26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator MURPHY - 1 address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is the Minister aware of Press reports that the mission led by Sir Henry Bland has reported to the Government that there are no technical reasons for cancelling the purchase of the Fill aircraft? Are these reports true? If so, when will the Government announce its final decision on this expensive and ill-fated aircraft which has already cost Australia the equivalent of almost one-quarter of our annual expenditure on social services?
Senator ANDERSON- I am not aware that the mission that went to the United States in connection with the purchase of the Fill aircraft has in fact made a report to the Government. Until that point is resolved, the remainder of the honourable senator’s question has no bearing. When reports have been made and considered by the Government will be the time to make an announcement.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a statement made in Adelaide last week by Sir Mark Oliphant that a nuclear energy agro-industrial complex would be the key to South Australia’s development? As South Australia is basically dependent for power generation on the brown coal deposits at Leigh Creek, and as these deposits have a limited life, thus emphasising Sir Mark’s point regarding the State’s ultimate dependency on nuclear power, will the Government give every consideration to South Australia’s claim for a nuclear power station when determining where the nation’s first nuclear power plant will be located?
– The honourable senator places a lot of emphasis on South Australia’s dependence on Leigh Creek coal.
As the Leigh Creek deposits have a very limited life, the new power station which has been designed to be built at Torrens Island will be constructed to use oil. Because of the fact that gas has been found in large quantities at Gidgealpa, the Commonwealth Government has made available to the State of South Australia a grant of SI 5m-
– I think we all understand that a grant is non-repayable. No interest will be charged and no sinking fund payments will be involved. This is to be a straightout grant to South Australia to help with the construction of a pipeline to convey gas to the power station at Torrens Island.
The honourable senator referred to the statement by Sir Mark Oliphant that if South Australia is to develop it will have to equip itself with a nuclear power station in the future. I should point out that at the instigation of the Commonwealth Government the Minister for National Development visited each of the States and advised them of the Commonwealth Government’s intention to construct a nuclear power station. He obtained from the States their recommendations on what should be done and any evidence they wanted to give. The latest information we have is that although South Australia may not be in a position at present to use the whole of the output of a nuclear power station - amounting to 500 megawatts - it may be necessary to construct a nuclear power station on the eastern seaboard. The present thinking is that the Commonwealth Government will give serious consideration to the construction of a nuclear power station on Commonwealth territory in the hope that it will be able to sell the surplus power that is not needed for the Australian Capital Territory to the State of New South Wales. This is a very important matter. I hope that at some time in the future South Australia will qualify for a nuclear power station. I look forward to that day with interest.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I ask: Can the Minister give any further information on the statements of the Prime Minister concerning political blackmail? Is there any possibility of any person - a member of the other place, a senator or anyone else - involved in this political blackmail being called before the bar of the House in the same way as were Browne and Fitzpatrick, who were judged to be involved in a similar case of political blackmail some years ago?
– Perhaps I am an innocent abroad, but the honourable senator’s question goes completely over my head. I do not know what he is talking about.
– The Prime Minister bas been talking about blackmail.
– The honourable senator is obviously making some deductions from what he has read, but he in no way connects the matter. For that reason it is not possible for me to give an answer to his question.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has any request been received by the Commonwealth Government from the Premier of Western Australia for financial assistance to relieve the drought stricken areas of Western Australia?
– I do not know of any request from the Western Australian Government to the Commonwealth Government for special assistance. On a number of occasions I have said, in response to questions asked by honourable senators, that a procedure is laid down under which States can seek special assistance from the Commonwealth Government in relation to drought, floods or a national emergency. It is applied on a Prime Minister to Premier level. If the Fremiti of Western Australia believes that there is a case for special drought assistance for that State the onus is upon him to make proper representations. I know of no representations having been made at this point of time. I will certainly check the current position.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Is the Minister aware of a report issued over the weekend wherein it was stated that the
Queensland Government bad not yet made an approach to the Commonwealth Government about the much publicised CommonwealthState conference on the alleged damage to the Great Barrier Reef by the Crown of Thorns starfish? Will the Minister inform the Parliament whether a request for such a conference has in fact been made? If the request has not been made, will the Minister immediately take the initiative and arrange for the Commonwealth Government to convene a conference?
– I think every honourable senator - not only honourable senators opposite - has a great feeling of pride in the Great Barrier Reef which is the greatest reef in any part of the world. The Reef is more than 1,000 miles long.
– It is 1,200 miles long.
– I said that it was more than 1,000 miles long. Also, it is up to 250 miles wide and extends over an area of about 1,000 square miles, about one-quarter of that area being occupied by the Reef itself. I ask the honourable senator to place on notice that part of the question in which he asks whether meetings have been called between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government so that I may get an answer for him.
– I address a question to the Minister for Works. I draw his attention to the fact that the Senate has taken a keen interest in ensuring that every opportunity is taken by government agencies and government departments to commission Australian consultants to carry out various works. Has the Government any guidelines which it follows in determining whether Australian based or overseas consultants are to be engaged? Further, what is the Government’s record in the use of Australian consultants?
– I acknowledge the interest that the honourable senator has evinced in this question for the past 2 or 3 years. As to guidelines followed by the Government, my Department takes the view that wherever a special problem arises it is necessary to get the best consultative advice and sometimes it is necessary to seek that advice outside Australia. As to the record of the Department, I am able - agreeably to the honourable senator. I hope - to tell him that of an expenditure of S3. 5m on consultation fees last year a sum of not more than $100,000 was spent on consultants employed overseas.
– My question is addressed to the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities. Is it a fact that a conference of the Youth Hostels Association is currently being held in Sydney? Has this Association the support of the Commonwealth Government? Does the Minister believe that this Association’s contribution to tourism and youth welfare is increasing?
– The sixth Asian Regional Conference of the Youth Hostels Association, an international body which operates predominantly in Europe, begins in Sydney today. 1 am glad to inform the Senate that no fewer than 14 countries from the Asian area are represented at the conference. With regard to Government interest, the Government made some finance available for the youth hostel in Canberra, but apart from that full credit should be given to this Association for the fact that it is voluntarily self supporting. As to the Association’s contribution to tourism, I think its activities are on the increase in Australia where it has now established some 60 to 70 hostels. Of course, that is only a small number compared with European performances. I would not like to conclude without saying that I am sure the Senate will welcome the fact that for the first time we are having in Australia a wholly Asian regional conference initiated by this body.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health read a statement by the South Australian AttorneyGeneral that in his opinion there should be an improvement of the law on transplants of human tissues? In view of the many medical and possibly moral issues which the practice of transplantation of human organs or tissues may raise, will the Minister indicate any plans in hand for a total study of this situation?
– I have noted Press comment concerning the very important matter of transplanta tion of human organs and tissues. I do not think I have seen a report of the statement referred to by the honourable senator. However, in reply to his question, I inform him that it is a matter not only for my Minister for Health but also for my colleague the Attorney-General. I believe that the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral of the Commonwealth and the States has received a report of a subcommittee of the National Health and Medical Research Council transmitted to it by the Ministers for Health. The sub-committee explored the possibility of uniform legislation on transplantation operations. The Attorneys-General decided that the questions involved at that stage were primarily matters for the Ministers for Health. I have no further information I can give the honourable senator at the moment, but I will bring the points he has raised before the notice of my colleague the Minister for Health. In the background of the information I have already given, I shall advise the honourable senator of any further information I can get on this matter as it concerns the Attorney-General and Minister for Health.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Have Australian hire purchase companies agreed to stay within the new lending limits worked out by the Reserve Bank as part of the general tightening up of credit? If so, do these curbs mark the beginning of the Government’s plan for a credit squeeze if it regains office on 25th October?
– In a sense, the two questions asked by the honourable senator are unrelated. In any event, I know of no arrangement whereby Australian finance companies are committed to lending within certain limits. If there were limits, they would not be fixed in the way suggested by the honourable senator. The limits at governmental level are not dealt with at all in that way. With great respect to the honourable senator, I suggest that he does not have a complete appreciation of the way the system works. A debate on the Budget is current in the Senate and in another place. One fact that emerges more than any other from the Budget is that Australia today is in a state of great prosperity. We are living in a situation of full employment. In addition to full employment, we have a high intake of migrants. All the elements that normally are used to judge the state of the economy suggest a successful period of development for Australia so long as it continues to have the kind of government that it has at present.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Since the Minister for Civil Aviation is raising airport charges each year until they now are among the highest in the world, and since these increased charges are passed on to air travellers, will the Minister take up with his colleague the possibility of having available some kind of movable footpath which could be rolled out behind the mobile staircases to enable passengers to walk from aircraft to terminal building without the necessity of walking through deep puddles which form on the tarmac in wet weather with, at best, uncomfortable and, at worst, debilitating results?
– It is interesting to note the rapid development of civil aviation in Australia. Every year the Commonwealth Government has allocated millions of dollars to the Department of Civil Aviation for the extension of runways, the provision of airport facilities and so on. That is the reason why since 1961, with the exception of one year if I remember correctly, airport charges have increased each year by 10%. I know that the honourable senator comes from South Australia. I know that the Minister for Civil Aviation, with the Government’s permission, has authorised the extension of certain airport facilities in South Australia and that this work is being carried out under the auspices of my colleague, the Minister for Works. While we are carrying out a construction programme of this kind it is unavoidable, I would think, that people arriving at the airport to which I think the honourable senator is referring will have to put up with certain inconvenience.
– No, I mean every airport in Australia.
– If the honourable senator means every airport in Australia I will have to ask her to place her question on notice and I will obtain a reply from the Minister concerned.
– My question to the Minister representing the Treasurer relates to that asked by Senator Ormonde. I refer to the statement of the Treasurer, Mr McMahon, in Parliament last week in which he directed attention to the reduction of capital inflow in the coming year and to the fact that figures for June and July showed a substantial fall in Australia’s overseas reserves amounting to over SI 17m. Would not the Minister say that these are strong signs that Australia is about to enter into a period of credit restriction, and signs also of a trend which will end in a severe credit squeeze early next year if this economically inept government policy is pursued?
– To look at figures relating to our overseas reserves month by month is to misunderstand completely and to misread the normal processes of governmental finance. Quite clearly, because of climatic conditions which traditionally appear at certain times and because of the level of sales of our primary products, the figures have to be looked at, not on a month to month basis but over a lengthy period. In addition, they need to be looked at in relation to a whole multitude of factors which go to make a budget position. I suggest to the honourable senator that it is wrong thinking simply to take a particular month and say that our overseas balances have dropped. One must have regard to the trend, not necessarily over a year but over a couple of years or more. In his speech on the Budget Senator Murphy tried to draw the same conclusion simply by quoting factors relating to overseas trade, on the one hand, and invisibles on the other hand. It is quite wrong to do that. When 1 speak to his proposed amendment to the Budget I intend to deal with that matter. It is quite a fallacious argument, as I hope to be able to demonstrate.
However, this is question time and I return to the answer I gave to Senator Ormonde to the effect that the test of the issues about which we are speaking is the fact that we are living in a country which has an economy better than that of any other country in the world.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government as the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Is he aware of misrepresentations current in sections of the Press and in the speeches of some members of Opposition political parties as to what the Minister for External Affairs said in his statement to the Parliament on 14th August? Is it not a fact that, far from the Minister inviting Russia to join with Australia in a security pact or welcoming Russian activity to that end, the Minister has stressed that Australia’s policy is and has been to promote co-operation and collective security among countries of South East Asia, of which Russia clearly is not part? Does the Leader of the Government consider that the current misrepresentations have been aided by the refusal of both the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party to allow a debate on the Minister’s statement to take place in this chamber?
– What the honourable senator says is undoubtedly true. Let me refresh the mind of the Senate with the circumstances. I brought to the Senate the statement that was made in another place by the Minister for External Affairs. I set about putting it on the record of the Senate. The act of putting it on the record would have enabled a debate to have taken place subsequently in the Senate. But the Senate did not choose to enable that to be done. The Senate did not give me leave to put the statement down. I was seeking to put it down on behalf of the Minister for External Affairs whom I represent in this place. By so doing, honourable senators denied the Senate the right to debate that statement. Subsequent to that, as Senator Greenwood has said, there has been a whole series of misrepresentations of what, in fact, the Minister for External Affairs said. I say with great respect that the simple way, even now, is to repent, if honourable senators want to - I would be very easy with them - let me put the statement down and let us have a debate on what the Minister said, because there is no doubt that the points made by Senator Greenwood arc well founded.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. I refer to the answer he has just given. In order to give him an opportunity to preserve the reputation that he had for fairness, I ask him: Is it not well known that the refusal by a number of persons representing political parties here was based at least on retaliation for the action of the Government in refusing to allow a member of the Opposition to incorporate a statement in the record on the previous day of sitting? Further, in fairness, will he not admit the truth of this statement: It has been open to him at any stage to give notice of motion ‘That the Senate take note of the statement’, irrespective of whether it has been tabled here - as it has been - and irrespective of whether it has been incorporated in the record? Is it not completely open to the Leader of the Governmentto give such a notice of motion? In spite of any event, including that, will he now withdraw his statement that he has been prevented from initiating a debate on this matter in the Senate?
- Mr President, I do not withdraw my statement. I made it abundantly clear that I attempted to put on the record of the Senate a statement made by the Minister for External Affairs. It needed only one voice - and there was more than one voice - to prevent this from being done. The Senate would not give me leave to do it. It saved me the problem - and denied me the enjoyment - of reading it. In any event the normal procedure, as you know, Mr President, is for the Opposition or the Government to move, at the conclusion of the reading of such a statement, that the Senate take note of the paper. It is then open to the Senate to debate the matter at any time. I point out to Senator Murphy that it would not be for me to judge the motives of the Senate in rejecting the reading of that statement.
– No notice was given.
– You have asked a question. Let me answer it. I repeat that it is not for me to judge the motives of certain honourable senators sitting opposite in rejecting a move which was designed to allow the Leader of the Government the right to present a paper which I suggest the Senate should properly debate.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service whether his attention has been drawn to the contents of the Queensland Occupational Safety News Bulletin No. 10 in which it is reported that the Lovasa, Fiji, branch of South Pacific Sugar Mills Ltd, which employs over 700 adult workers, has twice exceeded 1 million man hours without a lost time injury. Will the Minister for Labour and National Service request his officers to inquire from the firm concerned its assessment of how such an outstanding safety record has been achieved in order to ascertain whether the methods employed can be introduced in Australian industry?
– I must say that I regard this question as being a most constructive and helpful one. I have not seen the report to which the honourable senator referred but I will take the earliest opportunity to see it and refer it to the Minister for Labour and National Service in order to derive from the company concerned such advantage as we can from its experience in establishing safety records.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science indicate what progress has been made in the programme for Commonwealth grants to schools for libraries and whether the programme is proceeding satisfactorily? What amount was provided last year by the Commonwealth to Tasmania and what amount is to be provided this year? Is this grant distributed to State schools as well as to independent schools?
– It will be recalled that last year the Government decided to allocate $9m to schools for libraries. Of that amount Tasmania received about $70,000. I do not have the exact figure. This year the Estimates, as reference to the Budget Papers will show, provide for $291,000 to be paid to that State. I think it would be fair to say that the scheme is proceeding satisfactorily. According to my information, of that sum of $9m, about $2.3m is allocated to independent schools. The remainder is to go to State schools.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs explain, if necessary with the assistance of an impatiently rising legal luminary of the Senate, the governmental inconsistency with which at the weekend the Minister for External Affairs declared his strong support for trade with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics while at the same time his Government bans trade with Rhodesia on the ground that human rights are not observed in that country?
– I am not fully aware of the statement made at the weekend by the Minister for External Affairs. Accordingly I suggest that the question be put on notice.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the fact that the Government intends to make available $100,000 to assist in forming and locating a national film and television training school in Australia, this being a part of the §2. 85m made available in the Budget for aid to Australian arts. Whilst applauding this move for the promotion of a national film and television training school, can the Minister indicate what the Government envisages in relation to this matter?
– No, I cannot do that. I am aware of the reference to the matter in the Budget speech. During the Budget debate or during the Estimates debate it may be possible for me to give further information in relation to this. At present I am not aware of the precise form of the aid or how it will operate. 1 will obtain the information, if I can, in the meanwhile.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport provide the Senate, as early as possible, with a full report in connection with the unfortunate ‘Noongah’ sinking and
Improvements that are necessary in the Navigation Act and in sea rescue, wireless and other facilities to avoid delays of the sort that have occurred in rescue work? Is it a fact that language difficulties caused some delay in rescue? What arrangements have been made to obviate such unfortunate happenings in future?
– Every honourable senator is disturbed at the sad loss of personnel on the ‘Noongah’ off the coast of New South Wales. I understand that the Minister for Shipping and Transport will make a statement in another place today. I will make a similar statement as early as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs. Has official research in Queensland made remarkable progress in the treatment of malnutrition in Aboriginal children? Following this research, has the Commonwealth commenced supervised supplementary feeding in Aboriginal settlements? Is it a fact that a report on this treatment has been prepared and is ready for publication? Is it a fact that this report, which will be of considerable assistance to the medical profession, is not to be released before late October? Is the Government thus playing politics with me health of Aboriginal children?
– The honourable senator asks some very interesting questions concerning the care of Aboriginal children. I believe every honourable senator would wish these children to have the very best possible care. I deplore that he spoiled his question by turning it into a political one. I believe that the importance of the care, welfare and health of these children certainly is a matter of great concern to all Australians. The honourable senator asked about a report. I cannot tell him whether this report has been compiled or, if it has, when it will be made public. But I will make inquiries and inform the honourable senator.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services initiate inquiries into the bona fides of a proprietary limited company known as FDS Nominees Pty Ltd, Melbourne, which has advertised in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ and has indicated that it can increase the income of those making inquiries, without any obligation, regarding the application of the means test? If the claims made by this company are genuine, will the Minister make this information available to those at present at a disadvantage as a result of the application of the means test?
– The honourable senator asks whether I am aware of a company which undertakes to make investigations concerning matters relating to the means test. I am not aware of any such company. I do not know whether the Minister for Social Services is aware of one but I shall certainly bring the point raised by the honourable senator to the notice of my colleague and get a considered reply from him.
– I address to the Minister representing the Prime Minister a question supplementary to that asked by Senator Webster concerning the setting up of a television and film training school. In view of the fact that so often nowadays films are made out of doors, would the Minister point out to the Prime Minister the suitability of setting up this school in South Australia which has the driest, sunniest and most suitable weather conditions in Australia?
– As this is a States House, it is only natural that each honourable senator should do the best he can for the State he represents. All I can promise to do is put the supplications of Senator Webster and Senator Buttfield and those which any other honourable senator cares to submit, before the Prime Minister in the normal way.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Can the Minister explain why television advertisements sponsored by the New South Wales Teachers Federation which were designed to bring to the attention of the general public the needs of education in Australia were rejected for televising under section 116 (2.) of the
Broadcasting and Television Act on the ground that there should be no dramatisation of political matter within 5 years of the event referred to? Were the advertisements accepted by all New South Wales television stations in the first instance, with the exception of Channel 9, and subsequently did all stations refuse to accept the advertisements? Were the advertisements rejected by the individual stations, by the Federation of Commercial Television Stations, or by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board? Does the Minister consider that the drawing of the public’s attention to the urgent needs of education by a professional association vitally interested in the subject necessarily has to be regarded as political?
– The honourable senator asks whether certain advertisements were refused either by the individual television stations, by the Federation of Commercial Television Stations or by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I cannot give the honourable senator the information he seeks but I shall put the matter before the PostmasterGeneral and get what information I can for him.
– 1 address a question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. In view of the critical remarks by the newspaper ‘Canberra Times’ directed against a Minister of the Government in two editorials, will the Minister give an early answer to question 1448 on the notice paper which seeks information on the points stated by the newspaper concerned as reasons for the criticism?
– Ever since I have had ministerial responsibility I have followed the practice of giving answers to questions at the earliest possible opportunity.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware that many breakfast food manufacturers include in their food packages types of leaden toys as sales gimmicks? Does the Minister consider that this practice may be injurious to the health of Australian children?
– I am not aware of leaden toys being included in breakfast food packets. I have seen plastic toys in these packets. I shall make some inquiries for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask: Can he inform the Senate whether members of the Commonwealth Film Unit visited the Pine Gap space facility in the Northern Territory in May of this year in order to prepare a film for display at Expo 70 in Tokyo? If permission has been granted to members of the Commonwealth Film Unit to visit the facility for this purpose, why has a permit not been granted to myself or other interested persons to visit Pine Gap?
– I am not aware of any approval being given to the Commonwealth Film Unit to visit Pine Gap. 1 will seek an answer to the honourable senator’s question and inform him accordingly.
– I direct a question to the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities. I preface my question by saying that Mr A. E. Byrne of Adelaide has, in 38 years of dedicated application, created a memorial in honour of the aviator Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith. The memorial is a documentary in art and includes a model of the tri-motor Fokker ‘Southern Cross’ handcrafted in metal, including gold and silver. There is also a brass globe with the main routes taken by the aviator marked in jewels. I ask: Is it a fact that this memorial has been offered to the Commonwealth Government? Has any determination been made in regard to acceptance of this offer?
– A most generous and significant offer has been made by Mr Byrne. He has offered the whole of his memorial to the Commonwealth Government. I think I told the Senate a short time ago that I had engaged in discussions with the Australian War Memorial, the National Library and the Presiding Officers of the Parliament to see whether those buildings would be fitting repositories for this memorial. Those discussions were unsuccessful. I have since approached the Department of Civil Aviation with a view to placing the memorial near the Canberra Airport, out again I was unsuccessful. But for the proceedings of the Parliament last Thursday I would have had a conference with local people who are interested in the matter. I will have that conference tomorrow. I shall keep the honourable senator informed of any progress made.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Will he investigate the circumstances surrounding a complaint referred to me that on Wednesday, 6th August a member of the military police visited the home of a Brisbane national serviceman seeking information as to his whereabouts and said to his parents: ‘I am sorry to inform you that your son has been AWOL since 28th July’? I am informed that the parents telephoned the authorities at Canungra only to be advised that their son had been marked present and was on a bivouac at the time in question. If the information relayed to me is correct, will the Minister make appropriate apologies to the relatives of the national serviceman for having exposed them to such distressing circumstances?
– I shall convey the honourable senator’s request to the Minister for the Army and will obtain an answer for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. I preface it by saying that Australian Red Cross representatives who perform service overseas are covered by the Repatriation (Special Overseas Services) Act and also receive medals, decorations and the returned from active services badges. I ask: Will the Minister review the provisions of the War Service Homes Act so that these persons will also receive the benefits of that legislation?
– It is well known that during wars officers of the Red Cross Society, the Young Men’s Christian Association and Young Women’s
Christian Association have performed an excellent service for Service personnel. The question whether they should be counted as eligible persons for War Service Home benefits has been considered by various governments through the years but the legislation has not been changed in this regard. I am quite certain that when the legislation is looked at in the future these matters will always be given attention, and any decision made would accord with the policy at the time. I repeat that when the matter has been considered in the past the provisions have not been changed.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government. As celebrations will be held throughout Australia next year to mark the bi-centenary of the landing of Captain Cook, will the Minister request the Government to make a special grant available to Queensland to construct an all-weather road between Cairns and Cooktown, the locality where Captain Cook spent more time than in any other part of Australia? If such a grant can be made, will the Minister cause an immediate announcement to be made so that the people of Cooktown may use the construction of the new road as a focal point in their celebrations?
– I shall refer the honourable senator’s question to the Prime Minister.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service a question which involves a personal dilemma. At the age of 51 years I should like the Minister’s advice as to what I should do in respect of a notice that I have received stating that I will be in the next draft and that I should register for national service.
– It is somewhat novel to hear from my colleague that he has received a notice which apparently was intended for his son. I suggest that he produce his birth certificate and accompany it for verification, in which case the authorities may be satisfied that he is over 20 years of age.
– I address a ques tion to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. In view of the recent statements by High Court justices on offshore responsibilities, does the AttorneyGeneral consider that the permits for oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef which were issued recently by the Queensland Government would not be valid without the consent of the Commonwealth?
– The honourable senator has asked what the AttorneyGeneral’s opinion is consequent upon a recent High Court decision concerning fisheries off the New South Wales coast and about the validity of certain instruments issued under the off-shore legislation. It is not the practice to give legal opinions in answer to questions. I notice a certain amount of chuckling on the part of Senator Wheeldon, whose juniority could explain that. An involved legal question of that sort would not be answered impromptu by anyone. If the honourable senator really wishes to have an answer to that question I ask him to place it on notice.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Bearing in mind the importance to people living in rural areas of the delivery through the mail of newspapers - particularly the principal newspaper of the week, that published on Saturday - can the Minister state whether the limitations on the handling of second class mail on Saturday will restrict the delivery to out of town residents of all their mail, including newspapers, on that day?
– I recall that a similar question was asked of the Postmaster-General a short time ago and that he replied that he could assure the questioner that there were no plans to vary the existing delivery arrangements whereby these residents received all their mail on Saturday. I give that reply to the honourable senator’s question.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether it is a fact that many ministerial statements on foreign affairs and defence matters are listed on the Senate notice paper and that the Government has prevented debate by placing them in a low position on the notice paper. Would not the Government have ensured that the same tactics would have been adopted in relation to the recent statement by the Minister for External Affairs.
– lt is true that a number of ministerial statements are listed on the notice paper. It is equally true that some of them are of fairly long standing and could be taken off the notice paper. However, any honourable senator has the right to move that an item on the notice paper be brought on for debate. By tradition the Government does so, and informs the Leader of the Opposition and the other parties of its intention to do so. I presume that the honourable senator’s question alludes to questions and answers given earlier today at question time about the recent statement of the Minister for External Affairs. I do not think what I have said cuts across what was said earlier. Senator Murphy was quite right in saying that even though leave was refused, one could give notice of a motion. But I have not chosen to do so and I do not so propose. However, I am prepared again to ask for leave on the understanding that I am given leave to put down the paper. Then I will read it and I will move that we take note of the paper.
(Question No. 1331)
Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1436)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
Has the Government completely rejected the non-proliferation treaty on nuclear weapons, or has a time been set for the signing of the treaty.
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply:
The Government’s attitude towards the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons remains as set out in my statement on international affairs in the House of Representatives on 14th August 1969.
(Question No. 1389)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
Was advice tendered to the Nauruan Government by the Department of External Affairs suggesting that Nauru should not become involved in the football pool scheme; if so, what was the reaction from the Nauruan Government.
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply:
The Department of External Affairs was not asked by the Nauruan Government for advice on whether Nauru should become involved in the football pools scheme, and did not tender any advice on the matter.
(Question No. 927)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Increased levels of recurrent grants have been made available in each successive triennium on the basis of $1 by the Commonwealth to $1.85 by the States. These grants are made in total and their distribution amongst the various disciplines is the responsibility of each university. However these increasing grants have initiated improvements and new developments in courses, improved teaching facilities and equipment, and increased staff and enrolments at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels and it is not considered that quotas affect the intake of good students.
Capital grants in the current triennium, 1967- 69, which are shared equally by the Commonwealth and State Governments, include the following items for buildings that are relevant to the honourable senator’s question.
A total grant of $1.1 million for mining and metallurgy at the University of Queensland; $2,437 million for chemical engineering, chemical technology, applied geology and geography at the University of New South Wales; $700,000 for a new building to house several departments including geology at Wollongong University College; $906,000 for chemistry and geology at the University College of Townsville; $2,265 million for science including earth sciences at Macquarie University; $714,000 for geophysics and $274,000 for geology at the Australian
National University; and several substantial building projects for the various branches of engineering which contribute to the education of people who will be employed by the industry.
In addition to the provision of financial assistance to universities, the Government is also assisting financially in the development of mining schools and associated disciplines in the rapidly expanding advanced education sector.
Recurrent and capital grants to colleges of advanced education have been made available since 1967 on the same basis as for universities and are distributed in the same manner.
Capital grants to accommodate mining schools or closely associated disciplines in the present triennium include $532,000 for engineering, metallurgy and geology buildings at the Bendigo Institute of Technology; $324,000 for engineering and metallurgy at the School of Mines and Industries, Ballarat; $996,000 for metallurgy at the South Australian Institute of Technology; and $490,000 for the completion of a mining and engineering building at the School of Mines of Western Australia, Kalgoorlie.
The Australian Universities Commission, in accordance with its charter, and the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education, in accordance with its terms of reference, have recently made recommendations to the Government for the 1970-72 triennium. These recommendations are designed to promote the balanced development of universities and colleges so that their resources can be used to the greatest possible advantage. In these deliberations both the Universities Commission and the Advisory Committee have given due regard to mining developments in Australia and to the industry’s need for persons with appropriate training.
(Question No. 930)
asked the Minister representing the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs has furnished the following reply:
The actual position in Ben Lomond is that two families have purchased houses which adjoin each other in Moreden Road, and a third has purhcased a home 400 yards from the other two. The Board does not own property in Ben Lomond, but has, in the past six years, loaned Aboriginal families the money to purchase homes in the village. There have been only three of these transactions, and one of these has repaid the loan in full. The homes were nominated by the Aborigines who merely applied for the loan to purchase a house of their choice. They would be in no worse premises than the general average in Ben Lomond.
(Question No. 1109)
asked the Minister representing the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs has furnished the following reply:
Increases in the total wage are not, however, automatically added to the rates of allowances paid to trainees on reserves.
Wage Increases for employees In South Australia who are not covered by awards of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission have been effected since October last by variations of the Living Wage under the South Australian Industrial Code. The South Australian Government has approved the payment of these latest increases in the Living Wage on those reserves where a rate previously equivalent to the basic wage was being paid.
(Question No. 1225)
asked the Minister representing the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Allowances paid by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs to reserve residents who are engaged in developing the reserves are determined by that Department taking into account a number of factors, including the nature of the work, the skills and work performance of the individuals and the value of certain services provided to residents of reserves.
Fill AIRCRAFT (Question No. 1299)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
How does this cost compare with -
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(a) to (d) It is impossible to compare like with unlike. The cost of aircraft and ancillary equipment is a capital cost - the costs of the other matters to which the honourable senator refers are annual costs.
(Question No. 1318)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I understand that the Conference hopes that the discussions now started can be completed satisfactorily not only to enable the inclusion of Portland and Albany in the Conference’s arrangements within the next few months but also the extension of feeder services where necessary by sea to North Queensland and Tasmanian ports during the first half of 1970.
(Question No. 1322)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The operating costs shown above are direct cash outgoings and indirect overhead charges would increase the 1968-69 cost figure to 555,500. The revenue figures do not include penalties and fines.
(Question No. 1328)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply:
(Question No. 1413)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral obtain from the Postmaster-General a statement setting out times that the telecasts of the swearing-in ceremony of His Excellency the Governor-General in the Senate yesterday were shown in the various States? If the telecast was not relayed direct to each State other than Western Australia, could an explanation be given of why a direct telecast was not made to those particular States?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished the following information in reply:
I have consulted the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Commission advises that the ceremony on Wednesday, 30th April, 1969, at 11.15 a.m., was telecast by the Commission in toto (approximately 23 minutes) at 12.25 p.m. in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria on that day. Videotape copies of the programme were transmitted in South Australia at 10.10 p.m. and in Tasmania at 10.00 p.m. on the night of 30th April. In Western Australia the programme was transmitted at 9.50 p.m. on 1st May. The time of the ceremony coincided with the schools’ broadcasts iri New South Wales and Victoria and for this reason the Commission did not make a simultaneous telecast of the event.
The Commission decided not to televise the programme at the same time in South Australia and Tasmania as it was televised in Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales. Victoria and Queensland in consideration of the costs in which the Commission would have been involved for the lease of relay facilities from the Post Office for this purpose; no such additional cost was involved in the relay of programmes to the other States.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission also provided a coverage of the ceremony in its television news services in all States.
The Commission’s telecast of the ceremony was made available to commercial stations at the same times as the Commission’s telecast in all States but detailed information regarding the telecast by commercial stations is not available.
Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral advise the Parliament whether a separate television receiver licence is required if an individual owns more than one television set even though the sets may be located at different addresses?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished the following information in reply:
Yes. A separate television viewer’s licence is required in respect of each television receiver owned by one person if the receivers are ordinarily kept at separate addresses.
– On 12th August Senator Bishop asked me to do whatever I can to facilitate agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments in order that the rail link between Adelaide and the standard gauge rail system can be built as quickly as possible. The Prime Minister has provided me with the following reply:
My colleague the Minister for Shipping and Transport has informed me that the brief to consultants to conduct a feasibility study of the proposed standard gauge link between Adelaide and the east-west standard gauge railway was approved by the South Australian Government on 6th August 1969 and forwarded to the agreed firms of consultants on 12th August 1969. It is planned that the selected consultant will submit his report, which will take four months to prepare, by the end of January 1970.
– 1 present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work:
Engineering Services to Neighbourhood Unit No. 4 at Casuarina District, Darwin.
I ask for leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The summary of recommendations and conclusions of the Committee is as follows:
– by leave - The coastal freighter MV ‘Noongah’, 1,673 deadweight tons, owned by the Australian National Line, departed from Newcastle at noon on Saturday, 23rd August bound for Townsville, carrying a cargo of 1,481 tons of steel products. The ship was manned by 9 officers and 17 men. There were no unusual features associated with the loading and she left with all cargo below hatches, properly stowed and lashed, in accordance with usual custom.
At 3.55 a.m. on Monday, 25th August, an urgency message was received by Sydney radio stating that the ‘Noongah’, in a position 12 miles north east of Smoky Cape, had a list of 12 degrees which could not be corrected. This message was rebroadcast by Sydney radio to alert ships in the area by means of the auto-alarm system. The Department of Shipping and Transport search and rescue organisation was immediately informed and the Navy, police and Smoky Cape Lightstation were alerted. At 4.37 a.m. the ‘Noongah’ broadcast a distress signal which stated that the ship was being abandoned and the radio watch closing down. This message also was re-broadcast and the Royal Australian Air Force was asked to have an aircraft in the area as soon as possible. The Royal Australian Navy, the Department of Civil Aviation and the police were notified.
The nearest ship, the ‘Lake Boga’, some 30 miles to the north diverted to the Noongah’s’ last known position. The Navy advised that the HMAS ‘Hobart’ and HMAS ‘Vendetta’ which were exercising at sea in the vicinity of Sydney were proceeding to the area. The ‘Lake Boga’ arrived at the ‘Noongah’s’ last known position at 8.20 a.m. and two life rafts were sighted by the RAAF Hercules aircraft at 8.37 a.m., 22 miles south west of the ‘Noongah’s’ reported position. A Japanese tanker, the ‘Koyo Maru’, which was in the area was directed by the Hercules to the life rafts. One man was picked up from one raft at 9.35 a.m. and the second from another raft at 10.28 a.m. Three merchant vessels steamed into the area about this time, and the Navy ordered HMAS ‘Derwent’ and HMAS Yarra’, th:n in Sydney and Jervis Bay, to the scene.
At 2 p.m. the Department requested that the HMAS ‘Hobart’, which had now reached the vicinity and was off Port Macquarie, take over co-ordination of the search action by surface vessels. At 3.50 p.m. the merchant vessel ‘Meringa’ picked up three men from a raft 8 miles off Tracking Point, and one body was taken aboard HMAS ‘Hobart’. At approximately 4 p.m. four Navy Tracker aircraft joined the RAAF Hercules and remained on search until dark. One Tracker and the destroyer HMAS ‘Anzac’ and three minesweepers entered the search during the night.
At daylight today, four RAN helicopters continued the search, covering the coastline from Port Stephens to Coffs Harbour. The Tracker aircraft and one Hercules then resumed air search between Crowdy Head and Sugarloaf Point and 20 miles to seaward. HMAS ‘Queenborough’ left Sydney for the search area at 8 a.m. today, and two other naval patrol craft are scheduled to proceed to the area when the weather abates. The police, assisted by the Army, are carrying out the coastal search from Smoky Cape to Harrington inlet.
It is expected that the ‘Koyo Mary’ and the ‘Meringa’ will land survivors at Brisbane today or tomorrow and the Australian National Line’s Marine Superintendent is proceeding to Brisbane to meet them. According to preliminary information from survivors, the ship went down rapidly by the stern and probably took the two life boats with her. I regret to have to say that as the men have now been in the water since 5 a.m. on 25th August it must be concluded that the chances of finding further survivors are receding.
The weather in the area was and has continued to be extremely bad. As an indication of conditions at the time, the ANL ship ‘Jeparit’, which passed through the area some hours earlier, suffered damage to the ship’s side when heavy equipment which had been correctly stowed and lashed down in the hold broke loose fastenings welded to the ship. Since the search and rescue operation commenced, the Department has received the utmost co-operation from all concerned, and the search is continuing. In accordance with usual practice in matters of this kind a departmental officer, Captain A. Pearson, Nautical Adviser, has been appointed by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) to conduct a preliminary investigation. This will commence in Melbourne tomorrow - Wednesday, 27th August. On the basis of Captain Pearson’s report the terms of reference for a court of marine inquiry will be determined.
I should like to assure the relatives of those who are still missing that the Government and, I am sure, all members of this Parliament share their anxiety and distress at this time. We join with them in the hope that the search may yet locate those still missing. Direct contact has been made by the Australian National Line with relatives of those on board the ‘Noongah’ and the Minister for Shipping and Transport has asked the Line to maintain that contact in the light of further developments.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Murphy moving a motion relating to the order of General Business after 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That after 8 p.m. tonight consideration of other General Business be postponed until the Senate has dealt with order of the day No. 14.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to:
That, for the remainder of the Session, and in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, leave be granted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works to meet during sittings of the Senate.
Debate resumed from 21 August (vide page 302), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Civil Works Programme 1969-70.
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1969-70.
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30th June 1970.
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the year ending 30th June 1970.
Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30th June 1970.
Government Securities on Issue at 30th June 1969.
Commonwealth Income Tax Statistics for Income Year 1966-67.
National Income and Expenditure, 1968-69. upon which Senator Murphy had moved by way of amendment:
At end of motion add: and that the Senate is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that -
it increases taxation and health and housing costs for families;
it makes no considered and comprehensive approach to the needs of all schools;
it ignores the problems of capital cities and regional centres;
it defers further development projects and urgent rural measures; and
it neglects industries based on Australian natural resources and defence requirements’.
– At the close of the second instalment of this fascinating Budget serial I was dealing with three basic issues which I said I believed were critical for the Australian people and their Government at this time. They are, firstly, defence and survival; secondly, economic management; and thirdly, social justice. I was putting the proposition to the Senate that the adequate handling of the first two elements made it possible to do something useful and effective in the area of social justice. I had said in regard to defence and security that I believed we had taken a positive line and policy through the years in which we had been involved in government, that we had maintained our alliances, had added to our defence capacity, and had taken part in the fight against aggression where and when we were able to do so. May I say in passing, because the opportunity may not occur again, that I very much approve the recent statement on foreign policy. To me it seems to be realistic. It is up to date and is in accord with our size, our ability and our responsibility.
People have been criticising defence spending and defence expenditure proposals, so I think” it is fair to make some comments on defence. Defence programme spending cannot really be a matter of isolation from one year to another. If honourable senators look at the figures tabled earlier with the Budget they will find that in the years 1967-68 and 1968-69, and in this year 1969-70, the expenditure is practically identical. The rate is about $1,100,000 and it has been fairly constant throughout that period. As a comparison, the expenditure rate of the last 3 years is about double that of 1963-64.
As a further illustration honourable senators will find in the Budget papers a reference to the components of public authority expenditure. This appears at page 22 of the document entitled ‘National Accounting Estimates of Public Authority Receipts and Expenditure’. This subdivides Commonwealth expenditure into the main areas and shows the rate of increase. Looking at the figures honourable senators will find that in the 1960s, the decade referred to earlier, the average annual increase in expenditure on war and defence was 14.4%. The next item was education, with an average increase of 11.5%. Roads expenditure increased by 8.8%; health and welfare by 8.8%; and power, fuel and light by 8.1%. So the Commonwealth has practically doubled defence expenditure over about 6 years. It has maintained a constant rate of increase, the rate being the highest in the expenditure sector. Regard has to be paid, of course, to conflicting demands for other things as well as to conflicting problems.
This year’s proposal is not very different to that of the previous 2 years. It is the beginning of a stage in a defence spending programme embarked upon some time earlier. The time to be really concerned about defence spending would be when the next programme is announced. We have equipped ourselves fairly substantially and there will be automatic increases in the equipment and expenditure programme. Therefore I believe that defence expenditure at present is in accord with the programme already approved, is consistent with our responsibilities, and is consistent with our ability to pay. The other area of economic management has been dealt with fairly extensively both by myself and by others on previous occasions, but I think it can be said that the country has had competent economic management. This is shown by the strength of its currency through two devaluations, by the strength of the capital inflow, by the demand that people have for taking up Australian loans, both externally and internally, and by the ability of the Government to finance its redemptions and its borrowings at fairly favourable rates. If we did not have good economic management we would not have these two things: We could not survive devaluations and we would not have the strength in our currency or the attraction for investors that we do have. As I have tried to demonstrate, there has been a good line of economic policy kept through the Budget.
The present situation has changed to that applying when the previous Budgets were presented. Roughly it is a balanced Budget - there is perhaps a slight surplus or a slight deficit, but not very much - as distinct from a previous pattern of fairly heavy deficits. I think that is fairly good management at this point of time, moving into the next decade. I believe we have had a situation of stability and of sound growth within what we had available to us to do things. For those honourable senators who think that this subject is of interest, I commend the concluding paragraph of page 5 of the Reserve Bank’s report which, I think, would roughly bear out what I say. Equally it stresses the need to maintain a fairly careful hand on the economy from now on. It stresses the fact that the economy is fairly fully employed. I think no-one would quarrel with that. The aim of the Government at this time surely must be to maintain confidence in its currency, in its strength and in its capital position and at the same time to sustain a sensible and realistic growth programme. That is what is being done.
In the third area of social justice, we must all remember that it is the efforts of the Australian people in increasing real wealth that makes it possible for any government to distribute this to them in various ways and to overcome pockets of distress or pockets of deficiency. I think the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) put it well when, in his Budget speech, he said:
Although economic feasibility will, in the end, set limits to what can be done in any field, economic purposes will have little meaning unless they contribute to personal and humane values. It is the physical and intellectual progress of the community and of the individual human beings in it that ultimately counts.
To me, that is a real statement of fact. I believe completely in that kind of operation and in that kind of attitude. People have a legitimate right to be critical of the amount of money dispersed in various activities of social welfare. Anybody can say that he believes that the Government should have done more in one area or more in another area or perhaps that it could have done less in one area and more somewhere else, but social welfare payments come out of real wealth and can come only from real wealth. Increased payments can come only from increased real wealth. The strength of the country as a whole, as an economic unit, ls what permits social welfare payments to be made. If honourable senators refer again to the Budget papers they will see that since 1963-64 there has been an increase in national welfare payments from $832m to a figure of $1,337,430,000, which is not quite twice but is getting in the area of twice as much being distributed in social welfare now than last year. Although we might argue about the various areas in which it is distributed, the economy as such is distributing a great deal more money than it did before and is distributing real wealth. The Government has set out to try to alleviate the deficient areas in the distribution and to give something to those people who did not have it before.
It was in this sense that I believe that it was right, proper and just to do something for the independent schools. This approach in the Budget was consistent with my own philosophy. I think, looking at the overall position of welfare in the community, one could say legitimately that this was an area of underprivilege at a given point of time - now - and I was pleased to see the Government take steps to alleviate the position. The economy at the moment does have one or two elements which can be commented on as perhaps problems that are coming towards us. The one that is mentioned often is the one that I would like to reiterate, and that is the pressure on the labour force in the community. I note that last year we had a very significant achievement in our migration programme, which was the highest on record since the 1950s. Equally it had in ft a high component of people who went straight into the work force. It is very important for us to try to continue our migration programme and to continue, in that programme, bringing out people who can enter the work force immediately. Immigration is a dynamic factor in national growth, particularly when the migrants can turn their hands to gainful employment immediately.
For quite some time productivity of the Australian community has been running below the increase in the wage rate. If one looks at the 1970s dispassionately and free from political prejudice one could well say that one of the things Australia, as a nation, has to do, is to improve its total productivity. Without anybody lecturing anybody, this is a very important thing for a country of this size and responsibility and with these resources to remember. Improvement in productivity in Australia perhaps will be the decisive factor that will count in the 1970 decade if we want to add to the real wealth of Australia. Equally it will be important in a fully employed economy and in a growth economy to keep a constant watch on inflationary pressures. These are of two kinds. One is the demand inflationary pressures which are less important than the other pressures which are the cost inflation pressures which come about particularly in a situation where productivity runs well behind increases in wage rates. These add to increases in costs and in the end do not really help anybody very much.
People have seen fit to say that the Budget is inflationary. As I said earlier, this view is a matter for the individuals concerned. The Budget does comment that the net expenditure on goods and services in Australia this year has fallen from 10.4% last year to 7.3%. The figures are listed in a table in the Budget papers and show effectively enough that the Commonwealth has set out to decrease, as far as it can, its own expenditure. The net effect of this is not inflationary but tends to place the economy in a more balanced position. That, honourable senators, is my present view of the Budget situation. I have tried to analyse it fairly and dispassionately. I believe it is a good instrument. I believe it is a proper instrument at this point of time in the economy. I do not see that I am in any situation to support the amendments. To me, they do not have any real economic merit.
– Can the honourable senator justify the reduction in the defence vote?
– 1 do not regard it as a reduction. If the honourable senator cares to examine the figures in the Budget speech, I think he will find himself forced to agree.
– When one has regard to the increase in salaries and the other things that will take place, the actual expenditure on defence will be considerably less.
– Perhaps I could repeat an earlier part of my speech and refer the honourable senator to the Budget Papers which give the defence expenditure over the last 3 years. I could not support the amendment moved on behalf of the Australian Labor Party or the amendment moved on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party. I believe the Budget is a good, a sensible and a liberal one and fully in accord with the spirit of Liberal philosophy.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy). At the outset I must say that I was almost moved to tears by the pathetic approach adopted by Senator Cotton. Right from the beginning of his speech he set out to justify the actions of the Government in bringing down this Budget which can be described only as an election Budget. It gives 20c here, 20c there and 5c for something else. When the Government was getting a little light on and it came to fixing social services all it did there in terms of money value was to allocate an extra lc or 2c. Senator Murphy’s amendment is in very clear terms. I would like to read it again to refresh Government supporters particularly of its contents. At the end of the motion, we seek to add: and that the Senate is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that-
This is probably the first time in history that the Budget apparently has not been prepared by the Treasurer.
– Why do you say that?
– That has been fairly widely publicised. A week or so ago, a commentator was quoted in one of the daily newspapers as saying: ‘At least they let Billy read it.’ Another statement was that there had been great conflict of opinion as to what would be contained in the Budget and probably as to who should be responsible for its preparation. In his Budget speech, under the heading ‘Economic Context’, the Treasurer said:
The various proposals - 1 - to which I shall refer later in my speech - are brought forward in conditions of high prosperity.
I suggest that it would be more appropriate to say that they are brought forward in conditions of high inflation, and as I proceed I shall demonstrate that this applies particularly to those who are to receive the proposed very meagre pension increases. The Treasurer also said in his speech: ‘social welfare has an honoured place’. The Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation in a letter which I received from that body only this afternoon and which I shall read shortly has aptly described the Budget. The proposed pension increases are 75c a week each for married couples and $1 a week for single pensioners. Later in his statement the Treasurer said that another 250,000 persons will become eligible for pensions under the tapered means test. I submit that the number of questions that have been placed on notice both here and in another place indicate that there are obviously some people who want to know a lot more about the 250,000 people referred to. These people would like to know how many of the 250,000 new pensioners are to receive either some of the fringe benefits that go with social service pensions or some of the other benefits to which they ought to be entitled. After giving lengthy consideration to the Budget the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation had this to say in the letter which I received from that body today:
The majority of pensioners have no means to supplement their pension, and therefore, are condemned to a substandard state of existence on pensions entirely inadequate for (heir needs - a race apart, not to share in the growing wealth of our country, denied an honoured place after having done their day’s work, excluded from humane values.
This Federation in its press statement (12th August 1969) on the Budget said: ‘It is clear that there must be a total revision of social services of this country - a need for a new and different programme to guarantee financial security and wellbeing.’
This Federation condemns the 1969-70 Budget for perpetuating the injustices and inequalities inherent in the social services system of our country, and indeed, by adding to them.
This Federation has repeatedly drawn attention to the practice of the present Liberal-Country Party Government to grant pension increases only during election years and attributed the two successive general pension rise as due to the possibility of a snap election at the time of the 1968-69 Budget and the 1969 forthcoming federal elections.
This Federation condemns this practice and has declared that: ‘Pensioners must cease as a political football.’
The objective of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation is to advance and protect the interests of all pensioners. This Federation is non-party and non-sectarian, it is not concerned with Parties or individuals as such, our only concern is with policies enunciated which will further the objectives of this Federation.
In accord with our objectives to advance and protect the interests of all pensioners the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation condemns the policy of your Government on social services for perpetuating a system which keeps the majority of the aged, the invalid, the widowed, the service pensioner and the dependents in a constant state of poverty and lacking in wellbeing.
This Federation condemns your Government for not facing up to the responsibilities of our time, of continuing a social security system which denies justice, equality and social security to tens of thousands of Australian citizens and their dependants.
That sums up fairly well the attitude of all pensioners in this country to the Budget proposals. As I mentioned a moment ago, the maximum pension payable to a single pensioner is to be increased by $1 to SIS a week. The combined pensions for a married couple are to be increased to $26.50 a week. It will be recalled that there has been continual criticism of the growing gap between the pension payable to the single person and the amount payable to a married couple. A widow without children is to receive the fantastic sum of $13.25 weekly. One has only to refer to the newspapers in our capital and provincial cities to realise the difficulties under which these people are required to live. In the first place, pensioners with no other income have no hope whatever of buying their own home. Further, to rent premises suitable for occupation by them is beyond the means of the pensioner couple. In the capital city of Canberra it is not possible to rent a reasonable sort of one bedroom flat for very much under $20 a week. In fact, I doubt that it can be had for that amount. In the provincial city of Toowoomba a flat of reasonable standard, or a reasonable unfurnished home would cost between $12 and $15 a week. A widow without children has a total income of only $13.25 a week unless she has some other subsidiary income - and a great many of them have not. Despite this, the Government persists in saying that in the Budget under consideration it has looked after the pensioners.
One of the other problems with which parliamentarians have been confronted in approaching this Budget session and which one would have expected to be rectified in a year in which the election has been hurried forward is the non-availability of departmental reports. As yet, the reports of only one or two departments are available for discussion. Departmental reports are of considerable assistance when one is engaged in debating the Budget, and I hope that before we proceed to debate the Estimates these reports will be available.
I turn now from social service pensions for widows, the aged and invalid to that section which makes provision for those who are in receipt of repatriation pensions and benefits. The total repatriation pension bill for this year is to be increased by $8m to $293m. Yet we are able to find the sum of $ 1,104m for defence. The total pension payable to a permanently disabled soldier, excluding allowances, is only $36 a week. Here I remind honourable senators on the Government side that if the average recipient of this pension had not been handicapped in any way and had been able to earn a normal living it would have been a very poorly paid job or profession indeed that would have returned to him only $36 a week. The general rate pensioner whose disability is assessed at 75% will receive an increase of $2 a week if he is in receipt of the special compensation allowance. But nothing has been done for many years for the general rate pensioners whose disability is assessed at less than 75%. This great army of people - there must be many thousands of them - suffered mental or physical disabilities as a result of their war service. Apparently the voice of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) was not strong enough at the Cabinet level to ensure that these people received some justice. Their pensions have remained static over a long period of years. I have always been under the impression that any pension paid in the field of repatriation was paid on the basis of compensation for the disability suffered.
While I am making reference to repatriation matters I think I should also refer to the allocation for war service homes. Honourable senators will recall that the amount which could be borrowed for the construction or purchase of a war service home was increased last year from $7,000 to $8,000. This amount falls far short of the sum that one requires today to purchase or construct a reasonable standard two or three bedroom home. It is far less than the amount of assistance required. The Australian Labor Party has consistently advocated that this amount should be increased to at least $12,000 or $13,000 and that there should be some investigation into whether the transfer of mortgages and so on could be covered by the War Service Homes Division. I know that prior to the preparation of the Budget all ex-service bodies in Australia approached the Government with a request for an increase in the amount which could be borrowed. They also set out a log of claims seeking an increase in pensions. But apart from the two or three very mean additions that have been made to pensions, nothing came of their representations. Whilst there is to be an increase of $Sm in the total allocation for war service homes there has not been any relaxation of the limitation on the amount that can be borrowed by a prospective home builder or purchaser.
Months have passed since the Senate debated the setting up of a select committee to inquire into repatriation, but there has been a consistent refusal by the Government to do anything about it. It makes me wonder what is the great fear of the Government. Does it fear what might be exposed by a public examination of the field of repatriation? Is it feared that some sort of bankruptcy will be caused in the Government? Is it feared that politically it might be disadvantageous to the Government to have such an investigation? When the setting-up of a select committee has been raised it has been side-stepped by the Government. Why has it been side-stepped? The story now used by the Government and its Ministers is that the ex-service bodies want an independent investigating committee to inquire into repatriation. Since the beginning of this session the Government has further evaded its responsibilities in the fields of social services and repatriation. In the weeks since the publication of that now famous book ‘Be In It, Mate’ the Minister for Repatriation has, unfortunately, devoted most of his energies and his mental abilities to finding caustic remarks to pass about the book and its author, and he has not done anything constructive for the people covered by the repatriation legislation.
In his Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) said that $265m will be set aside for education this year. The Government has made an attempt to secure sectional support in the electorate by going into education in a very big way. But the popularity of its proposals is declining fast, for a number of reasons. I venture to say that as a result of the backlash the Government will lose votes rather than gain them. The Government has also failed completely in the field of primary industry. Allocations have been made for wool research and promotion. Reference was also made in the Budget to the wheat industry stabilisation scheme and to a further increase in fertiliser subsidies. This is part of legislation introduced by the Government which was copied from the policy of the ALP. The Government’s wheat industry stabilisation scheme has been a fantastic failure up to date, and the people who grow wheat in every State of Australia are no longer interested in the Government’s policies.
The Budget overlooks a number of things. The Government has neglected to mention or to make any allocation of finance for the development of that area of Australia that is north of the Tropic of Capricorn or, for that matter, immediately below it. No further mention has been made of additional sums for water conservation. There has not been an increase in the allocation for roads either. I will deal with these matters in detail in a moment. No mention is made of an increase in child endowment, maternity allowance or funeral benefit. All of these social service allowances have been neglected entirely. Defence is one of these tomorrow propositions. The Government has said that it is going to do this and it is going to do that, but it does not do anything. We have been told that the 5% decrease in the defence vote has been brought about because certain payments have been made. Nothing has been done in the spirit of the 1966 referendum for the Aboriginals. In addition, a large number of domestic matters have been neglected.
Northern development is, so far as 1 am concerned, as a Queenslander, one of the most important issues of the day. As supporters of the coalition Government will realise over the next 6 or 7 weeks, it will be made a very important issue in the election campaign, no matter how much the Government tries to sidestep it. On numerous occasions the Opposition has asked for the stationing of patrol boats in north Queensland. Of the twenty boats that have been constructed, only four have been stationed north of the Tropic of Capricorn at any one time. I draw the line at the Tropic of Capricorn because it is geographically easy for people to recognise that part of Australia. If I were to mention small ports or towns it might not be so easy for people to identify the areas to which I am referring. So far as the people of northern Australia are concerned, the fishing industry is developing into one of the major industries. The stationing of patrol boats in places such as Mackay, Townsville, Cairns, Thursday Island and Darwin, as well as on the west coast of Australia on a semi-permanent basis if not on a permanent basis would be of considerable advantage in keeping our fishing areas protected for Australians or those companies registered as joint venture companies. Australia is in a very peculiar situation at present in that it has to rely on a patrol boat supplied by the Japanese to keep the Japanese from encroaching upon Australian fishing areas.
Water conservation has been completely overlooked in the Budget. There has been a long-standing cry for the Burdekin Dam to be developed to the next stage. If this were done we would be able to irrigate many hundreds of thousands of acres of agricultural land. We would be able to supply water to some of the major towns in the area and would provide a means by which we could hold the Snowy Mountains Authority together. It would be a means of providing employment during those seasons when the meat industry and cane industry had ceased operations for the year. Probably it would provide employment for several hundred people. But even small schemes, such as one on the Big Rocks dam site, have never been investigated, by either the State Government in collaboration with the Commonwealth Government or the Commonwealth Government alone.
Dr Heidecker, a man who knows the north, has set out in some detail what can be done with a scheme on what is known as the Big Rocks dam site. This at least would provide some of the water that is needed by people in the area of Queensland in which I live. But again, this is one of those propositions that are looked at with only a little interest by people who ought to be able to do something and then ultimately pigeonholed and forgotten. I propose to raise this matter again in other debates in this chamber, but I wanted in the limited time available to me on the Budget debate to have a reference to that subject included in my Budget contribution.
I refer now to Australia’s roads system. During question time today I asked - not facetiously, but quite seriously - a question about the construction of a link’ between Cairns and Cooktown as a memorial to the landing of Captain Cook at Cooktown in June 1770. There are two possible ways in which a link could be constructed between Cairns and Cooktown. When considering this region some people fail to remember that there are whole areas of this country which are not adequately served by reasonably traffickable roads. The area to which I refer is one of them. One method of constructing this link would be to build a road up the coast between Cairns and Cooktown. Part of that link, the Cook Highway, is already constructed, but for the expenditure of a comparatively small sum of money it could be completed. When one remembers that we are spending about $ 1,000m a year on defence and that much of it is wasted, when one remembers that already we have paid SI 76m to the United States for an aeroplane that may never fly, when one remembers that we are committed to pay at least another $150m for this aeroplane, when one recalls that we have paid at least $3m or $4m to build a runway at Amberley which may never take the Fill aircraft, and when one realises that for a mere sum of $3m or $4m, or perhaps only $500,000 or Sim, depending on the urgency of the job, we could build a life saving road which would become valuable as a defence measure, one appreciates that only a comparatively small sum of money is involved.
An alternative to the coastal road is the Mulligan Highway running from Mareeba to Cooktown. Those who have travelled over this road know that it is one of the motorists’ nightmares in the far north of Queensland. I would assume, probably rightly, that with the exception of Queenslanders very few Government supporters have travelled over that road and, as is probably even worse, have very little interest in it. Yet those members continually complain about the road toll. Honourable senators, particularly on the Government side of the chamber, suggest that we should control the speed of motor cars with governors so that there is less possibility of fatal or serious accidents, but I think we should get back to basics and consider the possibility of improving roads throughout Australia so that they will carry fast cars. I suggest that we could divert to this purpose some of the money that we waste on defence. Money is wasted on defence because of the poor supervision by the Government of the manner in which it is spent. The AuditorGeneral’s report, which will receive a pretty good dissection during the discussion on the Estimates, discloses that we have spent tens of thousands of dollars unnecessarily and wastefully - and sometimes, I am afraid, even politically dishonestly.
I propose to refer briefly to those aspects of social services where no relief has been granted by the Budget. I refer first to the continual request from the mothers throughout the community for an increase of child endowment, a field in which there has been no increase over a period of many years. Inflation has been allowed to go uncontrolled. I disagree with the statement made in this chamber today that the community generally is economically viable and that Australia’s overall finances are in a sound position. They are not. To say that they are is to kid ourselves. One of the comments which appeared in a London newspaper after the delivery of the Budget in this Parliament was highly critical of Australia for delivering a budget of this nature because of the developing unsoundness of the Australian economy. This will be highlighted, no doubt, if the Government is lucky enough to be returned at the next election. I venture to say now that either later this year or very early next year the Government, if returned to office, will bring in a supplementary budget which will be used to dampen down the economy. It will create a pool of unemployment and do all the things that it did during the 1960-61 period. I realise that Government supporters cannot afford to tell the Australian people about this at the moment because that would bring about an even greater reduction in votes than they expect.
I refer again to the fate of Aboriginals in Australia. With much tub thumping and a great deal of noise we saw carried a referendum which was supposed to ensure that the Aboriginal people would be treated as equals. That was a long time ago and towards the latter end of this year it will have been 3 years ago. Very few Aboriginals have benefited so far as a result of the referendum. There are places in Queensland - I know that there are places also in the Northern Territory and Western Australia - where the Aboriginals are still treated as third grade citizens, where no real attempt has been made to plan more permanent and profitable employment for them, where no real attempt has been made to meet their housing requirements, where in the field of housing, education and health they are no better off now than they were before the referendum was carried. The infant mortality rate in some parts of northern Australia ranges as high as about 145 per 1,000 live births, but in the European community we expect the rate to remain at about 20 per 1,000 live births. This is a tremendous indictment of everybody associated with the Office of Aboriginal Affairs. This shows the clear neglect of the things with which we ought to be dealing, regardless of the political party to which we belong and regardless of the political colour of the party in government. It is a responsibility which we should have accepted many years ago and which we have failed to accept.
We now have the right constitutionally, given to us by the people of Australia, to bring Aboriginals up to the standard of first class Australians. I know that to do so would affect many pastoralists. I know that a number of pastoralists have used the excuse of increased wages to enable them to impose even harder conditions on some of the detribalised Aboriginals who live on station properties. I know that it hurts financially when proper wages have to be paid to Aboriginals. Nevertheless, the Government should be prepared to pull itself up by its bootlaces, look at the situation and do something about it. People come into my office - mainly Murray Islanders or Torres Strait Islanders - who have applied for loans for housing or to establish themselves on a small farm or in a small business, but in not one instance so far has a loan been granted. After many months of waiting they have been fobbed off with all sorts of official explanations, but nothing has been done about their situation. The only case in which we have been successful was in respect of an elderly Aboriginal who needed a loan to buy some things for his home. He was able to get a few dollars for that purpose, but that has been the only successful case since the Office of Aboriginal Affairs was established.
– Was this on an island?
– No, on the mainland. The people to whom I refer have left the islands and are living on the mainland. If one goes to the islands one finds that the situation is even worse. With all due respect to the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), it will be recalled that on numerous occasions I have asked for land to be released on Horn Island so that Torres Strait Islanders could build homes there. Statements have been released publicly in the last few weeks to show that on Thursday Island two or three landlords are completely exploiting these people. If the Government carried out the letter of the law and gave effect to the meaning of the legislation by setting up a separate department there v/ould be no need for this situation. Land on Horn Island has been set aside for so-called defence purposes. It is probable that it will never be used for such purposes. This land could be made available through a small amount of ministerial and departmental co-operation. One of the silly answers I received - I say this with all sincerity - stated that we ought to ask the Japanese pearling groups to build homes for these people. What an evasion of responsibility! This is a vital part of our northern development.
This afternoon in the Senate, a question about the Great Barrier Reef was asked of Senator Scott, who represents in this chamber the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn). He did not even know the area of the Reef but he tried to deliver some party political propaganda to the nation while the proceedings were being broadcast. He tried to show that he had a wide knowledge of the areas of the Barrier Reef and its importance to Australians. Frankly, he finished up making himself look foolish. The Barrier Reef is one of the most important areas off Australia’s eastern coastline. It has tremendous potential for development in respect of fishing and tourism and for other reasons. There has been a great amount of backing and filling between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth with the result that one wonders who is interested in what.
– What is the area of the Barrier Reef?
– We told you the area this afternoon. If the honourable senator was not interested enough to listen at the time, 1 do not think I should detail it for him now. As he is so ignorant of these facts I ought to buy him a map of Queensland. He could study it during the parliamentary recess. Other Government supporters should do the same thing and they might become more aware of this tremendous national asset. At the conference of the Liberal Party held in Toowoomba last week-end, according to fairly reliable Press reports, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) sought permission to make a statement on the Barrier Reef. He was not encouraged, but he was a little smarter than the local Liberals. Before he boarded a plane to leave Toowoomba he said that as far as he was concerned, he wanted the Reef to be protected. But this did not come up at the Liberal Party conference. After the Prime Minister had departed and a considerable amount of discussion ensued, it was decided that there was not very much wrong with mining on the Barrier Reef.
Japex (Aust.) Pty Ltd, in conjunction with another company, will shortly begin drilling on the Reef. The excuse has been given that drilling will take place about 50 miles away from the nearest part of the Reef. That is not true. The area is within a few miles of some of the best islands for tourism off the coast of northern Queensland. The drilling mud used in drilling alone conceivably could destroy marine life because of some of the toxic chemicals that are added to it. Should we be unfortunate enough in those circumstances to find an oilfield under the Barrier Reef, only one break would be needed. The statement was made at the Liberal Party conference that there is greater danger to the Reef from tankers going up and down the coast. This is just so much poppycock. Under normal maritime regulations and in view of the very small number of tankers operating in the area, the chances of anything going adrift are fairly small. But there are some people who want to get rich and they do not care at whose expense it is accomplished. They do not care that succeeding generations of Australians may not have the Great Barrier Reef. They are prepared to exploit the Reef in order to make a quid out of it.
We asked what had happened about the conference on starfish. That led to the now famous statement by Senator Scott. We were given no information at all, but told to put the question on the notice paper. This should not be the attitude of a responsible Minister in what one hopes would be a reasonably responsible Government. The information should have been available at the Minister’s fingertips or obtainable immediately from his advisers. One can only assume that the Minister wanted to evade the question for cheap political reasons and the fear of public reaction, because the fact is that the Queensland Government, in view of its rather strained relations with the Commonwealth Government, apparently has not yet submitted a request for the conference. This subject has been discussed for ages and ages.
Only yesterday a further statement was made that part of the delay in consideration of construction of a central Queensland powerhouse was due to procrastination by the Queensland Government from September 1968 to March 1969 before it made any submission at all. Perhaps the Prime Minister will say in an election campaign speech: ‘We will give you enough money to carry out some drilling in the central Queensland area to see whether the earth structure there is sufficiently strong to accommodate a powerhouse.’ Undoubtedly some concessions will be made because this normally happens in an election campaign. As I mentioned a few minutes ago in referring to a letter from pensioners, last year because of the possibility of an election and this year because of the imminence of an election a few cents were thrown to pensioners. I have no doubt that a few cents will be thrown to Queenslanders when the Prime Minister announces the Government’s policy in the coming election campaign.
Matters have been complicated since the delivery of the Budget by the fall of Fairhall, or his projected departure from the ministerial scene. Another complicating factor, with which I will deal at length in a minute or two, is the public debate now being entered into by some members of the Government and some representatives of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. Before I deal with that matter I want to refer briefly to some aspects of the domestic situation. The Government likes to be spectacular. It likes to do something in a big way that will catch public headlines. Only a few days ago a local newspaper carried a series of headlines that seemed to be a reflection of a policy speech by the Government. On the left hand side of the front page appeared a statement about the release of John Zarb. He should never have been imprisoned in the first place. Towards the right hand side of the page appeared the news that tremendous sums are being released for education. Of course, this was electioneering too.
On another part of the page appeared the story of the award of the Victoria Cross to that grand Australian soldier Warrant Officer Simpson. I congratulate Warrant Officer Simpson publicly on winning the Victoria Cross. The other articles to which I have referred are to be expected, I suppose. It is part of the pattern of the nice things that will be released by the Government in order to catch the headlines. Apparently the Budget was framed in that way in the hope that it would prove to be an election winning Budget. That may well be a forlorn hope.
– Do you think there are any good parts of the Budget?
– Yes. It is true that pensioners will get another 75c a week. That will buy them another bowl of soup. It is true that recipients of repatriation benefits will get a small increase which will enable them to buy another cigarette - not a packet, but a cigarette. There are some good parts of the Budget, but do not look at it too closely because it is a hoax and a fake. It is an attempt to deceive Australians into believing that it is a good Budget so that they will continue stupidly to vote for a Government that intends to do nothing for them. We can come right down to our own area of spending, right into this Parliament House. There are always complaints about the turnover in staff in the Department of the Interior. No doubt the Department will build another lot of fountains with its Budget allocation this year. The fountains outside Parliament House are delightful. They are probably among the best in the world and are a tremendous tourist attraction. They make Parliament House look very attractive. Do you think that the Department of the Interior will spend an additional 20c a week from its Budget allocation on salaries of staff in this place?
If any honourable senator on the Government side is humane enough to talk to members of the staff here he will learn that they are among the poorest paid in Australia. I am not referring to those in the upper brackets in the Department; I am referring to those who serve our meals at the table, who serve us with a beer after we finish work, who act as messengers on the door, who look after the gardens and the grounds, who attend to the maintenance. These are probably the poorest paid people in Australia, and if they are not actually forbidden to join trade unions they are not encouraged to do so.
The situation goes beyond that. Probably some honourable senators opposite have never been to the downstairs bar. I suggest that if they have never been there they should take 1 0 minutes before they leave the Parliament for the election campaign and look at the conditions in which staff members are required to drink in the downstairs bar. It was nothing better than a fowlhouse prior to the Parliament going into recess at the end of the last sessional period. There were holes in the floor and it was overcrowded. If any of the girl staff members, in particular, wanted to take a friend there for a drink there would not have been enough chairs to sit on. I am delighted to know that during the recess there has been some improvement. A little paint has been splashed around. One chair had a crack in it so it was given two coats of paint to cover the crack. These conditions should be the subject of investigation and hard searching by Government senators. The Government is spending tens of thousands of dollars outside when it should be more interested in improving the lot of the employees of this Parliament - the people who look after our well-being during the session - by raising them from their present low wage standard and by providing them with adequate facilities.
What happens if a staff member who has to spend the whole week here wants to take a guest to the dining room for a meal? He cannot use our guest room. Where does he take his guest? Does he take him down the road and buy him a pie and peas? Why are not some facilities of this kind made available for staff members? Perhaps those associated with the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House could take these things into consideration in planning for the new building, but in the meantime let us make sure that a decent room is set aside for staff members and that a decent wage is paid to those who look after us so well.
The other thing that stuns me is the terrible division that is occurring between the Australian Democratic Labor Party, whose members are now missing from the chamber, and the Government. The members of the DLP have played a great hoax on the people of Australia because for quite a period they have told the people that on those occasions - very rarely - when they have supported the Australian Labor Party in a division, and then mostly in a headline hunting attitude, they have been doing good for Australia. The members of the DLP who are absent can read my speech tomorrow in Hansard. When there is a Government move for an increase in social services they vote for the Government all along the line, but they oppose any Opposition amendment which seeks to increase social service payments. When we were debating the Bougainville copper project we were treated to a statement on behalf of the organisation concerned which said, by implication, that if the local natives do not behave we have to pull guns and invoke the law on them. That is not good enough. A member of the DLP interjected continually the other night while I was making my speech. This same senator is mentioned in an article in the ‘Australian’ of 25th August. The article is in these terms:
If it is necessary to fight for 15 years to destroy the Liberal Party before they destroy Australia, well do it’, he said.
Senator Little, the secretary of the Federal Parliamentary DLP, said the party had struggled for the past 15 years to destroy the Australian Labor Party.
We have now to take up the cudgels and destroy another major political force in this country’, he said.
We have the stamina and the people. I hope and believe we can get the money’.
Members of the DLP are absent from the chamber at the moment, probably plotting and planning to destroy the Government.
– Are they talking to Harradine, do you think?
– Do you think they may be intending to form an alliance with the Australia Party? The article continues:
Senator Little made the most savage attack on the Governments-
Shocking - for the past week at the annual conference of the NSW branch of the DLP in Sydney.
He said: ‘In Victoria, without referring to my party executive, I told a questioner that at the October 25 Federal election any independent candidate with a responsible defence policy would get our second preferences’.
DLP leaders have been attacking the Government for the past 2 weeks since the Budget announcement of a 5% cut in defence spending and the Minister for External Affairs, Mr Freeth’s statement that Russia had a legitimate interest in the Indian Ocean.
Senator Little said: ‘Fifteen years ago we set out to destroy a major political party.
Now it doesn’t control one government in any State. It’s on it’s knees.
We’ve crucified a lot of good men politically. That is a very proud boast. The article goes on:
He told about sixty delegates: “There are alot of people who have more to lose than most of us in this room, and I believe they will listen to the message when we give it to them’.
Senator Little said Mr Freeth had merely been mouthing the policies decided by the Prime Minister, Mr Gorton.
In other words, Mr Freeth apparently has no responsibilities as Minister for External Affairs. He has to take his directions from Mr Gorton. Continuing, the article states:
While Russia has been preparing a fleet to put into the Indian Ocean, we’ve done nothing’, he said.
Senator Little said he was not worried about the DLP’s preference votes.
We’ll go out for the primary votes of the people who have been voting for the Liberals’, he said.
We’ll take on sectarianism too. We have slaughtered the political careers of more Roman Catholics than any other denomination in the past-
I hope some of you Calathumpians will look after your churches because they will be slaughtered too - and we’ll do it again if they stand against Australia’s best interest’.
So much for the statement. I suppose we all know the writings of Mungo MacCallum, the columnist for the ‘Australian’. I think his statement in the issue of 23rd August, last Saturday, sets out exactly how most of us on this side feel about this situation, even if Government members are shaking in their shoes or beds or whatever. This is what Mungo MacCallum said:
Now that the Minister for External Affairs, Mr Freeth, has changed his policeman’s baton for an olive branch, the Democratic Labor Party has turned somewhat against the Government.
Last week the four DLP senators emerged from behind their gloom for long enough to refuse the Government Leader, Senator Anderson, permission to even read Mr Freeth’s statement aloud.
But in the musty corridors in the deepest darkest dungeons of Parliament House, on a night without a moon, hissing sounds of ‘Freeth . . . Freeth . . . ‘ could be heard. And there, gathered under a table, were Senators Gair, McManus, Little and Byrne poring excitedly over the forbidden document.
Eventually, with difficulty, the four senators rose. Senator Gair wiped the steam from his eyeballs.
Well’, he said. ‘Well, have you ever read anything like it?’
No’, replied Senator Little with complete assurance. ‘But then, I haven’t read alot unlike it, either. “Ring the Pope’, Senator Byrne burst out. ‘Get it on to the index. Can you imagine what would happen if that sort of thing got into the hands of innocent young Australians? Do you see this bit here? Where he says there’s no need to panic at the sight of a Russian?’
The senators dived back under the table, whimpering in terror.
Senator Gair thoughtfully dealt out a harsh penance to his colleague.
How many times do 1 have to tell you’, be gritted, ‘not to use that word? Once more, and you’re excommunicated’.
Senator McManus giggled. ‘If it wasn’t so serious, it would be sort of almost outrageously interesting, like people taking their clothes off in the theatre’, he said.
Senator Gair looked at him strangely. ‘We’re against that too, you know’, he said. ‘It is, after all, a manifestation of the world-wide moralesapping conspiracy of the left’.
The senators gasped at their leader’s courage in using the four-letter word, but no one dared to take him up on it.
And you see here’, said Senator Little, who was still thumbing through the document, ‘where he says that we could be interested in collective security. Ha. We all know what that means’.
The senators nodded gravely. They knew.
And be says we should expect them to come into the Indian Ocean’, Senator Byrne groaned.
And he’s talking about China’, Senator McManus whispered in horror. ‘Not the Real China. Oh no. He means the mainland bit, where all the little red arrows come from. I can see through bis little tricks’.
You don’t mean’, Senator Little asked, ‘the comm. . . . ‘
After a while the other three let him go, and peered out from under the table.
What are we going to do?’ Senator McManus asked.
Ask for another $50 per pupil per year to keep the independent schools independent’, Senator Byrne replied automatically. Senator Gair silenced him with a look. ‘It’s going to cost them a lot more than that,’ he snarled.
He penned a note: ‘Dear Mr Gorton, unless you pay us the sum of $4,000 million to stamp out Russians immediately, me and my friends will be round to smash your Government and burn down your seat. Signed: A Friend.’
Next morning a reply arrived: ‘Dear Friend, I have received or am receiving your letter. Do your worst.’
Senator Gair looked startled. ‘But that’s what we’ve been doing for years,’ he said. ‘Don’t tell me someone’s calling our bluff.’
A tear trickled downhis cheek. ‘Oh well,’ he said, ‘it’s been good while it’s lasted.’
Then be brightened up. ‘We may be through in Australia,’ he said, ‘but there’s still a place in the world for the DLP, in Belfast, perhaps. Or possibly Sicily . . . ‘
That just about sums up the general feeling of Australians. 1 believe that Mungo MacCallum did an excellent job there.
In conclusion let me say this about the Budget: I know that it has got members of the Government parties into a lot of trouble; but after 25th October it will get them into a lot more trouble. However, at that time their worries will be over because, on this performance, no longer will the Australian people decide that the present Government parties should continue as the Government and bring down budgets of this type, which keep a section of the Australian people at a standard below that at which any decent Australian would expect them to be kept I refer to the almost one million people who because of low incomes, because of fixed incomes and because of inadequate social services are forced to live without their three meals a day, frequently without adequate clothing, particularly in winter time, with substandard housing and in almost all instances without proper medical treatment. This is not the sort of thing that we expect or accept in 1969 or in the decade now facing us - the 1970s. I sincerely hope that the Government will have second thoughts and that at least some sort of supplementary assistance will be granted in the fields to which I have referred. I hope that the Senate, as a sign of its belief in what should be the rights of Australians, will carry the amendment when it is finally put to a vote in this chamber.
SenatorLAWRIE (Queensland) [5.18]- 1 support the Budget and commend the Government on the proposals put forward. 1 oppose the amendment. The increases in social welfare payments are a prominent section of the Budget. As has been pointed out, the tapered means test will affect about 250,000 persons. This means a further liberalisation of the means test and is another step towards its abolition. Further concessions are given to unemployment, sickness and health beneficiaries. There is to be an increase in repatriation benefits. In education the Commonwealth has come to the party in a big way. This year the appropriation will be $265m, or 38% more than last year’s expenditure. This includes expenditure on libraries, science blocks, teachers colleges, universities and colleges of advanced education. There will also be an increase in the number of Commonwealth scholarships. But by far the greatest breakthrough in Federal help for education is in help for the running costs of independent schools. Subsidies of $35 per pupil in the primary section and $50 per pupil in the secondary section will be paid to these schools. From some of the remarks of previous Opposition speakers, I gather that they do not want these subsidies to be paid and that they want to put a means test on some of the schools in regard to what they should receive.
– On the wealthy ones, yes.
– I do not think members of the Opposition are being very consistent. They want the means test removed from all pensions; yet they want to put a means test on wealthy schools. That is inconsistency in a big way. These subsidies will enable independent schools to carry on; whereas some of them have been forced to consider closing down. They will be able to improve their standards.
Let me refer to other points in the Budget. There is to be an increase of $4 a ton in the superphosphate subsidy. This will increase the subsidy from $8 to $12 a ton. The subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers is to be continued for a further 3 years. It is interesting to note that one Canadian company, which operates a potash mine in the Province of Saskatchewan which we saw on a recent visit to Canada, has a licence to prospect for phosphatic rock in the Cloncurry area of Queensland. We were asked many questions about the possibility of getting the phosphatic rock into production. Surely the time is not far distant when we as a nation must become independent of other suppliers in the supply of our phosphatic rock, which is so necessary in the manufacture of superphosphate.
– We will need an atomic plant in that area, will we not?
– I think so. Further concessions have been made to primary producers. The cost of tanks, silos and haysheds is to be allowed as 100% deduction in 1 year instead of over 5 years. There has also been a major breakthrough in estate duty. The action has been taken to discourage the breaking up of economic rural holdings in order to pay estate duty. This has been the case in the past. The powers that be have now come to realise that there is no sense in forcing the sale, breaking up and dispersal of holdings which are economic and only achieving a situation in which we have holdings that are not economic. Exemption levels for estate duty purposes will be raised by 20%. Additional relief from duty will be granted in respect of land, livestock and farm plant and machinery. All the extra social service payments and the other concessions in the Budget have been made without any increase in taxation. The Government is to be commended on that.
In my State of Queensland the drought is very severe. It has been so for many months now. I wish to make a few remarks about the drought position there. In many parts of the State older residents have stated that it is the worst drought in living memory. In the farming areas there has been a complete failure of last summer’s grain crops, and now wheat and other winter crops will be only a very low proportion of what we normally harvest in Queensland. Dairy production is at a low ebb. Many cattle and sheep have been sent away to New South Wales. Anyone who saw the programme on Four Corners’ the weekend before last would be able to appreciate the gravity of the situation. I know that the programme was only brief, but it did try to point out how serious the situation was in some parts of Queensland.
It has been reported that in the 5 months up to the end of May last 15,000 cattle perished. That figure does not take into account the months of June, July and August. During the same 5 months up to the end of May 300,000 cattle and 1,450,000 sheep were sent over the border into New South Wales. Those are New South Wales Department of Agriculture figures. They cover all the crossing points along the Queensland-New South Wales border. Very few, if any, of those stock will be returned to Queensland at the end of the drought. I believe that this trend has continued during June, July and August and that the number of stock sent to New South Wales has been maintained. In addition there has been an increase of from 10% to 15% in the number of breeding stock slaughtered at various meatworks.
The money spent on beef roads in Queensland in recent years has proved its value in this time of extreme drought. Beef roads have greatly aided the transport of stock to pastures in New South Wales and further south. Some stock have gone to Victoria and South Australia. The transportation of stock during this drought period has proved that in the beef roads system there remain a few weak links which must be constructed as soon as possible. One such weakness is the Charleville-CunnamuIIa section. I realise that this is not strictly a beef road and it is certainly not a constructed road. At one stage stock transporters were charging a premium to travel on this section because they said it was so difficult to negotiate.
The action of the Government and the Department of the Army in making the Shoalwater Bay training area available to the Queensland Government for use as an emergency grazing area has been greatly appreciated. The stock concerned were to be out of the area by the end of August. However, the Army authorities realised that the stock would perish if they had to be moved now, and the period has been extended to the end of January. In that area there are 20,000 head of stock which are owned by sixty-five different people. Turning now to the Bundaberg and Maryborough areas, sugar growers have had big losses. This was referred to in the ‘Four Corners’ television programme presented the weekend before last. Many sugar farmers will have no cane whatsoever from their farms. We are told that the Childers mill and the Maryborough mill expect to crush cane for about only 4 weeks each instead of having the usual crushing period of 5 months.
There are two problems associated with this drought. Firstly, there is the immediate problem of saving valuable livestock and of rehabilitating the primary producers and others living in rural areas who are directly or indirectly dependent upon primary production. Secondly, there is the longer range problem of making these areas less vulnerable to future droughts. The Commonwealth Government has agreed with the Queensland Government that as from 1st July it will make funds available, on a $1 for $1 basis up to $2m from each government, for drought relief. The Commonwealth has agreed to provide the full cost of approved measures for drought relief over and above that sum of $4m. That is a very generous gesture and I believe it will be a very big help to Queensland. This money is being used to subsidise freight on fodder, for transporting stock, for carry-on loans to primary producers, for drought relief loans to shire councils and for sustenance payments to some primary producers. Many requests have been made to use some of this money to make wheat available for stock feed at a rate less than the $1.70 a bushel which the Australian Wheat Board is required to charge for wheat at present. I understand that negotiations on this matter are taking place between representatives of the Queensland and Commonwealth authorities. I hope that some arrangement can be entered into to make wheat available at a price less than $1.70 a bushel by means of a subsidy to the Australian Wheat Board.
The heavy losses and heavy debts incurred will force many experienced men off the land unless some action is taken. Such a loss would be one which the nation cannot afford. After good rains fall we must envisage a long range funding of debts to enable experienced men to continue production and to rebuild their flocks and herds. A big meeting is to be held at Longreach on 17th September to discuss this subject. Fodder for starving stock in Queensland is available from New South Wales and freight costs on the New South Wales and Queensland railway systems are being subsidised. This results in the charge on the Queensland producers being considerably less than it would be otherwise. There has been a bottleneck in the transshipping points where the New South Wales and Queensland rail systems meet I refer to Wallangarra and Clapham. I believe that action has now been taken by the railway authorities to overcome the bottlenecks by employing contractors to do the work and by putting on twenty or thirty more men at Clapham.
Referring now to the long range plans, it has become evident that much more money must be made available for water conservation. The increasing number of small irrigation schemes - usually supplied with water from bores - and the construction of small dams has shown what can be done to keep stock alive. Larger schemes are necessary on such rivers as the Burdekin, Burnett, and other systems.
T shall refer briefly to the drought bond scheme. It is of no use now while this drought continues but the scheme has been sought for some time by many sections of primary industry. In the future it will prove to be of great help. It will allow producers to set aside part of their income in a good year so that it can be earmarked for use in drought periods.
I was very pleased to hear announced earlier this year the programme to extend television to many inland areas, particularly in Queensland. I hope that the establishment of television services in those areas will not be long delayed. When that objective is achieved I will put in a plea for another television transmitter to be established in the Bamaga-Thursday Island area. Such a transmitter would bring television to a large number of Australian people who do not have many amenities at present. It could even include the Weipa area; I do not think Weipa is too far away. These people at present do not even have a road on which they may travel to the rest of Australia.
I now refer to certain islands in Torres Strait which are part of Queensland and have been so for 100 years. In June, Mr Olewale, the member for the South Fly electorate in the Papua and New Guinea House of Assembly, placed on the notice paper of the House notice of a motion that he intended to move at the August session. I will read the notice of motion because it is of great interest to that part of Queensland in particular as well as to Australia generally. Incidentally, the House of Assembly is now in session and will be considering this notice of motion at any time now. It is as follows:
The notice of motion quoted quite a lot of documents. That statement has had a reply from Mr Sullivan, the Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs in Queensland. An article in the Rockhampton ‘Bulletin* of 22nd August states:
The State Government today assured the inhabitants of the Torres Strait Islands that it would support their opposition to any change in status.
This was stated today in State Parliament by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Sullivan, in reply to a question by Mr V. E. Jones (CP, Callide).
Mr Jones said apprehension was being felt by the residents of the Torres Strait area in relation to the future of the islands of Saibai, Dauan and Boigu.
They were particularly concerned over prospects of transfer to Papuan administration.
Mr Sullivan said the State Government considered that the 900 inhabitants of these islands were linked to Queensland by economic forces, religion, social services and politics, rather than to the neighbouring Papuan shore.
On his recent visit to the islands, Mr Sullivan said they had indicated to him that they believed themselves to be Queenslanders and would strenuously oppose any suggestion that they should be transferred to any other administration.
Mr Sullivan said the Government considered that as the Islanders were within the boundaries of the State of Queensland, they were part of Queensland and the inhabitants were Queenslanders.
I agree with that answer given by the State Minister. I think we should back the Queensland Government to the limit. Torres Strait Islanders are a race which has no relation with Papuans or with Australian Aboriginals; they are unique people with practically no close relations in the world. It is interesting to note that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has made a statement associating his Party with the proposed change of boundaries. Mr Whitlam said:
In a very few years the colony of Papua and the Trust Territory of New Guinea similarly will gain independence. 1 think everybody agrees with that statement. He continued:
I would hope that without any further delay we would make that process easier and more harmonious by speeding the consultations with Queensland to rectify the boundary which was set in 1878 between Queensland and Papua and which runs for some 60 miles within 3 miles of me coast of Papua.
His figures are not quite right. The boundary does not run for that distance so close to the coast. The Leader of the Opposition proposes to displace these 1,000 or so Australians on these three islands and hand the islands over to what in the near future will be an independent nation; or, alternatively, if they will not leave their islands, to make good Australians become citizens of a foreign power. The Leader of the Labor Party in the other place suggested that. He made no mention of compensation, I would like to contrast his proposal with the attitude of the Opposition when it talked about the Bougainville situation recently and cried crocodile tears for people who were not being handed over to a foreign power and who were to receive adequate compensation for the loss of any land. I am not very surprised at the lack of understanding of the situation of these citizens of Australia, Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands by members of the Opposition. Most of the members of the Opposition have never visited Torres Strait - that is, beyond Thursday Island - and in many cases would not know where the islands are. I remind them that these citizens of Australia, living on these islands, will resist in every way they can any move to transfer them from the jurisdiction of Australia. I will support them in any way I can. T appeal to every Australian to do the same.
Recently the Coral Sea Islands Bill extended the area of Australian jurisdiction beyond the Great Barrier Reef. The Barrier Reef was referred to in that debate. The possibility of permission to drill for oil being granted in areas where coral lives was referred to many times. There have been many statements and much publicity about protecting the Reef. T want to make it quite clear that I agree wholeheartedly that the Reef should be preserved and protected, but we have to look at the overall position.
– Here is the ‘but’.
– Yes. The main Reef covers a very large area. Recently there was an argument about the actual size of it. The figures I have show that the area of the main Reef is about 27,000 to 30,000 square miles. Much of it is some distance from the shore. There are many other small areas where coral grows and about which we do not know the setup for drilling for oil. We do not know whether or not drilling should be allowed because, as I said recently when debating the Coral Sea Islands Bill, wc have had no scientific investigation into such problems. We must have it before we can make a good judgment on what should be done. A matter which has been mentioned quite often is a drilling permit about to be issued to drill in Repulse Bay. Repulse Bay is not near the Reef; it is quite a considerable distance away from it. It is a muddy estuary of the Proserpine River. It is quite a distance from the closest island of the Whitsunday Island group and is a long way from the main Reef. I think the people who object to the issuing of that drilling permit ought to have a look where this area is. I have spoken to many people living in the area who are interested in the tourist trade. They can see nothing wrong with the granting of a permit to drill in that are;i because it is a long way from the Reef. Many such questions are raised, but we know few of the answers.
The Australian Conservation Foundation held a symposium in May in Sydney. About 500 people attended and heard a number of prominent speakers. The symposium produced this resolution:
That the Australian Conservation Foundation should recommend to the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments that they collaborate in setting up a joint advisory body or commission on the Great Barrier Reef, with these terms of reference:
To examine and report on all proposals for development of the resources of the Reef, particularly those likely to have an adverse effect on the environment.
To assess the needs for research, investigation and survey on the Great Barrier Reef, and to recommend ways of meeting those needs.
To keep itself informed of events and trends affecting the Reef, so that problems, such as those arising from local over-utilisation, can be foreseen and forestalled.
To formulate principles for assessing developmental proposals that would provide a basis for an overall plan of Reef development and conservation.
To have the right to publish its reports and recommendations.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business after 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 19 November 1968 (vide page 2091), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill now before the Senate was introduced by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). Its purpose is to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-66 to provide for enrolment and voting at the age of 18 years. I might say at the outset that many people on both sides of the Senate believe that the voting age should be reduced and are anxious that this be done. But I am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition should see fit to bring this Bill forward at this particular time which is only about 8 weeks before the holding of an election. He knows full well that if this Bill were passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives there would be no opportunity for the rolls to be altered in time for that election. This Bill was first introduced in 1968, not only in the Senate but also in another place. It is almost 12 months now since the Bill was introduced and the Leader of the Opposition now decides that the Bill should be discussed under the general business of the Senate tonight.
– Is it not reasonable that you should indicate your attitude to it?
– I said just prior to your interjection that many honourable senators and many honourable members on both sides of the Parliament, members of all political parties, supported the lowering of the voting age from 21 years to anything from 18 years upwards. What astounds me is this action by the Leader of the Opposition at this particular time. The Senate is a States House. The Leader of the Opposition represents the State of New South Wales. As a representative of that State, he knows full well that the New South Wales Law Reform Commission, under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Manning, investigated the reduction of the legal age of responsibility to 18 years.
– For all legal purposes.
– That is right. I will come to that side of the argument a little later. The report was made quite recently. It favoured reducing the age of legal responsibility to 18 years. Our Government has already indicated that it will again look into the question of reducing the franchise age to 18 years after it has examined this report because there are other problems associated with changing the voting age and the age of legal responsibility.
The Leader of the Opposition has said that his Party wants the voting age reduced to 18 years. I said a little earlier that we know very well that this cannot be done prior to the coming election, and the Leader of the Opposition would understand this quite well. When it comes to reducing the voting age, whether it be to 20, 19 or 18 years, I should think that, the Senate being a States House, it would be the responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament, and of the Senate in particular, to give full consideration to the views of the States. I mention this because four of the States have a common roll.
– Why would this be a handicap?
– If the honourable senator understood the construction of rolls he would appreciate that it is a handicap. Before interjecting he should make a study of the electoral rolls. If he did he would find that four States have a common roll. In those circumstances, how could the Commonwealth electoral office function satisfactorily to the electors of those four States if it had to prepare for each of them rolls which had on them names of people aged 19 or 18 years for Commonwealth purposes and names of people 21 years and over for State purposes? Just how could that be worked out? I suggest that the honourable senator study that problem and come up with a solution. We could quite easily have a situation in which there were four different voting ages in four different States for State purposes and one common age for Commonwealth purposes. That would be ridiculous.
The Attorney-General and the relevant authorities in the respective States will be giving very close consideration to the report submitted by the Law Reform Commission in New South Wales. That report was tabled only in August of this year. After full consideration has been given to it, recommendations will be made to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and to the Premiers of each pf the States. I do not believe that it would be satisfactory to have different voting ages, especially in the four States to which I have already referred; but it would be to the advantage of all electors in Australia if the Commonwealth and the States could agree upon a uniform voting age for all purposes.
– How long do you think it will take?
– That will depend upon who is the Government after the forthcoming election. I believe that it will be the present Government Parties. If this Government is re-elected, it will not take very long. It will take a considerable time if the Opposition is elected into office. As I see it, that is the situation in a nutshell. The Opposition is trying to ram down the throats of the State governments what they shall do. The Government is endeavouring to achieve a probably similar end result but it will not make a move until the Commonwealth and State governments have had sufficient time to study the report of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission.
The New South Wales Law Reform Commission has been examining the matter for some considerable time. It was expected that the Commission’s report would be presented for consideration in March of this year. I think (he Leader of the Opposition mentioned this point in his second reading speech. But in actual fact it was tabled in the New South Wales Parliament only this month. Therefore the States and the Commonwealth have not had an opportunity to give it the consideration that it warrants before they decide upon whether there should be any amendment of the present situation. It would be impossible for the matter to be given consideration and an amendment made to the present legislation between now and the Federal election and for the rolls to be adjusted so that people in the younger age group would be able to vote at that election. That is why I think that the Leader of the Opposition should have given consideration to the introduction of legislation of this nature after the elections.
– He will still be in the Opposition ranks.
– He will, we hope, be adequately placed to introduce this type of measure. He will still be, we hope, Leader of the Opposition. It all depends on the number of supporters he has on his side. I come now to some of the points raised by the Leader of the Opposition. He said that if his proposals were adopted the number of voters in Australia could be increased by up to 800,000. The figure that I have been given is not quite as high as that. I have been told that the number of voters could be increased by about 600,000. The number of voters throughout Australia will, at any rate, increase considerably. I suppose the Leader of the Opposition is game and willing enough to try anything once in that he believes that although the Australian Labor Party has not been in Government in the last 20 years it may be able to persuade the younger generation to vote for its style of politics.
– Not according to the statistics in the gallup polls.
– I read the gallup polls with interest because I am a great believer in them. I doubt whether the ALP would get the support of the 18 to 21 age group. The ALP has been in opposition for 20 years and has been unable to put forward in a policy speech something that will appeal to the electors. It is now trying to get the young people on its side.
– Why does the Minister advance that argument?
– I advance that argument because the ALP has been in opposition for 20 years. I suppose I would be doing the same thing if I were in opposition for 20 years. The gallup polls indicate that the ALP will not get the support of the young people. I go along with that view.
– What is the purpose in saying that?
– Because the Opposition is desperate and will say anything. It hopes that the gallup polls will prove to be wrong. I would like to say that it is a desperation measure.
– The Minister does not think that 18 year olds can think. He thinks that all they can do is fight.
– Yes, for the defence of South East Asia and Australia in that region.
– They cannot vote but they can fight.
– The honourable senator does nothing but interject. If he read a lot more and kept quiet he would do a lot better in the Senate. It is terribly monotonous to hear interjections which do not really cut any ice. They are not very good. If ever a group of people has received the consideration it deserves lt is the young people of today under this Government.
– What, sending them to Vietnam?
– The young people of today know that the Government has given them greater opportunities in education.
– It has given them a gun and bullets.
– The Government has made them responsible citizens, Senator Cavanagh. It has given them an opportunity to partake in the defence of Australia.
– Do they deserve Vietnam?
– By way of interjection the honourable senator is virtually saying that the Opposition is not interested in the defence of Australia or in national service training.
– He did not say that at all.
– He said that the Government is sending the young people away to Vietnam.
– I said: ‘Do they deserve what they are getting?’
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood) - Order! There are far too many interjections.
– I think that the interjections should cease and that I should be allowed to continue with my speech. I know that no interjections were made during the second reading speech of the Leader of the Opposition.
– He did not make such a mess of it.
– The honourable senator may think that way, but I do not. I have already given the reason why I think the honourable senator raised the matter. I wish to point out that honourable senators on this side of the chamber have looked at the proposition of young people getting the vote. We were interested to hear that after consideration of the Latey report the British Government has now given a vote to the 18-year olds in Britain.
– But it did not do so for the same reasons.
– I think it is a trend throughout the world today.
– Well, why not get into the swim and be with it?
– I have explained to honourable senators opposite that the Government is anxious to introduce such proposals but there are two reasons why it cannot be done now. Firstly, there is insufficient time to get these people onto the electoral rolls. Secondly, the Commonwealth Government and the responsible representatives of the State governments believe that the right way to approach the matter is to allow the States an opportunity to consider the report of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission that was tabled in August I am thoroughly convinced that after consideration of this report the State and Commonwealth Attorneys-General will be making recommendations to their respective governments in regard to the matters raised in the report. The report did not cover the voting age, but I believe that this will be taken into consideration at the appropriate time, together with other matters relating to legal ages which have been raised. We are not running away from what was recommended in the report. I should think there are just as many honourable senators on this side of the chamber as on the other side who would like to see people getting a vote at an earlier age. However, I believe that this is something that we cannot rush into.
I have mentioned already that it would be impossible to bring about a situation in which people had the right to vote at an earlier age unless the four States whose electoral rolls, boundaries and divisions were uniform with those of the Commonwealth made uniform alterations to their electoral rolls. Honourable senators will be aware that four States have boundaries and divisions which are the same as for the Commonwealth and that they have a certain number of State members representing divisions which are represented also by a certain number of Commonwealth members. I believe that the States must be given an opportunity to look at this problem and to decide how it will affect them. Now that this report has been tabled in New South Wales the Attorneys-General will be able to give the subject their full consideration and will be able to make recommendations to their Premiers or governments. I believe that this will be done some time early in the new year or shortly after the election, but certainly the matter will not receive much consideration from the Australian Labor Party or from us before the election because we know perfectly well that there is nothing we can do about it at this stage. We know that after the report has been considered we can do nothing about the matter until such time as the new rolls have been brought in. This could be done only for the election for the House of Representatives to be held in 3 years time. There are problems associated with giving a vote to persons aged 18 years. The Constitution states:
No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
Consequently if we are not very careful we could have different voting ages in the States from those we have for the Commonwealth.
– You have it now for the soldiers.
– But in the proposition that I am discussing at the moment, if the voting age in Tasmania were fixed at 18 years those people, according to the Constitution, would have a vote also for the Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament. In another State it might be decided that the voting age will remain at 21 years, in which case only those who had reached 21 years of age would have a right to vote in electing representatives to the Commonwealth Parliament. A different situation would obtain in each State. That is why we believe that a reduction of the voting age cannot be rushed into but must be given full consideration. After the States have given it the consideration that it deserves we will give consideration to what should be done and, if necessary, bring in legislation during the next Parliament.
The whole of the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition carried with it the proposition that 18-year-olds were of a right age to have a vote in Australia, and he mentioned other countries which were adopting this proposition. The former President of the United States, President Johnson, expressed his interest in the younger people of America having to vote. Perhaps that would be the right thing to do in America. I know that many people in Australia have said that they also would like to see the voting age reduced. There are arguments for and against this proposition. I propose to state some of the arguments in favour of reducing the franchise age. On 30th May 1968 President Johnson was reported as having asked Congress to approve a constitutional amendment granting 18-year-old citizens the right to vote at federal elections. According to reports the President said:
The time has come to grant to our youth what we ask of them but still deny them - full and responsible participation in our American democracy.
A recent Speaker’s conference in the United Kingdom recommended that the minimum age for voting should be reduced to 20 years. However, in October 1968, the United Kingdom Government announced that it would lower the voting age to 18 years. It is understood that a Bill is currently before the United Kingdom Parliament to give effect to this decision. I understand that a Representation of the People Bill received Royal Assent on 17th April this year, but as yet I have not been able to establish whether the franchise provisions were embodied in the Bill as passed. Because of the gap between a person attaining voting age and the ensuing election, it could be up to 3 years after attaining the right to vote before a person was in fact able to exercise such right. A reduction of the voting age to 18 years would remove the need for existing legislation which grants the voting right to a member of the defence forces, irrespective of age, if he is serving, or has served, on special service in a special area. The youth of today are better educated than hitherto and reach maturity earlier and take a keener interest in the affairs of the country. Thus young people in this day and age are better equipped to assume responsibility than was the case in earlier years.
– The Minister would agree with that, would he not?
– I would, I think. I would say that the youth of today are far better educated than the youth of a few years ago. They are far better educated because of the action taken by non-Labor governments, both in the States and in the Commonwealth sphere. They are given better opportunities for education through Commonwealth scholarships and aid to independent schools, which has been opposed by the Labor Party for so many years. They have been given better opportunities for education because the Commonwealth Government, being a responsible government, wished to give that aid to independent schools. When the Labor Party was opposing aid to independent schools it appeared to me that it was endeavouring to withhold from youths in independent schools the opportunities for education that they deserved.
– Why is the Minister talking about this?
– Because the Leader of the Opposition interjected and I was answering him.
– 1. did not interject.
– The honourable senator asked whether I believed in this.
– I did not interject.
– In that case I apologise.
– The Minister is looking in the wrong direction again.
– That may be so. Now I propose to state some of the arguments against the lowering of the voting age. The Commonwealth should not lower the franchise age unless and until agreement is reached with the States for parallel action. The franchise age is of mutual concern to both the Commonwealth and the States, particularly in the joint roll States of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and
Tasmania where one electoral roll serves for both Commonwealth and State purposes. I do not think I need to elaborate on that point. It is a real problem associated with the proposition contained in the Bill introduced by the Leader of the Opposition.
The universal franchise age of 21 years has applied for both Commonwealth and State purposes for about 60 years and any variation in the Commonwealth sphere independently of the States would generate public confusion and misunderstanding. In most Western countries, the age qualification for voting is coincidental with that of the legal majority of individuals. Australia has always considered this principle to be sound and logical. Although it is sometimes argued that if a young man is old enough to serve in the defence forces he should be permitted to vote, a person’s franchise entitlements and obligations cannot properly be related to the responsibility of serving in the defence forces. The franchise and military service are quite unrelated matters which must always be considered separately.
While it may be true that many persons in the 18 to 20 years age group possess what may be termed political maturity, it is also true that many others in that age group have not demonstrated any real interest in government. Certain actions by youth groups in Australia and overseas in recent times have raised some doubt about the sufficiency of their responsibility and maturity properly to accept the franchise.
– What actions?
– The actions they have taken. I turn now to consider some questions about the voting age that have been directed by supporters of the Government to the Attorney-General. The first question is:
I refer the Attorney-General to the oral recommendations of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission that 18-year-olds be granted, among other things, the right to contract and the right to marry without consent. My understanding is that, regrettably, the Commission did not consider the matter of reduction of the voting age. Apart from the very strong arguments in fa’vour of reducing the voting age it would appear anomalous that 18-year-olds may be given further rights and, of course, duties, while the more basic right is still denied them. If this is correct, will the AttorneyGeneral consider the question of reducing the voting age at the same time as he has said the Government will act on matters contained in the Commission’s report?
The Attorney-General replied that whilst the report of the Law Reform Commission related to many matters, it did not relate to the voting age. He said that it is the responsibility of the Attorneys-General further to consider the Law Reform Commission’s report as the matters dealt with in it are inseparable from the voting age issue. It is important that the Government and the nation consider the proposition contained in the Bill introduced by the Leader of the Opposition. We should consider it. I believe that all thinking people in the world today are conscious of the fact that the uprisings of youth, particularly in universities, probably have their origin in the situation that the young people are not given the legal responsibilities that they should receive.
– Why do you not rectify that position?
– I do not want to cover that ground again. I have given the reasons. If the honourable senator has not listened, I cannot help him. After the AttorneysGeneral of the Commonwealth and the States have considered the Law Reform Commission’s report they will report to their various governments. I sincerely hope that the recommendations they make will receive the right treatment and as a consequence the voting age will be reduced. I have already said that there are as many honourable senators on this side of the chamber who are anxious to have the voting age reduced to 18 years as there are opposite. Before I was interrupted by Senator Georges-
– Who interrupted?
– You have not stopped interrupting. The fact that the young people in our universities have not been given the responsibility of voting has contributed, I think, to the problems that have arisen in those institutions. Since the voting age was reduced in Great Britain, about 4 or 5 months ago, I do not believe there have been disturbances in the universities there. The young people today are in a far better position to act responsibly than were the young people of 20 or 30 years ago because of the educational facilities and education generally available to them.
My only objection to the proposition of the Leader of the Opposition is that we should not rush to reduce the voting age until the legal authorities of the Commonwealth and the States have given due consideration to the report of the Law Reform Commission. Involved in that consideration is a study of the whole question of the responsibilities of youth. I do not believe that this action can be undertaken before the coming election. The matters involved will take some time to consider.
– You will not have the opportunity if you do not do it quickly.
– Had the honourable senator been in the chamber a little earlier he would have heard me say that the Labor Party has introduced this motion in desperation because it has failed to convince the 21-year-olds at each election since 1949. It is now looking for a way to obtain the reins of government. Even should the Labor Party succeed in reducing the voting age to 18 years, I do not think the change would react in its favour. I suggest that the correct attitude to adopt to this proposal is to wait until the matter has been considered by the Attorneys-General of the Commonwealth and the States in the light of the report of the Law Reform Commission. Then the Commonwealth and the States can say with one voice what shall be the voting age in Australia.
– For something like 39£ minutes the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) has treated us to a speech in which he went on with much waffling and much procrastination in the old spirit of Micawber for which he is noted. Regrettably he had no knowledge of the subject about which he was speaking. He referred to the fact that the Labor Party was using this as an election gimmick. Let us turn back to page 2910 of the notice paper. It will be seen that the debate on this Bill was adjourned on 19th November 1968. This has given the Government plenty of time to examine the question if it wanted to do so. The plain fact of the matter is that the Government was scared stiff to approach this matter earlier than now and it is only now-
– Why did you not bring it on earlier?
- Senator Branson should quote the relevant standing order before he starts to interject. The position is that the Government is scared stiff that this matter should be debated at all. The Government has the list of speakers well loaded in the hope that it will be able to stonewall on this matter until it is too late to take a vote. I issue this challenge to the Government: Reduce the list of speakers and let us have a vote on this matter tonight. There is a chance that the Australian Democratic Labor Party might vote with the Government because Mr Freeth is not in the chamber.
Let me come back to a couple of basic facts. The Minister had admitted that the standard of education is higher today than it was a few years ago. He, incorrectly of course, claimed for the Liberal-Country Party Government the credit for this development. We must remember that in the war years it was a Labor government which gave the vote to those under 21 years of age who were in uniform. Today a Liberal government refuses to do that very thing. Thousands of youngsters - I think something like 16,000 at present - have been called up under the National Service Act but to not more than a handful of those has the Government extended the franchise. This is not talking with tongue in cheek. The attitude the Government is adopting on this is plain hypocritical.
Then the Minister accused the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) of putting this matter on the notice paper in an attempt to buy votes. Then just as glibly he said: ‘They will not vote for you anyway’. But that is not the issue. The real issue is whether people of that age should be able to make decisions for themselves because once you extend the right to vote you also extend a lot of other legal rights under Australian law. Let us consider the Government’s lottery of death in which 1 in every 8 - I think that is the proportion - of young men of the relevant age is likely to be told that he will be sent from this country to fight in a war in which he probably does not believe - almost certainly does not believe. The Government is not prepared to extend to even that proportion the right to cast a vote. The Government would show more sense if it adopted that attitude in relation to other things, not where lives are involved.
Hire purchase firms today look upon young people as constituting the most lucrative field in which to operate. It is true that if people are under the current legal age of 21 the documents have to be signed by sponsors and so on, but if the right that we have suggested were extended to youngsters when they reached the age of 18 years a lot of people in this community who today take the opportunity to exploit younger persons would think twice before they did it because the person of 18 then would have the legal right to take legal action in retaliation if he had been conned into doing something he did not want to do. The growing trend today in all civilised countries, with the apparent exception of Australia, is to reduce the voting age. In some countries it has been reduced already to 20 years and in others to 18. What is wrong with Australia? Why should we live in a horse and buggy age and put our heads in the sand and be not prepared to extend this right to those who, by all normal processes, are adult people?
– How can a horse and buggy put its head in the sand?
– I think you were asleep and missed the first part of the remark. The point I was endeavouring to make was that if people are adult in every other way - physically, intellectually - then why should not adult rights be extended to them, particularly the right to vote? If that were done the fear expressed by the Minister that the young people might not vote for the Liberal Party - he claimed we were using this as a gimmick - probably would be borne out. Some of the discontent which is apparent in our secondary school pupils, and which certainly is apparent on the campuses of our universities, would be overcome because these young people who are endeavouring to express their feelings on things that are happening in day to day life and about those who currently control them would have the opportunity to express their feelings through the ballot box. Whether they support the Party to which the Minister belongs or the Party to which I belong is irrelevant. The point is that they would have the right to express their views. If the Minister adopts this dog in the manger attitude because he is afraid that the Government might not get their votes, I suggest that the story he is putting up to us is quite out of place.
Let us look at some of the other remarks made by the Minister. These are some of the prefaces to his statements: ‘We are anxious’; ‘We are not going to ram this down the States’ throats’; ‘We are waiting on the report of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission’; ‘We want them to get the vote’; ‘We must take this carefully’; ‘We must not rush this’. Well, have you ever heard anything so stupid in your life? The Minister was trying to build up a case but he had no foundation on which to base it because there is no reasonable argument against extending the franchise to the 18 year olds. Therefore, without attempting to extend the period of this debate I challenge the Minister to call off the debate at this stage and, if he has the courage of his convictions, to allow the question to go to a vote within the next 20 minutes.
– We have just witnessed one of the most remarkable performances that I have seen in a long time. Senator Keeffe, in a pious endeavour to show that he has the goodwill and the interests of our youth at heart, descended to a depth of inaccuracy which surprised even me. For instance, he made the extraordinary remark - it was one of the few remarks that he made - that hire purchase firms regard young people as a lucrative field and that if the law were extended so that not only were the young people able to vote and to contract at 18 years of age - I pause to point out that we are not debating that-
– I did not say that. You should have been listening.
– Not only was 1 listening, 1 was also writing carefully and noting what you said. You said: ‘Not only do the hire purchase firms regard young people as a lucrative field but if the law were extended those people who exploit the youth of Australia, the people between 18 and 21, would think twice about it because they then would be in a position where the young person would have the right to retaliate’. All I can say is that that is typical of the utter balderdash which so often is put forward as an argument in support of some matter which should be dealt with seriously. Unfortunately we do not often find that serious approach from the opposite side of the chamber. As Senator Keeffe would know if he thought about it for a moment, the people between 18 and 21 who at present do not have the right to contract do have the right to retaliate if they wish to affirm the contract.
– They can contract without responsibility.
– Senator Georges says that they can contract without responsibility. Yes, it is all their way at present and perhaps it is not entirely fair that it should be all their way. Perhaps it should be the other way. Perhaps there should be a little responsibility on both sides. I do not say that the young people should be protected nor do I say that they should be irresponsible. Along with, I think, the majority of honourable senators on this side of the chamber I believe that people of 18 years of age are old enough to vote, are old enough to contract, are old enough to make a will, are old enough to take under succession or whatever it may be.
I believe that it is a matter of some significance - one which entirely escapes Senator Keeffe and apparently entirely escapes some of the other chirping parrots - that the Commonwealth has already taken the lead in this field. I quote the following from an answer given by the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) in another place on 14th August last:
We have already in the Australian Capital Territory the Wills Ordinance which reduces the age at which a person can make a will to 18 years. As far as contracts are concerned, we- that is this Federal Liberal-Country Party Government - . . have already, by ordinance in the Territory, allowed persons over the age of 18 years to contract mortgages where they seek to build or to buy a home. So far as the age of voting is concerned - the related matter to which the honourable member referred - this involves a great many considerations in conjunction with age of majority; it may involve the question of the adult wage, having economic results. The matter is not one within my administration but primarily is one within the administration of the Prime Minister and, in the States, the Premiers. If any consideration is to be given to that aspect, it will be given by the Prime Minister and by the Premiers.
If Senator Georges, who is interjecting, would try for one moment to increase his erudition or his learning of the subject and would stop closing his mind to everybody else’s approach to it, he might find it of some advantage to listen instead of continually talking.
Let us have a look at this question of the 18-year-old vote. First of all, why should we even consider giving the vote to 18- year-olds? As is agreed from what Senator Murphy said - I accept much of what he said - and as is agreed from what Senator Scott said - I support what he said - because of the education that is available to young people today from the mass media of communication, the remarkable education that is available through television, radio and the Press and the new education standards, principles and methods that have been adopted, young people generally are of a higher educational standard at an earlier age than they were heretofore.
There are other factors into which I will not go - Senator Prowse not being here to argue with me - such as nutrition, standard of life and many factors that I believe go to make up the situation of a person who is capable of acting responsibly and accepting responsibility at an earlier age than was the case at the time when the age that is at present in vogue was fixed. I believe that there is an earlier maturity. Therefore there is a strong case for giving keen consideration to a reduction of the voting age to 18 years.
– Hear, hear!
– But not in isolation, because within a federated Commonwealth this is a problem that cannot be considered in isolation from the States. Apparently that is a matter that goes right over Senator Georges’ head.
Let us have a look at the situation in the States. What has been done so far? In New South Wales the New South Wales Law Reform Commission - an excellent body set up to studiously and conscientiously consider these matters - has carried out a very thorough investigation of this matter. It has prepared a paper which I have not yet seen but which I understand is an excellent dissertation on the subject and obviously one that Senator Georges would do well to consider before he continues his interjections. It is obviously one which other people, including the Premiers of all the States and the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, would do well to consider before they make a move on this subject. If people are prepared to work for a considerable amount of time and to put a lot of very qualified effort - qualified from the point of view of expertise - into consideration of a problem, then let us look at their work and the result of their work before we decide one way or the other.
It may be that they could persuade me that I am wrong in my belief that 18-year- olds should have a vote. It may be that they will persuade the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General that the AttorneysGeneral should not move for the introduction of an 18-year-old vote. But surely it is premature to discuss here tonight whether we should move for the introduction of the 18-year-old vote by the Commonwealth acting alone and not with the concurrence of the States.
While I am mentioning the discussion of this matter tonight, I wish to address some remarks to Senator Murphy in particular. They are in relation to the fact that we are debating this matter tonight, having found out late today that we were to debate it. As I understood the position, when we ceded to the Opposition the right to bring on on Tuesday night the matters which were of concern to it and which it believed to be of some importance, the understanding was that there would be some notice of what was to be brought on. Instead of having notice of what was to be brought on, we found this afternoon that this matter, rather than an entirely unrelated matter, was to be brought on. I simply say to Senator Murphy that, if the standard of debate is to be as high as I am sure he would like it to be on a matter that he considers of importance, I believe that it is important that we all have adequate notice of what is to come on. I do not want to invite a general debate; I simply want to lodge a protest in this case.
Passing on generally to the matter of the 18-year-old vote and the position in the States, I remind the Senate that I mentioned earlier the existence of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission report. This has yet to be studied. It has yet to be studied by the members of this chamber. It has yet to be studied by the members of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. It has yet to be considered either by the Commonwealth Government or by the State governments. In my belief there is a need - a very real need - for a uniform approach to this problem. In relation to that I again quote from an answer given by the AttorneyGeneral in another place. He said: . . the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral discussed the matter which had been referred to them and arrived at a consensus that in view of the difficulties which would arise if one State- acted separately from the other States or from the Commonwealth, or if the Commonwealth acted separately in fixing the voting age, it was desirable that any action taken - as to which the Standing Committee gave no decision or made no recommendation - should be taken on a Commonwealthwide basis.
One would believe that when the AttorneyGeneral said that he was saying what could not be described as anything other than common sense. This is a problem that involves not only the voting age but also questions of the right to contract, which Senator Keeffe in his erudite brilliance introduced; the right to marry - a matter which is already before this chamber but which has not yet been debated; the right to make a will; the right to take under a will; and all the other matters that involve the age of majority. One might also introduce the question of persons under or over any magical age that may be fixed having a right to drive a motor vehicle - or a licence to kill, as the Jaycees have described that right. Should we have one without the other? Should we have the right to vote in the Commonwealth only and not in the States, the right to contract in some areas but not in others, and so on until we reach a stage of ultimate confusion that bemuses even some of the experts who so enjoy interjecting?
I believe that all must go together; that as the States have some powers in relation to contracting, for instance, it is not a field in which the Commonwealth can legislate and that it is desirable in a federation that the States and the Commonwealth should get together and agree upon an age of majority. Having agreed upon it they should then legislate uniformly throughout the continent and, I hasten to add, the island of Tasmania so that the whole of the Commonwealth of Australia may have uniform laws in relation to contracting and voting and be able to use and apply similar rules wherever a person goes. It is of some interest that we should consider for a moment what Senator Murphy mentioned in his speech some 8 months ago.
– How long ago?
– I think it was 8 months ago. No, it was on 19th November last.
– You have had plenty of time to study it.
– Yes, plenty of time. If we studied all the good and not so good, hairbrained motions brought up by the Opposition then no doubt the Opposition would have achieved its purpose by having us running round in circles studying nonsense. This subject is not nonsense, but one finds it hard to know when the nonsense will be sorted out and when the important matters will be brought on for discussion. It has taken about 10 months for the Opposition to bring this matter on. I wonder whether even Senator Georges would be able to carry in his mind all the facts relating to this matter. Let us consider what other countries have done in this regard. As Senator Murphy pointed out, many other countries have legislation to permit voting at the age of 18 years. With the concurrence of the Senate I incorporate in Hansard a list showing the franchise age in a number of other countries.
This list will be of interest to people interested in this subject. It includes Albania, with a voting age of 18 years, and Yugoslavia also with a voting age of 18 years.
– What are the other countries?
– The other countries include the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the two countries in which the honourable senator would be most interested.
– It does not matter in Russia. There is only one candidate to vote for.
– Yes but it is that wonderful democratic right to be able to go and vote for that one candidate which makes the Australian Labor Party members present think that the Harradine affair is just nothing.
– Get back to the subject.
– I have no doubt Senator Georges would not like me to talk about the
Harradine affair for too long. When we are considering democracy and the right to vote let us just consider for a moment the Harradine affair and what the Australian Labor Party did about it.
– Are you on Freeth’s side or on ours?
– As soon as we get an opportunity to debate the statement on international affairs made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) I shall be delighted to express my opinion on that matter. As I have not had the opportunity because you, Senator Gair, will not permit the statement to be debated, I refrain from answering your interjection. Having been diverted from the subject of Mr Harradine I will let the Australian Labor Party rest where it stands and will go on to refer to some other matters relating to other aspects of democracy which, perhaps, is a subject relatively unknown to some sections of the political Opposition. In doing so I would like to comment, as did Senator Scott, that gallup polls throughout the world approve the idea that people of the age of 18 years, or in some cases, 19 years, should have the right to vote in this modern society. I also believe that they should have that right.
– Why do you not vote for it?
– Why do you not vote with us?
– I am asked by some of those who know so well: ‘Why do you not vote for it?’ I shall tell honourable senators the reason why I foreshadowed my vote. It is that I believe that when we have an organisation which is working extremely well, an organisation which is doing a great deal to break down the barriers which have existed in this federation of ours for so long - barriers which have made difficult so much of the administration of Australia - a body which has done more in its few years of operation than anything else since Federation, we should encourage it to continue its work. The body to which I refer is the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral. With its concurrence this matter was referred to an expert body for a report. I would like to have this matter debated after the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral has had a chance to consider it. Having let that body do what is obviously in the best interests of the Commonwealth, which is to achieve uniformity, I should then be happy to cast my vote in accordance with what I believe to be right.
– Can you not think for yourself? Do you have to get somebody else to do your thinking?
– At least I do some thinking, which is more than is done by some honourable senators opposite.
– You thought you knew about the Harradine affair, too.
– Senator Poke would know all about the Harradine affair. He is the high hatchet man. Let us get on with this debate. On a serious plane, let us look-
– That would be a change.
– I would rather do that than look across the chamber at you. On the rare occasions that the honourable senator does attend I prefer to look the other way. If we do legislate to allow 18-year-olds the right to vote then it occurs to me that this may quell an incipient rebellion in the community which, I think, is not without some justification. I refer to the student feeling. There is this feeling within the universities that a lot of the intelligent youth of Australia is not getting an adequate say in the running of the country. If it enabled the lords of the flies, the gentlemen who would well qualify for that title, to be cut down to size by having the rug pulled out from underneath them, then I believe it would have achieved a very useful purpose if it achieved nothing else.
– What is he talking about7
– Well may the honourable senator ask that question. I guarantee he has never read the ‘Lord of the Flies’. I think it would do him a lot of good if he did so. It would point out to him what would happen in a completely disorganised society, the sort of society he espouses. Let us consider what else might happen. I do not want to repeat what Senator Scott said, but if we did this immediately one of the problems which would occur, obviously, concerns the question of joint electoral rolls. At the moment four States have joint rolls with the Commonwealth. If we tried to get all the 600,000 to 700,000 people who would be eligible to vote onto a Commonwealth roll before the election, if we tried to get completely separate rolls from those of the States, this would be just one more expense, one more degree of disorganisation and one more argument as to why we should let the Commonwealth and State AttorneysGeneral decide the matter if they can. Senator Murphy said something in the first part of his speech with which I would like to concur. He said:
Young people of 18, 19 and 20 form a vital segment of our community, yet they are barred from sharing in the election of those who make decisions which affect their lives. In a democratic society, as far as possible, every person affected by decisions taken by governments should have some part to play in the process by which those decisions are made.
With that I agree.
– Even those under 18 are affected to a lesser degree.
– I take Senator Cant’s point that even those under 18 are affected to a lesser degree. I took it that Senator Murphy was qualifying what he said by adding, by inference, that those who have reached some age of responsibility and are affected are the ones he had in mind. That is the way I read it. That is certainly the way in which I adopt it. I hope the honourable senator agrees. As I have said, I agree with Senator Murphy. He then said something which I find quite extraordinary in its incomprehensibility:
The 18 to 20-year olds are considered adults for most practical, everyday purposes.
Only the Commonwealth recognises that fact. I am open to correction if I am wrong, but I do not think one of the States has taken a step to recognise the 18 to 20- year olds in relation to the right to contract, make wills, etc. Again the Commonwealth, as far as it can, has taken the lead in this field - a lead which I hope it will continue to pursue. I have little doubt that when the matter is discussed by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General the Commonwealth Attorney-General again will play a leading role in looking after the interests of this section of the community. In conclusion - and I know this pleases some honourable senators opposite because they do not like to hear anybody who does not accord entirely with their view on a matter, which I suppose is only to be expected - let me say one thing for the consideration of those who wish to think about the matter, and it may be that there are many here who do not. One other consideration, which I do not espouse but Which I throw out for serious consideration, is whether or not anybody should have an absolute right to vote, whether or not it may be a matter for consideration by a law reform committee or by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General as to whether there is some other method of ascertaining who is interested in voting and who is qualified to vote, by a test of one kind or another, so that the people who take an interest in the affairs of their country may be the ones who have a say in the affairs of their country, and the people who take no interest and do not wish to qualify need not do so. In the past many people have gone to the polls with a feeling of considerable resentment. When they see some of the selections available, I do not blame them. I do not say that this is a desirable thing.
– What is the honourable senator saying?
– I think that if Senator Georges would listen for just one minute he might find out that I qualified my statement at the commencement, I qualified it in the middle and I qualify it again now by saying that in the hope that some honourable senators, particularly on the other side, for the moment may close their mouths, open their brains and give some thought to this matter when they are considering the qualifications for voting, I simply put it up for discussion; I do not espouse it. I think it is something which ought to be considered. I hope that there are some people in this Chamber who will give some serious thought to this matter generally, to the matter of the desirability of a uniform approach and whether or not the uniform approach should be an absolute right of all persons over a particular age or whether it should be qualified in some way and, if it should be qualified in any way, then in what way? In that pious hope, I conclude.
– As there seems to be an enormous lack of enthusiasm from Senator Murphy’s supporters to support his Bill, perhaps at this stage one is entitled to rise and speak to it.
– How about sitting down and giving us a chance to vote?
– If Senator Georges wishes to move the gag, that is his prerogative; he is quite entitled to do so. If he wishes to stifle debate, which is quite understandable, in view of the Party to which Senator Georges belongs; that is fair enough. I am not Mr Harradine and this is not the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party. Tonight we have before us a Bill, the second reading speech on which was delivered, as I read it, on 19th November 1968, some 8 or 9 months ago. One wonders why there is a sudden rush to bring this matter before the Senate. Tuesday night after Tuesday night for almost two sessions of Parliament we have discussed all kinds of matters. All of a sudden, now that an election for the House of Representatives is in view, this matter assumes enormous importance. I thought I would speak tonight because I suppose I am one of the few people in the Senate who had a vote at the age of 18.
– Do you intend to vote in favour of the Bill?
– Being one of the few people in the Senate who had a vote at the age of 18-
– Were you able to exercise the vote properly?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Georges must not keep up a running fire of interjections.
– I thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President, but with the utmost respect to you, does one worry about the fleas that nip at one? In this Bill the Opposition has attempted to deal with a matter in isolation. I am not opposed to the vote at 18. I think that, when I exercised this vote a long time ago, at the age of 18, 1 was able to exercise it sensibly. I hope I was.
– Not if you voted for the Liberal-Country Party.
– It might surprise the honourable senator to know how I did vote. But they were different days with different people - especially different people in the Labor Party.
– Do not keep us in suspense; tell us.
– I make no secret of how I voted. At least in those days there was a decent Labor Party led by a decent man, the late John Curtin. This was sufficient to attract the 18-year-olds in those days. One could hardly imagine the present Labor Party attracting anyone of any age. One could hardly imagine the kind of Labor Party one has in this year 1969 attracting even the preferences of the Democratic Labor Party. It was a real Labor Party in 1943, not the shadow that exists now under the old label of the Labor Party. I am not ashamed of how I voted; I make no secret of it. In 1943 we had a real Labor Party led by a real man. Of course, the real men have disappeared as well as the real Labor Party.
– The honourable senator has not changed; the Labor Party has changed.
– For 15 years Senator Gair tried to change it. He has had some success, but not overmuch. I am in no hurry to continue my speech. I am prepared to wait while honourable senators finish their conversations. If honourable senators on my right have finished now, perhaps I may continue. This Bill attempts to deal in isolation with a problem, which is facing the community generally. Recently I had the privilege of attending a legal convention in New Zealand which was addressed by Lord Gardiner, Lord High Chancellor of England, a Labour man, a very distinguished lawyer and a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. He gave a most interesting address, I think on the opening night, on the voting agc and the responsibilities of the age of majority in general. As I recall it, he gave historical reasons for opting for the age of 21. As we all know, the age of 21 was adopted in medieval times as being the age at which a man could wear a suit of armour. Interestingly enough, the majority age applied only to knights and sons of knights - those who wore a suit of armour. In fact, in medieval times, there were three classes of military service. There were the knights, the men at arms and the archers. There were actually three age groups. There were those who at the age of 21 were considered strong enough to wear a suit of armour - one of those tin can outfits - there were those who at the age of 16 to 18 years were entitled to bear arms such as, I think, a pike or a sword and those who, I think, at the age of 14 could use a bow and arrow. I suppose it was for that reason that those who were using bows and arrows were allowed to marry at the age of 14 years.
We seem to forget that the common law age for marriage was 14 years for a boy and 12 for a girl in those days. I think this was the common law situation in Australia until the passing of the Marriage Act by this Parliament some time ago. It is rather interesting to read the Marriage Act that was passed by this Parliament. That Act lifted the marriage age with consent to 21 years and the marriage age in any event to 18 years. I have read the debates on that legislation and I do not know that there was any great dissent expressed in this Parliament then as to this new concept of age for marriage.
As I recall Lord Gardiner’s speech, he said that in the medieval situation - and this is an interesting facet of society that must terrify the members of the Labor Party in that those below moved up and those above did not get torn down - the yeomanry and the peasants decided they wanted the same rights as the knights had. They did not wish to bring the knights back to their standard; they wished to have the same majority age as that which applied to the sons of knights. For this reason, round about the 17th Century, the age of 21 was fixed upon because the working class, as Senator Georges might call it in his kindly way, wished to be equated with the knightly class or to be treated as adults at 21 and not at 14 or 16 years of age. So this medieval concept of steps in age groups according to class, as related to military service, has grown up.
We come now to the 1960s and a valid move for a lower age of majority. We are bedevilled enough at the moment with various ages for various things in the community. In my own State one must be aged 16 years to have a licence to possess a firearm. One has to be 17 in most States to qualify for a driver’s licence. One has to be over the age of 18 to escape being dealt with in the children’s court for offences against the law and one must be aged 21 years to be able to go into hotels to drink. We have in the community a series of age limits for a number of purposes. But we have singled out the age of 21 for the right to vote, the right to enter into contracts, and the right to deal with property.
I do not disagree with the principle that, generally, the age of majority overall should be lowered to 18 years. I have no objection to the voting age coming down to 18 years and I have no objection to the right to enter into contracts being acquired at 18 years; nor have I any objection to the right to marry being given at the age of 18 years. Perhaps there could be a case set forth also for increasing to 18 years the age at which one shall have the right to possess a firearm or the right to drive a motor vehicle. But I wonder whether we do not rather get into a sort of magical situation, one of simply plucking a number out of the air. Some months ago, when I served as a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory under the very distinguished chairmanship of Senator Marriott, we dealt with the problem of drunken drivers and drink in general. At that time we heard some very interesting evidence from a Dr Jamieson of Queensland. He put forward a most interesting case from the point of view of lowering to 15 years the age at which one shall have the right to drive a motor vehicle. After listening to Dr Jamieson, I have always been rather attracted to his idea that children should be allowed to obtain a driver’s licence at the age of 15 years, while they are still basically under parental control, to paraphrase what he said. He argued that once a child attains the age 17 it tends to disappear from parental control.
– That is only when the parents are weak and indulgent. That does not happen at my home.
– No doubt the parents in Queensland still control their children at the age of 15 years. I do not think that we can simply pluck a magical age out of the air and say: ‘This is the true, the proper, the right age at which a person should be entitled to do anything.’ All we can attempt to do is strike a reasonable mean. I think it is generally accepted that people are more adult these days at the age of 18 years. I would hope that, arising out of Mr Justice Manning’s report to the
Parliament of New South Wales and its consideration by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, we will eventually come to accept right throughout Australia the majority age of 18 for the right to vote, for the right to drink, for the right to enter into contracts, and for the right to all normal civil obligations.
But I do think that these days, when (here has been so much criticism of centralism within the National Parliament as against the States, we should not turn our backs on the concept of co-operative federalism. We now have a system of co-operative federalism and I think that in the main it has worked fairly well. It is to the great credit of the Commonwealth and the States that we have been able to introduce uniform company laws. Indeed, there have been many uniforms laws introduced via this vehicle of co-operative federalism. I think it would be a mistake for the Commonwealth to take it upon itself to do something which is out of step with this concept of federalism. I sincerely believe that as a result of the meetings over the last 10 years of the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral, which, after all, is not necessarily composed of men of one political persuasion, we will eventually come to a proper considered decision on the question of the age of majority. I hope that in the not too distant future this Commonwealth Parliament and the six State parliaments will arrive at a common decision on the age of majority.
One other matter to which I should like to refer is the sheer impracticability of doing something about this Bill at the moment. 1 wonder how many honourable senators have had the experience of working in an electoral office. I had that doubtful pleasure in 1946 when 1 spent 6 or 7 months working as an electoral officer. I wonder whether those who stand up tonight to espouse the cause of ‘let us pass this Bill and give all of the 18-year olds a vote at the next election’ realise the sheer physical mechanics which have to be indulged in to put those people on the electoral roll. I understand that there are 600,000 in this age group who would have to be put on the electoral roll if this legislation were passed, which would average out at about 5,000 to each electoral division. I understand that the electoral rolls for the forthcoming election will close on 19th October. It is almost the end of August now. Assuming that this Bill is not passed tonight, I should imagine that the debate would continue on Tuesday week. If it passed here, the Bill would then be forwarded to another place for debate. If it is eventually passed there it will have to receive the Governor-General’s assent. I would like somebody to explain to me how, as a physical, mechanical operation, the Electoral Office could issue 600,000 enrolment entitlement cards and put these people on the roll in time for the election on 25th October.
Quite frankly, I would welcome this age group on the electoral roll on 25th October. There is enough statistical evidence to show that the young voter would vote for the Government. If they were included on the roll, it would mean almost another 600,000 votes for the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Liberal-Country Party coalition. I am not afraid of their inclusion on the roll. Indeed, I repeat, I would welcome the inclusion of the 18-year olds. They have far more sense than a lot of the older generation, 40% of whom, unfortunately, still vote for the Australian Labor Party. So I would welcome the 18-year olds on the roll. I am convinced that they are saner and more in touch with modern day conditions than some others. I am quite convinced that they will vote for the Government’s side of politics.
The Opposition, with its usual impracticable ideas, imagines that it can pull this Bill on tonight and as a physical operation put 600,000 new voters on the roll, despite the fact that there are common rolls in four States, in time for the election on 25th October. I know that this is the normal sort of approach that the Opposition takes to so many things. It is, after all, so easy to sit in Parliament and to pass legislation without worrying about the details; the details are for some poor, long suffering civil servant to put into operation. No-one ever considers the fact that he has to put the Acts of Parliament into physical operation. For that reason also I oppose the Bill.
If this Bill is not passed at this stage I imagine that when we come back under Prime Minister Gorton in 1970 with an increased majority we will have legislation placed before us which has been considered by the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral and we will then proceed to do what is right and proper for the 18 to 20 age group. But now is not the time to do it. It would not be possible mechanically. One cannot deal with these matters in isolation. I believe that this matter has been raised tonight purely as an election gimmick. I also believe that the 18 to 20 year age group will also realise that that is the only reason it has been raised tonight. For those reasons, I am not prepared to support the Bill at this stage.
– If all of the motions that are moved in the Parliament and all of the suggestions that are made are to be cast aside as political gimmicks very few Acts of Parliament will be passed. It is rather nonsensical for Senator Withers, who has just resumed his seat, to say that this is just a political gimmick. I do not think it is in the minds of the persons who supported the introduction of this Bill that the legislation should be implemented in time for the forthcoming election.
– You have lost contact with them.
– They have not been to see me or the Whip of my Party. I support the Bill because I believe in-
– Is that the Caucus decision of your Party?
– Yes. There was a meeting earlier this evening and it was decided to support the suggestion that people should be entitled to vote at the age of 18. If it is permissible to give the most lethal weapon that we can to people of 17 and 18 years of age - the motor car - I think we should give them entitlement to vote, too. If it is good enough for them to go to war and to be killed in action it is good enough for them to vote. I have no compunction at all in supporting the Bill because I believe in the young people of today. It is said we cannot put this legislation into effect for the next election because the rolls could not be altered in time. But we can pass this now for the election after next.
– Is the Leader of the Australia Party prepared to move an amendment to that effect?
-I do not mind which way it is. If the necessary procedures cannot be carried out in time, obviously the new electoral rolls will not be available for use in the forthcoming election. The point is that if you want to do something you can do it. There is nothing you cannot do if you really want to. In fact, the date of the election could be altered. The Government is frightened and is demanding that an election be held soon. It is, for various reasons, so frightened that it has to have an election now.
– The Government has to have it on the anniversary of the Russian revolution.
– That is right.
– Come back to sanity.
-Now that the voice of our master has spoken and directed which way to talk, 1 shall be happy to do so.
– Give yourself a certificate.
– Does the Minister want a certificate? I am afraid that he is still in a paranoic state. He keeps on talking about wanting a certificate. I do not know what he means.
– He wants two doctors to certify him.
– Another doctor is also a member of this chamber, but he is not in the chamber at present. Therefore we cannot oblige the Minister at the moment. I cannot for the life of me understand why people of 18 years of age should not have a vote. Unlike the Government, I do not believe that anyone who dissents or protests is a Communist or something like that just because he is against the Government. It is sheer and utter nonsense to say that university students - and I think this is what the Government has in mind - are incapable of voting. Anybody who has been to a university realises that the most radical members of the university are the future members of Parliament, the future judges and the future doctors and lawyers.
– Is that how the Leader of the Australia Party qualified?
– Probably. To say that university students are not capable of voting because they dissent is sheer balderdash. I think university students are entitled to dissent. However, I am totally opposed to violence. There is nothing wrong with the young of today. I think that they are entitled to vote at the age of 18. They should be allowed to have some say in the restrictions imposed on them. It was said earlier that a figure was picked out of the air when the present voting age was set. Senator Withers said that the age of 21 was picked because that was the age in 1200 A.D. at which young people were considered able to support armour. That argument was not worthy of the honourable senator; I have heard him make much better speeches. How should we pick on an age at which people are capable of voting?
Everyone who has studied physiology knows that the young in every generation mature about 1 year earlier than in the generation before, or have done so during the last 30 years. I hope that they do not continue to mature at that rate in the future because, if they do, they will eventually be mature at the age of 10 years. Nevertheless, in the last 30 or 35 years it has been shown that the physiological processes have advanced by 1 year so that people mature 1 year earlier. Consequently, if 30 or 35 years ago, a person aged 21 years was good enough to vote, he should now be good enough to vote at the age of 20, which is another figure that can be picked out of the hat. If we do not choose that age, at what age do we say that one is mature enough to vote? I come back to the first point that I made: If they are good enough to fight for us they are good enough to vote for us, as has been recognised in some States. If they are good enough to drive a car which could cause damage to other people they must be regarded as responsible people - otherwise we would not give them the privilege of using a lethal weapon. I believe that the voting age should be 18 years and that is why I am supporting this measure.
– The Bill before us tonight commends itself to our attention in the way that it purports to introduce a matter within the Australian legislative scene which, according to the people opposite who introduced the measure, brings us into line with the rest of the world. According to the
Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), it is a projection of contemporary thought and reflects something of what is regarded as the right thing in an up to date and progressive nation. With the terms of contemporary thinking, with the terms of what is required in an up to date and progressive nation, and with the terms of what is required in elements of a country like ours, dealing with modern situations with a degree of intelligence and according to standards that are very high indeed, we have no particular quarrel. But if we are to introduce a provision of this kind, why bring in all these matters? I think it is fair to suggest that consideration might well have been given to seeking better circumstances in which to bring forward a measure of this kind.
As speakers before me have pointed out tonight, although this matter has been on the notice paper and in Hansard for some time, it has arisen for attention on this very day and at this point of time in the life of the Parliament. If the Leader of the Opposition was so keen that his Bill should receive the adequate attention that a measure like this deserves, surely he would have mounted a number of his supporters to bring forward argument after argument, not only as to why we should have a measure to provide for a voting age of 18 years but also as to why the measure should be brought forward tonight. The only reason that we can find for its being brought forward tonight is its use for a particular political situation. I reject out of hand the procedures that have been associated with the bringing forward of this measure. If a Bill of this kind, which could introduce a greater number of people to the vote and to the exercise of the kind of responsibility that a voter must exercise, is to be brought forward for the attention that it deserves it should come forward in very different circumstances and with a greater measure of support from the people who have introduced it than it has received tonight. It has received no support whatever from the people who introduced it.
– It has been supported.
– It has received no support. No honourable senator opposite has risen in his place to support the measure. I ask honourable senators to consider again the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition on this matter and to see how he talks in generalities about worldwide trends and unmistakable observations throughout the world. If he is so keen that we should fall into line with the rest of the world, let us have chapter and verse for those countries where the voting age is 18 years. It took Senator Rae to incorporate in Hansard the list of countries which have this provision for the young people. This did not come from the Opposition, which sponsored this Bill.
Although this is a measure for which I have a considerable measure of support, not only because of the trends that are gathering but also because we need to respond to increasing measures of ability and responsibility that are available to and are apparent in an ever widening section of the community, I do not think we can introduce a Bill of this kind and leave it in isolation as it now stands. It is very wise that the deliberations and reports of the AttorneysGeneral should be awaited so that the matter can receive proper and considered attention at a proper time in a parliamentary programme. If we are to introduce a changed voting age we must look at its relation to ages for doing other things. For example, today we have the age of voting at 21 years, and we have an age fixed for driving motor cars, for marriage, for entering into contracts and for all sorts of other things. The ages for these things vary, but they are related to the age of 21 years. If we are to reduce the voting age to 18 years, can anybody tell me whether everything is to be done at 18 years of age or whether various other activities in life are to be done at 18 years, 17 years, 16 years, 15 years or 14 years? If the progress of people goes on in the way that we have known it in the past it is logical to state that the age of maturity will change according to educational standards, standards of living and opportunities that are available to young people.
The Australian outlook is very interesting and very exciting. Today about 52% of the Australian population is under 30 years of age. By the middle of the next decade, partly because of our migrant intake, 64% of our people will be under 30 years of age, as a result of which there will be a different attitude and a different approach to the whole pattern of life, whether it be in relation to voting, driving motor cars or doing anything else that is involved in our social structure. A report on a recent research programme conducted during a debate in the British Parliament on this subject stated:
People were physically maturing earlier, lt was stated that in 1830 a male was mature at 23. It was further stated that today a person is in the same stage of maturity at 17 years of age.
This is but a reflection of a worldwide trend which I suggest is true also of our own country. Today the 18-year-olds and 20-year-olds are much better educated than they were only a few years ago. They now enter into our social, political and total life in society in a quite different way from what they did 10 or 20 years ago. Any honourable senator who has had the opportunity to speak with people of younger age groups, either in his ordinary public duty or within the youth groups in political parties, knows perfectly well that the kind of interest, the kind of response, the kind of inquiry and the kind of questions that these people bring forward are much more advanced than they were a decade ago and considerably more advanced than two decades ago.
– Is the honourable senator speaking from personal experience of his own family?
– I have plenty of personal experience in speaking to groups of young people. I have addressed many young people both within the rounds of my very extensive public duties and within groups of Young Liberals, some of the finest young people in Australia. So indeed they ought to be, as Senator Gair will appreciate, having regard to the degree of Commonwealth scholarships and Commonwealth support for education in recent years; the greater number of opportunities, not only for education but also for travel and the broadening of the mind that it brings. Even in spite of certain minority behaviour that we see around us, there is among our young people the ability to exercise initiative, to accept a greater degree of risk and to undertake enterprises. All this proves that there is a situation to be argued quite firmly in favour of the younger age group.
We have been told that there is a world wide trend towards a younger voting age. The young people of 18, 19 and 20 years are certainly a vital segment of any society. and especially our own. The newspaper Mercury’ commented on this matter under the heading: ‘Adulthood- When?’. The article pointed out that in spite of the advantages that young people have today in this age - claims in this respect have been made in this chamber tonight - while youth must adapt itself to a faster pace, it must also be prepared to accept and face up to greater pressures. It must also be prepared to accept heavier social burdens than it would a decade ago. While we praise the progress which young people have made, let us not forget that while they make this progress and they are certainly entitled to the rewards that flow from it, no age has imposed greater social pressures, greater burdens and tensions upon its young people than the present one.
If we ask them to accept the responsibility of voting at a younger age we must also accept the responsibility of seeing that what they vote for is a worthy institution and of being of assistance to them in the decisions they make in the pressures that arise from their extra responsibility.
– Do you tell your Young Liberals this sort of guff?
– Young Liberals are able to determine what is guff and what is common sense. I presume that the fact that one is invited back to speak to them again disposes of that argument. The matter of whether we determine an age which is to be regarded as the majority is of course not extremely important. We have had discourses tonight as to the origins of the persistence of the age of 21 years as the majority. I return to the point I have just made that whatever is the age we must be prepared to accept the responsibilities that flow from decisions that are made. Enough has been said about this matter of reducing the voting age. I think honourable senators will be aware that the Government has not been idle in its consideration of this matter. It was introduced at last year’s Premiers Conference when the view was expressed that any action should be taken uniformly by the Commonwealth and the States. This surely explains why we do not accept the motion before the Senate, a motion which has certainly not been convincingly argued for by its protagonists tonight. It is absolutely obvious that when we want to introduce to a country like Australia a matter of this importance and extent it should be undertaken at a uniform level by the Commonwealth and the States.
We have heard of the consideration that has been given to the question by the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General. We have heard particular references to the review of the age of legal majority being undertaken by the New South Wales Law Reform Commission and of its report. We have received assurances that the Commonwealth and the States are giving consideration to the whole question of the franchise age for both enrolment and voting and all the other things that are associated. As my colleague Senator Withers said earlier tonight, we have to be aware of the practical issues that arise in any consideration of a matter like this, not least of which is the matter of enrolment on the joint rolls of the States. Over 600,000 potential electors are involved. If the Commonwealth were to move to grant 18-year-olds the right to enrol, without acting in conjunction with the States, the roll for each division would eventually contain about 5,000 electors who were not enrolled for State purposes. It is not necessary for me to elaborate upon the circumstances that would arise from a situation like this or to underline the confusion that would emerge. Certainly separate forms for Commonwealth and State enrolments are most undesirable, particularly where a joint roll is in operation. It is quite logical to wait until the Commonwealth and the States are in a position to consider the matter together in the light of the reports of the Law Reform Commission and, if a decision is made, to act uniformly on this total question of a reduction of the franchise age.
– I rise to take part in this debate because I think some parts of the record should be straightened and some matters spelt out. The matter with which I am most concerned has been referred to from various angles in the debate, but I am one who took part in criticising the Opposition after it had decided to take over Tuesday night for general business, or private members’ business, altering it from Thursday to Tuesday. I was at that time critical of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and those who administer the
Opposition for the different political attitude that was being adopted. We were arriving here on a Tuesday with no indication of the subject to be debated that night. Of course, we expected that the Opposition, within its own closed ranks, had circulated or passed from wing to wing a message as to what its members would be debating; but the normal ethics of parliamentary behaviour and tradition were not being followed and honourable senators on this side of the chamber, and for all I know, in the Australian Democratic Labor Party, were not being told the subject for debate. In other words there was an attempt either to forget tradition or to try to have Government supporters caught unawares, unprepared for debate. In the art of gentle admonition I expressed my views and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate was good enough to see the error of his ways.
We were told that in future the Senate would be informed before the House adjourned at the end of a week of the item of general business to be brought on when the Senate met on the following Tuesday. As far as I am aware, this practice has been followed. Until lunch time today, I understood that order of the day No. 1 under the heading of ‘General Business’ - that is Constitution Alteration (Democratic Election of State Parliaments) Bill 1968’ - was to be debated. I am very interested in that question. But as soon as the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson), who is the Leader of our Parliamentary Party in the Senate, could do so, he told us that Senator Murphy would be moving that the Senate go on to order of the day No. 14, Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1968, and Senator Anderson thought Senator Murphy would have the numbers if we did not agree.
– How could he have the numbers? We were never consulted about it.
– You were not told, Senator Gair?
– We knew nothing about it.
– There you are. Even greater harm has been done. I suppose this is a reaction from the weekend when one of Senator Gair’s colleagues was reported in the Press as saying that it took 15 years for the DLP to destroy the Australian Labor Party. By one rudeness to Senator Gair’s Party today, the ALP is trying to bewilder the DLP, not to destroy it. It would never be able to bewilder the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
Let us keep the record straight. We have moved from item 1 to item 14. I presume that when the members of the Labor Party saw that the subject for debate referred to a democratic election they thought: ‘We cannot debate that. Look what happened at our Federal Conference. We refused to allow a democratically elected delegate of our Party, a paid servant of our Party, to come in the door’. Harradine’s name rang through caucus on the other side of the chamber and they decided that they would avoid the Harradine case - ‘We must not talk about democracy. We cannot discuss it at this touchy stage after we have been welded together for a short week-end of conferences and after we refused to allow that democratically elected delegate to come in the door. We sent him across the Strait two or three times but he came back knocking at the door of our expensive hotel lounge and asking ‘Can I come in? Can I be heard?’ and we replied ‘Stay out, stay out’
Then the Tasmanian people were rocked. Democracy had gone completely mad. The delegation to the conference from Tasmania was evenly divided. Two of them said: ‘We do not take instructions from our democratically elected conference but we voted for our man to be kept out’. So it is obvious why the Labor Party does not want to debate Order of the Day No. 1, Constitution Alteration (Democratic Election of State Parliaments) Bill. I can understand why members of the Labor Party would not want to discuss Order of the Day No. 2 which relates to Antarctica because they can feel the cold winds of electoral change which are blowing against them. They know that they have been left out in the cold because of what is going on within their ranks and because of their attitude to the Parliament. Let us take the next item. Why did they not want to debate a subject dear to the heart of the Democratic Labor Party. Namely assistance to independent schools? The Federal body of the Labor Party has covered that.
So perhaps by chance, perhaps by mischance, government senators and members of the Democratic Labor Party have been misled about the subject for debate in the Senate chamber tonight, this at a most important time in the parliamentary session, this on the very day on which the Labor Party Opposition, showing some good sense and judgment, agreed that from now until the end of this parliamentary session we will, after this week, sit for longer hours and on more days in an endeavour to get the business of the nation through the Parliament before the Parliament is dissolved so that the other place can go to an election. The very fact that the Opposition agreed to do that on this very day indicates that somewhere within the ranks of the Opposition there is one person at least who said: There is important business of the nation to be carried on and we are the people who will face up to our responsibilities and carry it on. We will agree to the extra hours and days of sitting*. Yet come 8 o’clock on Tuesday night we are asked to debate a Bill which could alter the electoral situation and cause wild confusion electorally among the people of Australia if it became law.
The Labor Party, showing a complete lack of responsibility and parliamentary behaviour, is trying to get us to force this debate through in 2i hours when it has permitted the Bill to lie on the notice paper for over 12 months. That is parliamentary irresponsibility and lack of political judgment. I do not believe that members of the Labor Party realise that they are exhibiting that attitude to the people of Australia. Then we find that because he rose in his place some 18 months ago the Leader of the Opposition has the night off. He cannot speak. Perhaps that is why he wanted this matter debated. He cannot speak, so he would not have to listen to the debate.
– Will you give us a vote on it?
– I have referred to the fact that the Democratic Labor Party has claimed that it has taken 15 years to destroy your Party. I have been in this Senate for 16 years and not one senator of any party has ever been able to silence me by interjection while I am on my feet, so I suggest that you save your voice. I will take no notice of your interjections because I have a prepared speech to make and I intend to make it, and the more it hurts you the better will your colleagues on each side of you enjoy it. In 2± hours we, as a House of review, are expected to initiate important legislation which has a constitutional flavour.
– Will you give us a vote on it?
– The bass baritone who is interjecting can go on all night for all I care. He does not worry me. The Minister has pointed out the fallacy of putting this legislation through tonight. He has pointed out, I think it is fair to say, that there is no member on this side of the House who is adamantly opposed to 18- year-olds voting at Federal elections. I certainly hold the belief that this is a suggestion which merits consideration. But let us get tonight’s record straight. After the Minister, clearly and with convincing repetition in some cases, had put the facts before the Senate on why the Government would not accept this Bill if it could defeat the Bill at this stage - he did not say that the Government was opposed to the vote in good time - Senator Keeffe from Queensland who, I presume, was speaking as a senator for Queensland, entered the debate. Of course, he has to wear two hats. He wears one as the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party. He chided the Minister about the Minister’s speech and then went on to say, in effect: ‘I want you to pull speakers down so that we can have a vote* - this in a House of review in a democracy, in a Parliament which surely has some pride in its attitudes. But the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party had the feeling that he was back in the conference room - ‘Lock the doors. Keep Harradine out. Silence you and you. Take a vote while we have the numbers’. So Senator Keeffe, Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, said to us: ‘Pull your speakers down’. He did not appeal to any one of us as individuals and ask: Would you please, as individuals, refrain from speaking tonight so that we can take a vote?’ He, a backbencher on the Opposition side, was saying to a Minister in a democratically run Liberal-Country Party coalition Government: ‘Pull your members down. Take their names off the list’. But he knows that we are not men or women of that calibre and that at any time when we are challenged by the Opposition we will be upstanding in our places and will give our views, knowing full well that they are being recorded for all time in Hansard. This Hansard report will make remarkably interesting reading. It is a pity that there could not be a separate edition recording the harangue of interjections that go past me like a breeze out on the snow.
So the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party has found that we are not controlled by a totalitarian dictator who says: ‘Take your names off the list; sit down; do not talk’. The Minister does not do a Harradine on us. The Whip says to us: ‘The list is there. If you want to speak, you speak’. That is a motto that we have in this place. What is more, if we vote against the Government we are not locked out of the room, let alone expelled. What then was the reason for the sudden change of attitude on the part of the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, Senator Keeffe? I suppose that the entertainment committee, or whatever body Opposition senators have which controls their comings and goings in this chamber, said to them: Thou shalt not speak. You live and visible Harradines are not to speak in this debate. We will leave it to the Government. We will show, first of all, that we are in control of our own people. We will stop them speaking*.
But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps die position is that when the call for speakers was made the names did not go on the list because members of the Opposition saidI can see why they should say this: ‘Break it down; until midday today we thought we were to talk on the Constitution Alteration (Democratic Election of State Parliaments) Bill; but without a word to us you now tell us that we are to talk about 18-year-olds’. I can hear them saying: ‘We are all preparing our speeches on the Budget. We all want to have a go on social services. We all want to talk about the education grants. We want to have a go on repatriation. We are studying the Auditor-General’s Report to see what we should say in the Estimates debate. We are flat out because you bosses have agreed that we have to sit more days and longer hours in order to get the business of the country done’. Perhaps that is the reason why no Opposition speakers are getting up. Another one may be-
– Tell us a bit more about Harradine.
– It is very harrowing. I am prompted by my ministerial colleague from Tasmania to say that we may tell the Senate more about that matter on Hallowe’en. I am trying to get the record straight.
– -Was not Harradine elected by the State Conference of the ALP in Tasmania?
– I am not privy to its goings on. I must address you, Mr President. I am sure that the political historians will want to know why it is that 1 8 months ago the Leader of the Opposition moved the motion for the second reading of this Bill-
– Eighteen months ago?
– Well, 12 months ago or 10 months ago.
– lt was 8 months ago.
- His speech was so weak that it seems about 18 months since I heard it. Anyway, 10 months ago he made his second reading speech. The Opposition backbenchers either have said that they will not speak because they have not had time to prepare their speeches, or they have been ordered by Senator Keeffe to be silent or they have taken umbrage at the tactics that are being adopted by those who control the Party.
It will be interesting to see whether any member of the back bench or the front bench - junior counsel or anyone else - will stand up tonight and put some sort of case, in answer to the arguments put by Senator Scott, as to why at this time the Opposition wants this Bill to be passed by this chamber and referred to another place. If I understand the law correctly, if another place passes it, it receives the royal assent and automatically becomes the law of the land within 14 days. Is there someone who can stand up and, on behalf of the Opposition, say whether it really and truly wants the vote to be given to 18-year-olds in the Federal election on the date that has been announced - 25th October. Here I would expect Senator Gair to come in with his usual interjections. Do members of the Opposition want the 18-year-olds to have a vote at that time? I had hoped that a member of the Opposition would have taken his turn in this debate before I had to follow two of my colleagues, except for a slight interposition by Senator Turnbull. If members of the Opposition do want this to become law before that time, they cannot possibly understand the implications-
– Mr President, I raise a point of order. Is it orderly to hold caucus meetings inside the Senate chamber or should they be carried on outside the chamber?
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) - If the honourable senator is referring to the interjections, I do not think the speaker was embarrassed by them.
– I hope that I am not out of order, Mr President, in adding to your reply to Senator Branson’s question about holding caucus meetings inside the chamber. I can tell you that Mr Brian Harradine would love to be allowed inside. After the members of the Executive sacked him, they had a meeting to try to support him and they split again - six to four. They told the Press that he had to apologise, and the Press rang him up and told him that. Then he had to have a caucus meeting on his own because he had been expelled. He had been let down. He was flying across Bass Strait like a yo-yo. When he left Tasmania he was promised that he would receive a telegram. But that would have been a waste of money. Of course, the Labor Party is short of funds. I can understand that, the way it spends money. He did not receive the letter. He is used to holding caucus meetings outside. But Opposition senators want to be different from Mr Harradine. They like holding caucus meetings in this chamber. I am glad that Senator Branson objects.
Let me refer to the dangers inherent in this Bill if the Senate was to be so unwise as to pass it tonight and if the Opposition expected and wanted it to become law for the election to be held on 25th October.
– That is the anniversary of the Russian revolution.
– The trout are biting beautifully. I have been given reliable information and I have been able to do some homework. The implication behind this Bill is that about 600,000 new electors could come on the electoral rolls of the four States in which there are joint FederalState rolls. Working it out quickly, that would mean an average of 5,000 new electors on each roll in the four States which use joint Federal-State rolls. This would result in a situation of utter confusion. Those 5,000 electors would not know whether they were on the roll for this election or that election. A time factor also is involved. If the Parliament was so unwise as to pass this Bill the people of Australia and the electoral authorities would think that the great fault of the Senate was that it did not think deeply about the legislation before it. They would accuse us, quite rightly, of being coerced into making judgment too quickly and of not allowing sufficient time for debate.
Surely the Senate should consider the work load before it. The Opposition is trying to pressure us into discussing matters at this time whereas it could easily have acted in a spirit of co-operation and have revealed some form of national parliamentary responsibility. There are twentyeight other matters which could come up for discussion but which have been laying idle now for many months. The Opposition could have said that it would withdraw its right to have those matters debated in order to allow the Senate to continue with the Budget debate or to deal with other Government legislation. It could have acted so that the time available to us could be usefully organised and employed. 1 hope that Opposition senators have learned a parliamentary lesson and I hope they will remember it. They should remember the ethics and traditions of the Parliament and that common courtesy should be shown at all times. Will Opposition senators be able to face the public of Australia tomorrow and say: ‘Yes, we left our Bill on the notice paper for many months. Yes, we forced the Senate into debating it. Yes, this happened after we threatened Government supporters not to speak. They disobeyed our instructions and therefore, in order to try to embarrass them and to try to catch them unawares, we pulled out our speakers’? Or will they say that their speakers were not prepared to stand and support it in this chamber? That may be the situation. In reality the back bench Opposition members have said that they are going to sit down here and leave Harradine out in the cold.
If there is one thing about which the Senate has to be careful it is the initiation of legislation that has an important effect in and implication for the States we represent. I would be negligent in my duty as a Tasmanian senator if at this stage, before the Tasmanian Parliament made up its mind as to what should be the voting age in Tasmania, I supported a change. I would be recreant to my trust if I supported a change before I knew that the Tasmanian Government had made a decision and unless I knew that the Federal Government knew the wishes of the other States which have the same electoral roll. Surely the Senate must exercise some care and give due consideration when it is dealing with uniformity. In some spheres of activity we have done a good job so far as uniformity is concerned. 1 hope there will be more uniformity of legislation throughout Australia. But I am certain that it is not the role of the Senate - nor the role of the Senate Opposition - at this time, under these conditions and in this manner, to try to rush legislation through after a debate of 2± hours. 1 refer very briefly once again to Senator Keeffe. When we heard Senator Keeffe saying that he wished to be pulled down and not allowed to speak I thought to myself: Well, I know that this is not the LiberalCountry Party attitude about people wishing to speak’. The list of speakers is available and if we wish to speak we do so. No-one says to us: ‘Sit down and get your name off the list’. I thought: ‘If, by any chance, out of fright an Opposition supporter had risen to speak after Senator Keeffe had finished, he, Senator Keeffe, would have interjected and said we were too frightened to get up and talk’. He would have said: You are too frightened to speak because you are really on our side. You are too frightened to express your views because your Ministers would not like it’. I realised when Senator Keeffe was issuing the Labor Party instructions to the Senate tonight that he had a dollar each way, that if Government supporters wanted to speak he would criticise us for talking the matter out, and that if we remained seated he could then have gone round between now and the anniversary of the Russian revolution and have said: ‘We have the Liberal and Country Party senators frightened. When I tell them they have to sit down they do so’. He would have had great joy in defaming our political characters in that way. Therefore I am very pleased that we have proved tonight, to the lasting good of members of the Opposition, I hope, that no matter where else they can do that they cannot do that here.
The Opposition is not going to tell us to sit down. The Opposition is not going to tell us to race legislation through the Parliament. We are not prepared, after 8 or 10 months delay, to rush headlong into accepting a proposition that has not been put clearly before us. By their silence members of the Opposition prove that they are either ignorant of the contents of the Bill or that they are opposed to it and are frightened to rise in this chamber and express their thoughts. I suppose honourable senators are frightened of expulsion.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 August 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1969/19690826_senate_26_s42/>.