27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, by referring to a letter I received from the Minister for Health yesterday, the concluding paragraph of which reads: lt is the desire of the Government that the maximum should be returned to contributors by way of benefits.
I ask: How credible is such a statement when many subscribers who had never made a claim on medical funds were forced to increase their premiums to a higher table last year and when the only visible sign of specific projects to use up the reserves of the funds is the possibility of subscriber members who are over 70 years of age receiving assistance when they enter a convalescent home? If the fees of hospital fund members are to be increased, will consideration be given to ensure that people who have made no claim on such funds over a long period are not denied the economic justice which subscribers to the Hospitals Contribution Fund suffered recently.
– The honourable senator has asked a long and very interesting question based on a letter which the Minister for Health has recently written to him. I will have to get some further information from the Minister for Health in regard to the question and when 1 do I will pass it on to the honourable senator.
– My question addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence relates to the current discontent amongst members of the Services with wages, allowances and housing and also to the fact that the Government is to conduct an inquiry into these matters. I ask the Minister: Will the Committee set up by the Government consider to what extent servicemen may benefit from the formation of a trade union or some other appropriate association, having in mind that the West
German forces have for many years had such a union organisation which seems to have performed a useful role in settling differences between servicemen and defence heads? If no consideration has yet been given to this matter will the Minister refer the proposition to the Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee so as to find out to what extent such an organisation might provide a vehicle for settling differences and determining the reasons for the resignations which seem to be occurring in all the Services?
– The matters which this Committee will consider are, in the first place, within the terms of reference. Even allowing for a fairly wide interpretation of the terms of reference it will be a matter for the Committee to decide as a matter of substance whether there should be some union or association within the Services. This is a matter that F would not want to reflect upon at question time. If I could offer a personal observation 1 would say that I see many difficulties in the concept. The honourable senator, as a man who has served in the Services, would recognise that there are problems associated with such a concept. The proposal put forward by the honourable senator would need to be subjected to far more detailed examination for a proper appreciation of it to be obtained.
For my own part, I see some difficulties within the proposal if it is the intention to set up a union within the Services and if that union were to operate in the normal way of union advocacy. All I can add is that no doubt the committee which is being set up would have regard to these proposals. I know only what I heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) in another place expound yesterday at the annual federal convention of the Returned Services League and what he said in Canberra today. One would need to have a lot more particulars of this matter to give a purposeful comment. As I have said, I see many difficulties in introducing a proposal into the Services of which the law of command is an inherent part. If the honourable senator is thinking in terms of something on a lower level away from that aspect of Service functions, it may be a different matter.
– 1 ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question which concerns light aircraft safety. In view of the excellent safety record of all light aircraft charter organisations and the unfair and undesirable criticism being attracted to light aircraft generally because of the high incidence of accidents this year to planes being flown by private pilots, can the Minister say whether consideration is being given to requiring a higher training standard for private pilots? Can the Minister indicate any particular cause which inquiries have revealed to be common to the majority of owner-pilot mishaps?
– This is a very interesting question. As far as one can detect from a very careful study of the figures over a period of lime the general average rate is still satisfactory. The problem is highlighted because of the tremendous increase in general aviation. The tendency has been for agricultural operators to be steadily improving their overall performance. Equally, people engaged in charter flying are improving their performance. However, there appears to be some tendency for private flying to be not quite as good as one would like. From an examination of the figures it appears - and T say appears’ because the work ! am doing on this aspect of aviation is still in its early stages - that most of the accidents are the product of what is called ‘pilot error’ and not ‘machine failure’.
T am in the middle of examining some ideas which 1 have generated and which are being examined by other people as to whether we have reached the stage at which we need some overall examination of retraining or indeed - and this is something which I have thought of and which T am currently working out - whether we should have seminars on flying safety conducted throughout Australia for all private pilots to refresh their minds on the latest training methods and to restress the need for care. This is not an easy matter and I cannot deal with it until after the coming Senate election because it will take up a lot of time. But there is a factor that has to be thought of here and it will be examined by computer studies. We have to ask the question: Are we in a phase in which a number of pilots have flown so many hours that they are tending to be not as careful as they were in the earlier stages of their training? I have consulted some highly competent trainers in Australia. All in all I would not want to say more than that at present, except that I am grateful for the question and I am very happy to assure the Senate that this matter is receiving very serious study by myself and by my Department.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing, ls it a fact that land on Horn Island has now been transferred from the Department of Defence to the Department of Housing? How many building blocks will be made available? Can the Minister explain the secrecy that is apparently associated with this project?
– I think I understood the honourable senator to say that land on Horn Island had now been transferred to the Department of Housing.
– I want to know whether it has been transferred to the Department of Housing.
– ft may have been transferred to the State Department of Housing. 1 will get the information for the honourable senator.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, by stating that figures were released at the week-end giving information about stocks of wool held unsold in some producing countries. Can the Minister give any information as to whether these stocks are larger than usual for this time of the yea,: Can he also advise the Senate of the quantity of wool sold by auction in Australia this selling season to 30th September this year and the number of bales held in brokers’ stores to that date, and compare it with the situation at 30th September 1 969?
– Yesterday in one of the newspapers I saw some figures relating to the stockpiling of wool, so 1 sought some information from the Department of Primary Industry, and this is all I can give the honourable senator. I do not know whether it ties in with what he wants to know. I will give him the figures regarding the stockpiling of wool for Argentina, New Zealand and Uruguay for 1969 and 1970 and compare these with the figures for Australia for the same 2 years. In Argentina there were 44 million lb of clean wool on hand in 1969 compared with 44 million lb of clean wool on hand as at 1st October 1970. In New Zealand there were 23 million lb of clean wool stockpiled in 1969 and 23 million lb of clean wool stockpiled as at 1st July 1970. In Uruguay there were 9 million lb of clean wool on hand in 1969 and 10 million lb of dean wool on hand as at 1st October 1970. In Australia there were 1.09 million bales of unsold wool in store in 1969 and 1.03 million bales of unsold wool in store as at 30th October this year. So far as the quantity of wool sold by auction in Australia is concerned, in 1969 906,010 bales were sold compared with 721,238 bales sold in 1970. However, the receipts of wool into store are down on the figures for 1969.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate noted the remarks by the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Legislative Assembly in New South Wales and also those of Mr Asimus and Mr Gullet of the General Council of the New South Wales Graziers Association regarding the question of selling wool in Australia. They again underline the claim that overseas buyers are deliberately combining to depress the price of Australian wool. I ask the Minister: Is there anything in Australian legislation, such as the Trade Practices Act, which could combat this practice? If there is not anything in our legislation at the moment, can he foresee the Australian Government taking action to try to combat this deliberate attempt to depress wool prices?
I have seen only a very brief reference this morning to the matters to which Senator Willesee alludes. He has referred to statements made by other people. I am not aware of the implications of the restraints which could be placed upon such an action, but I do know that the Government proposes to introduce legislation relating to the wool industry. It is hoped that the legislation will come to the Senate before we rise. The legislation is designed to give tremendous assistance to the wool industry and I am confident that it will. I would not want to make any further comment beyond that at this point of time.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for National Development seen the report in today’s Press that the South Australian Government will not support the Dartmouth Dam agreement? Is it a fact that this agreement is the same as that previously arrived at by the former Premier of South Australia, Mr Hall, and representatives of the New South Wales, Victorian and Commonwealth Governments for the building of Dartmouth Dam and investigations for future storages on the River Murray system? Does South Australia’s present non-ratification mean that the building of Dartmouth Dam, which has already been delayed for 5 months, will be delayed indefinitely, denying South Australia a guaranteed increased water supply which it so urgently needs?
– I have not seen today’s Press, but I would be happy to look at the newspaper and the comments to which Senator Young refers. I have had nothing official regarding this matter, given to me by the Minister for National Development, but as Senator Young says, the Press states that the South Australian Government will not now support the Dartmouth Dam agreement. I think it is correct that it is the same agreement as that previously accepted, and that the nonratification of it will most certainly delay the construction of Dartmouth Dam. I do not know for how long, but until the matter is resolved construction must be delayed.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware that in the last 5 years approximately 150 persons from South Australia, at great cost to themselves, have gone to Kassel, Germany, for oxygen therapy treatment for arteriosclerosis as given by Dr Moeller? Is the Minister aware also that these persons had been told by their doctors that medically no more could be done for them except amputation of the limbs affected, and that on return to Australia after receiving Dr Moeller’s treatment these people have been able to resume a normal life? Will the Minister again have further consultation with Dr Moeller regarding his treatment and invite him to Australia to demonstrate his method?
– I am not aware of the figures to which the honourable senator has referred, but I am aware of his interest in the work being dose by Dr Moeller because he has asked questions and spoken on this matter previously in this chamber. I shall again take up with the Minister for Health the point that the honourable senator has raised and see what information I can get for him.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General find out and inform the Senate whether, if the leader of a Federal parliamentary party delivers his opening election speech on an evening when Parliament is sitting, the broadcast of that speech by the Australian Broadcasting Commission will interfere with the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament? If not, does it mean that during the broadcast of that leader’s speech listeners to both channels of the ABC will be a captive audience for politicians?
– The honourable senator has raised a very interesting and important question, and 1 shall certainly take the matter up with the PostmaSter-General.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. In view of the withdrawal of the licence to export meat to the United States that had been held by the meat processing firm of S. P. Holman and Sons Pty Ltd at Devonport, involving the laying off of 60 employees and the stranding of an $88,000 shipment of meat intended for the United States, will the Minister direct the trade commissioners in countries accepting Australian beef to endeavour to obtain a market for this first class beef from Holmans, thereby alleviating also the critical position that has arisen because the supply of raw material to by-product firms in. the Devonport area has ceased following the closure of Holman’s export business, seriously affecting at least four of these by-product firms?
– lt is true that the withdrawal of a licence to export meat to the United States causes acute problems for us. In this case the withdrawal, of a licence of the meat works at Devonport must of necessity affect not only the people employed in the meat works but also the whole area from which the meat is supplied initially, lt is basic that the Department of Trade and industry will try to discover and to meet the situation so that the licence which has been withdrawn will be renewed. That is the first thing that it must try to do and 1 am certain that the Department is taking that action and that the matter is being examined also by the Department of Primary Industry.
As to finding alternative markets in the period in which the licence is cancelled, this is a normal function of the Department of Trade and Industry and 1 think it can be accepted that the Department is looking critically at- the problem and the possibility of finding alternative markets. Nevertheless, since the honourable senator has asked the question I will have it referred to the Department of Trade and Industry. I may say - I know this to be a fact - that the Department is alert to the problem and is trying to find a solution to it.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation, having visited aerodromes in northern Australia recently, would be well aware of the depressed economic conditions prevailing in western Queensland towns as a result of the disastrous drought. As Government assistance will be required to rehabilitate those towns pending the return to full production of the pastoral industry, and as Longreach has been selected as the site for an alternative jet airstrip between Mount Isa and Brisbane, wilt the Minister consider urgently upgrading the priority of this airstrip so that work can be commenced without delay as a positive drought relief measure?
– It is true that I had a look recently at a number of aerodromes, Longreach being one of them, lt is equally true that Longreach has been selected as an alternative airstrip for jet aircraft operating in that part of Queensland. Having had a good look at the airstrip and having met the local people at Senator Maunsell’s request, and also being well aware of the conditions in western Queensland, it seemed to me that there was a very good case to try to advance the priority of work on that airstrip. I am trying to do that now as fast as I can.
– Is the Minister representing the Attorney-General aware that on 9th October 1970 the High Court of Australia decided that civil brigade fire fighters are not employed - I quote - ‘in industry’? Is it a fact that the High Court decision in this matter precludes the right of the United Firefighters Union to federal registration? As firefighters in countries such as New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada have full recognition as a national industrial organisation, does the Minister feel that it would be acceptable to the union and perhaps in the public interest if some legislative action were taken to correct this anomaly?
– It will be recalled that . I answered a question on this subject, yesterday. I find the decision of the High Court one of difficulty and perplexity. T am asking the Attorney-General to take note of the concern of the honourable senator and of other honourable senators who have directed questions to it. However, I point out that the question as to whether the employees of the brigades are engaged in industry concerns an interpretation of the Constitution because it relates to the question of interstate industrial disputes in relation to conciliation and arbitration. With that in mind, I have difficulty in envisaging that legislation of this Parliament could overcome the problem, because no Act of this Parliament can prevail against the Constitution as interpreted by the High Court. But I can assure the honourable senator that the matter will be examined with concern.
– In directing a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate I attract his attention to the fact that I now have the oldest question on the notice paper.
– I accept his congratulations. I refer to question No. 422 which reads:
If the document entitled ‘Australian Military Forces Pocketbook South Vietnam’ is on issue to the defence forces, and even if it is on a restricted list, will he make a copy available to the Senate for perusal?
As the question has been on the notice paper since 2nd June, I now ask him why the book has not been made available for perusal by the Senate and what is the reason for the delay.
asked 2 related questions on the same matter on 2nd June. They are questions Nos 422 and 423 and are directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. The normal procedure for me, as Minister representing the Minister for Defence, when questions are outstanding for any length of time is to attempt to obtain replies to them. I will renew my request for a speedy answer to this question.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration seen a report that a British advertising agency is being employed on an account of $856,000 a year from the Department of Immigration and that its 2 executives are regarded as the hidden persuaders behind Australia’s campaign for more British migrants? ls it a fact that one of the executives has visited Australia only twice and the other executive has visited Australia only once? Did the Government, in deciding upon this type of promotion, give any consideration at all to asking an Australian advertising agency to open an office in London to handle this nationally important task? Will the Minister agree that skilled Australians who have already proved their skills in the international advertising market should be able to promote Australia much better than other people who must be regarded as inexperienced in their knowledge of Australia? In other words, why has not the Government adopted the policy of putting its money where its country is?
– The honourable senator asks me a question concerning immigration and publicity that is being arranged in England for intending migrants, I think, in relation to bousing.
– No, not housing; trying to attract migrants to Australia.
– I thank the honourable senator. I am sorry that I did not hear his question clearly because of some noise. As he knows, the Department of Immigration conducts a great deal of publicity in a variety of areas, in which it encourages migration to Australia and in which it gives very important information to intending settlers. As he also knows, this is done by films, publications and interviews and in a variety of other publicity ways. The honourable senator informs me in his question that British people have been given this publicity task, whereas he feels that it would be done better by Australians. 1 shall take this matter up with the Minister for Immigration and see what information I can receive from him for the honourable senator.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of reported problems of ore quality making Japanese steel mills cautious about committing themselves to new iron ore projects in the Pilbara region, would the Minister agree that this may be a timely warning for Australia - industry and government alike - to continue, with an even greater sense of urgency, marketing, promotional and productivity reforms across the complete canvas of our primary industries, particularly wool? Does it not emphasise once again that these industries in which we are low cost and high quality producers by world standards must be regarded as fundamental to our overseas credit earning capacity in the foreseeable future? Would it not be advisable to investigate promptly Indonesian and Indian interests in establishing processing and manufacturing industries in their lands, using Australian raw materials, skills and foreign aid finance?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Government is constantly reviewing, within its power, marketing and promotional activities. This is a continuing process. Every effort is being made to develop markets for Australian raw materials, not only in Asian countries but also in Europe, South America and Africa. I refer, for example, to the establishment of milk plants in South East Asia, Panama and Zambia. In the minerals field, increasing attention is being given to Europe as well as to other areas. In this respect I refer to the sale of alumina to Europe, North America, the Middle East and South Africa.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister for Air, concerns the range of the Phantom bomber. Does the Minister recall that a fortnight ago Senator Milliner asked him for details of the approximate safe mileage that a Phantom bomber can fly without refuelling, and that the Minister replied that it is 1,300 nautical miles? Last week I asked the Minister whether he was satisfied that that estimate of the safe mileage represented operational performance but yesterday, when answering a question put by Senator Keeffe, the Minister declined to give any figures in this respect. Is the Minister at this stage able to identify the various ranges of the Phantom when carrying specific loads? If not, will the Minister supply the information so that senators can be fully informed as to the range of the Phantom?
– I recall the questions referred to by Senator Bishop. I did say that the range, in one case, is 1,300 nautical mites. I did say to Senator Bishop that I was satisfied with the range of the Phantom for our present requirements. In reply yesterday to Senator Keeffe I pointed out that it was necessary to have details of load, height and operational conditions. It is not possible now to give the honourable senator the figure he seeks, but I will have a look at his question and ascertain what information I can supply to him.
– Like my colleague Senator Georges 1 am disturbed by the delay in furnishing replies to questions on notice. On 15th October, a fortnight ago, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry a pertinent question about trade with mainland China. I now ask the Minister whether the delay in replying to my question has been caused by the fact that senior officers of the Department of Trade and Industry have been directed to carry out research for the Government’s Senate election campaign, or whether it is a fact that no figures are kept of trade between Australia and mainland China?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI think the honourable senator is very naughty to impute improper motives in asking his question. The facts are that the ordinary processes must operate. When a question is referred to the Department of Trade and Industry, the more comprehensive it is, and particularly when it involves details of trade with another country, the more the honourable senator should appreciate that an answer would not be given that was not in the fullest possible terms. As soon as the answer to his question is received from the Department of Trade and Industry, I will give it to the honourable senator.
– As members of the Australian Labor Party are constantly asking questions which seem to denigrate the Phantom bomber, 1 ask the Minister for Air whether it is true that the purchase of that aircraft has long been advocated by the Australian Labor Party.
– I understand from my reading of speeches made both in the Senate and in the other place that from time to time the Labor Party has advocated the purchase of the Phantom. I think they have done so with good cause. The Phantom is recognised as one of the most experienced fighter bombers in the world andI think its performance in Vietnam has proved this.
-I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the contention by the Minister for Primary Industry that pesticide dangers are of a minor nature, will he confer with his colleague the Minister for Education and Science with a view to having the Wildlife Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation investigate allegations emanating from the Sommerlad Tourist Committee that aerial baiting, ostensibly to destroy dingoes, is causing the unnecessary destruction of other fauna on the New South Wales north coast?
– As the honourable senator’s question ranges over a wide area I shall have to refer it to the Minister for Primary Industry.
– I present the following papers:
Audit Act - Supplementary Report ofthe Auditor-General upon other accounts, for year ended 30th June 1970.
Senator COTTON (New South Wales-
Minister for Civil Aviation) - byleave - I refer to a question asked of me by Senator Mulvihill about informal voting. I take this opportunity to say to my colleagues in the Senate and to Senator Mulvihill in particular that the film he mentioned is a short film of 3 or 4 minutes duration which will be shown on the Australian Broadcasting Commission and commercial television channels prior to polling day. It is a 35mm film and there are no facilities in Parliament House for showing it. Any honourable senator who wishes to see the film may contact the Department of the Interior, which will make arrangements for him to do so.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) agreed to:
That the sitting of the Senate be suspended until 8 p.m.to enable Estimates Committees to meet.
Sitting suspended from 10.37 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 26 October (vide page 1452), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the days and times of meeting of the Senate this week be as follows:
-I raise strong objection to the terms of this motion. Unless the business of the Parliament is to receive extremely scant attention, to my mind it will be impossible to finish this week. I suppose one of the most important Bills yet to be discussed in this chamber is the Australian Wool Commission Bill. We have heard much about the position of the rural producer, particularly the wool grower. I understand this measure has reached the second reading stage in the House of Representatives. That Bill, with all its ramifications, should get the consideration which is its due. I suppose all of us have shed political tears at times for those engaged in the wool industry in the hope of getting votes for our own Senate team at election time. If the Senate sits only for the times proposed, very scant attention will be given to this matter.
I do not know at the moment how many Bills the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) hopes to have completed before the end of the week. It would be most interesting to hear the number. Apparently he does not intend to give us the information by way of interjection. I do not suppose it would help his case very much if he did.
– The Opposition Whip knows the number.
– I am not worried about what the Whip knows. With all respect to the Whip, I think all of us as members of this Senate are entitled to have that information. I think it is making a joke of the whole situation if the Government expects us to sit here with very little hope of giving the legislation that comes before us the attention it deserves.
– I always thought you worked on numbers and not on logic.
– The honourable senator is such a newcomer to this chamber he just would not know what anyone did.
– I work on logic.
– From what I have heard of the honourable senator, I think that he would give logic away at any time. Are we here to make a farce of this institution? When all is said and done, I do not think another 2 or 3 days of sitting next week would hurt any person. I do not think it would hurt those candidates who are standing for re-election. Because we are unable to draw any information from the Minister, we are entitled to ask him - leaving aside the Whip who he says has the information - how many Bills he hopes to get through between 5 or 6 minutes past 8 tonight and 11 p.m. on Friday.
– It is disorderly to interject.
– I appreciate the Minister’s courtesy at all times, but I do not think that he is altogether showing courtesy now; he is simply avoiding answering my very pertinent question. His reason for not answering is that a statement that 20. 30 or 40 Bills will be put through in this chamber with very scant attention may appear in the Press of the nation. So far the Estimates have not been considered in this chamber. I know a lot of consideration has been given to them by the Estimates Committees, but each senator could not be a member of every committee because 3 or 4 of them met at the one time. Whether one believes that these committees were a good or a bad idea, the fact is that there may be some who desire information on estimates that were dealt with by a particular committee of which they were not members.
I believe we should always strive to see that the people outside this place have tespect for the parliamentary institution. 1 think we all want that. The proposal before us is the best way to put into their minds the thought that even those who are elected have no respect for the institution because they want to spend as little time here as they possibly can. The average person arrives here at about 5 or 10 past 9 of a morning and if he is here until the Senate rises he usually leaves about 10 minutes past 11 at night. That is not wise. It is not good from a health point of view. At least the Minister ought to study the position and recognise that unless we give scant attention to the business we cannot finish this week. We should sit the normal times and come back Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday of next week. For that reason I oppose the resolution as submitted.
– Under most circumstances I would have been quite happy to go along with some of the principles we have heard laid down by Senator kennelly. Of course, he used a little sarcasm on my colleague, Senator Young. He said that Senator Young had not been in the Parliament a long time. As of this moment I happen to have been in the Senate longer than Senator Kennelly. I have not been the power within his Party or my own Party as he has been in his Party, both from within and outside the Party. I would have expected on this motton at this time that Senator Kennelly would have let the Leader of the Opposition in this place (Senator Murphy) indicate the attitude of the Opposition if it has had an opportunity to discuss its tactics in respect of this motion which I would have thought every Senator, be he young or old in Senate experience, would have anticipated. But Senator Kennelly chose to rise first and speak. He has announced his opposition to the motion.
This is a peculiar state of affairs. We find that Senator Kennelly is criticising the Government because allegedly it is going to hurry through legislation and for not paying attention to important legislation which affects the primary industries of this country. Nobody from this side of the House has indicated that the Government is not prepared to sit next week if that is the decision of the Senate.
But what has happened in another place? Important motions have initiated legislation. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) knew what legislation was proposed and the projected sittings of Parliament. But what has he done? He - not the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate - has decided to start the Senate election campaign tomorrow night. Where is the Leader of the Australian Labor Party in this Federal Parliament going to be when important legislation should be properly considered in the interests of the rural people who are in such trouble? Is the Leader of the Labor Patty setting an example-
– I rise to order. My point of order is that the motion before this chamber, moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, concerns the sitting times of the Senate for this week, lt is not pertinent to that motion to talk about what the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives will be doing during this week. The proceedings of the House of Representatives, whether they are sitting or not, or what the Leader of the Opposition is doing in relation to those proceedings ought not to be inquired into and made the subject of debate in this House. This is an important principle because it will cut both ways. It is not proper for us to discuss a person in the House of Representatives, whether he is there or not there, or what he is doing in relation to the proceedings in that House. If the honourable senator wants to make comments about our sitting times he should say something pertinent to this subject. He should not bring into the discussion the proceedings of the House of Representatives which are its business and the conduct of an eminent member of the House of Representatives in relation to the conduct of the proceedings of that House.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - I think the honourable senator should confine his remarks more to the motion under discussion.
– I certainly will. The Senate election campaign is being officially started tomorrow night when the Senate is in session. There is no requirement for the Senate election campaign to start then and cause people to be absent from their place in Parliament while the Senate is in session. The example has been set. The gun has been fired, as it were, for this election campaign, lt is getting close to hypocrisy for the Australian Labor Party to say to honourable senators on this side of the House that we are trying to stifle debate, to cut down on the sitting hours and times of this Parliament and to hurry through legislation. I believe, firstly, because we have not said we will not sit next week and, secondly, because the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Whitlam) is starting the Senate election campaign tomorrow that we should support this motion, get on with the business and hope that we can finish properly and decently within the hours set out or return to work next week.
– I think that what has emerged from the discussions so far, apart from what was said yesterday by me, is this: We have a tremendous amount of business before the Senate and a great deal more to come. That business includes some of the most important legislation yet to be considered by the Senate, namely, the legislation on wool. I understand it also includes about 30 Bills some of which are quite important, require a good deal of consideration and raise important matters of principle. We know that the extremely important matters have a tendency to arrive at the end of every sitting and on the basis that they must be shoved through as if they were of no importance. It is often found afterwards, to our regret, that these apparently unimportant Bills ought to have been given far more consideration and, sometimes a great deal of amendment. If this proposition has implied in it that we will not sit next week, then the Australian Labor Party opposes it. I agree with what was said by Senator Kennelly, that there is no doubt that we would take that attitude. At this stage we cannot see how the Senate can properly do justice to the matters which are before it and which are to come before it, especially the wool legislation.
However, I do not think it is implied in the motion that we will not sit next week. If the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) is suggesting in any way that the carrying of this motion would imply that we would necessarily finish on Friday, we would oppose it. However, I do not see that that is implied. If this motion is carried we would certainly insist upon the matters being dealt with as they should be and proper consideration given to the Bills. We have indicated we are prepared to be cooperative. We have made that offer. We are not prepared to extend co-operation to the point where we fail to carry out our duty to the public. Our duty is to see that measures are properly considered and, as far as we can, we will certainly insist that that be done. As far as the Opposition is concerned, if the business cannot be dealt with and at this stage I cannot see how it can possibly be dealt with this week, then we should be sitting next week.
– I take it that in that event all pairs will be off next week?
– I do not know the answer to Senator Byrne’s question. I do not recall any occasion on which pairs have been exchanged between the Australian Democratic Labor Party and the Australian Labor Party. Whether the Democratic Labor Party has an arrangement with another political party is of no concern to the Labor Party.
– The Democratic Labor Party is the one political party which never has any arrangements.
– The Democratic Labor Party may take whatever action it wishes to take in regard to any arrangement it has made as to pairs. Its actions are of no interest to the Labor Party because my Party has never had any arrangement with it in regard to pairs and I cannot conceive of any circumstances in which it might have an arrangement. I believe that we have to deal with this matter in an orderly manner. If it is necessary for the Senate to sit next week, which seems to be on the cards, it should do so.
The proposal which has been put forward is that the Senate shall sit these hours unless otherwise ordered, which means that if in a couple of days time it looks as though we cannot possibly finish this week the intelligent thing to do will be to go on in the ordinary way and come back next week to finish the business as expeditiously as we can, taking into account the gravity of, the matters with which we are dealing.
Another observation I want to make is that the proposal indicates that the sitting of the Senate will finish each night at 11 o’clock. I think this is fair enough. Under no circumstances should the Senate continue on into the late hours of the night or the early hours of the morning. I agree that it would be sensible to sit on for another half hour or so on the last night if we can finish, but we should not sit long hours, lt does not do justice to the health of honourable senators to sit long hours, it is not efficient to do so and we are not discharging our obligations to the public if we do so. The Labor Party will certainly resist any kind of railroading into sitting into the late hours of the night. Honourable senators have worked hard this session. There has been no undue delay, as far as 1 can gather, on the Opposition’s part. The only undue delays have been the fault of the Government and not the Leader in the Senate. Delays have occurred in the bringing forward of legislation. Obviously these delays are the fault of those people who are responsible for sending legislation to this chamber. The only criticism 1 have to offer is that the Government’s inefficiency in the handling of the business of the Parliament is equalled only by what is doing to Australia.
– I think we are all getting into a state of fury over something which has not yet eventuated. My understanding is that the motion which was put down by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) concerns sitting hours for this week and this week only. What happens between the Government and Opposition Whips should be sub rosa and not discussed in this chamber. There seems to be some fear on the part of honourable senators opposite that honourable senators, on this side of the chamber will not be prepared to sit next week. My understanding of the attitude of my colleagues is that if the Senate does not finish its business this week they will be prepared to come back next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday if necessary. Honourable senators on this side of the House do not have any objection to coming back next week.
All the Leader of the Government has attempted to do tonight is to set forth a sitting programme for today and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week. He has made no suggestion of a guillotine being applied. He has not said that the Senate must conclude its business by 1 1 o’clock on Friday night. 1 believe that the Leader of the Government has put forward a sensible programme, lt may be necessary to stretch sitting hours by half an hour here and half an hour there during this week. If the business of the Senate can be finished on Friday night in the normal course of events, without the gag being applied, without an attempt being made to railroad legislation through, without taking away the rights of honourable senators to speak, good luck to us: we can then go home. I think I am speaking for most of my colleagues when 1 say that if we do not finish our business on Friday night we will be quite prepared to conic back here at 10 o’clock on Monday morning of next week and, if necessary, at 10 o’clock on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings. 1 believe that we should get on with the business of the Senate and take a vote on the motion which is before the Chair.
– This debate is reminiscent of the debate we had in this chamber on the establishment of the estimates committees. Mr President, you will recall that on that occasion honourable senators were given an undertaking by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) that they would be given an equal opportunity to discuss the Estimates in this chamber as was given in the estimates committees. It is quite obvious now that the Estimates will be pushed through this chamber in a matter of hours instead of days.
– The Estimates have already been before this chamber - in the estimates committees.
– They have not been before this chamber. They have been discussed by the estimates committees. Honourable senators have been denied the right to question the Estimates because 4 estimates committees have on occasions sat simultaneously. How can any honourable senator be in any four places at once? I have said before and I repeat it again that the place to discuss the Estimates is in this chamber before members of the Press and the public.
– The undertaking was given that they would be brought back here.
– Yes, an undertaking was given to the Senate that the Estimates would be brought back here and discussed. The Leader of the Government said that honourable senators would have the same opportunity to discuss the Estimates in this chamber as they had to discuss them in the sittings of the estimates committees. The Estimates were discussed for 40i hours by the estimates committees. They should be discussed in an open sitting of the Senate and not in small committee rooms behind closed doors.
– They were not discussed behind closed doors and the honourable senator knows it
– Members of the public were allowed to attend but there was no room for them in the committee rooms because they were full of public servants who were waiting their turn. I have no criticism to offer of the public servants in this regard because they were only carrying out their duty. The simple fact is that the facilities of Parliament House are no* geared to the type of hearings which have been conducted.
– Order! Senator Poyser, I cannot associate your remarks with the motion which is before the Chair. I request you to come back to the motion.
– I am relating my remarks to the fact that honourable senators will not have the opportunity which it was undertaken would be given to them to discuss the Estimates in this chamber. When I first came into this chamber I was very proud of the fact that the gag or the guillotine were not used. Every honourable senator was able to speak at length on matters which concerned the Senate. How- ever, during the final stages of the last session the gag was applied ruthlessly in this chamber to put through in a matter of minutes legislation which could have taken a day or more to discuss. We have already enough on our notice paper to last us for at least 3 days this week, which takes us to Friday. As has been indicated by previous speakers, one of the most important items of legislation to come before this Parliament for many years will be introduced into the Senate this week. It is all very well for Senator Withers, the Government Whip, to stand up and say that it is not necessarily the intention of the Government to finish this week, that everybody will have an opportunity to speak, that everybody will be given a fair go and that neither the gag nor the guillotine will be applied. I challenge the Government Whip to stand up now and give an undertaking on behalf of the Government that the gag or the guillotine will not be applied. It is quite obvious that the Government will use the gag. It is quite obvious that if the business of the Senate is to be dealt with in accordance with the schedule which has been laid down by the Government the gag and the guillotine will be applied and matters of great importance will be pushed through the Senate by the force of numbers without these matters being fully discussed. This is the numbers game.
– The Labor Party has lived by it for years.
– It has, too. Ask Senator Kennelly.
– I am not going to ask Senator Kennelly anything. I am at present charging the Government with committing these crimes. You will cooperate with enforcement of the gag. On many occasions you have said in this House that you would never vote for the gag-
– Not I.
– You said that you would never vote for the gag, but you did repeatedly in the last session and you have done it in this session. Your word cannot be trusted in any way. Although you said you would never vote for the gag, the record shows that you have done it repeatedly. So much for the words of you and your colleagues in that respect. A very important Bil) is before the Senate, concerning the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Not one honourable senator opposite has yet indicated his intention to speak, on this extremely important legislation. Normally Bills to amend this legislation have been debated for about 3 days in the Senate. Every honourable senator has been anxious to contribute in respect of the housing problems that beset the Commonwealth. On this occasion honourable senators opposite are prepared to sit in silence and push the Bill through quickly because they have the numbers to force it (trough without proper debate and consideration.
The proposition contained in the motion we are discussing looks very innocent on the surface, but it is obvious that the Government plans to finish this session this week, even if we are forced into an all night sitting on Friday night, working all day Saturday and leaving Canberra in the early hours of Sunday morning to get to our electorates. I oppose the motion because it threatens the freedom of the Senate. Each year we are sitting fewer and fewer hours. An examination of the-hours days and weeks of sitting will support that statement. What is really happening is a strong move towards Executive control through the force of numbers pushing legislation through this Parliament without adequate consideration. Executive control leads to dictatorship. We warn you here and now that this is the sum total of what will occur finally if the sittings of this democratically elected Parliament are shortened and the use of force of numbers is continued to the stage when Parliament will not need to sit at all. The Government will have full control and the whole of the business of the Commonwealth can be put through in a week by the use of force of numbers, just as the Government is attempting to use the force of numbers on this occasion.
– Honourable senators will recall that when this motion was moved yesterday, 1 asked that it be adjourned in order to allow a conference between the parties. The Opposition has shown at all times that it is prepared to sit when it is necessary to conduct the business of the Senate. On the occasions when we have agreed to sit at unusual times, it has always been after consultation between the 2 Leaders and a report has been made back to our Party as to that consultation. We have sought to co-operate. When this matter arose yesterday I asked that again consultation take place, and the debate was adjourned, I thought for that purpose. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) said that there were some difficulties, that we were not sure what we would have on our plate. He said that we needed that information to make a decision. Now it seems that without any discussion on the matter it is again before the Senate without any consultation having taken place between the parties. There has been no discussion as to whether the hours proposed are the best, or whether an alternative is preferable.
I have never been opposed to silting extended hours if the business of the Senate has required it. I am still prepared to do that. Ever since I have been a member of this Parliament I have believed that we have a duty to be here. If it is necessary to sit extended hours, we should do so, but 1 have always tried to protect the rights and liberties of members of the Senate. On this occasion I am not opposed to extending the hours of sitting to 1 1 p.m., irrespective of whether we sit next week, as in this way we will have additional time to put through the business of the Senate. I do not know whether Senator Withers has authority to give an assurance that honourable senators opposite are prepared to sit next week. I have some fears about an attempt to rush the business through this week, but Senator Withers spoke with such conviction that it seems he has some authority for the statements he made. Now he is shaking his head.
– I am allowed to speak as I wish.
– Then I take it we have no assurance that the Government is prepared to sit next week. We can be sure that if Senator Withers and some of his colleagues do not have their arms twisted by the Party, they will be prepared to sit next week. We still do not know whether the honourable senator is prepared to exercise his free vote or whether he will submit to pressure from his Party. 1 am concerned at the possibility of the passage of legislation by exhaustion. I agree that we should extend the hours of sitting to 11 p.m. and that we should crib an additional half hour or so where we can do so, but 1 think we should seek an assurance thai when an opportunity arises for a debate on the motion to adjourn the Senate, it should not be taken from us unless there is agreement between the 2 Leaders. If we have to sit for an extra 5 or 10 minutes to finish the debate on a Bill, we should do so. I would noi like to see an agreement reached to sit to a later time only to find that the time of 11 o’clock was only a nominal time, and that the Senate would not then agree to what we might agree upon now.
I wish to raise 2 other matters, the first of which relates to the protection of individuals. I was surprised that last Thursday night we were allowed to discuss General Business. I think there was a purpose behind that move. To me and to other back benchers General Business is the most important business that comes before this Parliament. The Government is never anxious to have matters discussed under the heading of General Business put to a vote. I am very suspicious of a motion that seeks to extend Thursday night’s sitting to 11 p.m. To me it implies that an attempt will be made to have Government Business take precedence over General Business on Thursday night. If that attempt is made, I shall strongly oppose it. Because I believe that the motion we are discussing contains that implication, I must oppose it.
The last point I wish to raise is that when we agreed to establish the Estimates Committees we were given a guide to how they were to work. We were assured that there would be 2 opportunities for senators to inquire into the Estimates, the first of which would be before the Estimates Committees, the other opportunity being when the Estimates came before the Committee of the Whole. We were given that assurance. We were told by the Leader of the Government in the Senate that senators would have that right. I have sufficient confidence in Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson to know that he will not back down on the undertaking he gave. It is recorded in Hansard. It is true that when the Estimates Committees first met 3 senators were locked out. Perhaps if we were not so stubborn on the question we could have attended some meetings of the Committees. Nevertheless, having received a rebuff, on principle we would not attend.
– Why were you so stubborn?
– It is the Irish nature. Nevertheless, even senators who conscientiously attended the meetings of the Committees could not attend all the meetings necessary to raise queries they might have concerning all departments. Therefore that opportunity must be given to them. I rely on the assurance that the Leader of the Government in the Senate has given to us but I am fearful of the interjection made tonight by Senator Byrne. He said that the Estimates already had been before this chamber. I know the power that the Australian Democratic Labor Party has with this Government and I hope that on this occasion the Leader of the Government will not so neglect principles that he will submit to the pressure that the Democratic Labor Party might put on him to curtail debate on the Estimates.
I know that Senator Byrne considers it important to get out into the field. His Party cannot win anything in this chamber and it will be non-existent after the election. I realise the importance to his Party of the session finishing this week but I think we have a job to do in this Parliament. We of the Opposition are prepared to sit here in this Parliament. We are prepared to sit extended hours, but we want a fair go. I again appeal for discussion among the leaders of the parties and discussion between the leaders and rank and file members about future arrangements relating to the sitting of the Senate.
– I would not have entered this discussion to indicate the point of view of the Australian Democratic Labour Party had I not considered it necessary to do so. We have listened to some very logical argument and to some very sanctimonious nonsense about sitting here next week. The fact of life is that an election campaign will begin tomorrow night. One Party is opening its campaign then. Let us not hear any more sanctimonious nonsense. If we are to believe the logical and sincere words uttered by Senator Cavanagh and Senator Poyser, they would not desire to go to the hustings and place their opponents at an unfair disadvantage. Yet if we accept at face value their words about sitting here next week and if they continue to support the propositions expounded here tonight, we know only too well that that is the precise situation that must develop.
The Democratic Labour Party does not seek pairs from the Opposition or from the Government. We realise the political impracticability of this.
– You cannot get them.
– Anybody who is a practical politican, unlike Senator Georges who is wandering in some wilderness of his own, realises that it is a practical impossibility for us to get pairs. To prove their sincerity, those honourable senators who speak of sitting here next week should say that no pairs will be granted and that nobody will be out on the hustings next week. They should say also that members of Parliament in the other place who represent certain parties will not be out on the hustings either. If this were to happen then all of us would go to the barrier for the election on a fair and even basis. If this is not the case then those honourable senators are using the procedures of this Parliament to place a smaller party at a disadvantage. Senator Cavanagh referred to discussions which were to take place, in his belief, between two Party leaders. I hope his omission of the third Party leader is not a significant mistake. I hope he does not believe that minorities are not worth bothering about.
– It is your minority.
– If you believe in the principle of minorities then you cannot make selections. You either believe in the principle or you do not. Senator Cavanagh ought to be very careful. His slip is beginning to show. Senator Cavanagh piously said that he believes in the principle of parties going to the barrier for an election campaign on an even basis. Either he believes in that principle or he does not. If he does not, he should say so. If that is the case then he does not agree with Senator Poyser’s belief about the ruthless use of numbers in the Parliament.
I am a practical politician. In my early days in politics I sat at the foot of one of the most practical politicians in this country. I know the numbers game as well as anybody else. If we read the Hansard reports of this Parliament or those of any State Parliament we find that at this stage of the sittings of a Parliament the same situation always has developed. The Government parties, the Australian Labor Party and my Party have used the numbers when they have had them. The practice always has been referred to piously by those who did not have the numbers at the time as being a very awful and bad thing to do in politics. I dismiss that argument. It is produced always by those who do not have the numbers. Apparently discussions have taken place between the Whips of the various parties. My Party has been fully informed by its Whip. He talks to other members of his Party. If that is not the situation in the other parties, that is not our fault. If there is a proposition to the effect that Parliament will continue to sit once the election campaign begins and that the four parliamentary representatives of my Party will be required to sit here while members of the Government parties and the Opposition, both here and in the other place, are released from attendance through the granting of pairs, my Party will give serious consideration to this hypocritical discussion. If honourable senators mean what they have said then this would be a hypocritical discussion.
– I did not intend to enter this debate, particularly in view of the fact that Senator Withers earlier pledged his Party by saying that there would be no restriction on speaking times, that there would be no application of the gag and that all measures to come before the Senate would be properly debated. I thought he said that with some feeling of sincerity. However, when he was challenged by Senator Cavanagh, on behalf of the Opposition, he shook his head to the extent that his spectacles fell off. We found that he was not speaking on behalf of the Government but off the top of his head without prior knowledge or previous agreement. I am quite prepared, as my colleagues have said, to sit extended hours in order to deal with the legislation that still has to come before us, but there is no need to go through the fiasco that we went through on the last day of the last session of this Senate-
– Whose fiasco waa that? It was yours.
– That was in June. This was brought about by Senator Greenwood’s Party. We had to put through two extremely important Bills in, I think, 23 hours and 7 minutes. I think that was the exact time. The gag was applied ruthlessly not only by the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) but by the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) as well as by one or two other Ministers when the Minister at the table got very tired and worn out. One of those Bills was an arbitration Bill which affected millions of workers and their families in this country. The debate was gagged. A number of very important Bills are listed on the notice paper. We have no possible hope of getting through them if we continue to sit normal hours from now to Thursday or Friday.
What has been said about the Estimates Committees is true. Proper provision was not made for the attendance of the public, the attendance of other members of the Senate who are not members of those Committees, or the attendance of members of the Press. Stories are circulating suggesting that some Press men who wanted to attend Committee meetings were told that they could get in providing some of their colleagues got out so that there would be seats for them. It is equally true that three or four Committees were sitting at. the same time. Their areas of responsibility were divided in such a way that honourable senators found that matters in which they had a particular interest were being dealt with by different Committees in different rooms at the same time. This is unfair. The Estimates will have to come before this chamber and I and a number of other honourable senators intend to be quite vocal about them. The only way in which the Government will be able to get rid of the Estimates is to apply the guillotine. The Government will do this because there is no other way around the problem.
I can see the point made by Senator Little on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party, the minority Party which siu on the benches to my left. Obviously it had to reach prior agreement about the sitting times. There is no reason why members of the Democratic Labor Party cannot go home next week if they want to and deal with the political issues of the day on the hustings, but if they do the Government will be in an awful mess because it no longer will have the numbers. The Government will not be able to get away with passing the Bills which it thought it would get away with passing and which it probably will get away with passing by other means, lt is equally true that if we reduce debate on all the important issues of the day we will reach the stage where this country will be controlled by executive government. That is actually being done now because there are contentious issues on which decisions are made between sessions of the Parliament and the Government hopes that by the time the next session begins the public problems that have arisen will disappear under the carpet or otherwise go away.
If the Government wishes to seek cooperation, it should be manly enough to seek it on proper grounds and not on spurious grounds such as these, in which it is seeking a way out of a dilemma in which it has put itself. There is no reason why we cannot rise on Friday evening and come back on 23rd November, when there will still be another month before Christmas in. which the Senate can sit. I am sorry if Senator Sim, who is interjecting, has arranged to go to the seaside and to go fishing for the whole of the duration of the summer recess. Let him go and enjoy himself. Somebody says that we would not miss him; so I will leave it at that. Those are my reasons. I will vote for this motion with some feeling of apprehension and some feeling of fear. If Senator Withers has any backing - 1 hope that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson will come out and say so when he replies to this debate - the picture might be different. But I am yet to be convinced.
– (New South Wales - Minister for Supply) (8.52) - in reply - Yesterday I moved this motion on sitting times and a discussion ensued. In the light of what has been said tonight, I believe that it is fair enough that I should quote from the daily Hansard what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) said because it seems to me that there has been some shifting of ground in relation to this matter. In replying to my proposal for sitting times this week, the Leader of the Opposition said:
As I understand it, these days and times of sitting are acceptable to us but I think this ought to be done on the basis that we have an intelligent programming of whatever work is to be done. There may be unexpected matters come forward and we may find it necessary to sit longer than has been indicated.
So at that stage yesterday Senator Murphy was thinking in terms of sitting longer than was indicated.
– Not necessarily longer hours.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONDo not muddy the waters. Senator Murphy continued:
We may want to sit - some of us, anyway - for longer than has been expected, but whatever we do 1 think we ought to endeavour as far as possible
Then there was an interjection by Senator Byrne of the Democratic Labor Party. Senator Murphy came back to the point that there was justification for this motion and that it seemed reasonable for him to accept it. At that stage Senator Cavanagh intervened and, by common consent, we deferred the matter until today.
There is one basic principle that applies in this place, and that is that in the ultimate the Senate will determine what it wants to do. I have always said that. This is just simple procedure. It is also simple arithmetic. The fact of the matter is that the sitting times are extended to 11 o’clock on Friday night in the hope that we will conclude this week. There is no secret about that; there is no mystique about that. Everybody knew the purpose of it and the intention of it. We have extended the times to give us more sitting time and we have extended the sitting until 11 o’clock on Friday night in the hope that we will conclude the business this week.
– When you said-
The honourable senator can have a go on one of the Bills. I am closing this debate now. The fact of the matter is that if we do not look like concluding our business by 11 o’clock on Friday night at some time on Friday I will move a motion for the Senate to commence again at 10 a.m. next Monday, and if it is the will of the Senate that is as it will be. The position is as simple as that. There is no plot. There is no deep plan. There is no special contriving with various other parties.
– And no gag?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am making the speech, thank you very much. I do not want to pre-empt what the future may be. Let us face it: If I came to the conclusion that there was a filibuster on, as obviously there has been in the past on occasions, and if I had the numbers I would seek to apply the gag. It is as simple as that; and I do not go around the corner to say it either.
– You are repudiating your Whip.
The honourable senator does not understand the language he talks. I said that if there was a situation in which there was a filibuster on and I had the numbers I would apply the gag. That situation is entirely different from what Senator Withers said. The only trouble is that honourable senators opposite are so inhibited by their own ideas of things and trying to cause trouble in their own ranks that they cannot see clearly what the situation is.
– Would you apply the gag-
– I made my statement, and I do not need help from the honourable senator to add to it. The simple fact is that, if the situation arose that I believed that the procedures of government were being stalled and obviously delayed by what I choose to term a filibuster, I would apply the gag if I had the numbers and was capable of having it carried. Therefore, the situation is quite clear. If we carry this motion, we will sit until 11 o’clock on Friday night. We will proceed in the normal way of business in the Senate. If it appears that we will not conclude the business by 11 o’clock on Friday night, at some time on Friday I. will move a motion for the Senate to return on Monday. This is a simple proposition which every person who has been associated with parliamentary life in any parliament of any country of the free world will understand completely. Therefore, I do not think there is any need to chase all the red herrings and nonsense that we have heard for the last 50 or 55 minutes.
Senator MURPHY (New South Wales - Leader of the Opposition) - by leave -I accept the assurances that have been given by the Leader of the Government in the Senator (Sir Kenneth Anderson). In the circumstancesI propose not to oppose this motion.
– Order! The question is: That the motion be agreed to’. Those in favour say ‘Ave’.
Government senators - Aye.
– Those against say No’.
Some Opposition senators - No.
– Order!I think I had better give honourable senators a little advice on what happens on these occasions. Some honourable senators say No’ and some say ‘Aye’. If a division is required, it is right for the Leader of the Government or the Leader of the Opposition to call for a division, in which case the Chair says that the Senate will divide. A practice that has grown up here is that there is a chorus of ‘Ayes’ and a chorus of Noes’ but nobody calls for a division. At this point of time I do not know what honourable senators want.
– Mr President, I suggest to you that you have called for the Ayes’ and for the ‘Noes’ and you have said that the ‘Ayes’ have it. No-one who said ‘No’ has said that the ‘Noes’ have it and no-one from this side has called for a division.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 1) 1970
Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 2) 1970
Excise Tariff Bill 1970
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1970
States Grants (Mental Health Institutions) Bill 1970
Sheltered Employment (Assistance)Bill 1970
Wireless Telegraphy Regulations Bill 1970
Agricultural Tractors Bounty Bill 1970
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a first time.
(9.0) - I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard the second reading speech and accompanying documents which it is not possible to read.
– No. If it were an ordinary Bill I. would not object.
– Leave is not granted.
– Honourable senators will observe that the form of this Bill follows very closely the form of its predecessors for expenditure through the States on Aboriginal advancement. They will, however, note thatthe amount of the grants is now substantially increased, and that the housing component of the grant has been separately expressed. The practice of making these grants to the States started in 1968-69, and it has been continued at an increasing amount in each succeeding year. The total for . 1968-69 was $4m; for 1969-70 it was $5,410,000; and the proposal for this year, 1970-71 is $7m. I have prepared a table showing the annual distribution between the States. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate the table in Hansard.
In regard to Aboriginal advancement the Commonwealth Government does not have exclusive powers or responsibilities but, as in other matters provided under section 51 of the Constitution, it shares these with the States, subject, of course, to the proviso that in case of conflict of Federal and State laws, it is the Federal taw which prevails. For many years now each State has had its own machinery for assistance to its own Aboriginals, and it seemed reasonable when the Commonwealth came into the field that we should utilise this machinery and assist its operation rather than ourselves endeavour to set up suddenly a whole new apparatus on our own account.
Last year, as I have said, Commonwealth grants to the States under this head totalled some §5,410,000. I thought it might be of interest to honourable senators to have details of how this sum was spent and I have therefore had prepared a detailed account and with the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate the table in Hansard after the text of my speech. For this year, as I have said, the allocation is to be increased by almost 50 per cent, that is, from $5,410,000 to $7m. Once again with the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard details of this allocation without reading them.
The Government has earmarked $4,800,000 of the proposed expenditure for this year for housing. Because we believe that this is of special importance to Aboriginal people could I make some special reference to this housing programme? Firstly, the housing programme for Aboriginals must be different in different circumstances. Many Aboriginals are already prepared to go into conventional type houses like other Australians, and we would hope that as soon as practicable all Aboriginals would be so prepared. But in saying this we must have some sense of reality and acknowledge that as at the present moment many of our Aboriginal people, particularly in the northern and central parts of Australia, would not want this kind of accommodation. Secondly, no housing programme can stand by itself. To be successful it requires paralleled employment and training programmes. Thirdly, it must frankly be recognised that a very high proportion of Aboriginals do not yet have the employment capacity or motivation which would enable them to earn enough income to pay normal rents or to make normal capital repayments. To a very large extent, therefore, investment in Aboriginal housing will fail to give any adequate return in terms of money. The profit to be gained from it must be regarded as a social profit rather than a financial one.
It would, I think, be fundamentally wrong to endeavour to force all Aboriginals into conventional type houses. Those who live in cities or towns in the south will, of course, tend to prefer these conventional type houses and their preferences should be met. Other Aboriginals may, however, make a quite different choice. In north and central Australia 3 special problems arise: (a) Where a death has occurred in a house, and even sometimes when the owner of the house has died away from it, it is often the Aboriginal practice to desert the house for a long period or perhaps even permanently. This clearly limits the scope for providing conventional houses in these circumstances; (b) Most Aboriginal people in these areas prefer to live and sleep in the open air, even when a house is available to them except, of course, when the weather is wet; and (c) Housing both for Aboriginals and other Australians needs to be properly adapted to climatic conditions which differ considerably in different parts of Australia.
There is one other matter whose significance is often overlooked. In areas where there are large concentrations of Aboriginals it is of vital importance to involve them to the maximum extent in building for themselves. In the cities, of course, where there are conditions with which most Australians are familiar, Aboriginal housing will tend to be built in the normal way and under normal contract, but in the north and central areas of which I have spoken very different conditions should apply. In these areas there is an endemic shortage of worthwhile employment for Aboriginals, and every effort must be made to involve them in provision of their own housing needs. This will not merely make it possible to satisfy those needs more quickly, but it will also provide them for at least a generation with gainful employment and, at the same time, will have the immense psychological advantage of re-assuring them that they can improve their own conditions of life by their own efforts.
When he became Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs one of the first things Mr Wentworth did was to emphasise the desirability of using Aboriginals in their own building programmes, and some progress has been made towards this objective both in the Northern Territory and elsewhere. In the Northern Territory, for example, a mobile works force based on the employment of Aboriginals has been established and is in operation and, in the various missions, building programmes using Aboriginal labour have been approved on an increasing scale. Nevertheless Mr Wentworth is somewhat disappointed at the pace of our advance in our efforts to involve Aboriginals in providing their own housing, and he is asking his officers to continue to confer with the officers of the Department of the Interior to see whether any improved plans towards this objective can be devised. I realise, of course, that all Aboriginals do not have all the necessary skills, and am well aware that complete success cannot be expected overnight. I am, nevertheless, disappointed at the amount of work which is still being done on Aboriginal housing and associated work on settlements and missions and, indeed, elsewhere by labour which is being brought up from the south, while Aboriginals too often are allowed to sit around at a loose end. It does seem to me that the Queensland authorities, for example, sometimes achieve better results than we do in the Northern Territory in this particular field.
Honourable senators can be assured, however, that both the Minister for the
Interior (Mr Nixon) and myself are fully alive to the over-riding importance of involving Northern Territory Aboriginals in their own building programmes, and we will continue to work towards this end. Perhaps more can be achieved by studies of house design and by finding ways of adapting our designs to local skills and the available local materials.
Before I leave this subject of housing, may I refer to another matter which has been a source of some disappointment to me? Some time ago, Mr Wentworth announced the formation of an Aboriginal Aged Persons Homes Trust to which be hoped those people throughout Australia who profess goodwill towards Aboriginals would make donations. Not only would these donations be deductible for income tax purposes but, in addition, the Government would contribute $2 for ever $1 subscribed. Three very distinguished gentlemen, namely Archbishop Sir Philip Strong, the former Primate of Australia; His Eminence Cardinal Sir Norman Gilroy; and Mr B. B. Callaghan, C.B.E., the Managing Director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation - agreed to act as trustees, and a board of advice consisting entirely of Aboriginals was constituted in order to determine the expenditure of the money for the housing of aged Aboriginals. So far the response of the public to this appeal has been quite minimal Donations should be sent to the Aboriginal Aged Persons Trust Account, Commonwealth Savings Bank, Civic Square, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.
One would have thought that among the many who profess a desire to do something for Aboriginals, more might have been found to co-operate with the Government to provide homes for the aged among them, especially when the effective management of the scheme was in Aboriginal hands. I hope that it will not be long before this lack of support will be a thing of the past. I am anxious for quick subscriptions totalling not less than $250,000, and I repeat that such subscriptions qualify as deduction for income tax purposes. The Government will then add a further $550,000, and we will be able to make a worthwhile impact towards our very worthwhile objective. If I could leave the question of Aboriginal housing. I could say that apart from housing the main expenditure through the States are in education, health and employment. In the health field, while we have made some contribution to the provision of more bricks and mortar in the States, the Office and the Commonwealth Department of Health have been primarily interested in helping the States to improve health services in the areas where Aboriginals are located, and to this end we are financing for a limited period the salaries and costs of community health nurses, public health officers and others in Aboriginal areas. The Department of Health and the Council for Aboriginal Affairs last December organised a workshop of Commonwealth and State health officers and persons engaged in Aboriginal health research in an attempt to pool knowledge about Aboriginal infant health and nutrition and much previously unpublished and uncorrelated information was brought together in this workshop. It is encouraging to be able to report that already some States are seeking financial support within our grants for health projects based on the recommendations of this workshop.
So far as education is concerned, in addition to the amount of $912,000 spent through the States, major amounts are being spent by the Commonwealth directly. I might mention that, in addition to the amounts spent on Aboriginal education through the States, direct Commonwealth expenditure in this field will this year reach $2.3m. Honourable senators will recall that in December 1968 the then Minister for Education and Science and the Minister-in-Charge inaugurated a scheme of study grants for post-secondary and tertiary studies for Aboriginals. The scheme is now into its second year of operation and the results to date are encouraging. During the 1969 academic year 114 Aboriginal scholars were assisted under the scheme, of whom 14 were at the tertiary level. Of these, 33 completed their courses in 1969 and 39 made sufficient progress to proceed to later years or stages of their courses in 1970. During 1970, 240 students are being assisted. I have no doubt that the numbers assisted under the scheme will continue to rise year by year. The introduction of the complementary secondary grants scheme by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen) and the Minister-in-Charge in January this year has had the most encourag ing results. Under this scheme, the Commonwealth assumes financial responsibility for all Aboriginal secondary students from the beginning of the year in which they turn 15 upon certification by their headmasters that they would benefit from fur.ther study. So far in 1970 2,300 Aboriginal students have been granted these secondary grants. This is far more than we had expected, and we have clear evidence that numbers of the scholars have stayed on at secondary schools because of the introduction of the scheme rather than ending their studies at the statutory school leaving age as they would otherwise have done.
Progress has been made during the year under the employment training scheme inaugurated in 1969 by my colleague, the then Minister for Labour and National Service. So far about 500 Aboriginals have been assisted under the scheme, and although this is a small beginning I would expect that increasingly the scheme will help Aboriginals, particularly those emerging from the education system, to become permanently employed. Modifications in the rates payable under the scheme are at present being examined, and I hope that their inauguration will increase the impact of the scheme. I again emphasise that the major aim of all of our efforts in so many varied fields is to assist Aboriginal Australians to qualify for meaningful employment or for self-employment at the highest level which their individual potential makes possible. During the year the Commonwealth has directly interested itself in numerous other fields, with the aims of assisting Aboriginal organisations to provide needed services for Aboriginal citizens and encouraging Aboriginals to retain features of their own culture where they so choose. Thus, during 1969-70 grants totalling $203,000 were made to Aboriginal organisations and other bodies to enable them to make their welfare and other activities more effective. Further grants totalling $296,000 were made to other voluntary organisations for the construction of urban hostels for Aboriginal students and young workers, this being in addition to the hostels financed in some States through our grants. As announced on 21st October 1969, the Office of Aboriginal Affairs assisted the establishment of the National Aboriginal Sports Foundation composed entirely of eminent Aboriginal sportsmen; and, in making grants of $35,000 to Aboriginal sporting bodies during the year, the Government was entirely guided by the advice of this Foundation. We have similarly tried to encourage Aboriginal arts, crafts, and cultural activities, and during the year grants of $53,000 were authorised for these purposes. These grants are helping to stimulate Aboriginal interest, not only in their traditional arts, but also in using their skills in new media. Amongst the more important projects financed under this head have been an Aboriginal Publications Foundation and, in association with the Commonwealth Council for the Arts, the Aboriginal Theatre Foundation.
The Senate will recall that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has promised that ali legislation discriminating against Aboriginals, whether on a State or Federal basis, would be eliminated in the lifetime of this Parliament. This promise will, of course, be kept but I know that the Senate will share my desire that in keeping it we should to the greatest possible extent cooperate with the States rather than use the overriding powers of Commonwealth legislation. Discussions are at present proceeding, and I feel confident that, within the time limit stated by the Prime Minister in his policy speech, I shall be able to make a satisfactory report to the Senate.
Finally, I would wish to record my appreciation of the spirit of co-operation shown by the States, and by mission and other authorities in the States and in the Northern Territory. In particular, I would wish to record the fact that, honouring the undertakings which they gave in 1968, the States are maintaining their levels of expenditure on Aboriginal advancement in general and housing in particular, from their own funds. Indeed, they are increasing these each year in parallel with their normal budgetary increase. The Bill before the Senate deals, of course, with advances to the States, but I have taken the opportunity of touching on other matters dealing with Aboriginal advancement. I thank the Senate for its indulgence and I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Keeffe) adjourned
Debate resumed from 20 October (vide page 1314), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now rend a second time.
– lt is my privilege to lead for the Opposition on this Bill and to make some brief observations on the purpose and the intent of the Bill. Simply, it proposes to repeal section 11 of the Scat of Government (Administration) Act, which applies to courts in the Australian Capital Territory. As the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) stated in his second reading speech :he opportunity has been taken in the Bill to effect a reform by way of repeal of section 1 1 of the principal Act, which confers certain jurisdicition on inferior courts in Jervis Bay territory. As a consequence of the passage of this Bill it will no longer be necessary to have this provision. Jurisdiction conferred by the Court of Petty Sessions Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory will make the section unnecessary and will take the place of the former provision.
The main purpose of the Bill is to make some alterations to the provisions of section 12 of the Act. Honourable senators may recall that some years ago there was accord on the part of Attorneys-General throughout the Commonwealth for a common approach to company law. In the course of time the Company Law Advisory Committee was established, lt made an examination of company law throughout Australia and in due course made certain recommendations for amendments to company law to give effect to ideas which were believed to be, and in fact I think can be demonstrated to be, an improvement on the former legislation.
What we see before us is legislation to amend section 12 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act. which relates to the ordinance-making power. Its purpose is to provide for extra-territorial operation of the Companies Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory, lt may be appropriate for me to mention this observation which was made by the Company Law Advisory Committee:
We think it is important that the legislation should be so expressed as to leave no doubt that the obligation of disclosure-
That is, disclosure of interest in particular companies - is intended to apply to persons resident, or companies incorporated, outside the jurisdiction-
That is, outside the jurisdiction of the Territory proper - its well as to persons or corporations within the jurisdiction.
The crux of the matter really is that the High Court of Australia has held that, as a matter of constitutional law, the laws for the government of the Territory can operate wherever territorially the authority of the Commonwealth runs. However, there is a doubt whether - this is the origin of the amendment - as a matter of statutory construction, the ordinance making power conferred by section 12 of the Seat of Government .(Administration) Act 1910-1965 enables an ordinance to be given such - an extra-territorial operation. The purpose of this Bill is to cure any defect that may exist so that the Ordinance will have extra-territorial operation.
The power at present given by section 12 is to make Ordinances ‘having the force of law in the Territory’. That is the expression that is used. This Bill provides for a power to make Ordinances ‘for the peace, order and good government of the Territory’. In his second reading speech the Minister went on to say that the form of words proposed is a time honoured one and that it is used in a number of other ordinances. The present form has been held by the courts to prevent laws from having extra-territorial effect.
The amendments to the Companies Acts, as we were told in the second reading speech, will give effect to recommendations by the Company Law Advisory Committee. This committee consisted of Mr Justice Eggleston, who was the Chairman. Mr J. M. Rodd C.B.E… and Mr P. C. E. Cox. This advisory committee from which as 1 mentioned earlier the amendment originated, reports to the Commonwealth. The Advisory Committee has recommended amendments to require the disclosure of substantial shareholdings in companies and improve the effectiveness of the takeover code. The provisions requiring disclosure of substantial shareholdings will require a person having a beneficial interest in not less than one-tenth of the voting capital in a company listed on an Australian stock exchange to disclose that interest. The effect of this will be to prevent concealment by means of nominee shareholders. The new takeover provisions will prevent circumvention of the code by means such as first-come first-served offers.
I think I have outlined the principles behind this measure, the reason why it comes before us now, and what its effect will be. I mention finally that not having studied law and not knowing the meaning of expressions as one well acquainted with law would, I am intrigued in this day and age with the expression ‘for the peace, order and good government of the Territory’. This amendment has the effect of giving the Ordinance more widespread effect. In other words, its effect may be. felt outside the Territory. The intention, as [ have indicated, is to cure the defect in the present provision. I am very pleased to hear that the use of the term ‘peace, order and good government of the Territory’ will achieve that objective. We of the Opposition do not offer any objection to the passage of the Bill.
– 1 want to say a few words on the Seat of Government (Administration) Bill. As Senator Devitt has said, the Opposition offers no objection to it. Insofar as a law that is essential for the peace, order and good government of the Territory should apply to anyone in Australia over which the Government has control, whether at the time he is resident in the Australian Capital Territory or his office of administration is outside the Territory, and as it is an extension of the Government’s power over companies the Opposition could not oppose the legislation. It is most essential, as was recommended by the Company Law Advisory Committee, that a company should show its equity whether it is registered in the Australian Capital Territory or outside. Despite that, I have some misgivings about the legislation. Although I am not opposing the proposal, I want it to be recorded that I do express those misgivings. 1 shall explain them to the Parliament because I think there is the possibility of abuse of such wide powers as we are giving to the Governor-General. There have been few occasions when the possibility of abuse has not been used. Such acts bring the law into disrepute and necessitate its alteration.
If we look at the principal Act we see that the Governor-General had certain powers. Section 12 (1.) states:
Hie Governor-General may make Ordinances having the force of law in the Territory.
Of course, without any reference to the Parliament at all the Governor-General could make any law and it had the force of law in the Territory. The opinion has been held that these laws operated within the Territory only and not outside. The High Court looked at this question in the case of the Federal Capital Commission v. Lariston Building and Investment Co. Pty Ltd in 1929, when it held that regulations made by the Governor-General under this Ordinance, which were repugnant to a subsequent Act of the Parliament, were held to be void. Therefore if an order made by the Governor-General conflicted with an Act of Parliament, the Governor-General’s order did not apply. If Parliament desires to exercise its rights, obviously it has that right. Normally I do not think Parliament would give to the Governor-General the power to make laws for the Territory without some enactment by the Parliament. In Parliament the people’s elected representatives have the right to say whether a law is correct and whether it should be put into operation. This provision is obviously the most far spread form of executive control of the Territory. lt is proposed to alter section 12(1.) of the Act so that the Governor-General may make ordinances for the peace, order and good government of the Territory. An ordinance having been made, it will have the force of law unless a federal law is in contradiction with it. Some order made by the Governor-Genera) will have the force of law over anyone in Australia if the order is made for the peace, order and good government of the Territory, lt could well be that some action of mine in South Australia could conflict with something which the Governor-General decides - in other words which the Executive Council decides - is contrary to the peace, order and good government of the Territory. Without any debate or consideration in Parliament some activity of a citizen in a State could well be found to be outside the laws of the Commonwealth because this power has been given to the GovernorGeneral. I am inclined to think that this power is far in excess of what the Parliament should give.
– What does the honourable senator mean by ‘outside the laws of the Commonwealth’? I do not quite understand. An act may be outside the law?
– No; an action of an individual may be outside the law.
– Yes - ‘it may Se outside the law’. What does the honourable senator mean by that?
– He may be :n contravention of the law of the Commonwealth.
– ls not this a lav. of the Commonwealth?
– Yes. that is the point I am making. Some activity of an individual in Queensland could be decided to be against the interest of peace, order and good government of the Territory by the Governor-General making an ordinance prohibiting the activity of an individual in a State. Because of this the individual would be acting contrary to the law of the Commonwealth. This could happen without any discussion by Parliament as to whether it is a proper law of the Commonwealth. At any time the Executive Council may decide, in effect, that the action of any citizen of the Commonwealth is an unlawful action. Therefore I suggest this power is too wide. We are caught in the net on this occasion. The GovernorGeneral already has that power within the Australian Capital Territory. He has only to exercise that power and he can make an ordinance applicable to people living outside the Territory.
– Are not ordinances made in this House subject to disallowance?
– Yes, 1 would think ordinances are.
– That does not answer Senator Cavanagh’s point. Until the ordinances are disallowed they are operative.
– They are like regulations.
– They are like regulations - subject to disallowance within 15 days. If Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson succeeds and Parliament rises on Friday the Governor-General could make :m ordinance under this legislation on Monday of next week. It would have force of law until some time in February next year. A citizen in my State partaking of Christmas dinner could bc offending against a direction of the Governor-General.
– That may come into conflict with section 116 of the Constitution.
– Perhaps a religious festival is protected but a pagan festival would not be. On Christmas Day we may be exempt. This wide power was handed over to the Executive Council. Now we are extending it beyond the Australian Capital Territory to cover companies and citizens in the States. Section 51 of the Constitution gives us ample power to introduce legislation without giving the Governor-General these extensive powers. Under Section 51 (20) of the Constitution we have power over foreign, trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth. Therefore what we are seeking by an ordinance of the Governor-General to extend to companies we could seek by legislation of this House. I still think that would be the proper way to do it. But we are committed to the legislation as it now stands and it extends the operation of Commonwealth law to those living outside the Territory. I am of the opinion that at some time in the near future we should have a good look at this legislation to see whether it should not be repealed. Parliament should carry out its function of governing the country. It should not be governed by Executive control.
– I did not intend to speak on the Seat of Government (Administration) Bill. I rise only because of certain comments made by Senator Cavanagh. As I understand the measure proposed by this legislation it is simply designed to amend Section 12(1.) of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act. The amendment which is sought is to repeal section 12(1.) and to substitute a new section 12 (1.). The old section 12 (1.) provided:
The Governor-General may make Ordinances having the force of law in the Territory.
The amendment will express the subsection in a somewhat wider form. It states:
The Governor-General may make Ordinances for the peace, order and good government of the Territory.
An examination of the change indicates the width of what is now intended. Ordinances made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act will embrace within their purview actions and, conceivably. persons who may not be in the Territory. It is a well established proposition that a power to make laws having force within a geographical area will be limited to that geographical area. Yet a power to make laws with respect to a wider area, even though the laws may be related to the geographical area, may apply to persons who have some nexus or connection with that geographical area. It is well established that the States, under the Imperial Acts which established them, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the States. That power has been recognised on numerous occasions to enable laws to be made which operate in respect of actions, events and persons who may be outside the State. For example it is appropriate that there should be power to pass criminal laws in relation to offences. Those laws are capable of being applied to persons outside the State providing only that the offender or the offence has a real connection with the peace, order and good government of the State which passes the law. In areas of company law, workers’ compensation and, indeed, in the broad field of law it is desirable that there be a law which can reach beyond the territorial area of the government which passes the law and touch those persons whose conduct, directly in a real and substantial way, affects events inside the Territory. It is a lawyer’s proposition. I recognise the merit of something which it might be said the Government has taken some 50 or 60 years to change. I appreciate the concern which Senator Cavanagh expressed but I feel that he can rely on 2 safeguards which are available to him. The first is the safeguard that all ordinances are subject to disallowance. Whilst that may not be the best safeguard, for reasons which he advanced and which, I think. Senator Murphy indicated by way of interjection, nevertheless it is a real power which is not to be despised or ignored because of the time which may elapse before its full utility may be demonstrated. The second safeguard is that if a person feels aggrieved that he is being affected by the unfair operation of a law he always has access to the courts.
– If he has the money to go there.
– I think it is fair to point out that legal aid schemes exist in all States of the Commonwealth at the moment. Although they may differ in efficacy from State to State, nevertheless a legal aid scheme exists, particularly in regard to criminal matters, which would 1 think safeguard any individual who put forward the plea that he would not be able to have legal assistance because of a lack of funds. Even within the Australian Capital Territory there is an embryonic legal aid system which will, when the proposed legal practitioners ordinance is finally established as law in the Australian Capital Territory, enable the Australian Capital Territory Law Society to establish an effective legal aid scheme. The courts will always nullify and destroy the operation of any legislation or ordinance which seeks to reach out and touch persons where the event in respect of which the offence is sought to be established does not. have a real connection with the peace, order and good government of the Territory, 1 said earlier that I rose only because I felt that remarks which had been made by Senator Cavanagh required some contrary view to be put. I would suggest to the Senate that the concern he has expressed is a concern which, in operation, ought not to give any worry to persons outside the Australian Capital Territory who may feel thai they could be affected by some ordinance which is made by the Governor-General.
– Some important matters have been raised in relation to the far reaching effect of this Bill. I believe that it is in the public interest that the doubts which have arisen be removed. I believe that it will serve to help make Australia one country, as was hoped at the time of federation. This will not be achieved while there exists in the Seat of Government (Administration) Act a provision which restricts the operation of ordinances made in the Australian Capital Territory to the Australian Capital Territory and does not allow them to have the wide application which they can have by the use of the words ‘peace, order and good government’.
– I do not think that that has been established. It is feared that that may be the case. I do not think that it is conclusive that that limitation applies.
– One of the questions which might arise - perhaps this will help to clarify the matter for Senator Byrne - is whether the words ‘having the force of law in the Territory’ mean thai the law can be enforced only in the Territory. If the occasion arose that such a law could not be enforced otherwise than in the Territory-
– My point is that the Leader of the Opposition is stating it as an established proposition whereas there is some doubt as to whether that is in fact the position in law.
– Perhaps 1 should draw the attention of the Senate to the case of Anderson v. Eric Anderson Radio and TV Pty Ltd, which was decided in 1965. The case appears in 114 Commonwealth Law Reports commencing at page 20. In the course of his judgment Chief Justice Barwick said:
The authority given to the Governor-General to make such an Ordinance-
He was referring to the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance - ls to be found in the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1912 which provides that the Ordinances which the Governor-General makes pursuant to that Act shall have the force of law in the Australian Capital Territory (section 12). So far as rights of action have been continued or created by legislation passed for the Australian Capital Territory these rights are rights enforceable in the courts of the Australian Capital Territory and clearly, in my opinion, not in any other court by virtue of that legislation.
Similar observations were made by other judges.
– lt might be a question of the jurisdiction in which one brings an action rather than the application of the law.
– This was a part of the reasoning which led to the denial to the plaintiff of a verdict which he had received in the District Court of New South Wales. I think it arose out of an accident involving the plaintiff and a company which was resident in New South Wales. The action was brought in New South Wales. The learned judge took the view that he could apply in a New South Wales court the law of the Australian Capital Territory which applied in the place where the accident occurred. If Australia is to be the one nation it is important that the laws of the Australian Capital Territory should be integrated into the rest of the system by use of the words ‘peace, order and good government’ as the limiting or non-limiting criteria.
– Which is it, limiting or non-limiting?
– lt is really intended to be a word of very wide application, as was indicated by Senator Greenwood. The words ‘having the force of law in the Territory’ are extremely restrictive. They are so restrictive that in the opinion of the Chief Justice, whose views I have quoted, they would prevent the law being applied in other territories of the Commonwealth. In my view this situation cannot be permitted to continue. Obviously this measure should he passed.
I wish to make a few comments on some other remarks which have been made. Senator Greenwood observed that the States have the capacity to pass laws having extra-territorial effect, but that there are certain sensible limitations, i would rather think that the authority for that and for whatever the States do comes not from the Imperial law but from sections 106 and 107 of our Constitution, which preserve the State constitutions and the powers of the State parliaments. It would be preferable for us to think in terms of the power deriving from our Constitution rather than elsewhere, but it amounts to the same thing.
I think attention should be paid to the proposition which was put forward by Senator Cavanagh. The main point he, made is that the Governor-General has very great powers to make ordinances which can apply for lengthy periods before either House of the Parliament has a chance to disallow them. Certainly there may be some circumstances in which the breadth of these laws is such that it is quite undesirable that they should be made by the Governor-General - in effect, the Government - and not by the Parliament. Senator Cavanagh referred to the extra territorial types of laws. There may be occasions when these arise. However, I think his argument is all the stronger if one considers them as law making powers, irrespective of whether they operate in the Territory or, in some special circumstances, outside of the Territory.
Perhaps it is time that the Parliament undertook the task of making the main laws for this Territory, especially those intended to have extra territorial effect, and of confining the area in which the ordinances should be made. I am not very much impressed with the suggestions that a citizen would not be affected because he could get legal aid. If a legal aid scheme is embryonic in the Australian Capital Territory, the period of gestation is exceedingly long. There has been no sign of a proper legal aid scheme being established here, or indeed in the States. In the States legal aid does not extend to most criminal offences, affecting mast of the population, which are dealt with in the magistrates’ courts. By far the larger part of criminal law is not covered by a system of legal aid. Only the more serious cases are so covered.
In my view this legislation has been long overdue. I would like to see it passed and I would like to see dealt with a lot of other necessary legislation in the legal field. I do not think it is right that we should have to wait until matters of company law or property rights arise before attention is given to these affairs. The law of the ACT is disgraceful, lt has been commented on over a period of years by judges, I think by the Law Society, individuals and professors of law and still it continues in that state. I think the workers’ compensation legislation is completely and utterly unfair to the workers in this community. This has also been pointed out on many occasions. If this Government has had the consideration it claims to have had for the under-privileged in this community, it ought long ago to have set out to reform the laws, especially the social laws of this Territory which are within its province. So far as this legislation is a step towards improving the laws of the Commonwealth, we will support it.
– f wish to make one or two observations on this matter. It is significant that apparently the stimulus to the presentation of this Bill before the Senate came from a commercial cause. As Australia has developed we have found in more recent years that Canberra has become an area of commercial resort for various commercial operatives in many parts of Australia. Advantage has been taken here of the nature of the law. Inhibitions which exist elsewhere may not exist here for companies to establish themselves and to register here, and to become in a legal sense resident here, and for other people to operate and control their businesses from the Australian Capital Territory. In those circumstances it becomes increasingly important that such laws as apply to those who would choose to resort here, whether personally or in a legal corporate capacity, should have such application as would touch upon their activities in other parts of Australia insofar as those activities would violate the law of the place where they have chosen to take up their corporate residence.
This Bill is the type of legislation that indicates the growing sophistication of business in Australia, the growing integrity of the Commonwealth and the new significance which the Australian Capital Territory is assuming in Australian commercial life. The concern we feel about these developments is probably more unreal than factual. Little is done by this Bill except to resolve some elements of doubt as to the extra territorial operation of the Commonwealth law made in those circumstances. The term which has been used is one which, in expected judicial interpretation, would remove the possibility of such a law being considered as not having extra territorial effect. In fact, the ordinance still only makes the matter a matter of law as it did in another term when it said that it shall have the effect of law. The only point is that it is expressed in terms which it would be anticipated judicially would be interpreted as beyond doubt, indisputably giving such law an extra territorial operation.
For those reasons the legislation is salutary. lt is prompted by the real demands of commercial considerations and of course will have operation insofar as it affects human beings in the application of the criminal law, and with the mobility which is part and parcel of modern life. Not only within Australia but beyond Australia and throughout the world, legislation of this character has become increasingly necessary. For those reasons the Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the Bill.
– in reply - As this Bill is not opposed by either the Australian Labor Party or the Australian Democratic Labor Party, or by any expert on this side of the chamber I do not think I should say a great deal more to add to the argument, which has been extremely learned and interesting.
– What about the independent senator?
– The independent senator, who might have spoken on this matter, is in New York and has not indicated his views to us by cable or appointed a proxy to vote in his place. He is in a state of extra territorial suspension.
– ls he not in New York as a delegate to the United Nations at the moment?
– Yes. I intended no offence. Senator Turnbull was appointed by the Government to go to New York as delegate to the United Nations, in accor dance with the customary practice as it applies to other senators, from both sides of the chamber. No offence was intended or should be taken. I wish to make a point with respect to what I thought was an unnecessary correction of myself by Senator Cavanagh. I think it was properly answered by Senator Greenwood. My advisers have to’d me that the burden of Senator Cavanagh’s concern was satisfactorily dealt with by Senator Greenwood. Provisions similar to that about which misgivings and the abuses of much wider powers were expressed exist in the Northern Territory (Administration) Act, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act, Christmas Island Act and Norfolk Island Act. The Senate has power to disallow any ordinance under section 12 and the Parliament has power to prevent any abuse. It is not proposed that all ordinances should have extra territorial effect, lt is proposed that only such legislation or company ordinances should have this effect. Further, Parliament can oversee through its disallowance powers. The courts are the final arbiters, not the Governor-General.
Senator Murphy referred to law reform. If I may say so, I thought he was very interesting, particularly on the proposition that we should make certain that in the Senate we have adequate power and that it is in no way weaker than State powers. Even I, in my untrained legal state, can appreciate the wisdom of that argument. An announcement was made a few months ago by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) about the proposed establishment of a Law Reform Commission. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr Hughes), the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) and the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) have all announced moves in the field oflaw reform. I am informed that substantial progress has already been made and that the Government has announced its intention to continue to improve the law of the Australian Capital Territory.I do not think I should add to what I have said. AsI said quite seriously before, we have had an interesting and useful discussion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 21 October (vide page 1326). on motion by Senator Drake- Brockman:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is a machinery Bill which is not opposed by the Opposition. At the same time it is a very important measure because it involves the expenditure of $3,379,000 by way of a bounty on non-fat milk products. This is something new; it applies to skim milk powder, buttermilk powder and casein. It is interesting to note that this Bill has been introduced to take the place of legislation providing for devaluation payments made over the last 3 years as a result of the currency devaluation in Great Britain. In the Estimates debate for the last 2 years, and again this year, I have commented on the fact that the Government was still making devaluation payments when obviously it was well known to all producers and all manufacturers that there had been a change in the value of sterling in the United Kingdom and now of the dollar.
This is an interesting Bill. You will recall, Mr Deputy President, that in a recent debateI advocated an appreciation of the value of proteins exported from this country. The world is crying out for proteins, not for carbohydrates, and we should be considering ways of increasing our protein exports. It is worth noting that our exports of skim milk powder and casein have increased considerably over the last 12 months. The increase is of the order of 16 per cent. In 1969-70 we produced 91,000 tons of skim milk powder of which we exported 52,800 tons, which is a very significant amount. That 16 per cent increase on the previous year represented a very creditable performance. We produced 35,500 tons of casein of which 30,000 tons was exported. However, a problem is going to arise. These are by-products of our butter and cheese. At the moment there is a limit on the production of butterfat and cheese in order to attract the bounty from the Government and to establish the price of 34c for butterfat. The limit is 220,000 tons of butterfat and 70,000 tons of cheese.I envisage that if our export market increases, as would appear to be the case, the Government may have to give consideration to this trend and see what can be done to assist production of dried milk and casein.
There is only one point about the Bill itself to which I want to refer. Section 5 of the principal Act, which is being amended, relates to the rate of bounty to be paid.I would like the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brock man), who represents the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), to give the Senate some explanation of the complicated method set out for the determination of the bounty. I am referring now only to dried milk; the situation is even more complicated in the case of casein. Clause 5 of the Bill states, in part: “ (2.) The rare of the bounty in respect of any dried milk product or casein produced and exported during the year that commenced on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and seventy, shall be ascertained in accordance with the formula
I think this could have been explained in a much more simple way. I do not see why it had to be so complicated. Also, 1 think that the wording of the definitions of ‘a’ and ;c’ are too close to being identical to convey to the mind of the ordinary reader of the Bill what is meant. The Senate will notice that ‘a’ is ‘a number equal to the number of pounds of the dried milk product’ and that ‘c’ is ‘a number equal to the number of pounds of the total quantity of dried milk products produced and exported during that year’. Apparently this is just the difference between production and export during the year. So a fraction of the amount of $1,804,000 is to be made available by way of a bounty to dried milk products. I think the Minister should give us a little explanation of this.
I think the other parts of the Bill represent a step in the right direction. We are doing away with the provision for devaluation payments that operated in the past and are putting this on a firmer basis, a more businesslike basis. The Opposition supports the Bill but would like the explanation I referred to if it is available.
– The Senate is debating the Processed Milk Products Bounty (No. 2) Bill 1970. Basically it provides for payment of a bounty of $3,379,000 on skim milk powder, buttermilk powder and casein products to be exported in this current year. This Bill gives some indication of the Government’s support for the dairying industry - one of our most important primary industries. There are one or two very interesting points to be noted about the Bill, ft has been traditional for the Government to support sales of these products by way of bounty. Within the dairying industry in the last year or so there has been movement towards the creation of a problem in the form of a build up of stocks of various items. It is interesting to note that within the last 12 months stocks of skim milk powder in particular were building up to such an extent that quite a problem was about to be created in the dairy industry.
It is also interesting to note that I was advised by a number of factories that as at last June they were unable to complete their orders because of a lack of supply of the powder required for export. It is particularly important that in these times of trouble in primary industry this very fact be noted as one that is ever attendant on primary industry. People enter into production in a variety of primary industries not knowing what will be the outcome for the coming year. This is emphasised by the fact that the weather, the demand by overseas buyers and even the demand by the local consumers may vary terrifically in a given year. In this Bill the Government again has emphasised its interest in stabilising the diary industry.
One matter that concerns me about this Bill is the suggestion that this bounty will rule out any devaluation compensation being paid on the products in question this year. 1 have some concern at devaluation compensation being eliminated in respect of those industries that have been disadvantaged by the decision of the Federal Government not to follow the devaluation that occurred in Great Britain some years ago. 1 believe that that problem is still with us and that industries are still suffering from the devaluation that took place. But I agree with the Government that in this instance the increased bounty it has offered should allow for devaluation compensation during this year to be ruled out. Perhaps it is encouraging to think that in future years the bounty payment will be such that the Government will be able to make a statement that devaluation compensation will be included in the amount of bounty paid. The Government, by this Bill, demonstrates its support for a very important Australian primary industry. T have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– In my speech in the second reading debate I asked for an explanation of the formula that is included in proposed sub-section (2.) of section 5 of the Act. I hope that the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), who represents the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) will be able to give an answer on that now.
– Senator Wilkinson wanted an explanation of proposed sub-section (2.) of section 5 of the Act. The explanation that I give him is that it has been necessary to make provision for a new formula for dried milk products and casein as the one that we have in operation at the present time relates to the butterfat content of processed milk products. The formula for dried milk products and casein provides a rate of bounty based on the amount appropriated divided by the total quantity of products produced and exported during i 970-7 1. Putting that into layman’s language and referring to the formula to which Senator Wilkinson referred - ab - , where ‘a’ is the number of pounds of the c dried milk product or casein;
– That is ‘c’ is it not?
– No; ‘b’ is the amount appropriated and ‘c’ is the total amount exported in pounds. Both ‘a’ and ‘c’ are in pounds.
– But the Bill says produced and exported’. That is why I am questioning it. The Bill says that ‘c’ is the amount produced and exported and ‘a’ is the number of pounds of dried milk product or casein.
– No; ‘a’ is the amount in pounds produced by a particular factory and ‘c’ is the total amount in pounds produced by all factories and exported.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 26 October (vide page 1502), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When the debate on this Bill was interrupted last night I had just commenced the few remarks that I desire to make on it. I would like the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle
Rankin) to consider the proposition that when money is made available to the various States there should be some stipulation as to the quality of the work for which the money is used. I seriously suggest that the Minister could call a conference of State Ministers for Housing for the purpose of discussing how they could improve housing construction in the various States.
This is pertinent now because a committee of the New South Wales Parliament came to the conclusion that there was much racketeering in housing construction in that State. What was found by the parliamentary committee in New South Wales has been expressed repeatedly by various members of the Senate, lt applies to all States of the Commonwealth. We have not had a parliamentary committee to detail the list of grievances - the faulty workmanship, the non-payment of workmen, the sub-contracting system and the nonpayment of building material suppliers. If we had a committee in each State, those committees would find that the position was similar to that found in New South Wales.
By interjection I was asked about the position of the South Australian Housing Trust. From my considerable experience with it, 1 say that it is as bad as any other builder in South Australia and possibly is the one mainly responsible for shoddy work in that State. It introduced shoddy work originally. It has constructions that are a disgrace and a fraud on anyone who is purchasing a home. I am convinced (hat no-one thought it was possible to get into an argument with Senator Laucke. But last night he interjected, apparently with great confidence in the South Australian Housing Trust.
– I think he was right, too.
– That is a confidence which is shared by anyone who takes a superficial view only of housing construction in South Australia. In that State we have through the South Australian Housing Trust good town planning - I suppose the best in Australia - and good architectural designing, but from that stage on the Trust lets out contracts for housing construction. The Trust builds no houses itself. In the early years of the
Trust’s operation the building firms of E. F. Marshall and Sons Pty Ltd. R. P. Brimblecombe and Sons Pty Ltd and M. C. Wood Pty Ltd were engaged solely on work for the Housing Trust and built possibly some of the best houses in Australia. But then the Trust let contracts to overseas firms and fly by night firms on a subcontract basis. Even during the last discussion that I had with Merv. Wood, although at that time he was building a good type of construction he admitted to me that he had to compete with other building firms which were erecting homes for the Housing Trust and that he also had to let work out to sub-contract.
– Does the honourable senator claim that these houses are not supervised in any way by the Trust?
– I think they are supervised by the Trust, but the supervision is such that when a group of houses was under construction at Christies Beach the Trust was not prepared to pay a supervisor to work at the week-end. The subcontractor insisted that he attend as it was essential for them to work at the week-end in order to earn award wages. As a result the builder paid the Housing Trust supervisor to be on the site at the week-end. This indicates the extent of supervision by the South Australian Housing Trust.
– I understood that the other day the honourable senator was complaining about footings and he seemed to be making the rather severe criticism that the Trust did not supervise the pouring of footings.
– As a matter of policy the Trust will not put footings below the surface of the ground because to do so increases the cost of construction. The attitude of the Trust is that its sole purpose is to build houses as cheaply as possible. It is erecting dwellings on soil which is not suitable for the construction of any kind of building. Unlike the State Bank of South Australia or the War Service Homes Division, the Housing Trust will not put a footing into the ground, the result being that many constructions are defective. People who tour through the city of Elizabeth admire what they ses, but after the Housing Trust had been building in that area for 12 months there had been nothing but bad reports about the dwel lings it had constructed. Consequently, thi: Trust had to change the type of foundation that it was pouring. The foundations which had been used were not suitable for the type of soil and were able to carry a brick veneer or timber frame construction only. The foundations were inadequate to carry the bearing load of any other type of construction at Elizabeth.
Since that first 12 months of the Trust’s operation in Elizabeth all dwellings have been of brick veneer construction, that is, a timber frame with a brick shell about it. As a secretary of a trade union, at one time I was concerned to try to keep up building standards to a strict craft qualification. The qualification was not difficult to comply with as plasterers were not required to be proficient in mould running, lettering or arching, which are not necessary in building construction. They were required to be proficient in normal building operations only. We had a system whereby a man could establish his craft ability by undertaking a trade test conducted by the South Australian Education Department at its technical school. A tradesman’s ability was assessed by representatives of the Education Department, an employers’ organisation and the trade unions. Among those who failed the trade test on 2 occasions were 2 people who were given contracts as plasterers for the South Australian Housing Trust.
As a member of a deputation I saw the Liberal Premier of South Australia at that time and also Mr Ramsay, the Managing Director of the South Australian Housing Trust, complaining about the standard of building in South Australia and about the general faulty workmanship. There was no denial of our complaint. Within the last 6 months, at the request of the honourable member for Bonython (Mr Nicholls) in another place, I inspected a house at Elizabeth in order to advise a prospective purchaser as to the best thing to do. My advice was: ‘For God’s sake, get out of the place or it will fall down around you.’ On occasions the Housing Trust has had to find other accommodation for people who have been living in Housing Trust houses which have had to be replaced. In the area behind the Yatala Labour Prison was a group of houses which I inspected and about which I complained. I was told that the owner of one of the houses had grown a watermelon near the footings and that the watering of the watermelon had caused cracking right throughout the house. 1 would not have made these references to the Housing Trust had it not been for an interjection. But this is the sort of thing that is happening in South Australia at present.
One fibrous plaster firm boasted to me that 2 fixers employed by the firm were the most profitable employees that it had had during the preceding 12 months. Although 5 jobs undertaken by this firm had to be re-done because they had been condemned, sufficient of these jobs were passed to enable those fixers to be the most profitable employed by the company. In New South Wales an inquiry into the building industry was conducted by a committee under the chairmanship of Mr Healey, the member for Wakehurst, who said thai the committee was confident that the committee’s proposal would protect the public from snide and speculative builders who had neither the technical competence nor the financial security to enable them to work in a proper and ethical manner. These are some of the problems with which the building trade is faced. In the course of this inquiry the committee was told that 355 building companies had been wound up in the past 8 years, owing creditors more than $14m. Evidence was given also that .suppliers of building equipment to the industry were writing off about SI Om each year in bad debts.
– Which Stale is that?
– New South Wales. The inquiry resulted in the establishment of a committee. I recall that when Senator Bishop was secretary of the Trades and Labour Council in South Australia an accountant, whose name I forget but who is now the South Australian Agent-General in London, was acting for building suppliers. We were having meetings with him to see what could be done to stop building firms becoming bankrupt and to prevent building suppliers from being hit so hard through losses. As I have mentioned, in New South Wales suppliers of building materials are writing off about $1 Om a year in bad debts. As those firms are not becoming bankrupt, obviously this is an additional $10m which is being met by the more viable organisations which are adding the cost to home construction. There is the question also of the effect on purchasers of homes when builders become bankrupt. I suggest that there should be a national licensing of builders. I believe that the Commonwealth would not have power to license builders on a national settle, but it could act in this way within its own territories and could seek to extend the licensing by agreement with the States. The licensing of builders could be made a condition for the grant of financial assistance to a State.
– What basis do you think should be accepted for licensing a builder? On what conditions would you license him - because of his capital, his ability or financial backing?
– His technical knowledge, ability, his business acumen and his capital. It is ridiculous to give to someone a contract when it is beyond his capital capacity to carry out that contract. All these questions would have to be considered. We should ensure that approved sub-contractors only are employed on buildings. Sub-contracting is a system which has been devised to avoid paying award wages, to avoid the payment of payroll tax, to avoid the payment of workers’ compensation and to avoid safety regulations as laid down in various scaffolding acts throughout Australia. The New South Wales committee found that there is a dearth of skilled tradesmen in the building industry. If building activity increased substantially there would be some difficulty in getting experienced men. The industry is not taking on apprentices; it is unable to employ them. A builder does not employ tradesmen these days. He subcontracts his work. The subcontractor does not have the continuity of work to enable him to tie himself up for 5 years with an apprentice. Therefore there is a lack of apprenticeships in the building industry. There should be some system of planned production, as there was after the last war under the postwar rehabilitation scheme so that the industry is not subject to fluctuation. The economy should not be restricted because of the position of the building industry.
While I seek the support that I mentioned, I ask the Minister to look at the state of the industry. It is of very little use to say that the Commonwealth Government is providing 8 per cent more than it did last year. Is it meeting the requirements of the industry? In a Press statement on 16th July the Minister stated that in the past 6 months signs were appearing that home building was more than sufficient to meet the demands in one or two regions. Subsequently I asked the Minister where were the one or two regions. The reply was that they were in Western Australia and New South Wales. At the time that the Minister found that the rate of home building was more than sufficient to meet the demands, the Western Australian Housing Commission had 15.000 applicants on its books. In New South Wales the number was 32.000 - an increase from 28,000 the previous year. How anyone could state that signs were appearing that home building was more than sufficient to meet demands when there were such waiting lists. I do not know. Subsequently the Minister stated that it was expected that activity in the building trade would increase everywhere, with the possibility of some decline in New South Wales. Senator McClelland was unable to obtain information as to why there should he a possibility of a decli ne in New South Wales. It is necessary for married couples to make what is possibly a lifetime investment - the biggest investment that a married couple makes. They are in need of and deserve a better deal than is handed to them at present.
On the matter of poor building, the Building Workers’ Industrial Union of Australia 2 years ago issued a booklet showing the pitfalls associated with building operations and the signing of contracts. It was in great demand throughout Australia. In its latest statement it points out, I think pertinently:
The 1 per cent increase in interest rules announced in 1969 by the then Treasurer, the honourable W. McMahon. and the further 1 per cent increase announced by the Reserve Bank in 1970 will cost the borrower $2.50 a week extra over 20 years on an average loan of S8.500 or an extra $2,600 over the full period of repayment of the loan.
This is on a loan of §8,500. That sum is an unrealistic one for the construction of a home. Those who build today deserve more consideration than balancing the economy, which places an extra $2,600 on the cost of a home. The statement points out:
As a result of Government policy Government housing declined by 10 per cent in the 2 years ended 1969 - from 16,408 houses and flats in 1966- 67 to 14,611 in 1968-69. During the 9 months ended March 1970, the number of Government houses and flats completed totalled 11,494, which is below the 1966-67 rate. The average quarterly approval for Government houses and flats during the year ended December 1969 was 4,816 but during the quarter ended March 1970 the number of approvals for Government houses and flats was only 3,243 or 37 per cent below the 1969 quarterly average.
The statement shows that, while there is a need, there is some decline in the number of houses being constructed. The need must be greater today because of our increased population. The Minister mentioned the population increase in her statement of 16th July. In June 1968 the population was 12,030,800. In June 1969 it was 12,296,900. In December 1969 it was 12,445,900. That represented a total increase over the 18 months of 415,100. The number of marriages rose from 102,512 in 1967-68 to 109,630 in 1968-69, an increase of 7,120. The excess of births over deaths in 1967-68 was 127,296. In 1968-69 the figure was 139,040. That was 1 1 .744 greater than in the previous year. The net migration gain was 93,360 in 1967- 68. In 1 968-69” it was 126,424. That was 33,064 greater than in the previous year. The need for homes has increased. The Government’s contribution to government housing construction has fallen during that period.
If we look at the returns of the Slate housing commissions we find that the supply of homes is not meeting the demand. The last annual report of the New South Wales Housing Commission shows that the number of applicant families with one or more children totalled 13,244; the number of elderly person applicants totalled 2.689; elderly couple applicants totalled 700; couples without children applicants totalled 2.415. That was the position in New South Wales. In Victoria the Housing Commission’s report disclosed that there were 9,740 new applicants in the year 1968-69 and 4,103 new and old dwellings were occupied during the year. In June 1969 14,295 applicants remained unsatisfied. How can the Government say that we are catching up with the position when the number of unsatisfied applicants in each State is increasing? During the year 1968- 69 the number of new dwellings completed in Victoria was 2,131, compared with 2,214 in 1967-68 and 3,116 in 1966-67 - a drop of about 30 per cent in 2 years, lt is also to be noted that 154 dwellings were provided for Service personnel in 1968-69.
The latest report of the Queensland Housing Commission discloses that the number of completed dwellings under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement in 1968-69 was 1,678, compared with 1,716 the previous year. This shows a decline in the number of houses built in Queensland. The annual report of the Queensland Housing Commission does not disclose the number of applicants. However, in a letter dated 22nd June the Queensland Housing Commission advised that as at 31st March 1970 it had received 5,144 applications for rental housing. No figures are kept of the number of applicants seeking to purchase government houses.
If we look at the situation in Western Australia we find that the number of applicants for government housing in June 1969 were 15,174. This is the State about which the Minister said that the number of homes available were more than sufficient to meet the demand. As I said, the number of applicants for government housing were 15,174 but the Housing Commission estimated that the real demand was 11,499. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement 1.475 dwellings were completed in 1968-69. Old and new CommonwealthState dwellings occupied during 1968-69 totalled 3,387. However, 8,112 applicants remained unsatisfied.
In the city of Canberra we And that Department of the Interior statistics for the quarter January to March 1970 show that there were 5,249 applicants for government housing and of these 247 were accommodated and 630 cancelled their applications, which left 4,372 customers who were not satisfied. Of course, this area does not rely on Commonwealth-State finance; the responsibility rests directly on the Commonwealth. The waiting time for a 4-bedroom house varies from 24 months to 33 months, for a 3-bedroom house from 30 to 33 months, and for a 2-bedroom flat from 26 to 31 months. The variation in waiting time is based on the dates on which applications were made and, of course, the programming of the work. Even so, the waiting time for 4-bedroom and 3-bedroom houses as at 31st
December 1968 was 24 months and 30 months respectively.
The Tasmanian Housing Trust provides 20 per cent of the new accommodation erected in Tasmania each year. It houses 1.300 families each year. It has 50,000 occupants in its 11,464 dwellings. Applications for government housing on hand at 30th June 1968 totalled 2,339, and a further 2,332 applications were received during the year ended 30th June 1969. Withdrawals and cancellations during 1968-69 totalled 899, and 1,327 were accommodated. This leaves 2,445 applications on hand at 30th June 1969. The number of new dwellings completed during 1968-69 was 604. The waiting time for accommodation in Tasmania varies from area to area and because of the work programme. Waiting periods are as follows: In Hobart it is 15 to 18 months; in Launceston it is 6 months; and in Devonport and Burnie it is from 12 to 15 months.
Now we have only to look at South Australia to complete this sorry picture. We find that the 1968-69 annual report of the South Australian Housing Trust shows that during the year there were 12,431 applicants for rental and/or purchase homes. During that year the Trust completed 1,898 homes, which is the lowest annual output of government constructed homes since 1950. During that same year the Trust provided accommodation for 6,383 families. From the figures that I have read and which have been supplied from the reports of the housing authority in each State, it can be seen that the number of dwellings occupied by applicants for government housing throughout Australia during that period has totalled 26,484. That figure demonstrates the plight of those who are relying on government homes at the present time.
The plight of those who are seeking to purchase homes is reflected in the increase in interest rates by 1 per cent in 1969, which was the result of the Mc Mahon proposal, and the 1 per cent increase in 1970, which was a result of the Commonwealth Reserve Bank’s proposal. These proposals resulted in big price increases to purchasers of homes. We find that the New South Wales Permanent Building Society increased its interest rates from 7+ per
Loan (Housing) Bill cent to 8 per cent, adding SI, 200 to repayments of a S 10,000 loan over 25 years, bringing the total repayments to 523,400. The banks have increased their interest rates by .75 per cent, adding §675 to a $12,000 loan over 15 years. Since 1964 the Permanent Building Society interest rates have increased from 5± per cent to 8 per cent. On a $12,000 loan over 25 years this adds S5,680 in interest. Since 1964 the Commonwealth Savings Bank interest rates have increased from 4) per cent to 6± per cent on a brick veneer home. On an $8,000 loan over 26 years this adds $1,582 in interest.
With the increasing dependency on second mortgage loans from finance companies, the total amount paid in interest has increased much more than these figures indicate. With the increases in land prices and interest rates, the cost, on total repayments, of the average home is now around $36,000. Of this the cost of the actual house, including the builder’s profit is around $12,000. This is only one-third of the total cost to the purchaser. The other two-thirds of the cost is going to the financiers and land dealers. That is the situation in relation to housing construction in New South Wales. If we seek to assist home builders, the Commonwealth should give them a grant in order to offset these increased charges.
Let us see who is profiting from these huge interest rates on second mortgages. The Australian Guarantee Corporation Ltd, which is one of the providers of such mortgages, increased its profits from $7,952,908 in 1965 to $14,052,790 in 1969 and has been able to issue a dividend of 15 per cent. Of course, the biggest shareholder in the Australian Guarantee Corporation Ltd is none other than the Bank of New South Wales.
– It gets it all ways.
– That is right. We then find that the Finance Corporation of Australia Ltd is owned by none other than the Bank of Adelaide. The Bank cannot lend money on second mortgage but it can do so through the Finance Corporation of Australia Ltd. Thousands of acres of land are being held by speculators - people who have nothing to do with the building industry. De Havilland Real Estate has thousands of acres of
Loan (Housing) Bill 1545 land at Terrey Hills from which it is anticipated, according to a newspaper report, it will gain $20m profit just by sitting on it. The Masonic Lodge and the Australian Gas Light Company also are sitting on hundreds of acres at Baulkham Hills, which also will bring millions of dollars in profit, ls this fair enough? Are we doing sufficient for housing? Can we complacently say we are increasing the loans to the States by 8 per cent over last year’s figure? I appeal to the Minister to give some consideration to control the racketeering which is going on in building.
States themselves decide the amount they put into housing.
– I do not know whether the Minister was here last night.
– Yes, I was.
– Well, the Minister was not listening attentively. I do not blame her-
– ls the honourable senator suggesting the Commonwealth can do anything?
– Yes, I am suggesting that. The States are limited in their requests by their financial capability to provide services for areas which they are opening up. Therefore the States cannot ask for an amount of money to build sufficient homes to meet their requirements. The States must match the loan with the finance that they have available to develop an area. In answer to Senator Little I do suggest that the Commonwealth can do something. It can meet the backlag of those applicants who are waiting in Canberra and it can insist on a standard of home building in Canbera. Faulty homes are built in Canberra. I have been in a few of them and I can identify some of them if anyone concerned is interested. The Commonwealth, having been given a lead by the New South Wales inquiry, should confer with the States to see whether the States are prepared to do anything and whether the Commonwealth can assist the States. After all, it was a Commonwealth committee set up by the Chifley Government which inquired into the housing needs of Australia about 1949. It brought 27 October 1970 down recommendations which established the housing commissions in the various States which subsidised rents on the basts of income. This was the basis of activity by the Commonwealth. It can do plenty but it is simply wiping its hands at the present time by giving sums of money which are not sufficient for those who are victims of doubtful contractors and land agents.
– In speaking to the Loan (Housing) Bill 1970 Senator Cavanagh has painted a very dismal picture of the South Australian Housing Trust. He has used poor colours in the picture he has portrayed to us. From my experience I cannot agree with him in respect to his depiction of this excellent authority in South Australia. For 36 years it has been the basis of supplying housing in the metropolitan area and in the country in South Australia. I wish to make a few references to the activities of the Housing Trust in South Australia. Before doing so I would like to refer to the importance of the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement over the past years. On the completion of the current 5-year period the States will have been provided by agreement in Commonwealth borrowings with no less than $644m. This is a huge amount of money to be provided. Without it we would not have the number of houses nor the standard of housing that we have throughout Australia. Of this $644m provided in the current quinquennium, $426m will have been used by State housing authorities.
The attraction of the moneys provided by Commonwealth borrowings for housing at 1 per cent below long term bond rate over a period of 53 years has given the States an incentive to seek allocations to the maximum of their budgeting capacity, bearing in mind the many and diverse interests and requirements of government to provide the needs which the community requires through the whole gamut of provisions. In this division of the S 142.5m sought to be raised, South Australia will receive just under 17 per cent at $24tn. This figure is indicative of the needs for housing in South Australia. I understand it is a higher figure than has been sought in recent years. To a degree there has been a lull in house erection in Adelaide. But this is to be expected after a period of rapid growth in housing provisions over a long period. Ups and downs can be expected and this has occurred. Pardon me, Sir, for speaking only in respect of my State in this matter but as I said before I am rather incensed at criticism of an authority which has been remarkable in my State through the whole of its existence which is over 36 years.
– I suppose it has made odd mistakes like anyone else?
– lt certainly has. In my years as a representative in the House of Assembly I have known certain areas where homes were built on adverse types of soil. Experience had to be obtained in building homes on certain soil types. The Bay of Biscay type soil has given us headaches. But through the years there have been improvements in techniques by seeking to overcome a major disability. In the Adelaide area we can only move south or north. We cannot move to the west because we would be out in the water and we cannot have heavy building programmes to the east because of the Adelaide Hills. So we can only move south and north in the metropolitan area which is the venue for our building programme and the provision of homes. In the northeast suburbs of Adelaide - I refer to what is now the Tea Tree Gully, Modbury, Highbury districts - we had trouble with the Bay of Biscay type soil to which reference has been made by Senator Cavanagh. When it was found that adverse effects were coming to homes through ground movement I was impressed by the consideration given either to the home owner or the person who was renting the home. In no instance did I find lack of co-operation in respect of this adverse condition.
To the north of Adelaide our satellite area of Elizabeth and Salisbury I think constitutes the greatest tribute to a housing authority, possibly in Australia. Elizabeth is a beautiful city in itself.
– Has the honourable senator been inside the homes?
– I have been in many of them. With its diversity in architecture, in every respect it is a city of which our State is proud. I am sure of that. The residents of South Australia, in noting the activities of the authority in providing homes., give credit to the Housing Trust. As honourable senators know I believe in free enterprise.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sir Magnus Cormack) - Order! In accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, 1 formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– ‘1 do not propose to take up much of the time of the Senate. However, I do want to raise the question of pensions payable to civilian widows. It is obvious from the debate earlier this evening and the general symptoms of a closing down of the Senate that there are some things which honourable senators will not get an opportunity to talk about because of the necessity to debate other matters. 1 feel that the motion for the adjournment is the only chance I will have to raise a matter of grave importance. 1 have received impetus from the rumours circulating that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) proposes to include in his campaign speech for the forthcoming Senate election a statement that certain concessions will be granted in the field of social services. If one can believe the stories which have been leaked today these concessions may be confined to the area covering kindergartens to assist working mothers. I would like to think that the less fortunate pensioners - 1 refer in particular to the deserted wives and widows - will receive some additional assistance.
Honourable senators will recall that when the social services legislation was before the Senate some time ago I spoke in rather blunt language of our great social problems, which the supporters of the Government have attempted to push under the carpet or to which they have closed their eyes in the hope they will go away. But, these problems will not go away. 1 refer in particular to the Budget concessions - the word ‘concessions’ is the Government’s word, not mine - granted to widows and deserted wives. A widow with one child will receive $22 a week and a widow without any children will receive $13.75 a week. There are many deserted wives and widows who have young families. Because of the inflationary trends under which we are forced to live the weekly rental for a flat or house is frequently more than $20 a week. 1 would like to know how a widow without children can get by on $13.75 a week if she has to pay in excess of this amount in rental. I would also like to know how a widow with one child can be expected to meet a rental of approximately $20 a week out of the $22 a week she receives.
I wish to refer to one of the papers which were presented at the time of the presentation of the Budget. I suppose that one could probably describe the document as advance propaganda for the Senate election. Nevertheless, I want to quote a couple of items from it. The document states:
An allowance of S4 per week is paid to single anil widowed pensioners where there is si child under 16 or a student child between 16 and 2J.
– From what document is the honourable senator quoting?
– I am quoting from the additional information provided on age and invalid pensions. Reference is also made to widowed pensioners with children. 1 repeat that the document states:
An allowance of $4 per week is paid to single and widowed pensioners where (here is a child under 16 or a student child between 16 and 21. Where the child is under 6 years of age, or an invalid, this is increased to $6 per week.
I note that at present 4,150 such allowances are paid at an estimated cost in 1970-71 of $962,000. In other words, less than $lm is spent on this very necessary service. The baby sitter looking after my little family this evening will receive for her evening’s work more than the weekly allowance paid to a destitute mother. The document continues:
Pensioners receive an extra $2.50 per week for the first child under 16 (or between 16 and 21 if a student) in the family, and an extra $3.50 for each subsequent such child. At present these allowances are being paid for 35,700 children at an estimated cost for 1970-71 of S5.6m.
I suppose the Government eases its conscience by saying it gives other benefits - generally referred to as fringe benefits these days. On the last page of this docu- ment is a list of the assistance which is provided to pensioners by non-government sources. This is 1970. No member of our community ought to be expected to live on charity. It is the responsibility of every able bodied person in the community to ensure that those less privileged than themselves do not have to subsist in want. It is interesting to note that the pensioner medical service is listed as receiving $3.10 per capita, nursing home benefits 80c a week, miscellaneous health benefits 6c a week, personal care subsidy 4c a week, telephone, radio and television concessions 17c a week, and housing assistance 61c a week. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) and I quarrelled on this at the time of the debate when we got mixed up over our cents, which never amounted to dollars. Then, of course, there are certain capital concessions and things like that, most of which are the responsibility of local government authorities and State governments.
I have here a document from the New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory divisions of the Association of Civilian Widows. They have very obligingly supplied a table for comparison purposes. They draw a comparison, not for any special reason, between the social services widow and the repatriation widow. Heaven knows why, the repatriation widow is way behind in the purchasing value of her money compared with its purchasing value in 1949 or even a year or two after that. Inflation has taken toll and the amount received has been constantly eroded. The 50c increase granted this year goes nowhere near balancing her budget. A reparatiation widow gets$15.50 a week; a class A social services widow gets $15.50 per week. The domestic allowance for a repatriation widow is$8; the mothers allowance is$6 or $4 depending on numbers and health of children under the social services scale. Then the particularly big gap occurs between repatriation and social services widows. For the first child a repatriation widow is entitled to $6 a week but a social services widow receives only $2.50 per week. For the third and subsequent children a repatriation widow receives$3. 50 as compared with $5 paid for the same children of a repatriation widow. The education allowance for youngsters between 12 and 14 years whose mother receives a repatriation pension is $2.18. If the children are between 14 and 16 years of age it is $3.80 and if between 16 and 18 years of age or up to the time of matriculation it is $7.28. A widow without children and over 50 years of age receives $15.50 and the domestic allowance is $8. The social services widow receives no education allowance for children between 12 and 18 years or up to time of matriculation. As I mentioned a moment ago, a class B widow between 50 and 60 years of age receives $13.75.
The girls who run these associations do a tremendous job. They have only people in public office who can speak on their behalf and the responsibility comes right back to the Minister and the Department to see that some sort of social justice is granted. If the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) proposes to do something about supplementing social services as part of his Senate campaign, when the legislation comes through this Senate - the Labor Party’s majority will not be effective until the new senators take office on 1st July 1971 - it will certainly have our support, as will any relief for which the Government is able to legislate in regard to this unfortunate group of people - widows and deserted wives.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 October 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19701027_senate_27_s46/>.