27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave bc given to bring in a Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution by empowering the Parliament to make laws with respect to tertiary education.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories. Will the Minister immediately cancel the corrective institution ordinance that permits the use of leg irons on New Guinea citizens? Will he make a statement to the Senate as to why 2 indigenes have been kept in gaol for periods during which leg irons were placed on one of them from 2nd December to 18th February and from 5th March to 17th March? A doctor’s report stated that this man was suffering from cellulosis, a skin infection of the right foot and leg and that this could have resulted from abrasions to the skin caused by the leg irons. Will the Minister make a report on the 2 natives who have been kept in leg irons in gaol in New Guinea?
– The incidents to which the honourable senator’s question refers came to the notice of the Minister, I think the day before yesterday, and he immediately referred the matter to the Administrator for a report. I have no doubt that the honourable senator has seen the report in this morning’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ which rather fully states the position. 1 shall refer the question to the Minister and I have no doubt that full information will be supplied to the Senate by the Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. As a result of recent decisions by the 2 major organisations representing wool growers, culminating in the decision by the Australian Wool Industry Conference yesterday agreeing to a single selling authority for wool, and bearing in mind the great difficulty that has been experienced in the past in obtaining the full support of growers for any form of marketing reform, will the Minister consider as a matter of necessity the implementation of this decision of the growers?
– 1 do not doubt for a moment that all those who have seen the report of yesterday’s meeting of the Australian Wool Industry Conference will be very interested in it, even if they are only remotely connected with wool. I think the decision taken yesterday is a very significant one in regard to marketing reform, lt could be said that the delegates to yesterday’s conference are deserving of great praise for the decision they have taken. However, 1 do not think that the rank and file members of the organisations that go to make up the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council should be left out of this decision. I recall that about 12 years ago the Wool Section of the Farmers Union made a decision along similar lines. While I welcome this decision of the AWIC, 1 regret the delay that took place before it was reached. I have a personal interest because I chaired the meeting of the Wool Section of the Farmers Union that made the decision 12 years ago. [ hope that a submission will be made to the Government and that implementation of the decision will take place as quickly as possible.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the achievement of large bulk carrying ships in reducing transport costs of mineral exports, could the Minister advise whether there is any possibility of using similar ships to reduce the heavily increasing freight costs on our agricultural exports?
Australian Wool Board has set up an advisory committee. One of its responsibilities is to investigate wool freight charges and the cost of conveying wool from the wool shed door to the manufacturer’s door. I would think that the committee would inquire into the point raised by the honourable senator and perhaps at a later date we will have further information on it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General: What are the ordinary principles that are relevant in the consideration of the question of prosecuting for criminal offences? That is the phraseology of the Attorney-General. In inquiries by the Attorney-General’s Department as to whether criminal proceedings on charges of abduction and/or rape at Yuendumu native reserve should be instituted, was any statement taken from the 3 girls concerned, or from the male suspects?
– I have no information whether any statements were taken from the 3 girls concerned. I doubt that that would be the responsibility of the Attorney-General’s Department. I would have thought that the file of the Department of the interior would disclose the position, but I shall ascertain whether that is so and inform the honourable senator. The honourable senator will be aware that the ordinary principles upon which advice is given for the prosecution of crime depend firstly on whether there is evidence of a prima facie character suggesting a crime, and, secondly, on whether on the whole of the evidence prosecution is likely to proceed. Then, of course, consideration is taken of time factors and availability of witnesses.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. Is the report correct in today’s Canberra ‘Times’ that 19 Telopea Park High School students walked out of school assembly rather than remove Vietnam Moratorium Campaign badges they were wearing? Is it a fact as alleged that there was a refusal to accept the headmaster’s direction that the school should be neutral? Does the ‘Minister consider it a fair thing that students who wish to engage in partisan politics in school and teachers who seek to encourage them should be told that if they want to do so they should be removed from the school? If the facts are as alleged, is the Minister prepared to support the school headmaster?
– I saw some reference in the newspaper to this incident but I have not had an opportunity to consult with the Minister in regard to it. I hope that my colleague will recognise that this is a matter of a rather fundamental issue as to the discipline of schools on which I think I should accord the Minister the courtesy of consultation before purporting to answer for him.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer make representations to his colleague to secure in the forthcoming Budget a substantial increase in the Federal surf life saving subsidy for 1970? No doubt the Minister is aware that the inflationary spiral has brought about a large increase in cost for every item of surf life saving equipment. I also ask: Will the Commonwealth make arrangements with life insurance companies, government or private, for our surf life savers, those unpaid heroes of our Australian beaches, to have extended to them insurance protection similar to that which now covers bush fire fighters?
– Dealing with the first part of the honourable senator’s question, as he knows and as we all know, the question of the various grants that are made to organisations doing good work in the community is dealt with at Budget time and is considered in the context of the Budget proposals. Not only with surf life saving associations but also with many notable and worthwhile organisations there is a direct Commonwealth subvention. This matter will be dealt with in that context. As to the second part of the honourable senator’s question in which he suggests that government and private life assurance companies should make some special concession for voluntary workers in the surf life saving associations who do such good work, I should have thought that that is a matter which does not come within the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction or within an area where the Commonwealth could intervene, but rather would be one in which representations should be made by the associations directly to the companies concerned.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Will the Minister conduct a searching inquiry into the circumstances that caused radio station 2WL at Wollongong to terminate a programme sponsored by the Australian Translators Association which comprised music and advice to migrants? In particular, will he see whether the cessation of the programme was due to Ustashi bomb threats?
– I cannot give the honourable senator an answer to the detailed question he has asked, but I shall take the matter up with my colleague the Postmaster-General and get a reply for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. In support of the Australian Automobile Association’s opposition to the use of television in any motor vehicle where it could in any way distract the attention of the driver, will he ask his colleague the Minister for the Interior to ensure that the Commonwealth Government sets an example by ensuring that its relevant legislation contains the safeguard required by the AAA in respect of vehicles in the Australian Capital Territory and other areas under Commonwealth administration?
– This is a very good suggestion and I shall communicate it to the Minister for the Interior. Also I think 1 might perhaps direct the same suggestion to the Minister for Shipping and Transport and suggest that he might raise it with the Australian Transport Advisory Council.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, ls it a fact, as reported all around Parliament House and also in the daily Press, that the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr McEwen, yesterday told a meeting of Government Parties that America had lost the war in Vietnam because it had lost the war at home? If so, will the Leader convey to the Government our congratulations on the truth having percolated through to at least one member of the Government that this illegal, immoral, and unjust war has been lost?
– In the first place the Leader of the Opposition would know, as we all know, that from time to time one gets extraordinary pieces of distorted information as to what is purported to have been said in party room conclaves. I really would have thought that with the experience which the Leader of the Opposition has of such stories that one reads, he would not have used that . as the basis for a subsequent question. If we are really going to be faced with questions in the national Parliament based on what one reads about what is purported to have been said at party meetings - whether it is at meetings of our Party or of the Australian Labor Party or in fact of the Australian Democratic Labor Party - we are well on the way to complete abandonment of any really responsible work in this place.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral been drawn to a statement by a Mr Enderby in today’s ‘Canberra Times’ in which he claims that the AttorneyGeneral’s Department has directed a magistrate in the Australian Capital Territory not to give a decision in a part heard case involving an alleged demonstator? Can he advise the Senate whether such action has been taken and. if so, for what reason?
– My attention has not been directed to such a statement. I feel confident that such a statement has no foundation in fact, though I shall ask the Attorney-General to supplement my answer at the earliest opportunity.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer ascertain the reasons for the delay in the delivery of bound volumes of Hansard? If shortage of staff is the reason, will the Minister indicate in which departments of the Government
Printing Office such shortages occur and the additional number of tradesmen who would be required to be employed to eliminate such shortages?
– I am not aware that there is a delay, although I do not question what the honourable senator puts by way of a question. I shall have inquiries made to see what the situation is in relation to any delay. Of course, the demands upon the Government Printer are terrific, particularly during parliamentary sessions, but I gather that this is a problem which arose long before the current parliamentary session. I shall have inquiries made and let the honourable senator know the facts.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport: What is the present situation regarding the oil tanker ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ which went aground some weeks ago near the Barrier Reef with substantial quantities of oil1 still in her hold? Does the threat of oil pollution still exist in the area?
– Quite some time ago the oil cargo was emptied from the Oceanic Grandeur’. Divers went down and put plates on the damaged part of the hull and secured them with rivets, and the vessel went back under its own power to Singapore, to be repaired in the docks there. That was my understanding of the situation at the time of last reporting. About 6 days before the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ was finally emptied I flew over it. There was no evidence of any oil slick or oil pollution in the area around the ship. Nevertheless, I shall have inquiries made as to the current state of the area and where the ship is and let the honourable senator know.
– 1 ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. What control has the Government over overseas charter flights? ls the Minister aware that some of the charter clubs verge on the fraudulent in that they do not carry out their obligations, to the great distress of members? They cancel flights within a week or a fortnight of the scheduled time of departure. ls the ruling that clubs cannot publish particulars of flights until a membership fee has been paid due to action of the International Air Transport Association or of the Government?
– Several aspects of the honourable senator’s question will require me to refer this matter to the Department of Civil Aviation. There is some degree of control over overseas charter flights - perhaps not as much as the honourable senator would desire. Overseas charter flights are negotiated mainly by clubs, which have to be approved. They operate under certain International Air Transport Association regulations. They negotiate with various airlines. In some cases they negotiate with Qantas Airways Ltd. I am not aware of any fraudulent operation of charter flights. If the honourable senator knows of any fraudulent practices and refers them to me I will ensure that they are investigated thoroughly. There is a general IATA rule about charter flights and the rates to be charged for such flights. Most responsible airlines and countries try to observe that rule. Here again, if the honourable senator or any honourable senator knows of any breaches of that rule, I should be very glad if he would let me know of them.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Housing. Does the Government acknowledge that war service homes finance of S55m for the year 1969-70 has been exhausted? If not, will the Minister inform this chamber of the total amount remaining of the original allocation? If the Government concedes that all war service homes finance for the year 1969-70 has been spent, is it prepared to make a special grant to the War Service Homes Division and thus relieve approved applicants now awaiting loan finance of the burden of interest charges on bridging finance? Will the Minister treat this matter with urgency?
– I have dealt with this matter on several occasions. I have answered a variety of questions, I have spoken during the course of the recent debate on the matter of urgency and I have spoken in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. As I said previously, it was estimated that the allocation of S55m in the last
Budget would be adequate for the requirements of applicants. As I have informed the honourable senator, an increased number of applications was received. As I have explained, in some cases there is now a slight delay before loans can be provided. This is only in respect of existing dwellings. That is exactly the answer I have given the honourable senator previously. That is the situation.
– My quest ion is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Will the Minister classify as approved special hospitals nursing homes which provide specialised services for particular patients with chronic long term illnesses? That would enable patients to be placed on a similar basis to those in approved special hospitals for the purposes of the National Health Act, for the purpose of receiving fund benefits from a registered medical benefits fund and, if necessary, for the purpose of placing them in special accounts on a similar basis to that which applies to patients in other approved hospitals. Also, will the Minister consider legislation to cover day treatment hospitals and clinic centres which provide specialised treatment services for particular chronic long term illnesses, in order to classify them as approved special day hospitals? The object of this is to allow patients receiving treatment in such approved special day hospitals to be placed on an appropriate basis under the National Health Act in order to receive fund benefits from registered medical benefit funds and. if necessary, to be placed under special account or similar provisions for day treatment services provided at such hospitals.
– The honourable senator has asked a question about assistance for seriously ill people and about day hospitals. 1 believe that the matters raised are very important. I will obtain a detailed answer from the Minister for Health.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. May I take it from her statement in- the adjournment debate last night that an existing dwelling, for the purpose of determining whether or not an applicant for assistance from the War Service Homes Division is to encounter a delay in obtaining finance, includes a home which is under construction with the approval of the Division but for which finance is not made available by the Division until the dwelling is completed and which is not occupied by the applicant prior to completion of the dwelling? In short, is a newly completed and unoccupied dwelling regarded as a dwelling under construction for the purpose of making finance available immediately?
– Mr President, I raise a point of order. Standing order 99 says that questions shall not refer to debates in the current session. This question appears to me to be based on the adjournment debate last night.
– Technically, you arc correct, Senator Marriott; but in this case it is a matter of seeking information and not of reopening a debate. I will allow the Minister to answer the question.
– Because another matter has intruded, I might not be able to remember all the detail in the question Senator McClelland has asked. But the overall answer is exactly the same. I give it as I gave it last night. Applications, for assistance to build - this is the point where the difference exists between an application in respect of an existing dwelling and an application for assistance to build - are eases in which the applicant requires an advance to be made available by way of progress payments as construction of the home proceeds. The progress payments are based on the value of the work completed at the date of our inspection - that is, the War Service Homes Division inspection which, as the honourable senator will appreciate, is undertaken during that period. An application for assistance to purchase a. home, may relate to a home which has been .built for some years, or it may be a new home or it may be a home still under construction. However, the war service homes advance is not made available until the home is completed and all such cases are treated as the financing of an. existing property.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the reports in this morning’s Press of the unanimous decision of the Australian Wool Industry Conference with regard to wool marketing. Will the Government accept the views and decisions of the Australian Wool Industry Conference on wool marketing as those of a responsible wool grower today, or will it be like the Opposition and show a preference for the views of splinter groups that have no State affiliations?
-] would hope that the Government would accept the views of the Australian Wool Industry Conference as those of the whole of the industry because the Conference consists of 23 delegates from the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and 25 delegates from the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council - the 2 major Federal bodies in the wool industry.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. When replying to Senator Greenwood on the subject of the wearing of Vietnam Moratorium Campaign badges by school pupils, will he refer to the New South Wales Department of Education which has indicated that it will permit the wearing of Moratorium badges by pupils in high schools in that State?
– In answer to my colleague Senator Greenwood, I said that I would refrain from answering any questions on this matter without consulting the Minister for Education and Science and giving him the opportunity to formulate the opinion that he believes should govern the practice in this respect. I have no doubt the Minister will be obliged to the honourable senator for drawing his attention to any ruling or practice which exists in the New South Wales Department of Education. I have no doubt he will take such ruling or practice into consideration.
– I desire to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to an article which appeared in this morning’s ‘Australian’ suggesting that the flow of migrants to Australia could be adversely affected should air transport largely supersede sea transport? Is it a fact that a decision has been made to concentrate on air as the major mode of transport for future migrants? Does the Minister give credence to the suggestion that if this is done it will adversely affect our migrant intake?
– 1 have seen the newspaper statement to which the honourable senator referred. I think the best way I can answer the question is by referring to a reply which the Minister for Immigration gave, 1 think to the right honourable member for Melbourne, Mr Calwell, during an adjournment debate in another place. He spoke of the decision to change over from the existing sea transport arrangements to the increased use of air transport to be provided by Qantas Airways. He said he believed, having had discussions with his officers here and overseas, that this would not result in any adverse effect on the total immigration programme. I think that was the main point of the honourable senator’s question.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. It relates to the continuing reports from the United States of America about the progress of tests of Fill components which are subject to fatigue cracks and other failures. 1 ask the Minister whether the specialist air force and defence teams presently in the United States are continuing their investigations into these matters or have their investigations been suspended? Is the Minister in a position to say when the Senate may be told the facts about these inquiries and also Government policy in relation to this aircraft?
– BROCKMAN - The
Royal Australian Air Force and the Department of Supply still have representatives in America. These are collectively known as our project team. They are closely associated with the various tests being carried out following the wing failure which caused a fatal crash on 22nd December and also the general tests on the wing carry through box to which some publicity was given in the newspapers recently. As to the likelihood of a report to the Parliament, 1 understand that the Minister for Defence is hoping he can make such a report when we resume after next week’s break.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Has the Court of Marine Inquiry appointed to inquire into the sinking of the ‘Sedco Helen’ with the loss of 9 lives completed its inquiry? If so, when can the Senate expect to receive a copy of the report?
– 1 have not been informed whether the Court of Marine Inquiry has completed its investigation of the ‘Sedco Helen’ sinking, but I shall take the matter up with my colleague the Minister for Shipping and Transport and obtain a report as soon as possible.
– 1 desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister noted the views recently expressed by a number of economists and commentators that the present crisis in rural industry calls for the abandonment of the family farm and its replacement by large units, of the collective farm type, owned by big corporations? Can the Government give an assurance that it favours and will continue to support preservation of the family farm which deserves to exist as a way of life?
– From lime to time I have seen the reports 10 which the honourable senator has referred. Those reports may be correct from an economic point of view or from the point of view of the writer but I think they overlook one thing, that is, the personal aspect of the man on the land. Many small properties have been handed down for a number of generations. The people concerned do not want to leave the land or to be told that they have to leave the land. The Government is mindful of that position and the Minister for Primary Industry is doing everything he can to see that those who want to stay on the land are allowed to do so.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. In a desire to ensure that not only is justice done but also that justice is seen to be done, will the Attorney-General see to it that charges arising out of the demonstrations relating to the Vietnam war and the National Service Act, controversial political questions, will not be heard by a magistrate with politicaparty membership?
– I repudiate the idea that there would be available magistrates with political party membership, and I would regard it as unthinkable that any charges relating to the matter raised by the honourable senator would come before a member of the judiciary who has political party membership.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware of a crisis situation in the nursing section of hospitals throughout Australia as indicated by a reduction in the recruiting rate, an increasing drop-out rate, a growing shortage of nursing staff which results in vacant beds, and a dissatisfaction among nurses in relation to their terms and conditions of employment, their salaries and their status? Will the Minister for Health call a meeting of all State Ministers for Health and the heads of health departments in the Commonwealth and the States to examine ways and means of arresting the decline in morale in this most important but neglected segment of the health services of the nation?
– The honourable senator referred to a shortage of nurses in a number of areas and implied that that shortage was caused by various factors. 1 think we all are aware, from Press reports that we have read, that in many areas there are shortages of nurses. This, of course, could be caused by a variety of factors. One of the things which we should regard wilh interest and pride is the great work that so many of our nursing people are doing in teams overseas. I think that this is something of which we should bc reminded constantly because not only are they helping so many people, they are also making a great name for Australia in the field of medical assistance.
Because of the importance of this great profession and because of the great service that it gives both in Australia and overseas, I will certainly put the points raised by the honourable senator before the Minister for Health.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it not a fact that the Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Whitlam, has stated that Labor Policy is not formulated by street demonstrations? Is it the purpose of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign to influence government policy? If so, does this not indicate a considerable difference in thinking between the Leader of the Labor Party and his supporters as to the purpose and value of such demonstrations?
– 1 rise on the point of order, Mr President. Surely this question cannot be in order? It does not seek information; it asks for an opinion on a general political question. I cannot imagine anything more removed from the responsibilities of the Minister at question time than the answering of this question.
– At times questions do range a little wide of the mark. I would suggest to the Minister that if he feels disposed to do so he should answer that part of the question which he considers within his ministerial responsibility.
– Anything the Leader of the Opposition says in relation to what influences the policies of the Australian Labor Party-
– Is the Minister speaking about the Leader of the Opposition in the other place or about me?
– I do not know whether I am expected to answer Senator Prowse’s question or the Leader of the Opposition’s interruption.
– I am asking you to specify to whom you are referring.
– I think 1 will answer the question asked of me by Senator Prowse. I was about to say that what influences the Labor Party in the determination of its policies has always been a source of wonderment to me. 1 have some recollections of a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition to the effect that the Labor Party’s policies are not necessarily influenced-
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. The Leader of the Government should out of courtesy to me make it clear to whom he is referring when he refers to the Leader of the Opposition. The term could be interpreted as referring to the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, although it seems fairly apparent to me that he is referring to someone else. For the sake of the record he should make it quite clear to whom he is referring.
- Senator Murphy has not really raised a point of order; he has made a personal explanation.
– I hasten to make the point that I said at the outset that I was responding to a question asked by Senator Prowse which referred to Mr Whitlam and therefore I did not think that it would be necessary for me to repeat to whom I was referring. I am replying in the context of the question which was asked of me. I was saying that I have some recollection of having read a statement by the Leader of the Opposition in the other place, Mr Whitlam, to the effect that the policy of his Party was not necessarily influenced by the demonstrations and so on which took place but was determined within the Party’s own conclave and according to the judgment of its Leader and the wisdom of the Party’s hierarchy. I acknowledge the point made by Senator Prowse in this respect. As to the other matter of substance, of the influence which a Moratorium demonstration or a series of processions or demonstrations within or outside the law may have, I point out that 1 made the point yesterday that all citizens have an obligation to obey the law and honourable senators and all members of the Parliament, above everyone else in Australia, have a solemn and sacred responsibility to ensure that they are not influenced by people who act outside the law and give no encouragement in any way whatsoever to people to act outside the laws of the land.
– 1 wish to direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. He should be able to answer it because it comes within the terms of the previous question. Is it a fact that the Government has set up a committee consisting of Mr Fairbairn, Mr Hamer, Senator Greenwood and Mr Robinson to investigate the origin of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign in Australia? If so, will he ask this committee to seek the advice of the Opposition in order that it can get a clear picture of the origin of the Moratorium and of the involvement of the Opposition in the Moratorium, which is directed towards peace in Vietnam and peace generally?
– To the best of my knowledge and belief it is not a fact that the Government has set up a committee. As to the other matters to which the honourable senator referred, I rather suspect that he too has been influenced by what he may have read of reported meetings of Party organisations. Coming to the matter of substance in relation to the Moratorium, 1 do not think there is any doubt in the minds of any of us here as to what the purpose of the Moratorium is. We all know what the word ‘moratorium’ means. We all know what would happen if, because of the proposed Moratorium, a tremendous metropolis, or in fact any city in Australia, were denied its proper functioning. Nobody can suggest that a proposal to march thousand: of people down Collins Street, Melbourne, at 5 o’clock in the afternoon has any other intention than to gum up the works and to bring the city completely to a standstill. That is clearly part of the intention of the Moratorium, to try to make a political point. Everybody has the right within the law to make a peaceful demonstration for what he believes in and that has never been in question. What is in question is the fact that certain people and certain organisations are openly and obviously inciting people to break the law in order to achieve their basic objective. As soon as they set about doing that they destroy themselves and, in fact, they destroy the objectives which presumably they are setting out to achieve.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether he has an answer to an urgent question raised by Senator Greenwood? Can he tell the Senate what inquiries have been made into the allegation that a certain person in South Australia had knowledge that cocktail bombs were being manufactured?
– ‘Molotov cocktails’ was the expression.
– Yes. Can the Minister tell the Senate what stage the investigations have reached?
– My belief is that this question was asked a few days ago and that the matter is under current inquiry. I am not kept hourly in touch with the progress of inquiries. The Attorney-General will advise me when it is proper to make the conclusion of the inquiry available to honourable senators.
(Question No. 219)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Is it a fact that the Government proposes to request banks not to increase the interest on bank loans for home buyers, as was done in respect of interest paid on loans to rural producers.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. I would refer the honourable senator to the Treasurer’s speech on ‘ interest rates on housing in the House on 12 March 1970.
(Question No. 211)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has asked that I inform the honourable senator that some of the information requested is not immediately available. Enquiries are proceeding and he will provide an answer to the honourable senator when they have been completed.
(Question No. 109)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 226)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 238)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Navy has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 241)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
Minister for the Navy has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– On 21st April Senator Lacey, asked me the following question:
Will the Minister inform the Senate on the quantity of peas landed in Australia during the past 12 months under the terms of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement?
I have to inform the honourable senator that imports from New Zealand of peas covered by Schedule A of the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement and for which figures are available, during the 12 months ended February 1970 totalled 4,781,785 lb.
– On behalf of the Public Accounts Committee I present the Committee’s one hundred and fifteenth Report. I ask for leave to make a short statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - There being no objection, leave is granted.
In recent years your Committee has conducted a series of combined inquiries relating to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer and expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund but has reported separately on both aspects of these inquiries. The 115th report relates specifically to evidence taken by your 7th Committee concerning expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer in 1968-69. Notwithstanding marked improvements that occurred in the general quality of submissions tendered by departments, the inquiry conducted last year revealed instances of inadequate submissions having been made. Attention has been drawn to these where they have arisen.
The evidence taken relating to telegram and telephone services, particularly in buildings involving multi-occupancy, justifies the further action taken by the Department of the Treasury in 1968 in requesting departments to analyse their telephone accounts with a view to isolating the factors that have contributed to increased allocations for telephone purposes. Your Committee is concerned also at evidence tendered to the effect that the Department of the Interior is unable to assess the dates on which telephone accounts will be received. In this regard we would invite attention to paragraph 114 of our 84th report. We believe that any department confronted with that difficulty should discuss its problems with the Postmaster-General’s Department with a view to, obtaining accounts on a regular basis acceptable to both departments. The evidence reflects also a need for the departments which are required to pay electricity accounts to ascertain from the electricity authorities concerned the cyclical arrangements that are required in the issuing of electricity accounts to assist them with their reviews of expenditure and the formulation of their estimates.
Arising from the evidence relating to the acquisition of a site in north Queensland for the Department of National Development, your Committee has expressed the view that where the Department of the Treasury has approved the inclusion of a project in the acquisition programme pending additional estimates, it should obtain from the Department of the Interior a report on the status of the project for consideration when the additional estimates are being framed. We further believe that the principle involved in this case has a wider application. As in previous inquiries of this type the evidence has shown continued misunderstandings that arise in administrative operations. We believe that the departments must at all times be vigilant to ensure that human errors of this type and the consequences which arise from them are kept to a minimum. I commend the report to honourable senators.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I present the 31st report from the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, being a report on the amendments of the Conciliation and Arbitration Regulations as contained in Statutory Rules 1970 No. I.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I move:
In so moving I explain that I was informed a few moments before the sitting began this morning that Senator Poke, who is leading for the Opposition on the Homes Savings Grant Bill, has been paired as from 1 1 a.m. In those circumstances it would be very difficult to continue with the debate, although I am most anxious to get on with the debate on that Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to:
That the Senate, at ils rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 5 May at 3 p.m.
Archives Repository, Villawood, N.S.W
– I ask for leave to move 2 motions relating to the reference of proposed works to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– 1 move:
That in accordance with the provisions of ihe Public Works Act 1969 the following proposed work be referred lo the Parliamentary Standing
Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Construction of archives repository at Villawood, New South Wales.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Post Office Administrative Centre, Brisbane
Motion (by Senator Wright) agreed to:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Act 1969 the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report:
The construction of Australian Post Office Administrative Centre, Stage I. Brisbane, Queensland.
Debate resumed from 22 April (vide page 1011). on motion by Senator Wright:
Thai the Bill be now read a second time.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) [II . I J - The Opposition will support this Bill. The Bill is a commendable attempt by the relatively new Attorney-General (Mx Hughes) to cope with a problem which, has been plaguing the Parliament for at least a decade and, I should imagine, even longer than that, lt concerns the shortage of parliamentary draftsmen, parliamentary counsel, legislative counsel - caM them what you will. I am referring to those persons who are experts in advising on and drafting the Bills, the instruments and the amendments necessary for Parliament to give effect to its will. We have had the question raised again and again during my short time in this chamber. From both sides of the chamber, honourable senators in ail political parties have drawn attention to the fact that there are backlogs of legislation, not only in the substantive legislation dealt with by Parliament, but in the delegated legislation which is the method used to relieve some of the burden on the parliamentary process. Those backlogs have been explained, in the main, by the shortage of competent persons available to frame the legislation or the delegated legislation.
Each of the Attorneys-General has promised that something would be done about the shortage of these experts, but each of them hitherto has failed to master the problem. In fact, I think that this chamber became somewhat angry when, about a year ago, it heard that one of the Attorneys-General had had the problem under close consideration for the past 3 months’ - something of that nature was the expression - when it had been apparent to everyone that the problem had been chronic and a very serious one for at least a decade. The new Attorney-General has come forward with a proposal to have what is called a First Parliamentary Counsel and 2 deputies, to be known as Second Parliamentary Counsel. This proposal follows somewhat the system which has been acted on in the United Kingdom for many years - I think it might be close to a century. It follows also the kind of system which is in operation in the United States of America, where there are legislative counsel, and in many other parts of the world. To us it seems a sensible step towards solving the problem. It may or may not be, but we will see what happens.
The Attorney-General has analysed the problem. He says there is difficulty in getting these experts. There are not many of them in the community. They seem to be born rather than made. The persons who have the natural characteristics, who are capable of dealing with the problem and who are willing to confine themselves to this type of work are in extremely short supply. Because of such outstanding and rare ability, they are able to command extremely high salaries. The proposal of the Attorney-General is that certain salaries be paid to them. He also proposes that, insofar as their requirements cannot be met by the payment of salaries, in an age of status seeking a special status shall be conferred upon those persons. This may be right and proper. There seems to be something in the makeup of human beings which has prompted us, over the ages, to confer status on persons in recognition of their ability. Sometimes when there was no ability to recognise status was conferred upon them. These persons - I do not think that the field should be restricted to the male sex - will exercise an office of very great responsibility, very great trust and very great importance in the functioning of the Parliament. I think it is reasonable that they be accorded a special office, a special status and a special salary.
When the Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives originally, the provision in regard to salary was that it should be such remuneration and allowances as the Governor-General determines. In the House of Representatives an alteration was made to that provision so that the Bill now provides that the salaries and annual allowances paid to the First Parliamentary Counsel and the Second Parliamentary Counsel shall be at the rates that are prescribed. This means that the salaries will be subject to the supervision of each House of the Parliament. It seems desirable that this supervision be so imposed in respect of such high offices. The Bill does not set out the salary and allowances that ought to be paid. Perhaps the reason justifying that exclusion is the need for some experimentation in this field to see what salaries need to be paid. With the prescribed salaries, if there is any difficulty in attracting persons, the usual method of regulation may be used, subject to our supervision, to increase those rates. The Bill, in its present form, gives Parliament control over salaries. I should think that once the position became stabilised the salaries paid to these officers and to others ought to be determined directly by a provision in an Act of Parliament.
There are some observations which I should make and which might be of assistance to the Senate in its consideration of the Bill. The Parliamentary Counsel may have an important role to play in the law reform which is so necessary. The ACT laws - not only the criminal laws but also the civil laws - are in a hopeless mess and are a disgrace. This has been pointed out by judges of the courts and also by members of the learned professions. It is time this was cleared up. In other parts of the law also there ought to be reform. Many of these matters are not even questions of policy. There is no partisan difference on them. The law should be updated and expressed with clarity and lucidity so that persons will not be forced to resort to litigation or to the advice of lawyers in order to understand what ought to be clear to any intelligent person upon a reading of the statute or ordinance in question.
I see that in the first annual report of the Law Commission in Great Britain special reference was made to the role of parliamentary counsel in the reform of the law. It appears from page 21 of that report that the draftsmen employed in the Parliamentary Counsel’s Office in Great
Britain were responsible for consolidations of the law and that there was some interchange between those engaged in the ordinary legislative drafting and those engaged in this programme of reformation of the law. I suggest that this ought to be an important part of the responsibilities of the draftsmen.
I would also like to draw to the attention of the Senate the relationship between the parliamentary draftsmen and senators who need the assistance of a draftsman. About 2 years ago the late Senator Cohen and I were engaged in the drafting of amendments that we proposed to put to the members of our party for their consideration in connection with a measure then before the Parliament. We requested the assistance of the Parliamentary Draftsman, and the assistance was provided in the person of a member of his staff - a young lady who appeared to be extremely competent. But somewhat to our surprise she informed us - we confirmed this from the Parliamentary Draftsman and later from the then Attorney-General - that it was a condition of the assistance being given that any drafts that were made would be available for the information of the Attorney-General and, indeed, that any conversations that took place would be reported to the Attorney-General. ] discussed this matter with the then Attorney-General. He confirmed that this had been the practice and the tradition for some time past; that it was correct that the engagement or secondment of persons from the office of the Parliamentary Draftsman had not been regarded as in any way a relationship of confidence between those persons and the senator or member who sought the assistance but was on the basis that whatever took place was available to the head of the Department or to the Attorney-General.
In that case the Attorney-General graciously conceded that he would not insist upon the conversations being available to him but would insist upon any drafts that were made being available to him. Of course, it was an impossible position that members of the Opposition should, in order to obtain the assistance of a draftsman, have to agree to have made available to a member of another party the drafts that were to be put before the members of the Opposition for their consideration. Obviously in the political arena when prospective legislation or amendments to legislation are being discussed various conflicting drafts may be prepared and there could be discussion as to which is the most appropriate. In such circumstances it would obviously be impossible to use the services of Parliamentary draftsmen unless discussions with them and advice received from them could be treated as confidential. On the occasion to which I have just referred the conditions imposed were unacceptable and we declined the offer of assistance. Although the imposition of these conditions came as a surprise to us the Attorney-General and his officers were completely frank about the position. We greatly respect the manner in which they informed us, although it had come as a complete surprise that this was the practice.
I do not think any member of Parliament should be expected to request the assistance of legislative draftsmen on any such conditions. It may be that this enactment will not change the position. I do not think it will. It is said that the Parliamentary Counsel would have some measure of independence. If that measure of independence were to extend to a relief from the conditions which I have mentioned, 1 think this should be made explicit by some public statement on behalf of the AttorneyGeneral. If not, I suggest for the consideration of the Senate that what ought to be evolved is some system for providing legislative drafting advice to honourable senators and members of the House of Representatives. As I am dealing with the Senate I will restrict my remarks to the Senate although I think they will apply equally to the House of Representatives.
Some person should bc available here to honourable senators who want assistance, a person with capacity in legislative drafting who will not be responsible to the Executive Government and who will engage in such duties and be able to work in a confidential capacity with honourable senators or honourable members seeking advice. Such a person could be normally employed in the office of the Parliamentary Draftsman, or he could be one of the Parliamentary Counsel. If he were relieved of such duties and were permitted to advise honourable senators I would suggest that he ought to be given an independent position and that there should be a confidential relationship. The title ‘Parliamentary Counsel’ gives an impression that in some way these people are advisers to Parliament. This is not so. Under this legislation - so far as it appears anyway, and perhaps it might be explained if the position is different - the Parliamentary Counsel, in this aspect of the matter, would be in the same position as the Parliamentary Draftsman; that- is, they would assist the Attorney-General. They are really legislative draftsmen, those who are preparing legislative instruments of various characters for the Government. Clearly some provision must be made to deal with the assistance to be given to those outside the Government who are concerned with the drafting of legislation and delegated legislation.
– Yes, outside the Executive altogether. The Attorney-General has explained that the amount of legislation is increasing. It is also a fact that the complexity of legislation is increasing, and I think we are probably bound to come to a point at which some officer will need to be attached to these chambers and be removed altogether from the Executive Government. He would be here to advise on and give assistance in the drafting of measures. I would imagine that outside the times of session this officer’s time would be fully employed in advising committees and in preparing for the kind of problems which he would be likely to meet in coming sessions.
It appears to me then that there is a need for an expansion of facilities in 2 areas, firstly, assistance to the Government itself and, secondly, assistance to nongovernment members of Parliament - that is members of the Opposition, and also those members of the Government parties who are not Ministers and who wish advice or assistance in drafting. To me this measure seems exclusively, or almost exclusively, directed to alleviating the difficulties of the Government. We have not yet started to deal with the problems of individual members.
Subject to those qualifications, Mr Acting Deputy President, the Australian Labor Party welcomes the measure. The AttorneyGeneral has shown initiative in introducing this Bill. He is following a pattern which seems to have worked reasonably well in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. All the Australian Labor Party can do is to say that it wm support the measure. It hopes the measure will succeed - no doubt a little time will tell - and any efforts directed to curing what has been a plague to us all and has clogged the Parliamentary process is to be welcomed. The Australian Labor Party is wholeheartedly in support of the measure. It hopes that some attention will be given to the other problems which I have mentioned.
– In common with other honourable senators, more particularly those associated with the law, the Australian Democratic Labor Party welcomes the emergence of this piece of legislation. Although in its drafting it did not provide any great technical challenge to the draftsmen who were instrumental in framing it, I am sure it must have given them gratification of another kind. I refer to that gratification which would be shared by those in this chamber who for a long time have thought that for many reasons - not only from the point of view of the encouragement of recruitment of officers to this important section of governmental administration but also for other reasons - this branch of the executive should be elevated to a new position consonant with its increasing importance and status in the community.
With the increase in the population and development of this country increasing demands will be placed on the services of the Parliamentary draftsmen as legislation is required in increasing volume. But more important, I think, is the changing complexion of society. Quite apart from one’s political idealology or political views there is a common acceptance today of greater state intervention in the rights of people. This is emerging with the growth of the welfare state and other such developments. State intervention in the lives of the community is brought about almost invariably by statute. Due to the changing character of society there has been and will continue to be an increasing and accelerating demand for the services of those who are instrumental in framing the mechanics of legislation. That is why the burden on the Parliamentary Draftsman’s staff is becoming increasingly heavy, and will become even heavier.
If the action that has been taken is belated, at least it is timely in that it anticipates what 1 would anticipate, namely an increasing demand for their services. Not only is there an increasing demand for the actual drafting of legislation. In addition, the type of draftsmanship is becoming increasingly demanding. If one looks back at the old statutes of hundreds of years ago one will see that they enunciated simple principles in which there was legislative drafting recitation, but when one comes to statues in which there is, for example, a mathematical formula of very great complexity, as will be found in the Income Tax Acts and other Acts, which has to be carried into legal expression, then one realises the burdens which now are being imposed on those who have that responsibility. lt is all right for a Bill of that character to be drafted and to come into this chamber and for senators to sit in judgment on it. Perhaps sometimes they do that rather arbitrarily and sometimes severely, but if one realised how very difficuilt it was to get the Bill to that form at that point, one then perhaps would have a greater sympathy for those who are responsible for the initial drafting. Perhaps honourable senators here who have a duty and a responsibility, would be a little less precious in their criticism - of minor aspects of drafting failures or drafting deficiencies. 1 think it is time that we put on record that the Parliamentary Draftsman occupies always a position of very great power. The Minister recited in his speech that very often the rather indeterminate and sometimes inchoate thoughts of the Executive are passed on to the Draftsman for precise definition. In some cases those definitions may embody departures from accepted principles and particularly may trespass upon, say, principles of the common law where statute will take over from the common law in some aspect or other, for example, the movement of the onus of proof or something of that character, or an intrusion upon civil rights. As the Executive itself has limited time and as the Parliament, when it comes to scrutinise the legislation also has limited time, the degree of responsibility on the Parliamentary Draftsman is immense. It is to the great credit of the devoted members of this service that over the years the task has been performed with such considerable success and that the Commonwealth statutes in their drafting are eminent among similar statutes and drafting in all countries which follow the British parliamentary and constitutional system. Therefore, this Bill is timely and important in that it gives a belated recognition of the new and increasing role and responsibility of this section of the executive government in the life of the nation and in the life of the Parliament.
I mentioned to Senator Gair a moment ago that my recollection Ls - I think the honourable senator probably will confirm this - that giving the Parliamentary Draftsman the title of Parliamentary Counsel which follows the English practice, is giving to the Parliamentary Draftsman a title which has been borne by the Parliamentary Draftsman in Queensland for many years. I think the late Mr Broadbent and Mr Seymour enjoyed the title of Parliamentary Draftsman and Counsel. 1 do not know whether the word ‘parliamentary’ preceded the word ‘counsel’.
– It is just another case of Queensland leading the way.
– I think that could be said. The gentlemen who are advising the Minister would perhaps recognise that the standard of drafting, particularly in the hands of Mr Seymour, die recently retired Parliamentary Draftsman of Queensland, was very high. That brings me to another aspect of the matter which is the emerging concept of parallel legislation between the Commonwealth and the States through the conferences of AttorneysGeneral. Undoubtedly that is imposing an additional burden on the Parliamentary Draftsman. The drafting of parallel legislation will become of increasing importance and an increasing burden. The staff must be equipped numerically and technically to co-operate with the States in the drafting of this increasing mass of parallel legislation. Therefore we welcome this new definition of the posititions of the Draftsman and his staff, and I take this opportunity to thank them personally for many favours done to me over the years in my long association with them, and particularly with Mr Ewens, on the Public Accounts Committee many years ago.
So far as I can gather, this Bill will create an intermediate status. On the one hand we have officers under the Public Service Act and the high officers whose salaries are determined by Parliament but they are officers under the Public Service Act, if my recollection is correct. Can the Minister inform me whether the permanent heads of departments come under the Public Service Act?
– They do.
– Very well. The permanent heads of departments come under the Public Service Act. At the other end of the spectrum there is the Auditor-General whose position is created by statute. He does nol come under the Public Service Act. In a particular way he is the creature and the servant of the Parliament. In this legislation we Introduce an immediate situation. We introduce a body of 3 officers who no longer will be under the Public Service Act. They will be the creation of Parliament but they will not stand in the complete position of the Auditor-General nor in the complete position of the permanent head of a department. More particularly while they are called Parliamentary Counsel and perhaps in that sense have a particular responsibility to the Parliament as the Auditor-General has a statutory responsibility to the Parliament, their salaries are not determined, as is the Auditor-General’s salary, under statute. Their salaries will be prescribed as are the salaries of other officers, more particularly the permanent heads of the higher grades of ordinary administrative departments. lt becomes a question, therefore, whether in creating this new intermediate status we have done the wise thing or whether it may not have been better and more prudent and perhaps more eloquent to have put the Parliamentary Counsel in the position of the Auditor-General, particularly in view of the preliminary word ‘parliamentary’ in the title. Senator Murphy has said that while they bear that title they still will be substantially advisers to the Attorney-General as the No. 1 law officer of the Crown responsible, in an intermediate sense, for the presentation of the Government’s legislative programme even though it emerges from Ministers. Senator Murphy says that they still will be really officers and servants of the Executive. To that extent they will not be. in terms of the title, servants of the Parliament simpliciter or exclusively. I would not like to see the term ‘parliamentary’ before the word ‘counsel’ dropped because of that, but I think it raises the question whether, if they bear that title, as the Auditor-General does not bear it but has it in fact and in law, they should not be put in the same position as is the Auditor-General in the determination of their salaries.
Presuming that those considerations are correct, I leave them to the Minister for comment because apparently honourable gentlemen in another place already have been concerned as to the prescription of the salaries of these officers and in this sense it does not concern me; it merely occupies my mind as to whether there might nol be a better and wiser way to define the method of fixing the salaries of these officers and, more particularly, declaring the salaries by statute.
Another function of the Parliamentary Draftsman or the Parliamentary Counsel set out here is the control and drafting of regulations. We know that the regulatory operations of the Administration, because of the development of the principles 1 mentioned earlier, are becoming wider and wider and penetrating more and more deeply into the community. Regulations are inclined to mass and the proper drafting and scrutiny of them is becoming of increasing importance. To an increasing degree the Parliament is finding it necessary to move for the disallowance of regulations. With all due respect to the present members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, 1 cannot conceive that they are more active or more interested than were some of their predecessors, say, when Senator Wright was a member of the Committee. The Committee has always had the benefit of eminent counsel yet, on my return to the Parliament on this occasion, I find an increase in the number of occasions on which there have been motions for disallowance. At least that is my impression. If that is so, it would indicate that it has not been possible to give the technical scrutiny to regulations that they warrant and that these matters are slipping through. But for the oversight of the Senate they would pass into operation undesirably and possibly almost beyond power.
As it is a function of the Parliamentary Draftsman, as is delineated in the Bill, to be responsible for the drafting and supervision of regulations there is obviously a very great need for an expansion of his staff and that, to a major degree, is the purpose of this Bill. I hope that the Bill will achieve its purpose. Now that the position of the Parliamentary Draftsman is to be considerably elevated in status - with the appointment of 2 assistants who will occupy particularised positions - the job could present itself to young men and women as a viable administrative Public Service career which has at the end of it a rewarding position not only from the point of view of the financial return but also the status it holds and the work it presents.
– Does the honourable senator have any reservations about the potential effectiveness of the measure?
– On the question of the possibility of employment?
– I have not had much time to study this Bill. I have always hoped for some measure of this character. Apparently Senator Devitt has reservations about it. I have not had much of an opportunity to talk to him, although we have had a quick word. I do not know whether Senator Devitt is clear in his own mind on what the Bill entails. Prima facie, apart from the matter which I have raised, I can see no basic objection to the Bill. I think the principle is good and the proposition is good. It is a question of whether we have put in the most explicit and desirable terms the proposition which this legislation seeks to embody.
One of the big responsibilities which will rest upon the draftsmen will be the continued consolidation of the statutes. We have had a proliferation of legislation in recent years. I think the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said the other day that the legislative programme of the Government in this session is the heaviest in the history of the Parliament. It boils down to the technical management of the consequences of amending Bills proliferating and statutes getting out of date, which is of considerable concern to practitioners as well as to many other people who are not strictly practitioners but who have occasion to consult the statutes. I think the last consolidation of the Commonwealth statutes was in 1950 - 20 years ago. An extraordinarily long time has passed since the last consolidation. Any practitioner who has occasion to consult the Commonwealth statutes is experiencing increasing difficulty now in plodding and ploughing his way through the mass of amendments which have been passed over the years and in discovering his way through the voluminous supplements which are now issued in an attempt to assist those people who are consulting the statutes, lt was a practice to make available a set of the Commonwealth statutes to honourable senators and members of the Parliament when they first entered the Parliament. I do not think that any full sets are available at present. I was not able to obtain a set when I re-entered the Parliament, but this was immaterial to me because I had retained the bulk of the set I was given some years ago. However, I think that this indicates the very precarious position at present. No doubt it is a consequence of the shortage of staff in the office of the Parliamentary Draftsman.
The precise attitude of the drafting section in its new form and under its new title to the actual Parliament remains to be discovered. The Australian Democratic Labor Party has received the co-operation of the parliamentary drafting staff when it has had occasion to take the initiative and present Bills. But Senator Gair has drawn my attention to an incident which occurred in 1966 when an approach was made to the then Attorney-General through the Parliamentary Draftsman, Mr Ewens, to make a draftsman available to assist in the drafting of a Bill to amend the legislation in relation to child endowment payments. Mr Snedden, who was the Attorney-General at that time, replied to Senator Gair’s letter on 20th April 1966.
– Would you repeat the date, please?
– The letter to Mr Ewens from Senator Gair was dated 13th April 1966 and on 20th April 1966, Mr Snedden, the Attorney-General at that time, forwarded a reply to Senator Gair. I think the reason given for refusing assistance, without reading the whole of the letter, was that the staff was just not available to assist in the drawing up of a Bill which had complexities and which would have taken a considerable time.
– What was the subject matter of the letter?
– Child endowment, lt was not suggested that the office of the Parliamentary Draftsman would not cooperate if it were possible to do so. It was not possible for it to do so because of a limitation of personnel and time. I have no doubt that members of both Houses who approach the Parliamentary Draftsman for advice, counsel and assistance in the drafting of amendments or actual initiating legislation will receive the same co-operation. We can only hope that the good will of the office will be accompanied by the ability to carry the good will into effect and that the services of the parliamentary draftsmen will be not only able to be provided but will in fact be provided.
I conclude on the note that the Parliamentary Draftsman and his staff have tremendous power. I think this power should be recognised because, as I have pointed out, circumscription of the time and opportunity to draft legislation and the entrusting of drafting to men who do not have great technical ability or a keen sense of the duties, responsibilities and limitations of their office could in later years embroil a nation in situations which it wanted to avoid. As 1 said earlier, even under the pressures of demand and a shortage of personnel it is greatly to the credit of this office that our legislation is of such a high level in its technical presentation. Therefore I have the greatest pleasure in supporting this legislation on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I hope the Minister will consider the points of criticism which I have advanced. However, in general terms, the DLP looks to a major expansion in this office and the facilities it will be able to provide, to a quick consolidation of the Commonwealth statutes, to a closer control of the drafting and supervision of regulations and, in all senses, to assistance in the more efficient functioning of the parliamentary institution.
– It is pleasing to know that the Bill which has been introduced by the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who represents the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) in this chamber is supported in basic terms by the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I also support it in general terms, although I have certain reservations which I shall outline in due course. I would like to adopt the comments which have been made, without going into length and repeating them, in relation to the services provided by the Parliamentary Draftsman. The problems which he and his staff experience and the need to do something about them is indicated by the fact that this legislation is necessary. The Bill is a step along the road to overcoming some of the problems which have been experienced. But I do wish to emphasise that in my view it is only stage I. There are other steps which will have to be taken to assist in the provision of a greater number of persons suitably qualified to carry out this task so that legislation which is of an increasingly complex nature will noi be confused by haste in trying to keep up with the pressure or, alternatively, delayed because of the care and responsibility of the parliamentary draftsmen.
The Bill is, as 1 think has been said by every speaker on it in this chamber as well as in the other place, a measure upon which the Attorney-General is to be complimented. It is one of the first measures he has introduced since becoming Attorney-General. It is a measure which has perhaps been needed for some years. The Bill should certainly help to overcome well recognised problems. 1 note that the Attorney-General said in the other place when the Bill was being debated: . . I do not want to take all, or even Hie major part, of the credit for this measure because when I assumed this office the Prime Minister impressed upon me that one of his first concerns in the Held of parliamentary reform was that something be done to improve the situation in regard lo parliamentary drafting.
So it can, 1 think, be said to be to the credit of not only the Attorney-General, but also the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) that this matter has at this early stage of the sessional period come before us.
Taking this matter as being stage 1. I would like to go on and comment for a moment about some of the other things which I think could be done. It is interesting to see that there is a general consensus on some of the steps which could be taken. The first I would like to mention is the provision of scholarships, directly or indirectly by the Government to encourage the study necessary to train as a parliamentary draftsman. If such scholarships were available this might encourage students at law school to specialise in this field. If they were prepared to specialise in the field one could imagine that after a period the general build up in the numbers would have its own effect on encouraging a greater number still to come forward. It is the sort of thing about which in law school I as a student heard nothing whatsoever. One received a little bit of tuition, perhaps, in relation to interpretation of statutes but no reference at all to the aspect of parliamentary drafting. I am at the moment not clear as to whether it should be both in an undergraduate stage and in a post-graduate stage. It may well be that it should be referred to an the undergraduate stage but that any scholarship should be provided at a post-graduate stage.
Alternatively, if it is at an undergraduate stage the system which is applied in relation to Education Departments, amongst others, which grant scholarships in return for a bonded period of service may be worthy of consideration in relation to obtaining sufficient numbers to staff the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. The stirring of an interest in and an understanding of this field is, I believe, one of the essential steps if we are to encourage a sufficient number of lawyers to enter the field. It is well known that that which is strange to one is always likely to be put aside because most people are more likely to become enthused by and keen to undertake work in areas with which they are more familiar. Certainly if any law students are familiar at the end of their courses with the problem of the work of a parliamentary draftsman they are very few and far between.
I notice that Mr Whitlam, the Leader of the Opposition in another place, said that in many law schools in the United States there is a post-graduate course in legislative drafting. I would hope that the AttorneyGeneral will take steps to encourage the law societies and the universities to give consideration to this matter. If the Attorney-General is interested in giving some further consideration to this matter perhaps it would be of interest to him to know that on 9th May next there will be a meeting in Melbourne of the chief executives of all the law societies of Australia. A number of matters including legal education are discussed at these conferences which are held every year. It would still be possible, I imagine, to have the agenda at this forthcoming one include some reference to this matter, if the AttorneyGeneral thought that he would like to have the law societies give consideration to it. It would certainly be helped if it had the absolute support of the law societies which are well represented on the council of every university and on the faculty of law within those universities. So I suggest that some consideration be given to this as a matter of some urgency because of that impending meeting.
Another matter that may well be considered at the same time by the AttorneyGeneral is the extent to which he might be interested in promoting not only in this field but also in the general field of legal education, the types of courses which have been recently introduced with the assistance of the law society and its members, the University of Tasmania and the College of Advanced Education in relation to what are called - for a short term - ‘How to do it’ courses. The legal practice course, which is a post-graduate course in the practical work likely to be encountered by a lawyer in practice, has successfully been undertaken for the first time in Tasmania. This was started last February. It may well be that a course in parliamentary drafting would be appropriate to be included in a legal practice course conducted, as this one has been, on a post-graduate basis during the period of articles of graduands in law from a university.
The next matter to which I wish to refer is one which has concerned me for some time and I think it is perhaps appropriate to mention it now. That is the question of a reprint of the statutes. We now have 20 years of annual volumes since the last reprint. The complication which is experienced by people who wish to check statutes is always greater when many years have passed since a consolidation. May I simply say that I hope that the reformation, insofar as this Bill will constitute a reformation, of the Parliamentary Draftsman’s office, will enable before long the work necessary to produce an up to date reprint. Another matter which was mentioned by Senator Murphy earlier today was that it should be possible for members and senators other than the Executive to have access to such parliamentary drafting services as are available and that this should be on a confidential basis. It would seem to me to be a matter which is basic to the role of any member of the Parliament that if he wishes he should be able lo obtain such assistance on a confidential basis. I would entirely support what Senator Murphy has said. In whatever way is possible within the context of the arrangement which the Attorney-General wishes to obtain in the Parliamentary Draftsman’s office a back bench member on either side of the Senate should be able to obtain confidential assistance in the preparation of any legislation.
In the House of Representatives debate upon this matter a number of speakers referred to the question of junior officers and the fact that the Bill does not take them out of the ambit of the Public Service Board. I presume that this has been considered by the Attorney-General when preparing the general form of this legislation but 1 would be interested to hear a comment by the Minister here as to that matter. I take it that it is considered to be not desirable, for certain reasons, to extend the general provisions of the Bill to more than just the number of officers referred to in the Bill.
– The Bill deals only with ihe 3 statutory officers, the Parliamentary Counsel, but it envisages unnamed and indefinite staff under them.
– Yes. I wish to refer to a provision in the Bill and to foreshadow what I propose to do when the Bill reaches the Committee stage. Clause 6 provides:
The First Parliamentary Counsel and the Second Parliamentary Counsel shall be paid salary al such respective rates, and annual allowances if any at such respective rates as are prescribed.
As Senator Murphy said, this means that the salaries and annual allowances wilt be subject to the scrutiny of Parliament through the prescription by regulation of the amounts which are to be paid. In passing 1 draw attention to the fact that clause 17 as at present drafted states:
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters required or permitted by this Act to be prescribed, or necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act.
It is clear that in relation to salaries and annual allowances prescription will be by regulation and it will be up to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of the
Senate to scrutinise them and, if necessary, to make such recommendations to this chamber as to the Committee seem proper.
– I do not think that duty will devolve on the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. Its criteria would hardly extend to the amount of salary.
– Senator Wright observes that the Committee would not have that responsibility.
– 1 am offering it only as a suggestion.
– I accept the suggestion without debating it in any way, because the point 1 wish to make really concerns sub-clause 2 of clause 6, which provides:
The First Parliamentary Counsel and the Second Parliamentary Counsel shall be paid such other allowances as the Attorney-General determines.
We have discussed many times in this chamber the granting to any Minister of an absolute discretion as to the payment of salaries or allowances.
– Are you referring to the original provision or the’ subsequent amendment?
– I am referring to the Bill before us, which was amended ki .the House of Representatives upon the motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). 1 direct the honourable senator’s attention to page 1393 of Hansard of Tuesday 21 April of the House of Representatives.
– Were not the amendments incorporated in the Bill that came to the Senate?
– Yes. This particular provision was incorporated in the Bill which we are now debating. It is this part of the amendment which conerns me because, as 1 was saying, this point has been debated on a great many occasions in relation lo a wide variety of situations in which the Senate has objected to granting to a Minister an absolute discretion as to the payment of salaries or allowances. It seems to me to be quite wrong that an unbridled discretion should be given to a Minister to act as he sees fit in the payment of allowances. One does not for one moment say that any particular Minister at any particular time would be guilty of any type of misconduct, but the way is left open for. the payment of allowances without the scrutiny of Parliament, or even without Parliament’s having any direct knowledge of the situation. Parliament would be forced to seek that knowledge by questioning.
– Do you think that perhaps clause 17 may clarify that point?
– No, it does not. Clause 17 provides that the Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent with the Act, prescribing all the matters required or permitted to be prescribed. This is the point 1 want to make. I wish to amend sub-clause 2 of clause 6 to provide that allowances other than annual allowances shall be as prescribed. This would mean that they would come within clause 17 and would be prescribed by regulation, as is the case with respect to sub-clause 1 of clause 6. At this stage 1 simply foreshadow that at the Committee stage of the debate I shall be moving an amendment seeking to have sub-clause 2 of clause 6 deleted.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sir Magnus Cormack) - I do not wish to interrupt you, but I think I should tell you that you are not compelled to give the details now of your foreshadowed amendment.
– Thank you, Sir. Perhaps I should say that in general terms I will be seeking deletion of the absolute discretion given to the Attorney-General, and that in its place there be inserted a requirement that allowances be as prescribed. This will mean that the amounts to be paid will be subject to the scrutiny of the Parliament and will be, I believe, in accordance with the often expressed wish of the Senate that such matters should be within its scrutiny. It is possible that some honourable senators on either side of the chamber may wish to go further.
Senator Byrne indicated earlier that the position of the Auditor-General is that he has his salary prescribed within the Act itself, by statute and not by regulation. It may be that Senator Byrne considers that the amendment I shall propose will not go far enough and that the actual allowance should be prescribed by statute. Other honourable senators may not think it necessary to go that far. However, one way or the other it should be subject to the scrutiny of the Parliament and I believe that sufficient scrutiny would be exercised if it were done by regulation.
– In entering this debate I am reminded of the adage that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Many legal luminaries have addressed themselves to the Bill, but I bring to it no formal university knowledge. My comments will be expressed as the result of my experience in the university of life. I sincerely congratulate the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who represents in this chamber the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes), on his forthright and objective statement. However, 1 believe that there is an indication that there has previously been neglect in this field. That is the obvious conclusion to be drawn from the Minister’s statement. I would not like to congratulate him on one section and then criticise him on another. Nevertheless, I believe that in future we should ensure that we avoid the difficult situation we are in today. Particularly in relation to the requirement for additional legislation to come before the respective Houses, no draftsmen being available. In the Minister’s second reading speech he said:
The real problem, and 1 wish to emphasise this, consists in finding and obtaining those suitable to be taught and in retaining them.
I believe that we should take into consideration what has been done in many areas of the apprenticeship field. I speak with some experience of this matter. It has happened that lads have been apprenticed to employers without adequate facilities to train them in all ~ sections of a trade. In those circumstances, the lads involved have had their services farmed out to other employers with facilities adequate to train them in areas not open to the employers to whom the lads were indentured. In the light of that experience I am wondering whether consideration has been given to the employment of cadets, possibly articled to the Parliament. In some areas where wider training in the law was available they could be farmed out to legal practitioners. I offer that suggestion because I know that this system has worked extremely well in the apprenticeship field. I commend to the Minister the thoughts expressed by Senator Murphy.
The Minister will appreciate from his own training and long experience in the political field that there are times when individual members of Parliament have problems with the drafting of Bills. We have heard today that some aspects of this Bill could require scrutiny. Rather than debate the matters in the respective Houses, I believe that if we had a draftsman available to us with whom we could consult on some aspects of the Bill it would make for a much more objective discussion in the House when the Bill was presented.
– The honourable senator is not referring to this Bill only but to Bills generally.
– J am referring to ali Bills. 1 have some thoughts on some aspects of this Bill which 1 believe could be drafted more satisfactorily to give better expression to what is intended. However, that is only my opinion. If I had the opportunity of consulting a draftsman who perhaps had been seconded to the Senate he might be able to convince me quite easily that my thoughts were wrong, but on the other hand 1 might be able to convince him that there was some merit in what I proposed. I believe that we must give thought to how we can recruit people to this position which, as the Minister has said, is a most difficult one which requires special skills. I do not know whether 1 am right in offering this suggestion, but I do so in the hope that it will assist in some way. 1 propose that the faculties o»f law in the respective States should be encouraged to give special emphasis to some part of the work of a parliamentary draftsman. If they were to do that it would have an effect. ) have discussed this aspect with some of my legal friends in Brisbane and they have told me that during their years of learning no great emphasis was given to this aspect in their training. In those circumstances I offer 2 principal suggestions: Firstly, that a type of apprenticeship or cadetship, or whatever we may care to call it, attached to the Parliamentary Draftsman should be investigated so that we can have a continuity of people trained in this field; secondly, that the faculties of law in the respective States should be encouraged to give special emphasis to this type of training.
– I too support this motion. As I understand that it is desired that the Senate should adjourn, I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wright) adjourned.
Reference nf Works to Public Works Committee
– I move:
I take this opportunity to apologise to the Senate for not supplying to it this morning the statutory information required when I moved 2 motions for reference of works to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. I add in respect of the work proposed at Brisbane that the proposal is to provide accommodation for some 1,500 office staff with associated staff and amenities in building services. The cost of the proposed work is $4. 6m. I table the plans of the proposed work. With’ regard to the proposed work at Villawood, the subject of the other motion, that involves the construction in stage 1 of a single storey repository and a 2-storey office section, and in stage 2, a 3-storey repository. The estimated cost of the proposed work is 54m. I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 12.10 p.m. to Tuesday, S May, at 3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 April 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19700423_senate_27_s43/>.