27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Honourable senators will be happy to know, I am sure, that our colleague Senator Fitzgerald, who was admitted to Canberra Community Hospital last week, is convalescing well and is quite comfortable. I am pleased to report that his wife, who was involved in a car accident in Canberra when on her way to see her husband shortly after his admission to hospital, is also making satisfactory progress. It is doubtless a comfort to Senator Fitzgerald and his wife that they are in adjoining rooms in the hospital. T add that on behalf of honourable senators I have placed the resources of the Senate at their disposal so that their comfort should be sustained and maintained.
Honourable senators - Hear, hear!
– 1 present the following petition:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of 10 electors of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth -
that the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2603 XXIVA (December 1969) declares that the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which Australia has ratified, prohibits the use in international armed conflict of any chemical agents of warfare - chemical substances whether gaseous, liquid or solid - employed for their direct toxic effects on man. animals or plants:
that the World Health Organisation Report (January 1970) confirms the above definition of chemical agents of warfare;
that the Australian Government does not accept this definition, but holds that the Geneva Protocol does not prevent the use in war of certain toxic chemical substances in the form of herbicides, defoliants and ‘riotcontrol’ agents.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray -
that the Parliament take note of the consensus of international political, scientific and humanitarian opinion; and
that honourable senators urge upon the
Government the desirability of revising its interpretation of the Geneva Protocol, and declaring thai it regards all chemical substances employed for their toxic effects on man, animals or plants as being included in the prohibitions laid down by that Protocol.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to his reply to my question yesterday on the Vietnam election when he said, as part of his reply:
In any event, the internal, domestic affairs of a nation are exclusively the responsibility and privilege of that nation.
In view of this attitude how does he justify Australia’s military interference in the affairs of Vietnam which was recognised by the Geneva Accords to be one country, one nation? I ask him again: Has the Australian Government protested about the undemocratic election to be held in South Vietnam where President Thieu has effectively ensured that the election will be a travesty of democracy?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI have very little to add to what I said yesterday, but 1 repeat that the domestic affairs of a nation are exclusively the responsibility of: its government. As a matter of fact, I really do not think it is arguable. 1 feel that Senator Murphy is straining against the leash of the answer he received yesterday and is trying to restore the balance today. In any event it would be silly to suggest that the Australian Government, like any other government, does not have regard to the hope, and in fact expresses the view that there will be stable government in South Vietnam and that the democratic processes will function. As was demonstrated by a supplementary question yesterday, there is nothing odd about having only one candidate. T mentioned that on the local scene sometimes there is only one candidate.
– - That is a ridiculous statement.
– What happens in Russia and China?
I am getting a lot of help so obviously Senator Murphy, by his question, has worried other honourable senators as well as attempting to worry me. I demonstrated yesterday that on the local scene there can be a single candidate. A subsequent question was posed by Senator Sim, I think, who pointed out that in some nations, which members of the Australian Labor Party seem to be in a hurry to visit, there are circumstances in which only one candidate stands for election and, what is more, there is no Leader of the Opposition, and that is a pretty serious matter.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry to his statement on assistance to the wool industry, and I ask whether the deficiency payment will be received by the broker or private wool merchant as a trustee for the grower, with the requirement that it be passed on in full, or whether the broker will be allowed to offset it against any moneys owing to him by the grower.
– Under the scheme outlined by me yesterday in the Senate, the individual wool grower will receive the market price for his wool plus a set percentage calculated as the deficiency payment for the week of the sale. At the end of the week the registered brokers will supply to the Australian Wool Commission a list of the growers, the clients, who sold wool plus the amount of deficiency payment due to them. The Commission will pay to each broker a lump sum of money to be divided amongst his clients. The honourable senator will have to bear with me because I have not seen the Bill as printed at the present time, but I understand that the deficiency payment will then follow the normal course of receipts from ordinary wool sales, that is, if the grower has a lien against his clip the amount involved will be deducted by the broker from the receipts - the market price plus the deficiency payment - and the remainder will then be passed on to the grower.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Is the Government ready to answer publicly the pleas from Community Aid Abroad - an organisation under the patronage of Sir Garfield Barwick - for additional aid for the Pakistani refugees? Is the Minister aware of the serious deterioration of the situation in the last 4 weeks which has resulted in the certain death of 100,000 children and which endangers the lives of a further 100,000 children?
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs and all other members of this Parliament, I think, would be aware with great anguish of the increasing intensity of disease and hardship inflicted upon these refugees. The matter has been receiving the continuous attention of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Senate will know that the Government has made available $.l.5m, I think it is, for assistance in this tragedy. For the comfort of the Senate, I point out that the matter is being watched as it progresses and that India has indicated warm approval of the suitability, timeliness and amount of Australia’s contribution. Small it is in comparison with the immensity of the tragedy; nevertheless it is a purposeful and effective contribution.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. 1 think all honourable senators will agree that Tasmania is a cold place and that Tasmanians also suffer extra expense for food because of shipping costs. I therefore ask the Minister for Social Services whether his Department will carry out an urgent survey of food costs in Tasmania compared with those in other States, and then take steps to lift the pension in Tasmania so that our elderly people and other pensioners will receive sufficient money to enable them to eat as well as others may in other areas of Australia. Secondly, due to the coldness of the State the cost of heating even a small living area, in which many pensioners are forced to live, is quite considerable and is an expense which many pensioners in other areas of Australia do not incur. Will the Minister also have his Department examine heating costs in the cold areas of Australia, and then make a Commonwealth heating allowance available to our pensioners and to any homes in which they may live?
– I shall convey the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Social Services and ascertain for him the Minister’s response to it. I should say, however, in comment upon the question, that there are 2 aspects involved.
One is the fact that as far as possible the provision of pensions throughout Australia has been on a uniform basis, as would befit the role of the Commonwealth in making facilities of the character provided to pensioners available to them. The second aspect is that where there are local requirements and special needs it is traditionally the province of the State governments to make the necessary provision for people within their own jurisdiction.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, relates to the foreshadowed introduction into the Australian Parliament of legislation to provide for secret ballots in industrial disputes. I ask the Minister: Recognising the great and enduring contribution which industrial trade unionism has made to Australia and to the general standard of working conditions, is it not a fact that effective industrial unionism depends vitally upon the active participation of all unionists in the bona fide affairs of their unions; and is it not further a fact that intimidation and apathy are the twin destructive elements of unionism? In view of these facts, will the Government examine ways and means, in addition to secret ballots, by which the ugly and brutal weapon of intimidation is curbed and punished? Will the Government give active leadership in encouraging all eligible persons to join their unions voluntarily and to participate actively in union affairs?
– The honourable senator has read what I would term newspaper mystiques of adumbrations of certain legislation in the Federal sphere. This morning I noticed in the Press, displayed with considerable prominence, reference to legislation in the New South Wales Parliament for the holding of secret ballots. In recent days I have seen reports of gallup polls registering approval by 70 per cent to 75 per cent of secret ballots in trade unionism.
– Will it make a strike legal if the members cast an affirmative vote?
– I do not think there is the slightest reason for any of us to get agitated about this matter. Senator Carrick’s question referred to a very important aspect of modern life. When he asks me to assent to his proposition that the effectiveness of trade unionism depends to a large extent upon the active and purposeful participation by unionists in their organisations, I would readily agree. 1 would think that he would share my view that it is not merely a matter of establishing democratic conceptions such as balloting for dislocation of work. That is important today in a modern complex community in which strike action on the part of a few damages in the main an overwhelming majority of other unionists, because the costs of that dislocation are carried into the economic structure. But not only is it important to put that democratic conception into the unions; it is also important to ensure that unions use their power for industrial purposes and do not presume to use their power for political and other purposes. All these disruptive influences are prejudicial to the prosperity of the wage earner. Wage earners comprise the great majority of the community today. Everybody who advances the idea of full employment has that very much in mind.
– I rise to order. The Minister is not replying to the question. He is making a speech.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The Minister was asked a question. He is entitled to answer it to the best of his ability.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, follows the question asked by Senator Carrick. Is it a fact that the National Labour Advisory Committee, comprising representatives of the Government, the employers and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, is currently negotiating a review of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act and that at a meeting on 12th August it was agreed to recommence on 20th September its examinations of the Commonwealth Act, following the ACTU congress? Is it also a fact that at the date of the last meeting no firm proposals had been determined or reported by this tripartite body? If these are the facts relating to these national discussions, how is it that the Government and the Minister are associated with the policy which now affirms that the penalties under the Act must be strengthened and not weakened? Has the Government agreed to impose new penalties or to re-apply the penal clauses of the Act? If so has it so advised the employers and the ACTU?
– In answer to the honourable senator’s question I beg leave to suggest that there is a great deal of assumption, and indeed imagination, underlying it. The facts are that the Government, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the employers federation have representatives who are engaged in a series of conferences designed to review the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It is true that it is expected that further meetings of the conference will take place.
I have no information about any firm decisions made at the last meeting. Having regard to the nature of the conference 1 would not think it appropriate at this stage to go into the deliberations. But there is nothing, I think, in the existence of those meetings which precludes the Government from adhering to a viewpoint that its firm policy is to stand by the arbitration system in the organisation of labour in this country. I would think that the conference would be serving a very unuseful purpose if there was any thought that the idea of it was to undermine the system which has been such a bountiful origin of prosperity to the Australian worker over the 67 year* of its existence.
– 1 wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. My question relates to wool sold privately and not through the Australian Wool Commission. Would the Minister tell me whether the scheme outlined by his colleague will result in an application of the deficiency payment on only 90 per cent of the wool sold privately, irrespective of whether any of the listed inferior types excluded from the scheme are included in the private sale?
– The honourable senator has asked me a question in respect of which if I replied ‘yes’ I would be wrong, and if I replied ‘no’ I would be wrong, because of the various types of wool involved. The situation is that wool sold through private treaty will, if those dealers are registered, attract deficiency payments by the dealers periodically sending forward to the Australian Wool Commission the names of the growers, the price paid, the type of wool and the total amount of deficiency payment. The Commission will check these figures and see whether the total deficiency payment is correct or not. It will return the money to the registered dealers to be distributed amongst the growers.
On the other hand, if a private treaty dealer does not want to be registered, then at the first sale there will be no deficiency payment. The unregistered dealer will pay the market value, or whatever he is offering, but the grower and the dealer will sign a document which will be forwarded on when the wool is sold to a registered dealer or sold across the auction floor. It is the second registered dealer who will then carry out the deficiency payment procedure in the course that I have outlined. But this is a very difficult situation to describe in an answer given at question time.
– I ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. My question refers to an article by the former Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, which appeared in the ‘Sunday Australian’ of 22nd August. The passage to which 1 refer reads:
Mr Fairbairn arrived at the Lodge one morning and made his request for the London post. This may have been in November 1968 as Mr Alan Reid (of the “Daily Telegraph’) says, but I have been unable to check this. The record books which were kept at the Lodge gates would show the date and time at which he came to call. But 1 have been unable to obtain permission from the custodians of these records to look through them in order to check.
My question to the Leader of the Government is this: Would the Government show some courtesy to the former Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Party and make these records available to him?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI can only say that I will have the matter referred for consideration.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen a Press statement concerning a conference to be held in Ottawa in mid September at the instigation of Japan to discuss currency reform? Is it a fact that Australia has not been given an opportunity to be involved in these discussions? Considering the volume of trade carried out between Australia and Japan and the consequent importance to this country of decisions made at that conference, can the Minister inform the Senate what steps the Australian Government will take to ensure that Australia’s views on this matter are taken into account?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI think that it would be more appropriate for me to refer the honourable senator’s question to the Treasurer. The situation at the present time is reasonably quiet in relation to these matters, as we all appreciate. Nevertheless I am not in a position to give a definitive answer to the very complex matters raised by the honourable senator. Indeed, they are probably the most complex things in the field of economics to which one could have proper regard. I do not think it an appropriate matter to be dealt with at question time, but I shall refer the honourable senator’s question to the Treasurer today. No doubt he will respond to it as quickly as he is able.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry a question relating to a question I asked him last Thursday. It concerns the deficiency allowance for wool. On that occasion he put me off by saying that he was waiting for a statement to be made by the Minister for Primary Industry. Now I want to ask him this question and I would like a straight answer because the public is anxious to know the real position. If the Australian average price of wool is 30c per lb we understand that the Government will make it up to 36c by means of a deficiency payment of 6c. If the wool grower’s average is 40c or even 50c per lb, is it true that the Government will make it up with an extra 6c? If so, how can it be called a deficiency payment?
– First of all, I want to say to the honourable senator that I did not put him off last week. No statement had been made at that time, and I do not think I would be responsible if I answered otherwise.
– I apologise.
– The honourable senator is asking me a hypothetical question at question time and expecting an answer. The situation is that at the end of each auction week an average price of the clip sold throughout Australia will be ascertained. There will be also a notional price fixed for that sale. A percentage will be worked out which will be the average prices for the sale which will be subtracted or added to the notional price. That percentage will then be added to the market price of the individual’s wool.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of the fact that such adverse economic conditions, with a consequent serious impact on employment, are being experienced in Tasmania that a north western daily newspaper has offered free advertising space to unemployed people seeking jobs? Is he conscious of the harmful effect of the recent air and shipping freight rises whose impact on Tasmania in the light of that State’s reliance on those 2 essential means of communication has greatly accentuated Tasmania’s problems? In view of Tasmania’s unique communications position, which adds considerably to costs and employment problems, will he ask the Treasurer to take into consideration, as a special question designed to offset these difficulties, the benefits which would flow from placing the whole of that State in a special taxation bracket?
The honourable senator raises the matter of special problems which are peculiar - I do not mean that in any odd sense - to Tasmania. It is a fact, as he states, that Tasmania is an island with its lines of communication by air and sea. Naturally bulk transport must be by ship. It is true that Tasmania has special problems because of matters associated with the shipping industry. From the figures in a seasonal sense Tasmania has perhaps suffered more than other States, even though the figures I have in front of me indicate that the situation is not yet critical. Nevertheless it is fair comment that if there is a degree of unemployment it is heavier in Tasmania than in the other States, where it is about 1.2 per cent of the work force. I shall therefore refer to the Treasurer the honourable senator’s proposition that Tasmania should have some special State taxation concession, ‘but I am sure he will be the first to realise that to do that as a blanket proposition would be, of course, to redirect the principle of taxation. It may well be that while his proposition could meet situations in certain pockets of Tasmanian primary industries obviously it would be quite unjustified and unwarranted in other areas of Tasmanian population and commercial life. Nevertheless I shall refer the honourable senator’s question to the Treasurer and we will await his reply on the matter.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, concerns the Government’s announcement that Australia’s Vietnam involvement is to end in a military sense. Can the Minister assure the Senate that the Lavarack Army Barracks at Townsville will continue to play an important role in the nation’s defence after Vietnam?
– I think that the Lavarack Barracks will be at Townsville for a very long time to come. As the honourable senator understands, at the present time 2 battalions are stationed there. I have no knowledge of any plans which will shift the barracks for some years to come.
– 1 ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: Has the Australian dollar been linked with sterling on a day to day basis without an official announcement having been made? Has this action resulted in a steady revaluation to 2 per cent of our dollar in relation to the United States dollar? Is this, as has been stated by a newspaper correspondent, revaluation by stealth designed to keep the rural sector of the economy in doubt as to the Government’s intentions?
– In reply to an earlier question I pointed out the difficulty of responding to a ques tion on this Issue at a time when - let us face it - we are in a critical position in relation to world currencies. To attempt to give a cohesive answer to the type of question posed would be absurd. Senator Georges referred to a day to day situation. What has happened up to the present time is that the Government has been able to hold a steadiness in relation to the matter - if the honourable senator wants to say so, on a day to day basis - and it will do so until such time as there is some clarification of the world position when governments - not only the Australian Government - are in a position to come to a definitive and long term answer to the problems which have arisen. To suggest that we could solve the problem here or that I could touch even the fringe of it is, I think, quite unreal. If the honourable senator thinks that the answers to the problems associated with primary industries and the wool industry are complex I tell him that the question he is posing is far more complex and far reaching.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Works. 1 ask whether the Minister’s attention has been drawn to the statement made on 2nd August of this year by his colleague, the honourable P. Lynch, Minister for Labour and National Service, wherein he made the following remarks relating to the shortage of tradesmen and apprentices in industry.
For the past 20 years and more, the demand for skilled tradesmen has greatly exceeded supply
Paradoxically, employers have not been making available the number of apprenticeship vacancies which would ensure that in time supply could catch up with demand.
The situation is more dramatic from the point of view of young men seeking to expand the supply of tradesmen by offering themselves for training. For example, in February of this year, 529 young persons were registered for vacancies in electrical mechanics but only one-fifth could have been absorbed in the vacancies that were available.
There were 10 applications in February for apprenticeships in motor mechanics for every training opportunity available. There were 14 boys available for every apprenticeship in panel beating. In the fitting trade there were slightly more boys seeking apprenticeships than there were apprenticeships available.
State Governments as well as the Commonwealth have for years been drawing attention to the fact that the most effective method of ensuring a large supply of tradesmen is to train more apprentices.
The trade union role will be to continue to agree that employers with effective training facilities employ apprentices in excess of ratios.
Are the following figures correct for apprentices employed in the Victorian section of the Department of Works to June 1972: Carpenters, 16 apprentices compared with 272 tradesmen employed; plumbers, 8 apprentices compared with 129 tradesmen; painters, 1 apprentice compared with 295 tradesmen; and electricians, 12 apprentices compared with 54 tradesmen? Will the intake of apprentices this year in this Department be only as follows: Carpenters, 4; plumbers, 3; painters, none; and electricians, none? Is the ratio of apprenticeship allowed still 1 apprentice for every 3 tradesmen? In view of the evidence of an abundance of young men offering for apprenticeships as referred to by the Minister for Labour and National Service, will the Minister for Works give immediate instructions to the Victorian section of his Department to take steps to implement Government policy by having a large intake of apprentices and so also set an example to private industry?
– I think the honourable senator will agree with me that, in view of the elaborateness of the question and the information involved in it, it would be quite inappropriate to give an answer impromptu. I realise that he has referred to a very important matter. It is a mater to which the Department of Works in each of its annual reviews and in each of the Estimates sessions before this chamber gives some attention. It takes some pride in the share in the training of apprentices that it undertakes. But having regard to the elaborate nature of the question I ask the honourable senator to put it on notice so that an appropriately elaborate answer can be furnished for his information.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health. Yesterday I referred to the Waterhouse Committee report tabled in the House of Commons relative to animal quarantine and what effects its findings would have on Australian animal quarantine policy. Has the Minister been able to obtain the information for which I asked?
It is true that Senator Mulvihill did ask me a question yesterday relative to the Waterhouse Committee report which was put down in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The ban on the importation of dogs from the United Kingdom which has been in force since 1969 because of 2 cases of rabies in the United Kingdom outside quarantine kennels was lifted on 12th July 1971. Before lifting the ban it was necessary to ensure that the United Kingdom could again be regarded as a rabies free country. It was necessary also to examine the report of the committee of inquiry - the Waterhouse report - which had been ‘ set up by the British Government. This report, which was received in Australia on 30th June 1971, contained sufficient information on the degree of security in British quarantine kennels and the precautions taken in the United Kingdom against the introduction of rabies to provide my Department with the assurances it was seeking. In view of this and the time that had elapsed since the last case of rabies in the United Kingdom it was decided that the ban on the importation of dogs from the United Kingdom could safely be lifted. However, because of the seriousness with which Australia views rabies, it was decided to increase from 6 months to 12 months the residency requirement for dogs and cats being sent from the United Kingdom to Australia.
– At a time when the Government is canvassing the issue of secret ballots within trade unions before strikes, I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he will agree that Australia’s record for strikes is not at all alarming when compared with that of other advanced industrial countries. Will he accept my figures when I indicate that between 1958 and 1968 the average number of days lost for each 1,000 employees through strikes was 262 in Britain, 312 in France, 345 in Australia, 784 in Canada, 1,008 in Italy and 1,114 in the United States? If the Government intends to go ahead with secret ballot legislation, will it act also to control unjustified price increases and curb monopoly activities?
– Perhaps the question should have been directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service because Senator Poke has quoted figures upon which I cannot comment beyond saying that I am sure nobody would take .any joy out of the fact that Australia had 345 days lost for each 1,000 employees. I would have thought that was not a matter for any great congratulation in regard to our industrial relations in Australia and that it represents a tragedy in purchasing power, production and Australia’s development. The fact that Senator Poke wants to compare that figure with those of some other countries, some of which have lower figures and others higher figures, does not add anything. The fact is that any industrial disturbance we have had in Australia, the cost of which in the final analysis comes out of the pockets of the working people and other poeple in Australia, is not a thing from which anybody can derive joy.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he is aware of the very unsatisfactory condition of the loose surface main runway at the Parafield Aerodrome in Adelaide. In view of the hazardous nature of the main runway in its present form will the Minister give urgent consideration to. having this runway re-formed and bitumenised?
– Not so very long ago there was quite a lot of rain in Adelaide and that particular runway did give some problems. I had this matter carefully looked at and was assured that the runway is in no way unsafe or dangerous. That is not to say that my Department is not investigating very carefully the future status of that runway and what might be done to improve it.
– 1 ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the Government is aware of the deterioration of marketing ethics and practices which have necessitated the establishment of consumer protection bodies by State governments. Will the Government agree that there is public doubt about the effectiveness of these organisations and that this doubt has been increased by the recent resignation of the New South Wales Director of Consumer Affairs. In these circumstances will the Government consider inviting to Australia the eminent consumer protection expert in the United States of America, Mr Ralph Nader, to advise the Parliament on how best to protect consumers from improper actions by an increasing number of manufacturers and some distributors?
– I think the honourable senator himself indicated in his question that much of the field of consumer protection is within the responsibility of the various State governments. He put the suggestion that consumer processes are such that there is a need for closer examination of them, either by the Commonwealth Government or State governments. 1 will have to refer to the Government the proposition that an eminent specialist in this field should be invited to Australia. I am not quite sure which is the appropriate portfolio involved. I will direct the suggestion to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and when I get a reply I will let the honourable senator know what it is.
– 1 ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he has yet had an opportunity to ascertain what progress has been made by his departmental officers in considering the possible introduction of a system of family courts in Australia. Can he indicate, either now or after checking with his Department, whether that consideration has progressed towards the formulation of a proposal?
– 1 shall have inquiries made and I shall let the honourable senator have an answer as soon as possible.
– The Minister for Health, to whom I address my question, would be aware that the Commonwealth Government has announced that it will require warning labels to be placed on cigarette packets sold in its Territories when the State governments take the same action in their areas. As this is obviously a buckpassing exercise, I ask the new Minister for Health to consider reversing the sequence so that the Commonwealth will give a lead to the States in requiring warning labels to be placed on cigarette packets.
– It is true, as Senator Willesee, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, has said, that the question of labelling cigarette packets with warnings is based on the proposition that it should be done uniformly, after agreement between all the States. The Commonwealth’s view is that when legislation requiring such warning labels has been enacted by all the States, complementary legislation will be enacted by the Commonwealth for that purpose. I think all honourable senators recognise that as part of our Constitution requires that trade be free between the States it would be completely ineffective to have a system whereby legislation for such warning labels was not uniform.
I do not accept Senator Willesee’s diagnosis that this is a form of buck-passing. I could point to many other fields of Commonwealth and State relations in which it is difficult to gain agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. That was my experience many years ago as a member of a Senate select committee inquiring into road safety. The States have a. tremendous responsibility in that field. I remember once when everybody agreed that certain things should be done, but each State had its own way of doing them. It is tremendously difficult to get the States to agree. I will not let it be a buck-passing proposition. I will keep slogging away at this issue in an attempt to get the States and the Commonwealth to reach uniformity on it.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. As the report of the Australian Egg Board for 1969-70 was not available until 24th August 1971, will the Minister take the necessary steps to see that future Australian Egg Board reports are available at a much earlier date? In view of the present financial crisis facing egg producers throughout Australia, will he undertake as a matter of urgency to consult with the marketing authorities and Industry leaders in his home State of West ern Australia in order to ascertain the benefits or otherwise accruing from the controlled production of eggs now in force in Western Australia, and then issue a report for the guidance of the Senate?
– 1 have no doubt that there is a good reason why the Australian Egg Board’s report for 1969-70 was not available until 24th August, but I shall certainly draw the honourable senator’s question to the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry. As to the Western Austraiian scheme, 1 feel that it has hardly been in operation long enough to determine its impact - the benefits or otherwise - but 1 shall make certain inquiries to see what information can be gained for the honourable senator.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been made aware of allegations by members of the Australian Workers Union that wool growers are stockpiling inferior or dirty wool in anticipation of the Government fixing a minimum price? Will the Minister make inquiries into the validity of the allegations and take action, if necessary, to avoid payment of huge sums of money for inferior wool which wool growers have hoarded hoping to benefit by generous deficiency payments?
– I do not have as close a relationship with the AWU as the honourable senator has and I have not seen the report. If the honourable senator will provide me with it I will take note of what he has said and will see what I can do about it.
– My question, addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, arises out of a statement by the Minister on assistance to the wool industry. Will the brokers and private wool merchants receive a commission for the handling and distribution of deficiency payments to their clients? If so, is that commission to be uniform, how will it be calculated and by what authority?
– I have attempted to answer 3 questions on this subject this afternoon but I think that one is a bit difficult for me, as J have no available information on the matter. I ask the honourable senator to put it on notice.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral received a request from the honourable member for Adelaide for the immediate release of Charles Martin who is now serving a gaol sentence because of his conscientious objection to the National Service Act? Was the honourable member’s request a proper application for the release of this courageous young man? Will the Attorney-General give an early reply to the application?
– I confirm that I received a letter from the honourable member for Adelaide in which he sought the release of a person who is serving a term of imprisonment for failure to comply with the National Service Act. I have written to the honourable member indicating that I will give consideration to the substance of the matters raised in his letter and let him have an early reply.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. Although the Government has tried to enforce a higher degree of competition in industry, firstly by the Trade Practices Act and then by the Resale Price Maintenance Act, it is patent that administrative action in government is cutting across these objectives, particularly in the oil industry. I ask the Minister: Is it not a fact that both last year and this year the Minister for Customs and Excise refused to prevent the importation of petrol which is being sold by small independent operators who can and do sell to the motorist more cheaply than do major oil companies, but that to conform with Government requirements these importers are required to buy Australian crude oil based on the amount of petrol they sell? Is it not a fact that by the administrative action of the Department of Customs and Excise these ‘importersindependents’ who have no refinery capacity, are prevented from disposing of their Australian crude oil to their best advantage, either by selling it abroad, where it is well regarded for low sulphur content, or by selling in Australia to the highest bidder? Is it not a fact that the independent importers can be driven out of business by a combination of being unable to dispose of the crude oil they are forced to buy and by deliberate price wars by major oil groups in areas in which they operate?
Does the Minister not agree that the independents, because of their low overheads and the way in which they operate, can and do sell from 3c to 4c a gallon cheaper than do the established petrol selling companies? Is it not true to say that on the 1969-70 consumption of motor spirit in Australia, each cent per gallon saving to the consumer is worth over $20m? Does the Minister not consider that when the independent importer of petroleum is required to buy a quota of Australian crude oil it then belongs to him and he should be free to do with it what he chooses within the law? Does the Minister not agree that at the same time the Government should take all steps within the framework of its own laws to ensure that the competitive force within the oil industry is not choked off by deliberate destruction of the businesses which already have benefited the consumer by millions of dollars?
– In a place that is not noted for its unanimity of view, I think it will be agreed by all that that question should go to the Minister for Customs and Excise for an answer.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate been drawn to the wistful prognosis by the Labor Leader, Mr Whitlam, that there will be a ‘sharp contraction’ in the Australian economy in 9 months time - I repeat his obstetric phrases - producing a level of unemployment which might top 100,000? I ask the Minister: Is this not a classical text book case of phantom pregnancy or false labour, arising out of wish fulfilment and a chronic barrenness of ideas? Will the Minister - perhaps in his other capacity as Minister for Health - take appropriate clinical action to alleviate this political malaise by reminding the
Australian people that when the Labor Party was in office unemployment ran to substantially higher levels than has occurred under the present Government?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONAlthough the question was directed to me as Leader of Government in the Senate, as I am also Minister for Health perhaps I can be excused for continuing the medical analogy. If I were to do so 1 would say, first of all, that it is always very dangerous to make a kerbside diagnosis; but I think it would be fairly true to say that the Leader of the Opposition in the other place shows all the symptoms of suffering from some chronic state of political disorder regarding employment and unemployment in Australia.
Coming to the question of substance in relation to this matter of employment and unemployment, it is true, as Senator Carrick has said, that throughout the time we have been in government we have always pledged and committed ourselves to, and succeeded in implementing a policy of full employment. 1 have the latest employment figures with me today. Although Senator Devitt asked me a question earlier I cannot respond to the interjection he is seeking to make now because he is not in his usual place. The fact of the matter is that the July 1971 figures, as contained in the monthly review of the employment situation, show that the overall figure for unemployment in Australia is approximately 1.2 per cent of the work force, which consists of more than 51 million people. To all intents and purposes, this is a state of full employment, particularly when we bear in mind that Australia is a primary producing country which means that we have seasonal employment and where seasonal employment is involved there are always movements in terms of percentages. Notwithstanding that, the number of unemployed in Australia represents approximately 1.2 per cent of the work force. It is true that in Tasmania the figure is 1.71 per cent. But this is full employment.
In responding to the question asked by Senator Carrick, I am reminded of the famous back bencher of the Labor Party who, when the Chifley Government was in power, thought he was helping the situation by making the statement, which put him into the history books, that as far as the government of that day was concerned 5 per cent unemployment was to all intents and purposes, full employment.
– He did not say that. Quote him correctly.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONHistory shows the statement by the honourable senator to be a statement of fact. The statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in the other place, if I can move from the medical to the biblical, was almost the voice of Jeremiah. It was the kind of statement that does nothing at all to help the Australian situation. The Government’s budgetary policy is so framed, as it has been in the past, to improve any situation that may emerge in isolated areas of unemployment in Australia. History will demonstrate that to be true. At present we are in a state of full employment. As long as this Government remains in power, it will see that that continues.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for Health. In the light of recent answers that I have received from him about certain directives to hospital and medical benefits fund managements, is not a natural corollary to such action the creation of a health insurance commission, which was mooted by one of his predecessors, to ensure that the funds maintain the course that his colleague and former Minister for Health, Senator Greenwood, decreed?
– lt is true that the setting up of a commission was canvassed by the Nimmo Committee. The Government has given consideration to that matter. As at this point of time it has not taken any decision to create such a commission. I believe that recent changes, which became effective as from 1st August, in relation to the funds are logical, are soundly based on economics and are calculated to preserve the equity that subscribers and contributors have in the various funds. Previously it was argued that the funds needed to have about 9 to 12 months reserves. History has shown and procedure over the years has demonstrated that this is quite unnecessary. The amount now predicated is on the basis of reserves for about 3 months.
– Who will police this?
I am the Minister for Health. As a member of the Executive and as a member of the Government, I have to accept the responsibility. I assure the honourable senator that my heart is in my job.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, seeks clarification on the proposal to assist wool growers. Is it a fact that if a wool grower receives 70c a lb for his wool, he will then receive a further payment if the average weekly auction selling price is calculated at 30c a lb?
– 1 think that what the honourable senator said is possible. The grower will receive the auction price plus a deficiency payment. However 1 do not think it is fair of him to ask me whether a hypothetical position is true. 1 shall look at the matter and inform the honourable senator later.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior inform Parliament whether managers of the various hostels coming under the control of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd are supplied with a set of rules or instructions to which they are required to adhere in the management of the respective hostels? Assuming that the answer is in the affirmative, will the Minister make available a copy of such rules or instructions?
– I should think that it is highly likely that there would be such instructions. I cannot say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I think it would be likely. I will ascertain whether any instructions exist. If they do exist. I will get a copy for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. Is it a fact that families of four or more children are penalised by a reduction in child endowment payment when the eldest child becomes eligible for student endowment? Is it also true that in a family of 8 children endowment is reduced from $57 a week to $46 a. week when the eldest child becomes eligible for the $1.25 a week student allowance, thereby losing $65 a year endowment? If this is true, was the reduction taken into consideration when the student endowment scheme was brought in and is this another instance where the Government gives the family an increase with one hand and takes more away with the other?
– I am unable to verify, particularly as 1 only represent the Minister for Social Services, the figures and the calculations which the honourable senator has used as the basis of his question. All 1 can say is that in the presentation of the Budget last week significant advances were made, consistent with the economy’s capacity to bear them, in social service pensions and in endowment paid for the second child. In the circumstances, I shall refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister and ensure that he receives a reply in due course.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a statement by the Treasurer of Queensland, the Honourable Sir Gordon Chalk, M.L.A., that the Queensland Government might find it difficult to provide power at ‘a really competitive rate’ because of shortage of State funds and the high interest rates to be paid to the Commonwealth? Would the Minister indicate whether the rate of interest charged by the Commonwealth Government is as a result of discussion between the Commonwealth and the State, and that the statement by Sir Gordon Chalk could be regarded as a denial of a mutual agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland?
I would need more information before I could answer this question; and I think that 1 would need to submit it to the Treasurer. I am not clear from the question whether the answer the honourable senator seeks is linked with the matter of power. I am rather inclined to pause and wonder whether the part of his question regarding interest rates is related to interest rates associated with the financing of some power schemes. Normally interest rates are set, together with other matters affecting the Commonwealth and the States, at Premiers Conference or Loan Council level. However, subsequent to question time I might raise this matter with the honourable senator to see whether his question relates strictly to interest rates on the broad canvas. If it does 1 would like to refer his question to the Treasurer for consideration and reply.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. Is it a fact that Cabinet has rejected a plan for a national superannuation scheme prepared by the Minister for Social Services, Mr Wentworth? Was this plan designed to give a much better deal to pensioners and to take the first steps towards the elimination of the means test? Will the Minister make urgent inquiries to find out why Cabinet scrapped such a valuable proposal, which is one of the important policies advocated by the Australian Labor Party? Can it be inferred from this rejection that the Government is not interested in justice for the pensioners and intends only to continue with minor pension rises if the Australian electors are unfortunate enough to be saddled with the same government by the time of the introduction of next year’s Budget?
– I would have thought the fact that the Government has discharged a measure of responsibility to the pensioners and to people with families consistent with its obligations to the overall economy is the surest indication that the people of Australia will be saved the prospect of a Labor government in years hereafter. Having said that by way of response to one aspect of the honourable senator’s question, I now say that the honourable senator should know that what he reads in the newspapers is not consistent with what government has done. His question is directed to an aspect of Government policy and that is contrary to the Standing Orders.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. As the dollar crisis has been in operation for almost a fortnight, and in view of his evasive replies - on behalf of the Government of course - on the subject, will he now admit that the Government has no more control over the Australian economy than it has over Australian foreign policy and that our future depends largely on decisions outside our control and made by other countries?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONNo, I do not admit that. I think it is complete fantasy.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. To what extent, if any, has approval been given to improve accommodation, meals and facilities at Commonwealth hostels, including the Hotel Kurrajong? Is it a fact that several members of Parliament have left hostels and sought alternative accommodation which offers better standards at no greater cost? Is it also a fact that tourists to Canberra are using the hostels to a lesser extent because of dissatisfaction with the standard of accommodation provided?
– I am sorry that I cannot answer this question. I could not be expected to have the information that the honourable senator has asked me to provide to him. The question will have to be referred to the responsible Minister, and I will ask him to give the honourable senator all the information he can on Commonwealth hostels and on accommodation at the Kurrajong Hotel. From the tenor of the honourable senator’s question it is obvious that several honourable senators are dissatisfied in this area.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. In view of the fact that the Commonwealth pays to the salaried staff of the Corporation of the City of Darwin a district allowance of $650 per annum to meet the higher cost of living in that area, and in view of the- fact that government departments pay a similar location allowance, does this not reflect an injustice to pensioners who are living in this area and receiving the same pension as residents in other parts of the Commonwealth? Will the Minister also take into consideration the fact that residents of the Northern Territory have no State government to meet deficiency payments, as he suggests was an avenue open to the pensioners pf Tasmania?
– I suggest that the honourable senator should put his question on notice so that he can get a full reply to the points which he has raised.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. It refers to the proposed expansion plans for the Whyalla shipyards and the statement on Monday by the general manager of the BHP shipyard when launching the largest vessel such a shipyard has ever constructed that the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd could not go ahead with its expansion plans until details of the Tariff Board’s inquiry into shipbuilding was made available. I ask the Minister: As this inquiry has been proceeding over several years and the report is overdue, will he take urgent action to see that the general outlines of the report are made available to BHP in order to avert a situation in which any plan for expansion will not take place because of lack of information? Will he also ask the Minister to offer BHP the services of experts of the Department of Shipping and Transport so that the company might plan its expansion facilities, because it has already displayed an efficient ability to compete on the world market when it is given proper assistance?
– Within the area of Government confidential documents - and this applies to Tariff Board reports which are very rarely or never made public before they are completed - I admit that the honourable senator’s concern is one which I would share were I in his place. I will try to see that what he has asked me to do will be acceded to as far as possible. I would expect that the Department of Shipping and Transport, and the Broken Hill Co, which has great standing and expertise, have advanced the state of their knowledge as far as they possibly can with a view to reaching a solution in relation to shipbuilding at Whyalla.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Housing seen the report in the ‘Sunday Australian’ of 22nd August in which the Victorian Minister, for Housing, Mr Meagher, accused the Federal Government of deceit in its Budget provision for housing assistance to the States? Is the Minister aware that Housing Ministers from other States who support Mr Meagher include Mr Stephens of New South Wales, Mr Taylor of Western Australia and Mr Hodges of Queensland? Did the Commonwealth promise in April this year to hold discussions with the States before deciding on any future housing policy? Is there to be a meeting between the Commonwealth Minister for Housing and State housing Ministers next Friday? If so, what purpose will this meeting serve in the foreseeable future?
– I did not see the statement to which the honourable senator refers. It is true that there is to be a meeting of State Housing Ministers and the Federal Minister for Housing in Canberra on Friday. The purpose that will be served at that meeting is that consideration will be given to the Commonwealth’s extremely generous housing proposals contained in the present Budget following discussions at the Premiers Conference held in lune.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories aware that many local officers in the Territory of Papua New Guinea Public Service who have given long years of service will shortly be retiring? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the provisions made for superannuation or retiring benefits for such persons?
– As I stated in answer to a similar question last week, the matter has had the recent consideration of the Government. It is appropriate that any statement about it should be made by the Minister for External Territories. I am sure he will take an early opportunity to do this.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral received an application for registration under the Marriage Act from the
Independent Greek Orthodox Church? If he has, why the delay in granting such registration? Can I be assured that the Government is not taking sides in this very divisive matter?
– I am unable to say whether I have received any application from the body to which the honourable senator has referred. I am also at a loss to understand the implications in his question. I shall examine the matter and let the honourable senator have an answer in due course.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does the Government have diplomatic relations with the Government of Bolivia? If so, has the Government protested to the new right wing regime in Bolivia about its use last month of the Bolivian air force to bomb and strafe 300 students who barricaded themselves in a university building in La Paz? Does the Government believe there is justification for military coups against left wing governments but no justification for coups against right wing military regimes such as the one in support of which we have been fighting for so long in Vietnam?
– At the request of the Leader of the Government in the Senate I give the honourable senator the following answer, namely, that precision is most desirable in answer to a question of that nature. Therefore I ask the honourable senator to put his question on the notice paper to enable a precise answer to be prepared.
– I have a question to ask the Minister representing the Minister for odds and sods or whoever represents Mr Howson.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Order! The question is addressed to the Minister representing which Minister?
- Mr Howson.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - What is the Department?
– Social environment, I think - a miscellaneous department.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - The question, then, is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts?
– Yes. I want to know whether any moves have been made to finalise the appointment of a gallery director. If not, would the Minister - whoever he is - ask Mr Howson, the Minister in charge of the department responsible for that matter, whether he will give a public explanation of why nothing has been done in appointing a director for the new national gallery.
– In a representative capacity I am unable to answer the honourable senator’s question. I shall convey the substance of his question to the Minister and endeavour to obtain an early reply for the honourable senator.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate read in today’s Press a reported statement by an ex-member of the Government who at one time aspired to the Prime Ministership that the Press corps in Canberra is left wing orientated and has lambasted and humiliated the former Prime Minister, Mr Gorton? If so, does the Minister agree with this statement?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONAs I have not seen the statement I shall not make any comment.
– I direct a question to you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I refer to Senator Turnbull’s difficulty in directing his question to a Minister. Is it not the practice to have a small card issued to all honourable senators which indicates the Ministers and their responsibilities? If this is the case why have we not received one lately?
– There are too many new Ministers.
– I thought that would be the reason or that there was about to be another reshuffle in the Ministry or the appointment of an Assistant Minister. Nevertheless I think it would facilitate matters if you, Mr Acting Deputy President, could make representations to the President to have this card or a daily bulletin issued so that we will know exactly who is likely to answer any questions which we wish to ask.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - I have taken notice of the question which the honourable senator asks. 1 shall make representations to the President.
– ls the Minister representing the Minister for Supply aware that the Australian aircraft industry continues to suffer a great recession and, in fact, is working greatly under capacity with some 80 employees being retrenched from the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd, some of the reduced work load being due to economies by the Government resulting in a lack of servicing work being given to that company by the Royal Australian Air Force? I ask the Minister: What action is being taken to co-ordinate with the various departments to see that additional work is given to the aircraft industry? Of course I refer not only to the Victorian industry but also the New South Wales industry which has a great capacity for production. Is the Minister aware that Japan is now encouraging and promoting its own aircraft industry by direct government assistance? Will he do what he can to have general work given to these efficient organisations to ensure that the skilled tradesmen in the industry, some of whom have been in the industry for up to 30 years, will not be lost?
– It is true as the honourable senator says that some employees in the aircraft industry have been given notices of termination of employment. The Government is offering every assistance it can to find them alternative employment. It has taken up this matter with the Public Service Board, the Department of Labour and National Service and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. All of these bodies have offered assistance in one way or another. Over the years the Royal Australian Air Force has continually given work to the aircraft industry in relation to the aircraft now in use in the Air Force, and no mean work load has been involved. I assure the hon ourable senator that as far as possible it is expected-
– It has been reduced by $500,000 in the last 12 months, unfortunately.
– When an aircraft like the Sabre is phased out the work load must be reduced. Only the other day the Royal Australian Air Force presented to the Department of Supply a special case in regard to the Canberra aircraft. In the latter part of the question the honourable senator asked whether I would make inquiries as to what work is available from State and Commonwealth departments. I have not that information at present but I shall seek it and let the honourable senator have it.
(Question No. 1043)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
All costs to the Commonwealth Government are not separately recorded, for example- the salaries of Departmental staff engaged on the visit were met from Departmental salary votes and the costs of services provided by Departments as part of their normal functions were carried on the votes of those Departments. Expenditure for the visit separately charged against the special appropriations of my Department amounted to $35,498 in 1970-71 and a further $2,000 is estimated as remaining to be paid iti 1971-72.
Nine Commonwealth officials visited Papua New Guinea in connection with the visit. Fares, accommodation charges, and allowances for these officials separately charged against the special appropriations of my Department amounted to $10,090, which is included in the above figure of $35,498.
(Question No. 1221)
asked the Minis ter representingthe Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1). (2) and (3) I have invited State Ministers to an early meeting on the environment. I will confer with them on the question of industrial dumping along the Australian coast.
– For the information of honourable senators I present 2 statements, one being the annual report of the Department of Education and Science for the year ended December 1970 and the other being a statement of statistics on education in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory as at the beginning of August 1970.
– by leave - Honourable senators know that regulation 4A of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations prohibits the importation of literature and articles that are blasphemous, indecent or obscene; or unduly emphasise matters of sex, horror, violence or crime or are likely to encourage depravity. Senators also know that the regulation provides that even though a book is prohibited under regulation 4A the Minister for Customs and Excise may approve any application to import such works provided a report has been received from the Chairman of the National Literature Board of Review or the Director-General of Health. The purpose of this provision is to permit the importation of copies of prohibited publications for special purposes such as recognised scientific, social or cultural work by qualified persons; original research or advanced study; or for use as reference material in the practise of professions such as medicine or law.
When regulation 4A was introduced in 1963 the then Minister undertook to report annually to the Senate in respect of books released in accordance with the above provisions. This report, the eighth to be presented, covers the period from 1st July 1970 to 30th June 1971. During this period a total of 70 applications were received. Of these, 64 were approved and 6 refused.
Details of the applications approved are as follows:
Medical, Psychiatric and Sociological Works - 11 to university researchers 4 to university lecturers 3 to psychologists 3 to teachers college lecturers 3 to solicitors 2 to creative directors 2 to the administrator of an arts centre 2 to art collectors 1 to a public library 1 to a teachers college library 1 to a minister of religion 1 to the Australian Film Institute 1 to a writer/ photographer 1 to an artist 1 to an independent television producer 1 to a graphic designer/photographer 1 to a technical college lecturer
Fictional - 12 to university researchers 10 to university lecturers 2 to teachers college libraries 1 to a public library
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Is business of the Senate, notice of motion No. 6 standing in the name of Senator Murphy formal or not formal?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Is Government business, notice of motion No. 1 in the name of Senator Greenwood formal or not formal?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTIs Government business, notice of motion No. 2 in the name of Senator Wright formal or not formal?
– I move:
I remind honourable senators that Government business, notice of motion No. 1 relates to the revival of the motion to disallow the Evidence Ordinance; general business, order of the day No. 19 deals with the appointment of Assistant Ministers; and Government business order of the day No. 1 relates to a statement on Vietnam. In explanation, that series of business would be expected to take us until the suspension of the Senate for dinner.
– I am in agreement with the general course outlined by the Minister for Works (Senator Wright). However, after we have disposed of Senator Wright’s motionI intend to seek leave to introduce a Bill. I do not intend to do more than seek leave at that stage, and, if leave is granted, a Bill will be introduced after Senator Greenwood’s motion has been disposed of. If I am given leave I would seek, in a certain eventuality, to bring in a Bill which would take only a few minutes to dispose of. I want to take the preliminary steps now and would seek to take them later again to deal with the situation which would eventuate if Senator Greenwood’s motion is defeated. I intend to bring in a Bill which is a very formal Bill and which would probably pass through the Senate.
– That is afterwards.
– Yes. I wanted to seek leave.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I seek leave to move a motion for leave to bring in a Bill for an Act to make temporary provision for the law of evidence in the Australian Capita) Territory.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Is leave granted?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Leave is not granted.
– I do not intend to move the motion now.I am simply asking for leave to bring in the Bill. I do not seek leave to bring it in at this stage.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Leave is not granted.
– I ask for leave to make a statement.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Is leave granted?
Opposition senators - No.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT -Leave is not granted.
– I move:
The purpose of this motion is to enable to be rectified the serious situation which has arisen in the Australian Capita] Territory as a result of the disallowance by the Senate of the Evidence Ordinance 1971 last Thursday. The seriousness of this current situation should not be regarded as of little concern or as a state of affairs which can be allowed to continue indefinitely. May I very shortly recapitulate the position which has arisen. There was introduced in February this year a new ordinance relating to evidence in the Australian Capital Territory which came into force on 29th March this year. That ordinance has continued in operation and throughout the period of its operation has been accepted
Suspension of with satisfaction. So far as I am aware, no concern has been expressed as to its provisions and the Government is observing the working out in practice of a piece of legislation which is acknowledged to be up to date and in all respects desirable. On Thursday last the Senate debated a motion which was moved by Senator Wood for the disallowance of this ordinance.
There had been on the Senate notice paper for some weeks - I think from late April - a notice of motion in the name of Senator Wood for the disallowance of this ordinance. However, at the time when Senator Wood gave his notice in April he indicated that it was not necessarily to bc assumed that the motion would be proceeded with because the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances was still considering the matter. He had given the notice of motion only because the statutory time for giving it would have expired and after that no opportunity would remain for the giving of the notice. It was not until last Wednesday night, the day before this motion for disallowance of the ordinance was debated, that the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances reported to the Senate and generally made honourable senators aware that the Senate was proceeding with the motion for disallowance. In those circumstances the debate proceeded, I think early on Thursday afternoon, to a termination which resulted in the Senate deciding that it would disallow the ordinance.
At the time I made reference, as did other honourable senators, to a serious situation which would exist if this ordinance was disallowed. I think it is fair to suppose, therefore, that a number of honourable senators in this chamber may have cast their vote on the assumption that the consequences which were to ensue were of the character which I had mentioned and not of the serious nature which in fact has subsequently transpired. What has happened as a result of the disallowance of the Evidence Ordinance is that there is now considerable doubt as to whether there is in force in the Australian Capital Territory any body of evidence law at all under which criminal proceedings may be conducted in the courts. As a consequence the decision was taken on Monday of this week by the prosecutor for the Australian
Capital Territory to seek the adjournment of all criminal trials which are to be held this week because of the uncertainty which has arisen over the disallowance of the Evidence Ordinance. The course which the prosecutor followed was accepted by counsel for the defence and the adjournments have been granted by the judge. There will be no criminal trials held this week. Indeed, the position is such that there are no defended hearings taking place in either the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory or the Courts of Petty Sessions of the Australian Capital Territory and the only criminal matters which are able to be heard until the position has been resolved are proceedings in which a defendant pleads guilty.
This is a situation which does require early rectification. It should be pointed out that the reason why the situation has arisen is that the Crimes Ordinance, which is a substantive measure introduced at the same time and in the same way as the Evidence Ordinance, contains provisions which repeal certain procedural and evidentiary provisions of the New South Wales Crimes Act 1900 which, prior to the introduction of both the Evidence Ordinance and the Crimes Ordinance, were the provisions which prevailed within the Australian Capital Territory. Because the Senate has not been concerned to examine or to disallow the Crimes Ordinance the provisions of the Crimes Ordinance still remain in force and, accordingly, the provision which repealed the Crimes Act 1900 provisions also remains in force. As far as the Evidence Ordinance is concerned, that certainly did repeal certain provisions relating to evidence which have been revived as a result of the disallowance of the ordinance and, of course, those provisions, superseded as they had been for some months, are adequate to enable civil proceedings to continue.
– I understand from what Senator Murphy has said that one suggestion which is open - and I will deal with it now because I think it can be disposed of fairly quickly - is that the situation could be readily rectified by introducing another ordinance which would 25 August 1971 repeal section 8 of the Crimes Ordinance and thereby revive or expressly bring back into force the Crimes Act 1900 provisions. I feel that action of that character would be action in reverse. It would not redound to the credit of the Senate that, when there is an Evidence Ordinance which is accepted as a modern up to date piece of legislation, the course which the Government adopts is to bring back legislation of 1900 and not to give effect to modern evidence legislation which is widely acknowledged as acceptable legislation. But that is not the substantive reason why the provisions of section 8 of the Evidence Act ought not to be repealed.
Senator Cavanagh, who is attempting to interject, is interested in getting a response to a question asked by Senator Murphy essentially on his behalf. It is this: If there were to be a revival or a bringing back into force of the provisions of the New South Wales Crimes Act of 1900, which were repealed by the Crimes Ordinance, we would be introducing provisions which are similar in substance. There would be one or two provisions which are similar in substance to provisions contained in the Evidence Ordinance, and that is strictly forbidden by the Seat of Government (Administration) Act under which the ordinance is made. Accordingly, it would be a course fraught with peril. A situation could arise in the course of a trial in which objection was taken to some evidence being admitted. The judge would have to rule on the matter and he could well rule that the ordinance or the procedural laws under which he was operating lacked any validity because they had been brought into force contrary to the provisions of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act.
– Do you really think he would if he could?
– Senator Cavanagh suggests that a judge might or might not do something, when an examination of the provisions of section 12, subsection 7 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act makes it expressly clear that no provision in an ordinance may be introduced which is similar to a provision contained in an ordinance which has been disallowed within a period of 6 months after the disallowance unless the motion for the disallowance of the ordinance had been rescinded.
– Senator Cavanagh’s comment was: ‘Would a judge do it?’ The point is that a judge would have to go where the law drove him, irrespective of his disposition.
– 1 accept Senator Byrne’s proposition. I do not think there would be a lawyer in the chamber who would regard the position as other than Senator Byrne has stated it.
– I am asking you, with your legal knowledge, for your opinion whether he could. Are the provisions so similar that he could?
– I do not think there is any question about it. A judge could do this if the point were raised and he had to determine it. It might be that without the point being raised the judge would be seized of it and would be driven, as Senator Byrne has indicated, to hold that the provision relied upon was invalid. However, I have indicated that the possible alternative which was canvassed by Senator Murphy yesterday, and again today in his question to me, is one which I feel could not properly be put forward as a practical proposition because of the inherent difficulties it has, quite apart from the fact, as I see it, that it would be action in reverse and not to be be undertaken when any other course was reasonably open.
I do not think the Senate would dispute that it is important that there should be rules relating to the evidence which may be given in the course of litigation in the Australian Capital Territory. I do not think it can be disputed fairly that there should also be certain laws and rules relating to the manner in which evidence may be presented. What courses are available to the Senate in these circumstances? What courses are available to the Government in these circumstances, because it is the Government which carries the responsibility for seeing that people who are accused of crimes in the Australian Capital Territory and are awaiting trial are provided with means by which the trials can be held. I consider that any course which is to be adopted by the Government or the Senate must be taken on the basis of what will be effective to achieve the desired result and what will be speedy in terms of enabling a result to be achieved as quickly as possible, and what course is consistent with the decisions, the standing and the obligations of the Senate as one of the 2 Houses of the national Parliament.
The provision under which laws have been made for the Australian Capital Territory is the Seat of Government (Administration) Act. That Act has been in force since 1910 and provides that the GovernorGeneral may make ordinances which will have the force of law in the Territory. Ordinances have been made under that power over the period that the Australian Capital Territory has been in existence. As I indicated to the Senate in the debate on the motion for disallowance of the ordinance last Thursday, this is the first occasion on which the Regulations and Ordinances Committee has taken the view that an ordinance ought not to be made under that provision and that the substance of it ought rather to be enacted by Parliament. 1 sense that implicit in what was decided by the Senate last Thursday is the prospect that hereafter the substantive measures which are introduced by ordinance should in fact be introduced by legislation. 1 can only urge upon the Senate that it ought not to adhere to a course which will involve the national Parliament, properly concerned with the consideration of national matters, in having to give some place in national priorities to what would be regarded as the legislation of the Australian Capital Territory, or to give the legislation of the Australian Capital Territory such pride of place that it would displace matters of national importance which are the primary concern of the persons who are elected to this Parliament.
– ls there anything of greater national importance than the principles of evidence?
– Senator Cavanagh expresses a point of view in which I do not concur. 1 believe that the national Parliament does have matters of greater importance to consider than the laws of evidence in the Australian Capital Territory. I say that without in any way wanting to suggest that the gravity of the existing situation does not require urgent rectification. But I believe that the Senate should now be considering what is the most prudent, effective and speedy way consistent with its decisions, standing and obligations to achieve the remedial situation. I have already indicated that over the years a number of ordinances have been passed in the Australian Capital Territory. Nine ordinances were passed in the Australian Capital Territory in 1966; in 1967 the number was 15; in 1968, again 15; in 1969 there were 13; and in 1970 the number was 17. Already this year a number of ordinances have been introduced. It would impose a further onerous burden upon the national Parliament if the pattern in years to come were to be that all ordinances were to be the subject of legislation requiring passage through both House of this Parliament.
– No-one has suggested that, and you know that it is false to say it.
– I do not know that it is false to say it. It is because no-one has been able to assure the Senate that that will not be the case in the future that one is apprehensive as to what will be the outcome of the view of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee on this subject. I have read the report of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee and I appreciate the concern of the Committee and the basis upon which the recommendation was made; but reading that report and knowing the principles under which the Committee’ operates, I consider that once having started on this course, to be consistent it must follow it in respect of every substantive ordinance which introduces innovatory matter which will be regarded by the Committee as more properly the subject of legislation. I know that there are prospective ordinances which could meet the Committee’s criteria and accordingly be the subject of a further disallowance motion. I stress, Mr President, that this is the national Parliament and that legislation in this national Parliament should have Australiawide import. It is not to the credit of this Parliament if the Senate should insist that the laws of the Australian Capital Territory should have a place consistent with other national legislation. I think the Regulations and Ordinances Committee could give consideration to other ways and means by which the interests of senators with regard to ordinances could be expressed. Any suggestions that it was prepared to look into and produce to that end would receive my very earnest consideration.
There are two alternatives which may be adopted to overcomethe present difficulty. The first is to reintroduce the Evidence Ordinance or an ordinance of comparable effect. The second alternative is to introduce legislation. The purpose of the resolution which is before the Senate is to facilitate the introduction of an ordinance. May I refer to the provisions of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act to indicate why it is necessary to rescind a resolution of the Senate disallowing this ordinance before another ordinance can be introduced? Section 12 (7) of the Act states:
If an Ordinance or a part of an Ordinance is disallowed, or is deemed to have been disallowed, under this section, and an Ordinance containing a provision being the same in substance as a provision so disallowed, or deemed to have been disallowed, is made within six months after the date of the disallowance, that provision is void and of no effect, unless -
in the case of an Ordinance, or a part of an Ordinance, disallowed by resolution - the resolution has been rescinded by the House of the Parliament by which it was passed;
– If the resolution is rescinded that does not restore the vitality of the ordinance.
– That is the position as I understand it. If the Senate were today to rescind the disallowance motion of last Thursday there could be introduced forthwith - I would hope that it would be done by the Executive Council tomorrow - an ordinance which would restore the position as it existed prior to last Thursday. That would be the immediate step which would achieve the purpose of enabling the criminal procedures in the courts of this Territory to continue.
– Why would it be necessary to reintroduce an ordinance? If the motion for disallowance were rescinded would not the ordinance then continue to run?
– No. There are15 days involved.
– I would have no doubt that the appropriate course, if an evidence ordinance were to be reintro duced, would be to introduce a new ordinance even if it was in identical terms with the previous ordinance rather than make an assumption that by a rescission of the disallowance resolution the position remained as it had been before. As I venture into that area I recognise that ifthe rescission motion were carried and the disallowance motion was deemed never to have been passed, the position would be that 15 days would have expired without the Parliament having made any decision on the matter and therefore the ordinance would be deemed to be disallowed.I think that conclusively the point must follow that an ordinance must be introduced.
– That would prompt the Committee to recommend its disallowance again.
– Would not the ordinance have to go back to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee?
– I think there is no doubt that if a new ordinance were introduced it would have to be laid on the table of this Senate and of the House of Representatives in accordance with the Seat of Government (Administration) Act, and it would again go before the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
– It is automatic.
– As the honourable senator indicates, it stands referred automatically under the Standing Orders.
– Would it not be quicker to pass a law as Senator Murphy tried to do?
– Turning to the other alternative, I believe that the prospect of passing legislation is the less desirable course of the two I have suggested. The passing of an ordinance would mean that almost forthwith, as soon as the matter could be determined by the Executive Council, there would be an evidence ordinance in operation in this Territory and it would overcome the present impasse. However, if legislation were to be introduced it would involve, firstly, the formulation of the form of the legislation. I do not suggest that in the circumstances of urgency that would take very long. It, nevertheless, would have to be prepared by the draftsman and, again, whilst that would not take very long it could not be done overnight. Then it would have to be introduced, debated and examined because that was the wish of the Senate as expressed last week. As the Senate does not sit next week I would not anticipate that the matter could be passed through the Senate under less than a fortnight. It would then have to take its chance with legislation in the House of Representatives and there would be a period - it could be 3 to 4 weeks - before the matter was rectified. In that time there would be a growing increase in the backlog of cases to be heard in the Australian Capital Territory.
– If the Senate now agreed to your request could you give some undertaking to introduce legislation to replace the ordinance?
– I will repeat the undertaking I gave to the Senate last Thursday: When the criminal code is finalised it will be introduced by legislation, and at about that same time there will be introduced consistent with it a criminal evidence and criminal procedure Bill which will involve the provisions of this ordinance.
– When may that be?
– I cannot give any undertaking as to time because we are all conscious of the problems of getting this material prepared. I anticipate that it would be about the middle of next year. I also make this point with regard to that undertaking: We have in the Australian Capital Territory - or we did have until last Thursday - an Evidence Ordinance which is as up to date as any evidence’ law throughout the whole of Australia. A considerable amount of research and study has been undertaken into the law of evidence by the New South Wales Law Reform Commission. When the report on that research is produced it is anticipated that it will contain much which will be valuable in terms of research and possible amendment and reform for all States of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth itself. It would not be desirable, as I see it, for legislation to have to pass through the national Parliament with the expectation that amending legislation would ha%’e to be passed in the not too distant future. It is a sensible course, a prudent course and a course which I believe would cause no dissatisfaction or problems, and ought not to give offence to any honourable senator, if the position of evidence law is left contained in an ordinance until such time as the whole question can be reviewed some time next year.
That is an undertaking I give to those concerned with this matter. It is consistent with the undertaking I expressed last Thursday. Having regard to the problems I indicated in relation to the time which legislation will take, J suggest to the Senate that the desirable course is to proceed by way of ordinance in order that the position which has arisen in the Australian Capital Territory can be rectified. I sense that the point which the Senate made in the resolution passed last Thursday was that the continuance of the law of evidence in the Australian Capital Territory contained in an ordinance was not as satisfactory as the law of evidence contained in a statute. It was felt that the law of evidence should be embodied in legislation and enacted into a statute because only in that way could there be that minute examination, to use Senator Cavanagh’s expression, of the provisions of the evidence law and only that type of examination and scrutiny should be countenanced. 1 suggest to the Senate that that can be done in due course, and there is no need for it to be done at the present time. 1 would have thought that if it were to be attempted at the present time it would be at the expense of effective evidence law in the Australian Capital Territory.
I can only ask that the Senate give consideration to this matter on the basis that what it is concerned with are the real rights and liberties of persons in the Australian Capital Territory in the circumstances of what has happened following the disallowance of this ordinance last Thursday, and that the appropriate, speedy and effective course is to enable a position to be reached in which an evidence ordinance can be introduced immediately so that what has been held up as a result of the disallowance resolution last Thursday can be allowed to proceed. The question of when the Senate debates the terms of the Evidence Ordinance can be left until some time next year when, as I said, I expect the criminal code, and these provisions can be brought in at about the same time and made the subject of comprehensive legislation. I urge the Senate, in the light of the circumstances that have arisen and the gravity of the current situation, to take the steps which will enable this situation to be overcome as speedily as possible.
– I am astonished at the course that has been adopted by the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood). The fact of the matter is that in February this year the law of evidence in the Australian Capital Territory was altered considerably by an ordinance made by the Attorney-General. The ordinance introduced concepts and changes which, in some respects, had never before been seen in Australia. There is no doubt that there was drastic alteration of the law. On 29th April 1971 the Senate was given by Senator Wood a notice of motion for disallowance of that ordinance. We are now at the end of August - 4 months later - and the Attorney-General says that it will take some time to prepare legislation. This is quite extraordinary. Is it suggested that the Attorney-General’s Department proceeded on the basis that in no circumstances would the Senate adopt the motion of which notice had been given by Senator Wood? That clearly ought to have been contemplated.
Everything that has happened seems to have been on the basis of a determination by the Government, or certainly that Department, that it would not accept the possibility that the ordinance might be disallowed; that it would not prepare for the consequences of that; and that it is determined to take as little action as possible to rectify the position in accordance with the decision of the Senate, namely, that this ought to be done by legislation.
– And to blame everyone else.
– And to blame everyone else. I thank Senator Turnbull. The Attorney-General has said here: ‘If we were to have legislation it would have to be introduced, and it could not be done overnight. The legislation would have to be drafted, lt would take some time. It could not possibly be done before a fortnight hence’. I cannot understand that. It took me only a few moments to indicate a sim ple way in which the matter could be dealt with. It was drafted overnight. It is here, ready to be brought in this afternoon at the conclusion of this debate.
– That is totally inconsistent with what you argued last week.
– I am talking about legislation to deal with the temporary situation - not to deal with an examination of these laws in order that they might be amended in accordance with the wishes of the Parliament, but to deal with the situation that has occurred and to do the housekeeping that ought to have been done by the Attorney-General’s Department. lt is evident that this position could be met by the rapid passage of legislation to preserve the law, and for our purposes it does not matter whether we preserve the law as it was on Wednesday last or as it was in January because the intention is that it be only temporary in order to give the Minister the opportunity to bring in legislation in a proper form. I see no reason why he could not bring in that legislation quickly. He could have brought it in today, for that matter, had he wanted to, by altering a few of the formal matters. Let us have some temporary legislation for a sufficient period. I think copies of the Bill I have suggested have been circulated. It would give until the end of October for the Attorney-General to bring in the legislation. The Bill that has been circulated has been seen bv two of the officers of the law bodies in the Australian Capital Territory - the presidents of the Law Society and the Bar Association - and they approve of it. They say that they are happy with it; that it will meet their wishes. Surely this is the sensible course to take.
Instead, the Minister keeps on trying to tell us that the ordinance that the Government brought in is perfect. He says to us: I cannot understand why you do not accept it without the examination that one should give to legislation’. He wants to tell us that it is perfect in all respects. I am satisfied that in several respects - I mentioned one before - it is not perfect. Others may not agree with me; but there is at least one matter in the ordinance on which I would want to move an amendment, and one cannot do that to an ordinance. That is one of the reasons why it was said that this matter ought to be dealt with by way of legislation. I am not the only one who finds objection to that ordinance in some important respects. There are respects in which some distinguished lawyers think there ought to be alterations. To their minds and to mine, it is not perfect.
I would like the opportunity to have it considered in a reasonable way on a Bill which may be brought forward in the next 2 months. Let us debate it as we would debate other matters. Let us do it properly and conformably with the decision that the Senate took last Thursday. But no; that will not do for the Attorney-General. He must demonstrate that somehow the Senate was wrong and he was right. We must undo what we did. We must put the situation back exactly where it was, where he has an ordinance with no time limit to it and be says: ‘I propose to do something about bringing in legislation for debate’. It may not be this particular legislation; we do not know. It may be introduced in about the middle of next year, at about the time when the criminal code is introduced. A draft of the criminal code has been hanging around for a long time. It is pretty obvious that it is in such a state that there will have to be heavy amendments to it. It takes on the character of another proposal. Honourable senators will remember the proposal for a superior court, which was talked about by, I think, the Attorney-General fourth last removed, back in about 1.963. A superior court was to be established; but in the course of time the proposal started to diminish until now we ask the Government: ‘Where is the superior court that was promised so affirmatively?’ It seems to have just disappeared.
The criminal code was to be introduced. Where is it? It is now suggested that it may be introduced in about the middle of next year. It may not be. We do not know when it will be introduced. The AttorneyGeneral said firmly last Thursday - he referred to this today - that he can give no positive undertaking at all.
– That is not fair. You know that I said that expressly as to the time of its introduction.
– I am talking about the time. That is exactly what I am talking about. The Attorney-General says: That is not fair. 1 said that about the time’. That is precisely what I am referring to - the question of time. 1 dealt with that last Thursday. I will refer to it again. On Thursday I said in part: the Attorney-General said: ‘We want to see how we get along with this.
Let us put it into practice and see how we get on and at some stage in the future when I am introducing laws to deal with crime in the Territory 1 might bring in legislation to deal with evidence’. And he said: ‘Mind you, I am not giving any positive undertaking’.
Senator Greenwood interjected:
That was with regard to the time of bringing it in.
Yes, that was in regard to the time of bringing it in but he said: ‘I am not giving you any positive undertaking’.
That is where we remain today. The situation reminds one of Kathleen Mavourneen. It will depend upon the introduction of some other provision which might not be introduced. The situation can be met simply in the way that other emergency situations have been met, and that is by introducing legislation. That was done when the Commonwealth Prisoners Act was introduced. That was done when an oil spillage occurred in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. A Bill was put through. That could be done here. If leave is refused, I will move for the suspension of Standing Orders to enable a Bill to be put through. It should be put through. It could be put through speedily because it would be a temporary provision which would simply extend the provisions contained in the ordinance. That procedure should be acceptable to the Government. I cannot see any reason why it would not be. The situation would not have been as simple if I had said: ‘Let us apply and continue the law as it was in January’. I am saying: Let us apply the law as it was on Wednesday last and let us continue that’.
The advantage of having a Bill introduced is that the Bill could deem the law to have effect as from J 9th August, the date of disallowance, which would cover the few days this week and also Friday of last week, if there were any problem ia that regard, and it could continue until 31st October. There is no reason why such a Bill should not be put through. If this debate finishes at 10 minutes’ to ‘6, it could be put through in the 10 minutes remaining until 6 p.m. It could then be transmit- ted to the other place and it could be put through there this evening. If the AttorneyGeneral has the will and if he wants to do something about the present position, he should do that. He knows that it can be done. I suggest that that is the proper course. I indicate that we propose to vote against this motion because it merely illustrates the determination of the AttorneyGeneral to show that last Thursday night he, not the Senate, was right.
– Are you sure you are not in the same boat?
– I am upholding the decision that the Senate has taken. Whether it was right or wrong, I think it should have been accepted in the proper way by the Government. Appropriate steps should have been taken. They should have been taken on Thursday night. One would have expected that legislation of a temporary nature would have been presented this morning and that copies of the Bill would have been circulated. I have heard no criticism of such a step. The Attorney-General has not said that that is not sufficient to rectify the present situation. Other distinguished lawyers seem to think that that would meet the situation quite properly. I suggest that a Bill be introduced to cover the position temporarily. That would conform with the decision of the Senate and would enable the legislation to be introduced and discussed in the next couple of months. For those reasons I indicate that the Opposition is opposed to the motion moved by the Minister.
– I oppose the motion moved by the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) because I believe that we came to a decision last week. I am not speaking for the independents or for Senator Wood. We voted against the original motion. I do not think that the independent senators are so weak hearted that they would change their opinion without any real reason. Obviously the Government is hoping that it can buy one of us over to vote for this motion so that it can get the original resolution rescinded.
– Are you speaking for the independents?
– I atn speaking for myself. At least I vote for myself and I can talk for myself. I do not have to wait for a Party ticket to be elected to the Senate.
– You had a Party once.
– 1 had, and I gave it up. That is my prerogative. Each of the independents will speak for himself. I do not believe that we are men of such weak character that we will change our opinion in order to attract some goodwill from the Liberal Party or the Labor Party. Therefore, I am maintaining my vote in opposition. The first thing that we should remember is that the motion was moved originally as a result of a recommendation made by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. That Committee has always shown to this chamber a rather due sense of proportion and a due sense of justice as to what should be done. More often than not this chamber has agreed with its decisions when it has suggested that an ordinance be disallowed. I understand that on this occasion there was a unanimous decision by the Committee.
– There was not. I was a member. I dissented.
– You were a member. Senator Davidson was a member and so was Senator Lawrie. I am acting on what I heard Senator Cavanagh say last night. He said that it was a unanimous decision. If he was wrong, I apologise. Whether it was a unanimous decision or not, the Liberal members of that Committee have changed their minds since they suggested that the ordinance should be disallowed. Being the Party hacks that they are, they voted for their Party rather than for the Committee. They should not be allowed to serve on a committee if they put their Party before their allegiance to a committee.
– They did not vote against the motion last Thursday night.
– I know they did not. I have only just acertained who are the members of the Committee. I am opposing this motion because of the arrogance of the Minister. I am surprised at his attitude. He is puffed up with power. He is incensed. I admire the Minister. I think he is one of the more intellectual members of this chamber. He always had my goodwill, until last week. Now he is adopting this attitude: We are right, come hell or high water. Anyone who wishes to contradict what he states is wrong. Surely anyone with any sense, realising that the Senate had disagreed with him, would have accepted the decision and said: ‘Let us see what we can do to rectify the position’. The Minister has said: ‘We will not accept that decision. We will get one of the independents or Senator Wood to switch over and then we can rescind the resolution’. That is what the Minister has done. He will not accept any suggestions emanating from this side. Like other Ministers he is puffed up with the importance of his Department. No-one else can be right. The Department and he are right. This does not apply only to the Attorney-General’s Department. It applies to every department. I have mentioned this time and time again with regard to the Department of Health. There are no people wilh brains outside the Department. This is the attitude of every Minister and every departmental head.
When the Leader of the Opposition gives him an opportunity - even puts it on a golden platter for him - to get out of his predicament, he turns it down because it was not the Government’s idea in the first place. I tell the Minister: You could have accepted it; you could have done it straight away. But you even have the audacity to deny the Leader of the Opposition leave to speak.
May 1 say to the Minister, in passing, that I think the time has come when he should realise that many of us ask questions. We try to get to the bottom of things. But all we get from the Minister, each time we open our mouths, is a lecture on how stupid we are and that he knows the answers. That is no way for a Minister to behave. Certainly our questions have a political background, but we want to know the answers. We do not want to be sneered at by the Minister and told that it is a ridiculous sort of question to ask.
We are told that legislation must be introduced because a serious situation has arisen. Who brought on this serious situation? The Minister himself admits it but he rationalises it by saying that he had discussions with the Committee over 4 months or 5 months. I have seen a Bill introduced into this House unprinted because the Government wanted to rush it through all stages. The Government got it through in that form. The Bill passed through this
House and the other place in 15 minutes. It was not a parliamentary salaries Bill either; a Bill of that sort gets through all stages fast. This Bill in the unprinted form took only 15 minutes to pass and it became law the next day.
The Minister keeps saying that a serious situation has arisen. It is a serious situation of his own making and he has been given an opportunity to get out of it. But he will not accept the opportunity because if he were to do so it might give some credit to the Australian Labor Party or to an independent senator for gaining some slight victory and this would never never do. He says: ‘Let us do it the other way; lel us show that we have the power. Let us show that we are the only people who can think’.
The Minister then went on to say that this matter required early rectification. Because of the way he is going on, it will not be rectified until after the Budget is passed. Time and time again we ask why the Minister cannot introduce legislation dealing with this matter. All he kept saying to us yesterday, every time he was asked this question, was that we cannot legislate because it is an ordinance. We are not talking about an ordinance: we are asking the Minister to introduce a Bill. But the Minister says: ‘No, we cannot legislate because this is an ordinance’. The Minister is confused, as is shown by a statement he made, and which appeared in yesterday’s Hansard. Senator Murphy has referred to it. The Minister yesterday made the following statement:
All I say is that if the Senate should carry the motion for the disallowance of this ordinance it will restore these ancient laws of New South Wales which still have applicability in the Territory and which it is the purpose of this ordinance to supersede.
In other words, the Minister has given the opinion that all would be well because up till 29th March 1971, before the new ordinance was declared, the Minister was acting on those old rules. The Minister said that we would only revert to it. Today the picture is different. The Minister is wrong, but does not admit it, of course. I asked him straight away after that whether a Bill could be brought in to replace the ordinance but the Minister sort of sneered at me and said: ‘Sure, you will hear from me.’ The Minister will hear from me in due course. He said that he would think about bringing in legislation. Since then he has not done anything but think about bringing in legislation.
It does not pay to sneer at everyone in this chamber because sometimes the Minister may want to be even friendly with them. Today we have the opportunity to rescind this vote so that the pride of the Minister and the pride of his Department can be upheld. That is all it is. It is not that we are prepared to accept a Bill. Up to the time when Senator Murphy criticised something in the ordinance no-one had said a word and it was accepted that this ordinance should be passed and that if there were errors in it they could be corrected. But the Minister has been handed a simple solution on a plate and he will not accept it. The Minister will not tell us why he will not accept it. Mr President, the Minister may have intended to try to tell us when he asked for leave but we did not grant him leave. We took this action because he was rude enough not to grant leave to the Leader of the Opposition. I think he adopted very bad tactics. We are now waiting to see whether the triumph of the Government is to be made complete by seducing one of the voters in this section of the chamber from his previous conviction so as to support the Minister- The Minister could say straight out: ‘Right, here is a simple solution from the Leader of the Opposition and we will accept it - the measure will be passed tonight, be sent to the other place and go to the Executive Council tomorrow morning. There is no reason why this cannot be done. I must say that the Minister has gone down considerably in my estimation since this matter arose.
The Minister also made quite a to-do about our attaching a lot of importance to the Australian Capital Territory in the national Parliament. This comes strangely from a member of a government that does everything else to try to boost this situation in a reverse way. Time and time again when we criticise expenditure on the Australian Capital Territory we are told that this is the national capital and that the Federal Parliament must do this and that. Yet in this case the Federal Parliament is doing something which the Minister criticises because it is not important enough. I quite agree with that. So many of the things are not important enough and if the Minister’s Government would be consistent I would be happy about it. One only has to look at the Australian Capital Territory Health Commission which looks after a population of about 150.000 people in Canberra. In any other city with the same population one medical officer would do the job. That is all he would do. But here we have a commission of about 5 or 6 officers and about 10 other ancillaries.
The Minister should be consistent. He should not be telling us all the time that it is not important to discuss this matter. The law says that it shall be discussed in this Parliament and therefore it can be discussed in this Parliament. Therefore, I want to make it quite clear that for all those reasons I will stick to my vote and 1 will oppose this motion, lt the AttorneyGeneral said - and he has not done so yet; at least I did not hear him - that sonic injustice is being done 1 will change my vote. All he has said so far is that, criminal trials cannot proceed. I do not know how much injustice there is in that situation. Here again, I object to the word criminal before the accused are even tried. Nevertheless if the Minister can show that some injustice is really being done to these people 1 will change my vote. So far he has not. All he has done is shown that he wants the Government to be triumphant come hell or high water and that is going to be it. For that reason I will vote against the proposal.
– This is another of the debates that periodically occur in this chamber concerning the administration of the Australian Capital Territory and which so often engender more heat than is normal in this place. This is an ordinance. It is one of a series of ordinances which have come before the Senate rather recently. It is the only one to my knowledge which has received the adverse report of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee and this, is based on a principle enunciated in relation to the ordinance. It occurs to me that rather recently an ordinance was presented in relation to the legal profession in Canberra. That was the subject of a motion for disallowance, but not on the basis that the matter was appropriately a matter for legislation. The motion was founded merely on the principle of the separation or non-separation of the profession.
– But that was not the report from the Committee.
– That was not the subject of a report - 1 will put it that way - of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee although it was a matter of serious moment to the Australian Capital Territory. Subsequently the land ordinance was introduced which represented a tremendously important change in the whole structure of land law in the Territory. The ordinance was the subject of a motion for disallowance by Senator Devitt but the motion was based on the political principle associated with the land tenure that was the best and most effective or most appropriate for the Territory. That, again, was not the subject of a motion for disallowance on this principle. It was not claimed to be more appropriately a matter for legislation at the instance of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. For some strange reason the ordinance now under consideration emerges as a matter that has received the scrutiny of the Senate committee, which has recommended that it be disallowed. Why that should be, from the point of view of uniformity, is something I cannot altogether appreciate. However, the Committee in its wisdom saw fit to do this, and we know the subsequent events. A motion for disallowance of the ordinance was carried.
I want to make one point: Senator Turnbull referred to the fact that on the motion for disallowance the other day the independent members of the Senate, including 2 new members, voted in favour of the disallowance. Senator Turnbull used a phrase something like: ‘1 do not think they would be so chicken hearted as to change their vote in relation to the motion now before the chamber.’ That comment puts those honourable senators in a particularly difficult position. Neither of those gentlemen has yet bad the opportunity of delivering his maiden speech. Therefore if he wishes to enter into this debate and to indicate, if he wishes to change his vote, why he taas changed his vote and by what arguments he is persuaded, he is by the custom of this place stopped from doing o. If on this occasion the gentlemen con cerned elected to find a different home tor their vote from the one they chose the other day, it would be very unfair to suggest in any sense that it was because of a lack of courage or anything that did not register the highest motive in the gentlemen concerned. I am sure that Senator Turnbull did not intend by inference to raise any such suggestion.
Ali I say to the honourable senators concerned is that if out of the discussion which has taken place in the Senate and on the ebb and flow of argument or on the presentation of matter by the AttorneyGeneral or any other honourable senator they are now convinced to the contrary position from that which they held the other day then it is quite proper - it is possibly the most proper thing - for them to vote accordingly. Therefore I say to the honourable senators that ‘ in no sense should they feel themselves intimidated or dissuaded, because they committed themselves the other day and do not have the opportunity in this debate of indicating what their attitude will be, particularly if they elect to change their mind, from voting accordingly if they feel so disposed to do.
Perhaps the only reason advanced in the debate the other day as to why this matter should be legislated was the minor reason that it was important in its substance and content. Yet there are other matters of equal substance and importance which did not attract the attention of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. But one proposition that was put forward was that if this provision came in by means of legislation it would enable the evidentiary provisions of the ordinance to be examined in depth. However the Bill suggested by Senator Murphy seems to me by its very nature to preclude that intention. It is intended to be a temporary measure and the honourable senator himself contemplates that it would expire in about 2 months time when it would be replaced and the whole matter would then be subject to the closest examination. If that is so it would appear to me that the alternative method proposed by Senator Murphy will have the effect of defeating the very purpose which Senator Cavanagh and others suggested would be the attraction of the legislative approach. Their argument was that it would enable the schedule to a Bill to be examined in depth and with penetration. In the circumstances outlined by Senator Greenwood I would say that that will not be possible within the practicalities of the demands of time and because of the situation that has arisen in the Australian Capital Territory in the conduct of proceedings, particularly criminal proceedings, in the courts. For that reason I can see no warrant at all for adopting this alternative course.
When this matter was last debated and again today, the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) gave an assurance to this chamber that it is proposed to introduce a modern criminal code for the Australian Capital Territory, and appropriate to that, relevant to that and ancillary to that would be the introduction of procedural provisions by way of the Evidence Act or perhaps rules of court and other things of that nature which appropriately could be passed by this place at the same time. In the light of that assurance given by the Attorney-General, that the matter will receive immediate attention, it appears to me that the prudent course to take is to allow this ordinance to run, if at the conclusion of a few months the procedural statute will come in embodying the provisions of this ordinance and more, embodying what the Law Reform Committee in New South Wales is at present investigating so that that again will be written into a new and up to date procedural code. I think that is a defensible course to take and I think it is a course which should be acceptable to this chamber.
In the light of the assurance given by the Attorney-General I think that the Senate should reasonably be prepared to accept that the ordinance should be restored and should be allowed to run. It is a modern evidentiary code. It is not perfect because it can be improved and no doubt it will be improved considerably in the light of expert information which will follow the investigations of the Law Reform Committee in New South Wales. In the meantime the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory would not be deprived of a modern evidentiary code, so much of which will tell in favour of the defence in proceedings, and that is important. Resting on the assurance of the Attorney-General, the ordinance should be permitted to run and in due course and without undue delay a procedural statute could be introduced into which all the modern concepts could be written. That statute could then receive the close intense scrutiny of this chamber in depth and breadth.
In those circumstances I feel that the Senate should have no reluctance whatsoever, on a further examination of this proposition, to reverse its decision taken the other day. Again the honourable senators to whom I referred, more particularly those gentlemen who themselves cannot speak as I am speaking here in relation to their vote, should allow themselves to be persuaded by the arguments as they ebb and flow in this place and should have no hesitation, if they feel convinced, in voting accordingly, irrespective of what happened the other day. In those circumstances I think the citizens of Canberra will have the opportunity of operating immediately a modern evidentiary code which will apply to current proceedings which are now suspended pending finalisation of this matter, and they can look forward in not a very great length of time to having a criminal code and an ancillary procedural code, both of which will be legislated in this chamber. What I have stated represents the position which the Australian Democratic Labor Party took up the other day. It still represents our position and we propose to support the motion to rescind the resolution of the Senate taken some days ago.
– The arguments advanced would appear to be somewhat incredible. Let us get back to the basic points for a moment to consider what is involved in this matter. First of all, the ordinance was disallowed on the argument that it was a matter which should be debated fully by the Parliament before becoming law, that it contains some novel aspects of law which were not disapproved of as such by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee but which the Committee felt should be debated within the Parliament. Accordingly the majority of the members of the Senate disallowed that particular ordinance so that there would be an opportunity, it was said at the time, for legislation to be introduced which could be debated. The second point is that by its disallowance the Senate has deprived the Australian Capital Territory of any law relating to evidence so that trials cannot continue as they would normally do and persons who are in custody awaiting trial are being held in custody for a greater length of time than they would otherwise be held. Obviously it is creating an injustice so far as those individuals are concerned.
Therefore there are 2 problems. The first is the injustice of the delay to the individual and the second is the disruption of the normal processes of law by, in effect, having to close down the courts for a period of time until this matter is resolved. So it does appear that there is now in this chamber a general will to overcome the problem so that the Australian Capital Territory will have some necessary body of evidence law to enable the trial of persons charged with crimes or offences to continue and to continue as soon as possible. From what I have heard of the debate it seems that there is a uniform feeling towards that end. Secondly, as 1 understand it, there is a uniform feeling that at an appropriate time there should be an opportunity for this chamber to debate the substance of the proposed law or the contents of the new law which was contained in the ordinance which was disallowed. As I understand the situation there is no disagreement that that should happen at an appropriate time in the near future. So there is no disagreement about those matters. The only question is how to achieve this situation. To me it seems to be a somewhat extraordinary situation that there should be so much debate about how to achieve something which is relatively simple. I would have thought the situation is that when the Minister puts forward an adequate proposal - and I have not heard his proposal constructively criticised to show what was wrong with it in relation to its achieving the 2 basic objectives I have mentioned - and if there is nothing wrong with it why should Senator Murphy or anybody else-
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
Government Business taking precedence at 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 17 August (vide page 26), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1971-72.
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30th June 1972.
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the year ending 30th June 1972.
Particulars of Proposed Provisions for Certain Expenditure in. respect of the year ending 30th June 1972.
Government Securities on Issue at 30th June 1971.
– Mr Deputy President, this is a Budget which highlights the economic and social injustice of the Liberal and Country Party philosophy. It is designed to counter inflation at the expense of the working man. It is a Budget which will give the Australian people the worst - continuing inflation and a rapid rise in unemployment. It is depressive. It will subdue business activity and confidence. It perpetuates all the social injustice that we have come to expect under this Government’s rule. Like the last Budget, it gives a little and takes away a lot. The pensioners get an extra $1.25 a week - a pitiful gesture - while Budgetcaused inflation increases and eats away their rise as soon as they get it. Child endowment is raised by 50c per week for the third and successive children; yet the 21/2 per cent increase in income tax more than takes away that benefit for the average income earner. The wealthy wool grower receives a heavy subsidy - the rural battler gets a handout - while the Government pays only lip service to a rational reconstruction scheme. The Government’s priorities are clearly displayed. The wealthy and the privileged will feel hardly a ripple from the Budget increases, but the average worker will see his real wages again eroded while prices continue to rise and profits remain relatively untouched.
This is a cynical Budget aimed at suppressing wage demands by increasing unemployment as a deliberate economic and political weapon. It is a deplorable, irresponsible tactic of the Government. But it seems clear that the Government adopted this tactic deliberately, acting on the view that a healthy dose of recession is needed to control inflation. The Government sees only excessive wage increases as the cause of inflation and lays most of the blame at the door of the union movement. The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) says nothing about curbing price increases, the real cause of inflation. The Government refuses to recognise the plain economic truth, that is, that wage increases are chasing price increases, not the reverse. A Government really concerned about inflation would take strong action to prevent price increases. But this Government refuses to act against excess prices and profits. According to the Treasurer, all our economic ills are caused by wage demands.
Along with many economic authorities, and the union movement, I believe that this Budget could well produce more than 100,000 unemployed next year. That a government could actively strive for such a result, with all its attendant financial and human misery, is an indictment which will gravely affect this Government at the next election. Maintenance of full employment is a prime obligation of government in Australia, with such a job of development ahead of us. We have the opportunity and the tremendous challenge to develop this great continent; yet the Government is embarking upon a policy which is designed to produce unemployment. This is the best that it can offer as a prescription for the economic ills of Australia. Not only is this deliberate policy of unemployment to curb wage claims immoral; it is economically wasteful in a nation dependent on manpower for its development. How can this Government continually deplore the lack of production due to industrial disputes and then bring down a Budget which will seriously affect production by causing unemployment? To avoid man-day losses through wage disputes it sets out to cause heavier man-day losses through unemployment.
The Government, if it is serious about the curbing of inflation, had ample evidence within reach to show the real causes and solutions. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development carried out a study of inflation late last year. This study analysed inflation in the last IS years in a number of West European countries and also Canada, the United States and Japan. It concluded:
That the emergence of excess demands on one or more occasions during the 1960s has been a major factor contributing to the present inflationary difficulties.
This report by the OECD showed clearly that in almost every country examined a period of excess demand was followed by a period of rising prices and later by an upward movement in wage levels. This is only to be expected, for if a share of wage earners in the national output is to be maintained wages must increase following a price rise. The study showed also that even after excess demand had been eliminated, prices continued to rise, again an indication that employers were trying to maintain profit levels after the wage increases which followed the earlier price rises. The study showed that if a Government is to control inflation in a capitalist society it must ensure that excess demand does not arise.
It is difficult to reconcile this aim with the sheer short term political considerations of imposing tough Budgets to curb excess demand. This occurred in Australia in 1969 when, with demand moving strongly, but with a Federal election coming up after the Budget, the Government was aware of the electoral dangers in bringing in a Budget to control inflation. So the inflationary forces came into play. The consumer price index shows the quarterly price rises from March 1969 when it moved up .7 per cent, through a rising scale to 1.9 per cent in the December quarter of 1970 and 1.1 per cent in the March 1971 quarter. This shows a marked acceleration after the September quarter of 1969 and it becomes clear that the Government’s budgetary policies after 1969 have landed the country in the inflationary morass which the Government is trying to blame on the workers’ demands for higher wages.
This Government’s motives and actions are spotlighted by its refusal to move against unjustified price rises. What did the Government do to prevent Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd increasing steel prices by 8 per cent? It did not raise the same outcry as it did over the 6 per cent wage rise last December. What comment was made when BHP announced a record profit of S68m only a few months after the 8 per cent price rise? Why are profits sacrosanct in the eyes of a government which condemns modest wage increases - and 6 per cent is modest by overseas standards. When one realises what is happening in the United
Kingdom, in other parts of Europe and in the United States, one appreciates that it was an extremely modest rise. If the Treasurer had been genuinely concerned about the inflationary effect of this price rise he might have done more than exclaim: ‘A great pity’, which was about all he did. He could have expressed strong public disapproval and then taken action under the Trade Practices Act for an examination of monopolistic practices. Perhaps, however, the Treasurer was aware that under the existing legislation there might not have been enough teeth to persuade BHP to drop the price increase. If so, why not a parliamentary inquiry into the pricing policy of those firms which sell to the Federal Government or receive bounties, subsidies, tariff assistance or other benefits from Federal legislation? The Treasurer is extremely selective in choosing targets on which to blame inflation. He wants to operate half a price and incomes policy by limiting wage increases, but allow private boardrooms the right to decide their own prices.
The Government has rejected a real price-incomes policy as this would have to involve restraints on prices as well as on wages. This Budget shows once again where the Government’s sympathies lie. In the Government view the wage earner is always the villain, and the big companies are always battling against unreasonable wage demands and militant unions. Such an attitude cannot stand any sort of fair examination. There is nothing in this Budget to operate in any fundamental way against inflation. At best it may slow it down, but only at great social cost. The Government has not even learned from overseas experience. The conservative governments in the United States and Britain have made the mistake of putting millions out of work to try to contain inflation. These policies have not worked - unemployment increased, but so did inflation - and in both countries the governments are now trying to boost the economy because elections are on the way. This depressive concept has not worked overseas, so why expect it to work in Australia? The main reason is that this Government is aligned against the worker and his interests. The Budget is one of the financial weapons aimed at the wage earner. The unemployment rise now approaching will be the result.
The Treasurer has increased the 2i per cent levy on income tax by a further 21 per cent to bring it to 5 per cent. This will raise an estimated extra $63m. It only perpetuates the injustice in the method of last year’s tax reductions. The flat 10 per cent reduction last year meant unequal and unfair reductions. The taxpayer on about $9,000 a year received a tax cut of about $300, but a wage earner on $3,000 a year received a reduction of only about $50. This year’s increase in the levy only maintains that injustice. A government with a real conviction on social and economic justice - with a realisation of the one million people on the poverty line - would have completely restructured the tax scale so that the upper income earners and the wealthy would pay more and the person on the average wage would pay less. This is the fundamental change required in our tax system. If one takes a different view of the definition of ‘poverty’ as do those who claim that there are not one million people at this level, then one arrives at the reduced figure of some half a million people on the poverty line. But whichever figure one takes it is a disgrace that in a country which could be so prosperous half a million people, let alone one million, could be on the poverty line.
The Treasurer again revealed the Government’s priorities when he made the gesture of increasing by 5 per cent the tax on the first $10,000 of a company’s income. It will raise only another $24m a year and falls mostly on the small companies. The board rooms of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, and the big finance companies will be rejoicing at this flea bite. It will bring in little extra revenue. It is an insignificant increase which is only designed to allow the Treasurer to say: ‘Look, we are not afraid to raise taxes on big business’. In this context it is interesting to note the evidence given before the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange last Monday. A prominent stockbroker, stated that a firm made a net profit to 30th June 1970 of $5.732m yet paid only $34,000 tax. He went on to say that in a previous year the profit was $4. 168m and yet tax paid was only $7,000.
Is it just that a worker on the average wage of about $80 per week pays about one-sixth of his pay in tax, yet a big firm earning millions of dollars profit pays only little more than ten times the amount paid by the employee on $4,000 a year? A parliamentary inquiry is due into the methods which allow large firms to ride on the ordinary taxpayer’s back. The realities of tax to actual earnings of companies as compared to employees will interest the public. The taxpayer will be in for a shock if this information ever becomes public. The information and facilities for compiling such a comparison are available to the Government. Ohe Budget paper - ‘National Accounting Estimates of Public Authority Receipts and Expenditure’ - does give some indication of the ratio over the past 10 years. In the financial year 1961-62 income tax on companies was $582m, and on persons $654m. The 1971-72 Budget estimates illustrate the changing ratio. Company income tax totals $ 1,566m while personal income tax totals $2. 859m. In 10 years the amount of revenue from personal income tax has increased from a point where it was only slightly higher than company income tax to a point where personal tax is approaching almost double. The same imbalance is borne out in Consolidated Revenue where personal income tax receipts totalled S3, 178m and company income tax totalled only $ 1, 444m. It is interesting that indirect taxes, a relatively unjust method of taxing in our system, provided S2,502m.
The details should be given to the wage earners who pay a great deal of the revenue. It would be helpful if the report gave a detailed percentage breakdown of the origin of revenue, and a similar detailed table showing the outgoings. This would expose the Government’s priorities. The people would then clearly see that one of the most urgent tasks facing this country is a proper and equitable distribution of its wealth. The Budget does not even make a start on this redistribution. The only way to achieve an equitable tax structure as a basis for economic justice is to change the government. The task of redistribution cannot be undertaken piecemeal. The Government does not even meet cursorily the need for income justice.
As for extra charges, the Government has actively subscribed to maintaining inflation by raising postal charges, radio and television licence fees, and excise on petrol and cigarettes. This will cause a rise in everyday living costs, directly and indi rectly. To the ordinary taxpayer, this is what inflation is all about - his cost of living just keeps going up. Can the Government explain how these extra charges work to reduce inflation? Could the Treasurer convince the average worker that his cost of living will somehow decrease if the Government puts up charges on everyday goods and services such as these? Of course, the effect on pensioners and others on fixed incomes is much worse than on the wage earner who can expect some slight relief by a rise in wages after the national wage case later this year.
The Treasurer does not seem to take into account the fact that pensioners and others on fixed inadequate incomes smoke, post letters, use the telephone, drive cars, and possess television and radio sets. The Budget rises in these fields do not recognise the inevitable rise in transport costs, so that the pensioner pays more for his vegetables, and the rural worker, already insecure and fearful of the future, pays more for transport charges on everyday goods. It is but another illustration of the Government’s philosophy. The amounts raised by these extra charges are minuscule compared to the revenue which could be raised in other areas or saved by a government which had different priorities.
Some concessions are being granted to pensioners in respect of television licences, fares and so on by the Federal and State governments, but in total they do not amount to a great deal when capitalised. I think the total would be worth between $3 and $4 a week to pensioners, which would still leave them in an extremely difficult position. They are not provided with the means to live in dignity as all Australians are entitled to live.
The higher radio and television licence charges will raise an estimated extra Slim a year. The increase in revenue from these extra charges is to total only about SI 68m a year. According to the figures I produced last year on the cost of the war in Vietnam to Australian taxpayers - and I do not know that these figures have been challenged by the Government or the Department of Defence - this increase in revenue does not even equal the cost of 6 months of our military involvement in Vietnam. In making that comparison it is necessary to have regard to our defence costs prior to our involvement in Vietnam and to assess the change in annual expenditure. It is necessary to study the way in which the graph illustrating our defence expenditure has sharply altered. The cost of our involvement in Vietnam is enormous and is far greater than the figure which is produced by the Government. The Government’s figure apparently covers only the direct wages and so on of our soldiers involved in Vietnam. Our Vietnam involvement has cost us annually about $400m in addition. How much more revenue could be obtained if the large mining companies were required to pay more than a pittance in royalties? Why does not the Government move into these areas to provide finance for our schools, hospitals, roads, transport and housing and to solve our growing problems of pollution and the deteriorating environment.
The Budget increases payments to the States by $437m to a total of $3,280m. Somehow this increase is supposed to paper over all the fundamental disagreements between this Government and the States. The people in the States can testify to the end effect of these long term conflicts. They are suffering drastically increased fares, higher hospital charges and higher local government charges, all being the result of the unrealistic arrangements between the Commonwealth, under this Government, and the States. The Government often tries to defend itself against these justified criticisms by declaring that the Opposition has a centralist policy which would exacerbate the present position.
– If we had a good Labor Government like the Gair Government there would be free hospitalisation.
– I will not enter into a discussion on what Senator Gair may have done in the past. I have no doubt that a lot of what he did in the past when he was part of a Labor Government in Queensland-
– I was Leader of that Government.
– Yes. I have no doubt that it was for the welfare of the people. But I must say that over the recent period Senator Gair and other members of the Democratic Labor Party by their vote in this chamber have supported the policies of this Government which have acted against the interests of the people of Australia. The Government has denied social justice to Australians. It has denied increases in social services, in child endowment and other fields. It has been able to do so because it has had the support of the Democratic Labor Party. One of my parents used to tell me: ‘Don’t boast of what you were. It is what you are today that matters’. Do not tell me, Senator Gair, of the great things you used to do. What matters is what you are doing today.
– It is no wonder they told you that.
– Order! Leaders of the parties are to be listened to with respect and in reasonable silence. Senator Murphy is to be listened to with respect and in reasonable silence, as I hope Senator Gair will be received.
– I was saying that the Opposition is accused of having a centralist policy. That is not true. At the recent Federal Conference of the Labor Party in Launceston a fundamental change was made, by unanimous decision. It was decided to delete the section of ALP policy giving unlimited powers to the Federal Parliament. Under our present policy - which would be the policy of a Labor Government - not only would those powers be subject to the restraints imposed by constitutional protection of fundamental freedoms but also the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and the States would be arranged so as to balance the finances of the Commonwealth and the States to ensure adequate development of resources and adequate sharing of the finances between the Commonwealth and the States. The Labor Party would alter the present arrangements to include on the Loan Council representatives of local government and semi-governmental authorities in each State. I repeat that the policy was changed by unanimous decision.
The Opposition believes that Commonwealth and State co-operation would be furthered if the Commonwealth and the States agreed to ensure that the decisions of joint conferences were tabled in the Commonwealth and State parliaments. This Budget merely patches up the gaping holes which have been worn in the fabric of Commonwealth and State relations. More than an injection of extra money is required to effect basic changes for the benefit of the States. The Liberal Government has refused to consider fundamental rebuilding. A Labor Government would have a policy of reorganisation so that the Commonwealth and the States would run in the true spirit of co-operation.
As to the rural crisis, the Budget gives a total of $275m to rural industries, an increase of $65m over last year. The Treasurer says that the subsidy for wool growers will cost an estimated $60m in the next year. This seems to be a very optimistic estimate based only on the guaranteed price of 36c per lb for wool. Rural experts have estimated that for each cent that the market price of wool falls below this figure, the cost in government subsidy will rise by $20m. As some wool authorities have estimated that the wool price may drop below 30c per lb, one can see that the total subsidy for one year may rise to about $180m or even higher. No-one knows exactly. The Treasurer simply hopes for the best. The decision on this across the board increase ignores a great deal of expert advice. A number of academics in economics at 3 Melbourne universities issued a statement, as the Budget was being prepared, opposing any decision to support the wool industry by a guaranteed minimum price for all wool produced. The statement says that whilst the wool industry needs immediate financial assistance it should be provided only on a temporary basis and should cease within 3 years.
The Government has given no clear sign of how long it is planned to continue the subsidy, but on past trends it will be difficult to deal with the Country Party, which will be insistent upon preserving a scheme which is aimed not to meet the requirements of those who are in difficulties but to ensure that pandering to the wealthy interests will continue. The professors pointed out that the subsidy scheme giving a guaranteed wool price provides about 60 per cent of the subsidy payments to the 15 per cent of wealthy wool growers who produce about 60 per cent of the wool clip. This is another Government policy which discriminates heavily in favour of the wealthy. These eminent economists agreed that some cost anomalies would be involved in distributing rural aid on a needs basis, but said that it would be preferable because a subsidy on all wool produced would involve far greater costs to the community.
The Opposition believes in the necessity for a proper rural reconstruction scheme. We believe that it should be designed to help people who are in a desperate plight,, and a considerable number of people in the country are in a desperate plight. How can anyone fairly say in the name of social justice that the extremely wealthy should be subsidised from moneys garnered by taxation imposed on the little people? I refer, for example to typists and process workers in the cities and the people out in the country, the rural battlers who from the little they earn must pay their taxes, part of which is to go to some of the extremely wealthy graziers and to the great corporations which are operating throughout the country. The wealthy graziers and great corporations get the major part of the benefit. Where is the social justice in that? Would it not be better to eliminate the payments to those great corporations and those wealthy people, some of them with hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars? Why should they be given anything by the community? It is extraordinary that the Government should be prepared to give to wealthy people a subsidy, a bounty, a handout, when what it ought to be doing is seeing that it meets the real needs of those in difficulty. Is that not the proper approach to be made by any government aiming at social justice? Is the Government saying that it is impossible to do this? I reject that.
The Budget increases defence spending by $117m to a total of $ 1,252.4m. This is over 10 per cent higher than last year’s appropriation. Some $66m of this will go to pay salary increases, and increased capital expenditure is put at $3 2m. But where is there a mention of the Fill aircraft? What has happened to that project? This is a conservative government, and one of the claims made by conservative governments is that they know how to manage affairs. Well, how has this Government managed the security of Australia? It has managed the Fill affair so badly that it has been condemned several times in this Senate. The Government ordered the Fill in 1963 but now, in 1971, we still have not got it. We have paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to America and, notwithstanding that those dollars have undergone some slight devaluation, we have not got our money and we have not got our aircraft. What would have happened to us if we had become involved in some local war? The Government has made a decent old hash of a great commercial undertaking. One would have thought that the Government would have used its best endeavours in this regard. If this is an indication of its best endeavours, then what is it doing in regard to the multitude of affairs which are not so great as to come to our notice? What is to happen about the replacement aircraft and what happens about the financial arrangements? We know about the amounts paid out but we do not know what it will eventually cost us for these aircraft, which we probably will never get.
We are pulling out of Vietnam at last. According to figures I had prepared last year by the Parliamentary Legislative Research Service, our commitment in Vietnam has cost us over SI, 800m. Only slight mention was made in the Budget Speech of our withdrawal, and no mention was made by the Treasurer of how much we will save. The figures prepared for me last year showed that about $400m a year, directly and indirectly, was paid out because of our military involvement in Vietnam. That is what it is costing us. But there is no reference in the Budget to the absorption of any part of that tremendous amount of money into general defence spending. Instead we are told, as always, that defence spending is going up.
One of the largest overseas military commitments in our history is ending and we ought to see a substantial reduction in defence spending, not an increase. Expenditure on this military hardware could well be spent on defence in areas which basically would increase our military strength. We should be spending money on seeing to it that we have the potential to produce aircraft and other military vehicles, on building roads which are necessary for defence purposes, and on improving our industrial efficiency. In these ways the defence potential of the country would be vastly increased. It is clear that the country which has the greatest industrial efficiency also has the greatest military potential. But apparently, in the view of this Government, the only kind of defence spending which should be engaged in is the purchase of military hardware.
As to welfare, we know that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on taking office pledged the Government to bring into effect in 1971-72 a fundamental review of social services and methods of adjusting them. But where is it? What has happened to that pledge? It has not been carried out. The miserable SI. 25 for pensioners was still their biggest cash rise in years, no doubt because the Prime Minister was contemplating an early election until his Party disintegrated about him. But the rise of $1.25 does little more than compensate pensioners for the inflation of the past year. The Budget is predicated on an estimated 9 per cent rise in earnings this financial year so where do pensioners stand until the next Budget?
The whole social service structure must be scrapped and rebuilt on new principles. The pledge of the Prime Minister recognised that this is not the way to handle social service matters, but what is he doing about it? He simply came along and granted another slight increase. It is incontestable. He has admitted that there should be a new structuring of social services.
– Get that new tribunal 1 recommended.
– The Senate already has entered upon an inquiry into the introduction of a national superannuation scheme and the method of financing and operating it. I hope that something will come out of that. This was done with the consensus of the whole Senate. I hope that the result of the Senate’s deliberations will force the Prime Minister to do something about carrying out the pledge he made to the people of Australia which, it appears, he is not honouring.
Pensioners must not be subjected to these humiliating rises every Budget day and be forced to hobble financially through life. The only fair way is to tie pensions to average earnings or the cost of living until such time as there is a better method of dealing with this matter. Pensioner group leaders have called for an immediate $5 a week rise pending the construction of a new welfare scheme geared to the living standards of our wage earners. Is $5 a week more too much to ask in a rich country like this with inflation constantly eroding the real value of pension payments? This country can afford much larger pensions. Even if $5 a week were granted, pensioners would get a total of only S22.25 a week, little more than half the basic wage. And who can live on the basic wage with any kind of dignity and comfort? The whole social welfare scheme is a malignant growth on our society and this Government is not equipped or inclined to perform surgery to remove it.
This Budget does nothing to tackle the real and urgent problems facing Australia. Our education system is in a continuous state of crisis. It staggers from one crisis to another. The problems never will be solved by the approach shown in this Budget. We need enormous amounts of money pumped into the whole educational system, and to do this requires a complete change of direction - a new approach by a new government. Our health system, barely holding together from the repairs it received after the Nimmo inquiry and the Wedgwood report, does not fulfil the requirements of a modern industrialised society in the 1970s. Its inequities are legion. It ensures rising incomes for the medical profession but does not ensure proper treatment for all our people. It too needs radical surgery but this is not the government for that demanding task.
One of the major criticisms which can be levelled at this Budget is that it will do nothing to boost our growth rate. We are falling behind disastrously compared with other advanced industrial societies. I think honourable senators have seen figures that show that in the list of advanced industrialised societies we are way down, very close to the bottom of the group. Our rate of growth has been extremely slow. This country is suffering from stagnation. Part of this is the fault of management. In Australia we have poor management. Part of it is due to our failure to utilise the most advanced technology. Part of it is the inevitable result of an education system which is lagging behind those of other countries.
I believe that a great part of it is the result of the failure of the Government to give the leadership that it should give. If we are to have a well managed society we must have leadership from the top. The management of this country is simply not good enough. Why else do we have a country with the riches that Australia has - the mineral wealth, the agricultural and pastoral wealth and the income potential - but with the education opportunities for our children worse than those for the children in other countries such as Japan, with a rate of growth that is falling behind those of other countries and with a social service system such that in the statistics that the United Nations hands out Australia has dropped from being one of the first 3 or 4 in the world at the time this Government came into office to being about twentieth in the world and receding rapidly? How has all this come about if there has been reasonable management? Although management in industry is poor, there is no management as poor as the management of this country. The reason for that is the poor philosophies and the inabilities of those who are leading the Government of this country.
The Opposition rejects the whole philosophy of this Budget. The Government is keeping the brakes on the economy for purely political purposes, and those purposes are inimical to the interests of this nation. 1 therefore move:
At end of motion add: ‘, but the Senate condemns the Budget because -
it breaks the Prime Minister’s pledge to Parliament on taking office to bring into effect for 1971-72 a fundamental review of social services and of methods for adjusting them,
it contains no proposals to balance the finances and functions of the Commonwealth, the States and local government and
it produces no programme for high national objectives of social welfare, economic strength and national security.’
– Tonight the Senate is discussing the Budget of the Federal Government of Australia. Following the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) as I do, I do not propose to read my speech; nor do I propose to build it upon international theory or internal theory as opposed to fact. 1 propose to address myself to a few fundamentals with regard to the finances of this country and the economic situation as it is developing at the present time. It is obvious, I should think, to every citizen of the country that rapidly accelerating inflationary trends are developing in our economy. They should not be obscured, however purposeful people are to achieve political power by misrepresenting the facts.
Inflation is one of the insidious undermining challenges that affect the small person much more severely than the well to do person. It is important that we preserve the value of people’s savings and the incomes of people on fixed retirement benefits if we are to prevent severe social injustice. It is also imperative that we stem inflation, which is the wasting of the value of money, if we are to achieve a proper rate of development in the country, because if today we have $200m of investable public money and each project is costing $10m and next year each project will cost 50 per cent more we will achieve a much reduced number of those projects next year at the higher or inflated cost.
Furthermore, it is a simple observation to make, but one the repetition of which is quite timely, that in a country such as Australia, where hitherto our export income has been developed and earned in the main by our agricultural and rural industries which have to submit to all the internal costs and all the external costs of marketing and transport and then meet the world markets as they are made abroad without assistance from the Government, it is imperative, if the rural industries are to be preserved in any meaningful sense, that cost inflation be arrested or modified as much as possible-
We are dealing not with an airy-fairy set of figures but with the Budget of the nation, with which it has been the experience of Senator Murphy never to have dealt. The Budget sets out on one side the income of the nation and on the other side the expenditure of the nation. In this situation there are very few in this Parliament who make a substantial contribution to the income of the nation. Their function in this Parliament is to manage the Budget or the national finances. The finances of the country belong to the people we represent.
With those hard facts before us let us see the first thing that should be looked upon with regards to this Budget. That is that it provides for an expenditure during the next 12 months of $883,000m- a mammoth sum for the Opposition to grasp and a very significant sum for anybody in Australia to reckon with, but a midget sum in relation to some of the Budgets of overseas countries. I repeat that the expenditure that this Government undertakes out of Commonwealth moneys this year is $883,00Om. Those who criticise the policies that are expressed in the hard cash figures of the Budget - it is those with which I want to deal, not fanciful theories of Socialist nonsence such as we have listened to - should note that more than two-thirds of the $833,00Om is committed under 4 items - defence, the States, the National Welfare Fund and repatriation services. When one considers the degree to which any one of those is over provided, one starts to criticise the expenditure for which we are budgeting because, for defence services, the Budget is providing $ 1,252m - an increase over last year of $117m. More than half of that increase - 60 per cent to 70 per cent of it - is due to increases in salaries and wages which, in the eyes of the Opposition, are sacrosanct.
This year payments to the States have had to be adjusted because the payroll tax has been surrendered to them. I will adopt Senator Murphy’s figure of $3,1 89m - say $3,200m. One of the grounds for the Opposition’s amendment to the Budget is that it contains no proposals to balance the finances and functions of the Commonwealth, the States and local government. For that reason the Opposition complains about the Budget. This is a hardy old bait. Apparently at Launceston, by a unanimous vote of the Labor Party Conference, it abandoned its proposal to take for Canberra complete and unqualified power over everything and to unify the country. We were told by Senator Murphy that the conference unanimously adopted that proposal. I suppose everybody was scurrying for aircraft and it went through unobserved. I do not know; I guess that. Tonight when dealing with the Budget Senator Murphy was parading the fact that the Party has a proposal for an appropriate division of political power and a corresponding carving up of finances between the States and the Commonwealth. We have just handed over to the States a tax that yielded to us $259m and which is capable of yielding growing returns according to the payroll of the country in which it is levied.
The adjusted amount provided to the States this year is 13,189m, as against a figure of $2,4 16m 2 years ago. That vote for the States has increased from $2,400m in round figures 2 years ago to $3, 200m this year - in other words, an increment of 33$ per cent in 2 years. It is the Federal Government that has to go to a taxpaying community called Australians to get that $3,200m- to get that increment of $800m over the figure that was allocated to the States 2 years ago. The responsibility for that expenditure is in the hands of State governments. They - Labor and Liberal alike - consider that for the most part they have to increase taxes and charges to meet the expenditure which they feel they are obliged to provide to carry on the services of the State. The second item in this quota of the Federal Budget, representing two-thirds of it, to which I call attention is the $3,200m that we take out of Jim Smith’s taxable income and give back to the State governments for administration by them as they see fit.
When after 72 years the Labor Party comes forward with a unification policy and wilh a proposal in which it criticises us for not balancing the finances and functions of the Commonwealth, the States and local government, what its members have to remember is that in a Federal system there are 2 governments - Federal on the one hand and State on the other - both requiring support from the one community of taxpayers. Therefore this is a newfound fantastic folly of trying to inveigle the people of the Stales into saying that we are not bringing equity into the distribution of finances between Federal and State. A simple reflection will remind them, as every taxpayer will be alert to tell them, that any money we send back to the State governments comes out of the very same community of taxpayers as we in this Budget are asking to pay $3,200m which we will pass straight back to the State governments. The stern item in this quota of (he Budget, to which I referred as constituting more than two-thirds of it, is the National Welfare Fund. It has the mechanism to provide the social service payments for pensioners. Under the various headings provided for in the Budget the expenditure will total SI, 694m this year. We had a fantastic distortion of figures presented to us by the Leader of the Opposition when he said that our social service increment - I will take the age pension increase of $1.25 a week - would do little more than recoup costs. We are increasing the National Welfare Fund by $2 17m this year. The increases in the various social services under this tight Budget will represent an increased payment of $217m. The fantastic folly is that Senator Murphy expected to attract attention from hard hearted listeners in Australia when he berated us for the insignificance of the social service increases and when he accused the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) of not complying with his pledge to give full attention to the need for increasing social services. As lite Treasurer (Mr Snedden) said, a tight Budget was coming. Senator Murphy did not say that the increase in this Budget is $21 7 m.
Senator Murphy berated us with 47 minutes of a read speech and then found it convenient, after listening for 3 minutes, to retire before either hearing or attempting to understand the answer. When he was saying that the increased personal income tax would yield $68m and that the increased duty on cigarettes would yield $21 in, he did not say that the total of all the increased taxes in this Budget represents $157m, which is just $60m less than the increased social services which it provides under the one heading of National Welfare Fund. So what genuineness, what sense, what sincerity is there behind a speech that berates a Government for making insufficient provision for social services and imposes additional taxes yet does not have the candour to point out that the total increase in taxes amounting to SI 57m falls short of one item, the increases in social services? We are increasing the benefits in that item bv $21 7m. The total of all the tax increases in this Budget is less than that figure by S60m. Would the arch candidates for the office in a new Labor government, say if they went to pensioners: ‘We just abhor the increased taxes that have been imposed’? Would they say to the pensioners: Sorry, but we cannot give you a three cents increase because we have not increased tax’. We. on the other hand, treat social service increments as something to be adjusted according to alterations in the economy as an inescapable national obligation to that section of the community. We take the responsibility of increasing the taxes that will yield the increment. We get the balance by productivity in a developed economy, with the confidence that in the next year the economy will have grown to such an extent that the Government will have not only increased taxes to rely upon but also an increased yield brought about by productivity.
The fourth item that I said represented more than two-thirds of the Budget was repatriation services. Does anyone say that repatriation is not one of the inescapable obligations of any government to pay for the compensation of the people who have fought? Consequently in a tight Budget we find that last year’s vote of $3 15m has been increased this year to $355m. This is an increase for repatriation services of S40m. I invite any honourable senator to stand in his place and challenge us in any respect on any one of those items and say where, with prudence and justice, we could have budgeted for a lesser expenditure. More than two-thirds of the Budget expenditure is inescapable.
While on that topic, and bearing in mind that Budget expenditure is $833,000m, we are budgeting for a yield-
– It is not $883,000m. It is $8,833m. That is the fourth time that you have given the incorrect figure.
– The Budget expenditure is $8,833m and the yield - the receipts - corresponds to that figure within $llm. So if that expenditure is inescapable and if it is justified we automatically justify the receipts.
I want to say something on 3 specific matters that I think are vital to the commonsense and hardheaded consideration - as opposed to any fantastic nonsense - of this Budget. There are 2 things that are of special importance in regard to this Budget. The first is the industrial chaos that is being developed by reason of misgovernment of trade union affairs and abuse of a full employment situation. Such a situation is indicated by one fact which is recorded in figures. The man-days lost 5 years ago by industrial dislocation was three-quarters of a million days. Last year the number of days lost was 2i million and at the rate being recorded this year the figure will be 3 million. That loss is being suffered not by one section of the community; the effect is being multiplied and suffered by all sections of the community. This is waste. It increases artificially the cost of labour and that is a cardinal factor of inflation. Trade unions are organisations and institutions which, if managed by their leaders, can be of great value for the great body of their members. No community can be stronger or more prosperous than when the wage earning community is prosperous and doing a fair share of the work. That is the first thing that I want to say.
The second specific item to which I want to refer is the rural section. The Treasurer indicated in his Budget Speech that rural income this year is expected to be some $265m less than last year. Last year rural income, by comparison with the incomes of other sections of the community, was deplorably low. It is estimated that the farm income of Australia last year was $8 10m. That is about the same income as the figure for farm income 20 years ago. This problem can be stated in other terms when we remind ourselves that 50,000 of the 92,000 wool growers are assessed to be getting an income of less than $2,000 a year. A steward on a ship can get $8,000 a year but the 50,000 wool growers in Australia are getting less.
Then we had the argument from the fantastic Opposition which besets us here that relief of an industry such as the wool growing industry is in the category of a social service benefit. We were told about the wealthy wool grower but I point out that if he is earning an income of $20,000 a year he will be paying income tax at the rate of $9,267, and if he is earning $10,000 a year he will be paying $3,215 in income tax. The Opposition has this mildewed obsession that everying has to be governed on the basis of a pension whereas what the Government is doing with regard to the wool industry is eliminating 10 per cent of the scrubber wool and saying that for the temporary period of this year, with which this Budget is concerned, while the price that can be obtained on the world market is less than 36c per lb average for the whole clip over the whole year it will make a deficiency payment. That is budgeted for as a guarantee for the wool industry which in the past has yielded an income for the nation of $700m, $800m and even $900m a year. We put the country to the risk of a budget expense this year of $60m in order to underwrite the price of wool, lt may, in fact, be more if the market proves to be more sour than we expect, but I would have thought that that was the least the country could do, not as a matter of sympathy but as a matter of hard headed business, to preserve the best industry that this country has ever had.
I now wish to refer to an argument put forward by some of Senator Murphy’s fraternity. The Government makes payments not only to the wool industry but also for the benefit of various sections of industry. We are providing for the rural industry this year payments aggregating $274m, whereas for manufacturing industry we are providing $82m, for the mining industry we are providing Slim, and for the transport industry we are providing $2m. When it is considered that, in addition, we provide a tariff wall within which the rest of the economy is nurtured by the Tariff Board to the extent of some $2,700m for the year, it can be seen that the Government, in regard to. giving benefits to the rural industries, is doing no more than keeping them from bedrock by a minimal payment which bears no comparison with the subventions that are given to other sections of industry. One example which was cited as a case against us was company tax. I thought that Senator Murphy implied most unfairly that a company earning $4m could get away with paying $7,000 in taxation. The income tax on that yield of income, unless there are extraordinary circumstances, is Si. 9m.
The last thing that 1 wish to say is that we are accused of not having had regard to education. The increased vote for education this year brings our direct expenditure on education to $346m. Approximately 10 years ago it was less than onesixth of that amount. I have analysed some of the basic figures of this Budget to show that our expenditure is not excessive. It was almost inescapable that taxes had to be increased, but if one tries to equate the increased taxes with the benefits that have been granted one finds that taxes are the lesser. If we are to manage the affairs of this nation so as not unduly to arrest its development, so as not to create social hardship and so as not to bear unduly on the burdens of the rural industry, 1 submit that honourable senators will give complete support to the Budget that the Government has put before them.
– We are discussing the 1971-72 Budget. As 1 have said here on a few occasions previously, the Budget is the most important statement of the Government’s performance. It is the Government’s report on the expenditure of money appropriated the previous year, its programme for the future and its appropriation of money under many headings. This is an annual debate which takes place in the national Parliament as well as in State parliaments throughout Australia, lt is not simply an annual report on the national housekeeping, if I may call it that, in which are detailed the collection and distribution of the nation’s resources; it is one of the most important documents with which Parliament deals. It is something that has been a feature of democratic parliaments in the democracies of the world. Yet the weekend before last I was amazed to hear a member of the House of Representatives, indeed a shadow Minister, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), say that the Budget meant nothing and that we could do without it.
– Who was he?
– 1 have already stated his long title and it would only take up my limited time to pay much attention to him because he is a bit subject to flattery. All I can deduce from what the honourable gentleman said is that he is a man with a disorderly mind, because even in a well ordered domestic sphere people budget. They sit down and take into account what their income is likely to be for the year and what their expenditure will be on the commitments they have to meet - instalments on the house, rent, maintenance of the children and themselves, the running cost of a car if they have one. They go into all these matters, which shows that they are orderly minded people. The people of Australia expect our Government to be orderly minded and to present a budget.
In the first instance, the Government must have parliamentary approval for the appropriation of money. At the end of 12 months it has to give an account of its stewardship, showing how it expended that money. Whether the money was oversupplied or insufficient will come out in the records that the Government presents. For the ensuing year the Government sets down what amount it anticipates it will need under various headings and it seeks the approval of Parliament for this amount. For any parliamentarian to say publicly that the Budget is of no consequence do.?s not show very much good promise for the future of the Cabinet or the Ministry of which he might be a member.
This Budget is not very different from most Budgets. It is like the curate’s egg. It is good in parts. We of the Australian Democratic Labor Party believe that we have cause for some satisfaction inasmuch as matters which we believed merited urgency debates in this Senate, such as pensions, child endowment and a readjustment of superannuation to exCommonwealth employees, have received the attention of the Government. For that we are grateful. 1 shall deal with these matters contained in the Budget as as I go along. But at this stage I say that I do not feel it is a Budget that will win a lot of applause. But, after all, what Budget does. We will always find a section of the Budget which will adversely affect a certain section of our people - a section which will become dissatisfied because of some impost or tax. Last year we had a Budget which surrendered to the taxpayer about $289m in tax rebates. The Prime Minister of the day made a promise during the 1969 election campaign that he would relieve the taxpayers by so much over a period of 3 years. He did it in one year. He did more than he undertook to do in one year. As he said in a recent article entitled ‘I Did it my Way’, in the same Budget he aimed at eliminating poverty. He gave the pensioners 50c after remitting 5289m to the taxpayers, a big section of whom were people on as much as $32,000 a year. At least this Budget is not remitting taxation. It is imposing an additional tax of 2i per cent on income. Perhaps that action would not have been necessary had so much not been given last year.
I heard Senator Murphy say that as far as the family man was concerned 2i per cent would be more than he would gain from additional child endowment. That would be a decision based on a quick assessment, because the average family man - the man I have in mind would have 4, 5 or 6 children - on an average rate of pay does not pay tax at all. By the time he receives a rebate for his wife and children and for various expenses he would not pay tax. Senator Murphy’s statement was an irresponsible statement made with a view to destroying a feature of the Budget which we should all applaud. The family man has been left behind. He was at a disadvantage compared with his fellow worker who had a small family or none at all, with the single man and even the spinster woman who was doing the same work as himself and receiving the same pay. He was receiving no allowance, or very little allowance. That position had not altered since 1967. That is why we considered it merited an urgency resolution.
While I do not cheer about the Budget I think I have a responsibility to deal with the matter in a national way and not with a lot of political emotionalism bordering on irrationalism. Let us examine the Budget and see how bad it is. I deplore features of it, which I shall mention as I go along. But does it merit emotional calamity howling that 100,000 people will be out of work by next year? Does it merit the Leader of the Opposition in another place endeavouring to convey to Australia and beyond that our people are in a state of penury as a result of this Budget? We are not. We are a relatively affluent people. With the exception of pockets of poverty our people live comparatively well.
– Tell that to the pensioners.
– I said, with the exception of the pensioners. Who has done more for the pensioners than the Democratic Labor Party?
– It backs the Government every time.
– The honourable senator would not know whether we back the Government. Was he here in support of the urgency resolution in the autumn session? No.
– No. I did not have to be here.
– No, be did not have to be here and he does not have to be here now as far as I am concerned.
– You have to be in government to do something for. the pensioners. You cannot do it in opposition.
– At least we have tried. We have seen the importance of these things. We stressed the importance of them and we brought them under notice with some measure of success. Our efforts have paid dividends. But all this calamity howling does no good for this country. It will not prove to be of any value. It reminds me of a situation in 1961 or thereabouts. Mr Calwell was being interviewed on television. He was questioned as to his prospects at the forthcoming election. The interviewer asked him: ‘What would you wish to happen to improve your chances of being the Government?’ Mr Calwell replied that he would want the angel of death to visit Melbourne. He would like to see a minor war break out, a bit of a depression and a bit of unemployment. That would help him into office. Could honourable senators imagine anything more negative than that? What was said last night reminded me of that occasion. Perhaps the present parliamentary leader of the Australian Labor Party wants a visit from the angel of death to Melbourne because he has a terrific handicap there whom he tried to support last night in his presence. He would like an army of 100,000 unemployed to give him an argument in support of a change of government. I do not think this Budget, even with its weaknesses, merits such calamity howling. This attitude will rebound on the Australian Labor Party. It does none of us any good to go about howling calamity, disaster, and unemployment.
– Yes, knockers, and it will rebound on them if it is continued with. We are not in the state suggested by the calamity howlers; we live affluently and well.
– Do you think automation
– Let me automate now.
– We wish you would.
– You would have many wishes about me, but none of them will ever be redeemed. I am not a killjoy, but let us consider the TAB returns and turnover throughout Australia to see how poor we are. For 1970-71 in Australia the turnover of the TAB was no less than $693,748,337.
– Some of that was mine.
– That shows a state of irresponsibility. The turnover of licensed bookmakers was in excess of $700m. Poker machines, which are illegal in all States other than New South Wales, returned to that State $30m in taxes, so consider what the turnover on them must have been. The total expenditure on gambling in Australia was the tiny sum ot $ 1,580m. Yet we hear talk about calamity, the poverty of our people and all this rubbish. Let us deal with these things in a national way and not in an emotional and political manner with a view to achieving some political gain. We should be telling the people what the true position is, and that is what we of the Democratic Labor Party aim at doing.
– Do not become political.
– 1 am always political, but I am not party political to the stage of being biased or prejudiced. I give credit where it is due. After all, the old adage still stands, that deeds speak louder than words. That is of particular relevance when we match up the Government’s promises and statements agains the cold monetary provisions of its annual Budget. That is the purpose of the Budget. The role of the Democratic Labor Party at this time each year when debating the Budget has always been constructive. We have always tried to evaluate the Budget against the background of Australia’s welfare in its widest sense, including the economic wellbeing of its people as well as the requirements of national security.
Social services involve those members of our community whose need is greatest. I refer to the aged, the invalids, the widows and their families. These are the people who feel most severely the impact of inflation and who have become the most disadvantaged in our society which is growing in affluence. Their position has been worsened by the increased cost of essential commodities brought about by unwarranted industrial stoppages and strikes, many of which are of a political character. The DLP has severely criticised past Budgets because of the lack of concern for and practical assistance to social service recipients generally. That is why we were determined in the autumn session this year to introduce the urgency resolutions to which I have referred. I note with some satisfaction that in this Budget important steps are taken, although belatedly, to readjust the balance. These steps are inadequate in terms of the full justice that we would desire. I have been saying in this place for years that until pensions and social services are taken out of the field of politics we can never hope to get justice for these people.
Recipients of social service benefits are humiliated at every election to find that their income is the subject of bargaining from the hustings, one political party offering this and another party offering something else. Let us remove social services from that area. Just as our awards governing the working conditions and wages of our people are determined by competent industrial courts, arbitrators and conciliators, let us set up a. tribunal to deal with social service benefits, a tribunal which can have regard to increases in the cost of living, wage increases and other criteria which are important. That proposal has been opposed by the Government and the Opposition on every occasion that we have brought it forward. The increase of $1.25 a week, taken with the 50c conceded earlier by the McMahon Government, will provide pensioners with an overall increase of $1.75 a week since the last Budget. Such an increase is welcome and is a great deal better than that provided by the last Budget. I believe that it is the greatest increase that has been granted in any single year, but it will do little more than compensate for the rises in costs and prices which have occurred over the past 12 months.
There are several anomalies with regard to pensions which I believe merit early consideration. Some of them should have received consideration before now. An anomaly to which I refer particularly is the difference between the pension for a married couple and that paid to 2 single pensioners occupying the same residence, home or flat - call it what you will. A man and his wife receive less than 2 pensioner sisters who are living under the one roof and sharing the cost of maintenance of that home. Similarly, a brother and sister living under the one roof would each receive a benefit at the single pensioner rate, whereas if they were man and wife they would receive less. That is wrong. Another anomaly is that a man of 65 years is forced out of work because he has reached retiring age. He might be married to a woman 7 or 8 years his junior, and she cannot receive a pension until she has reached the age of 60 years. As a result they both have to live on his pension. If he does not enjoy good health he would not be able physically to get a job to enable him to supplement the pension up to the limit that is allowed. There are several anomalies such as those that I feel are worthy of rectification because they bring about a great deal of discontent and continue an injustice.
I refer next to the means test. We have been arguing that the means test is a penalty on providence and thrift, that there are many people in receipt of an income just sufficient to debar them from a pension who are worse off in the ultimate than pensioners because they are denied fringe benefits, namely, free medical treatment and pharmaceutical benefits, rebates on municipal rates, concessionary train fares and bus fares-
– Reduced television licence fees.
– Yes, and a concession on telephone rentals. I am not suggesting that pensioners should not receive these benefits, but people whose income is just sufficient to debar them from a pension because of the means test are infinitely worse off. This is unfair because they are people who had regard for the future, people who while earning paid into superannuation schemes, sometimes at great sacrifice, at the same time as they were required to pay taxation. And what do they find on their retirement? They find that after all they have done, the result of their sacrifices is that they have relieved the Commonwealth Government from paying them an age pension. It is unfair. I have told the story before but an old political tutor of mine many years ago said: Never be self conscious about repeating a good thing over and over and over again’. 1 was asked, in the absence of the Minister for Lands, to make presentations to 2 men who had served 50 years in the Queensland Lands Department. As Premier I was asked to make the presentation, as I was pleased to do to 2 officers who had given 50 years service, and the inequity of the means test was brought home to me very forcibly. Mr A was married and had no family. The home in which he lived was mortgaged to the Public Curator. He had the minimum number of units in the superannuation scheme - one or two, it would not have been any more. Mr B had educated a nice family - a boy in medicine, a girl in pharmacy, a girl school teaching and a boy in the Public Service. Because he was prepared to make sacrifices and take out as many units as he could afford, Mr B on his retirement got nothing. Mr A, if he did not get a full pension, got the best part of a full pension. That shows the injustice of it.
– Would it not justify a national superannuation scheme?
– 1 have been advocating that since the Australian Democratic Labor Party became a political party. National insurance is the only system for a country such as Australia and it is the only solution to our social service financial burden. As Senator McAuliffe will remember, we had in Queensland during the bad years when there was a measure of unemployment and a lot of casual employment, an unemployment insurance scheme into which the worker paid 6d. a week while he was employed, the Government paid 6d. a week and the employer paid 6d. a week. When a man was out of work - it was not a matter of charity - he took down his book of stamps and was paid a measure of sustenance until such time as he got another job. It was a mutual benefit society. People like railway employees, public servants and others had security of employment, and we all know that the hardest thing in the world is to sack any Crown employee; he goes on and on. It was a mutual benefit society based on the old principle of the lodge system where the sick were aided by those who had been blessed with good health. Those who had continuity of employment contributed to the payment of sustenance. That is the spirit of a national insurance scheme, is it not? Everybody puts in and those who need the aid of national insurance have something at hand.
The Democratic Labor Party urges the ultimate abolition of the means test which could be done by progressively limiting its operations to various age classifications within the pensionable age . group. As an immediate step we believe the pension would need to be raised to at least half the base rate to enable the pensioner to live at a reasonable standard, as befits his human dignity. In the long run, however, the Democratic Labor Party believes that a contributory national insurance scheme against sickness, widowhood, unemployment and old age is the only answer to the growing financial burdens of a social service system based on a means test.
I note with satisfaction the Budget adjustment of Commonwealth superannuation payments in accordance with the notional salary adjustment system. Honourable senators will recall that that was the subject of a matter of public importance raised by my colleague, Senator Kane. I would point out that the Budget fails to ameliorate the restrictive operation of the means test in relation to private superannuitants and the real hardship that may occur as a consequence. In my speech on last year’s Budget 1 pointed out that it was the family man on a low income with 4 or 5 children or more who was particularly in need of the Government’s concern and assistance. Therefore, the Democratic Labor Party is particularly satisfied to note that the increases in child endowment in this Budget are to apply to the third and subsequent children. As studies in poverty constantly have shown, this kind of increase is socially justified.
– About 10 years too late.
– Yes. I suppose if my mother were alive she would like to think it was made retrospective. But we do not have all those things. This kind of increase is justified and is one of the ways of assisting one of the most deserving and significant groups the members of which are forced in live in close proximity to the hardship level. While this Budget makes some progress in reducing injustices in the family field, the present payments remain quite inadequate. It is interesting to compare the family allowance in France with our own. Under the present Budget increases an Australian family with 5 children will receive $27 a month as against S82.48 in France. The French maternity allowance is $127.88 as against the present totally inadequate Australian allowance of $30 to $35.
– French babies must be worth more.
– They are not more valuable than our own. The Democratic Labor Party would like to see the capitalisation of child endowment, the updating of the homes savings grants, as well as provision for marriage loans rebatable on the birth of children.
I come now to a very important question that supersedes everything else, and that is our security because all the things about which 1 have been speaking are worthless and not worth the paper on which they are written unless we can feel secure as a nation. I come to the question of defence. My earlier remarks that Budgets often provide valuable clues to the way governments think on important issues have particular relevance to the question of defence. In a real sense the defence vote is the insurance premium that a nation is prepared to pay to cover future contingencies and threats to its national survival. Only one who disregards the possibility of any danger or regards it with indifference will reduce or fail to increase where necessary the premium he is required to pay. It is true that in monetary terms the defence vote has gone up by 10.3 per cent, that is, by $117m. But, of course, $66m of this increase will be absorbed in new Service pay and salary rates, as recommended by the Kerr Committee and which my Party frequently has advocated as an indispensable need for the attraction of young people to the 3 wings of our Services. Such Service pay increases have long been urged by us. There is an increase this year of S3 2m in expenditure on new capital equipment and works and an amount of S6.2m to develop the naval base at Cockburn Sound.
What is the background against which the defence vote must be judged? There have been some momentous events over the past year. Have they been such as to increase Australia’s security? Have we consolidated our alliances with our more powerful friends? Have we secured new and trusted allies? Are our vital sea lanes more secure or less secure than they were 12 months ago? The facts, however hard attempts are made to disguise them, are otherwise. The twilight of British power has deepened in our immediate north. The United States of America is clearly about to wind down and leave behind its Vietnam presence. The United States President is about to journey to Peking to do some hard bargaining with Communist China. About what, I wonder. Concerning whom, I also wonder. We do not know. Whatever emerges from the dialogue between the United States and Communist China its shadow has already been cast over Asia. Japan is showing deep concern and the clear view of other Asian nations is that the Nixon Doctrine, which current United States moves clearly represent, carries a simple message. It is a message which, observing this Budget, I really doubt that the Australian Government has yet understood. The message is: ‘In future danger we will help you but not by military power. We will be concerned that the nations to receive such help are those with the greatest defence self reliance and those who have attempted to organise regional defences of their own.’ I believe that is the message of the Nixon Doctrine.
Already India has concluded a 20-year defence pact with Soviet Russia. India has been thrown into the arms of Russia. I have no doubt that Russian arms will be thrown into India. This pact may well cover, whatever is said, fuelling if not base facilities for Russian naval forces in the Indian Ocean. Therefore Australia’s need for a naval presence there is overwhelming. So also is our need to build up a maximum defence self reliance. Whatever recent events prove, one thing is clear - that this nation will almost certainly have to face whatever threats the coming decade brings by relying only on our own strength. The days of great and powerful friends now belong only to history.
Against this background, what does the defence appropriation do? There is to be a decrease in the size of the Army, according to a recent statement of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), following the decision to shorten the national service term. Despite the defence increase in monetary terms, the true position is that the defence vote expressed as a percentage of the gross national product will now fall to 3.21 compared with 4.28 in 1967-68 and 3.23 last year. There is no provision whatever for the beginning of a light destroyer programme, essential to any Australian naval strength in the Indian Ocean. Of what use is Cockburn Sound without ships to use it? There is also no provision in the Budget for the purchase of new transport aircraft, air transport or medium lift helicopters, the equipping of the Army with modern tanks, medium range artillery or the computerised electronic equipment which a modern army needs for fire control and surveillance.
There is also no adequate provision that I can see for increased army accommodation - I shall be pleased if the Government corrects me - rendered urgent by the proposed Vietnam withdrawal. I cannot see, either, any provision for attractive reengagement incentives to keep even the reduced Army at maximum strength efficiency. The problem of so much modern military hardware is not only that its cost continually grows but, more importantly, there is a significant time lapse between its ordering and its delivery. This is especially true of naval ships. I therefore express my Party’s real concern that the Government appears to be making no provision at all for this fact.
Clearly the Democratic Labor Party is deeply concerned at the Government’s whole approach to defence as shown by an analysis of the Budget. If the Government really believes that Australia is not worth defending or that recent events have indicated that all is well and there is no need to worry, let it come out and say so. In that case it will find some ready supporters in this Parliament but I am happy to say that members of the DLP will not be among them. I will content myself with those few observations on the important question of defence, which means our security and the preservation of the freedom we enjoy, our social services and other benefits.
The Budget’s largest increase represents payments to rural industries, and most of the increase goes for the wool price support scheme with an average price of 36c per lb. The DLP has been greatly concerned in recent years at the plight of the rural sector, and especially at the position in which farmers and their families on small and medium properties have found themselves. Squeezed between contracting world markets and rising domestic costs, thousands of rural families have been forced through crippling debts and falling incomes into leaving the land and migrating to the capital cities, thus adding to the congestion in the metropolises, where the municipal authorities are burdened with the financial obligation to provide transport, roads and footpaths, water reticulation, guttering, electricity and so on. People who were born and raised in the country are now leaving the land which was worked by their fathers.
It is not a good picture. I hope that the wool support scheme will prove to be of advantage, but we urge the Government to institute an expert commission of inquiry into the whole of the rural industries. Nothing short of that will determine the merits of particular cases and the extent to which they should be aided. We would not then have the cry that the big man will get the lion’s share of what the Government is to distribute, at the expense of the small man. Let us proceed with this scheme as a temporary measure and in the meantime let us have a full and complete inquiry, as we have advocated all along. Then we would know who is who and what his position is. There are some people in this Parliament - if not in the Senate, they are in the other place - who would not give a second thought to the wool growers except that at one stage in their lives they received 240 pence per lb for wool.
– They did not, you know. It was 120 pence.
– Well, whatever the figure was, the critics live on that argument. As a representative of the people I know of those who walked off their properties in the Longreach district. In the case of one family, the son is in Brisbane selling real estate in an attempt to maintain his wife and family. His mother, who owned a two-thirds share of the property, after my representations has obtained a partial old age pension. I could mention similar cases. I know Australia well, and I know Queensland, my native State, as I know the palm of my hand. I hate to visualise what would happen to Queensland if our rural industries were to fade and ghost towns were to appear. What a great tragedy it would be, not only for Queensland but for Australia generally, if our rural industries failed. When the S25m rural reconstruction scheme was introduced I described it as chicken feed and pointed out that the average assistance of $1,000 for farmers eligible under the scheme gave no incentive to men on unprofitable farms to go through the difficult and often harrowing task of finding employment. Longer term remedies are required urgently. For that reason I am disappointed that the Budget makes no provision for the establishment of a rural finance corporation, which my Party has frequently urged. Such a body would overcome the caution of State reconstruction bodies. It would lend generously on long term and provide for repayment moratoriums for all kinds of reconstruction and adjustment projects. Of equal importance, it would make finance available not only for farm adjustment but also for rural readjustment so that service industries and businesses in rural towns could also reconstruct if necessary. We speak about the graziers but we must remember that they are not the only people affected by falling prices, ever-increasing overheads and droughts. The garage proprietors, the grocers, the merchants, the chemists and others in the towns; - all of them - also are affected. They have given pretty generous credit to those on the land who must be taken care of in any reconstruction scheme.
Let me say in conclusion that the Budget, while it tries in some fields - social services, is an example - to make up for the omissions of the past, is seriously defective in its provision for Australia’s likely defence problems of the 1970s. It still leaves untackled other problems such as rural reconstruction and an equitable basis for determining pensions. The Budget suggests an absence of long term thinking and planning by the Government. Perhaps it should seriously consider the need to do this. Then and only then will problems such as the Common Market and defence be met by anticipation rather than by the stop gap methods which frequently pass for statesmanship in the minds of some people.
As Senator Murphy already has moved an amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Budget papers 1 foreshadow a further amendment which will be moved following the disposal of Senator Murphy’s amendment. The foreshadowed amendment is as follows:
But the Senate expresses grave concern -
That the Government’s Fiscal and Monetary policies will not prevent a further erosion of domestic purchasing power whilst maintaining full employment;
That the inadequate defence vote reveals the Government’s failure to appreciate the deterioration in Australia’s strategic situation caused by recent world events including failure to provide the necessary, supply and logistic support programme;
That the Budget makes no provision for a comprehensive national insurance scheme;
The Budget again fails to remove pensions from the area of politics by setting up an independent tribunal of experts to determine pension rates which would make a more equitable adjustment than does the provision in the Budget;
The Budget fails to ameliorate in a substantial way the restrictive operation of the Means Test especially in regard to private superannuitants;
While offering some short term relief to primary producers, the Budget fails to provide for the establishment of a National Rural Finance Corporation equipped to provide immediate financial relief by way of long term loans at low interest rates with interest and redemption-free periods and also fails to provide for the necessary examination of the whole structure of rural industry by an expert commission of inquiry which could advise the Government on the application of fundamental long term remedies;
The Budget offers no adequate provision for decentralisation.
– I call Senator Negus and remind honourable senators that he will be addressing the Senate for the first time.
– Mr President, I stand here tonight a senator elected by the people of Western Australia for one express purpose - to convince this Government that it is high time that the death tax laws throughout Australia should be abolished or drastically revised because they are causing hardship, distress and humiliation to thousands of Australians, the majority of whom are women. I take this opportunity to thank all those who supported me and to say that I will continue with my self-appointed task until I am successful. I realise that this is a States house, a house of review, and I am deeply conscious of the honour and privilege of being on the floor of this chamber tonight.
If anyone had told me 17 months ago that I would be standing here tonight making my maiden speech I would not have believed him. Nothing was further from my mind. At that time I was an ordinary Australian citizen recovering from ill health. While convalescing I endeavoured to set my affairs in order in a way that my Wife could understand so that she would know what to do if anything happened to me. That was the hardest job of work I ever tackled. We men are strange creatures. We spend all our lives working and striving for the security of our wives and families, and most of us will die happy that we achieved just that. But in actual fact we leave behind one great big muddle and an unsuspecting and unprotected bereaved widow faced with the task of straightening out that muddle. We do not think or realise during our lifetime that we should equip our wives with all the knowledge necessary to help them to wind up our estates. We protect them in every way possible while we are alive and then leave them to find out for themselves that they were left completely unprepared to try to straighten out their husband’s affairs after his death. None of us ever thinks or realises that this will be necessary, and it should not be necessary. But it is, due only to the death tax laws. Without those Jaws everything would be fine and as we expect them to be.
No man has the right to take from any person his true inheritance, especially if that person is a woman. Our womenfolk should be protected. Without them none of us would be here today. They deserve the best we can give them, both before and after our death. I personally am deeply ashamed to admit that it has taken me so long to realise that for many years the womenfolk of Australia have been humiliated and distressed in time of bereavement by these iniquitous death tax laws. I appeal to every man in this chamber and every man listening tonight to join forces with me and help me to remove forever that great injustice to our womenfolk. I intend to press this matter continuously until I achieve a satisfactory result for the people of Australia. I can and will produce, if necessary, thousands of letters sent to me from all over Australia setting out the experiences and sufferings of innumer able Australians caused by these death taxes.
I realise of course that there are many other matters to which I must pay attention now that I have been elected to the Senate. I must show interest in these other matters and I intend to do so, but for the present my main concern is death taxes. I suppose I am the only man who has ever been elected to Parliament on one platform only and for that very reason I must, and will, concentrate on that platform. The sooner this matter is cleared up, the sooner I will be able to give my attention to other matters. The help and advice of every honourable senator is requested. In addition, I hope that all honourable senators will do all in their power to convince all members of the House of Representatives of the necessity for their co-operation on this matter. I know that the other day one honourable senator gave notice of motion for a committee of inquiry into probate taxes. I welcome that notice of motion. I sincerely trust that I will see every other honourable senator stand up and move such a motion or take action in some way to do something about death taxes. I hope that parliamentarians in every State Parliament will make similar moves. But 1 believe that it is up to the Senate to make the first move and so to lead the way.
When I started this campaign I took my wife with me to the probate office in Perth and asked the officers there to give me a booklet or pamphlet which I would take home and, sitting down with my wife, examine and explain to her exactly what she would have to do in the event of my death. I was told that the only time they were the slightest bit interested in me or my wife was when one of us died, and that they had no such booklet. I was so disgusted that I made an appointment to see the probate commissioner in Perth. I asked him why such a booklet did not exist. He told me that for many years he had intended to do something about it - he had been in office for 15 years - but every time he got somewhere near doing something about it the Government changed the law or made an amendment to the probate legislation. While there I asked him whether he would give me a copy of the original probate law in Western Australia. Much to my amazement, he admitted that he had never even seen the law. He had seen all the amendments, but not the original law.
As a result of my visit to that office, I am now very proud to show honourable senators this booklet, which I have in my hand and which I consider is the only one ever produced in Australia. I remind the Senate that death taxes have been in force, to my knowledge, for more than 75 years. Copies of this booklet can now be obtained from the Western Australian probate office on application, provided the office does not run out of copies. Not too many were printed. I wanted quite a few gross to distribute throughout Australia. But I do not think there is one produced anywhere in Australia other than in Western Australia. This is a booklet that a wife or husband can take home and sit down and see what it is necessary to do in the event of a death. I believe that this is most essential. T hope that the Government will not have to spend money on printing these booklets, because I hope and pray that death taxes will be abolished once and for all.
After 1 asked the probate commissioner about the original law and he could not tell me about it, I did quite a bit of research. This was the first time I had ever looked into parliamentary libraries. I discovered that many years ago parliamentarians were pretty clued up gentlemen. I wish to quote some of the statements made by them before they voted to introduce probate into Western Australia. 1 believe that these statements apply to nearly every State and the Commonwealth. One said: ‘lt is not desirable to levy a widow’s estate, large or small, especially when it is barely sufficient to bring up a family’. Another said: ‘It was not desirable for estates whose main value was land, and not money, to have to raise a mortgage to pay duties.’ How many mortgages are being raised today to pay these duties? Yet another said: ‘I do not think that a man who strives to make a few thousand pounds to leave to his wife and family should have to pay duty until his wife dies’. He was a very shrewd and sensible gentleman, because if a man did not have to pay death taxes until his wife died he would not have to pay them at all, as our women live longer than we do. That is one way in which they are stronger than we are. Statistics prove that the average woman lives 4 years or more longer than the average man.
During my campaign I have often been asked why parliamentarians have not done something about these death taxes before. I spent many an hour thinking about this and wondering why. Finally I came to the decision that they had never done anything about death taxes because they themselves had never had to pay them; they were always 6 feet under the ground at that stage and had left their widows to pay the death taxes. I know that what I am doing is something that has to be done. I know that no man is worth his salt as long as this legislation remains in force, hurling our widows. Our women folk should be put on a pedestal. We should look up to them and do everything we can to help them. If the Government cannot find some way to get the money that is required into its coffers without having to take it from widows, I will be surprised. It is only a matter of giving the subject thought. It is only a matter of going into the subject. Many years ago a great statesman said: Surely there are better ways of getting money than by taking if from the people to whom it belongs’. I agree with him very sincerely.
As honourable senators know, 1 started my campaign against these death taxes as a private citizen. I received thousands of letters. The most I received in any one morning’s mail was 3,200 letters. That is some mail! Many of these letters told me facts that had been hidden from most of us for years. These facts had been hidden because the widows had been hurt so much that they did not want to expose them. But, because I promised not to use their names and addresses without their written permission, they told me how they had been hurt by these death taxes. Honourable senators should not think that these death taxes hurt only the rich. I have letters from pensioners. I have them from totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. I have them from little people all over the country. Honourable senators should not forget that, if a pensioner has to pay $40 in probate duty, that represents more to him than $400 would represent to me.
We have to look into this question very seriously. I address my remarks particularly to honourable senators on this side of the chamber because I have noticed that when a move on this matter has been made in the Senate previously on death taxes most of the support has come from the Government side of the chamber. I sincerely trust that by my speech tonight I will convince honourable senators on this side of the chamber that this is something that needs doing. I ask them to remember that none of them would be here but for a good woman, and that most of them will leave a widow who will have to pay death taxes. I have also found out - I do not want to go too far into this matter - that in this world there are many people who make a particular point of ensuring that they get their corner of an estate. That is a very serious statement to make. As I say, I do not want to go too deeply into this matter; but I can quote some cases and I believe that now is perhaps the time to quote them.
In one case a widow in New South Wales wrote to me and asked for help. Her husband had died and left her a farming property with a mortgage on it. He had also left her with 14 children - 7 above and 7 below the age of 16 years. She did not have enough money to license her husband’s vehicle. Everything was frozen on the death of her husband. She could not send her young children to school. She tried to teach them by correspondence lessons, until she received a letter from the New South Wales Government School Authorities saying: ‘Where are your children?’ She could not even get a letter to the Government because she did not have any means of getting out. Finally, in desperation she managed to fatten up enough of her cattle on the farm, which had been hit by drought for 2 successive years, to raise sufficient money to put a deposit on a house in Bathurst. I can give this woman’s name. After she paid the deposit on the house the Government asked her to pay income tax on the amount she had raised to pay the deposit. She applied for a pension. That took a long time to be granted. She received the minimum rate. She was desperate. She wrote to me for help. Through my efforts, I am very pleased to say, the Government postponed the payment of the death duties during her lifetime. To make sure that they will get paid, the Government put a caveat on the farming property. That means that the widow cannot raise a loan by mortgaging the property. She asked me to try to get the caveat lifted. I wrote to the commissioner. He said: ‘We will lift it provided that the first thing she does is to make payment of her death taxes’. That is only one case. I have helped that woman.
Another woman in New South Wales wrote and asked me whether I would help her. 1 said: ‘I will do what I can. Send me all particulars’. She sent me particulars. They were such that it seemed impossible for me to be able to help her. Previously I told her that when she approached her solicitors she may be told that Mr Negus should not have these particulars. I asked her to get copies of ail letters. Finally she wrote to me and said: ‘Mr Negus, probate was granted in November. I did go along to the solicitor to get these letters and things you asked for, and much against his will he gave them to me. He said: “What do you want these for? Probate has been granted”. I said: “I want to send them to Mr Negus in Western Australia. He is conducting a campaign against probate duties”. I came away. Before I had a chance to write a letter to you and to send the particulars to you by mail, I got a letter from the solicitor to say that for some unknown reason the probate commissioner bad reduced the probate by $631 and that the solicitors account of $442 was now considered to be paid.’ I did not know what to think about that. She did not know what to think about that. I will leave honourable senators to think about that.
In another case a Western Australian woman of 88 asked me to go to New South Wales to see whether I could hurry up the finalisation of her husband’s estate because she was frightened of dying before it was completed. It had been going on for 2i to 3 years. She had had 3 firms of solicitors on it. I went to Sydney on one of my visits. I approached these solicitors. I said: ‘What is the bother?’ They said: To tell you candidly, Mr Negus, we cannot get an account from the probate office’. I said: ‘Good Lord. Surely that is easy enough to do’. Next morning I was on the doorstep of the probate office at half past 8. I went into the office of the probate commissioner - the Commissioner for Stamp Duties he is called in New South
Wales - and asked him about it. He said: It will come through in due course.’ I said: ‘Yes, but this widow has been waiting for nearly 3 years now and the lawyers have prepaid $20,000 probate tax. Surely I should be able to get it while I am here’. He pressed a button and a chap came in with a file. He said: ‘How long will it take to get this account out?’ The chap said: ‘It will not take long’. I said: ‘I am here for 10 minutes. I am going back to Western Australia. Could J have it before I leave? It needs about 24 figures written on it and a signature’. He said: ‘That is a rather unusual request, Mr Negus, but I will do that for you’. Finally the chap came back. I picked up the account and looked at it. I said: ‘Would you sign it?’ He said that he would sign it subject to check. I said: ‘Fair enough. By the way, what is this $3,500 interest? You have just given me the account’. He said: ‘In New South Wales we charge 8 per cent interest for any time over 6 months that the account is not paid’. I said: ‘How in the blue blazes could it be paid? It has only just been issued. If you charge that much interest on this look out because I will make sure that something happens here. I know your powers. Please use them’. Within a short time I got information from the solicitors that the rate of interest had been reduced to exactly half- - from 8 per cent to 4 per cent.
That is the kind of thing that I have been doing. I started this myself, I will admit. I have endeavoured to help these widows who have needed help very badly. If through my efforts they have received that help, I am very grateful. I say sincerely that I cannot continue to do this all the time, especially now that I am a senator. I do not think this should have to be done. I think it is most essential that we revise these laws so that widows are not affected by them. Persons who have not earned the right to the money - people who have received a windfall - should be taxed by all means. The people with plenty of money should be taxed. If they have the money they should be taxed. If they have only an estate and no money they should not be taxed. If they have the money let them pay a reasonable tax. The rate should not be as high as it is now. When the tax was first introduced in Western Australia it was said that in the case of an estate over £100,000, as it was then- $200,000 nowthe Government proposed to take a maximum of 10 per cent. On the same size estate today the rate is between 42 per cent and 50 per cent.
When Mr McMahon was Treasurer I wrote to him. This was before I started my campaign. I asked him whether he could do something about it. 1 also wrote to the then State Premier, Sir David Brand. He said he would not move until he heard from the Federal Government. He marked time. The answer I got from the Federal Government was from Mr McMahon’s secretary. He stated that in relation to Federal estate duty there was an exemption of $20,000, which shaded out by $2 for every $8 over that amount until it reached $100,000 when there was no exemption. I did not know that until then. 1 passed that information on to Sir David Brand. This was prior to the Senate election. I feel that as a result of my efforts Sir David Brand might have made a move to get votes away from me. He announced a one-fifth reduction in probate duty in Western Australia. I was very proud of that. The New South Wales Government made a move, through my efforts I feel, and reduced taxes there.
This is not sufficient. We must keep going. We must do something about the situation. I have thought of several ways of improving the situation. I am sure many honourable senators and many people listening would be prepared to pay their death taxes, if they are retained, during their life. That is one way of improving the situation. I have checked this with the research staff in this House. They have confirmed my figures. If everyone was to pay 5.4 per cent - a little over $5 in every $100 of income tax that they paid per annum - there would be no need for death taxes. I would be prepared to do that if I knew that my wife would not have to pay death taxes when I died. I took out an insurance policy many years ago. I am sure that honourable senators and others did the same as I did. I took out an insurance policy to leave something behind to replace my wife’s loss of her husband. It was to be a little windfall or a little method by which she could subsist. Today that is of no earthly use. I have had many people write to me and say: ‘Mr Negus, at present we are paying insurance premiums to such an extent that we cannot possibly afford to improve our properties. We can barely run them but we dare not stop paying the premiums’. I have had other gentlemen write to me and say: ‘Mr Negus, 1 know I have not enough insurance, but for the last 10 years I have not been able to get a medical certificate to allow me to take out increased insurance’. Why should we have to take out insurance to cover us against death taxes?
When probate duty was introduced in Western Australia one of the things that was said was that there would be an exemption on money received from life assurance. I agreed with that. I fell for it. Representatives of life assurance companies said to me: ‘If you take out a policy on your wife’s life and if she takes out one on your life there will be no tax to pay’. I started paying my premiums. When I went into this subject I ascertained that that was not right, lt is no good doing that because who do you think paid the premiums? I did. My wife has no income. As long as the man pays the premiums and the tax the amount on the insurance policy is added to the estate. Other men have thought that they would get out of it by forming companies. Their widows have found much to their sorrow that they were wrong. I have proof of this. Other gentlemen leave their wives an annuity of, say, $2,000 a year. The Probate Commissioner looks at the widow in each case and says: Well, Madam, you look like living for another 10 years. Ten times 2 is 20. That means $20,000 onto your husband’s estate on which you pay death taxes.’ That was a big enough shock. 1 asked the Probate Commissioner what would happen if she lived for 5 years. I asked whether she would get a rebate. He said only if someone applied for it. Of course, no-one would know about it. That kind of thing is wrong; it should not happen. We should not allow it to happen. 1 feel that it is up to the Senate as a States house and a house of review to take a look at these taxes. I know that when these taxes were first introduced they were considered to be all right. The taxes at that time were not hurting anyone. But now they are. I believe that the Senate, as a house of review, should take a second, solid look at these taxes and do something about them. Thank you very much, Mr President.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 325).
– Before I continue my speech in relation to the evidence ordinance may I congratulate Senator Negus on his maiden speech. It was made with a great deal of feeling and a great deal of confidence. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him and wish him well in this chamber.
Before this debate was adjourned this afternoon I was speaking about the ordinance under discussion. I said that it appeared that there were 2 agreed matters which had to be resolved by one means or another. One was that we had to get as soon as possible a body of law to apply in the Australian Capital Territory in relation to the question of evidence. The second was that we had to facilitate a debate in this chamber as to the contents of the new evidence ordinance which was proposed and disallowed.
It seems that there is no real difference between anyone as to those 2 matters; the only question is how we should go about it. I have not heard from Senator Murphy or from anyone else why we should not accept the proposal put forward by the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood). Senator Turnbull said that he would change his vote if it could be shown that an injustice would occur if the matter was not proceeded with. I wish simply to indicate to him that I believe an injustice would occur if something is not done very quickly because there are people in custody awaiting trial - people charged with offences who will be kept in custody until such time as a trial takes place.
– That is not Senator Murphy’s idea. They will not be. It will be all over.
– If we adopt the Minister’s idea so, too, will it be all over. I was simply indicating to Senator Turnbull that if we continue to debate this matter an injustice can occur to these people. I would like to invite him to consider stopping the argument, start the action and let us get something done. If there is no good reason for not accepting the Minister’s proposal then let us accept it rather than argue about it. I suggest that the chamber proceed accordingly.
– I want to say only a few words to clear up some matters of which I have some knowledge as a member of the Standing Orders Committee. While it is true that the Committee made its final decision on the night before the final day-
– Are you referring to the Standing Orders Committee?
– No, to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. The decision which was made at the last hour before the report was brought down was only the culmination of many events that took place. Originally on the day before the last day the Committee could seek the disallowance of the ordinance, members of the Committee reached the unanimous decision that the Chairman should propose the motion. There had been several meetings at which evidence was taken from witnesses from the Attorney-General’s Department. I do not know what the witnesses reported to their Minister but they had no reason from the evidence they gave and their examination by members of the Committee other than to think that the Committee considered that the matters dealt with in the ordinance should more properly be covered by substantive legislation.
In reviewing the evidence I find that there were 7 items in respect of which I myself seriously questioned the witnesses. I asked the witnesses to explain why the provisions were in the ordinance and whether it was proper they should be in it. The reply I received was that the matters were included because they were in various evidence Acts. One was an Act in England and another was in the old New South Wales Act. The witnesses said that they could always find an Act which contained the provisions. Whether or not it was proper that they should be brought into this ordinance was one of the questions on which we never gained information.
The secretary of the Committee was instructed to prepare a report for submission to the Senate. On the day before the final day we could act we met to consider the report. The report indicated that we did not go into the merits of the question. The items that I raised with the witnesses were not discussed by the Committee. This was not to assume that the Committee was not concerned about them, but at that time it was decided that the matters in the ordinance would be better dealt with by substantive legislation. Therefore, we proceeded with the motion for the disallowance of the ordinance.
The report, which stated that this decision of the Committee should be presented to the Senate, was agreed to unanimously. There were 2 expressions of opinion. There were 2 members of the Committee who did not consent to the decision to proceed with the disallowance motion and reserved their rights. The decision that the Chairman should move for the disallowance of the ordinance and the decision that the report which recommended the disallowance motion be presented to the Senate were unanimous although 2 members expressed reservations. They expressed the opinion that they did not know whether they should support the proposed disallowance motion. That is what took place in the Committee.
If the Minister has done nothing in the meantime about this question it could not be because of a belief that the Regulations and Ordinances Committee would withdraw the notice of motion for the disallowance of the ordinance. Nothing in the discussions which took place between the witnesses from the Department and the Committee could lead to that belief.
The Senate, not the Committee, has now made a decision on this matter. The Minister has taken action today seeking to show that the Senate was wrong and thereby has held the Senate up to ridicule. We have been made to feel that some senators could change their minds in the meantime if there was no alternative to the ordinance. For an honourable senator to say that someone could change his mind now would mean that he did not know what he was doing when he voted previously or that there was no alternative to the dilemma that the Minister states that the country is in at the present time. We are told that people are awaiting trial and that an injustice is being created. That is a statement unsupported by any evidence of trials pending. We do not know whether it is real or imaginary, whether people are actually awaiting trial.
The Minister has shown from the many statements he has made to this chamber that he is entirely misinformed. He has given us information which is not correct. He told us yesterday that South Australia did not have a parole board. Senator James McClelland showed that there was a parole board in South Australia. During the course of this debate we were told that only 2 Acts of Parliament governed the laws in the Australian Capital Territory. My information is that this is nol correct. In 1969 the stamp duties legislation was enacted, and it comprises some 7 Acts. Although they are somewhat combined there are nevertheless 7 different Acts. There is the Seat of Government Railway Aci 1928, the National Capital Development Commission Act 1957. the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Supply Act 1962, the Canberra College of Advanced Education Act 1967 and the Removal of Prisoners (Australian Capital Territory) Act 1968. This is all legislation which was enacted by this Parliament in relation to the Australian Capital Territory. That does not include the 2 Acts mentioned by the Minister.
The Regulations and Ordinances Committee states that there must be some line of demarcation in relation to ordinances. It is hard to define at this .stage where the line of demarcation should be drawn, but as it said in its report, this particular matter comes within the areas that should be dealt with by legislation. The Committee never made the suggestion that all legislation applicable to the Australian Capital Territory should be enacted by Acts of Parliament. It was always the intention that this should be done only in relation to important matters which introduce innovations. This Evidence Ordinance introduced into Australia for the first time the principle that computer studies can be accepted as evidence, but we are not permitted to give to this provision the consideration that Parliament would give to it if it were introduced as a Bill. I do not wish to take up any more time of the Senate.
Senator Murphy has indicated a way out of this predicament. We have the alternative of accepting his proposal or agreeing with the Minister that we were wrong in the action that we took last Thursday.
– I enter into this debate as Chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee and also because I moved for the disallowance of this Evidence Ordinance. I do so remembering the record of rue Committee and the strength of its deliberations before it makes a decision. There are quite a number of honourable senators in this chamber who today occupy quite important positions and who have been members of that Committee in the past. I think it is right to say that each of those members will recognise that the Committee does not take its job lightly, (f the Committee makes a recommendation to this chamber it is made on the highest parliamentary traditions - putting it briefly, to see that this country is run by Parliament and not by the Executive or the civil servants.
One of the functions of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee is to retain the power and the rights of Parliament in the hands of the parliamentarians. If the senators of this chamber are prepared to denigrate themselves, having made a decision, they will have to indicate that they were wrong by going back on that decision in order to save probably some Government department. In this case, it was first indicated on 29th April - 3i months ago - by the tabling of a notice of motion that this ordinance could be disallowed. Three and a half months is a fair length of time. I know that there are certain aspects to be considered and probably it was not realised that the Committee’s motion was of a definite nature. The matter was put on notice at that time as a holding measure because of a problem with sitting days and in order to make sure that by the time we had finished our deliberations we could make the right decision. As the mover of the proposal I was not advised at the time of doing so of the likelihood of the problems which have arisen in the Australian Capital Territory courts. The Minister did not draw the attention of the Senate to these difficulties. In fact, he stated during the course of the debate that disallowance of this ordinance would restore the laws operating prior to the ordinance being introduced. At page 179 of Hansard the Minister said:
All J can say is that if the Senate should carry the motion for the disallowance of this ordinance it will restore these ancient laws of New South Wales which still have applicability in the Territory and which it is the purpose of this ordinance to supersede.
I know that the Attorney-General considers the old New South Wales Act as being out of date. But this Senate was told that if the Evidence Ordinance was disallowed the law would revert back to that situation. This Ordinance has not been operating for such a long time. Apparently the courts were able to carry on under the old Act. If they carried on for so many years under that Act surely there would be nothing wrong with that situation continuing for a few more months.
I want to make it clear that when 1 speak of the Attorney-General 1 am not referring to the present Attorney-General. He has only recently come into that position and was not Attorney-General during the whole of the relevant period. He is a Minister for whom I have a great respect and regard, because he was an extremely valuable member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee until he was appointed to the Ministry. I know the view he takes with regard to this Committee, and I am sorry to have to clash with such a person in relation to this matter. I know that he is looking at the Department’s angle as well as other things.
– And to promotion.
– No, I do not think the Minister is the type of man who would put promotion first. In any case, if the Senate is to bow to the suggestion that certain regulations or ordinances should not be disallowed because of administrative or other difficulties it will waive its powers of disallowance altogether. The Government will always be able to point to difficulties arising out of a disallowance. But it is the responsibility of government to deal with these difficulties. These difficulties were not created by the Committee. They came about because the Department took the steps that it did. I know that it is very easy for people to say that the Committee is causing trouble. That is one point of view that is put forward. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee is a Standing Committee of the Parliament. Its decisions are not taken on party lines. The 3 major parties in this place, excluding the Democratic Labor Party, are represented on the Committee.
For nearly 18 years I have been Chairman of the Committee. I say quite strongly that never at any time has the Committee held its deliberations in a party manner. As a standing committee it is a committee of this Parliament, elected by this Parliament, and its duty is to serve Parliament, and Parliament serves the people. Over the years the Government has not shone very brightly at standing behind this Committee. I can recall the days when the Committee took certain actions and the Government strongly opposed those actions. The Government was consistent in opposing the Committee. The Government was so stupid politically that every time an ordinance was disallowed in the Senate with the help of the Opposition and a few other honourable senators who were prepared to stand against it, this action was treated as a defeat of the Government. If the Government had been big enough and gracious enough in defeat the matter would not have been mentioned in the Press, over the radio or other media. But this is the attitude the Government adopted towards this Committee for many years. It is only of recent times that the Government has been prepared to give way to the Committees in pursuit of the Committee’s purposes That is no fairy tale. It is a fact. In days gone by it always amazed me when some people had the idea that the Senate was a useless House which should be abolished. When anybody made a public attack on the Senate the then Leader of the Government in the Senate in defending this House mentioned first the work of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. But the Government never supported us in those days. It is only in recent times that it has come around.
Now I see another trend developing where there seems to be a swing back to the old days as far as this Committee is concerned. I notice that Senator Byrne of the Australian Democratic Labor Party each time seems to find some excuse for why the Committee’s recommendations should not be adopted. Today he went to great length to prove why the decision of the Senate last week should be rescinded. He took the Committee to task. When he was a member of the Australian Labor Party he was a member of the Committee. He will remember one of the occasions I am going to talk about. He said that the Committee should have acted in regard to other Australian Capital Territory ordinances which have been passed if it were prepared to act in relation to this ordinance. I say to Senator Byrne that these matters build up in a person’s mind or in a committee’s mind. Over a period some of these ordinances have been going through and there has been doubt in the Committee’s mind as to what criteria the Government or the Attorney-General used to decide whether a matter should be brought in by substantive legislation or by ordinance. To show that the Committee was conscious of this aspect I point out that only recently it wrote to the Minister asking him what criteria the Government or a department use in deciding whether a matter should be introduced by substantive legislation or by ordinance. Over a period this aspect has built up in the Committee’s mind and 2 bigger matters in relation to Australian Capital Territory ordinances were brought in by ordinance rather than by substantive legislation. The Committee was alert in this case. If it has missed anything which has been going through honourable senators can put that down to the fact that the Committee was not cognisant of the requirements and was not as alert as it might have been. But in recent times it has developed an alertness about these matters. That is why the query went forth to the Government: ‘What is your criteria? Will you give us some idea?* Certain members felt that the Evidence Ordinance affected human beings in certain ways. It was something of a new and far reaching character. Under those circumstances the members of the Committee made a closer investigation of the matter and so became alerted to it. Over a period of time - not just one meeting but several - it was ultimately decided to move for the disallowance of the ordinance. The Committee did not move for disallowance to be obstructive or destructive - whichever term honourable senators like to use. It took this action after taking everything into full cognisance. I say to honourable senators that it is their duty to recognise their rights as senators and the preservation of the rights of Parliament. We are not here to be dictated to by departments. We are here to do what we think is the right thing and to legislate for the people of this country.
It is very easy for the Government to malign the Committee or its members. Very often this has happened whenever a matter has come forward. I look back over the records of the Committee and I find that a number of times we have been told by the Minister or bv the Leader of the Government in the Senate that we are wrong. But over a period they have been proved wrong and the Committee has been proved right. I shall give honourable senators a notable instance of the activities of the Committee which will show how it was very much maligned and criticised by the then Prime Minister and a few other people. We were taken to task because of what we were doing but ultimately it proved a great success. There was an issue known as import licensing. Honourable senators will remember when import licensing was in force. It became a menace to the Government. People were advertising import licences for sale from hundreds of pounds to £50,000 in the Press for everybody to see. Some firms could not obtain import licences. There was a terrible mess. The Government received nothing but abuse over the matter. But what happened? A very alert member of the Committee, no less a person than Senator Wright, who served as an outstanding member - I believe in giving credit where credit is due - brought the matter to the attention of the Committee. From the point of view of the Government we were the worst people in the world. We were doing terrible things. It castigated us and we were severely criticised. Do honourable senators think that the Committee received support from this side of the House? Of course it did not. Eventually the Government knew it was going to be beaten. When the Government compromised and said that it would set up an import licensing appeal board comprising 2 business men and only one public servant the Committee said: ‘We will allow the ordinance to stand if you do that’. What happened? This took all the nastiness out of import licensing and 12 months later the then Minister for Customs and Excise, Senator Henty, moved that his Department have an appeal board based on the successful import licensing appeal board. The Government introduced the appeal board. The
Government was brought to that action by the scruff of its neck because the Committee had the support of a majority in the Senate. This indicates that if the Committee investigates a matter, takes the right stand and is prepared to fight it is surprising what can be done. Because of our stand we won out and did great service to the people of this country. We never heard any more about import licensing.
To show what Ministers will do at times I point out that it was proposed that the national health scheme of this country be brought into existence by means of regulation. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee demanded of the then Minister, Sir Earle Page, that the national health scheme be introduced by substantive legislation. I ask honourable senators to imagine the national health scheme of this country being introduced by regulations. If I remember correctly there were two or three of them. It was because of the alertness of the Committee that that scheme was introduced by substantive legislation and came under the light of debate in this Parliament. Having been on the Committee longer than anybody else and having been Chairman for 18 years, I can recall many cases when the Government blasted us for what we did. But time passed by, because of the stand taken by the Committee and the work that it did it proved that it was right and the people of this country gained from the Comittee’s work. What is more, Parliament maintained its position as the supreme governing body. The late Sir Robert Garran told one of my Senate colleagues that this Committee was of the most important committee of the Parliament.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– The late Sir Robert Garran, whom honourable senators will recall as a man who helped to write the Constitution, said to the late Senator Rex Pearson, when he asked him about the Committee, that the Regulations and Ordinances Comittee was the most important committee in this Parliament because its duty was to see that Parliament ran the country and that it was not run by the Executive and civil servants. Because of the words of such an important man, one who helped to write the Constitution of this country, I took it upon myself as a member of the Committee to treat it in a very serious and important way. Throughout the years as a member of the Committee and as its Chairman I have continued to do that. Whenever I have moved as Chairman of the Committee I have moved conscientiously, believing that I was doing the right thing.
Irrespective of what might be said now, I feel that the matter that we are discussing can be easily fixed. There is no reason why the present situation cannot be remedied quickly. The fact that there is now a pickle in relation to the Evidence Ordinance is not the Committee’s fault; it is the fault of the Department because of the way it has gone about things. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee feels that the ordinance should be brought in by legislation. The solution put forward by Senator Murphy today was a good one and it should be considered by the Senate. In this way we could solve the problem in no time and all the talk about delays in actions against people would not be so important after all. I believe that action in relation to the Evidence Ordinance should be taken in this Parliament. What is said in the Press or by anybody else about this matter does not concern me. What does concern me is doing what I think is the right thing.
Speaking as Chairman of the Committee, the recommendation to disallow the ordinance was a decision of the Committee. It was a recommendation which I did not put before the Committee. It was ultimately decided by the Committee to recommend that the ordinance be disallowed and I stand behind that decision. It is my view that the rescission now proposed should not be carried because if we carry this motion we, as senators, will be saying that we apologise,, that we made a mistake and that the Department is right.
– It takes a pretty big man to do that. You have to be big to apologise.
– A member of the Committee, Senator Withers, who has been sniggering about this during my speech, says that one has to be big to apologise. Of course you have to be big to acknowledge that you have made a mistake but if you do not feel that you have made a mistake you are a worm if you crawl down merely because the Government, some Minister or a department tries to browbeat you. That is one thing that no-one will ever say about me when I leave the Parliament. No-one will be able to say that I was a worm or a crawler. I am more determined than ever, in view of some of the things that I have heard in the chamber today, to stand behind the Committee’s decision and to oppose the motion for the rescission of the motion disallowing the ordinance.
– in reply - In its way the story which has been told by Senator Wood is a saga in the annals of the Senate and it is wise that the Senate should be reminded of it from time to time. I do not agree with much of what Senator Wood said in the story that he told. 1 sense that Senator Wood, in the enthusiasm which he displayed on this occasion, said some things which I think on reflection he would not sustain. I, as the responsible Minister, have not browbeaten anybody or intimidated anybody, nor have I attempted to do those things.
– I did not intend to convey that.
– I appreciate, having heard the honourable senator’s interjection, that he would not intend those remarks to be applicable to me. Whilst the history of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee is one that will stand up to a lot of examination and is to the credit of the Committee and to the Senate which sustained it, the work of the Committee is dependent not upon its history but upon the quality of the work that it does. I believe, and 1 am entitled to my view as a former member of the Committee, as much as any current member of the Committee is, that it did not serve the Senate well in recommending the disallowance of the Evidence Ordinance. I accept so much of what Senator Wood has said - that the Parliament should govern and that the Parliament should give scrutiny to legislation, and that it should not allow civil servants who are not responsible to a Minister or to the Parliament to determine the form and substance of legislation. I do not think that in this day and age the determination of the form and substance of legislation by bureaucrats is as real as it was in the days of the ‘New Despotism’ about which Lord Hewitt wrote, but still the emergence of parliamentary responsibility does depend upon the vigilance of Ministers and upon the vigilance of the Parliament.
There is a vast difference between regulations which are made pursuant to a regulation making power in a statute under which departmental procedures are given effect to by regulation and a system under which the laws of the Australian Capital Territory are made by ordinance, lt is not to be supposed that ordinances of this character are made in the confines and behind the closed doors of some petty bureaucrat’s office. They are not. They are made with the full scrutiny of all the ministerial responsibility available, and in the Australian Capital Territory they are promulgated, before they become law, to the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Committee and to all the bodies within the Territory who are interested. They have an opportunity to express their views, and the views that are expressed are taken account of by the Minister who has the responsibility of introducing the legislation. There is not an honourable senator in this place who does not acknowledge and recognise that.
– The Senate takes the view that we should scrutinise it and that we should have the chance to amend it if we do not approve of any of the items.
– Let us deal with the points and issues as they arise. I shall deal in due course with the point raised by Senator Murphy. The point I make is that it is wrong to regard ordinances made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act as typical of regulations made under a regulation making power which, it is supposed, are made by bureaucrats - departmental officers - without the attention being given to them which they require. There is a difference and we all know it. lt is quite wrong for the Senate to assume that these ordinances are of the same character as the regulations to which 1 refer. That is where I feel that the points which have been raised by Senator Wood lack a validity, even though in general terms I would not believe that there is one honourable senator in this place who would challenge the essential principle about which Senator Wood has spoken.
Let us get to the point of this motion which, as I have said, has been moved in order to rectify a situation in the Australian Capital Territory, a situation which, unless it is rectified, will play havoc with the administration of justice and the conduct of criminal trials. I regret very much that the course of his debate today has taken a political and personal flavour. I regret that Senator Murphy chose to direct his attack to the officers of my Department and to me as the Minister responsible for the Department by suggesting that the Department should have anticipated that the Senate would have disallowed this ordinance and that we should have done something to prepare ourselves for the eventuality which has arisen. In those circumstances it has become a political attack which I feel has obscured the real point which ought to concern us. I regret that Senator Turnbull chose to suggest that involved in the attitude which 1 am expressing on behalf of the Government is a personal arrogance which will not countenance a view other than the view I put forward.
I regret that he holds that opinion because it is certainly not the opinion I hold and in an area where it is a matter of opinion unfortunately we each have to abide by our opinions and there is not very much that can be done about it. But I can assure him that I feel that where we have a situation which was not the express situation adverted to last Thursday but which has emerged as the problem with which we are now confronted, obviously the appropriate course is to come back to the Senate and say: ‘In the light of those new circumstances which were not expressly mentioned last Thursday will the Senate reconsider its position?’ I do not believe there is anything unreasonable in that approach nor do I believe there is anything unmeritorious in any honourable senator adopting the view: ‘In the light of what you have said and in the light of those new circumstances I recognise the point you are making’. He may even go so far as to say: ‘If you had said that last Thursday, the attitude which was adopted would have been a different attitude’. That is a perfectly reasonable attitude for any honourable senator to take. In effect, that is the position in which we are placed at the present time.
I am concerned that we should as speedily as possible have an effective means whereby we can introduce into this Territory rules and laws of evidence which will replace those which were disallowed by the Senate last Thursday. I believe the most effective way in which this can be done is by rescinding the resolution of disallowance so that under the statute there can be forthwith introduced an ordinance which will restore the position. I believe that, providing the Senate can reach a decision on the matter tonight, that may be done tomorrow because there is a meeting of the Executive Council. If the Senate reaches a decision too late tonight to enable the Executive Council to deal with it tomorrow I believe arrangements can be made under which we can hope there will be a meeting of the Executive Council speedily held. That is the sensible approach.
It has been suggested that a proposal which Senator Murphy has foreshadowed informally is a more satisfactory way. Senator Murphy has said that what we should do is pass a statute consisting of 3 sections which he had prepared already and which will pass through this place without any difficulty, pass through the House of Representatives without any difficulty and be made law overnight. I believe that is absolute humbug and 1 will disclose why. The reason why this Senate last Thursday determined that it preferred legislation in preference to an ordinance was because an ordinance did not give an opportunity to the Senate to scrutinise the terms of the legislation. I refer to what members of the Australian Labor Party said in support of that proposition. First of all Senator Cavanagh said:
The Parliament is entitled to hear the views of the Government on it and if a Bill were to be presented such views would be stated in a second reading speech. The Parliament is also entitled to make a minute examination of the legislation. which is what happens at the committee stage of a Bill. The introducing of an ordinance can be done without prior parliamentary consideration.
And if I hear a background of interjections and noise I understand that to be the noise that conies from those whom the truth hurts. Let us hear what was said by Senator Murphy. Senator Murphy said:
I feel that 1 can add little to the debate except to say that it would seem obvious to me that the law of evidence is a sufficiently important change in the law to warrant a close and careful examination by the Senate and to warrant an examination in the committee stage in particular, so that if there are any defects which a person believes he detects or any improvements which he believes should be suggested to the committee, they should be brought forward.
In the course of what I related as being Senator Murphy’s remarks I heard “ the Hear, hear’ of Senator Cavanagh. Senator James McClelland was another person who spoke in favour of the disallowance.
– What you are saying is a fraud.
– This is not a reasonable way to conduct matters.
– I may have misquoted Senator Murphy in the last quotation I made. If 1 did I regret it very much. I am trying to check through Hansard to find his words. I think it was Senator Wheeldon whom I last quoted. I apologise to Senator Murphy. But Senator Murphy said:
We are deprived of a right we ought to have as legislators dealing with important matters. If the changes were explained to us in a second reading speech we would be able to debate them. There would be an opportunity for discussion at the committee stage and we would be able to put our point of view on these important matters which so intimately affect the rights of the citizen in practice.
– You are not fooling anybody.
- Senator James McClelland who was the other member of the Australian Labor Party who supported this motion said:
If the ordinance deals with a matter of such importance that it should receive the consideration of the Parliament by coming before the Parliament as a statute, that should conclude the matter.
It could be said that what we bring to the consideration of these measures is the collective folk wisdom and experience of the community.
– You are more corrupt than we ever thought you were.
– I have been speaking against a barrage and background of interjections from honourable senators who have been saying I am a fraud, who have been saying I am being dishonest and that I am fooling nobody. I am as entitled to express my views in this place as any member of the Australian Labor Party and 1 am entitled to have the views I express judged on their merits. If the argument be that an ordinance is an improper way of bringing the matter before the Parliament because in the light of all the quotations I have given, the Parliament cannot scrutinise the detail, cannot give the minute examination in the Committee stages, cannot make the changes honourable senators want to make then the Bill Senator Murphy has suggested he can introduce today is a Bill which would equally deny to the Parliament that same opportunity. The suggestion that it could go through this place, as it were, like a flash and through the other place like a flash would equally deny that deliberation to the Senate which is the whole justification for trying to override this ordinance. These are the facts of the matter. They have to be exposed and stated because they represent the truth. What I say is that if Senator Murphy can bring about passage of legislation as quickly as he says he can, incorporating within it the idea that the House of Representatives will pass it as quickly as the Senate, it can be done much more effectively and with the same import and effect by an ordinance. I say what I do because I represent the Government in this place in terms of carrying the responsibility for the ordinances which determine what shall be the law in the Australian Capital Territory. I also have a responsibility to the Government, and to the Parliament, to suggest that it is not in the interests of this Parliament for the Senate to adopt a procedure which for the future will mean that every law in the Australian Capital Territory will have to be debated as a matter of legislation.
I wish to maintain the principle that the Senate should recognise that the making of ordinances for the Australian Capital Territory by the Governor-General pursuant to a power given by the Parliament is the effective way for the immediate future to enact the laws for this Territory. By carrying this motion for rescission of the disallowance resolution of last Thursday the Senate will be achieving 2 things: Firstly, it will be indicating that it believes ordinances are an appropriate method for deciding what shall be the manner of enacting laws in this Territory and, secondly, the Senate shall be determining that it shall move an end to the impasse in the Australian Capital Territory forthwith which hitherto, because of the disallowance last Thursday, has prevented the administration of justice in the Territory. I believe that they are sound and valid reasons why the Senate should carry this motion. I end where I started. What Senator Wood has said I recognise as having validity in principle and as something which ought to have appeal for the Senate, but I do not think he has shown that in this particular case the history of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee justifies a disallowance of the ordinance, particularly in the light of the circumstances which have occurred. I trust that the Senate will support the motion.
That the motion (Senator Greenwood’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) - by leave - proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Murphy from introducing forthwith a Bill for an Act to make temporary provision for the law of evidence in the Australian Capital Territory and as would prevent this Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– The question is. That the motion be agreed to’.
– I move:
– Mr President–
– Are you speaking on a point of order? It cannot be debated.
– No. On that matter, this proposal is to enable me to bring the Bill in, I would suggest–
– By leave?
– Yes. I moved that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent me from introducing forthwith a Bill for an Act to make temporary provision for the law of evidence in the Australian Capital Territory and as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay. That is dealing at this stage with the introduction of the Bill. I suggest, with respect to everyone–
– I rise to a point of order. I am not being obstructive here. As I understood Senator Murphy, he moved his motion without speaking to it, and sat down. Ordinarily the question would then be put. I moved that the debate be adjourned. He is now speaking to the motion that the debate be adjourned. If he wishes to speak to the motion for the adjournment I understand that he may do so. That is one thing. But if he wishes to speak to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders, I feel that he lost his opportunity and must ask for leave.
– The motion for the adjournment having been moved, I must put the question and the Senate will decide. I put the question, that the debate be now adjourned. The Senate will divide, or do you not want a division?
– I do not ask for a division.
Question resolved in the negative.
– The question is that the motion moved by Senator Murphy be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Senator Murphy.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– Mr President, I move:
The Bill is a very simple one. It is a temporary Bill. It provides for the continu ance of the provisions which were contained in the Australian Capital Territory Evidence Ordinance 1971. The Bill proposes to continue that law only until 31st October 1971, and that is the justification for not having a minute examination of the law. It is merely a temporary provision which will overcome the problems of those who are involved in court cases, who might be facing trials and so on. It gives the Government the opportunity to bring in before that time a measure and to have it debated and subjected to analysis in this and the other chamber in the ordinary way.
One could have put in this temporary provision the law as it was, say, in February of this year, but it seemed fitting to bend as far as possible towards the position of the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) in continuing the law as it was last Wednesday. I commend the Bill to honourable senators. I hope that wisdom will prevail and that the Bill will be passed without any attempt at delay so that those in the Territory who may be affected and whose position has been enlarged on may not be placed in any further difficulty. I therefore commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Motion (by Senator Greenwood) negatived:
That the debate be now adjourned.
– For the first time in my experience, the Senate has refused a motion for the adjournment of the second reading of a Bill. This is a high handed attitude - and I say that advisedly - because one of the courtesies that the Government has always extended to the Opposition in this chamber is that if the Opposition wants the adjournment on a second reading of a Bill it is always granted. This has not been done on this occasion because, temporarily, the combination of the Opposition and 3 independent members has taken the control of the business of this chamber out of the hands of the Government. It is that fact. Mr President, which prompts me to feel that I should give consideration to this matter with my colleagues in the Government. But I am denied that opportunity because the Senate has decided to use its numbers to deny to a person who seeks what is traditionally accorded the right to have it. Therefore I speak to the motion for the second reading of this Bill.
I can only reiterate, more shortly, what I said before. When the ordinance which was disallowed was before the Senate, the argument which was raised in support of it was that bringing in laws by ordinance denied to the Senate the opportunity to scrutinise the provisions of the Bill. Every person who spoke in support of that disallowance motion used that as his argument. What do we have now? We have a Bill which simply says that the ordinance which was disallowed shall continue in force, lt denies any opportunity to amend the provisions of this Bill. It certainly does not deny to the Senate the opportunity to discuss the measure, but that was equally a right which people had under the ordinance. What is asked by Senator Murphy is that this Bill should be expedited; that is, expedited without that discussion, without that consideration and without that minute examination which Senator Cavanagh said was so tremendously important.
I value consistency in argument. I think that consistency in approach is important. The mirth which came from members of the Opposition as I said that indicates how little merit they place upon consistency in approach. 1 recognise that there is an urgency in what is happening in the Australian Capital Territory. 1 also recognise that action should be taken urgently. I adopted the course, in the light of all the circumstances, of asking the Senate to enable me to bring in another ordinance immediately to repair that situation. A majority of the Senate has decided that that course shall not be taken. It is quite obvious to me that legislation must be introduced, but I believe that it is the Government’s prerogative to determine what that legislation shall he and when it shall be introduced.
If that principle is not to be accepted and, if the Opposition and the Independent senators want to take the government out of the hands of the senators on this side of the chamber, then 1 think it is a matter to which we should give consideration. I believe that the legislation ought to be introduced as soon as possible, and my endeavour shall be to ensure that; but it should be legislation introduced by the Government. What we have in the Bill which has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition is that this ordinance shall continue in force until 31st October this year. That means that legislation or another resolution seeking to rescind the motion for disallowance of the ordinance must be introduced. Obviously, in the light of the confirmed Senate opinion, it must be further legislation later this year.
The Government is concerned to have a legislative programme. It is concerned to plan and prepare what legislation shall be introduced. If, every time an Australian Capital Territory ordinance comes before the Senate it decides along the lines it has decided tonight, that will play havoc with the legislative programme. Maybe that is one of the intentions the Opposition has in mind in adopting what, to me, is otherwise an unmeritorious course. It is for those reasons that I oppose this measure. I give notice that in the Committee stage I shall move an amendment to the effect that the expiration of the ordinance which is sought to be preserved by this legislation shall be extended from 31st October 1971 until 30th June 1972. That would be consistent with the assurance which I gave the Senate in the speeches that I made earlier. I believe that is a fair approach for the Senate to adopt.
– The petulance of the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) in his first apearance on any matter which has required the exercise of some skill on his part has been such that at this late hour the Senate has been placed in a most ludicrous situation. I think the issues are fairly clear. I am prompted to say something in this debate only because I think that Senator Greenwood’s concluding remarks require some comment. He has been taking to task members of the Opposition and other honourable senators who voted with the Opposition on this proposition. He has been taking us to task for being inconsistent. The most incredible statement that one could imagine the Minister to have made would be the accusation of being inconsistent when, after a long debate on the merits of a recommendation made by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, almost the sole argument advanced by the Attorney-General has been the urgency of the need to rectify the present situation. When we introduced a Bill to expedite proceedings in order to allow provisions of the ordinance to continue to apply so that the disorder which has occurred in the Australian Capital Territory courts shall be corrected, he attempted to prevent us from doing so.
All that the Bill sets out to do is what the Minister has said should be done. It is being done in somewhat different terms, but it is precisely what members of the Government have been arguing throughout the debate. Whatever the merits of the ordiance may be, there must be some evidence law in the Australian Capital Territory. We believe, because there is an important matter of principle involved, that the new laws relating to evidence should not be introduced by way of ordinance but that they should be introduced in another manner. This has been decided by the Senate.
– It has been twice decided by the Senate.
– lt has been twice decided by the Senate, as Senator James McClelland reminds me. We do not wish to seem to be responsible or to be responsible for any breakdown in the administration of justice in the Australian Capital Territory. Accordingly we have introduced this Bill. It is only sensible that it should be carried. It is completely ludicrous for the Attorney-General to accuse the Opposition of being inconsistent. All along we have said that because of a certain matter of principle relating to the propriety of introducing matters by way of legislation we have raised this matter. We have not raised the merits of the proposition. We are taking steps to ensure that the law, which Senator Greenwood has described as being so desirable, shall be preserved at least until 31st October, by which time the Government will have had an opportunity to take steps to introduce into the Senate and the House of Representatives proper legislation so that the law of evidence in the Australian Capital Territory may be continued. If the arguments raised this evening by Government speakers have any validity, I do not believe that any senator has an alternative but to vote for the Bill.
– The Independent senators are being accused of frustrating or defeating the
Government. Our prerogative is to vote whichever way we feel we should vote. We have no party ties. I am quite aware of the pressures that have been applied to the other 2 Independent senators. It is up to them to decide which way they will vote. If they want to change their style of voting from now on, they are entitled to do so. We are not members of a party. Each has his own opinion and votes accordingly. I believe that we have reached the absolute ultimate in hypocrisy tonight. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood) pleaded with us to have the ordinance passed now because people are suffering owing to our inhuman actions. When he was defeated on that and when a proposition which would enable him to do exactly what he asked was put, he voted against it. This Bill seeks to do nothing more or less than reconstitute that ordinance. A lot of rot has been said about the Attorney-General not having had time to consider it. The whole purpose of the time lag is to enable the Attorney-General to consider it and in the meanwhile the ordinance will take effect and ali the injustice which is occurring as a result of the actions of the Independents and the rebel from the Liberal side will not continue.
– That is not what he would be called if he were on the Labor side.
– I am nol interested in what he would be called on the Labor side. That is party politics. Some senators loathe each other so intensely it is no wonder that Australia is in a mess at present. However, to return to the subject we are discussing, I say to the AttorneyGeneral that he should remember what Senator Withers said. He accused us of not being big because we would not accept the previous motion. I suggest that the AttorneyGeneral be big, stop this rot and get on with the job which he said he wanted us to do, namely, agree to this Bill which validates the ordinance. The Bill can go before the other place tomorrow, be passed and the Executive can meet tomorrow and the Bill become law. Let us have no more of the stupid rubbish which we have heard tonight, accusing us of causing inhumanity to other people, because that is so much poppycock.
– The purpose of the Bill is simply to provide a time during which the ordinance will operate. We are accepting it without examination and there will be a certain time in which another Bill can be introduced. There will then be an examination, so I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 3 which reads:
The provisions of the Australian Capital Territory Evidence Ordinance 1971 contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 4 of 1971 shall, notwithstanding its disallowance by the Senate, continue in force until the thirty-first day of October, One thousand nine hundred and seventyone.
The purpose of the amendment is to enable the ordinance, which is contemplated by this Bill, to continue in force for a time which will enable consideration not only of the experience of its operation but, prospectively, consideration also of the work of the Law Reform Commission of New South Wales. Furthermore, it will prevent interference with the legislative programme which the Government has been preparing for this legislative session.
I think all honourable senators are aware that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) said, after the autumn session of 1971, that he had given directions for a legislative programme which would avoid the build-up and multiplication of Bills at the end of a session. Action to that end has been taken by the Government. Part of the preparation of that programme envisages that there should be schedules of time when Bills should be introduced. To add to that programme would be to increase the burden of the draftsmen and to increase that programme. I submit to the Senate that the point which it has desired to make has been made and it ought not be regarded as a matter of such enormous consequence that this Bill should operate only until 31st October when many other purposes can be served by leaving it unti 30th June next year.
– The main object of this amendment is to provide a temporary period. My own view is that 30th June next year would defeat the purpose of my Bill. Certainly it would achieve part of the purpose of this measure but it would not go on forever. The 31st October was selected as a reasonable date during which time a Bill could be introduced. I am not tied to 31st October. A suggestion has been made - I had better not say from where it came - that maybe towards the end of the year or even the end of February would allow ample time for the Bill to be introduced. The purpose of the Senate’s action is that the law should not be operating unless the Parliament has considered the law. I do not think the reasons of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood) are sufficient to extend this to June next year. Frankly, I would not object to a different date. I have indicated in this place, and certainly elsewhere, that there is no particular magic in 31st October. I would not object if the date was at the end of the session.
– We could be sitting in January.
– That may be so. I would not mind if we said the end of November or something like that. This is not a thing about which we should be arguing, except that I think to extend it to the middle of next year defeats part of the purpose. I do not want to be captious about it. I suggest as an immediate course that we make it 31st December. That would seem to be a reasonable time.
– It is designed to enable whatever Bill that has to be introduced to be introduced in the autumn session next year.
– My feeling is that you have an evidence ordinance. I think it is lengthy. But I suppose we have achieved the main purpose.
– How about the end of February?
– We can make it 28th February. If the Attorney-General would care to modify his proposition to provide for 28th February I think we all would accept it without a vote.
(11.57) - I intercede only to say that I was the person who had a discussion about a date to try to meet the situation between the mover of the motion and the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood), the mover of the amendment. I must confess that the point is made that at this time we do not know the precise starting date of the autumn session. That is the AttorneyGeneral’s problem. We may well be back in February. If we do not want to have a vote on this issue I suggest that we leave it until the March period when we are certain of no embarrassment in relation to the commencing date of the next session.
– I am happy to make it 31st March if the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) will accept that.
– I feel that we have discussed this matter long enough. The Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) has made his point. He explained to us earlier that it took a certain time to get legislation through and that certain laws are involved. As the Attorney-General considers that 30th June gives reasonable time to get it through, let us complete this debate. I think it is only reasonable to bear with the AttorneyGeneral who is doing his job. I think it is proper to give him time to cover these laws.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Prowse)The question now is ‘that the words proposed to be inserted be inserted’.
– I thought that it was generally accepted that honourable senators had agreed upon 3 1st March. I seek leave to amend the words proposed to be inserted so that 31st March is substituted for 30th June.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. The question now is: ‘That the words proposed to be inserted, as amended, be inserted’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a third time.
Thursday, 26 August 1971
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I have been able to listen to a lot of discussion in the Senate tonight. I make no apology to honourable senators for speaking on the motion for the adjournment at this hour because I have received complaints on an industrial matter. I would have let the complaints go by, but twice today the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) in the Senate took the trouble to comment in his usual style on the conduct of the trade union movement. We accept the fact that he represents a Minister holding an important portfolio. It is on that point that I make certain submissions. When Senator Wright argued the conduct of the trade union movement - I think he will agree - he accepted that the Government’s hands were clean. It is in this regard that I wish to mention a number of facts because I believe this is the place to mention them.
At midday yesterday I received a phone call from Mr Unsworth, an organiser of the New South Wales Labour Council, complaining about the slowness of our arbitration system in regard to Commonwealth employees in the Repatriation Department and the Department of Social Services. He quoted public service determinations of 17th June. They were determinations No. 222, No. 223, No. 236 and No. 237. They covered the members of the Hospital Employees Union, which is concerned with the 2 departments to which I referred. The complaint was, of course, that while these determinations were made on 17th June, in the latter part of August no action had been taken. On initial inquiries I found that the Department of Repatriation was apparently on the verge of a pay day and the employees concerned would be paid then. On the other hand there seemed to be some delay by the Department of Social Services in the payment of the employees at Mt Wilga. Without labouring the point, I think it could be said that tributes have been paid by various committees to people in this establishment because of the attention they give to people who are physically ill in more ways than one.
I took the matter up with the secretary of the Minister for Social Services. He is a very affable gentleman. He pointed out to me that it was just unfortunate that because there had been some foul-up with the Treasury the money had not come through for these particular employees. I suppose he could not do any more, but I want to say to Senator Wright that when he is pontificating on the responsibilities of trade union secretaries he should recall this instance. I rang Mr Haines, the secretary of the union, and he told me of the position. He rightly said to me: ‘This is supposed to be a sort of push button era, and I have got members waiting three or four pay days and nothing has happened.’
I put it squarely to Senator Wright that I know there will be a lot more discussion in relation to trade unions or employers in the industrial field. No less a person than the Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr Lynch, when he arrived back from the International Labour Organisation, made a similar speech about too many man days being lost. This union covers a relatively small section of the work force of this country. Its membership is, I suppose, something like that of the nurses union; one has to have a spirit of dedication to engage in this particular field. I put it to Senator Wright very clearly that if our much vaunted arbitration system is to work in this push button era, I cannot see that an employer should have to wait 4 pay days when any department can anticipate certain wage gains.
I say this to Senator Wright: Mr Haines and Mr Unsworth, the exceedingly energetic organiser of the Trades and Labour Council, are people who have to justify themselves. I would like to feel that Senator Wright will discuss this matter directly with the Minister for Labour and National Service. I could raise it directly with Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, who could take it up with the Treasury, but I believe that the Minister for Labour and National Service and his department are the hub of industrial relations. Mindful of the absence of some honourable senators opposite I think I could quote a very good expression that the Duke of Edinburgh often used. I do not know to whom we could apply it. Perhaps we could apply it to the Treasury. In the present situation this small group of workers could probably say what the trade unions should do. Let us look at the situation and say what the Treasury should do. What is much more important is what Mr Lynch should be able to do to galvanise his rather lazy Cabinet colleagues into action. I leave it at that.
– I was about to say that it is always a pleasure to listen to these most gracious statements of Senator Mulvihill and add to that my expression of thanks for his indicating to my office this afternoon that he was going to raise this matter. However, I have been continuously heavily engaged since then and I express regret that I do not have anything to say on the matter he has raised. I very much regret that he cast aspersions, in the terms that he used, upon my colleagues I hope that he will withdraw them immediately. I will not take a point of order as to the offensiveness of his statements, but I hope that he will withdraw his reference to Ministers of the Crown in the terms that he did. Whether or not he does I shall immediately examine - tomorrow if possible - the matter raised by Senator Mulvihill and let him know the explanation of the circumstances to which he has drawn my attention.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned 12.10 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 August 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19710825_senate_27_s49/>.