both the British and Australian governments and private industry in both countries. We are considering the feasibility of manufacturing a light observation helicopter in Australia, which would have both civil and military applications. Also under consideration is the Australian manufacture of a guided missile and, as I mentioned earlier in my reply to Senator Bishop, a light fixed-wing aircraft to meet a possible joint Service need. There are discussions currently proceeding regarding the possibility of work being undertaken in Australia as a sub-contractor to a United States commercial aircraft group.
I have mentioned these projects to inform you of the endeavours we are making to retain a viable workload for the aircraft industry. I would wish to emphasise, however, that it is difficult to develop economic and viable projects in this industry and I am not promising that we will necessarily be proceeding with them.
My colleague the Minister for Defence said on the 13th August that the prospects of retaining all units of the aircraft industry in being are not good and I would have to agree that it will be extremely difficult to maintain the aircraft industry at its present level. We are fully aware of the gravity of the situation. Close and detailed study has been given to the likely future workload in the industry and proposals as to its size and shape are under close consideration. While no decisions have yet been made you can be assured that we are anxious to reach a satisfactory conclusion as soon as possible and that the Government’s overriding objective in these endeavours is to maintain a viable aircraft industry in Australia.
– On 20th August 1968, Senator Keeffe asked me a further series of questions in respect of the sale of seven Dakota aircraft by my Department. The questions that he posed were as follows:
I have now been supplied with the following answers to Senator Keeffe’s questions:
Brisbane - ‘Courier Mail’ - 2 insertions; Brisbane Telegraph’ - 2 insertions.
Sydney - ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ - 3 insertions.
Melbourne- The ‘Age’ - 2 insertions; The ‘Sun’ - 2 insertions.
Adelaide - Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ - 3 insertions.
Perth - ‘West Australian’ - 1 insertion.
Hobart - ‘Mercury’ - 1 insertion.
In addition, each of the following carried the advertisement:
Australian Manufacturers Journal’.
– For the information of honourable senators I. lay on the tabic the texts of the undermentioned treaties to which Australia has become a party by signature or acceptance.
Agreement between Australia and Singapore concerning the provision of treatment in Singapore hospitals for Asian residents of Christmas Island, signed 27lh June 1968.
J also lay on the table for the information of honourable senators the text of the Convention on the International Hydrographic Organisation, signed 3rd May 1967, to which Australia is considering becoming a party by ratification.
– I ask for leave lo move a motion.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent my moving a motion forthwith that order of the day No. 2 relating to the new and permanent parliament house site take precedence this day of other business of the Senate. 1 have proposed this motion so that the debate on the site for the new and permanent parliament house may proceed today. If, of course, my motion were agreed to, the debate could be interrupted if the Senate thought fit for an occasion such as Senator Anderson has referred to - a state ment on events in Czechoslovakia. I have proposed my motion because the mailer of the site for the new parliament house is important, lt is not, in theory, business of the Senate in the same sense as other mailers such as the disallowance of regulations, but in substance it concerns the Senate us a whole. It is not really a matter in the nature of government business or of private members’ business, and it has been treated in the Senate accordingly.
The leaders of the Parties have indicated that a free vote is to be taken. This extremely important matter ought to be dealt with promptly. It is an important and an urgent matter. My authority for saying that it is an urgent matter is the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). He said on 1 5th August when the matter was raised in another place, that the matter is urgent not because of an urgent need to commence construction, but for the following reason: . . the resolution is brought forward because there is urgency in deciding where, when it is constructed, the House will be. This is so that other construction work - for example, the construction of the new National Art Gallery - can be begun by the National Capital Development Commission with full knowledge of where a site for Parliament House is to be reserved and where it is not.
After making some suggestions about the site and what has been done, he said:
These, therefore. I suggest are the two site between which this House needs lo make ils selection today.
I emphasise that the Prime Minister when speaking on 15th August suggested that a decision needed to be made that day.
– 1 rise to a point of order, Mr President. I do not wish lo be discourteous to the Leader of the Opposition, but in fact his motion is for the suspension of Standing Orders. With great respect, the Leader of the Opposition is debating the subsequent question that may emerge. I do not think we should get into that question yet. We are dealing now with the question of whether it is appropriate to move to take the responsibility of the management of government out of the hands of the Government. That is the issue. 1 do not want to get into the other debate at this time, if I can avoid it, because we will have a free discussion and vote on that.
– Speaking to the point of order, I appreciate what the Leader of the Government said, but in demonstrating to the Senate why the Standing Orders should be suspended surely it is important to tell the Senate of the importance of the motion for the suspension and to explain the urgency of the motion. On the question of urgency do not wish to go over the whole matter again, but I suggest that it is important that L deal with the substantial matter that we propose to deal with, namely, the reason why the Standing Orders should be suspended.
– Order! I do not uphold the point of order. The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to discuss the reasons why Standing Orders should be suspended and make a passing reference to their suspension. However, he is not in order in opening up a general discussion on the reasons for suspending them.
– The Prime Minister referred to the question of urgency and something similar was said by the Leader of the Government in this place (Senator Anderson), although perhaps not quite so strongly. Nevertheless he indicated that a decision had to be taken. He said:
If we did nol take a decision or were tardy in taking a decision we could in certain circumstances be acting at cost to the revenue because we would bc delaying any other programme which might be considered appropriate for a site which, in the event, would not become the site of the new parliament house.
Despite the urgency of this matter it is now history that it has not been concluded in the other place and that the debate is to be resumed at an indefinite stage on the basis that the resumption of the debate on the site of the new and permanent parliament house is n matter which the Leader of the House would have to take up and consider in terms of a complex programme, which undoubtedly would include the legislation which arises out of the Budget. The first thing which is clear is that this is an urgent matter. The next thing which is clear is that we in this Senate have no item of Government legislation before us. There is not one single item of legislation in this chamber which emanated from the Government.
– There is a very important piece of legislation of mine which is waiting.
– As Senator Gair has mentioned, there is a matter of his and there are several matters of legislation which I have introduced, but there is no Government legislation. We know that this often occurs at the beginning of a Budget session and that the Senate actually fills in time waiting for legislation by discussing the Budget papers in a rather anticipatory sort of way.
– ls that what the honourable senator calls it - filling in time?
– 1 use the expression filling in time’ not in any derogatory way because the discussion which lakes place is no doubt important. However, strong views have been expressed from time to time that discussion on the Budget should wait until the measures have reached this chamber. The importance of referring to the legislative programme lies in the fact that we know there is going to be a complex legislative programme. We know that as a matter of public knowledge because of what has been said by the Leader of the House in another place. That legislation will come from that place to this place. Surely any matter such as the determination of the site for the new and permanent parliament house should be dealt with now. We should not be put in the position of having this complex legislative programme before us in several weeks time and then being told: ‘We must not interrupt this programme. We have to approve matters of appropriation and measures affecting social services, and if the debates on them are delayed it will cost people money because, under the procedures that are used, those measures do not operate until they receive the royal assent’.
What is the common sense approach to the matter in the interests of the Senate and of the nation? It is that we should dispose of the complex parliament house matter at this stage while there is no Government legislation before the chamber. The reality of the situation seems to be that, although the government has said that there will be a free vote, it is not too anxious to have that vote. We take the view that there should be a vote. The Government should be prepared to do what it said it would do. We have come in here and accepted in good faith what it has said. It is apparent that the Senate is disclosing its will in a manner with which the Leader of the Government may not agree. Nevertheless the debate should proceed.
The speeches that have been made have been short. I have no doubt that if the debate proceeds now we will reach a decision within a fairly short time. But, whether the debate be short or long, surely now is the appropriate occasion for it. There can bc no suggestion that Government legislation is being obstructed, interrupted or interfered with in any way at all, because there is none before us. Now is the time to debate the parliament house matter, before the Government brings forward its great legislative programme. Therefore I ask the Senate to support the motion.
– My attention has been drawn to the fact that what I said earlier might easily have been misinterpreted. When Senator Anderson took his point of order and 1 outlined the grounds on which I would permit the debate to go ahead, apparently I indicated that I did not uphold the point of order. In fact, of course, I did uphold it.
– Firstly let me say, Mr President, that I understood your decision quite clearly. You gave some guidelines to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), and I was perfectly happy that the matter should be left at that.
In speaking to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders, 1 want to make it clear that it sets out to take the responsibility for arranging the business of the Senate out of the hands of, first of all, the Leader of the Government, and secondly the Government itself, which has to accept the responsibility. There is provision for the suspension of Standing Orders, which would make that possible. But, contrary to Senator Murphy’s suggestion that there should be a rearrangement of the business, 1 hold the view that his arguments in relation to urgency arc not valid. He says that we use the forms of the Senate to debate the Budget in an anticipatory way. If we do not debate the Budget now, we have to do it at some stage. It has always been accepted that the Budget is a very important - in fact, the most important - thing in the administrative cycle of any government; that there should be a Budget debate; and that when the Budget comes down, short of some special matter with which we may deal - for example, this afternoon I hope to obtain leave to refer to a great national event with which wc all are most vitally concerned - the budget debate should proceed.
Senator Murphy says that the need for us to conclude the debate on the parliament house matter is urgent because of the comments that were made in another place and the comments that I made. My comments - and I stand by them - were made in relation to the Parliament generally coming to a decision on this matter. It is a fact that the other place debated it for some time and has now embarked upon the Budget debate. So it will be some time before the other place will have its open vote. Let il be made abundantly clear that there will be a vote.
– In both Houses?
– Yes. Any suggestion that there will be an avoidance of a vote is sheer nonsense and a figment of the imagination of whoever makes it. The fact is that we have had 14 or 15 speakers in this place so far and I seem to be a bit like Horatius. Members of the Government parties in this place and in another place ure just as determined and keen as the Government is that this matter should be resolved. There is an urgent need for it to be resolved in the context of the Parliament. But the fact is that, for the very reason that Senator Murphy himself canvassed, we want to get the discussion of the Budget Papers to a very definite stage and to have the Budget passed. It contains appropriations and certain provisions in the fields of repatriation and social services, and if we do not get the discussion of the Budget Papers to a certain stage we may be forced into a delay, which none of us would want.
I wish lo make it abundantly clear that my door is open. If it becomes apparent that time is available, the die is cast and I, as the Leader of the Government, will not walk away from the decision which ultimately we have to take. There is an urgent need for the Parliament to make up its mind. But the Parliament will not make up its mind today. If we have the debate now - if I may get on to the substantive matter just gently - it is most improbable, if everbody stands in his place as I hope will be the case in relation to this open vote, that we will reach the stage of making a decision today. I have seen a list which shows that there are 15 or 16 speeches yet to be made. I would expect that, on a matter that is to be the subject of an open vote, members of the Labor Party would not start pulling their names off the list. I would hate to think that there was some attempt to pull names off the list. It would be extraordinary if they ail had the same feeling at the same time and they all went up to the President’s chair and pulled their names off the list. If that happened 1 would be tempted to ask whether there was any green in my eye. But there is not.
– You are very suspicious.
– No, I am not. The fact is that certain people have indicated that they wish to speak. Then, of course, i have the right of reply. 1 would $Ot take long; perhaps a few minutes. So, 1’n view of the programme that 1 envisage or this afternoon, it is inconceivable that a decision would be made today. There is no need for a decision to be made today.
I talk to leaders of parties; we talk to one another. If a leader came to mc at some time in the future and put it to me that there was an opportunity for us to bring this matter to a decision in a concentrated manner, I would very properly have to consider that proposal in the light of my responsibilities as Leader of the Government in the Senate. For those reasons, with great respect to the Leader of the Opposition, I suggest that because we do not want to have the substantive issue clouded he. should withdraw his motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– I rise to support the submission made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). I consider that the parliament house matter should be discussed and disposed of. I do not accept the submission made by the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) that the argument as to urgency is not valid. In support of my contention in that connection, I call as my major witness none other than Mr John Gorton, Prime Minister of Australia, who went to the trouble of telephoning me on the evening of Monday, 12th August, to inform me that he intended to have this matter of the site of the new parliament house discussed both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate without delay, because it was vital and it was urgent. I said that I thought he or the Government would have waited until the all-party committee appointed by the Parliament to go into this question had reported to the Parliament, when we would have had the advantage of knowing just what the Committee thought about it. He said: ‘There are so many other pressing matters that compel me to proceed with this without delay’.
It is for that reason in particular that I rise to support the Leader of the Opposition in his contention that the matter is urgent and should be proceeded with without delay. What has caused the Government to become cold after being so hot on this issue? If it had an ear to the ground, as I would have expected it to have - it has had plenty of opportunity, God only knows - it should have known the position. I have not demonstrated a great deal of interest in this matter - perhaps not as much as some people thought I should have shown. It is important, nevertheless, that we should proceed, having commenced deliberations upon the matter at the instigation of no-one less than the Prime Minister himself, who classified it as an urgent matter. Well, let it remain urgent. Let us proceed with it and deal with it and let us have a vote at least in the Senate. If the Prime Minister can, because of numbers, postpone it, defer and delay it for some reason best known to himself in the other place, he at least owes an explanation as to why the matter was raised at all before the Committee had submitted its report, and why he should inform me and others that the matter was urgent, that it should be brought on, discussed and decided because of the exigencies that exist in relation to town planning and other projects of the national capital. For those reasons I support Senator Murphy’s submission. 1 sympathise with the Leader of the Government in the Senate because he no doubt was informed, as I was, that the matter was urgent. Now he has been instructed to soft pedal on it, and to defer and to delay any further discussion or any decision on the matter. That is not very satisfactory, to me at least. 1 do not regard it as good parliamentary business and I think the Senate is entitled to a clear cut explanation for any change of attitude or policy on this matter - not just a statement of excuses, with the Minister saying that his door is always open and anyone from the Opposition side is able to come to him and say: I think this is the opportunity when we should discuss it’. Well, we do not even have to go through the door of his office. We are telling him now that we believe this is the time to proceed with it, discuss it and take a vote on it.
-I rise to oppose the suggestion that has been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) and the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair). At the outset I want to contradict Senator Gair and assure him emphatically that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) has not received any instructions at all to have this matter delayed.
– How do you know?
– I happen to know.
– You got caught once before.
– Yes, and so did the Opposition when it thought it was right. You do not want a repetition of that, do you? Had the other House made a decision on this and been waiting on the Senate for a decision before action could be taken this would have been entirely different.
– There is to be a free vote.
– There is to be a free vote; you need not be frightened of that unless you are frightened of your own people. It has been stated that there will be a free vote and I know that there will be.
– What about the-
– Go back to your snow, will you? J for one have not spoken on this subject. 1 intend to speak on it, but not at any great length. It is most unusual, or has been since I have been here, to seek to have a Budget debate interrupted in the manner sought this morning.
– It has been interrupted many times in the 3 years thatI have been here.
– I thought the honourable senator had finished speaking. If he has not, I will sit down. It is important that the Budget should be disposed of. In spite of what has been said about urgency, we do not intend to start building the new parliament house in the next 18 months.
– The Prime Minister is responsible for the urgency.
– All right, I heard you the first time. If there were any urgency about the erection of a building, this would be an entirely different matter. This does not arise. I would think that very few people in this Senate will be here when the new parliament house is built. That is my feeling. This will be because of anno domini; it will not be because we are thrown out. For the life of me I cannot see why the Opposition should see fit to try to interfere with the Leader of the Government and with the Government in this place in order to have this matter debated at this stage. It can be debated next week or the week after so far as I am concerned, if honourable senators feel that it should be. I can assure the opposition that those on this side feel it should not be debated today and their will will prevail.
– Having launched on this debate we should attempt to get to the heart of the matter and dispose of it, so we do not have the sort of thing that happens at the end of a session when substantial and extremely important legislation is rushed through this place in the last 2 or 3 days. This issue is, perhaps, a little more important. It was regarded as being so when the debate was initiated in the other place last Thursday. I have pondered since and for the life of me I still cannot reach any satisfactory conclusion as to why the debate was in fact launched in the House of Representatives last week in view of the fact that a subcommittee of the New and Permanent Parliament House Committee had gone overseas and made extensive examinations of parliamentary institutions in other parts of the world and hoped to be able to present its views to the full Committee so that all relevant factors associated with this question could be determined by the Committee that was set up for that express purpose.
Why the Government proceeded in such a precipitate way to launch a debate on this matter remains a mystery to me. to other members of the Parliament and to the people of Australia, because the other day the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) said that he did not expect to take a place in the new parliament house. He was implying that there would be a substantial lapse of time before the new parliament house became a reality.
We might ask this question: In those circumstances and if that is the thinking of the Government why launch ourselves on this debate in such a precipitate way? We still have not received any satisfactory explanation and I still am wondering. Why does not the Government come clean and advise why this debate was launched. We have some pretty urgent business before the Parliament and there must be some reason why the Government launched the debate on this question. The debate was commenced in a precipitate way. The Government seems to be playing ducks and drakes and it is up to the Leader of the Government to explain why the matter is being handled in this way. I do not believe that the debate should have come on at this time. The sub-committee could have provided a tremendous amount of valuable information to the Committee-
– Order! Senator Devitt, you are making more than a passing reference now.
– I am sorry but this is all part of the broad consideration of the question. Let me deal with the heart of the matter as I said I would when I rose to speak. The Government indicated that there would be a free vote on this issue. That was borne out by the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) moved, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) seconded, that the new Parliament House should be erected at the lakeside. The debate having been launched I suggest it was proper for the Parliament to proceed to a conclusion of the debate before dealing with other matters. This subject should not have been listed, as it has been listed, lower on the notice paper to enable us to proceed to a consideration of the Budget.
What is the reason for the hole in the corner methods that the Government has now adopted in relation to a decision on this matter? I. should like an answer to that question. It appears that the debate in the other place took the Government by storm by reason of the interest shown in the subject by honourable members. It was expected that the debate would be short and would be disposed of fairly quickly with, I suggest, a vote for the lakeside site, but so many members of the House of Representatives showed so much interest in the subject that the debate got out of hand. The Government was not prepared to gag it because of the tremendous interest that had been generated by consideration of the subject dating back to 1912.
– The Prime Minister wanted to paddle his own canoe.
– I do not think he is allowed to paddle his canoe at the present time. 1 think someone else is paddling it for him if in fact it is being paddled at all. The Government found a tremendous amount of interest in this subject - quite properly - because it is a matter of intense interest to this country. The Government misjudged the importance of the issue in the minds of members of Parliament. We are not fools. We count heads. As Senator Kennelly has said so often: The numbers are pretty important when you come to the vote*. T believe that a count of heads now would show that a majority - I believe a substantial majority - of members of Parliament in the two Houses would support the siting of the new and permanent parliament house on Capital Hill. The Government and the Opposition agreed that there should be a free vote on the issue.
– That is not challenged.
– Just a moment. Tha Minister had his say. Both sides of the Parliament agreed to a free debate on this issue, and implicit in that surely is a free vote. Any attempt by anyone, whether on the Government side or the Opposition side, to interfere with that decision takes away from the private member the rights that he has. We must guard against that. There must be a free expression of opinion upon this issue. Any interference by anyone, whoever he may be or whatever authority he may have, detracts immediately from any thought of a free vote.
No wonder this matter has generated so much interest. In recent times an attempt has been made, mainly on the Government side - in fact almost exclusively on the Government side - to defend the rights of private members. Here is an instance of the assertion of the rights of private members because they have been freed of party ties. Immediately a count of heads indicated that there would be a vote in favour of the Capital Hill site someone said: ‘This is not the vote that we wanted, therefore we will close the debate’. I challenge the Government to allow this debate to run to a conclusion and to take a vote upon it. Let the Senate express its opinion on this matter. I do not think the Parliament could permit the trampling of the rights of members in the way in which that has been attempted. I for one will fight such a thing as hard as I possibly can. Implied in this whole proposal is a denial of the rights of private members who, having been freed of party ties, have been able to express themselves as vocally as they wish and without any inhibitions on the location of the new and permanent parliament house. This is an important issue. We must proceed-
– Oan I interrupt you?
– As I said a little while ago, please let me have my say.
– But you are imputing improper motives to the Leader of the Government.
– I will assert my rights irrespective of whether you attempt to stop me. When I resume my seat you can go as hard as you like.
– I can do more than mat. If you want to challenge me and if you want to play it tough, then I can play it tough. Mr President, I raise a point of order. The honourable senator is imputing improper motives to me as a senator and as the Leader of the Government and I ask that you direct him not to proceed along those lines.
– I just do not get the significance of the point of order.
– Order! A senator may not make imputations against another senator. The Minister at the table feels aggrieved and I ask you to withdraw the imputation, Senator Devitt.
– On the point of order, Mr President, surely the standing order relates to the imputation of improper motives. The honourable senator is not imputing improper motives in the sense that impropriety is used. He is not saying that the Minister is corrupt. He is saying that the Minister is putting something forward for a certain purpose and he is entitled to debate that aspect of the matter. It is a fair discussion. He is not suggesting any dishonesty in the personal sense or anything like that. He may be imputing motives but they are not improper in that sense. I ask that the honourable senator be not restrained from making the kind of remarks that he is making.
– Order! I think this has gone as far as it need go. Senator Anderson, do you persist with your point of order?
– I can accept the imputation along the lines Senator Murphy has indicated but there must not be any imputation that I am scheming or plotting in relation to something.
– I call Senator Devitt.
– Probably the Minister is as testy about this as I am. As I have made fairly clear, I have risen to defend the rights of private members. That always will be my approach in a matter of this kind when private members are given the right to express an opinion not only should they do so, but they must do so. In no circumstances do I impute improper motives to the Minister. I have a great deal of respect for him. I referred to the Minister in his capacity as Leader of the Government in the context that he was doing something which was not a matter for the Government since it has been freed of any party ties and is now the subject of a free vote. I think I have made my point. It is that we therefore ought to deliberate upon this matter and to come down with an expression of our own opinion based upon the facts after they have been properly presented to us. It might be quite proper to defer this matter. I am not questioning that for a moment. But, in all the circumstances, in view of the tremendous interest that has been generated by this question, and having due regard to the fact that there is to be a free debate upon it and a free vote taken I think it would be proper to dispose of the question in this chamber before going on to any other business.
– I feel that what has been said by honourable senators opposite and by Senator Gair ignores one very salient point. It is that we are not, on this motion, determining whether or not we shall ever vote on the issue which so excites the Opposition.
That is an issue which equally excites Government senators. We have been assured by the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) that a vote will be taken on this issue. That is an assurance which has been given to all honourable senators.
– That is an assurance to all senators. Here I think we have to go back to the forms and procedures of the Senate. There is a standing order which must be honoured because of its antiquity. I refer to Standing Order 69 which reads:
Ministers may arrange the order of their Notices of Motion and Orders of the Day on the Notice Paper as they think fit.
That is what the Senate has provided, and it is one of the basic rules under which the Senate governs itself.
– But surely that would be subject to the will of the majority of the Senate.
– I quite concede that it must be subject to the will of the majority of the Senate; and the Standing Orders provide how that will shall be expressed. But until it is expressed, one of the fundamentals which ought to govern the way in which the order of business is determined is that we respect the right of Ministers to arrange the orders of the day. This debate has developed from an attempt by the Opposition, not in the exercise of a free vote, and an attempt by the Democratic Labor Party, not in the exercise of a free vote, but in accordance with the customs that guide Opposition and Democratic Labor Party senators, to determine the business as they want it.
We, as Government senators, necessarily and naturally support our leaders. Certainly, when there is an attempt to take out of the hands of the Government the order in which the business shall be conducted, then of’ course Government senators will back their leaders. I suggest that is the issue, and the only issue which is before the Senate at the present time.
I am concerned and many of my colleagues are concerned, as Senator Devitt is concerned, that, an issue having been initiated, it shall be brought forward to conclusion. But that is not to say that it must be brought forward to conclusion when the
Opposition wants it. As we have been assured by the Leader of the Government that it will be, I hope that in due course the issue will be resolved. But, with all due respect to what has been said, that is not the issue before the Senate on this motion.
Question put -
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister
Majority . . 2
– Mr President, I object to your ruling that the question is resolved in the negative notwithstanding that the vote was carried by a majority of senators. I have recorded my objection in writing as required by the Standing Orders and now move:
That the ruling be dissented from. (Senator Murphy having submitted in writing his objection to the ruling) -
– Is there a seconder?
– I second the motion.
– I further move:
That the question of dissent requires immediate determination.
– As the matter is not debatable under the Standing Orders, I will put the question.
– Can I ask a question with regard to this motion?
– If given leave, the Minister may ask a question.
– Have I leave to ask a question concerning it?
– Leave is not granted.
The question is:
That the motion be agreed to.
– Mr President, I raise a point of order as to the method by which you are proceeding. There are two motions, one that your ruling be disagreed with and the other that that motion be put forthwith. I suggest that the second motion should be put now without debate and that the first motion be considered after that.
– That is the correct method.
– Mr President, I invite you to inform the Senate under which Standing Order you indicate that no debate is to be allowed upon Senator Murphy’s motion that the motion of dissent from your ruling be determined forthwith. I submit that I am entitled to be heard on such a motion. I submit that the procedures adopted by the Leader of the Opposition demonstrate a clear attempt to bypass the words of standing order 448. I indicate this so that there will be no question later on about my views.
– On the point of order, Mr President, you have ruled that the matter be put to a vote without debate. That ruling should be observed. Senator Wright is proceeding to debate the matter. I ask that your ruling be observed.
– Order! Standing order 429 states:
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the President, such objection must be taken at once, and in writing, and Motion made, which, if seconded, shall be proposed to the Senate, and Debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day, unless the Senate decides on motion, without Debate, that the Question requires immediate determination.
Clearly, if the matter is to be determined now, the standing order which I am following here is applicable. I will hear Senator Wright.
– I am exercising a right to address you, Mr President, on a point of order. I wish the Senate to know that when the substantive motion comes before the Senate I shall be voting in favour of the hill, in exercise of the free vote that has been accorded. I ask the Senate to observe the forms of the Senate in the despatch of its business, irrespective of any individual opinion. Mr President, I ask you to look to standing order 448 and the terms of Senator Murphy’s motion. Standing order 448 provides that such a motion has to be carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of senators. Any standing order can be suspended on that vote. Senator Murphy’s original motion secured only twenty-four votes, which is not enough to give an absolute majority.
– I rise to order. Senator Wright is doing the very thing that he is not permitted to do under the Standing Orders. He is debating the very question that I am seeking to have determined.
– I will hear Senator Wright.
– I am laying the foundation of my argument step by step.
– I also rise to order. Under the Sessional Orders should not the sitting of the Senate have been suspended at 12.45 p.m.?
– I cannot tell the time very well.
– The first reference that I want to make on the point of order is to Standing order 448.
- Senator Wright, you are out of order in referring to standing order 448. I have ruled on that already. The motion before the Senate is in relation to my ruling. I have ruled that the matter must be determined immediately. On that there can be no debate.
– Mr President, I am raising a point of order as to your ruling. It might well be that we should partake of a meal and a little wine or something to sedate us. Standing order 448 provides that Senator Murphy’s original motion has to be carried by an absolute majority. Senator Murphy invoked standing order 429, which states:
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the President, such objection must be taken at once, and in writing, and Motion made, which, if seconded, shall be proposed to the Senate, and Debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day, unless the Senate decides on motion, without Debate, that the Question requires immediate determination.
– That is the point that we are now at.
– Yes. You have indicated that, if the second motion - that the question requires immediate determination - is carried, debate upon the motion for disagreement with the ruling is precluded. That is not so. It is on that point that I rise to order to establish the substantive right that each of us has that upon that motion there shall be free debate.
– Of course.
– If that is so, let us clarify the matter now.
– I agree entirely with Senator Wright. There is no suggestion that debate on the substantive motion before the Senate shall not occur. The present motion is simply to bring that on.
– I think that honourable senators are now clear on the motion before the Senate.
That the question requires immediate determination.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.58 to 2.15 p.m.
– Mr President, it would be a very sad day for the Senate if ever, when a ruling of the President of the Senate were disagreed with, the President could take it upon himself to determine whether he would entertain a motion for dissent. I can understand that there could be circumstances where motions of dissent were being moved amidst tumult, or repetitively, or in some circumstance where one might believe that really it was a frivolous motion or in some way an endeavour to interfere with the orderly business of the Senate. But when a motion is put forward seriously, and it is a motion of this character when the majority of honourable senators voting on a question, before the Senate have contended that the question was resolved in their favour it would be alarming to think that a President could ever entertain the notion that a motion of dissent could not be considered and determined by the Senate.
The ground of the dissent is that the majority of the votes was in favour of the resolution. That being so, I contend that it is the constitutional right of those who voted for that resolution to have it determined in their favour. Of the honourable senators present when the vote was conducted, 24 voted for the resolution and 22 voted against it. The Constitution of the Commonwealth is quite clear in relation to this situation. Section 23 states:
Questions arising in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of votes, and each senator shall have one vote. The President shall in all cases be entitled to a vote; and when the votes are equal the question shall pass in the negative.
Nothing could be clearer than that. It is perfectly plain that questions arising in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of votes. The constitutional provision does not even stop at saying a majority. There is no question about what it says - ‘a majority of votes’. The Constitution goes on further to deal with the situation of voting equality. The constitutional provision that I have cited must be observed. The only exceptions are those which might be permitted by the Constitution itself. The exception which applies to the Senate voting as a Senate is provided for in section 128, which deals with alterations to the Constitution itself. Section 128 states, in part:
But if either House passes any such proposed law by an absolute majority, and the other House rejects or fails to pass it. . . .
The requirement there is that a proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution must be passed by an absolute majority of each House of the Parliament, or in some circumstances, one House of the Parliament. Leaving aside that exception, other questions arising in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of votes.
It is true, as you have said, Mr President, that in standing order 448 there is a different provision. Standing order 448 provides:
In cases of urgent necessity, any Standing or Sessional Order or Orders of the Senate may be suspended on Motion, duly made and seconded, without Notice:
A proviso is added, as follows:
Provided that such Motion is carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of Senators.
– What were the numbers of the votes on this occasion?
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate interjects to refer to the voting result of 24 votes to 22. The point is whether the vote is carried by a majority of the votes.
– Not of the votes of the Senate?
– If the honourable gentleman wishes to refer to the numbers, he should also keep in mind the system in the Senate, which we all understand. I think on this occasion six honourable senators from each side of the chamber were paired, and one senator was absent. It is clear that the majority of senators present wanted the question decided in the affirmative. That is the practical reality, and an absolute majority would be of that view. That is the practical reality which is behind all this. But we are not concerned with that. The simple question is whether the constitutional mandate is to be observed. That mandate, Mr President, is the supreme law. The Constitution provides:
That is the Constitution Act - and all laws made by the Parliament of the Commonwealth under the Constitution, shall be binding on the courts, judges and people of every State and of every part of the Commonwealth-
The Senate derives such power as it has from the Constitution and is bound by the Constitution. No rule made by the Senate and no standing order made by the Senate can be made validly in contravention of the Constitution. I do not think anyone would dispute the proposition that the Constitution is supreme and that where there is conflict the standing order must go by the board.
– So far the honourable senator has ignored section 50.
– It is the duty of the Senate to give effect to the Constitution. Section 50 deals, as does section 49, with the powers and privileges of the Senate. Section 49 provides:
The powers, privileges, and immunities of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, and of the members and the committees of each House, shall be such as are declared by the Parliament, and until declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and of its members and committees, at the establishment of the Commonwealth.
Section 50 provides:
Each House of the Parliament may make rules and orders with respect to - (i.) The mode in which its powers, privileges, and immunities may be exercised and upheld: (ii.) The order and conduct of its business and proceedings either separately or jointly with the other House.
It is an elementary rule of law that a specific provision such as is in section 23 of the Constitution cannot be departed from under the guise of a general provision such as is in section 50. Where the Constitution declares that all questions shall be decided by the majority of votes it is clearly not competent, and I do not think anyone would suggest it was competent, for the Senate or the other House to make any standing order in conflict with that. Not only is the Constitution quite clear that it is the constitutional right of those who voted for this resolution to have it determined in their favour but also this is a matter which was raised some time earlier. In the House of Representatives there was a similar standing order and, of course, there is a similar constitutional provision in section 40 relating to the House. Section 40 states:
Questions arising in the House of Representatives shall be determined ‘by a majority of votes other than that of the Speaker. The Speaker shall not vote unless the numbers are equal, and then he shall have a casting vote.
In connection with that provision the Clerk of the House of Representatives asked for the advice of the Solicitor-General as to the validity of those standing orders. The
Solicitor-General replied, as appears in Mr Odgers work ‘Australian Senate Practice’:
In order to advise upon this matter, it is necessary to consider the meaning of the word ‘question’ in section 40 of the Constitution, which is quoted in the foregoing letter.
Section 40 is the one relating to the House of Representatives. The reply continued:
It is laid down in ‘Maxwell on the Interpretation of Statutes’ (Seventh edition, page 2) that ‘the first and most elementary rule of construction is that it is to be assumed that the words and phrases of technical legislation are used in their technical meaning if they have acquired one’. In my opinion, section 40 of the Constitution is a piece of technical legislation, and the word ‘question’ occurring therein must be understood, in the technical sense which it has acquired, as meaning a question proposed upon motion.
In my opinion, every matter before the House which is proposed in the form of a motion, and upon which a question is subsequently put, is a Question arising’ in that House, and must bo determined by a majority of votes, as provided by section 40.
The power given by section 50 to each House to make rules and orders with respect to the order and conduct of its business and proceedings does not confer power to make rules and orders which are inconsistent with the Constitution. The provisions of section 40, interpreted in the manner I have shown, are of general application, and cannot be cut down by rules or orders made under section 50. The Standing Orders referred to in your letter appear, therefore, to be invalid.
Mr Odgers continues:
But the Constitution does not provide that every matter must be determined by a majority of votes. The Constitution goes further, both in the matters of Constitution bills and proposed laws at a joint sitting, reference to which has already been made. The provisions of section 40 (and, it follows, of section 23 in relation to the Senate) are not, therefore, of general application.
The early Senate’s interpretation of the word questions’ in the Constitution differed from that of the Solicitor-General. The Senate drew a definite distinction between questions in the ordinary sense and those questions which are merely a part of the procedure of the Senate, or of a rule laid down (pursuant to section 50) to enable questions to be dealt with. If this were not so, it was argued, why did not the framers of the Constitution, when drafting section 50 giving power to make standing orders, insert the words ‘subject to the limitation laid down in section 23’? The reason, it was contended, was that they recognised fully that they had laid down no such limitation.
That would be an argument which it would be extremely difficult for anyone to accept when, on a specific matter, the Constitution has laid down for everyone what the procedure is to be in the Senate on a question. It is nonsense to suggest, as the SolicitorGeneral said in moderate language, that a standing order could impose something which was inconsistent with the Constitution, Mr Odgers continued:
Notwithstanding the Solicitor-General’s opinion (given in 1935), the House of Representatives did not as a consequence amend its Standing Orders bo as to remove voting stipulations; rather did it see fit to disregard them. The question was not resolved until 1950, when the House of Representatives adopted a revised code of rules. Certain of the original voting stipulations were left out, but the House did retain the provision requiring an obsolute majority of votes for a motion, without notice, for the suspension of the Standing Orders. The Senate may be pardoned if it takes satisfaction from the fact that, notwithstanding the constitutional opinion already referred to, the House of Representatives, by its adoption of the absolute majority rule for a suspension of the Standing Orders without notice, confirmed the wisdom of the procedure in the Senate.
The question is not one as to what is the wisdom of the procedure; the question is what the Constitution requires. The Constitution is quite plain, lt says:
Questions arising in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of votes, and each senator shall have one vote.
The question arose in the Senate and I do not think anyone can say seriously that this was not a question for the Senate. This was a question proposed by a motion and put to a vote. It was a question arising in the Senate. It has been determined by a majority of votes and your ruling, Mr President, is in conflict with that. The question of wisdom is something altogether different. Adequate provision can be made for the giving of notices, and in a matter such as this it is obvious that there ought to be a simple procedure whereby a senator can give notice 1 or 2 days before, if he chooses to do so, and the matter will come on and be dealt with. One of the problems in a matter of this kind is that if I had given notice on this only yesterday it would have gone down to the bottom of the notice paper and would never have been dealt with.
– The honourable senator has his own contingent notice of motion on the notice paper.
– That is dealing with business only. As to the wisdom of the present procedure, Mr President, I suggest with respect that the procedure would not be a very wise one if it were not for the constitutional requirement, but here is the constitutional requirement and our submission, therefore, is that you should observe it. It has been said that you do not have to interpret the Constitution, but here you have a duty, as the Senate has, to apply the Constitution. We have a constitutional right to the determination of this question in our favour and I ask the Senate to endorse that view.
– I have considered the arguments propounded by the Leader of the Opposition. In substance they state that standing order 448 is not in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Constitution. There is no suggestion that my ruling was not given in accordance with the existing Standing Orders. In the circumstances I do not consider that the Senate is the proper body to determine questions of constitutional law, and it has always been agreed that the President cannot be called upon to give such legal opinions. The forum for constitutional issues is the High Court of Australia. What I have said, however, does not in any way preclude the Senate from amending its Standing Orders, if it so wishes, but I ask the Senate to consider very closely the situation which arises if the present motion is allowed to proceed and, perhaps, be agreed to. The situation would not, without an amendment of the Standing Orders, lead to a position other than one where I would, of necessity, feel obliged to continue ruling in favour of the necessity of absolute majorities.
The passing of the present motion would not, in my view, constitute anything approaching a judgment on the constitutional validity of the standing order in question, and I am sure that the Senate will agree with that proposition. The matter is one of the greatest importance to the Senate and should be seriously considered by the Senate at an appropriate time which, I suggest, would be after consideration and report by the Standing Orders Committee. At the moment I do not consider that the circumstances and the reasons given for this motion justify me in permitting the motion. I therefore declare that it is not in order and propose to proceed with the business of the Senate as set out in the notice paper.
– Mr President, I object to your ruling and I dissent from it.
– Is the objection stated in writing?
– Yes. I move:
That the ruling be dissented from.
– Mr President, I rise to order. I submit that the motion is not in order and I challenge the mover to cite the standing order with which he claims he complies.
– It is standing order 429. (Senator Murphy having submitted his objection to the ruling in writing) -
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) put:
That the question requires immediate determination.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . ….. 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– It is curious how questions arise. From circumstances that may not have seemed very important in the beginning, sometimes great questions arise. We see an example of that today in this chamber. The question before us, stripped downto its essence, is whether the President of the Senate is entitled to refuse to accept a motion of dissent which is put seriously and obviously in furtherance of the desires of a majority of those who voted on a question. Not in any way is it suggested that the first motion of dissent was frivolous or intended to create some tumult to disrupt the proceedings. It was moved in order that those who voted on a matter might obtain the ruling of the Senate as to their rights on the determination of questions in the Senate. The President, by this ruling, is arrogating to himself the right to prevent the Senate voting on that question. One would think that the first rule is that the President is the servant of the chamber. He is not the master of the chamber. He is here to see that the proceedings are conducted in an orderly fashion.
I put it to the chamber, Mr President, that when a serious motion of dissent is put forward in the way that the first motion of dissent was put forward it is no part of your function to decide that you will not allow it to be put to the chamber. If you have that power, the Senate is no longer the master of its own procedure. We have had previous occasions on which it has been said in this chamber that certain things were done as a matter of practice. They had been done, but we changed the practice. The rule is that, subject to the Constitution, the Senate is the master of its own procedure. The president of a chamber such as this can never arrogate to himself the right to determine questions which it is for the members to determine.
The purpose of the first motion of dissent is to ascertain the decision of the members of the Senate. It is not within your province, Mr President, to intercede between someone who proposes a motion in this manner and the chamber itself and to prevent that motion of dissent being put. If that were within your province, we would be in an impossible position; it would mean dictatorship in this chamber. I ask that on this important but extremely simple question the Senate support my motion of dissent from your ruling.
– The first thing that I would like to say is how much I regret the expressions which have just fallen from Senator Murphy and which impute to the Chair an attempt to arrogate from the chamber itself a decision that properly belongs to the chamber. I should have thought that it would be recognised, at least by the legal men in the chamber and by all senators who are jealous of the efficacy of the Parliament, that where a question of constitutional law comes into issue a House of the Parliament cannot determine it, and that a House of the Parliament is the most inappropriate place to express an opinion upon it. Therefore, Mr President, I would repudiate entirely the expressions of the Leader of the Opposition suggesting that your reference to the constitutional questions was an attempt to deprive this chamber of its proper jurisdiction.
It is said by the Leader of the Opposition that this is a serious motion. It may be from a subjective point of view, but looking at the terms of standing order 448 one sees that it provides for the regulation of our proceedings, and we are considering now only the regulation of our proceedings. We are not in the slightest degree concerned at this hour about the substantive vote that may be taken on the Budget or on the site of a new parliament house. Standing order 448 provides:
In cases of urgent necessity, any Standing or Sessional Order or Orders of the Senate may be suspended on Motion, duly made and seconded, without Notice: Provided that such Motion is carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of Senators.
Standing order 449 provides:
When a Motion for the suspension of any Standing or Sessional Order or Orders appears on the Notice Paper, such Motion may be carried by a majority of voices.
These Standing Orders are of long standing, from time to time revised and still maintained by the Senate for the regulation of its business. Standing order 449 enables a senator who wishes to suspend Standing Orders to indicate his intention on the Notice Paper, the purpose being to apprise all senators of the fact that that business is to come before the Senate and they can make their own individual calculations as to whether or not they will be present. If they are not present they cannot complain of any decision that is taken just upon the votes cast by those who are present on the day.
Standing order 448 is the provision that this chamber has been prescient enough to provide lest absentee senators are deprived of their rights without notice, if they have arranged to be absent on this day. This standing order provides that in cases of urgent necessity a standing order of the Senate may be suspended on motion duly made and seconded, without giving notice, provided that that is the will of more than 31 senators - an absolute majority of the whole number of senators. So, there is no spirit of autocracy on the part of the people who wish this matter to be calmly considered - no desire arbitrarily to deprive of a vote senators who had no knowledge that this motion was to come up and who might have left the chamber because the notice paper provided as Order of the Day No. 1, Budget Papers 1968-69, and as Order of the Day No. 2, New and Permanent Parliament House site. Standing order 448 provides for what has happened today. But standing order 448 or 449 can be employed on Tuesday or the next day of sitting.
– I take a point of order. Surely what the honourable senator is doing-
– On what standing order are you taking it?
– I am saying that the honourable senator is debating, not the question before the Senate, but the very question which I want debated, which I have been deprived of having considered and on which there is a motion of dissent from the President’s ruling. I am willing to have him debate that at the proper time. But he is not debating the question before the Senate. He is debating the original question, which at the moment I am trying to have put back before the Senate.
– The point of order is not upheld.
– I like to have a logical argument. I do not pretend to put my argument just in one bucketful of emotion or prejudice. I point out the terms of the two standing orders. I point out the substantive purpose. I remind the Senate that standing order 448 states:
In cases of urgent necessity . . .
Let the Senate bear in mind every occasion on which that has arisen -
The records in the possession of the Senate show that Senator Murphy moved a motion this morning for the suspension of so much of the Standing Orders as would prevent his putting a motion to this chamber to transpose items No. 1 and 2 on the notice paper. The standing order continues:
Provided that such Motion is carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of Senators.
Senator Murphy has gone on record, and the Clerks, who speak much more conclusively, have told us after telling the chamber that the voting this morning was 24 to 22 and this afternoon 25 to 22. In any case, neither 24 nor 25, according to simple arithmetic, represents an absolute majority of the whole number of senators. That is to say, the whole number of senators being 60 - let me distil this into the simplest terms - an absolute majority woul’d require at least 31 votes. When each of the two motions of dissent was divided on, it failed to achieve that number.
That analysis of the position shows quite clearly that Senator Murphy is not seeking to dissent from the ruling of the President that with a vote numbering only 24 he did not get an absolute majority of the whole number of senators. He wants to say that by virtue of some superior authority he is entitled to have a ruling that the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders, made without notice, was carried. No person who has the slightest regard for his conscience, and who can read and do simple arithmetic, could allow himself to subscribe to that proposition unless he ignored the last two lines in the text of standing order No. 448. No responsible person could affirm the proposition that with 25 votes the motion had an absolute majority of the whole number of senators. There we have the Standing Orders. They are made by the deliberate will of this chamber and the only way in which, I submit, conscientious support could go to the senator would be to say that the standing order in question did not exist. No-one can say that.
I am very grateful to Senator Murphy for stating the ground of his approach because in the law courts, where we are accustomed to arguing against each other and establishing principles upon which a law should be evolved, we have a rule that if any surprise point of law is raised or if there is a point of law on which there is no common ground we inform the other side to prevent surprise and to enable our opponent to give of his best to the tribunal in elucidation or interpretation of a constitutional question. But if we want to bring this forum down to the stage where Rafferty rides then we will deal with it as if we had heard the argument for the first time this afternoon. You will forgive me, Mr President, and I hope the chamber will exercise a little patience with me if, in that disadvantageous position, I necessarily take a little time in an attempt to express my viewpoint upon that constitutional matter.
– You are only wasting time. You know there is no validity in what you are saying.
– What cant that is from Senator Cavanagh. I have listened to Senator Cavanagh with great patience and with great endeavour to assist and to elucidate what he has attempted to say on many occasions, and have found that his arguments have been groundless. But let me pass by his interjection.
– Mr President, I raise a point of order. The honourable senator has indicated quite clearly that he wants to take some time to deal with the constitutional requirement.
– You used it in your argument.
– Of course I used it in my argument.
– You are not prepared to listen to a rebuttal.
– It is quite clear that I used it in my argument on a motion which I want to have debated in this chamber. Senator Wright then will be entitled to argue it as much as he likes. That is not the question presently before the Senate. The only question is whether you are right, Mr President, in your ruling that is preventing the Senate from debating this very matter that Senator Wright wants to debate. That is the only question. It is a simple question. If it is resolved the debate will resume on the matter of the constitutional requirement and he can go his hardest. Surely that is simple enough. He is trespassing, outside this question, on the general question of what the Constitution requires.
– This is a preposterous proposition. Here we have the Leader of the Opposition bringing forward a constitutional argument in relation to which I want my right to argue in due course. When he is put to the test he runs away and tries to get protection from you, Mr President, by way of a point or order.
– I should like to speak in support of the point of order taken by Senator Murphy. The simple question we are discussing now is not your original ruling, Mr President, that the resolution had not passed because we did not have an absolute majority of senators. That is not the question we are debating. We will not be able to discuss that ruling until we have overcome the obstacle that you have .placed before us by saying that we cannot move dissent from your ruling. That is what you have said. You have said that the motion of dissent is not in order, and it is from that second ruling that Senator Murphy has moved dissent. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the relevant question is whether we are able to dissent from a certain ruling. The constitutional question, very interesting and very important as it is, does not arise in this discussion of this motion.
– May I intervene on the point of order, Mr President. I can accept clarification as water from a crystal stream when I need it, but I fail to understand this nicety. I understood the position to be that we were discussing a motion by Senator Murphy that he dissented from your ruling to the effect that his motion for the suspension of Standing Orders was not carried by virtue of the fact-
– No, you are wrong. That is the precise point.
– Let me see the motion which is in writing.
– Order! The question before the Chair is, that the ruling of the President on the first dissent motion is not in order.
– That is all, not the general question at all.
– Speaking to the objection on the point of order, I was indebted to Senator Murphy for explaining that although the text of the Standing Order would not justify his motion, the constitutional right that he said we could all invoke under section 23 of the Constitution did justify it. Therefore if he is to base his dissent from your ruling upon a discussion of section 23 of the Constitution without notice to anybody, is it to be suggested that I am to be precluded from discussing the matter here when he is advancing the proposition that the Senate should accept a motion of dissent? On the point of order I would submit that the Senate is entitled to discuss both the meaning of standing order 448 and the constitutional question that Senator Murphy invoked.
– On the point of order, Mr President, would I be in order in asking you to read again the ruling you gave in relation to this matter so that Senator Wright and perhaps other honourable senators will know exactly how you ruled? I am certain that Senator Wright has the two motions mixed.
– The ruling 1 gave earlier is as follows:
I have considered the arguments propounded by the Leader of the Opposition which, in substance, state that standing order 448 is not in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Constitution. There is no suggestion that my ruling was not given in accordance with the existing standing orders.
– Yes there is.
– Order! It is usual to hear the President in silence. My ruling goes on:
In the circumstances I do not consider that the Senate is the proper body to determine questions of constitutional law, and it has always been agreed that the President cannot be called upon to give such legal opinions. The forum for constitutional issues is the High Court of Australia. What I have said, however, does not in any way preclude the Senate from amending its Standing Orders if it so wishes, but I ask the Senate to consider very closely the situation which arises if the present motion is allowed to proceed and perhaps be agreed to. The situation would not, without an amendment of the Standing Orders, lead to a position other than one where I would, of necessity, feel obliged to continue ruling in favour of the necessity of absolute majorities. The passing of the present motion would not, in my view, constitute anything approaching a judgment on the constitutional validity of the standing order in question, and I am sure the Senate will agree with that proposition.
The matter is one of the greatest importance to the Senate and should be seriously considered by the Senate at an appropriate time which, I suggest, would be after consideration and report by the Standing Orders Committee. At the moment I do not consider that the circumstances and the reasons given for the motion justify me in proceeding any further with the motion, and I do not intend to allow the motion to proceed.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. It appears quite clearly from the ruling that you have just read, Mr President, that you have given consideration to the propriety of the Senate embarking upon difficult constitutional questions. Because you feel that this is not a matter for the Senate, you have ruled that the particular motion moved by Senator Murphy originally should not be accepted.
With all respect to the points of view which may be coming from the Opposition, it is quite apparent that your ruling, as a constitutional issue, does require the consideration of constitutional points. Surely, to determine whether or not Senator Murphy’s second motion is good or bad, weight must be given to the constitutional point which prompted you to give your first ruling. Unless that sort of consideration can be given, there cannot be a proper evaluation of Senator Murphy’s motion. I would have thought, on the point of order, therefore, that it is clear, and desirable, that the constitutional issues be canvassed in order that there can be a proper assessment of Senator Murphy’s motion.
– Whose responsibility is it?
– Senator Gair wants to know whose responsibility it is. I would have thought that the one thing which Parliament in regard to the internal affairs of Parliament, should respect is that they are not given away to anybody, be it a High Court or anybody else. Of course, if individuals are affected by rulings which are regarded as improper, then those individuals cannot be shut out from the courts. I think that essentially this is a matter for Parliament, and, in due course, when we get on to the constitutional issues, I think there is ample precedent, if honourable senators opposite are interested in courts of law, which ought to govern the Senate on this occasion.
– I wish to seek some information. Senators have spoken to a point of order. I want to know what that point of order is. You have just read out a ruling on a motion of dissent. Senator Murphy has disagreed with your ruling that you would not accept a motion of dissent. We have had a vote on the question-
– As to whether it should be considered now.
– All I am seeking is information as to what we are discussing.
– We are discussing the President’s right to refuse to accept a motion of dissent.
– There are many senators informing me by way of interjection. Can you tell me what is the question before us at the present time, Mr President?
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I have dealt with the text of standing order 448 and pointed out that there could not be the slightest pretense for claiming that the President’s ruling was not in accordance with that text and, without any ruling at all, standing order 448 required that the motion be not carried because it wanted an absolute majority of senators. Anybody who can calculate 2 plus 2 would not dispute that. I am now resuming the thread of my argument, and, so long as I have the right in this place to stand, I will speak and put my point of view, and listen patiently to those of others.
Having stated that on the text of the standing order, I then pointed out that Senator Murphy had, as late as a quarter-past two this afternoon, treated us to the contention that, although those were the terms of the standing order the standing order did not avail in validity against section 23 of the Constitution. He claimed that we could not produce a standing order that required, before a motion to suspend Standing Orders without notice could be carried, an absolute majority of the whole number of the Senate without infringing section 23 of the Constitution.
I submit that contention involves a patient and calm consideration of the purpose of Standing Orders and the scope and true meaning of this section of the Constitution. Before I analyse section 23 of the Constitution, as I wish to do-
– I rise to order. Surely what Senator Wright now proposes to do-
– Order! Under what standing order are you taking a point of order,
– I take it on the ground of irrelevance. What Senator Wright is addressing himself to now is not the question before us but another question which I also seek to have determined by the Senate.
– Order! I would like to know the standing order under which you are taking the point of order.
– Standing order 419 says that no senator shall digress from the subject matter under discussion.
– There is also the matter of tedious repetition.
– I thank Senator Gair. There is tedious repetition, there is irrelevance, and there is digression from the subject matter of any question under discussion. The question under discussion is your right, Mr President, to refuse to entertain a motion of dissent, not whether you were correct in the earlier ruling that you gave. What Senator Wright is debating is a motion which I have moved but which you have refused to accept. The point before the Senate now is simply the right of the President to refuse to accept a motion of dissent in this chamber. It is as simple as that. Now Senator Wright is proposing to deal with the subject matter of the earlier question which I want determined. First let us discuss the immediate question as to whether you have the right to refuse to entertain a motion of dissent. It would be very simple if Senator Wright were to confine himself to that, and I ask that you require him to confine himself to the subject matter under discussion.
– Actually, I believe that you have ruled already, Mr President, on this issue, but before you give any further ruling, I want to know how it can happen that Senator Murphy, in putting his case, can advert to section 23 and read large tracts out of a book written by Mr Odgers on the implications of section 23 of the Constitution, and now refuse to face up to a rebuttal of his argument.
– There really are two separate questions for the Chair. At the moment, we are only dealing with the second. For the life of me, I cannot follow the argument of the Leader of the Government. Senator Murphy put a case at moderate length, primarily to contest your ruling, Mr President. He raised the constitutional issue. The question here is whether you have the right to refuse to accept a motion of dissent, and, if so, under what authority. I have yet to hear the standing order under which you exercise that right.
– Order! I think we had better get back on to a reasonable basis. Senator Murphy has taken a point of order. Up to a point, it is desirable that the debate be kept on the lines. On the other hand, there are several issues involved here, including the validity of my own judgment but I am not in a position to argue my own case. I ask those who speak to try to keep within the bounds of the discussion that should take place. I do think that the constitutional issue does come into our consideration. Senator Murphy may shake his head, but one thing he must remember is that whatever I am doing, I am doing according to the guidanceI am given and in an endeavour to uphold the Standing Orders. I am endeavouring to uphold the Standing Orders. In trying to uphold them I have no other course open to me than to do what I have done.
– That was the proposition which, if I may say with respect, I was trying to submit. The answer given by Senator Murphy was that Standing Orders can be given the go-by because of section 23 of the Constitution. I shall keep to the matter with as much brevity as possible. Having been thwarted from using section 22, I shall abstain for the moment and ask the Senate to hear for the first time what section 23 says. It states:
Questions arising in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of votes, and each senator shall have one vote.
I would regard that as a statement that each senator has one vote. The section continues:
The President shall in all cases be entitled to a vote; and when the votes are equal the question shall pass in the negative.
That section deals with the way in which this chamber reaches its decision after a division of opinion on matters within its authority. The division of opinion may be in relation to a motion, a resolution or a Bill. I repeat what the section says:
Questions arising in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of votes, and each senator shall have one vote . . . and when the votes are equal the question shall pass in the negative.
Over 3 centuries ago it was established that in relation to questions of constitutional Jaw to be decided by the courts the courts will not concern themselves with a matter of internal procedure of either House of Parliament. As my learned colleague, Senator Greenwood, has said, that has always been regarded as a matter of determination in the Houses of Parliament. That is why section 50 of the Constitution provides:
Each House of the Parliament may make rules and orders with respect to -
The mode in which its powers, privileges, and immunities may be exercised and upheld:
The order and conduct of its business and proceedings either separately or jointly with the other House.
That is a clear, constitutional guarantee that each House - and it includes the Senate - may make orders with respect to the order and conduct of its business. An order has been made that the business paper shall be ordered as the Ministers direct, and then we have a Standing Order-
– What if we exceed our power?
– I am considering whether we have. Honourable senators opposite can follow my argument and answer it if they think it is invalid. What I am saying is that we have made an order as to how our business should come before us. Standing order 448, the existence of which nobody disputes, states that a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders, without notice, will not have effect unless it is carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of senators. How any body can say that section 23 countervails against that passes my comprehension. The two matters are in conflict because of a failure to understand the fundamental constitutional principle that the order and mode of dispatch of the business of the chamber is for the chamber itself.
– Is that what you say about the Solicitor-General?
– I say that the opinion of the Solicitor-General stems from an inadequate understanding of that constitutional proposition. I venture to say that that is the reason why the Standing Orders Committee of the Senate and of the House of Representatives and all authorities who have considered the proposition since it was stated have not given regard to it. They have not regarded it as a valid, constitutional authority. Mr Odgers has drawn the attention of many people to it since his first edition was published. I think reference was made to it in the first edition.
– Then why did you say that it came as a surprise to you?
– Because I did not have direct knowledge of this. Of course it was a surprise to me. I have not had an opportunity to refer to the case of Fitzpatrick and Browne, but I have a long distance recollection that the High Court referred to the conclusiveness of the certificate of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the determination that those gentlemen had been guilty of contempt was a matter which the Court could not examine because it felt itself bound by a certificate concluding the discussion in the House of Representatives. The Court would not venture into that area. Having attracted something of the understanding of my opponents, I would ask them quietly, without taking too much time, to look to section 22 and I invite discussion on the question of whether or not a vote in the Senate, when a quorum is not present, is one which any court could pronounce as invalid. I will not trespass on the wishes of the irritable any longer. I desire to keep strictly within the limits of relevance.
It is as clear as it possibly could be that standing order 448 is involved. It provides that a motion to suspend the Standing Orders, without notice, will not be carried except by an absolute majority of the whole number of senators. I submit that while that standing order is written into our books it is not inconsistent with section 23 of the Constitution. It not only authorises but requires the Presiding Officer of this chamber, if he is to regulate the affairs of the Senate in accordance with the Standing Orders to which senators have subscribed as to the mode and order in which business shall1 be conducted, to say, after counting the votes 25 to 23 and finding that 25 is not equal to 31, that the unchallengeable effect of the Standing Orders is that the motion for suspension of Standing Orders, without notice, does not pass, there not being a majority of the whole number of senators. That is say, unless everybody gives the go-by to the Standing Orders. The only basis on which giving the go-by has been suggested is the constitutional point which, I submit, fails.
– I suggest that the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) had the hare in the next county in regard to a lot of the discussion on this important question. I put it to honourable senators that the question before the Senate has nothing to do with standing order 448. Standing order 429 is before the Senate. It states:
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the President . . . and it was taken by Senator Murphy -
. such objection must be taken at once.
It was taken at once -
It was taken in writing -
Senator Murphy made such a motion ;
It was seconded -
That is what happened -
That is what would have happened had the
Senate not acted on the next exception -
Which it did-
There was none -
That is what happened in this chamber. Everything that Senator Murphy did was in compliance with the standing order under which a right is given to a senator to challenge a ruling of the Chair. At no stage has it been suggested that it was not a competent motion. Indeed, I am at a loss to know under what standing order you, Sir, have acted in ruling that the motion was unacceptable. Standing order 429 has been complied with to the very letter. What happened was that once the Senate decided that the matter was one for immediate determination you, Sir, ruled that a motion could not be moved in dissent of your ruling.
– I point out that the validity of the way in which Senator Murphy brought forward these motions is not in question at all. What is in question is set out in my statement.
– The Opposition submits that you had no right to act as you did. We submit that there is no standing order that permits you to say: ‘You have moved dissent from my ruling; you have given a ground for it but I will not accept it. I will not allow Senator Murphy to move dissent from my second ruling and I will not allow the Senate to vote on it’. The Opposition is at a loss to understand under what standing order you, Sir, can decline to accept a motion to the Senate.
– Order! There is a very simple explanation for that. I am endeavouring, as far as possible, to uphold the Standing Orders; not to break them but to uphold them.
– The Opposition understands that your are conscientiously attempting to do what you conceive to be your duty, but we submit that you need some authority to take action of this kind. We submit that you need to be sustained by some authority in the Standing Orders. That is the main point that the Opposition puts to you. We contest the view that you have a right to rule out of order the original motion of dissent. Had honourable senators opposite not trespassed beyond that point in their arguments I would have been content to sit down now but the Minister for Works had recourse to arguments which in a vague way suggested that section 23 of the Constitution does not mean what it plainly says, that namely, a majority of votes shall decide an issue. The Minister did not suggest that a different view had to be taken of questions of procedure and questions of substance. As I understood him, he merely said that whatever section 23 of the Constitution says, it cannot interfere with a duty to act upon the Standing Orders. The plain submission that the Opposition makes is that section 23 of the Constitution invalidates standing order 448 and, therefore, that to act upon standing order 448 in the way that you have done, Sir, is to shut out the right that the Constitution confers on those honourable senators who by a majority have decided that a question should be discussed in the Senate. However, in my submission, those questions do not really arise until after we have disposed of the first question, in which we contest your right to rule as you did on the motion of dissent.
– Sir, Senator Cohen posed the question: What is the authority of the President of the Senate to rule as he has ruled today? Senator Cohen suggested that the source to which one looks for authority is the Standing Orders and that, having found nothing in the Standing Orders, you, Sir, have no right to rule in the way that you have done. Senator Cohen is, of course, a lawyer and appreciates that the authorities by which courts are guided and by which he, as a lawyer, is guided are to be found not only in the statute law but in the precedents which are part of the law. Likewise, it has long been recognised that Parliament has its own precedents that guide it just as the courts of law are guided by precedents. I wish to refer to and quote from a volume entitled The Procedure of the House of Commons’, written by Joseph Redlich and published in 1907. I shall quote from this volume because section 49 of the Constitution indicates that the powers, immunities and privileges of this Parliament - the House of Representatives and the Senate - shall be, until the Parliament declares, the powers, immunities and privileges of the House of Commons. That means, of course, the powers, immunities and privileges of the House of Commons in 1901. Therefore, any precedent or guide for the conduct of the business of the House of Commons must be relevant to the conduct of the business of the Senate. Though our Standing Orders were derived from section 50 of the Constitution, they could equally have been derived from section 49. Let us look at what the House of Commons regards as authoritative guides for the decisions which arise from time to time. At page 4, that volume states: . . to our own day, common law and equity, the unformulated law, are inexhaustible sources from which the civil law of England is nourished, the former also containing the main roots of the constitution of the state: in like manner the modern provisions for the conduct of business in Parliament, welded together into a collection of rules, rest on the broad basis of the unwritten law, produced by centuries of usage in the two Houses, Sir Edward Coke saw this clearly when he said: ‘As every court of justice hath laws and customs for its direction, some the civil and canon, some the common law, others their own peculiar laws and customs, so the High Court of Parliament hath also its own peculiar law, called the lex et consuetudo parliament!’.
Custom, then, was the original source of the internal law of Parliament, and, till the middle of the nineteenth century, contributed more to its development than anything else. Now the custom of Parliament, as Coke goes on to tell us, is best learnt out of the Rolls of Parliament and other records, by precedents and continual experience. It is the basis upon which, as our historical account has shown, the most ancient and fundamental institutions of parliamentary procedure rest; this is true whether we consider the institutions peculiar to each House separately, or those which concern their communications and legal relations one to the other and to the Crown: the whole law of parliamentary privilege is derived from it. Even now a large proportion of the edifice of procedure stands simply upon precedents.
With that as a general basis and a general background on which to consider this matter, it is prudent to examine what is involved in Senator Murphy’s original motion, what is involved in your ruling on it, Sir, and what must necessarily be involved in Senator Murphy’s second motion. You, Sir, regard the Standing Orders as the rules which you, as President, are elected to uphold. The Standing Orders have been the rules of this Senate since the year 1903 and this is not the first time that the constitutional question now posed has arisen. It has been raised in the past and has been ruled upon in this Senate. When one looks at the background for some guiding decision, one finds that your ruling is clearly vindicated.
I return to the point at which section 23 was first resolved in the Senate and in doing so I return to something which is more pertinent to your ruling, Mr President. At page 2158 of Hansard of 1908 there is a report of the proceedings when a question arose on the election of the Chairman of Committees. In those days the issue was determined by the President exercising a vote. The President was asked to rule, and he said:
The section of the Constitution to which the honourable senator refers provides that -
Questions arising in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of votes, and each senator shall have one vote. The President shall in all cases be entitled to a vote; and when the votes are equal the question shall pass in the negative.
That relates to ordinary questions submitted to the Senate. But we are now dealing with a case in which certain names have been submitted to a ballot, and one of our standing orders lays down how we shall deal with an equality of votes. I have nothing to do but to carry out the standing order. It is not my duty to interpret the constitutionality of it.
– Did any honourable senator dissent?
– That is the ruling. The honourable senator can examine the record himself.
– Was the President’s ruling dissented from?
– I have not had the time to look into it.
– The honourable senator has the habit of reading only parts of the material from which he quotes.
– I have no such habit. I have given chapter and verse. If honourable senators opposite are interested, they can do the work themselves. As Senator Wright has said, this point has been raised in the Senate without notice being given to the Government in an attempt to use arguments prepared over a period, and without giving due notice to the people who might be prepared to raise contrary arguments. A vote has been held to decide whether the matter should be dealt with immediately. We wanted time, but no, the numbers were in favour of proceeding straight away. Senator Murphy produced constitutional arguments which doubtless he has had time to prepare. We must do what we can in the short time available to us. I have given honourable senators the reference to my quotation. I confess that because the volume came into my hands only 5 minutes ago I have not had a chance to study it thoroughly. If any other honourable senator wishes to study it, I have given the reference.
– Did not the President rule on that occasion that it applied to other questions? His only point was that it did not apply to a vote on the election of Chairmen of Committees. He said that it applied to ordinary questions coming before the Senate.
– My purpose in giving the Senate that quotation was to point out that the President on that occasion said that it was his duty to uphold Standing Orders and not his duty to judge the constitutionality of a standing order. It is a strange state of affairs when certain honourable senators expect the President to rule on an intricate constitutional question. That is not his function. A ruling on constitutional matters is for the High Court to give. The President is required to give a ruling for the Senate to uphold Standing Orders and to see that the business of the Senate is conducted in accordance with those Standing Orders. I cannot see how he can fairly be expected to rule on a constitutional matter in which the issues could go according to whatever legal advice happens to be given. It is also reasonable to refer to the statement by the SolicitorGeneral which was adverted to by Senator Murphy when he sought to base a case upon section 23 of the Constitution. Of course, the opinion of the Solicitor-General must be respected because of the nature of the office and because of the calibre of the people who have held it over the years. However, an opinion of the SolicitorGeneral, as anyone who peruses the law reports will discover, is not necessarily the last word on any question. It is simply an opinion to which weight has to be given. When the Solicitor-General gave his opinion in 1935 it was at the request of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. I will not read out the Solicitor-General’s opinion because Senator Murphy has already quoted it. However, it should be repeated that the Senate did not act upon that advice.
The second point is that the House of Representatives did not act on that advice, even though the Clerk of the House of Representatives had sought that opinion. I refer honourable senators to page 189 of Australian Senate Practice’ by Mr Odgers. It is relevant not only because Senator Murphy referred to the preceding paragraph but also because it represents the opinion of a man whose views and experience are to be respected.
– It is no greater than that of the Solicitor-General.
– I appreciate that. It is an opinion which is entitled to as much weight as that of the SolicitorGeneral. If it happens to go the other way, it makes the score fairly even. Mr Odgers states:
Notwithstanding the Solicitor-General’s opinion (given in 1935) the House, of Representatives did not as a consequence amend its Standing Orders so as to remove voting stipulations; rather did it see fit to disregard them. The question was not resolved until 1950, when the House of Representatives adopted a revised code of rules. Certain of the original voting stipulations were left out, but the House did retain the provisions requiring an absolute majority of votes for a motion, without notice, for the suspension of the Standing Orders. The Senate may be pardoned if it takes satisfaction from the fact that, notwithstanding the constitutional opinion already referred to, the House of Representatives, by its adoption of the absolute majority rule for a suspension of the Standing Orders without notice, confirmed the wisdom of the procedure in the Senate. 1 would have thought it apparent to all honourable senators that there is a lot of good sense in having standing order 448. It is not onerous. Standing order 449 provides that where an honourable senator gives notice of intention to move for the suspension of Standing Orders, a simple majority of the Senate suffices. Standing order 448 provides that if a senator seeks to move for the suspension of Standing Orders without notice, he can achieve his objective only if he has an absolute majority of the Senate. If that were not the case, the rules and forms of the Senate could be misused to the discomfiture and obviously to the prejudice of minority groups. It is a very sensible precaution to have a provision such as this. Notwithstanding the difficulties that it occasionally may cause for a majority, it is an essential protection for a minority.
The Standing Orders contain a provision which has seldom been used. I refer to standing order 283 which provides for a Call of the Senate. It states that 21 days notice must be given. If it were possible to suspend Standing Orders without notice by the wishes of a simple majority it would be conceivable for the Senate to be called together on one day’s notice and for a simple majority of the honourable senators present to validate that on the day on which the order was given. That is one example. Had I the time I could look through Standing Orders to find other provisions which, if capable of being overthrown by a simple majority without notice at any time, would cause the Senate to cease to be an institution of respect. It would be an institution in which those persons who had the numbers for the moment could achieve benefits and results according to their own interests.
In those circumstances, I believe that the wisdom of the Senate to which Mr Odgers has referred is well founded. I would think it a dangerous precedent in pursuit of a temporary advantage to give away that which the Senate has recognised as being of value for the last 65 years and that which the House of Representatives for its own benefit and in its own judgment regarded as wise to adopt. It always appears to me that there must be rules under which people are to conduct their affairs. That applies as much to the Senate as it does to any group of people such as a union or a tennis club, or any group where there may be differing views and the necessity to observe order in the conduct of deliberations.
Standing order 448 is not an onerous rule. It is part of our Standing Orders and it ought not to be regarded as capable of being upset in the way in which a challenge has been made today on what must be recognised as a dubious constitutional point. Senator Murphy said, and he placed great emphasis on this, that section 23 of the Constitution was specific. He read the words:
Questions arising in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of votes . . .
I agree that the words are specific and that if we left them at that we could wonder how anyone could debate the issue. However, as Senator Gair knows, lawyers can make a debate out of words which seem to be perfectly clear, and quite often the result for which they are contending is a valid result. Senator Murphy said that the only thing which could affect the operation of section 23 of the Constitution was some other provision of the Constitution, and he referred to section 128. With respect I suggest that he was quite right in doing so. However, there is another provision to which he referred which I believe has as much weight on the interpretation of section 23 as the actual words of section 23 itself; it is that this Senate may make its own rules whereby it determines the mode in which its powers, privileges and immunities may be exercised and upheld. Section 50 states:
Each House of the Parliament may make rules and orders with respect to -
The mode in which its powers, privileges, and immunities may be exercised and upheld.
The order and conduct of its business and proceedings, either separately or jointly with the other House.
The interesting legal question, if one is to pose it, is whether section 23 means that we cannot in rules which are made by the Senate bypass or ignore the provisions of section 23. In the Constitution we have, in effect, two provisions. One would suppose that they operate together and that we should not regard a limitation as being imported into section 50 unless that limitation is expressly put into it. I do not know what the legal answer would be. I recognise that there is a legal problem which, in my opinion, is more to be favoured in the terms in which I have been arguing. Nevertheless I recognise that there is argument which could be put the other way. This is a tricky constitutional matter, but should this Senate determine the way in which its proceedings are to be governed by what might be the interpretation of one or another persons of the law? Should not this Senate proceed on the basis that in its internal workings the High Court has no jurisdiction? This is and should be a matter for the Senate. I come back to where I started. What are the precedents and what are the rules by which this Senate ought to be governed. This very question was raised when the Standing Orders were first adopted in 1903. I have had more time to look at this matter in Hansard than I had to look at the other one. If one cases to examine Hansard of 17th June 1903 at pages 979 and 980 one can find reported a discussion on the effect of section 23 of the Constitution. Senator Sir George Pearce said:
I am very doubtful whether the word ‘questions’ as appearing in section 23 would refer to a motion That the Senate do now divide’, because it seems to me that such a motion is merely part of the procedure of the Senate, or of a rule laid down to enable questions to be dealt with. We are discussing now the procedure for dealing with the questions referred to in section 23, and not one of those questions itself.
Then he referred to section 50 of the Constitution, after which there was this interjection by Senator Playford:
That does not take the right to decide questions by a majority vote.
Senator Sir George Pearce continued:
That is a section of the Constitution giving us power to lay down rules for the order and conduct of our business. Section 23, to which Senators Downer and Playford have referred us, provides that -
Questions arising in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of votes, and each senator shall have one vote.
I would ask Senator Downer whether all questions arising in the Senate are decided by a majority of votes? I do not need to tell the honourable senator that they are not, and that there are some questions which have to be decided by an absolute majority of the Senate. If honourable senators will turn to section 57 of the Constitution they will find that, after stating the provision made for a disagreement between the two Houses, the section provides -
Then he sets out the section which requires that in the particluar circumstances in which section 57 operates an absolute majority is required. Senator Sir John Downer said:
That has nothing to do with it.
Senator Drake interjected:
That is not a question arising in the Senate.
Senator Sir George Pearce continued:
There is also a provision for the suspension of Standing Orders, and it was determined again and again in this chamber during the last session, that to carry such a motion an absolute majority of the Senate was required.
I interpolate to say that that statement indicates that even before 1903 there was a provision requiring an absolute majority of the Senate to carry a suspension of the Standing Orders. I presume that that would have been on a motion without notice. Why should we now, in the circumstances of what has occurred today, in order to give some temporary advantage, as it might appear if one limited oneself to just what is happening today, override the practice of the last 63 or 64 years?
– Did the President rule those motions out of order when they dissented?
– No, they were adopting the Standing Orders at the time. The report continues:
Section 23 of the Constitution deals with questions of laws- questions concerning Bills - and there must be a majority to carry those questions.
It would, perhaps, be unconstitutional for us to say that they should be carried by a two-thirds majority, or by a majority of four. But when we come to deal with standing orders for the conduct of business in the Senate, I contend that we have unlimited power under section SO to make such standing orders as we please for the purpose. If it were not so, will honourable senators contend that the framers of the Constitution were ignorant of what they were doing when they passed section 23? If they were not, why did they not in section 49 insert the words ‘subject to the limitation laid down in section 23’? The reason is that they recognised fully that they had laid down no such limitation. I recognise that certain members of the Senate have made up their minds upon this amendment-
It is strange how words come true, even after 65 years - not upon its merits, but simply because they intend to use the power given by the standing order willy-nilly1, and no argument will move them. I see nothing at all in the constitutional objection which has been raised to the amendment, and 1 ask honourable senators to support it.
– Who was that?
– That was Senator Sir George Pearce. Then the Chairman said:
I think it is only fair that when an important question has been raised I should give some ruling upon it. I admit both the difficulty and the importance of this question.
He referred then to sections 23 and 50 and said:
In my opinion the word ‘questions’ in section 23 refers to questions involving some principle or other which are to be dealt with by the Senate, and it does not include matters merely of procedure, as to how the Senate shall conduct its business. The matter immediately before us refers to what may be done in Committee, but in the Senate itself the same rule will apply. The amendment is taken from the New South Wales standing orders, and we have to look for guidance in regard to those standing orders to the New South Wales Constitution Act.
He then referred to the provisions of the Act and continued:
Having regard to the terms of our Constitution, and the specific power which is therein set forth that we are to make our own standing orders as to the regulation and conduct of our business, I think that the amendment is essentially one relating to the conduct of our business and is therefore in order. Incidentally I may state that, in my opinion, the word ‘questions’ in section 23 of the Constitution relates to questions involving practically some important matter of principle and not of procedure.
I feel that if honourable senators have respect for the rules by which this institution of Parliament is governed and have respect for the earlier decisions of the Senate, those words will not be disregarded.
It appears to me that when we have Standing Orders which have stood the test of time and which are accepted because of their intrinsic worth, if there is no strong or apparent reason why a particular rule is one which is not worthy of acceptance we ought to strive to retain it. Certainly nothing involved in the issues that precipitated this discussion today would warrant doing away with that standing order.
One wonders why the brute strength of numbers should have proceeded as far as it has. I remind the Senate that this discussion started with an effort by the Opposition, assisted by the Democratic Labor Party, to determine that which the Standing Orders give to the Ministers of the Crown to determine, namely, what business shall be placed before the Senate. I suspect that if this Standing order is abolished no longer will we have what has been recognised in the Senate for many years, namely, government control of the business that is placed before the Senate; we shall have a day to day determination and what some people feel should be placed before the Senate.
With all respect, I believe that this would be a disadvantageous step. Our present forms permit those who feel that they should be given some rights from time to time ample opportunity to secure those rights. This is a portentous day for the Senate. On the arguments that have been advanced by Senator Murphy. I believe that there is absolutely no warrant for departing from what is in our Standing Orders. That, of course, is what is involved in the motion that is now before us. I submit that the Senate will show respect, judgment and wisdom if it votes against Senator Murphy’s motion.
– I desire to congratulate Senator Greenwood on his speech. I did not agree with it, but I thought it was a very valuable contribution to this debate. There is a saying about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread. I suppose that that could be applied to me in intervening in a debate on what appears to be a very difficult constitutional and perhaps legal question. It appears to me that section 23 of the Constitution is fairly straightforward. It says:
Questions arising in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of votes . . .
It also appears to me that the eminent legal representatives on the Government side of the chamber who have discussed this matter have put forward powerful arguments that the Senate can, if it decides to do so, make standing orders that may be inconsistent with the Constitution. We have heard quotations from a discussion on this point.
A question that arose in that discussion was whether a procedural matter is a question. I have not heard anything to indicate that a determination on that was made by the body that is entitled to interpret or to determine the Constitution. What we have heard have been the opinions of a number of people. 1 think Senator Greenwood would agree that we have heard nothing decisive.
– We cannot get anything decisive.
– If that is the case, who is to be the authority? Is not the Senate to be the authority in that case?
– I would have said so.
– I am pleased to know that Senator Greenwood agrees. It seems to me that all thai the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) is trying to do is to see that the Senate has the opportunity to make a decision.
– Irrespective of the terms of the relevant standing order?
– I have been a member of many organisations. I am quite prepared to say that in respect of all organisations I recognise that there may be standing orders and so on, but the organisation concerned is sovereign. In this case I believe that if a member of the Senate moves a motion of dissent from a ruling it is not within the province of anybody, including the President, who after all is the servant of the chamber, to refuse to allow the Senate to decide on that motion.
– That is what (he motion before the Chair says.
– That is right. Senator Greenwood said that the question whether matters of this nature should be determined by an absolute majority has been raised in the House of Representatives and the Senate. We have been told that an opinion was obtained from the SolicitorGeneral. lt has been suggested that, because the standing orders committees of the
Houses and the Houses themselves did nothing about the matter, that means that the opinion of the Solicitor-General was wrong and that therefore the matter has been determined. 1 do not see the position in that light at all. All that that suggests to me is that the House of Representatives or the Senate decided that it would not upset the apple cart; that it would continue on the basis that it has the power to make standing orders of a certain nature. But the fact remains that the matter has not ever been determined. lt seems to me that the position is the same as it would be in other matters. Would anybody here suggest that if a Bill were brought before this chamber and in the opinion of the President it was unconstitutional he would have the right to sav that he refused to let the Senate determine on that Bill? I presume that in a case of that nature - a case involving the Constitution - as has been done on many occasions, the Senate or the House of Representatives would make its determination and then those who disagreed would have recourse to the courts. I am not a lawyer, and perhaps I am wrong; but that is the way it appears to me.
The final point that I want to make in regard to Senator Greenwood’s speech, is that he referred to the iniquity of the Australian Labor Party and the Democratic Labor Party in this matter. He said that they were using the brutal force of numbers. That is a nice expression. If Senator Greenwood wanted to see the use of the brutal force of numbers, he should have been in the Senate in my first few years here, when the Government had the numbers. On numerous occasions Bills of all kinds and natures were placed before the Senate. Senators distinguished on legal issues, such as the present Minister for Works (Senator Wright), placed before honourable senators amendments that had obvious merit; but in 3 years not one amendment was accepted by the Government in this chamber. That was because it had the numbers and it believed in the brutal force of numbers then. I say that it was a disgrace to the Senate that in that period members of the Senate brought forward amendments, many of which were of excellent quality, and all we were told was that people in another place had made a decision that no amendment would ever be accepted. That is an example of the use of the brutal force of numbers. What are we doing today? We are proving that the decisions will be made on the merits and nol by the brutal force of numbers.
As I said, I am not a lawyer and I do not understand all these intricate questions. After one of the divisions, about 2 hours ago, a distinguished member of the Government parties, whom I shall keep anonymous, said as he passed me: ‘Thank God I am not a lawyer’. 1 suggest that he is probably saying that to himself with increased force at the present time. I am not a lawyer, but it appears to me that it would be very bad if this motion were not carried. I appreciate that the President made his ruling only after deep thought and that he believes that it is what he must do. I also am placed in the position that I must make a decision, ft appears to me that the Senate must insist on the right of a senator to move a motion of dissent and to have that motion determined by the Senate.
– As I see the matter before the Senate, the first question is the one raised by Senator Murphy. If 1 quote him incorrectly, I will be pleased if he will correct me. As 1 recall, when he began speaking in support of his motion of dissent he said that the question to be decided was whether or not the President is entitled to refuse a motion of dissent. I take it that that is the main question before the Chair, although we have been up and down all sorts of alleys. But, as I recall Senator Cohen intervened in the debate to ask what authority the President had to refuse a motion of dissent. That is a fair question but I think I am entitled to put this question back to Senator Cohen: What evidence has been brought by the proponents of the motion of dissent that you, Sir, have not the power to refuse a motion of dissent? I think this question is just as valid. The Opposition is putting the proposition; surely the onus should be on it to prove its point.
Let me refer to a few matters raised by Senator McManus. He started by referring to the ubiquitous section 23 of the Constitution and said that as a plain man he felt that the substance of it was quite clear. I ask: What is a question? Is it a question in relation to Bills? Does it mean all questions? Does it mean every question? Senator
McManus is entitled to say that it seems quite clear but let me recall another section of the Constitution, the famous section 92, which provides for things being absolutely free. Numerous judges of the High Court and Privy Council have been attempting for some 65 years to determine what is absolutely free’, which to the ordinary man might appear to be quite clear.
Senator McManus then posed this question: Can the Senate make Standing Orders that are inconsistent with the Constitution? I do not think that this question is capable of answer, because who is to determine whether or not a standing order is inconsistent with the Constitution? This is something at which we ought to have a look. He asked whether the Senate is to be the authority to determine whether or not a standing order is consistent with the Constitution. I think it is agreed on all sides that the Senate is master of its own house. This leads me to the position in which you, Mr President, find yourself. Whatever else happens in this place, you must be bound not by the Constitution but by the Standing Orders of the Senate. It would be a sorry day if the President of this chamber were at any time enabled to depart from the Standing Orders and to rely on the Constitution to support any of his rulings. This would be quite a farcical situation and any President who attempted to indulge in that sort of exercise would quite rightly deserve the censure of this chamber.
Section 50 has been bandied about here and there. Let me bandy it a little further. Honourable senators will no doubt recall that amongst other things section 50 gives the Senate the right to make rules and orders with respect to the order and conduct of its business, f refer to ‘Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth’ by Quick and Garran, First Edition, 1901. At page 507 it deals at some length with rules and orders. At the bottom of the page, in a sub-paragraph headed ‘Standing Orders’ it states:
These are the permanent rules for the guidance and government of the House . . .
This is the crux of the sentence: . . which endure from parliament to parliament unless vacated or repealed.
Senator McManus referred to what my colleague Senator Greenwood called the brutal force of numbers. One would imagine that Senator McManus, who will no doubt always belong to a minority party in this place, would wish to have some protection left to minority parties. If the proviso is taken out of standing order 448 it can only bc for the benefit of senators on this side of the chamber now or perhaps one day, unfortunately, for those who are led by Senator Murphy. I submit to Senator McManus that this- proviso in the long term means far more to the protection of himself and his party than it means to a mere defeat of the Government on a procedural matter today. Minority parties in this place should realise that it is there for their protection. If the Opposition manages occasionally to score a procedual point against this side of the chamber, this means very little in the long term. I think I have said enough at this stage to indicate my feelings on the matter. I will oppose the motion of dissent proposed by Senator Murphy.
– in reply - The matter seems to have been debated in substance even though the real issue before the Senate is the simple one of whether the President can refuse to entertain a motion of dissent which has been made to him in respect of his ruling. His ruling may have been right or it may have been wrong. Arguments have been put forward on various aspects of the matter, but I ask the Senate to demonstrate one point very strongly, that is, that the Senate is entitled to determine these questions and the President is not entitled to refuse a motion of dissent from his ruling. In this chamber, where we have men who have been in all kinds of organisations, institutions, trade unions, clubs and other parliaments, I have not heard one voice raised to support the proposition that in any kind of deliberative body if the chairman or president makes a ruling and a member of the body dissents from it the president or chairman is then entitled to refuse to let the body determine the matter and to reject the motion of dissent.
That would mean, in this instance, that the power to determine whether I am right or wrong on the substantial issue is taken away from the Senate and left in the hands of the President. That just cannot be. Whatever the argument may be on the substantial matter and whoever is right, how can the President by his own action prevent the Senate from determining this question when the arguments - the concessions - all over this place have been that this is a matter which cannot be determined by some outside body. It is not a matter for determination by the High Court or any other body. This is a matter of internal procedure for the decision of the Senate itself.
I have moved a motion of dissent from the President’s ruling thereby asking that the Senate determine this matter. The President, by his second ruling, seeks to prevent the Senate from expresing its view. I would ask that the Senate uphold the motion which 1 have put thereby enabling it to be the master of its own internal workings and its own procedure, and not permit the President to take to himself that function.
That the ruling of the President that the first dissent motion was not in order be dissented from.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the ruling of the President that the question of the suspension of Standing Orders was resolved in the negative, notwithstanding that the vote was carried by a majority of senators, be dissented from.
– I will not take more than 2 or 3 minutes to deal with this aspect. 1 see that the motions put before the chamber by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) number some four or five. Now apparently he is putting before us the proposition that, according to the Standing Orders, his motion should be ruled as carried. Standing order 448 provides:
That relates to a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders given without notice. I want honourable senators to understand, as I am putting it, that what they are asked to vote upon is that notwithstanding that provision in the Standing Orders, the President should rule that the motion was carried despite the fact that the Standing Order states:
Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) [4.23J - The issue before the Senate on this occasion is, I think, significantly different from the issue which has just concerned us. 1 support Senator Wright, and refer to three standing orders which make it abundantly clear that this was a motion which required an absolute majority. Let us consider standing order 69 which provides:
Ministers may arrange the order of their Notices of Motion and Orders of the Day on the Notice Paper as they think tit.
Standing order 160 states:
The Orders of the Day shall be disposed of in the order in which they stand upon the Notice Paper.
Accordingly, once Ministers have arranged the notice paper and have placed the Orders of the Day, the Standing Orders provide that they shall be continued in that order. By Senator Murphy’s motion that order has been changed and, consequently, the Standing Orders have been changed. 1 say with all respect that Senator Murphy’s motion might have been worded more accurately in this way:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Order of the Day No. 2 having precedence over Order of the Day No. I.
Be that as it may, the effect of the motion is the same as if those words were in it. lt being quite clear that, in accordance with the standing orders, Senator Murphy’s motion could not be carried unless there were an absolute majority, the essence of this motion of dissent from your ruling is to ask the Senate to declare, on a constitutional ground, that a standing order is unconstitutional.
It might be all right for Senator Murphy, Senator Cohen, Senator Wright and others on our side of the chamber who have had some legal experience to express a view about the constitutionality of a standing order, but to ask the Senate to express a view and to expect that the view when expressed would be valid, is, I think, asking far too much. How can any individual senator say in all conscience that standing order 448 is contrary to the Constitution of the Commonwealth? Yet that is what we are being asked to do. If that is the basis upon which the request is made - and it is the basis - then 1 wonder at the temerity of the Senate in assuming that sort of view after the Standing Orders have been unchallenged for the last 65 years.
Having said that they have been unchallenged, I want to bring in those passages to which I referred earlier where this point was raised and the Senate itself disregarded the point and made its own decisions. I feel that once the Senate embarks upon a secondary High Court role and willynilly puts a standing order aside and says it will not follow it because it is unconstitutional, there is no end to the process. And all of this arises because the Australian Labor Party and the Democratic Labor Party wish to take the business of the Senate out of the hands of the Government.
– On a free vote.
– This is not a free vote. If it were, there might be a different attitude. We should never have got into this situation. I come to the point which I think every honourable senator should recognise: If, on this occasion, the issue is whether or not standing order 448 is unconstitutional where does this proposition finish? What other standing orders are going to be challenged at some time, without notice, as being unconstitutional? I think there is so much hazard in what is being done that the Senate ought to think about it fs there any advantage in any temporary benefit which anybody might gain from overthrowing rules which have this intrinsic value? If words could persuade, then one would be inclined to go on for as long as the Senate was prepared to listen on the basis that this is a proposition on which the Senate ought to be convinced. When we have standing orders which have lasted for a long time, we ought to strive to preserve them.
I respect your ruling, Mr President, because I feel that you have upheld our standing orders. Matters of constitutionality are matters for the High Court. They are matters for the lawyers. Even when the High
Court or the lawyers determine them, they cannot be sure that they are right because we do find decisions overruled a few years later. That is the sort of situation into which we are getting. I do not think it redounds to the credit of the Senate that, under the control of the Australian Labor Party and the Democratic Labor Party the affairs of this nation are hereafter to be conducted in this way in the Senate.
– The Senate is now able to determine a question which I think most honourable senators have conceded is one for the internal regulation of the Senate. It is not a matter for the High Court or any other body to decide. I think that was said by the President at one stage, and also by a number of honourable senators on the Government side. It is idle to talk of senators acting unwisely, or using numbers when what the majority of senators who voted this morning are asking is for their constitutional right to be applied in the Senate. That is a right which they have under section 23 of the Constitution which provides that questions arising in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of votes and each senator shall have one vote. It also provides that the President shall, in all cases, be entitled to a vote, and, when the votes are equal, the question shall pass in the negative.
– ls that not arguable?
– I suppose anything is arguable, but the arguments took place at the constitutional conventions when those who drafted it said that the Constitution was to apply to all the people of this Commonwealth and to this body.
I would adopt what was said by Senator McManus. The arguments put forward by Government senators are a plea for the right to have standing orders which are inconsistent with the Constitution. It is quite clear that if, at any time, any purported standing order or any purported law is made in contravention of the Constitution or conflicts with it, then, it is as if it were never there. If we are right - and this is what we are saying - then the Senate and nobody else should determine a matter such as this, lt is as if the proviso as to absolute majority were simply not there, and, in carrying out the standing orders, they should be carried out without reference to that proviso.
– What about section 50?
-I have dealt with section 50 already. Does the honourable senator want further reference to it?
– I do.
– It is quite clear that in any general provision in any enactment, one cannot cut across a specific provision such as that contained in section 23. Is it argued that section 50 gives power to the Senate to make a standing order inconsistent with section 23?
– Section 23 might be inconsistent with section 50.
– Does the honourable senator mean to say that under section 50 the Senate can say that questions in the Senate shall not be determined by a majority of votes but shall be determined by a three-quarters majority, or by some other number?
– It has stood for 65 years.
– I submit that argument is quite unreal. The Constitution specifically states that questions in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of the votes. We have had a vote in this Senate. The point has been taken that there was a majority of votes in favour of the question put. The Senate is asked by this motion to rule, in effect, that the question was determined in favour of the majority. To those who are concerned about the use of numbers and about reasonableness in the Senate, I would mention one fact which they are overlooking. That is that at the beginning of this day I asked for leave to move this motion. Had it been granted, there would have been no question arising now. It was a simple matter. The Leader of the Government knew I was going to ask for leave. I did ask for leave. If leave had been given it would have been a simple matter for the majority of senators here to have said yea or nay. But an endeavour was made by honourable senators opposite, by refusing leave, to invoke this majority provision. They thought they could really do it. Why, we even heard some arrogant remark from one of the Ministers as to what was going to happen. The answer which I hope will be given by the Senate is that the Constitution will be observed and that the question was resolved in the affirmative by a simple majority.
That Senator Murphy’s original motion of dissent to the President’s ruling be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That Order of the Day No. 2 relating to the new and permanent parliament house site take precedence this day of other business of the Senate.
– The stage has been reached where arguments that I made in passing earlier may be developed now. I could develop those arguments, but I want to come back to the point that I believe there is no necessity for a rearrangement of the business, as has been moved by Senator Murphy. During the earlier debate Senator Wright stated the other means by which the matter could be brought on by a simple majority vote. I believe that my original point about urgency was quite a valid one. The urgency in relation to the new parliament house site must be linked with the urgency of procedures in another place. I gave an assurance that we would have a vote on the question of the new parliament house site. That vote would have been taken within the time limit, even if the Budget debate had continued, and that would have been a protection against the risk that considerations of urgency would not be met. When the vote is taken it will be a free vote. I believe that there is a far more important matter with which we should make a degree of progress. It relates to the Budget debate. In accordance with the Senate’s function in relation to the Budget it is necessary that we should deal expeditiously with and pass certain appropriations. I do not want to prolong any argument. I think we all know the arguments that were put today. Naturally I resist the motion moved by Senator Murphy. It will be resisted by my vote and by the vote of senators of the Government side.
– I do not wish to add anything further. I ask that the Senate nowresolve the question.
That Order of the Day No. 2, relating to the new and permanent house site, take precedence this day of other business of the Senate.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - Mr Deputy President, I propose to read to the Senate a statement made by the Minister for External Affairs in another place today. I understand that at the end of that statement the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) will move that the debate be adjourned. Honourable senators will understand that where the singular pronoun in the first person is used it refers to the Minister for External Affairs. The statement is as follows:
When the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) spoke in the House yesterday afternoon, shortly after the first reports about Czechoslovakia started to come in, he was already able to say that from official information he could confirm that forces of the Soviet Union had entered Czechoslovakia and that East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria were supporting the operation. The Prime Minister yesterday condemned this interference in the affairs of an independent country and said that armed threats and armed intervention particularly since they appeared to be motivated merely by a desire for suppression of freedom of thought in an independent country, are a most serious breach of the United Nations Charter and of international law and practice and are deplored completely and utterly by the Australian Government.
Unfortunately information since then has added to the cause for condemnation and repugnance, lt is now clear that the invasion by the Soviet Union was not at the request of the Government of Czechoslovakia. It is utterly contrary to the wishes of that Government. I shall read to the House some statements that support the presentation of the views of the Government of Czechoslovakia. First 1 read a statement made on 2 1st August by the Presidium of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, this statement having been issued by the Czechoslovak ian Embassy in London. The statement is as follows:
On 20th August al about 1 1 o’clock p.m. the military forces of the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic, the Polish People’s Republic, the Hungarian People’s Republic and the Bulgarian People’s Republic have crossed the state borders of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. This happened without the knowledge of the President of the Republic, the President of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and their organs. The Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia was in session during that time and discussing the preparations for the XIV Congress of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.
The invasion of Czechoslovakia and the armed intervention by five states of the Warsaw Treaty were made against the will of the Government, the President of the National Assembly and other constitutional organs. No legal organ of the state power in Czechoslovakia had given consent to it or requested it.
The Soviet Union, Poland, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria have thus roughly violated the principles of international law and trampled down the United Nations Charter which in international relations prohibits the use of force or threat of force against the integrity or political independence of any state. By this invasion the integrity of the State of Czechoslovakia has been violated in an unprecedented manner. The invasion occurred despite the fact that Czechoslovakia, a small stale in Central Europe, has not threatened anybody and up to the very moment of the invasion there has been complete calmness on the territory of the whole state. There is no pretext for the invasion.
That ends the first of the statements I wish to read. 1 now turn to a statement issued by the Permanent Mission of Czechoslovakia to the United Nations. This statement contains a declaration by the the Minister for
Foreign Affairs of Czechoslovakia on 21st August 1968. Honourable members will recall that at question time the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) indicated that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Czechoslovakia, by sheer coincidence, was not in his country but is still outside the country. This is his declaration:
Today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the endorsement of the President of the Republic informed the Ambassadors of the USSR, Polish People’s Republic, German Democratic Republic, Hungarian People’s Republic and Bulgarian People’s Republic accredited in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic to transmit to the Governments of the USSR, Polish People’s Republic, German Democratic Republic, Hungarian People’s Republic and Bulgarian People’s Republic a resolute protest with the requirement that the illegal occupation of Czechoslovakia be stopped without delay and all armed troops be withdrawn from Czechoslovakia. in this historical moment we express our hope thai the Governments and peoples of the USSR, Polish People’s Republic, German Democratic Republic, Hungarian People’s Republic, and Bulgarian People’s Republic will understand the seriousness of the situation created by this aci which cannot be explained in any way, and all the less made stand to reason, and will make it immediately possible for the Czechoslovak people and its legitimate representatives to continue their activities without delay.
That is the end of the second statement from which I quote. A further statement also issued by the Czechoslovak Mission to the United Nations recounts in its opening paragraphs the invasion of the country and then gives a message that the Mission in New York has received from the Presidium of the National Assembly of Czechoslovakia. The message from the Presidium of the National Assembly is as follows:
The Deputies of the National Assembly - thai is, our sister parliament in Czechoslovakia - met and unanimously accepted the following declaration at a time when the Government and other organs cannot exercise their functions.
We - that is, the parliamentarians - identify ourselves with the declarations of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and the Presidium of the National Assembly protesting against the occupation of Czechoslovakia by armies of the five countries of the Warsaw Treaty and considering it as a violation of international law provisions of the Warsaw Treaty and the principles of equality among nations.
We request that the constitutional representatives, primarily President of the Republic Ludvik Svoboda, Prime Minister Oldrich Cernik. Chairman of the National Assembly Josef Smrkovsky, First Secretary Alexander Dubcek, Chairman of the Central Committee of the National From Dr Drantisek Kriegel, Chairman of the Czech National Council Cestmir Cisar and others be released from internment and thus could exercise their constitutional functions with which the sovereign people of this country entrusted them.
I interrupt my reading of the message to point out that this is an indication through the mouth of the Czechoslovak National Assembly that the leaders of the Czechoslovak Government have apparently been interned and are in custody of some kind or other from the Soviet invaders. The message continues:
The Delegation of the National Assembly, which we sent to the Soviet Embassy this morning, has not returned so far. We protest against the fact that the National Assembly, Government, Institutions of the National Front and their representatives are prevented from exercising their legitimate rights and further from freedom of movement and assembly.
Wc categorically request immediate withdrawal of the armed forces of the five states of the Warsaw Treaty and full respect for the State Sovereignty of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.
We appeal to Parliaments of all countries and to the world public opinion and ask them to support our legitimate requirements.
Again I interrupt my reading from the message to direct the attention of all honourable members to the fact that this is an appeal to this Parliament, as to other parliaments, from a sister parliament in Czechoslovakia to ask for our support for its legitimate requirements. I resume the reading of the message:
That is the end of the second quotation Looking at these events we find that the Soviet Union justifies its action by saying that it was requested by the Government of Czechoslovakia to render direct assis tance, including assistance by military forces, because of the situation created by external and internal conspiracy against the existing social order in Czechoslovakia and against the statehood established by the constitution of that country. That is the Soviet version of the motivation for its invasion. The Australian Government does not accept that justification. It is quite clear from statements that have come out of Czechoslovakia, including the statements I have read, and it is quite clear from events in that country in the last 24 hours, that what is being done in Czechoslovakia is being done against the will of the people and the Government of Czechoslovakia.
Here in Canberra, the Chargé d’Affaires of the Soviet Union, acting under instructions from his Government, called on the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) this morning. The Prime Minister at question time has already given an account of that interview. I was also present when the Prime Minister received the Charge d’Affaires, who delivered a message from his Government which attempted to explain the actions of the Soviet Union in the terms I have just stated. The Prime Minister indicated that the Australian Government did not accept this and expressed to him categorically and strongly the abhorrence that the Australian Government feels at what has occurred. The Charge d’Affaires undertook to communicate these views to his own Government.
Consideration of this matter has already commenced in the Security Council of the United Nations. The Council assembled a few hours ago at the request, of representatives of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France, Denmark, Paraguay and Canada. The Australian Government fully favours the convening of this meeting. In our view it would have been unthinkable for the Security Council not to meet when an event like this takes place and when the basic purposes and principles of the Charter are being breached so flagrantly. We await the outcome of the deliberations of the Security Council and for reasons that were lightly touched upon at question time this morning, it is extremely difficult to forecast or even guess at the course of debate and the possibilities of action that might lie before the Security Council.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant, has also made a statement and I should like to read part of it to the House. The statement was issued by the Secretariat on behalf of the Secretary-General. It reads:
This morning, the Secretary-General has had meetings with the Head of Missions directly concerned with the events in Czechoslovakia and with the President’ of the Security Council.
The Secretary-General does not yet have full official information in regard to the most recent developments and the circumstances which led to them.
It is well known, however, that the SecretaryGeneral deplores any resort to force to settle international problems, wherever it may occur, in contraventon of the Charter of the United Nations.
In the present case, the Secretary-General regards the developments in Czechoslovakia as yet another serious blow to the concepts of International order and morality which form the basis of the Charter of the United Nations and for which the United Nations has been striving ell these years.
It is also a grave setback to the East-West detente which seemed to be re-emerging in recent months, and to which the Secretary-General attaches the greatest importance.
He has appealed to the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to exercise the utmost restraint in its relations with the Government and people of Czechoslovakia, and strongly hopes that this appeal will be heeded by the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and its Warsaw Pact allies.
That is the end of my quotation from the statement issued on behalf of the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations. It is clear that one of the worst features of this very unhappy situation, as the Prime Minister suggested in the House yesterday, is that it is a setback to the hopes of a greater detente in the world power situation. All of us had hoped that the Communist and nonCommunist countries could widen the scope of agreement between themselves and work together for peace and economic development to a greater extent than they have in the past. It seems to us that the action of the Soviet Union has been prompted by fear - fear of the movement towards liberalism and relaxation among their own people, not least among the youth of their own countries. Fear is not a good basis for peace. This return to the brutal use of power in complete disregard of the aspirations of others - and I repeat what I said before, comes at a time when, in many parts of the world, hope was reviving that, as intended in the United Nations Charter, the great powers might find ways of working together for peace. In recent years in matters such as those relating to nuclear limitation, the helpful intervention of the Soviet Prime Minister at Tashkent, restraint of the conflict in the Middle East, and the apparent lessening of tensions in Europe, some nations which had previously seen the Soviet Union in Stalinist days as only a threat to the world, had recently begun to feel some hope of a better understanding.
This week’s events in Czechoslovakia have shattered these hopes. They have reduced the international influence of the Soviet Union and have strengthened the voices of those who see the Soviet Union as a threat to mankind and nothing else. The Soviet Union has not only done damage to the hopes of free nations; it has done serious damage to itself. How can free nations respect or trust a power that destroys freedom by force?
As honourable members know, the Australian Government was one of the first in the world to condemn what has happened. It has made its views as a government known to the Government of the Soviet Union, and from this moment on the Australian Government will continue to keep closely in touch with other governments on all aspects of the situation. We believe in, and will work with others to try to bring about, an immediate withdrawal of the invading forces, and we would hope to see that this comes about without leaving a puppet regime in their wake. Having said that on behalf of the Government - and I do not think that anything can be said more emphatically on behalf of the Government than what has been said already - I say that our view as a Government is clear. But the appeal that came to this Parliament and to other parliaments from the National Assembly of Czechoslovakia is something that extends beyond the Executive. It is something that extends to all parliamentary representatives assembled in this House. In the view of the Government this is a situation in which the Australian nation and the Australian people have interests and feelings which rise above the contests of domestic politics. Apart from the firmness of action which this Government has shown in the exercise of its responsibilities as the Australian Government, we would hope that this Parliament, as the voice of the Australian people, will be able to express - common view in abhorrence of this action. To that end I am proposing to move a motion for the consideration of the Hon*”, and a debate can ensue on that motion.
T seek leave to move a motion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
– In the knowledge that honourable senators would like to digest the statement and perhaps prepare themselves to say something on this most grave matter. I suggest that the debate be adjourned.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
– by leave - i wish to refer again to a question which was asked by Senator Poyser and which 1 answered this morning in relation to a rumour allegedly referring to the closing down of the Government Aircraft Factory at Avalon. I think 1 gained my wrong impression of his question from his reference to Geelong. I want firstly to reiterate my initial remark which I made this morning that there is no substance whatever in the rumour. Secondly, I wish to correct the substance of my later remarks to Senator Poyser. In fact I had misunderstood the issue raised by him for the more favourable workload situation which exists at the Bendigo ordnance factory on which I had a discussion yesterday.
Referring now to the situation at the Government Aircraft Factory at Avalon, as was previously announced by the Ministers for Defence, Labour and National Service and Supply, and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, a programme of retrenchments will be proceeded with now that the
Mirage programme is nearing completion. This joint Press release was made on 30th May. As part of this inevitable retrenchment programme 3 employees were retrenched at Avalon, notices of intention to retrench were issued to 7 employees on 15th August and a further 23 were issued today. I must add in conclusion that further retrenchments at Avalon will be necessary. However, there is absolutely no truth in the rumour alleging a total shut down of the factory at Avalon. I would like also to point out that my reply to Senator Bishop this morning dealt in part with this mailer.
Debate resumed from 21 August (vide page 203), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Senate is of the opinion that the new and permanent Parliament House should be situated on the lakeside site.
Upon which Senator Murphy had moved by way of amendment:
Leave out ‘the lakeside site’, insert ‘Capital Hill’.
– I take it that as Senator Cormack is not present I am in order in proceeding.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Yes.
– We are back now in the calm and tranquil atmosphere of the non-partisan debate on the site for the new and permanent parliament house. A couple of points that I want to make seem to me not to have been made in the debate so far. If they have been dealt with 1 apologise because I have not been in the chamber during the whole of the debate. 1 have been concerned wilh the question of the foundations for the proposed building which, if what we read is true, will be a quite massive building. I have read of it accommodating 250 senators and 500- members. .1 am concerned about the suitability of the ground for a foundation for a large and massive building. Those of use who have been trying to sleep at the Hotel Canberra in the last 12 months have heard through the small hours of the morning and sometimes in the silent watches of the early evening the dreadful noise of piling going on behind the Treasury building. The purpose of this work has been to establish a sound foundation for extensions to the Treasury building. If it is necessary to pile so noisily and extensively for what is, after all, not a great extension to a building which is not of tremendous size, what will happen on the flood plain along the lake front when there are foundation problems for a new and permanent parliament house which will be, without any doubt, a massive structure? So my first concern is the foundation problem.
The technical information that has come before us does not seem to me to give in precise terms the detail of investigations or what has been done to prove the stability of the lakeside foundation material. I am quite convinced that the foundation material on the hill is, without doubt, first class. On the hill some kind of platform could be established by going down to hard rock. Without any question that would provide a foundation for a building of arty size, one which would be completely adequate for the present and for any future requirement which may be brought about by an expansion of the Parliament.
The Australian Constitution, very wisely, has created powers within the Australian society. Their purpose is to protect the freedom of the Australian people. Constitution chapter I deals with the Parliament; chapter
II deals with the Executive, within which I include the Public Service; and chapter
III relates to the judiciary. 1 believe that there is a proper need for each section of those powers to establish Australian freedoms within the Constitution. It is my belief, without wishing to be offensive, that the real guardian of freedom in Australia is not the right of free speech in the Press and through other media but the Parliament and its functioning, the Executive and its functioning, and the judiciary and its functioning. T am extremely impressed with the need to view the matter in this light and to treat each as a separate guardian of freedom. I feel, therefore, that a need exists for their separation.
In earlier debates on this subject it has been said the Parliament equals the Australian people and that they equal the Australian nation. Whilst nobody has any wish to arrogate to himself superior power of thought, the Parliament is a real expression of nationhood, of national unity, of purpose and independence, and of the hope of the future. This is an institution which is the principal guarantee of the freedom and unity of the Australian people. Therefore it should not be placed in any inferior position. It should be placed in a position in which it will command respect and in which it will be seen. It should be isolated a little, although not in a massive fashion. The site on the hill permits that. It has not a very great slope. There would not be a great enlargement by the time a platform for a suitable building on the hill was established. The height of the building above the general surrounding terrain would not be so great as to make it inaccessible, remote or unduly elevated, although it would have elevation. I believe that that is quite proper.
The kind of building that is finally built will determine the amount of levelling that will have to be done. Some people make great claims about a tremendous need for levelling. But those claims are based on their concept of the parliament house that we require. They argue for a long rectangular building based on an east-west axis. That is somebody’s view of what we should have as a parliament house. This is one of the things to which I am inclined to object. Throughout this whole process I have had the feeling that people other than members of the Parliament and the Australian people as a whole - small groups with less responsibility to the Australian people and with less continuity - are deciding what it is right and proper for us to have. The decision on the kind of parliament house that we have will not be that of small groups of that character.
I would like to see the Parliament decide the site for parliament house. That is what it will do. When that has been done we should have a competition with a prize, or select a group of architects. I do not mind much which course is followed. We should have a wide panel of people to present various designs for various kinds of buildings. It may well be that we will not end up with a long narrow building at all. Some people might favour a parliament house like the one in New Delhi, which is a most beautiful round building and which has been designed in accordance with the concept of Sir Edward Lutyens. I am not saying that that is the right kind of building for Australia. All that I am saying is that it is a kind of parliament house that is suited to its position. In my view what T have suggested is a wise order of events. The Parliament will make a decision on the site. When that decision has been made designs will be called for. Then the results will be displayed so that interest can be taken in a great and enduring Australian building. Then the selection will be made of a design for a permanent building on the basis of the functional use of the Parliament both now and in the future, the site and the general purpose of concentrating the spirit of national unity in the National Parliament. Having done that, we will then proceed to see how much the building will cost and when we can afford to build it. 1 do not believe that we should accept the proposition that the thinking of somebody else should be imposed upon the Parliament as a superior view. 1 wish to offer a comment at this stage. It is not offered offensively, lt relates to something that rather amazed me. I have referred to the separation of powers in the Australian Constitution and life, as between the Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary, and to the need to maintain that separation, which is one of the great guarantees of freedom that we enjoy in our society. Last week we attended the opening of the National Library building. On the main platform we saw the three commissioners of the National Capital Development Commission. That is all very right and proper. But I was not very pleased to see the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia sealed down below them in the front row. That was a little disturbing to me. I am exceedingly well pleased that members of the Parliament and the Australian people have seen fit to accept this issue as it is, to debate it without rancour and largely in a non-partisan fashion, and to look at the position and say: ‘What should we do?’ - not ‘What does somebody else say we should do?”
A number of factors bear on this matter, on the basis of my views on it. A select committee of the Senate recommended that the permanent parliament house should be built on Capital Hill. Not long after that a report headed ‘A Case for a Permanent Building’ was submitted by the then Speaker and the President. It supported the siting of the new parliament house on Capital Hill. Generally, matters concerning the Australian Capital Territory are supposed to be referred to the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. That Committee has done very valuable work. I had the good fortune to be a member of it for a period at the time of the freehold and leasehold lands inquiry. I saw the nonpartisan approach to the Territory problems sind the feeling of members of the Committee that they are dealing with the national capital; that they should take their task extremely seriously; that they should take a long view into the future; that they should not impose their personal perhaps slightly partisan view; and that thay should take an objective view.
As I have read the report of this debate and listened to it with extreme cave, I have been conscious of my own emotional wish, which has grown out of reason, to see the new and permanent parliament house on Capital Hill. Nevertheless I have had no wish to force my view down the throats of other people either in the Parliament or outside it. Accordingly, I have wondered whether the Senate might not be more objective if it were to consider referring the examination of this matter to the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. I say that because of my own experience on that Committee, when I found it to be extremely objective and to take a very serious and purposeful view of things. I also say that because 1 would not want to have levelled at me the accusation that I have tried not to level at others. I do not want the view of somebody else imposed on me, but I do not want to impose my will and my view on other people. I am arguing for an objective assessment, of this matter. I do not see that much harm would come from referring this matter to the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory for a period. One thing that I know about the members of that Committee is that they get off the mark very quickly, get their work done very quickly and do not hesitate to go into matters in depth. I am glad to have had the opportunity to make my contribution to this debate.
– I desire to say a few words on this subject. When one votes under instructions from a party there is no necessity to justify one’s vote. Throughout today I have not found it necessary to do so. That is the party’s responsibility. But, when one has a free vote and comes to a decision, it becomes necessary to say a few words about the reasons why one reaches the decision that he expresses in recording his vote. Before commencing to give my views on this subject, let me say that on this side of the chamber today there was a feeling that the Government, or some members of the Government parties, realising that the vote would not be as was originally expected, namely, as suggested in the motion, made some effort to avoid a vote on it and the amendment. I hope that that feeling was not correct. But I am interested to note that the first Government speaker in this debate today, Senator Cotton, has suggested for the first time that the matter be referred to some other body. If that were adopted, it would avoid the taking of a vote on the motion or the amendment The suggestion may be an individual viewpoint and may not have been intended as another method of stalling-
– I assure the honourable senator that it is an individual viewpoint generated by myself and expressed quite objectively.
– I accept that. I do not entirely agree with quite a few of the arguments that have been placed before the Senate. I was a member of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House when it first considered the facilities that would be necessary in the new parliament house. I sat on that Committee for 12 months. Then I was displaced because its progress was not satisfactory. We might well consider whether that Committee was functioning as effectively or as speedily as it should have been. Other replacements were made after the opening of the Twenty-sixth Parliament.
When I was on the Committee we considered it our function to report on the facilities that would be required in the new parliament house. We had no right or power to suggest where the building would be situated. We considered what library accommodation was needed, what space was needed in the chamber, the office space that was required, the numbers for whom we were to provide, and the period ahead at which we should look. I have no doubt that if the Committee brings down a report on the necessary facilities we will be able to place it before qualified architects who can design an adequate and efficient building with the facilities required, wherever we decide to put it. So there is no question of consideration by some sub-committee. There is no ground for suggesting that we might get better facilities by further deferment of the proposal. We have the engineering ability to erect the building we require where we require it and with the facilities upon which we decide.
The Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) in introducing this debate said that his main consideration was to obtain the building in which we could work most efficiently. Australia has recently accepted the American principle that any building becomes obsolete in SO years, and we are building square, box type, light frame buildings for destruction and replacement after 50 years. These buildings are being erected in every State of Australia. Monumental buildings, with all the features that one could wish of the tradesmen and arts of the past, are being pulled down to make room for simpler, square buildings. One cannot rent office space in a building 50 years old in a capital city today. The conditions of work in such office accommodation are so much out of place that we find those buildings being replaced by new ones.
While it is not suggested that we should have a lightweight, square building which makes air conditioning easier and which makes services easier because all installations follow one wall, we should take into consideration in our construction the need for frequent alterations and not seek a staid building that will last unaltered - as might be expected - for 200, 300 or 400 years. We could well provide a monumental building of a veneer type construction which will permit much renovation and alteration of interna] working conditions in years to come. If we wanted to build for the most efficient working operations, we would go in for a modern, lightweight building. The type of office accommodation in such a building is much to be preferred to that which is available in old stone buildings. But I think everybody agrees that such a construction would not be suitable for the parliament house in the national capital.
We want something symbolic and monumental at which everyone can look with pride. It is only a question of where it would be best situated from the point of view of appearance. There would be no difference in the working conditions whether it was beside the lake or on the hill. There are no foundational difficulties on either site that: architectural engineers could not overcome. There are very few other difficulties. Problems of area can be overcome by modern architecture. But 1 think it would be generally accepted that any building looks better on an elevation than on a flat area. We build on flat areas near water for the sake of what is termed a restful look. Is that the intention in regard to the new building? ls that how it should appear to visitors to Canberra or to those who study the capital? We have recently completed the National Library, which is on a low elevation. Nobody would leave Canberra with a greater impression of the Library than they would have of the Australian War Memorial with its elevation, the gardens that lead up to it and its dome-shaped roof. The Library is a square marble faced building in a flat area and one has to do down to the lake level to see it.
My vote must be for the hill site for the sake of the appearance of the building as something that may be looked to in the future. There may be a tendency for incompetents to design the building or to make suggestions. It is obvious that the architects of the world should have consideration, and I like the idea that there should be a competition. If we are seeking to provide an attractive building using known methods of architecture, we cannot compete with the old masters of the Corinthian or Gothic style or the arches of Europe. Australia attracts no visitors for the sake of its architecture, ft is becoming of some architectural importance because of the Sydney Opera House, a unique building which possibly would fit only into a site which juts into the sea. While this building is held up to ridicule because of the muddling and its cost, no-one can say that it is not of unique design and something that will attract those who are interested in architectural achievements throughout the world in time to come, lt may be that visitors will not come to see only the Opera House but if we had a series of unique buildings in Australia they would be of value as tourist attractions. The Opera House will be a great drawcard and possibly will pay for itself over a period of years.
We have reached the stage at which we must get unusual design. There must be controversy and division as to whether it is good or bad. In 1964, when I was a member of a delegation to India, 1 went to Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab. There we saw the new parliament house and supreme court building, which was built tinder the direction of the internationally renowned French architect Le Corbusier. In order to make it appear to be coming out of the hill behind it, the concrete was left rough off the shovels. There was no plastering or adornment and there were no stairways. A ramp led up into the building. One could not say that it was not an outstanding building. One retained for a long time afterwards an impression of the outstanding achievements in this building, which is unique, lt stood out and it will be remembered by members of the delegation. We heard great praise in centres and cities all over India for the wonderful Parliament House in the Punjab. A member of our delegation who is now the Minister for the Navy, in a written published report - it is not confidential - agreed with my opinion that it would make a great cattle yard. So there is an alternative view from other people who have seen the Parliament House.
We should try to get away from a repetition of the style used in existing buildings. I hope that the new and permanent parliament house in Canberra will try to capture some typical Australia concept. 1 would like to see Australian rather than imported materials used in its construction. I do not know why we have adopted the habit of importing Italian marble. It sounds better to have Italian rather than Australian marble but the Italian product is dearer. lt has a nice polish, but we have good marble in Australia which cannot be worked because of the lack of demand. Whilst it may be true that you can get a better polish with Italian marble, the marble that was imported from Italy and used in the National Library was kept in its unpolished state. Those who will control the erection of the new parliament house should give serious consideration to the question of using Australian marble. We should try to incorporate in the building as much Australian content as we can in the form of materials, timber and stone. If Australian material were used it would be an added reason for pride in the parliament house of the national capital of Australia.
Other speakers have said that there is no hurry in relation to construction; the only hurry is in relation to selection of a site. I cannot understand that attitude. Aspects of construction must be given consideration. One point is acoustics. When the present Parliament House was built acoustic materials were not available and we had to rely on height to absorb sound. For that reason the acoustics in the debating chambers and Kings Hall are very bad. Office accommodation is another aspect that must be kept in mind. The conveniences in the offices in this Parliament House bear no resemblance to conveniences one sees in modern buildings. There is no doubt that there is a shortage of space. We cannot have visitors in our offices because the offices are shared with other members. Partitions are being taken down and replaced continually. Alterations are going on all the lime in an effort to overcome a particular period of demand for accommodation. We have reached a stale of urgency in the provision of accommodation. We should disregard any claims that the present building adequate. It is not. It provides none of the facilities that one expects and secs in modern buildings.
Efficiency is not the sole factor. I believe that a building of beauty should be erected in an elevated position where it can bc admired and looked up to by everyone who comes to Canberra. There is no doubt that visitors (o Canberra come mainly to see the seat of government and the Parliament House which they see from time to time on our stamps and currency notes. I believe that wc have on Capital Hill such a position. Therefore. 1 favour Capital Hill as the site for the new and permanent parliament house.
– I shall indicate my attitude in this matter in a very few words. The decision to be made on where the new and permanent parliament house shall be sited is a momentous one. It is a determination, not for today and tomorrow but for centuries to come. 1 am deeply mindful of this as we are asked to indicate our preference for a site. I approach this matter basically from the angle that the institution of parliament is our greatest heritage. Our democratic way of life flows from it. Accordingly I believe that the new parliament house must be so placed and of that type of architecture as will reflect to the utmost degree our respect for the institution.
The Australian Capital Territory was delineated and established for the express puipose of providing an independent venue for the national Parliament. Therefore, Parliament House is the very centre point, the origin, of all activity in the Australian Capital Territory. All other development has been and always will be ancillary to it and its functions. It follows then that the actual building must be paramount among all buildings in Canberra. In my opinion it must dominate the scene. It must be so located as to be set in the role of supremacy above all buildings and development. It must symbolise and epitomise the very purpose of Canberra, the reason for the existence of the city. This reason is the provision of the seat of government of the nation.
It must be placed in the most commanding position. No location in any setting is so naturally commanding as that in the most elevated position topographically. I know that buildings are inanimate, but there is something about a parliament house that embraces an element of vitality and life. This applies now, and I hope ever will, in respect of houses of parliament throughout Australia. But there is an especial lustre around the seat of national government because here is the apex of national responsibility. A dignified individual setting on the highest elevation available for the proposed new parliament house will underline to ,he people who come here from both home and abroad that we, as a nation, look up to the institution of parliament as the very source of our democratic way of life. For those reasons I favour the Capital Hill site for the new and permanent parliament house.
Sitting suspended from 5.44 to 8 p.m.
. I have two reasons for this. One is that he has brought the debate before the Parliament so that the Parliament itself might make the decision and the second is that he has given a free vote to Government members. As to that, I should also like to comment, on what Senator
Murphy said. As I understood him at the lime, he said he regarded this as quite a good thing and he hoped it would be done in his own Party. I would like to assure the Senate that 1 am not tied down to supporting the Government at all. I trust that I shall support the Government as a matter of conscience and not as a matter of discipline because I strongly feel that if ever it became a matter of discipline 1 would no longer be a member of the Party which I now support.
As to the general question of site, one thing 1 have not yet discovered is the reason for the haste for Parliament to come to a decision on this question. In moving the original motion, the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) gave certain reasons, but I feel that those reasons, which were promoted by the National Capital Development Commission, are not sufficient. If the siting of Parliament House is to be the most important decision with relation to the whole of Canberra, I do not see why the siting of Parliament House should be tied to the siting of any other building. Surely one should have time to consider this in a cold, dispassionate atmosphere. Any other structures that are to be built in Canberra should wait their turn.
I have felt all along that we are making an error in coming to a decision on this matter at all at this time. My own personal view is that if a competition for the design of the new and permanent parliament house were held, those invited to enter the competition should have both sides available to them and then, having looked at what the various architects could do with either site, we would be in a far better position to come to a proper judgment than we are at the moment.
What annoys me about this whole business is that the NCDC assumes that the lake site is the better site. 1 think it is arrogance on the part of the NCDC to assume that architects cannot design a better building for the hill than they can for the lake site because, until a competition is held, one does not know what will develop out of the designers’ minds. I personally believe that with adequate landscaping on the hill site we can get a much more interesting design on that site than we can on the lake site.
I rather feel that the leaning towards the lake site by the NCDC is indicative of its general approach to design. It prefers a set design, a system of geometric patterns with trees placed al exact intervals - what one would imagine to be the old 17th century formal garden concept; whereas on the hill site I think the architect or landscape artist can give full play to his imagination and produce something which would be unusual. I have in mind, of course, one of the original seven wonders of the world, the hanging gardens of Babylon. While Parliament may not be a Babylon, some hanging gardens would be of interest and would add beauty to Canberra.
– There was some babbling on this afternoon.
– I suppose we did babble on. One thought that did cross my mind at the time was whether we should decide on a site for the new Parliament House or a burial ground for the Standing Orders. Whether one decides upon the hill or the lake site depends eventually on personal taste, and I object to the point of view put forward occasionally that the NCDC has a monopoly of taste. Taste is a matter of individual judgment. It varies from person to person, and indeed from generation to generation. What is an acceptable, tasteful thing today could be a monstrosity tomorrow, and then, when the cycle makes its complete turn, become fashionable again.
The cost factor connected with the two sites has been mentioned. One thing that puzzles me is that we have never been told the cost of preparing the lakeside site. I should like to know how the cost of preparing the lake site compares with the estimated cost of preparing the hill site. One could well imagine that it might be more costly to prepare the lakeside site than it would to prepare the hill site. I also think it is somewhat arrogant of the NCDC to work on the assumption that 70 feet must come off the top of Capital Hill. Until the designers get down to work on this, how is anyone to discover how much area this building will occupy?
I was very interested in the comment made in another place by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and 1 am surprised that it has not been taken up elsewhere. The honourable member for Fremantle said: ‘There is not any reason that I know of why the Senate and the House of Representatives should not be on different floors’. 1 think the NCDC has worked on the assumption that as most parliament houses are designed on the basis of both chambers of the bicameral system being on the same level that is some sort of immutable architectural law. 1 suppose one could be cynical enough to imagine a building with this place, being the upper chamber, on the upper floor and the other place being somewhat under us, as it should be, with the Executive poked in the basement. That might be a rather good exercise. But I think we should not imagine that the building which is proposed to bc erected will necessarily be in the traditional form. 1 believe that the forms that the various parliament house buildings have developed into may have been more the result of accident than of particular designing.
Another point 1 would like to make is that the comments in the report about “he view of the hill from either Parkes Place of the lakeside relate to the view from one particular point of a 360 degree circle. I cannot understand why the proponents of the lakeside site continue to play down the views from both Kings Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue. It seems to be a typical bureaucratic approach and an approach more or less in line with the ‘keepoffthegrass’ policy that one should only be allowed to view Parliament House from one sector of a 360 degree circle. Who knows that in generations to come people might not even go to Parkes Place or to the edge of the lake opposite Parkes Place to view the new and permanent parliament house?
Another argument I cannot understand is that this present Parliament House will obstruct or in some way inhibit the design and outlook of the new building. It seems to be implicit in the proposition of the NCDC that it will obstruct the view. The unanswered question, despite questioning in this place, is whether the present building is to stand forever. I take the view that it would not stand forever if it blocked the view of a building which the NCDC decided to erect on Capital Hill. If this building in which we are now, obstructed come architectural monstrosity erected by the NCDC on the hill, the Commission would propose to destroy this place so that its monstrosity could be displayed in all its glory. I believe that the hill site will present a greater challenge to an architect than a flat, dull site by the lakeside. The new site, to which we will move one day, should be such that it will present a challenge. We do not want the new and permanent parliament house to be the result of some prosaic design. I think it will be an exciting challenge. An exhilarating design will be produced. The NCDC is convicted out of its own mouth by the submission which it presented originally to the Joint Select Committee. After saying various things about the lake site it said:
There is no doubt that the permanent Houses of Parliament could be located on Capital Hill.
A qualification is added to that in relation to convenience and to development costs, which matters nol at all. For those reasons I come down strongly in support of the amendment, which I trust this chamber will support and will carry.
– I intend to be brief in what I have to say. 1 am amazed that the issue has grown into one of such importance. It has been badly handled by the Government and and has grown out of al) proportion to the approach that the national Parliament should be making to the problem. Why the debate was not delayed until after the presentation of reports later in the session is known only to certain members of the Government. I am always suspicious when somebody wants to alter a design. I have seen a lot of altered designs in Public Service buildings. Every member of Parliament from Perth is aware of the problem caused by altered designs because today we Commonwealth parliamentarians are boused in Perth in one of the newest Commonwealth buildings. It is the Commonwealth Bank Building. Technically the building belongs to the Bank. It is one of the buildings that is being used by members of this Parliament and by employees of the Commonwealth Public Service. We are tenants. Evidently when the building was half completed somebody had the bright idea that more offices could be provided in it. Those are the offices that are occupied by members. They are wonderful offices if you want to develop film because there is no natural light. Also, there is no fresh air.
Unfortunately film is not processed in those offices; we have been put in them. I saw a lot of problems like this when I was a public servant. Somebody would design a very fine building with broad passageways. Another person would say that by putting up a partition two lots of offices could be created. That is quite true. But those offices would not have light and air. In this modern age we have to work under lights day and night, lt is an attitude which I cannot commend.
I am always very suspicious when somebody praises a good design but thinks he has a better idea than the original designer. With the site in question somebody has said that he has a better idea than Walter Burley Griffin. From the little I know of designing, 1 know that if Mr Smith designs a building he does it right through from A to Z. Mr Jones may criticise the design, but he does not know the reasons for it. If we walk into someone else’s home we may ask why the devil the bathroom is in a particular position. But we did not design or build the home. The designer knows why he has a particular room in a particular part of the house. If the Walter Burley Griffin plan is to be interfered with I want to know why. I fear that if there is some interference the same thing could happen as has happened with so many buildings housing public servants.
It is true that the new site will not bc on the exact site chosen by Burley Griffin, but the concept was that the new parliament house would be on a hill and would be looking down on and fitting in with the rest of the scheme. Canberra, with it bureaucratic control, has kept so assiduously and so closely to many things that you can hardly turn around without being told exactly what you have to do. The original plan has been departed from in that the site will not be on Camp Hill. The only thing that interests me - 1 do not think it is a matter of principle and frankly I could not care whether the site is on the hill, by the lake, in the lake or somewhere else - is that when you think back on this concept you realise that if there had been a little more reasoning used in the days when Sydney and Melbourne were bickering about where the national capital should be, all this money need not have been poured into a sheep station and into a clay pan over all these years. The position would have resolved itself. The question of where the permanent parliament house would be would have been resolved many years ago if the national capital had been sited in one of the industrial areas. However we are stuck with the site now. We have poured so many millions into the national capital that we might as well keep going with the scheme.
There is an analogy with Parliament House in Perth, which I visited recently. The State Parliament House is on a hill with a government building on a higher hill behind it. Canberra will reverse that concept. The Western Australian Parliament House overlooks the Swan River, which is a fine body of water, not like the small body of water near this place which no self respecting duck would fly over. It can be argued that the Parliament House in Perth ought to be on the banks of the Swan River, where there would be a vista, but it is only necessary to stand in the library there and look down over the Swan River to realise that Parliament House in Perth would be absolutely nothing if it were down with all the other buildings on the river bank.
For those reasons, when asked to record a vote. I will come down on the side of keeping to the original plan. In saying that I have in mind the set-up in Perth I can see no reason to alter the design. Why the matter has blown up into this situation and why the Government is shilly-shallying and wanting to bring the debate on and then put it off, I do not know. Frankly I am not very interested. I think this problem could have been resolved a lot more simply. As we are required to cast a vote I see good reasons why the hill site should be preferred. I see no reason to alter the general concept of the original plan for Canberra.
– Tonight the Senate is discussing the home of parliament in the national capital of Australia. Parliament is an institution that has earned, through history, a right to represent the people of the country. It has displayed its capacity for complete unreason and for noble leadership by great members who are dear to the heart of the people it represents. When we contrast that leadership with the yearling yard that the Senate turned itself into under the leadership of Senators Murphy, Cohen and Gair this afternoon-
– What did you call it?
– A yearling yard. The steers from the desert see a trickle of water that they want to drink about 5 yards away and they cannot be stopped by any physical force from satisfying their thirst. 1 thought it was a deplorable spectacle in an institution of parliament, especially when the expositions came from people who are learned in the law. Even when we compare that performance with what goes on in Czechoslovakia today-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman’ - Order! We are dealing with the site for the new and permanent Parliament House.
– We are dealing with a home for the Parliament. I am referring to Czechoslovakia. It is being taken over and eviscerated. Anybody who has the slightest insight into the significance of this national parliament will remind himself this day how fortunate we are, even under the maudlin leadership of Murphy and Cohen, compared with the poor people of Prague whose fate and freedom are to be determined by violence and superior force.
Parliament, with all its faults, is an institution where debate determines decisions. It is to Parliament that all the representatives cf the people come, each with his own peculiar imperfections, in pursuit of the purposes and yearnings of the people who constitute the outside community. I dissociate myself entirely from the idea that it is a matter of regret that the site of Canberra was developed as the national capital. Whether it was an accidental offshoot of the jealousy between Melbourne and Sydney, as previous speakers have suggested, or whether Canberra was decided upon as the national capital for some other reason, my great regret is that at least nineteen other cities similar to Canberra were not developed in the hinterland of Australia to give strength in places other than Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. So, I rejoice that this sheep station has been chosen as the site for the national capital.
Regrettably the perspicacity of those who in 1900 gave expression to the concept of developing a national capital has not been shared by some of their successors. I think that the men who foresaw the need to create a national parliament deserve the most grateful recognition of this nation. 1 have always considered it a great honour to take part in any debate in this Parliament. My cherishing of that privilege has been dimmed by the proceedings of today but not destroyed. To realise how maudlin and miserable is the outlook now prevalent in the debate, stemming from the activities of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy), we need only recall that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), after a proposal by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), arranged for a free vote on this isse. There is some misconception as to what that expression means. When the Prime Minister spoke of a free vote 1 would not for one moment offer the miserable suggestion that he was thinking of the thoroughly subversive practice that the Australian Labor Party follows in all parliaments of caucusing and so controlling its parliamentary vote. That practice, I have always maintained, is subversive to the very idea of freedom of parliamentary debate.
It cannot be claimed that the vote of any honourable senator on this side of the chamber is controlled by his party. There was an instance of this freedom a few weeks ago when Senator Prowse, completely undismayed and following his own judgment on a matter of high principle, ventured to vote against the Government on the question of capital punishment. He did not have to apologise; he did not have to explain or excuse himself, lt has never been suggested that a member of the Government parties who exercises an individual vote as a backbencher should be threatened with expulsion, which is the Caucus rule on the other side of the chamber. When the Prime Minister accepted the proposition of the Leader of the Opposition for a free vote the right honourable gentleman knew that the one unity in groups of parliamentarians that the British Constitution and our Constitution recognise is the unity of the Ministry. The code of ministerial unity has developed the strength of the parliament. Governments make decisions after purposeful consultation in which the Ministers enjoy each other’s confidence. A Ministry speaks in parliament with the one voice. It was that unity that the Prime Minister agreed to forgo when he decided that there should be a free vote on this issue. In the absence of this dispensation, 1, as a Minister of the Crown, would, of course, vote with the Government in whatever decision it had chosen to make. That would be my constitutional duty.
– Does the Minister take the view that a ruling of Cabinet applies to the whole Ministry?
– Of course. I can go into an explanation of that more fully if Senator Murphy desires to learn of the arrangement. Today Ministers are free to rise in this chamber and say where they think the home of the national Parliament should be situated. I remind honourable senators, and I am sure that I do so without causing the slightest acrimony, that I can claim to have taken a most patient and persevering interest in this issue.
– Then let us have a vote.
– Honourable senators opposite apparently want to get home, Mr Deputy President. The steers want to get to the stalls. But I am exercising my right to be on my feet stating my views. I remind the Senate that I have taken a patient and persevering interest in the matter we are now debating. As in all things, [ have formed my view as objectively as 1 can, and notwithstanding other views that are held in my own Party. 1 always give the views of others the greatest of respect. When I was a backbencher, if I differed with my colleagues I would debate the matter on the floor of the chamber. But my constitutional duty as a Minister is to vote according to the one voice of the Ministry, unless there is a free vote.
The national Parliament was set up for the nation and not for the petty purposes of Murphy offering an insult to Whitlam or the Labor Party pursuing its factual fights by prostituting a vote on a matter of this significance. The national Parliament was brought into existence, as honourable senators can learn from a letter from Rudyard Kipling now in our archives, to co-ordinate the defences of this country and to develop it into one nation. Writing to a friend in Melbourne in 1895, Rudyard Kipling said: 1 suggest you get a German gunboat to bombard Melbourne one night and Sydney the next, and you will have federation within 48 hours.’ That brings home to honour able senators, if the reference to Czechoslovakia does not, that this national Parliament has a duty that is designed to secure this nation’s safety.
The purposeful people who were sent to the Federal Parliament, temporarily situated in Melbourne, sought at an early stage to engage themselves in the selection of an area to serve as the Australian Capital Territory, and later to select within that Territory, a site that should be occupied by the parliament house. I believe that everybody has recognised the value of the plan that was ultimately accepted for the lay-out of the Australian Capital Territory - the Griffin plan. It indicates the dearth of fame in the Senate that it drifted to the level that it did today. We should remind ourselves that it was in the Senate that former Senator McCallum was the first in post-war history to focus the attention of Parliament upon the need to develop the Australian Capital Territory, lt was he who put forward the proposal to have a committee on this subject. The committee was recruited from the Senate and the representatives of the Senate on that committee may claim the credit for having pioneered the interest in this national project.
– I rise to a point of order, now that the Minister has finished the very long sentence upon which he embarked. I ask that the Minister be reminded of, and if necessary confined in accordance with, standing order 415, which states:
No senator shall reflect upon any vote of the Senate, except for the purpose of moving that such vote be rescinded.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I have to remind the Minister of that standing order.
– I am grateful to you for the reminder, Mr Deputy President, but it is quite superfluous. I was about to state that the Senate select committee was the body in post-war history that came to the conclusion as to where the national Parliament should be sited. By an overwhelming majority it decided that the appropriate place was Capital Hill. It is significant that I was about to make that statement, Sir, when the maudlin intervention you have just dealt with was thrust upon the Senate. That decision of the Senate select committee was followed by a decision by the two Presiding
Officers of the two Houses of this Parliament, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate. They are the spokesmen of the Parliament to the public and the decision carried great prestige because they endorsed Capital Hill as the site for the national parliament.
Then we sought elucidation from London. Those of us who have had the privilege of visiting London and have had the soul stirred by reminders of history which, despite the rather accidental growth of edifices of that great complex, yield to nothing in stimulating within us a warmhearted sense of glory that Westminster represents to the English people. But when consideration is given to whether Westminster is appropriately sited on the banks of the Thames, after 700 years of history, it is an entirely different proposition from considering whether our national Parliament should be sited upon the artificial lake in Canberra. Yet it was the great London architect, Sir William Holford, who spoke of his preference for the lakeside site in a report he made in 1958. To me this is of terrific significance in the distortion of history that began in .1958. At the top of page 13 of his report he said:
My conclusions differ from all the opinions I have heard and read; but they are, of course, based on topography, and on what can only be a personal idea of the unity and integrity of the plan of Canberra as a whole. I can only ask that they should be considered along with the others.
Those are the words of a great London architect who was consulted by us about the future location of our national Parliament, 12,000 miles from his home environment. He has put on record that his own conclusion differed from all opinions he had heard and read. His report was placed before Cabinet and other authorities. Immediately there was a movement to adopt the lakeside site that recommended itself in the terms expressed by Sir William Holford. I am not an architect either of language or construction, but I have a theme of purpose which I am entitled to express. Without rushing in to controversy, I found it within my soul 4 or 5 years ago, after no practical movement had been taken toward the lakeside site, to put on the notice paper of the Senate a notice of motion to the effect that an appropriate site for the national Parliament is Capital Hill. lt is not my nature lo precipitate an argument in which I feel that failure is the likely result. Nor is it my nature to precipitate a contest that is superfluous to the real purpose. Therefore my notice of motion remained on the notice paper until 1 had an indication that there was a view in the Senate that would support it. My impression was, in 1963, that support for the Capital Hill site was drifting. The former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, put forward a proposal for a joint parliamentary committee, not as to the site of Parliament House but as to its furnishings and design. Then, in what I thought was a most odd constitutional offshoot of parliamentary resolution, there was the addendum that anybody who had a view as to the site would be permitted to express it when Parliament by its resolution constituted a committee. I sought to include this very question as a responsible term of reference for that committee. The records of the debates of that day, which 1 have not looked at but have only reflected on from recollection as the day has proceeded, will show divisions which sought to preclude me even from the opportunity to move in that direction. However, ‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.’ Although that was not a proposition put before the committee, we now have it revealed to us that it was the first question to which the committee addressed itself. The question solemnly resolved, a majority of the committee adopted the lakeside. With that recital of unfortunate parliamentary history I cannot gladden my soul sufficiently to express my rejoicing that we have a Prime Minister today who sees this as essentially a parliamentary matter, to the degree not merely of putting the resolution before Parliament but also of making it quite clear that every member of Parliament may vote according to his individual judgment, unconstrained by the constitutional concept of the unity of the Ministry or the rather inferior concept, subversive to Parliament, of Labor caucus unity.
That being the situation it well becomes the Parliament to exercise a responsible and patient judgment on this matter appropriate to the application of individual judgment. Yet we have the odd spectacle of Senator Devitt protesting during the debate that all the learning acquired on his recent world excursion to parliament houses has not been drained for the benefit of the Senate and that if the decisions were postponed until he could put before us his knowledge on the subject we would profit by it. Having said that, he voted to overrule the Standing Orders so that his leader. Senator Murphy, could gather a ray of sunshine, either before or after midnight tonight, and relish the fact that the Senate had put down a resolution which will be contrary to (he view of Mr Whitlam in another chamber.
With the sort of debate that has gone on with regard to this matter I wonder in what respect, from the point of view of the Opposition and the Democratic Labor Party, there will be a free vote. But I let that matter go. Because 1 am convinced by my judgment, I state that the appropriate place for the national Parliament is Capital Hill. I have heard the argument from Senator Prowse as to architectural features. I have heard the argument from my colleague Senator Withers about the development of either site. I believe that the choice of Capital Hill is a substantial adoption of the original design in which all the main features of the Australian national capital were entailed. Therefore I slate my view in registering an opinion that as one member of Parliament T would not be impressed by the solitary view of Lord Holford who said that his conclusion in favour of the lakeside differed from all the opinions that he had heard already. I should prefer to go with the Senate Select Committee and the Presiding Officers of the Parliament.
The architectural opinion that I have had the advantage of consulting - it was a great body of responsible architectural opinion - still favours the Capital Hill site. Although 1 have the greatest respect for Sir John Overall and his associate commissioners who have devoted themselves to the lakeside, I cannot but retain the opinion that Capital Hill is the most suitable site. 1 say that having this 5 or 6 years not once but many times repaired to Capital Hill for solitude and a little relief from the tensions of this place at eventide, at morning and at midday. As to those who say that there are the harsh west winds, when I look at and face the Brindabellas for me there are those movements of the air that remind me that these are ‘no flatterers but counsellors that feelingly persuade me what I ought’. When one looks to the War Memorial, as Senator Byrne said, if one has any soul at all one reminds oneself of all the glories and traditions that that structure entombs. When one looks out beyond and sees the city and the Australian National University, and then looks in every other direction, one sees a landscape that really represents Australia. It is in that spirit that 1 would like to find the home of Parliament sited in that environment.
– In addressing myself to this important subject I resist the temptation to charge the the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) with perpetrating a dozen calumnies and a score of irrelevancies. I find it easier to retain my equilibrium and good humour when I remind myself that whatever his aberations, irascible or eccentric, he and I are both on the same side of the real argument in the Senate. We are both in the main stream of history and we are both in support of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). I wish to shed the cloak of silence and anonymity only for long enough to inform honourable senators that, like the overwhelming majority of them, I am for the hill. 1 hope that the judgment of the Senate will remind those who thought to make the decision for us that it is still the responsibility of Parliament to decide where the new and permanent parliament house shall be.
– I rise to state very briefly where I stand on this matter. Perhaps I might be described as one of the dauntless three. However, that would not stop me from standing at the right hand of our leader who likened himself today to Horatius. If he wants somebody to help him hold the bridge, 1 will be there. Let me explain why I have changed from supporting the hill to supporting the lakeside. Until a few years ago I thought the hill was the right site. In company with some advisers, I went up on to the hill to have a look at it as the site for parliament house. Looking at it from a lower level, I thought it was the natural site for parliament house. But, when I got up there and it was explained to me that a large proportion of the hill would have to be cut away if parliament house were to be put there, I saw that if that were done it would leave the roof of the present Parliament House in the immediate landscape. I do not know whether it has since been found possible to obviate that disadvantage. I hope it has been.
I am not very het up about whether parliament house is built on the hill or on the lakeside. I am not suggesting for one moment that anything that I say here tonight will alter the feelings and votes of other senators. I believe that they have made up their minds. I am quite sure that most of them have made up their minds in favour of the hill. If parliament house is to be built there as a result of a decision of members of this Parliament - I believe that that is the way the matter should be decided - then I hope that it will be a very gracious building. I hope that it will be a building worthy of Canberra and worthy of Australia’s capital. I am sure that it will be. 1 am not altogether convinced of this, but I think that a disadvantage of the lakeside is that one would see the true beauty of the building only from the opposite side of the lake. 1 am sure that it will have beauty. However, what T have said in that respect may not be right, because surely it would be within the competence of the architects who will be given the job of designing the building and the builders who will build it to design and build it so thai its beauty will not be seen from only one side. In that respect also 1 believe that there are possibilities. I think I have said enough to indicate where I stand on this matter. I am not suggesting for one moment that I will convince anybody else, but I have indicated the way I will vote on where our new and permanent parliament house should be - although I do not expect to see it.
– 1 propose to be very brief. I merely wish to express my views and declare where I stand on this issue. On a visit to Canberra 6 or 8 years ago - long before I was elected to the Senate - I walked over Capital Hill with a friend of mine. We thought that it was the place where the new parliament house would be built. I believe that that was the intention at that time. I expressed the opinion that a beautiful spot had been chosen for parliament house. I was strongly in favour of that site. When the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House expressed a preference for the lakeside, I felt that I had an obligation to have a look at both sites. I point out that I had had a look at the lakeside site before last Tuesday. But last Tuesday, in company with others, I visited both sites and returned firmly convinced that my first preference for the hill should stand. I believe that that is where our new parliament house should be built.
This debate has gone on for a couple of days. There is not a great deal that I can add to the remarks of those people who have supported the Capital Hill site in preference to the lakeside site. I believe that in the long term we are likely to have fewer traffic problems on the hill than on the lakeside. That has been adequately demonstrated in the debate in this chamber. As other people have said, on symbolic grounds parliament house should be in an elevated position. Some honourable senators have claimed here tonight and at other times that the top of the hill would have to be removed. I cannot go along with that argument. I believe that with modern engineering techniques the top of the hill could be made to suit the parliament house that was to be built there. I believe that many people are looking at this matter from the one point of view. The important point is tha! the government of the day could have designed a parliament house that would be best suited to Capital Hill. 1 do not see any purpose in pursuing this matter any further. 1 support Capital Hill as the site for parliament house.
– I rise to take part in this debate for two reasons. One is my belief that when a question of great national importance is before the national Parliament, and it has been announced that there will be a free vote on it and therefore there have been no partymeetings to help one make up his mind or to persuade one to a particular view, one should be upstanding in his place in the Senate and should give his reasons for proposing to vole in a particular way when the votes on the amendment and the motion are taken. The second is ‘hat, as I am privileged to be the Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Australian
Capital Territory, 1 feel that 1 should address the Senate on some of my thoughts about that Committee and what may yet be its authority or responsibility in respect of deciding the site of the new parliament house if and when it is built.
I believe that it would have been v/ise to adjourn this debate for a fortnight or so. One reason why a parliament has standing orders and forms is to provide the members of the public who are affected by the decisions of the parliament with some time in which to voice their opinions. It is true to say that this debate, except when it has been broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, has not got across to the Australian public. Almost all the Press reports of it have dealt with the facetious side and the more humourous interludes that have taken place at least in another place. So it really has not sunk into the minds of members of the great Australian public that a very important decision is about to be made in this Parliament, and therefore public opinion has been denied the right to become vocal. 1 do nol agree with the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) when he says that because he has received only one or two telephone calls and one or two letters on this matter the public could not care less. The public has not had time to learn sufficient about the preliminary views of the Parliament on the matter to enable it to have its own thoughts and to make its voice heard so that we members of the Parliament can mirror the views of the people. We must remember that at all times Parliament mirrors the people. Therefore our final decision should mirror the views of the people. We are in a situation in which we have nol been permitted to adjourn this debate, lt appears that a majority of honourable senators have decided that a vote will’ be taken in this place tonight or tomorrow morning.
I propose to give my reasons for adopting the attitude that 1 will adopt when a vote is taken. I wonder what the situation will be - I do not think this situation will come about - if another House, with double the number of representatives of the Australian people, makes one decision and this House of Review makes a contrary decision. In my view it is rather remarkable that the
House of Review is making a decision on an important national question before the traditional initiating House has come to its decision. However, that is something that only the future will reveal to us. I believe that the Government will be honour bound to act on the decision of the Parliament. Knowing this Government and its upholding of the rights of the Parliament, I believe that it will finally act on the decision that this Parliament makes, which it is evidently hoped will be made in this chamber tonight.
Some very bland opinions and views have been expressed. 1 believe that tonight when the final vote is taken, in some cases it will be an illustration of the bland leading the bland. The decision to be taken will last, as far as we know, for generations and therefore it is important, lt is for the Australian National Parliament to represent all Australians, and the pity of it is that the people who are having the least opportunity to express any view - because the Opposition is forcing this debate to go on - in the main are the people who will pay most for this new and expensive structure. Generations of Australians yet unborn will be paying taxes to meet the interest on the capital sum that will be spent on a new parliament house, on the siting of which we are being forced to make our decision in the Senate tonight.
That the Australian Labor Party should force this on the Senate tonight amazes me. It was, I think, my colleague Senator Withers who quite rightly reminded us that in the early part of the debate we were asked why there is this indecent haste. Why is there suddenly this appeal for us to make a decision? Why do we not wait and hear the report of the Committee of the Parliament that was - wisely or unwisely - sent on a tour abroad? Why do we not wait to hear what it has to say? Does the knowledge that Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood, Senator Devitt and the President gained on the visit that they made to inquire into the provision of the new buiding count for nought with the Australian Labor Party? It does not want to learn from them. It wants a decision tonight. Its understanding of the decencies of parliamentary procedures and behaviour seems to be sinking. If Nick McKenna had still been Leader of the Opposition I do not think that we would have had all these goings on or votes on points of procedure thrust upon us. He was a great traditionalist and an example to every member of either House of the Parliament.
– He was a hillite
– He probably was a hillite. If he were to express an opinion I would very carefully weigh the argument that he put up because I would know that he was sincere and he would not be one of the bland leading the bland. I do not believe that the Government can really be accused of haste. It is only the pressure put on by the new-found power that is geared into action. We are told that a report has been made by a sub-committee and that it favours siting of the new parliament house beside the lake. 1 wonder whether witnesses were heard for the hill site and for the lake site and whether they were heard in public. I wonder whether witnesses were handpicked. Were the only witnesses called those who were to give evidence favouring a lake site? We do not know this - we who are asked to make a decision tonight. We are not able to get this information. I believe that many in this Senate are going to vote tonight for the hill site not because they have a really great desire to site the new parliament house on Capital Hill. 1 believe that they will have chosen this way of voting as a revulsion against what they believe is over-pressurisation of the Government and a committee of this Parliament by departmental1 officers and their advisers. 1 believe that if the Committee had issued an open report giving the facts without any specific opinion on either side, possibly a different reaction would have been felt throughout the Parliament.
In another place Mr Fred Daly a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, and in the Senate the Government Whip, who is a former member of that Committee, have suggested that this question should be referred to that Committee. I say without hesitation that the Government had every right and duty to refer this question to the Committee, of which I have the privilege to be Chairman. In 19SS the Senate took action to set up a committee to have oversight of the future planning of Canberra. In 1957 a joint committee of the Parliament was elected for this purpose and it has been reappointed by both Houses in every Parliament since that time. The first paragraph in the resolution forming this Committee and reappointing it in each Parliament reads:
That a joint committee be appointed to examine and report on all proposals for modifications or variations of the plan of layout of the city of Canberra and its environs published in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette of the nineteenth day of November 1925 as previously modified or varied, which are referred to it by the Minister.
I believe that before I joined the Committee it made a number of suggestions on subjects of concern that it saw coming up in relation to the possibility of variation of the original plan of Canberra. It was suggested amongst other things that if the new and permanent parliament house was not to be cited on Camp Hill it should be referred to the Committee, because the Committee takes evidence on oath, advertises for witnesses and hears them in public. Most senators know from their experience on parliamentary committees that such committees, clothed with powers and responsibilities, excite public interest and arouse public participation. Members of committees learn much” from the expert evidence that is brought forward because of the publicity given to sittings and because the public has learned to know that it can give helpful evidence which will help committees of the Parliament to bring in reports useful to the nation. It is abundantly clear that this joint committee of the Parliament could, with benefit to the people of Canberra and the people of Australia, hold an inquiry into this question and make a report of which the Parliament would be proud and with which the people would be satisfied. But the Committee’s hands are tied. This is an occasion on which the Parliament must grant greater power to the Committee. At present we cannot conduct an inquiry into this matter because it has not been referred to us by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon).
Earlier this evening Senator Withers, who favoured the Capital Hill site, mentioned what 1 thought were very good reasons why no hasty decision should be made until various aspects of the many problems involved in the construction of a new parliament house had been inquired into fully. That is another reason why I believe haste would be a handicap, not to the Senate but to the nation as a whole. Perhaps history will refer to that handicap and underline that it arose because of what happened in the Senate this afternoon.
I understand that it is intended to take a vote on this matter tonight. 1 will not be required to vote if some honourable senator will take my advice and foreshadow, and finally propose, an amendment to the motion before us to the effect that the question of the siting of the new and permanent parliament house be referred to the Joint Committee for public inquiry. That should be done, lt would be wrong if I. as Chairman of the Committee, were to propose the amendment so 1 shall refrain from doing so. If I knew that this matter would be referred to the Committee, as it should be. I as Chairman would not be standing in my place telling the Senate what my decision was in relation to the site because I would not prejudice a matter which was to be referred to the Committee of which I was Chairman. If the amendment that I hope for is not forthcoming and if a vote is taken on this question tonight, I shall support the proposal to locate the new and permanent parliament house on Capital Hill, knowing full well that the matter has not been fully and properly discussed but I believe in expressing my view clearly and unequivocally and doing what I can in the best interests of the people of Australia.
Senator Dame IVY WEDGWOOD (Victoria) [9.14] - I propose to speak very briefly on this subject but while I am speaking I should like a little time to think over Senator Marriott’s proposal because, before I conclude my remarks I may feel disposed to propose the amendment he has suggested. I must admit to some mystification in relation to the reason why a decision on this matter must be obtained tonight. I agree with the honourable senators who have said that the building of a new and permanent parliament house is an occasion of great importance to the Australian nation. Because of its importance I wish to put a few points of view.
As honourable senators know, I have been a member of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House since it was appointed. This year I had the great privilege of travelling at public expense across the world to look at parliament houses. I rather deplore Senator Wright’s slighting reference to the knowledge that Senator Devitt had obtained. Before going further I should like to point out that all members of the delegation worked very hard. They spent hours doing the job they were sent to do. It is only reasonable that the people who undertook the task would wish to tell honourable senators of their experiences and the knowledge they should have gained. Indeed it would have been wrong if they had not gained knowledge.
Let me refer firstly to the inference that the majority decision of the Committee to recommend the lakeside site was made under coercion or duress from the National Capital Development Commission. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that we - I am speaking for all members of the Committee - were not expert in planning or construction and therefore had to rely on the opinions and experiences of people who were. They are a rather formidable group of people. For the record 1 should like to have the names of some of them recorded in Hansard. Senator Wright referred to Sir John Overall, a man of great distinction in this country and a man who is recognised across the world as an authority in these matters. The honourable senator referred also to Lord Holford.
I will not cite all the qualifications of the people who tendered advice to the Committee. lt is sufficient to say that they have practised in planning and architectural work in many countries of the world. They included engineers, traffic experts, hydrologists, geologists, landscapers and the whole membership of the National Capital Planning Committee. It was with the background of the recommendations and the experiences of those people that the majority of the Committee decided that the lakeside was the better site for a new and permanent parliament house.
I have heard many expressions of opinion on why that site should be used and I have heard some very good opinions on why Capital Hill should be used, but there has been no discussion of the facts. I agree with Senator Withers who I gather - J did not hear his speech - suggested that at least the report of the Committee which travelled overseas should have been considered, not prior to the discussion on the site but at least concurrently with the discussion. My friend and colleague, Senator Buttfield, said that if you want to build a house you select a site and plan for what you want on it, but the building of a house and the building of a parliament house are two different matters. With the exception of Senator Devitt, not one person has raised a most important feature about the building of a new parliament house. Have honourable senators any idea of what type of structure they would like to see on the site? It is all very well to say that we have a site and we are going to build a new parliament house on it, but at least when we are thinking about a site we should have some ideas in our mind as to whether we want a horizontal structure or whether we want a vertical structure. No-one has mentioned this at all.
Slight reference has been made to access roads, but no real thought has been given by honourable senators to any of this and other problems. As a matter of fact, we do not even know whether we have an opinion as to whether the size of the parliamentary structure should be two times, three times or even ten times greater than that of this building. 1 am speaking now of honourable senators as a whole. Speaking for myself, as a member of the Committee, I am not yet clear in my mind on how we would accommodate members of Parliament and the people who work in the building. Do we want a high structure? Do we want to use escalators and lifts? Or do we want a horizontal building? Do we want to take people across from one part of the building to another by means of trolleys? So many problems were placed before the members of the Committee that it would be a very bold person who would say: ‘Yes, the building must be there’. For that reason, I find it completely incomprehensible, as I said before, that we should be attempting to force a decision at this moment.
– Why does the honourable senator not have a yarn with the Prime Minister?
– I am talking for myself, if Senator Gair does not mind.
– Will the honourable senator tell us, as a result of her trip, which is the most impressive parliamentary building she saw?
The Committee will bring down its report and, I hope, will say what it found in all parliament houses that it visited, lt will also advise the Government on the things it hopes will not be incorporated in the new parliament house for Australia. We not only visited the parliament houses; we visited the United Nations, the World Health Organisation-
– The Committee had a good trip.
The honourable senator would have been very pleased to have had the opportunity to be with us. In all of these places we found that buildings which at one time had been considered eminently suitable as houses of parliament or conference chambers were no longer suitable. It is with this knowledge that I would agree wilh those people who say: ‘Do not make a decision that you consider is irrevocable, At least take a little time to think about the type of parliament house you want to put on either site.’
After having been across the world, I do not say that I am committed to the lakeside site as the only site but my present feeling is that it is the better site. I do think, however, that to take what people are trying to force us to take tonight - an irrevocable decision about the siting of the new parliament house - without at least listening to the knowledge and the information that was gained about other places would be a very foolish step indeed and one which I would think the Australian people would regret.
It is true that a parliament house should be the pride of a nation but I saw parliament houses which today are an embarrassment to the people who work in them. Therefore I support Senator Marriott’s suggestion that the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory should investigate the sites and that we should allow the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House to place before the Parliament recommendations resulting from the work it did on behalf of the Parliament.
– Based upon an evaluation of the evidence which has been placed before honourable senators; as a result of my own interest in the siting of parliament house during the period I have been in this Parliament; as a result of personal inspections of the two sites under consideration, not only by visiting them but by viewing them from Mount Ainslie and Black Mountain to gain some idea of the view presented from both sites; and, as a result of very interesting discussions I have had with the officers of the National Capital Development Commission whenI with other members of the Public Accounts Committee investigated the National Capital Development Commission in 1966, I hold the view that the hill site would be the better site for the new parliament house. But I say this well knowing that although I hold the view as a member of the Senate that one site is preferable to anotherI have not the experience or the knowledge possessed by the accredited representatives of the National Capital Development Commission who originally advocated the site on the lake.
I should like now to refer honourable senators to the National Capital Development Commission Act which was passed by this Parliament in the year1957. Section 1 1 of that Act sets out the functions of the Commission. It reads: (1.) The functions of the Commission are to undertake and carry out the planning, development and construction of the City of Canberra as the National Capital of the Commonwealth. (2.) For that purpose, the Commission is empowered to provide, or arrange for the provision of, within the Australian Capita] Territory, buildings, roads, bridges, works for the supply of water or electricity, sewerage or drainage works and other matters and things for, or incidental to, that purpose. (3.) The Commission has power to do all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connexion with, or incidental to, the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers.
Sub-section (5.) states:
The Commission shall not depart from, or do anything inconsistent with, the plan of lay-out of the City of Canberra and its environs published in the Gazette on the nineteenth day of November, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-five, as modified or varied, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, in accordance with law.
Section 12 states: (1.) The Commission shall keep the Minister informed of the decisions of the Commission with respect to matters of policy in relation to the performance of its functions.
The section then describes how a difference of opinion will be determined. Eleven years ago a decision was made by Parliament which, I believe, from my reading of the Act, placed into the hand of the Commission the undeniable right to recommend sites upon which various buildings within Canberra should be placed. In the following year, 1958, Cabinet made the first decision. It was a fairly quick decision, although it seemed to be a somewhat secret one. The decision was that the site would be on the lake side. I. draw the attention of honourable senators to the position that has been created up to this time. It is not a case of bureaucrats interfering in affairs outside their charter but rather of the parliamentary institution reflecting little credit on its pre-eminence by its lack of a businesslike attitude. On 28th August 1958 in the House of Representatives Mr Aston asked a question, which was answered by Mr Fairhall who verified that the lake site had been selected. Amongst other things he said:
The point I made very clear was that the Government at this time has not given serious consideration to the form of the House or to the accommodation requirements. Therefore, at this stage, there is no idea of putting in train even the preliminary steps that will benecessary before the design of a new Parliament House can be instituted. It is true that decisions in principle have been taken regarding the lakes scheme, and the decision in principle regarding the siting of a new Parliament House has been necessary because certain hydrological studies must be made before we can know the size of the lakes and, therefore, the location of the lakes and matters of that kind.
In 1959 Sir Robert Menzies, in reply to a question from Mr Duthie, said:
Up to this point, there has been discussion and agreement in principle on the siting of a new Parliament House, which I agree is badly needed and will be increasingly needed.
In1960, during the Estimates debate, Mr Freeth, speaking on the more efficient functioning of the Parliament, said:
The National Capital Development Commission has this matter well in hand. As the first part of its thinking on this project, it has persuaded the Government to accept Sir William Holford’s suggestion that the new Parliament House be built on the lakeside at (he top of the rise between this building and the Australian War Memorial.
– That statement conflicts with Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood’s statement.
– The slight rise has been bulldozed away and does not exist on the lakeside. In 1963 Senator Wright asked this question:
Senator Wade, my predecessor, who represented the Minister for the Interior, replied: 1 and 2. The Cabinet considered the question of the site of a proposed new Parliament Mouse in 1958 and decided in July of that year iti favour of the lakeside site.
I think it can be well established that we are dealing with a matter which at this point of time should be beyond the decision of members of Parliament. If a mistake was made previously as to the site, that decision should be adhered to because a great deal of money has been spent. I know the officers of the NCDC, through investigations by the Public Accounts Committee into their affairs. They are zealous to see that the money that Parliament allocates for extension of the capital is used wisely. This 1 believe they wish to do. Some interesting evidence was given before the Committee. Perhaps it gives some little disquiet as to how the original decision was taken. I refer honourable senators to the eighty-third report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. Mr Whittorn questioned Mr Lansdown, who is now an Associate Commissioner of the NCDC.
– Will all these facts influence anybody at all?
– They probably will have as much influence as the honourable senator’s speeches. The report states:
You said that a decision for the siting of the new Parliament House was not made by you. Who made the decision? - If any decision is made it is made by the Government or Parliament. It is not a matter on which I could comment. It runs outside our affairs. All we can say is that we think a particular location is proper. How the decision is handled is not a matter on which I should comment.
You cannot tell me at this time what body made this particular decision? - No, Sir.
Would you obtain the information for the Committee and let us have it? - 1 can certainly document the decision as we know it, but you should understand that the identification of who makes decisions in this area is something I need to be careful in answering.
At this point I am not querying who made the decision. I am just asking: Who made the decision? - We shall advise you, Sir, if we may.
Mr Overall, as he then was. appeared before the Committee and concluded the matter. Honourable senators who have read the 1966 report will be well aware of this comment by Mr Overall:
I should like to refer to the Parliament House siting. I should like to answer the question about the Parliament House site which was raised with Mr Lansdown at the opening session of this Committee and to reply directly. Mr Lansdown was asked who made the decision on the siting of the new Parliament House. The answer to that question is that the decision was made by the Government in July 1958. The decision was made following the submission of a report to the Government by Sir William Holford, at the invitation of the Government, prior to the establishment of the Commission. Holford then firmly recommended that the Houses of Parliament ba sited centrally on the southern shores of the central lake basin if it were formed. This recommendation was supported by the National Capital Commission and by the National Capital Planning Committee shortly after its establishment. In July 1958 the Government approved the recommendation and endorsed the siting of the Houses of Parliament on the proposed lake front and for planning to proceed on that basis. This decision was referred to by the then Minister for the Interior, Mr Allen Fairhall, in the House of Representatives in August 1958. You will be familiar also no doubt with the reference that was made by Senator Henty in December 1965 - about 4 months ago - in the debate in the Senate on the motion for the appointment of a joint select committee to inquire into and report on certain matters in connection with the new permanent Parliament House.
He then passed on to other matters. The point that I make is that 1 1 years afterwards, we are to make the decision. The matter has been left in an extremely loose fashion. T do not know how the voting will go. If one House decides one way and the other House decides the opposite way what will be the final result? It seems clear that these things should have been made apparent before the matter was debated in both Houses. However, for many years it has been accepted that the lakeside site would be the best position for the new parliament house. As I said earlier, I regret that we are now deciding what is the best site.
– Was the Government’s decision endorsed by Parliament?
– Because control had been handed to the National Capital Development Commission it was not necessary for Parliament to decide.
– That is the honourable senator’s opinion of the law.
– I have stated the position as best I can. If the honourable senator can find a hole in what I have said I hope that he will draw attention to it. The documents that have been given to honourable senators on this matter are scant and are certainly slanted in the one direction. It is for that reason that I suggest a further investigation should be conducted. I believe that the documents that we have been given present a most one-sided view. They do not contain any endorsement of the benefits that may be found on the hill site. Page 8 of the document entitled “The Development of the Central Area of Canberra Including Aspects Related to the New Parliament House’ states:
Capital Hill will have a strong appeal as an alternative because it is a prominent topographical feature from some parts of the city. However, it is not readily visible from Parkes Place which has become the traditional centre of the capital.
That, I believe, is a wrong construction.I do not believe that if a building were to be put on Capital Hill the top of the hill would have to be taken off. I believe that the elevation of the hill would be raised by the addition of fill. From Parkes Place at present one can see the flagpole on Capital Hill. Surely the new parliament house will be higher than the flagpole. If the new parliament house is on Capital Hill it will be readily seen from most parts of Canberra. I regret that the making of a decision on the site has been thrust on members of Parliament at this stage. It should have been made 11 years ago. However, now that I am given the opportunity, I support the hill site.
Because of its elevation, the Capital Hill site will not only give a much better outlook to the occupants of the building than they could hope for from the lakeside site, but also will give a much better view of the parliament house from all parts of Canberra.
– in reply - This debate is now coming to an end. If I were speaking politically in normal circumstances I think that, having heard almost thirty honourable senators express a view, I would be prepared to concede-
– To yield.
– To yield. But this will be a historical decision. In those circumstances I think that every honourable senator should be given the opportunity to have his vote on the site of the new and permanent parliament house recorded in the historical records of the Commonwealth Parliament for the year 1968. Therefore, with the aid of the support that I can muster, I propose to ask for a division when a vote is taken.
Without wishing to refer in any uncharitable way to the debate earlier today, I say that that debate was not on this issue. It was on another issue altogether - sanctity of the Standing Orders or the power of numbers. If ever there was vindication of the comments made by myself and others earlier today it is shown here tonight. Since the debate this afternoon I have seen honourable senators stand up in their places and state that they will vote for the site on the hill yet many of them, with all the force and power that they command, resisted another matter that was calculated to bring this vote on tonight. I reiterate that although there is a degree of urgency in this matter, it is not urgent in the sense that the decision is confined to this chamber. There is still time for further consideration before the two Houses of Parliament express their views. I believe that this expression of views should be more or less synchronised so that, in effect, the Parliament will be deciding.
I was interested to hear the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), say that at times he went up Capital Hill for inspiration and meditation. I feel bound to remind him that if the new parliament house is erected on Capital Hill he will not be able to go up there for meditation and peaceful recreation. Once the new parliament house is erected on Capital Hill that area will not be a place for peaceful reflection and meditation but will be a place for work. That is not Burley Griffin’s concept. I do not want to be unkind, but it seems to me that a lot of honourable senators want Burley Griffin but not what Burley Griffin recommended. Perhaps the Minister for Works prefers the hill site because that is where he gets his inspiration. I get my inspiration from the waterside. I was born at sea and have always loved the sea.
– The Minister has been at sea ever since.
– That was too easy, Senator Gair. I know that you can do better than that, really. I refuse to be distressed by that interjection. We have had our hard words today on another level and I think we should keep it at that. ButI do believe that the new parliament house can have all the qualities and features that every honourable senator in his own heart wants for it and still be in the lakeside complex. I do not believe that the beauty and glory of the present planning will be destroyed if the new parliament house is built on the lakeside. I believe that the site will be more advantageous for the good management and running of the Parliament, for the parliamentarians and the constituents who come to see them, and for those people who help to run the Parliament. There is no doubt that, for good or ill, the planning of this great capital of ours has been with a bias - I do not use this word in a cruel or improper sense - to the thought that the new parliament house will be in the lakeside complex.
Although I concede the inevitability of the result of this debate,I am still of the view that in the fullness of time it will be recognised that we have missed an opportunity if the new parliament house is erected on Capital Hill. We will destroy the concept of a cultural centre on Capital Hill and we will have two working areas operating instead of one very practical working area. If the lakeside site were preferred for the new parliament house the result would be to leave the Capital Hill site as an area of beauty and glorious reflection. Parliamentarians, weary and troubled at the end of a hard day, could find rest in the surroundings.
I reaffirm the strong views I expressed when I proposed the motion. The decision we arrive at will not be to build a new and permanent parliament house but it will help to determine the selection of a site. As I indicated originally, I believe that that site should be at the lakeside.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Murphy’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir A lister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 36
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is, that the words proposed to be inserted be inserted’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is, that the motion, as amended, be agreed to’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - Honourable senators will be aware that I recently informed importers of header harvesters that by-law concessions for the importation of such machines would be terminated from 30th September 1968. The reasons for this withdrawal of by-law concessions were made known to the importers at that time. Honourable senators will recall a question on notice on this subject which I answered earlier today. However, I have today received a deputation representing primary producers organisations, who wished to make certain representations in the matter of header harvesters.
In the light of the representations made by members of that deputation, I have decided to extend the by-law concessions to 31st January 1969, but to impose some limitation on the number of machines to be imported under by-law in that period. The detailed arrangements are now being worked out by the Department of Customs and Excise and will be conveyed to the importers concerned within the next few days.
Senate adjourned at 10.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 August 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19680822_senate_26_s38/>.