27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I give notice that tomorrow I intend to move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-72, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Construction of new patients residential building and staff accommodation at Kingshome Rehabilitation Centre, Taringa, Queensland.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I ask whether the Attorney-General will assure the Senate that the Government will observe the great principle of the rule of law which is against retrospective criminal legislation and that lt will not act to turn conduct which was lawful when carried out into criminal action by subsequent legislation. Also I ask whether he will take action to see to it that legislation is introduced to compensate those who have been convicted or penalised under laws which as a result of the decision of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory yesterday have been found not to have come into effect.
– The enormity of what Senator Murphy asks almost takes one’s breath away. He is aware of the decision which was made in the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory and he knows that the implications of that decision are that if the Court is correct in the decision which it has passed virtually every ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory over the past 30 years has been incorrectly notified. It would also follow that almost every regulation would be affected. When I say ‘almost every’ it is certainly a reasonable interpretation from the judgment of the Court that regulations which have been made under Commonwealth statutes almost since the inception are regulations which also have been improperly notified. Therefore actions taken, convictions in the courts, actions by policemen and a tremendous number of decisions of the courts might well be argued to have absolutely no validity whatsoever.
What Senator Murphy is asking me to give an assurance about at this point of time is surely not that everybody who may have been convicted in the courts of the Australian Capital Territory under ordinances which may have been improperly notified should be paid compensation. Presumably there are some people whom the Australian Labor Party - because he is their spokesman - would like to have protected whilst a host of others be not protected. That sort of discrimination I think is quite opposed to the rule of law as I understand it. If he is suggesting that compensation should be paid to everybody who has been convicted - assuming, as I said, there was a basis upon which that claim would be made - I think it displays an inexplicable sense of public responsibility.
– What has become of your devotion to law?
– If Senator James McClelland, who has interjected now 4 times while I have been speaking, is dissatisfied with my answer I suggest that he can ask questions during question time and have the elucidation that he would like. 1 assure the Senate that the Government is aware of the implication of this decision. Already action has been taken and currently a Bill is before the House of Representatives. It is hoped that with the co-operation of the Opposition we shall be able to rectify what would appear to be a defect as found by the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory and rectify it in the interests of the community as speedily as possible.
(Senator Murphy having addressed a supplementary question to the AttorneyGeneral) -
– Order! That question will go on notice on the ground that it is canvassing a matter that is before another place.
– In addressing a question to the Acting Leader of the Government I refer to the use of a BACIII aircraft of the VIP fleet to convey the Minister for External Territories to the Cocos Islands. Are only 3 journalists accompanying the Minister? Were requests from the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Associated Press news service to send representatives on the flight refused? How many of the 26 seats on the BAC-111 will be unoccupied on this trip?
Minister for Air I am one of 3 authorities which may approve the use of VIP aircraft. In order to be granted approval to use the aircraft a Minister, the Leader of the Opposition or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition must apply to the Minister for Air and the aplication must be within the guidelines that have been laid down. Those guidelines provide that only 2 members of the Press shall bc allowed to travel to isolated areas in response to each request. A request was made to me for a number of pressmen to go and I said that it was beyond my authority to permit that and that the applicant should reapply to the Prime Minister, who is a further approving authority. It is my understanding that the applicant has made a further application requesting the carriage of 4 pressmen.
– I ask: Will the AttorneyGeneral explain to me and to the Senate the difference between validating legislation and retrospective legislation or legislation with retrospective operation?
– It is a difficult question and to go into it in great depth undoubtedly would involve giving a legal opinion but I am sure that mentioning a matter in outline would not be trespassing upon the Standing Orders. There is a world of difference between retrospective legislation, which is legislation which affects persons in circumstances where their rights are taken away or where a certain situation is changed from what it is believed to be, and validating legislation, which is designed to validate legislation on a general position which has been proved defective as a result of some error. The best example I can give, removing oneself from current issues, is to refer back to a decision made in about 1968 in which it was decided that the means by which prisoners had been serving their sentences outside the Australia Capital Territory lacked justification under the laws of the Commonwealth, yet people had been serving terms of imprisonment in gaols outside the A.C.T. for, I think, as long as the A.C.T. had existed. Because the decision of that court was that there was a lack of statutory basis, there had to be remedying legislation which I think was passed through the Parliament in the course of a day. Of course, the person who received the benefit of that particular decision was set free., because to have imposed upon him an obligation would have been to take away from him the rights which he had acquired by his court action. Therefore, there, is a difference between validating legislation of the character I have mentioned and what would have been retrospective legislation if that person had been compelled, to serve his sentence after he had gone to the courts and had had accrued rights.
In the current position there were 4 plaintiffs who proceeded before the Supreme Court simply for a declaration and an injunction. They secured their declaration even though they lost their injunction. For those 4- persons I would have thought it was. quite wrong that thereafter they should be subjected to charges which their, action was designed to avoid their having to face. I am sure that that will be the position in the case of those 4 people.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. Is the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation using complex laser beam devices to eavesdrop on private conversations from distance as far as 2 miles,’ and sometimes further? Do these devices pick up sound vibrations through windows? If so, what guarantee have members of Parliament, especially members of the Opposition, that their private conversations are not being recorded by laser beams focused from ASIO headquarters at a distance on the windows of their offices? Can the Attorney-General give an unequivocal assurance that such use has not been made and is not being made of those listening devices? Is their purchase at very high cost the reason why ASIO’s budget rose so dramatically in the last financial year?
– Order! It has been the custom of the Parliament not to require an answer from the AttorneyGeneral or the Minister representing the Attorney-General in the context of matters that relate to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. It is for the judgment of the Attorney-General whether he wishes to answer this question.
– I have indicated that I will not depart from the practice of not answering questions relating to the activities of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. However I did notice a newspaper headline this morning which gave prominence to an allegation which suggested that eavesdropping was occurring. Accordingly I have made inquiries and I can assure the Senate that, on the information available to me, that newspaper article is totally false. No official of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has spoken to any person suggesting what was contained in that newspaper report. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation does not use and has not used any of the devices which it is suggested in the newspaper eould be used. Therefore 1 repeat that the newspaper article, for whatever reason it was published, was a totally false report.
– I ask of the Minister representing the Minister for the Army a question which refers to the recent statement by Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Daly, the former Chief of the General Staff, that abolition of national service, as proposed by the Australian Labor Party, would reduce the Army’s strength from 40,000 to 20,000 and the number of infantry battalions from nine to live, and would cause 4,000 officers and non-commissioned officers to be redundant and therefore left without jobs. In the opinion of the Minister, what would be the effect of such drastic action to reduce the size of the Australian Army and to deprive 4,000 highly trained officers and non-commissioned officers of their jobs?
– Involved in that question was an invitation to the Minister who represents another Minister to give an opinion. I do not think a Minister representing a Minister in another place should be asked to give an opinion. He can only be asked to answer a question about facts or about matters within his judgment.
- Mr President, I agree with you in a certain respect. The honourable senator has asked me about something which I believe is a policy matter. I think that the Minister for the Army rather than his representative in this place should answer the question. I will contact the Minister immediately to get an answer for the honourable senator. My reaction would be that I believe it would be a drastic step if 4,000 men immediately lost their jobs, as the honourable senator said.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is price cutting in fares by Qantas Airways Ltd and other national airlines on international flights actually increasing the total demand for such flights or is price cutting merely resulting in the pro tern transfer of patronage from one airline to another, with serious diminution of gross income to all participating airlines? If there is no increase in overall air flight demand arising from the lower fares, does it not follow that profitability of all lines will suffer severely with long term serious detriment to international air flights and air travel generally?
– lt is a fact that the campaign or effort - call it what you will - by both the Australian Government and Qantas Airways Ltd to bring about a lower level of fares for international flying to and from Australia has been remarkably successful in increasing the total demand for overseas flights both to and from Australia. lt is also a fact that in those circumstances Qantas has benefited substantially in both the total demand and the total revenue. Those facts would have been quite a substantial factor in helping Qantas to improve its position in a very difficult set of circumstances when capacity was very much on the increase, demand was tending to decrease and costs were rising. From every standpoint from which we have had to deal with the matter we have regarded the initiatives taken as being most satisfactory.
– My question is complementary to the one asked by Senator McManus. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army whether, when he is obtaining information for Senator McManus, he will obtain the following information for me: Did the Minister for the Army recently make a public statement that half of the 130,000 unemployed people in this country ‘would not work in an iron lung’? I point out that many unemployed people in the Federal division of Kennedy have complained to me, and in spite of continued researching they are nol able to find employment in this depressed area. Will the Minister request the honourable member for Kennedy and the Minister for the Army to use less offensive language in future when referring to the unemployed of this country?
– I do not think that I have any requirement to ask the Minister for the Army for that sort of information.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service noted that unemployment in Canada has risen to 6.7 per cent? Can he say whether this is symptomatic of a world unemployment increase? Is he also able to say whether the composition of the Canadian economy, and problems asssociated with it, can be compared to the position in Australia?
– Yes, I did see the report that the present rate of Canadian unemployment is 6.7 per cent which should be compared with a rate of about 2 per cent in Australia. With regard to the invitation to make comment upon whether or not this is symptomatic of a world trend, I would abstain from that comprehensive field if I may be permitted. With regard to undertaking a comparison of Canadian and Australian economic conditions, I think that the circumstances of questions without notice preclude a proper reply to that. It would be more appropriate to a debate on some occasion.
– ls the AttorneyGeneral aware that Miss Barbara Joyce Russell, aged 22, was fined $40, in de:ault 22 days imprisonment, on 11th September last by Mr Dobson, Stipendiary Magistrate, in Canberra Court of Petty Sessions for a breach of the National Service Act and that as a consequence of her failure to pay the fine she is at present imprisoned in New South Wales? As it appears from yesterday’s decision of the Australian CapitaTerritory Supreme Court that the making of the Australian Capital Court of Petty Sessions Ordinance was not properly notified, does it not follow that Mis> Russell is unlawfully imprisoned? Will the Attorney-General immediately order the release of Miss Russell on the ground that it is contrary to principles of law and order that she should be held in prison for the commission of an offence of which she has not been lawfully convicted?
– I rise to take a point of order in relation to that question. We have before us a notice that this matter is to be discussed later in the sitting today. I ask you, Mr President, whether it is in order now to anticipate that discussion by asking questions on that very matter. A notice has been given by Senator Murphy which has been distributed to us.
– I cannot uphold the point of order. I listened with the greatest of care to Senator Wheeldon’s question. Tt was in about 5 parts. I think that two of them are relative and proper. The AttorneyGeneral may address himself to those 2 parts.
– It is curious that Senator Wheeldon should take up the cause of Miss Russell and not the cause of many other people who might feel that they are entitled to the same consideration if there be merit in that consideration. Of course, one should remember that Miss
Russell was convicted of an offence not against an ordinance but against a section of the Crimes Act. No one has suggested that the Crimes Act is an invalid enactment. What has been suggested, and what is implicit in the decision of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory yesterday, is that certain ordinances - as I would understand it, almost every ordinance passed since 1940 - have been defectively notified. One does not have to go into the consequences of that very closely in order to appreciate their wide-ranging effect. It is obviously a situation in which there needs to be validating legislation to set right what is necessary for the community of the Australian Capital Territory and to make the position legally what people have assumed has been the position legally over a period. Therefore at the present time if there are persons who might, if they wanted to exercise their legal rights and to get another court to find in the same way as has the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory-
– Should not the Attorney-General be exercising legal rights? Is not that his role?
– While I am on my feet, Mr President, I raise a point of order. When a Minister is attempting to answer a question and he is being subjected constantly to a barrage of interjections, not only is his coherency while he is on his feet naturally affected, but also he cannot give the type of answer which gives satisfaction to the honourable senator who asked the question. This is quite apart from courtesy and the denial of what other people call freedom of speech which ought to be observed in this place if nowhere else.
– Elementary manners.
– I thank Senator Gair. The point is that there are possibly persons who might wish to avail themselves of legal rights. They are entitled to do so. But the clear intention which has been expressed by the Government is that Parliament will be asked to validate this matter as quickly as possible. Yesterday afternoon, yesterday evening and into the early hours of the morning a great amount of time was spent preparing a course of action and legislation. That legislation has now been introduced into the other place. We trust that it will be passed by the Parliament today. That will validate the situation and set right what the Supreme Court yesterday suggested was wrong. Everyone believes that this ought to be set right as soon as possible. If people want to take some advantage from this, then in the intervening time they can rely on such legal rights as they have, knowing that if the Parliament does set the matter right they will be back where they were very quickly.
– Order! Earlier this afternoon I put on notice a question asked by Senator Murphy on the ground that question time could not be used as an area for debate in anticipation of legislation which is currently being pursued in another place. I will not accept any further questions in this context.
– I ask the Minister for Works whether he is aware that the system for counting unemployed in Canada is vastly different from that used in Australia, and that if Australia adopted the Canadian system the figures would be very much higher. In the name of fairness and accuracy will the Minister indicate this in reply to questions on comparative unemployment figures?
– Insofar as the question implies a want of candour on my part, I refute it. Of course I acknowledge that there are differences in the bases of statistics when the Canadian system is compared with our own, but I resent the suggestion that it is encumbent on me to explain them in making a basic comparison between the Canadian figure of 6.7 per cent unemployed and the Australian figure of 2 per cent. However, having said that I shall, for the information of Senator Willesee particularly, have, the matter analysed in proper form. If any further information needs to be given to Senator Willesee I shall provide it.
– I preface this question to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing by saying that we all know how expensive houses are becoming in all States. In view of this will the Minister say whether any consideration has been given to making housing grants available to the States to enable them to acquire land for subdivision and for the provision of services to that land? Then the. land could be sold at cost in an attempt to stop the land price spiral.
– Consideration has been given to this matter from time to time, but it is inherently a matter for the States. If land is to be acquired for housing in the States it can be done only under State powers, unless the Commonwealth, acting within one of its specific powers, such as its defence powers, wants to acquire land. I remind the Senate that this year there has been an increase of $225m in revenue grants reimbursed to the States and an increase of no less than $90m in the grants and loans made available through the Loan Council. It is for the States to accord, out of the moneys that they thereby acquire and from their other appropriations, the priority that they think should be given to the acquisition of land for housing.
With regard to services, we know that the cost of providing sewerage, water and streets has increased enormously and that this puts a great load upon semigovernment authorities. But some semigovernment authorities also have had increased appropriations this year, and, of course, they look mainly to the States to supplement any finance that they require.
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLANDIs the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that in making funds available to local government organisations in rural areas for unemployment relief the New South Wales Government is insisting that the local government organisations utilise the money only for the employment of married people and not for the employment of single unemployed persons? Does the Minister agree that this policy makes it imperative for single unemployed people, particularly young men in country areas, to drift to the large coastal cities in search of work? If- any policy of decentralisation exists, does the Minister agree that it is being negatived by this attitude on the part of the New South Wales Government? Will the Minister take the matter up with the Premier of New South Wales and ask that State to make funds available for the employment of both married and single unemployed people - a policy which I understand is carried out by all other States?
– This is essentially a request about which I should ask the Treasurer to get in touch with the Premier of New South Wales in order to remedy a situation which is assumed to be as the honourable senator has claimed. I will certainly direct the honourable senator’s question to the Treasurer. Where it goes from there, in the exercise of the sovereignty of New South Wales and its Premier, is a matter for the Treasurer and the New South Wales Premier to determine.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral by saying that I accept the Government’s assurance that it exerts no political pressure of any kind on the Australian Broadcasting Commission in relation to programming. However, I ask the Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the recent announcement by the ABC that its most popular children’s programme ‘Adventure Island’ is to be scrapped forthwith. Does the Minister, as a parent of 2 young children, know that the programme eschews violence and tries to teach good citizenship and the best of human qualities without becoming precocious? Will the Minister confer with his colleague in another place to ascertain whether - and without exerting any political pressure - the commissioners of the ABC might review this decision, particularly as in the field of children’s programmes Australian productions rank extremely high?
– I think I would share the honourable senator’s general views about the quality of the programme to which he has referred. I have seen Press reports suggesting that the programme is not to be continued, and I acknowledge the honourable senator’s view that the determination of what programmes shall be shown on the ABC is within the province of the Commission and the management which the Commission appoints. Whether the Commission would change its mind is a matter which can be ascertained only if representations are made to it, and possibly the honourable senator could make his own representations. I will convey his request to the PostmasterGeneral for his consideration.
– Can the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate advise whether the proposed national rural bank is to be established as is being claimed by the Australian Country Party Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, or is not to be established as was implicit in remarks made earlier in the day in another place by the Prime Minister, Mr McMahon?
– I have not had the opportunity, as the honourable senator has, to refer to some remarks made by the Prime Minister in another place. I will certainly do so at the earliest opportunity. But it is my present understanding that both the Treasurer and the Minister for Primary Industry have had talks, on 2 occasions I think, with the general managers of the banks. Talks are continuing at the present time between the officials of the 2 Departments concerned - the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Primary Industry - and the officials of the banks. I would hope that those talks would come to an early conclusion so that primary producers who at present have, term loans for periods of up to 7 years may be able to obtain some refinancing of those loans over a much greater period, say up to 20 years as, I believe, $20m was made available in the Budget for this purpose. I would hope that some decision on the matter could be arrived at quickly.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Firstly, can the Minister inform the House of the result of the dairy industry referendum held in 1970 on an equalised price being made compulsory for all butter sold on the home or the export market? Secondly, has the decision of that referendum been carried out or is Government policy endeavouring to force a 2-price quota plan? Thirdly, are dairymen in Victoria being subjected to pressure to accept a restrictive production plan under threat of subsidy reduction in this industry for which there is clear evidence of world markets being available in the foreseeable future?
– I am aware that this matter was discussed at earlier meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council and that some reluctance was expressed on the part of the Victorian Minister at that time. But I understand that the situation in the intervening period has altered to some degree. I am not aware of the present situation in Victoria to which the honourable senator has referred. If he will place his question on notice, I will obtain some information for him.
– Before I call Senator Carrick to ask the next question, I must make it clear to the honourable senator that I have an uneasy feeling that perhaps I was unjust to him yesterday. If in fact this did occur, I wish to express my personal regrets to the honourable senator. I now call Senator Carrick.
– Thank you, Sir. My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I ask: Is the Minister aware of a reported statement to the Securities Institute of Australia . by the Labor Party’s so-called shadow Treasurer, Mr Crean, to the effect that it would better for people to get 2 per cent or 3 per cent return on funds rather than 5 per cent or 6 per cent? Would not such a policy have a disastrous effect upon all persons who depend upon superannuation, insurance or other modest investments for their source of income? Would it not dry up the flow of investment funds within the country and so stop growth and create widespread unemployment? Is the Minister aware that ‘Webster’s Dictionary’ defines the word ‘shadow’ variously as: ‘Having form without substance’, and ‘an imaginary or delusive vision’?
– I am grateful for the definition of ‘shadow’ from ‘Webster’s Dictionary’ because I have often thought to myself when I have heard references to the observations of a shadow Minister, in a shadow fashion, that on most occasions they were something which had been conjured up in the darkness without any light at all. In regard to interest rates and the speech to the Securities Institute of Australia by Mr Crean, I did not read the full text of what Mr Crean said although I have read some of the comments which have appeared in the Press about this matter. Quite apart from the honourable senator’s question, I was interested in the observation that there should be a reduction in interest rates.
This is a country with a notably high savings record. I think that Australia is regarded as the second highest savings country in the world. A tremendous amount of the development of Australia is financed out of savings which are the forgoing of today’s benefits for something later in the form of life assurance, savings, or whatever we may call them. What one gets in interest rates is the price for forbearance, for doing without or for saving. To reduce interest rates arbitrarily in that style, to me, would not be wise. Without doubt it would depress the saving rate, it would depress the habit of thrift and it must have an effect on superannuation and a consequential effect on people’s earnings. So, it seems to me to be fundamentally a most unwise proposition to come from somebody who purports to be a possible Treasurer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In the light of the view expressed by the Minister for Primary Industry to the Australian Fisheries Council that coastal nations such as Australia should have prior rights over their adjacent fishing resources, I ask the Minister, firstly, whether he can define the off-shore limits which we seek to preserve for exclusive fishing rights and, secondly, how far such a policy takes Australia into line with that practised by Iceland and several of the Latin American coastline nations.
– I promise the honourable senator that I will give him the information he seeks as soon as possible after question time today.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. It concerns the price cutting war going on between chemists and supermarkets over pain killers. Firstly, is it a fact that since pain killers have been freely available in supermarkets, corner stores, hotels and other retail outlets sales have reached the staggering amount of $13m a year? Secondly, what action does the Government propose to take to restrict the sale of pain killers in the light of professional advice that these drugs cause a frightening number of kidney breakdowns? Finally, when can the Parliament expect to receive the report of the National Health and Medical Research Council on the chemists’ submissions on these matters?
– This is a matter which I do not think I oan advance very much further than the honourable senator’s question reveals his state of knowledge to be. It is a matter primarily for the States, although the Commonwealth has responsibilities in its Territories. It is a matter in which the Commonwealth for its part and the States also will be relying upon the report of the National Health and Medical Research Council. Beyond that, I feel that any comment I made would not advance the matter. I do not know when the report of the National Health and Medical Research Council will be available.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Is the Minister aware of reports of another big contract to sell Australian iron and steel worth some $10m to China which was won in the face of stiff competition? Can the Minister say whether these reports are correct? If they are correct, does not this dispel the comments of the Australian Labor Party that Australian trade with China has been influenced by politics?
– The observation made at the end of this question would certainly seem to be correct. I understand that the reports are true and that it is a large contract which was won in the face of stiff competition around the world. It obviously denotes a position in which those people, when they want something that one has, are prepared to buy it. It is quite simple, I think.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air and refers to aircraft replacement. I ask the Minister: Has the Royal Australian Air Force finalised its recommendations to the Government with respect to its choice of aircraft to replace the Mirage, or are new and additional aircraft types now under consideration? I also ask the Minister whether it is intended to finalise this matter before the forthcoming elections. Finally I ask whether it is still a requirement that Australian manufacturers will get a substantial part of any manufacture within this country.
– It is true that an Air Staff requirement, has been put out for a replacement of the Mirage. It is true also that certain manufacturers have made submissions but that no decision has been made yet. The studies of the future of air defence are, of course, in the hands of the Department of Defence. One of the parts of the Air Staff requirement is that the manufacturer should indicate in his submission how much he is prepared to manufacture or produce in offset orders in Australia.
– Mr President, my question is directed to you. I ask you where you obtain the power for carrying out sessional orders of the Senate. I refer to the sessional order which requires the President to put the question ‘that the Senate do now adjourn’ at 10.30 o’clock on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. I point out that last evening you failed to put the question at the appropriate time as set out under sessional orders.
– I will give consideration to this matter at the end of question time and provide the honourable senator with an answer.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Will the Minister endeavour to obtain from the Australian Broadcasting Commission its reasons for dropping the very successful Australian produced children’s programme ‘Adventure Island’?
– I will convey the honourable senator’s question to the Postmaster-General as I indicated 1 would convey Senator Hannan’s question on the same subject.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I ask: Does the Treasurer recall the assurance given by the Government that an investigation would be carried out following the recent re-introduction of the manufacturing investment allowance to assess whether the building and construction industry should be included in and granted the benefits of the investment allowance? Will the Minister bring to this Senate a response which will indicate an early decision by the Government on this matter?
– 1 believe that the Treasury, on the instruction of the Treasurer, has this matter in hand. ( shall ask what progress has been made.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I say by way of prelude that my question refers to a matter which is the substance of notice of motion No. 11 standing in my name under the heading Orders of the Day’ on page 6382 of the. Senate Notice Paper and is related to the establishment of a rural finance corporation. I understand in asking this question that I am within the Standing Orders of the Senate. As I have said, this is a matter relating to a notice of motion. 1 ask the Minister whether he is in a position tq inform the Senate whether the Government will be making an announcement at an early date on the Government’s decision to establish a rural bank, the creation of which was forecast recently by the Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Anthony, which has been the announced policy of the Australian Democratic Labor Party both inside and outside the Parliament for some years, but which has been consistently rejected by all other parties in the Senate when the Democratic Labor Party has moved by resolution for such creation?
– Earlier this afternoon Senator Devitt raised with me by way of question a statement which was made earlier today in another place by the Prime Minister. I said that I did not have the information on this matter. I then went on to say that continuing negotiations are proceeding between the Treasury and the Department of Primary Industry and bank officials and that I hoped that some finality on this matter would be reached very shortly. I am not in a position to add anything to what I said in reply to the honourable senator. Senator Byrne said in the last part of his question that his party was the only party that has been pushing for this institution, but 1 recall that over the years the Government parties have been pushing pretty solidly for a similar establishment.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration a question which has no political overtones. I hope that I do not receive an answer with political overtones, as I am seeking information. As the Government allowed the South African rugby team to tour and compete in Australia on the basis that sport and politics should be separated, why is it . that 2 Rhodesian golfers have been refused admission to Australia for sporting purposes?
– I understand from the Minister for Immigration that no visa applications were received with regard to the 2 Rhodesian golfers whom the Press has reported as being ineligible to come here, but a decision has been made to refuse approval for a Rhodesian team to come here to compete in the golf tournament if an application should bc made. Prior authority to visit Australia is required for. holders of Southern Rhodesian passports or for residents of Southern Rhodesia. Applications for such authority are considered in the light of the response by the Australian Government to the resolutions concerning Rhodesia which were passed by -the United Nations Security Council in 1968 and 1970. Generally speaking, Rhodesian passport holders wishing to visit Australia will be granted authority only if strong humanitarian grounds can be shown to exist. Applications from other persons ordinarily resident in Rhodesia are considered on their individual merits and in keeping with Australia’s obligations under the resolution of the United Nations. Permission to visit Australia would generally be refused to persons, whether holders of Southern Rhodesian passports or not, wishing to visit Australia as members of groups representing Rhodesia - for example, delegates to international conferences being held in Australia or Rhodesian teams wishing to participate in international sporting competitions, such as the Rhodesian ladies tennis team and the Rhodesian ladies golf team in, I think, 1970 and 1968. I am informed by the Minister for Immigration that the decision has been taken on that basis.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior ask his colleague to investigate urgently the reasonable request by the New South Wales Penal Reform Council that prisoners in gaol during the forthcoming general elections be allowed to record an absentee vote? Is he aware that the New South Wales Electoral Officer has stated in a letter to the Council that there are no plans to provide for a postal vote for such prisoners on polling day? Will he ask the responsible Minister to give consideration to allowing prisoners to exercise their voting rights, especially as responsible members of the Penal Reform Council have offered their assistance to prison authorities in such activity?
– I shall direct the honourable senator’s request to the responsible Minister.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. On 18th April, in answer to my question regarding landing facilities for aerial medical aircraft between Darwin and Katherine and between Katherine and Tennant Creek, the Minister told me that he would check the matter out. 1 now ask: Has the Minister been able to ascertain what facilities are available between these centres and, if facilities are available, do they include provisions for night operations?
– That is one of the matters that came up during a check that I was making recently of unanswered questions. I have been informed that the information is on its way up to us.
– I ask the Minister for Works whether he is aware that the air conditioning plant in the Bureau of Meteorology building at Cloncurry, Queensland, has never been listed on an inventory. Has this omission led to the improper servicing of the plant? Can he inform the Senate of the value of the plant and why it has never been listed on a departmental inventory?
– I did not even know that there was an air conditioning plant in Cloncurry so I am unable to inform the Senate on the condition of that plant. I shall refer the matter to the Department of Works and the information will be supplied after we have had sufficient notice.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. On 15th August last I asked the Minister a question relating to the Bureau of Transport Economics study of Tasmania’s transport disabilities and its progress with the preparation of that report. I also asked the reasons for the Government’s attitude to a subsidy or a freight cost equalisation scheme for Tasmanian shipping. I now ask: Is the Minister in a position to supply any further information in relation to this matter?
– It is true, as the honourable senator has said, that the Senate Standing Committee did meet to consider this matter and did make a number of observations relating to the real cost of transport and that cost being reduced by efficiencies. The Committee believed that investment decisions would be distorted by subsidies, and that land transport costs had to be considered as a very high part of the total cost. The Committee did not believe that subsidisation of shippers individually would be a wise course. The Government studied those observations and the report. It agreed with those observations and the conclusions contained in the report. The study by the Bureau of Transport Economics is still in progress. It should be completed in a few months. It has not yet been decided whether it will be released.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Will a Department of Civil Aviation court of inquiry be set in motion to investigate the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the Tiger Moth aircraft carrying a pilot and a passenger from Hobart en route to Canberra? Will the Minister assure the Senate that the inquiry will have terms of reference sufficiently wide to investigate alleged events such as the breaking-in of the hangar housing the lost aircraft prior to its departure, threats made by telephone to the passenger prior to departure, and other unusual aspects of this tragic occurrence?
– I obtained some material in relation to this matter in case honourable senators, particularly those from Tasmania, were concerned about it. The information that 1 have may help. I will be as brief as I can. The aircraft went missing on Friday while on a. flight from Cambridge to Flinders Island. Immediately the pilot of the aircraft failed to notify its arrival at Flinders Island, a search was launched along its track with 3 aircraft. The search has been continuing with a maximum of 13 aircraft on any one day, including a DCA F27. A night search also has been carried out over the aircraft’s flight track. This is a typical, highly organised, intense operation which is being conducted from the special air sea rescue coordination centre at Launceston. The aircraft involved have spent 270 hours in the air so far and the approximate cost to yesterday was $13,300. That cost does not include the use of the Fisheries Department vessel which is searching the waters off northern Tasmania. All hearing and sighting reports have been checked and the persons concerned have been interviewed.
In the last few days the search has been concentrated over the Banks Strait area because it appears to be the area of highest probability. The search was scaled down yesterday because of deteriorating weather, poor visibility - the cloud base was about 900 feet - severe turbulence, and because the seas were very moderate to very rough. We have 3 aircraft concentrating on the Tasmanian north eastern area, both over land and over sea, and , beach searches are continuing.
I cannot see any need for a court of inquiry. I am most anxious that the search should go on and that the aircraft should be found if possible. What might have happened la relation to threats or breaking and entering in Tasmania is a matter for the Reece Government in Tasmania and the police of that State.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, refers to the revaluation of the Australian dollar which was supported recently by the Leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr Whitlam, and which was opposed by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister because of its serious effects on our rural industries. Will the Minister ask those responsible to ensure that in any decision upon this grave matter regard will be had to the statement issued by Mr F. M. Wiltshire, the President of the Australian Industries Development Association, in which he said that revaluation would have the most serious effects on Australia’s manufacturing industries and would lead to considerable unemployment?
– I noted the statement made by Mr Wiltshire which has been quoted. It gave expression to a viewpoint which has been put forward emphatically with regard to revaluation of the Australian currency. I think it is obvious that the course suggested - revaluation of Australian currency - would give advantage to importers and would increase the competitive situation for Australian manufacturers. The whole question of unemployment is one of increasing the costs in industry more than the output of industry will pay. I carry in my wallet a statement that gives expression to this feeling. It is that if particular groups insist on pricing themselves out of jobs and the nation out of business no government can maintain full employment. That would be a consequence of the course proposed. I must insist that there is no current proposal for revaluation of the currency. That has been finalised decisively by the Prime Minister’s statement that it simply is not on.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation indicate that when deciding to . increase landing and air navigation .charges he gave full consideration to the submissions of the working group on Department of Civil Aviation costs and charges- which reported to - him in May 1971? Does he believe that a by-product of such increases ultimately will be a charge on migrant transport costs, among other things?
– Consideration was given to the working ‘ “committee report. Consideration is always ‘ given to that sort of examination of a particular situation. The fixing of navigation charges is part of a process of trying to recover from the users the immense cost of providing civil aviation facilities. It is inevitable that these charges will become part of the cost structure of all airlines, but it is a very much smaller percentage of their cost- structure than many people would imagine. I can obtain the percentage for the honourable senator.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, arises from an answer supplied to me recently by the Treasurer in relation to a question I asked about the collection of excise on alcoholic beverages. I now ask: Why is it that the amount of revenue collected by way of excise on beer in the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia is not available for publication?
– I have no idea. I noted that New South Wales appears to have been left out of the list of beer drinkers, which appals me. I cannot believe that it is true. I shall ascertain the figures.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. I ask it of him more in sorrow than in anger. Has he read the current issue of the ‘Tribune’, the Australian Communist Party paper in Sydney, which has a lovely illustration of htm with the caption: ‘Don’t tell me, I have already read it in the “Tribune” ‘? Is he an accessory to Tribune’ sales propaganda?
– I did not understand the import of the question. Does the Attorney-General wish to answer it?
– I am at loss to understand it. I ask the honourable senator to put it on notice.
– Mr President, earlier this afternoon Senator Willesee asked me a question. I would like to make available some further information.
– The Minister may do so. I call him now.
- Senator Willesee referred to a request by the Minister for External Territories for a VIP aircraft, a BAC-111, to go to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. He asked about personnel representing the media. The flight has been approved. I sought further information of the Minister in regard to representatives of the media. He has asked for Mr Allan Ramsay representing the News Ltd, Mr Alan Barnes, the Melbourne ‘Age’ group, Mr Vincent Matthews, the Herald and Weekly Times group and Mr John O’Farrell, the Fairfax group. Because the Minister has applied within the requirements that 1 asked of him, those will be the four representing the groups whom I approved.
– I know that the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate wish to proceed on important business, but I have an intimation from Senator McManus, who is trying to attract my attention, that he wishes to address me for a purpose which is proper.
– I seek leave to make a statement on a- matter on which I believe I have been misrepresented.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– The honourable senator is entitled to make an explanation.
– As you know, Mr President, last night Senator Georges made a statement in regard to the Prime Minister. The ‘Canberra Times’ in’ reporting it today states as follows:
Senator Georges replied, ‘1 have not accused the Prime Minister of corruption. That was suggested by Senator McManus’.
A number of people have expressed surprise. I also am surprised. I- will merely read from Hansard - I think that is all that is necessary- the report of what happened. Senator Georges made his statement. I said: ‘That statement is an allegation of corruption’. Senator Georges said: ‘It is an allegation of patronage’. I then said: ‘It should not be made under privilege’. I appreciate that the reporter concerned may have had some difficulties because there were a lot of remarks flying backwards and forwards, but 1 hope that he will quote the Hansard report and make it clear that I did not accuse the Prime Minister.
– There has been a misunderstanding between Senator Mulvihill and myself. Earlier today he asked me a question relating to Australia’s control over adjacent fishing resources and how far this extended out to sea. 1 inform the honourable senator that the Government’s policy has been and continues to be to claim for Australia the maximum control over fisheries which international’ law permits. The Australian
Government’s stated objective in participating in the current law of the sea negotiations is to influence a change in international law which will result in recognition, by foreign countries, of the preferential rights of Australian fishermen throughout a broad zone of coastal fisheries.
– What does that mean?
– We are trying to obtain the maximum.
- Senator Cavanagh, I propose to deal with your matter later on in the day, if I may. I have been looking into it and I know that you want a decision on your question which relates to Standing Orders. I would not like the matter to be treated summarily. If you will excuse me I will defer an answer until a later hour.
– Thank you, Mr President.
– I have received from Senator Murphy an intimation that he desires to move for the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgency, namely:
The implications of the Government’s failure properly to notify regulations and ordinances as determined by the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory.
Is the motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– I move:
– A little bit of notice would have been helpful.
– Order! I make it clear that this notice of urgency from Senator Murphy was received by me within the time limit allowed under the Senate Standing Orders.
– I concede that very little notice was given, although some intimation was given previously. I think the Senate understands why on this occasion, because of the subject matter, it was not possible to give the kind of notice which I concede would be highly desirable. I regret that that was not possible. The Senate is asked to agree to meet at a slightly different meeting time tomorrow. This is a procedural parliamentary device to enable a matter of importance and urgency to be discussed. That matter of importance and urgency to Australians results from the judgment of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory which was given yesterday in a case brought by one of the Aboriginal persons who was associated with what is called the embassy’ outside this Parliament, together with some others, against in effect the Government of .this country. In this case they succeeded. They succeeded because the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory held, in substance, that the Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance had not been properly notified as required by law. This meant that because of the will of Parliament set forth in the Seat of Government (Administration) Act, the Ordinance did not take effect and had not taken effect at the time of the hearing although, as the court pointed out, the police had purported to act under that Ordinance.
Certain extremely important considerations flow from this. One is that for some time ordinances and regulations have not been properly notified. In fact, if one looks at the ‘Gazette’ one becomes amazed at the sketchiness of the indication which is given to the public of the making of ordinances. One is concerned at this because it is of the highest importance that the law not only be made properly, ‘ but- that it be publicised and brought to the notice, in some effective way, of all those who are to be affected by it.
Over a fairly lengthy period of time in this country there have been endeavours to have laws made in an informal way, even by instruments in writing, so that the law could be written on a piece of paper and even put in a desk. Yet citizens would be bound by that law which need not even be published or tabled in the Parliament. Again and again this Senate has resisted attempts to enable law making to be done in that way. We have rejected the clauses of the laws which provided that law could be made by instruments in writing, and we have insisted that it be done by regulation or ordinance, properly published in the Gazette’ and tabled in this Parliament so that it could be liable to disallowance.
In this discussion we can only assume that the judgment of the court is correct. There was a unanimous judgment, with 2 of the judges saying that on 2 different grounds the notification was not proper in that it did not properly indicate that the Ordinance had in fact been made and also that it did not properly indicate where copies of the Ordinance could be obtained. We have had a sorry history in the case of this Ordinance. The Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) waited until after Parliament had risen before making the Ordinance. The Minister appeared on television and said that he had done that.
Early this morning, apparently at 12.30 o’clock, we are told - and some of my staff saw it - that out in the wind and rain, and by torchlight, an officer of police set about trying to tell people on the lawns in front of Parliament House that some ordinance had been made and published. Public affairs ought not be conducted in this way. It appears that the reasoning which drew the court to the conclusion that the Ordinance had not been properly notified, and therefore had not taken effect, also applies to other ordinances in this Territory and presumably m the Northern Territory. It also seems to me that the same kind of provisions as were contained in the Seat of Government (Administration) Act are contained in the Acts Interpretation Act and the Rules Publication Act. In fact, the provisions of those 2 Acts appear to contain clauses which are identical with what is contained in the Seat of Government (Administration) Act.
From a perusal of the notifications which have been made in regard to regulations under the various Acts, it would appear that in all probability many regulations which have been made under various enactments have not been properly notified. The Government has broken the law in failing to notify properly the making of the regulations and, therefore, those regulations have not taken effect.
– Would the same procedure apply to the Curtin and Chifley governments as well?
– I am unaware of that, senator. It may be. I have not looked at any regulations which go back as far as that. Whichever government it was, it would appear from what the court has said - I am accepting for the purpose of this argument that the court is right; I cannot do anything else - the government has broken the law There follow from this extremely important consequences. What is to be done about them? Regarding the civil consequences, it seems to me that probably common sense dictates, and it is in accordance with the practice of our laws, that there should be validating legislation to deal with the various matters of titles to property and office and so forth. I see the Attorney-General smiling or smirking in his seat. I do not think that it is amusing that this has occurred especially as there had been some previous indication to this Government that the notifications were not satisfactory. I well recall being associated with a case in the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory several years ago where this very complaint was made. The attention of the Government should have been drawn to it. As a matter of common sense and regard for the rights of citizens, the Government should have cleaned up the procedure.
– When was that?
– Make your own speech, senator.
– What was the decision of the court?
– You can make your own speech, senator. My recollection of the matter is that the court thought that it was satisfactory in the sense of not breaching the law. But I will tell the Senate this: It obviously was not satisfactory as a matter of meeting the rights of citizens to be given proper information about the laws that had been made in this delegated way. I think that any honourable senator who looks at what was done will be staggered that this is all the notification that the citizen has been given.
I turn to what is to be done about this state of affairs. The civil consequences may not be simple in every case but 1 imagine that in most cases there will not be much difficulty. Where the difficulty arises is that the policy of the law through the ages has been against retroactive criminal legislation. One of the strongest principles of the rule of law is that by law that which was lawful when it was done should not be made unlawful after the event. That principle is so strong that it has been carried into the Constitution of the United States of America where, by an Article of that Constitution, the United States Congress is prohibited from making any ex post facto law. That has been restricted because it was the intention of the principles of the common law to mean criminal law, and that applies to the States by another provision of the Constitution. 1 would hope that the Liberal Party which sits in this chamber as well as elsewhere will not abandon another of its principles simply because it is its own Government which has been associated with this bungle and simply because it is afraid of some effect on. the forthcoming election or it is worried . about the odd few dozen people who might escape consequences which it thinks they probably in some kind of merit deserve. Is the great principle against retroactive criminal law to be abandoned? If so, for what? Members of the Liberal Party are sitting in their places. They are prepared, I would wager, to rush through this House some legislation not thinking of the consequences to this country if it is accepted that a law can be made which will turn into criminal action that which was not criminal at the time when it was done. There is not the slightest doubt that according to the decision of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, what the Government thought was an effective criminal law was not.
– Did the Court say that the laws were invalid?
– We can hear a number of honourable senators who are lawyers interjecting. It is the duty of every senator, whether he is a lawyer or not, to state truthfully the consequences of the decision of the Court. As I understand it, the Court stated the position to be this: A law, an ordinance, was made which was made validly; but, because of the Government’s failure properly to notify that law, it did not take effect.
– It did not come into operation.
– The words in the decision were ‘did not take effect’, if the honourable senator will listen. The words were that the law did not take effect and that at the time conduct was carried out which might today be affected by that law, if the notification was made yesterday, that conduct, which occurred last week or 3 weeks ago, was no breach of the law; it was not unlawful. There is not the slightest doubt about that. I do not hear the 2 honourable senators who were interjecting before dissenting from tha( proposition. The conduct was not unlawful and, if the Parliament is to pass legislation to say that the conduct which was not unlawful when it was done is now to be unlawful, then that in the plainest terms is a retroactive criminal law.
Are we to abandon this great principle because a few people are in gaol? Those who have served sentences or who have completed part of sentences cannot even be given back their time. Are we to say, for the sake of a few individuals who, it might be said, should .npt escape on a technicality, that we will reverse this tremendous principle? The law throughout has been strewn with technicalities, some of them merely procedural technicalities affecting the person himself. The slave who was freed in Britain was freed on’ a technicality. There are many - such instances throughout the law. But this is not a technicality merely affecting the person, because here the position is that there was no effective law at all. What the person did was lawful. That is the tremendous difference between this case and others. This must be the strongest case even in which the conduct itself was lawful. It is not merely a matter of a person escaping because of some rule of evidence such as in the Miranda case in which because of a procedural rule a person could not be proved guilty because he was not advised of his rights. This is a case in which what the person did was lawful.
Before any further steps are taken, the Senate should consider carefully whether for the sake of a few individuals it will abandon this principle. If the Government establishes that it can do this, what will happen in, say, 15 years time in different circumstances? A different government may be in power and it may say that it will make unlawful what was lawful when it was not in government. The Government is tampering with one of the most important human rights - a right enshrined in the various conventions and embedded in the statements made by the International Commission of Jurists. If the Government abandons this, it will abandon anything. The position is that there are people in gaol and there are people who would be facing charges.
The Attorney-General of this country, although he is the protector of the rights of the citizen and, as we know from the debates before, lie is supposed to stand in a position different from that of the Government and even stand up against his Government, has not lifted a finger to go out and advise those people of their rights, to commence any action for habeas corpus, to allow his officers to do it or to facilitate the rights and the vindication of the rights of the people who, according to the consequences of that Supreme Court judgment, are illegally there. Instead of this he is going to turn around and try to facilitate the passage through this Parliament, ©f a law which will make unlawful that which was lawful when it was done.
– Was that not the situation in regard to the Commonwealth law-
– If the honourable senator accepts that, he will accept anything. The honourable senator pointed to that Commonwealth law.
– I did not hear anyone taking objection to it here previously.
– Well, if the honourable senator had ever heard me in another place be would have heard someone take objection to it. What the honourable senator is saying is very important because there was a breach of this law on this great principle on an earlier occasion. I refer to the Worthing case. We can see what happens. It happened in that case. Now that we are faced with this situation the worthy senator says: ‘Ah, but we did it once before’. The next time this is done he will say: ‘Ah, but we did it twice before’. Very soon this principle which existed in the law will be swept away. We saw what happened in the primary industry Bills where the rights of the rural citizens were being chopped away. We are witnessing one of the great historical occasions in this country at a time when honourable senators opposite are afraid of some political implications at the election. I do not think that this is going to affect the election one way or the other. I do not think it will matter a scrap really. This is not a matter on which the election will turn. But it may well be one of the most fateful decisions which has been made in this country if the Government is to abandon the principle against retroactive criminal legislation. 1 fear that the Liberal Party has so abandoned one principle after the other that it will have no hesitation in abandoning one of the few principles which is in its policy, that is the maintenance of the rule of law. I defy those honourable senators on the other side to deny that in the rule of law there is included the principle which is against the enactment of retroactive criminal legislation.
Therefore I ask the Senate to adopt this motion as an indication of the importance of this matter. I believe that this matter should be discussed thoroughly and that legislation should not be rushed through this place until we get the chance of looking at it and making some sensible legislation which will protect properly civil rights and not breach this great principle.
– The Senate must operate on a basis of co-operation, understanding and trust between those responsible for the business of this place. This motion of urgency which has been moved by Senator Murphy was given in accordance with Standing Orders. I received my notification when 1 came into this chamber at about 3 o’clock. It is contrary to the customs of this place that motions of urgency should be left until such a late stage. It is contrary to ordinary courtesies and, I would think, the unvarying procedures of the Senate for such notices to bt left to such a late stage. I am quite sure that Senator Murphy for the
Opposition would not accept from the Government conduct of the character which he has given to the Government if he had cause to complain.
My second point is that this is not properly a motion of urgency. The situation arising from the judgment of the Supreme Court yesterday is quite clear. The Government is acting, and is acting promptly. A lot of people have spent a lot of time preparing legislation which will remedy this matter as quickly as possible. Indeed, at the present time a Bill is being debated in the House of Representatives which will rectify the position if it is passed there and brought here and passed by the Senate this evening. Indeed, that Bill is of the character that everything Senator Murphy said today, if he wished to say it, could be said in the course of the debate on that Bill. It seems that the Senate would be wasting its time to deal with this matter now when the Bill will shortly be before the Senate and the matters can be canvassed when the Bill arrives. In those circumstances, and because I personally regard this as a discourteous and unnecessary misuse of the Senate’s powers, I move:
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority … . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
-BROCKM AN (Western Australia - Minister for Air)- -Pursuant to section 22 of the Public Service Act 1922- 1972, I present the annual report of the Public Service Board for the year ended 30th June 1972.
-BROCKM AN (Western Australia - Minister for Air) - For the information of honourable senators I present an interim statement on the activities of the Australian Egg Board for the year ended 30th June 1972. When the final report is available it will be presented in accordance with statutory requirements.
– Pursuant to section 7 of the States Grants (Independent Schools) Act 1969, I present a statement of payments made to independent schools in each State for the year ended 31st December 1971.
– Pursuant to section 28 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1972, I present the 24th Annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the year ended 30th June 1972, together with financial accounts and the report of the Auditor-General on those accounts.
– On behalf of Senator Cotton, for the information of honourable senators 1 present a Tariff Board report on Phthalic Anhydride (Dumping and Subsidies Act) dated 30th Jone 1972. This report does not call for any legislative action.
Senator WITHERS (Western Australia)I present the report from the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory on employment opportunities in the Australian Capital Territory.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I ask for leave to make a short statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In tabling this report from the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory on its employment opportunities inquiry I desire at the outset to pay a tribute to Senator Marriott who was Chairman of the Committee while the bulk of the work of the Committee was undertaken. This report appears at first sight to have canvassed a number of matters and made recommendations about them which it might be thought the terms of reference would not have warranted.
The Committee refused to place a narrow interpretation upon its terms of reference and therefore has made recommendations about the ultimate population size of Canberra and the need for a joint approach from the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments regarding planning in the Australian Capital Territory environs. Population growth in Canberra is dependent on the number of jobs created and available here. Consequently, when looking at employment opportunities the Committee was forced to the conclusion that it should take account of the effect of any recommendations it may make about generating more jobs in Canberra on the size of the city.
The inquiry demonstrated that there is no lack of job opportunities in this city, nor is there a case for an incentive scheme to provide for diversity of employment opportunities. There was abundant evidence before us of a quite wide range of employment available to young persons in CanberraQueanbeyan - wider by far than is the case in other Australian cities of anything like comparable size and the prospect for the future is that this diversity will be enhanced.
On the other hand, a policy which set out to create employment diversity would generate the following difficulties: It would, in the first place, be quite expensive in a city where already large sums of Commonwealth money are being invested annually, and we could not guarantee success from the very large outlay which would be required to have any effect on diversity of employment here. Secondly, such a policy, if successful, could generate embarrassing problems for the planners who would have to cope with the consequent growth impetus which would be generated. Thirdly, there is in prospect the exhaustion of land for urban purposes within the ACT and an accelerated growth policy is not necessarily in the best interests of this city and the surrounding lands close by in New South Wales.
We were not satisfied of the desirability of giving support to the possible growth of another large city in Australia. In the world at large, and in Australia in particular, there appears to be merit in avoiding big cities. This particular city is the seat of Federal Government and, as a result of encouraging growth here, we could jeopardise the national capital concept and function arising from unfettered growth. We have accordingly recommended restraint.
It will be seen that there is a clear link between the creation of job opportunities and the ultimate size of Canberra. For this reason the Committee was justified in looking beyond the mere facts of the Canberra situation in respect of the quantity and quality of jobs available here. Such an approach to this inquiry would have been rather a waste of time, whereas we were presented with the opportunity of considering related issues of far greater consequence and making what we believe to be recommendations for the longer term benefit of Canberra as the national capital. I commend the report to the Senate and move:
That the Senate take note of the report.
Debate (on motion by Senator Devitt) adjourned.
– Is General Business, Notice of Motion No. 6, standing in the name of Senator Murphy, formal or not formal?
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-66 to provide for enrolment and voting at the age of 18 years.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move:
This Bill is for an Act to amend the present electoral laws of the Commonwealth in order to achieve universally throughout
Australia the right of18-year-olds to enrol and to vote in elections for each House of this Parliament. At present some people who are under 21 years of age are entitled to vote. They are those who have engaged in certain military service overseas. There is a provision of the existing law which deals with them. This Bill is intended to extend that right to all our young citizens of 18 years or more. The right to vote for those representatives who will make the laws which apply to all citizens is one of the great human rights.
That right has been a matter of great public controversy over recent years throughout the world. This year has seen renewed interest in the question of the age of majority. The question of a reduction of the voting age from 21 years to 18 years has been considered in parliaments, in legal circles, within political parties, by sociologists and psychologists, as well as by the High Court of Australia. There appears to be a genera] view in Australia that there ought to be a reduction in the voting age as soon as possible.
The growing responsibility that contemporary society has thrust upon . 18, 19 and 20-year-olds and the way in which they have responded should make it obvious to all, especially legislators, that they are capable of registering their considered, and perhaps in the same way as others, their unconsidered, political opinions through the ballot box.
The recent case before the High Court of Australia made it clear that the constitutional provisions leave it in the hands of this Parliament to provide, for the 18-year- olds, if they are to be provided for. The High Court held that even if the States gave their 18-year-old citizens the right to vote this did not automatically allow them to have a vote in Federal elections, because the constitutional guarantee of Federal voting Tights for those who bad State voting rights applied only to those whom the Constitution described as adult persons who, in the understanding of 1901, were persons of 21 years or more. The High Court also made it clear that it was open to this Parliament to choose to give the vote to 18-year-olds.
Parliament is the place where it can be initiated and where we believe that it should be initiated. The Senate can decide to pass a law, for presentation to the other House, pertaining to voting rights, and it ought to do so because this one of the most obvious developments in which Australia is lagging. Eighteen-year-olds have the vote in many parts of the world. Why do they have it? Wider education opportunities and greater social involvement have meant that young people are maturing far earlier intellectually, emotionally, socially and politically. All these things combine to make them eminently capable of understanding what is involved in casting a vote at a Federal election. Apart from those facts, it is quite absurd to have 18, 19 and 20-year-olds voting at some elections and not at others. The anomaly is clear and ought to be removed as soon as possible.
Extensive research - it is substantiated by overseas studies on the question - has shown that Australia’s 800,000 18 to 21- year-olds are as politically mature now as they will ever be. In fact, one political scientist pointed out as long ago as 1968 that the local research went even further and suggested that the voting age could be reduced to 16 and that almost without exception these teenagers would present as mature a judgment as when they attained the present legal age - the so-called majority of 21 years. He added that they would add to their store of knowledge in later years but that essentially they have reached their standard of being well informed or ignorant before 1 8. Political opinion in this country is moving overwhelmingly in favour of a reduction of the voting age. I understand that 5 senators on the Government side have indicated their support for a reduction of the voting age to 18. The Bill will provide them with an excellent opportunity to register their approval of a reduction. I understand also that the Australian Democratic Labor Party, at a conference several years ago, determined that it was in favour of a reduction of the voting age to 18. Its members also will have an opportunity to cast their votes in accordance with what is professed to be their political views.
On this issue - indeed, on the general concept of the age of maturity - Australian politicians, sociologists and psychologists are following a world trend in recent years which acknowledges that young people today are different from their counterparts of 50 years ago and are unrecognisable when compared with their medieval predecessors from whom the mystical age of 21 sprang. The famous Latey Committee in Britain reported:
Young people today … are not what they were.
It added - its conclusions apply equally to Australians - that young people are, almost without exception, literate and educated, better off and far more independent than their parents; that they have been taught to inquire and think for themselves, and mostly do, and have a wider experience of life. One of the most appropriate examples of the earlier maturation of young people in Australia can be found in the expressed attitude of the National Youth Council of Australia which has as its patron the Governor-General. In March this year the President of the Council made public, in a Press statement, the Council’s view. He said that the Council fully supported the action proposed at the time by the Australian Labor Party and the Australia Party in seeking to take legal action to force the vote for 18-year-olds in this year’s Federal election. He also wrote to the leaders of the Government parties expressing regret at the attitude being taken by the Government in the matter.
– What is mystical about the age of 18? Why should nol the voting age be 17, following the comment that the honourable senator has just made?
– The difference is this: The 21 years is understood to have been arrived at-
– I rise on a point of order. I have extended to the Leader of the Opposition the courtesy of allowing him to make a second reading speech. I would not like him to debate the matter. I know that an honourable senator interjected.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - The Minister is quite right. There should be no debate.
– The President of the National Youth Council also stated: vote as those who are presently called ‘adults’, political awareness have resulted in 18-year olds being equally capable of exercising a responsible Increased education opportunities and greater
It is unfortunate that, due to the indifference of some political parties, this issue has now to be dealt with in the courts. How much better it would have been if our elected representatives had taken the initiative and come to grips with this vital issue.
The Senate has the opportunity of doing that by passing the Commonwealth Electoral Bill and sending it to the House of Representatives for its concurrence. There is nothing in the way of the Parliament to bring about a change in the voting age. Various, judgments of the High Court have made that crystal clear. I do not think I need to refer to the contents of those judgments. I think honourable senators will accept that it is entirely within the province of the Parliament to proceed to deal with this amendment of the electoral laws.
What is the current status, legal and otherwise, of 18, 19 and 20-year-old Australians? For years the State Premiers have been strongly urging that the Commonwealth should legislate on a uniform basis to reduce the voting age. Votes have been granted to 18-year-olds in Western Australia and South Australia. The New South Wales and Tasmanian governments have decided on the principle of lowering the voting age. The New South Wales Parliament has passed the legislation; all it needs is a proclamation to bring it into operation. The Victorian Government has introduced legislation to lower the voting age to 18 for municipal elections. It has announced that it supports in principle a similar change for State elections but that it would have to wait for Commonweath action. The Queensland Government has been lagging behind the others, but its Deputy Premier, Sir Gordon Chalk, has said that his personal view is that Queensland would follow the lead if uniform legislation were agreed upon.
On the eve of the 1969 Federal election the former Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, said that he believed that 18-year-olds would be able to vote at this year’s poll. This was not an undertaking by the then Prime Minister. I think he has pointed out since then that he did not formally commit the Party to the introduction of the legislation. Nevertheless, on the eve of an election he indicated his expectation. In the Australian context of politics one would have every reason to expect that his Gov ernment, if returned, would introduce the legislation to make his expectation come true, as it was within the capacity of that Government to introduce the legislation. If the legislation had been introduced it certainly would have passed through both chambers. The response of Mr McMahon, the present Prime Minister, to the issue has reeked of unenthusiasm. He has said that the issue would not be raised in Parliament until he heard the views of Party members. In another place he said that the Government does not propose to take action to lower the voting age.
We introduce the Bill on the basis that unless action is taken other than by the Government no action will be taken. It is clear that the Government does not intend to proceed to introduce the necessary legislation to make good the indication which was given by the former Prime Minister at the time that he went to the previous polls. Any age limit is to some extent arbitrary, but the 21-year-old turning point is illogical and outdated, and more than 30 countries throughout the world have acknowledged this fact and passed appropriate legislation. Since I introduced a similar bill into the Senate in November 1968 and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives introduced a similar bill soon after, there has been wide recognition of the merits of the proposal. There is full acceptance that those at the end of their teens are not immature consumers, not irresponsible and not an insignificant segment of our community. There is a powerful desire by these young adults for political recognition.
Of the 800,000 young adults, nearly 700,000 make a vital contribution to our national production. Well over 100,000 are students and many thousands play an important role in our defence forces, some here and some overseas. Official figures show that over 70 per cent of those 18 to 20 years of age already are in employment. They are taxpayers, and over 14 per cent have been or are married. For most practical everyday purposes 18 to 20 year olds are considered adults. Yet they are disfranchised and their energy, intelligence and desire for involvement are. excluded from our political system. The vote should be given to them not as a privilege or a gift. It should be granted to them as an extension of their democratic rights. Any further delay in this direction would be to stand against the mainstream of enlightened international opinion.
There is a worldwide trend for those aged 18 to 20 to be increasingly involved in political, artistic, intellectual and commercial activities which contribute most significantly to the fabric of our society. Yet these people are barred from sharing in the election of those who will make the decisions that affect their lives in nearly every way. In a democratic society, as far as possible every person affected by government decisions should have an opportunity to play a part in the process by which these decisions are finally reached. These young people can marry with consent and when married they must accept all the responsibilities and duties of raising a family. They must pay taxes. They are subject to the same penal code as any other offender against our laws. They can drive all kinds of motor vehicles from cars to semi-trailers. They can fly aeroplanes and they are considered old enough to bear arms to defend this country, even against their wishes. Being conscripted is a high price to obtain the voting rights of those over 21. The Army recognises recruits of 17 as adults and pays them the adult pay rate. Reduction of the voting age to 18 would give these young men facing conscription a voice in the political process which will decide their future participation and involvement in our country’s political life and the chance to play a part in the governing of their country. This is the key factor behind the rapidly spreading youth power movements here and abroad. The former President of the United States, Mr Johnson, seeking Congressional permission to grant the vote to 18-year-olds, said that he wanted to close the generation gap. He said:
We should grant to youth what we ask of them; but still deny them . . . full and responsible participation in our American democracy.
President Johnson’s words apply as forcibly, just as urgently, to this country.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Senator Murphy, would you please bear in mind that this is an explanatory speech and not a matter to be debated at this stage. Would you explain your Bill at this stage? This is the purpose of a second reading speech.
– I conceive that I am in order, particularly in introducing a private, member’s Bill, in dealing with “the reasons for the introduction of the Bill. The purpose of this exercise is not merely to explain what is in the Bill but the reason for the Bill. I refer you, Mr Acting Deputy President, to the copy of the second reading speech on a Bill which is being brought into the Senate chamber and which is available in anticipation of a debate tonight. One will find in that ample exposition of the reasons for the introduction of the Bill and not merely an elucidation of the provisions of the Bill. I suggest that I am entirely in order and following precisely the same course of conduct that I followed in 1968 when I introduced a similar Bill which was accepted by the Senate. I do not consider that in explaining the purpose and the background of the reasons for the introduction of the Bill I am departing from a long course of practice in this Parliament.
– May I address myself to this matter, Mr Acting Deputy President, by saying to Senator Murphy that while I accept what he is saying, no one in the Senate at the present time knows how long this second reading speech is. I have been sitting here trying to go along with the second reading- speech but I am getting very uncomfortable at the length of time it is taking. I have no indication of how long it will go.
– We do not know how long it will take when you make a second reading speech.
– I would say in reply to the interjection that we usually have a copy of the second reading speech in our hands.
– The absence of a sense of involvement has led to youthful disenchantment with our present system of government. These young people feel keenly that they are sitting on the outside and being told what to do by the adults inside and controlling the system. It has led to the rapid growth of student and youth movements holding demonstrations and forming organisations to gain some say in the running of their affairs. There should be a minimum of civil disobedience in a political system which adequately and properly meets the needs of our people. The reduction of the voting age to 18 would go some way towards that ideal. The argument for giving youth the vote is not that it will necessarily vote responsibly. Adults do not always vote responsibly either. The argument is that it has a chance to do so. The salient point is that to continue to deny them the right to vote until they turn 21 can only increase their growing disenchantment with politicians, political traditions and institutions and with the so-called system at large.
What would happen politically with the introduction of voting rights for 18-year- olds has given rise to some debate. It is not necessary to deal with that. There are many compelling reasons for lowering the voting age throughout Australia. Perhaps the most telling is that it is shown that young people are as politically mature at 18 as they will ever be. Only the blindly prejudiced, ill informed or politically dishonest would attempt to refute the actualities - that almost without exception people between 18 and 20 are better educated, more articulate, inquire much more deeply into political motivations, values and attitudes than did their parents and grandparents. On top of this, young people are reaching psychological, sexual and physiological maturity much earlier than was the case. The alteration of the principal Act by the amendment is simply achieved by omitting from the various sub-sections the words ‘twenty-one years’ and substituting the words ‘eighteen years’. This will apply not only to voting but also to the enrolment. To ensure that young people will not be committing an offence if they do not enrol within the requisite time after the introduction of this legislation there is a transitional provision to cover a period of 3 months on top of the ordinary period during which they would not be committing an offence by failing to enrol.
The Australian Labor Party firmly believes that we ought to do in this country what has been done in the United States of America and the United Kingdom and allow our people to vote at 18 years of age as the citizens of Papua New Guinea voted at 18 in the election held earlier this year. It is inconceivable, in the light of the enormous weight of evidence of the maturity of young persons at an earlier age and the important social considerations that ought to impel us towards allowing them to share in political responsibility at that age, that we should continue to deny them the vote. I hope that those who have indicated their support for this principle - members of the Government parties in this chamber and of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, if it adheres to its conference decision of several years ago - will support this measure.I hope that the legislation will be given a speedy passage and that it will be introduced before the election.
Debate (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Drake-Brockman) agreed to:
That Government Business, notice of motion No. 2, take precedence over all other business on the notice paper this day.
Motion (by Senator Drake-Brockman) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, debate on motions be interrupted at 9 p.m. this day.
– I move:
It is proposed under this motion which stands in my name to extend the present sitting hours. This proposal is introduced each session to try to deal with the business of the Senate. Last session it was brought up on 16th May and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Willesee) spoke to the motion. At that time he said that while recognising that the motion was brought up at about that time each session he did not then regard it as necessary. At the same time the Australian Democratic Labor Party said that it would support the motion but it believed that if Senator Willesee wanted to go on with his suggestion then it was agreeable to that. So last sessional period, instead of the extended times being introduced on 16th May, it was not until 23rd May that I, as Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate, was able to get my proposal for extended hours of sitting accepted. We all know the result of that situation. When we introduced the extended hours we got an additional 3i hours a week. On some Fridays we sat until 4 p.m. Yet at the end of the session not only were we rushing to get legislation through and pulling down speakers on particular Bills, but also the Senate in its wisdom decided to defer 3 Bills until this sessional period. Looking back over that experience and over the experience of years gone by since I have been in the Senate, I contend that the Senate should have accepted the extension of sitting hours from 16th May as I suggested, rather than 23rd May.
– But the honourable senator offered to withdraw his motion.
– I accept that. I put the situation to the Senate and the Senate, in its wisdom, said that it thought I should wait an extra week, which we did. But this did not work out and that is the aspect to which I am directing the attention of the Senate. As all honourable senators are aware, in the other place the hours have been extended considerably in an endeavour to deal with the business before it. Up to the present time I, as Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate, have not found it necessary to extend the normal sitting hours. This has been possible with the cooperation of the leaders of the other parties and I believe that we have been able to get the business through on time. At the beginning of the sessional period we planned for the Parliament to sit until 23rd November which is a sitting period of some 12 or 13 weeks. Here we are in the fifth week of this period and we have not completed the Budget, we have not touched any of the Budget legislation and we have not even commenced the sittings of the estimates committees. When I look back to the Budget period last year 1 find that the estimates committees sat for some 10 weeks. Admittedly during that period of 10 weeks we dealt with some legislation. That has been the normal procedure over the years since the introduction of the estimates committees. I take it that that will be the normal procedure again this year - while the estimates committees are sitting we will deal with some of the Budget legislation. In the remaining 8 weeks which we may have in this present sitting period we have to deal with the estimates which, last year, took us over 1 0 weeks.
– If we are to make a proper judgment in relation to this matter, can you tell us how much longer we have in this session?
– I am saying that at the beginning of the sessional period we were told that it was planned that the sittings would extend to 23rd November.
– 1 accept that. 1 - am asking now what is the situation? Surely we will not do that now.
– The honourable senator’s guess is as good as mine. No-one has been told when the’ election is likely to be held. It is not my prerogative to say So. With all this in view, T suggest to the Senate that it might consider extending the sitting hours of each day. The suggestion I have put before the Senate is that on Tuesdays we sit from 11 a.m. till 12.45 p.m., from 2.15 p.m. till 6 p.m. and from 8 p.m. till 10.30 p.m. Under the normal sittings the Senate sits on Tuesdays for 5 hours 15 minutes Under this proposal the Senate will sit on Tuesdays for 8 hours - a gain of 2. hours 45 minutes.
I suggest that on Wednesdays the Senate should sit from 10.30 a.m. till 12.45 p.m., 2.15 p.m. till 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. till II p.m. Under the normal sitting hours the Senate sits on Wednesday for 5 hours 45 minutes. Under this proposal the Senate will sit on Wednesdays for 9 hours, which will gain us 3 hours 15 minutes. I suggest that on Thursdays we should sit from 10 am. till 12.45 p.m., 2.15 p.m. till 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. till 10.30 p.m. Under the normal sitting times the Senate sits on Thursday for a maximum of 7 hours 45 minutes. Under this proposal the Senate will sit on Thursdays for 9 hours, giving us a gain of 1 hour 15 minutes. If this proposal for extended sitting times is accepted, we will gain 7 hours 15 minutes in a week. The extended sitting hours which the Senate accepted last session gained us 3 hours 15 minutes a week.
I do not want the Senate to get into the position where at the end of the session we will have to sit after 10.30 p.m. or 11 p.m. because I do not believe that honourable senators want to sit late into the night. I think that is something which must be avoided. As Senate standing committees meet on Mondays and Fridays I do not think the Senate should sit on those days. I do not want to see the Senate sitting on Mondays or Fridays, as has happened in the past. Also, I do not want the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) standing in the Senate at the end of the session, as has become the practice over the entire time that I have been here, saying that the legislation is being forced through the Senate too quickly to enable the Opposition to have an opportunity to look thoroughly at it. I believe that if the Senate accepts the suggested sitting times we will be able to get through our business, deal with it thoroughly, and at the same time work within reasonable hours - no late nights. I hope that we could come to the end of the session without having all the rush or the deferment of Bills, as has happened in the past. So I suggest that the Senate should accept the proposal which I have placed before it.
– Mr President, this is a very curious motion. The Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Drake-Brockman), in his usual courteous and urbane style, comes into the Senate and asks us to extend the sitting times because he says this will avoid difficulty at the end of the period of sittings. We know from experience that that is not so. If we sat for 24 hours a day we would still be in trouble at the end of the sittings as long as the Government follows the practice of holding back’ legislation in the other House and then pouring it in here in the last few days of a session. No amount of sitting now will overcome that problem. That is one aspect of the matter.
The other aspect which I think ought to be understood by the Senate is that in the past I have extended co-operation to the Government. I have been prepared to agree upon times, to say that a debate on a matter will take so much time. I have implored the Government to suggest some such programme. I well remember an occasion several years ago when this proposal worked extremely well and to the satisfaction of everyone. We actually allotted times for the discussion of various motions, amendments and Bills, and the matters went through like clock-work and I think to the entire satisfaction of the Senate. I see no reason why that cannot be done in order to dispose of our business efficiently, and I suggest that is what ought to be done now.
It is a little bit like Parkinson’s law: Work expands to fill the time made available. I doubt very much whether if we doubled the time of sittings we would get through any more work. That is my experience, and I ask honourable senators to search their minds to consider their experiences. Do they really think that if we started at 9 o’clock in the morning and sat until midnight on every day of the week we would really get through much more business and, particularly, would we solve the problem of dealing with a bank up of legislation at the end of a session? I do not think we would. Problems are created if sitting times are extended. If sitting times had to be extended I think we would concur with the present proposal.
That brings me to the third aspect of the motion moved by the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate. The motion states:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the days and times of meeting of the Senate for the remainder of the present period of sittings be ais follows. . . .
But the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate does not tell us what the remainder of the present period of sittings will be. Fancy coming into the Senate and saying to us: ‘We will not even tell you for how long it is to go on, but you have to agree to it because there will not be enough time’. We are in the situation where the Prime Minister of this country, for purposes of his own and because he is too weak to make up his mind, is allowing the 2 Houses of Parliament to be operating, when they cannot work out a programme to divide up the time that is available because they are treated discourteously. They do not know how long the remainder of the period of sitting will be.
Why should this Senate be invited to deal with a motion which refers to the remainder of the present period of sittings when even the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate cannot tell us whether we will be here until the end of this month, or until the end of October, or when the sittings will be concluded? Have houses of parliament ever been treated with such discourtesy? Apparently the Prime Minister is incapable of making up his mind. I am told that there is a term for this attitude of mind. It is aboulia. Some judges and other persons have been known to suffer from it. It is the inability to make a decision.
The Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate, in good faith, has come into the Senate and said: ‘Look, I really cannot tell you when the present period of sittings will conclude. We might have another 3 weeks of sittings. There might be 9 days or there might be 20 days, 1 cannot tell you, but 1 want you to change the sitting times for the remainder of the present period. I do not know what the present period is.’ If the Parliament is to rise after another 7 or 9 sitting days, of course we should work these suggested times. Probably we should be starting at 9 o’clock in the morning. But if the Parliament is not to rise after 7 days - if it is to sit longer - there may be no necessity for this proposal at all. I think this cat and mouse game of the Prime Minister - causing 2 Houses of the Parliament to have to deal with this kind of indefinite motion, not knowing how to dispose of their business - is an affront not only to the Parliament but also to the Australian people. Why should we not be told what the remainder of the present period of sittings is?
– The timing may depend on certain events.
– Yes. This Parliament is entitled to know and not to be treated to some kind of cat and mouse game arising out of weakness and inability to state firmly when the election will be held, so that the 2 Houses of the Parliament may act in a responsible and sensible way to determine the programming of their business and to see to it that the matters which ought properly to be dealt with are dealt with and that legislation is prop erly dealt with. How long will it be before the Prime Minister will make up his mind and tell the people of Australia in a responsible way that the election will he held on a certain date? When that is done, we can programme our business accordingly. Are the 2 Houses of Parliament and is the Senate to accept this state of affairs? Until the Prime Minister overcomes his awful complaint, his inability to make a decision, we will not know how long the period of this sitting will be. I therefore move:
That all words after ‘period of sittings’ be deleted and that the following words be inserted: be considered after the Prime Minister h:is announced the election date for the election of the House of Representatives.’
The motion will then read:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the days and times of meeting of the Senate for the remainder of the present period of sittings be considered after the Prime Minister has announced the election date for the election of the House of Representatives.
– I second the amendment. There are a number of points which, I think, ought to be brought out at this time in relation to the programme of sitting hours and related matters. First, I think that all honourable senators must accept that the programming of the work of the Senate is lamentable, lt has never been different in the 7 years that 1 have been here. 1 wonder why somebody does not take the trouble, as is taken in other countries, to get to work to determine some sort of programme for the business of the Senate. This is done in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The system of disposing of the business there enables members of the Parliament to know what is going on and the particular times at which divisions will be taken. Some definite genuine and serious attempt should be made to programme the business of the Senate better.
Our sittings resume on the very day when the House of Representatives resumes. We then sit here fiddling around with inconsequential matters that have been on the notice paper for months and months when we might be doing some electorate work or some serious committee work. This would be preferable to the Senate in toto being called together at the same time as the House of Representatives. The reason why business is rushed through at the end of the session is that it is introduced into the Senate virtually in the dying hours of the session. We have drawn attention to this state of affairs on so many occasions, hut there does not seem to be any real attempt made to reach a solution of the problem.
Something which seems to have been overlooked or forgotten in relation to the proposed new sitting hours is the work of the committees of the Senate. Dramatic changes have occurred in the past several years in the way in which the Senate carries out its business. By arrangement, committees sit in the hours which have been suggested now as hours at which the Senate as a whole should sit. What will happen to the work of these committees? Are these committees to lapse while we await the convenience of somebody to indicate when the session is to close and how we are to dispose of the business that will come before the Senate? I think that I can say on behalf of the Opposition here and now that we will not oppose the passage of the Budget proposals. We will pass them through the Senate with the greatest expedition. We have no desire to hold them up. 1 think that there would be an accommodation on this side of the Senate, with the will of the Government, to pass that legislation so that its provisions may become operative. I am talking of the legislation relating to social services and matters of that kind which, as proposed, will be of benefit to the community.
The senators already are working at capacity. We must take into account the fact that frequently before the formal sitting of the Senate commences each day many of us have attended the meetings of 2 or 3 committees. Are we to dispense with the work of these committees? Are we to suspend that activity which has become such a fundamental and valuable part of the operations of the Senate? Are we to sit here and to wait for legislation to come from the other place while the work of these committees is suspended? Although I will conclude my remarks now, I could say a number of things about the strain upon the physical and other resources of the members of the Senate. But I will content myself with saying that I sincerly hope that the Senate will support the amendment which has been moved by Senator Murphy.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting we were discussing proposed new sitting times for the Senate. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) objected to the extension of the hours. The Government had asked for an extension. I was very interested to hear the discussion which took place. I put this submission to the Government: In view of the fact that the Opposition does not want to sit these additional hours, would the Government consider the matter in a new light? I feel that, so far as the Government is concerned, there is nothing to be lost by the Parliament sitting for a longer period than is in mind at present. We are discussing the Budget in general and later we will be discussing the items which comprise the Budget.
In my opinion the Budget has been a very good one. It is one which, I think, must appeal to the general public. To me a discussion of the various pieces of the legislation that the Government is bringing in cannot do anything but good for the Government. I feel that, by taking time in this matter, by letting people know just how good the various components of this Budget are, and by not rushing it through the Government must be advantaged. Also I feel it is evident that there is an upward trend in the Government’s stocks. The trend might be even a bit stronger than has been indicated by certain manifestations of a public nature. To me once a trend reverses and begins to lift in the opposite direction, and the longer that trend continues, the better it will be for the Government.
My own feeling is there is not any urgency to hold an election. The longer we take in getting to the election date the better it will be for the Government. Because of the good aspects of the Budget and because people are more satisfied in their minds about the situation in Australia a later election must all be to the benefit of the Government. It is interesting that the Opposition wants a longer time to debate these measures and thereby help the Government to lift its stocks with the people of Australia.
I feel that the Government might well have a new look to its proposed arrangements in view of what has been put forward today because I do not think any advantage will accrue to the Government by rushing to the people. I think that the Government made a very wise decision in resolving not to have the elections before the Budget legislation is passed through both Houses of Parliament so that the people will get the benefit of the Budget proposals. Looking at this matter now, I cannot see anything but advantage to the Government in taking more time to deal with business and making the polling day later. In these circumstances I think that the Acting Leader of the Government might well give further thought to the opportunity the Leader of the Opposition is giving to the Government to improve its stocks.
– I rise to support the proposal submitted by the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Drake-Brockman). Probably because of my personal experience I have always been a great believer in the view that the Leader of the Government has the unquestionable right to determine the order of the business of the Senate. He must be conceded the right of knowing just what business is on hand and just what time will be involved in disposing of it.
I was amused, really, to listen to the reasons advanced by Senator Murphy as to why he felt it necessary to move the amendment. His attitude reminded me somewhat of a curious child who wanted to know something and who could not find out and because he could not find out that he wanted to know and what so many other people wanted to know he was being irked by it. Because Senator Murphy was being irked about it he elected to make some sweeping allegations and charges about people not having sufficient courage, capacity, ability or mentality to arrive at a decision. It is very easy to take up that attitude, and I do not think that Senator Murphy was genuinely serious in what he said and on moving the amendment. He wants to know the date of the election.
– Well, we have a right to know.
– Honourable senators have a right to be told when it is disclosed by the person whose prerogative it is to determine the date of the election.
– It is not a one-party state, senator.
– It is not a one-party state. The Australian Labor Party leader in South Australia does not disclose to the world the date on which he will go to the people. Also, this date is not disclosed by the Premier of Western Australia or Tasmania. I was a Premier of a State and it was my own prerogative as it is the undisputable right of the leader of a government, to determine the date of an election and to disclose it when he believes the time is propitious and in the best interests of the workings of Parliament. After all, in the ordinary circumstances and following history, elections have been held here in the first week of December; they have also been held in the month of November. The strongest argument for what the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate is putting forward tonight is that he is desirous of dealing with the business of the Senate as expeditiously as possible in the event of the date of the election being announced which would terminate this session earlier than would normally be the case. That is an argument which strongly supports the proposal put forward by the Acting Leader of the Government tonight. Anyway, none of us has any cause to quibble about the additional working times that are proposed or contained in the Acting Leader’s submission. None of us will die from overwork so far as the sittings here are concerned.
– You speak foi yourself.
– I am here more frequently than is the honourable senator.
– He has no right-
– My attendance in this Parliament is better than is the honourable senator’s.
– Obviously Senator Gair is not doing as much work-
T!ie PRESIDENT- Order! I stand on my feet to admonish Senator Georges for constantly interrupting the leader of a party. Senator Gair has 2 privileges. Firstly he is a senator and he is entitled to be heard in silence and with respect. Secondly he is the leader of an acknowledged party in this Senate and therefore a second area of respect must be displayed. Senator Georges, you will be doing me a great favour if you allow Senator Gair to continue his remarks without interjecting. Your remarks are highly disorderly, as you well know.
– Senator Murphy made great play on the fact which caused him to move his amendment - that the Acting Leader of the Government had not indicated what balance of time remains. For that reason he has moved an amendment which states:
Leave out all words after ‘period of sittings’, insert ‘be considered after the Prime Minister has announced the election date for the election of the House of Representatives’.
That is proposed in lieu of the times mentioned by the Acting Leader of the Government. I think the Acting Leader of the Government is showing some vision, foresight and precaution in trying to get additional working time in which to dispose of all the business which is ahead of us before the election.
Let us be practical in our approach. We all know that there is to be an election at the end of this year or at about that time. Would not any wise leader of a government try to clear the decks in the event of that taking place? That is all that is involved. It will mean a few additional working hours. I have never been afraid of work and I have worked some long hours in my time. Although Senator Georges might be half my age, my attendance in this Senate compares favourably with his or anyone else’s in the years that I have been here, and my work would be greater than his because of my responsibility as a Leader of a Party which has distinguished itself by its performance of responsibility and commonsense, and its evidence of doing what is right for Australia and its people. I do not take second place to Senator Georges - or to anyone, for that matter - in my desire and determination to do what I believe to be right for Australia. I am not afraid to work. I am prepared to accept the additional working time and my colleagues are prepared to accept it. We will be here if the Senate decides on this additional sitting time.
Let us face up to it. There is an additional reason this year, because pf a pending election, to sit extra hours. Do not let us be like a group of curious children and become piqued and irked if we are not told immediately all that we want to be told or want to know. None of us can dispute the right of the Prime Minister to determine the date of the election. It is his right and his right alone to determine the date of an election, and in making that decision he will consult those whom he believes he should consult in deciding on the time when the Government should submit itself to its masters at an election. Many issues may be involved. To go off into extravagant allegations and accusations that the Prime Minister lacks courage or lacks the ability to make up his mind is so much piffle and political nonsense. Those who have been associated with politics will know how frequently in the past we have been able to point to Prime Ministers who have kept secret and close to their hearts the date of a pending election. How frequently has the date that has been announced been unexpected, and how frequently have elections been held prematurely when the average person in the community has not expected an election for at least another 12 months.
I hate mentioning this, but as a former Premier of a State I know that we would decide the date of an election and would have regard to many factors in arriving at a date which we believed would be convenient for the public. We would avoid having an election on a Saturday preceding a Monday that was a holiday. In this way we would avoid absentee votes and other problems. We would try to hold an election on a date when we had available to us the services of schoolteachers and others as presiding officers, poll clerks and other personnel who are indispensable to the proper conduct of an election. We had regard to all those things. In the ultimate a leader of a government, acting with political commonsense, will go to the people when he believes that the time is most propitious for the government that he leads, and it is his undeniable right to do so. Let there be commonsense about this situation. Let us support the proposal advanced by the Acting Leader of the Government, get our heads down to work and clear the sheets of the business paper as much as possible so that we will be ready in the event of an election being called. To do that shows vision, commonsense and a proper business control of the Senate. The Democratic Labor Party supports the proposal.
– The Senate is discussing a proposed change to our sessional orders which are laid down early in the session to govern the hours that we sit. The Acting Leader of the Government (Senator DrakeBrockman) has moved a motion to change the hours of sitting. I would suggest to him that if his motion is carried he might be well advised to make some slight alterations to the times proposed, otherwise there will be confusion. It is proposed that we shall meet at 10 a.m. one day and 10.30 a.m. another day. We will not gain much by doing this but there will be confusion, especially when we remember that a tremendous amount of work is now being done by standing committees and other committees. I say to him advisedly that it might be wise to give consideration to that point.
The Opposition has proposed an amendment in the terms read out by Senator Gair suggesting that a decision on extended sitting hours be postponed until after the date of the election has been announced. Generally speaking we have about 7 or 8 weeks notice of an election and that period allows some ambit into which we would be able to fit the business that we are required to deal with. On the last occasion that extended hours were proposed, as was mentioned by Senator Drake-Brockman when introducing this motion today, during the debate on the motion I pointed out that there was not a lot of business on the paper and that even that day we had assisted the Government by allowing much material to be incorporated in Hansard and by not pressing for questions on notice to be read out. While I was speaking Senator Drake-Brockman interjected and said: ‘Sure, let us take this away for a week.’ I think that was a sensible suggestion. With great respect to the honourable senator, I do not think that impinged on our commitments at the end of the session.
We are not masters of our own destiny. We must wait for business to come from what is euphemistically called ‘another place’. Therefore there is not much that we can do about business to be dealt with. I have no doubt that we will have to sit additional hours and perhaps even additional days before this session is ended - I think this is a high possibility - but I think it is premature to extend the hours at this stage. At the moment the Government has one Bill on the business sheet. Because I am in charge of that Bill on the Opposition side I know that it will take about 5 minutes to deal with it from our side. It has already been through the Senate and has gone backwards and forwards between this and the other place. We have debated it half a dozen times. With all my faults, one thing I do not like doing is repeating things over and over. On the front of the business sheet there are 4 other items - 3 items standing in the name of Senator Murphy and one in the name of Senator Byrne. Senator Byrne knows that we intend to support him, and the other 3 matters are for references to a committee. Obviously these are matters that do not need to be canvassed up hill and down dale in such a way that we would take away the work that the committees are required to do.
On occasions we have allowed matters of this kind to be referred straight to a committee. If we agree that a matter should go to a committee then we should allow the committee to do the work. I suggest that before we rise tonight, if we wanted to, we could clear the decks of all the business now standing on the Senate notice paper. We are in a peculiar position. It reminds me of a factory which takes on a lot of extra hands although it does not have orders for the goods that it will produce.
This is the situation in which we find ourselves. We could clean up our business sheet tonight and tomorrow we could have nothing to do. If we look at the notice paper for the House of Representatives and analyse it, as I have done, we will find that about 20 items are listed. That might be a bit frightening at first. However, if we glance at the Bills listed we will find that they can be dealt with in four or five groups. For instance, one of them, the Soft wood Forestry Agreements Bill, will take about 3 minutes when it comes back here because we have discussed it and we know what we intend to do about it. It will be a better piece of legislation when it leaves here and everybody has finally agreed on it. There are other Bills such as those relating to States grants. They are the normal types of Bills that come forward every year. There is no real debate about these things. We certainly will not cut off grants to the States. Nobody would do that although they are the general types of Bills on which one can raise various issues. There again, there is nothing very frightening about them. Other Bills deal with such matters as nitrogenous fertiliser, home savings grants, apples and pears, and estate duty assessment. None of those are new Bills. They are merely amending Bills which are designed to increase the amounts that we have become accustomed to granting over the years. They have been introduced to catch up with inflation - a matter of updating - so there is nothing very radical about them.
If we had those Bills here on our plate tonight they could be disposed of very quickly. I say to those people who want to vote in favour of the motion that I think it will be necessary to pass it in due course but I believe it is being proposed just that much too early. Again I understand the apprehension because one likes to be ready. One likes to have one’s bat ready when the ball is bowled. I appreciate that. But the Government proposes to create this situation into which we are to put ourselves. As Senator Murphy said this afternoon, it is the Peter Principle and we will have to fill that amount of time. Actually I think it was Parkinson’s Law. I think I have the titles of my books wrong. The other one was about promoting people to the point of their own inefficiency.
I think that this motion is premature. If the Government does not want to accept the Opposition’s amendment, which is only fixing a time, it ought to withdraw its motion or to hold it on the stocks until some time next week when we will know what the situation is. With a little bit of effort we could have our plate cleared by tomorrow. T think we could get it cleared tonight. Whatever is on our plate here, the special Bill which is coming in to deal with the decision of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory the other day will have to go through. I suggest it would be wise not to impose this proposal on honourable senators. Ringing the. bells would mean that we would have to bring honourable senators from party meetings and committee meetings to sit here and wait for work to be done. I think that the sensible thing to do is to let this matter stay on the stocks until next week.
– I intervene in the debate to support the views expounded by Senator Willesee. I do so because of the distortions indulged in by Senator Gair about the amendment moved by the Opposition. As Senator Devitt pointed out earlier, whichever schedule of hours is adopted we believe that the lessons from the previous session were not learned. I ask honourable senators to think back to the last day of the last session of Parliament. They will remember that we had before us a Bill dealing with social service portability and other Bills about which there were a lot of divergent views. We were virtually blackjacked into dealing with them in a very short time. We of the Opposition kept to our obligations. I can remember the Government Whip, Senator Young, asking how long I would be and I told him 7 minutes. Senator Bishop also compressed his speech. However it is not good to do this with a technical Bill. We have to report back to our organisations on the views which are ventilated. I think that Senator Devitt pinpointed the weakness when he pointed out how at the start of a session the Government tries to have the House of Representatives and the Senate in tandem. We have to wait for legislation to flow from the other place and, frankly, on occasions time is not fully used.
I want to mention a second point. 1 see no reason why even in the case of the Estimates we could not make far better use of the time of the estimates committees. If the Government had said tonight that it was proposed to have the estimates committees sit on certain days we would know where we stood but we have nol: been told. With all due respect to Senator Gair, arguing the point about seeking the date of the election is secondary to dealing with the backlog. I point out to Senator Gair, who is interjecting, that 1 will not be diverted from my point of view. In addition to my complaint about the Estimates and about how things were steamrollered through on the last occasion, there is another bad feature which has manifested itself on numerous occasions. We compress our batting order and then we find that at the death of a debate 2 or 3 Government supporters want to speak. The Government can have it either way. We of the Opposition can match Government speakers man for man, if the Government wants it that way. When our Whip, our Leader or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Willesee) says to us: ‘The Bill has had a fair airing and we want to taper off’, Government supporters at times try to continue the debate. Senator McAuliffe would know the analogy of trying to lake the loose head. This is something about which we get very apprehensive. When the Minister or the Acting Leader of the Government come up with a proposal, my mind automatically thinks about whether we are to be outmanoeuvred on the point at issue.
I want to mention another aspect. Senator Gair or anyone else may get the impression that it is simply a matter of sitting here on our rumps in this chamber. The fact is that whether we are here or in our home State, most of us have a backlog of deputations to Ministers. Just because there is an election in the offing is not an excuse for any Minister to delay a long overdue deputation or a long overdue reply. Let us reduce these things to essentials. I have been waiting for 8 weeks for a detailed reply from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) about when he will introduce, with the assistance of State transport ministers and railway commissioners, an effective way of spreading tenders for railway rolling stock. This is not a debating point: it concerns job security and job continuity for people in at least 3 of the major States. These are things that concern me. If we are spending a week in our respective capital cities we can see Ministers there, or if it is a week in which the Senate is sitting we can see them here. It is a simple matter.
I am not taking a shot at Ministers in particular. Let me mention Senator Cotton, the Minister for Civil Aviation. I know that there are 3 members of the House of Representatives plus myself who want to see him and to inspect an area adjacent to Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. There is a backlog of these things. It is a matter of Ministers being much more clearcut. I am particularly concerned about the inability of the Minister for Shipping and Transport to make up his mind. These are things about which very important elements in the community want action. No matter when election day is, 1 would like to believe that when we are here the parliamentary machine is churning out decisions or that as a committee we can interrogate top departmental officials. All 1 say in advancing my argument is that if Senator Drake-Brockman had come up with a clearcut schedule we would have known where we were going, but we do not. All the other aspects of what Senator Gair said about starting an hour earlier are incidental. He knows, as a fellow boarder at Brassey House, the time at which I leave there, just as I know the time that he leaves. I think it is a complete fallacy to ask what one is doing at 10 a.m. when the House does not meet until 11 a.m. 1 think that most of us have plenty to keep us occupied, whether we are agitating with Ministers or dealing with correspondence or carrying out research. There is plenty for us to do, as Senator Gair well knows. 1 think that what he said was diversionary and that it was particularly unfair to my colleague Senator Georges. I think that on second thoughts Senator Gair will agree that it was unjust to attack him in that way. We of the Opposition consider that we have been offered a blank cheque to sign and we would like a lot more information.
– Mr President, I would like to clear up a matter. Senator Gair indicated in his contribution tonight that he is twice as old as I am. That would make him 104 years of age, which possibly explains some of his behaviour from time to time. I want to make certain that I am not considered to be half his age. That would make me much younger than I am. I thought that point should be cleared up. 1 take Senator Gair up on one point - that it is the righof the leader of a government to set the date of an election. I think it is high time that this power - this privilege - was taken away from the leader of a government. There should be a set time for a general election, unless the government is defeated on the floor of the House. There is much to be said in favour of this suggestion. 1 think it should be discussed and considered as one of the necessary reforms for this place. I do not see why the whole of the Parliament should wait upon the decision of one man. I think that the matter could be resolved conveniently by determining that the election shall be held at a particular time so that all organisational matters in relation to the election can be attended to properly.
We have been asked by the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate’ (Senator Drake-Brockman) to work longer hours. I assure him and Senator Gair that if they were to determine that the election should be held in 3 weeks’ time we would be prepared to sit each day of the week each week for as many hours as arc required to finish the business of the Senate. Any allegation or charge against us that we are not prepared to do the work is ill-founded. We are prepared to do the work. All we are saying is that we ought not to be asked to undertake a programme of extra work unless we know what that work actually is and what is required. The proposition that the alteration of sitting hours should be postponed until we know more definitely when the election is likely to be is a reasonable one and I think it should be considered.
– Would the honourable senator like us to adopt the Soviet style of elections - one party?
– That is not pertinent. It has no relation to the motion.
– What sort of elections are held in Red China?
– I am not in favour of the elections that are held in other countries. I inform the honourable senator that some members of the Commonwealth have one-party systems of government and that these systems are recommended there. What happens in the Soviet Union or in China ought not to be held up as an example.
– That is what the honourable senator wants.
– I would riot - want a one-party system. I think that last night, before 1 got into trouble, I advocated a more frequent change of government. If we are to have a responsive government and a government that is sensitive to the will of the people then the system of democracy should be such that the government can be readily changed. Under the present system of elections, by virtue of the support of the Democratic Labor Party for the Liberal-Country Party coalition, we have virtually had a one-party system of government for years.
– That is because the people vote for the DLP.
– Do not talk about a one-party system. We have it here.
– That is what the honourable senator wants.
– Do not suggest that I want a one-party system.
- Senator Georges will addres his remarks to the motion. He must not allow himself to be diverted.
– I will not be diverted. Apparently I do not have the same sort of protection that the leader of a Party has. I am not questioning your previous ruling, Mr President. I accepted it. You will notice that I was silent for at least 10 minutes. I have not the same protection as a leader. I am not the leader of a Party.
– And you never will be, either.
– 1 do not desire to be.
– At least he knows his limitations.
– I fill a role in my Party. I consider my role to be satisfactory. I have no aspirations to the leadership. Therefore I am never likely to make the proud statement that I was the leader of the State government for a particularly lengthy term. I do not want to take away from Senator Gair any credit that he gives himself for the power that he holds. I merely question his right to have that power. No-one says that he is not a powerful man.
– He sits down on a road and questions it.
– When I sit in the streets I am questioning a poor law. 1 am being diverted. In conclusion I complain that it seems to be possible for a senator in this place to cast a reflection on a member of another place - a leader in the other place - and accuse him of aboulia, which to me sounds highly offensive, or of being weak or of being handicapped, and that senator can survive. If another senator accuses that leader of patronage he gets thrown out on his ear. I wonder whether that situation could be taken into consideration in future.
– Senator Georges is going very close to standing on my toes.
– in reply - I thank the Senate for the consideration that it has given to the motion. I realise that, no matter what extended hours I proposed they would not be acceptable to all senators. I realise that when the Senate is not sitting senators are performing duties in respect of Senate standing committees, other Senate committees and joint parliamentary committees. 1 recognise all those problems.
– Does the Minister want to cut out the meetings of those committees?
– They do not sit while the Senate is sitting.
– He wants to cut them out.
– Let me make my speech. I recognise all those problems. 1 realised when 1 introduced the motion to extend the sitting hours that I would run into all these problems. At the beginning of this sessional period a paper showing possible sitting days for the 1972 Budget session was issued, lt showed that we could be sitting for 12 weeks. We are now in the fourth week of sitting. That means that on that possible programme we have only a further 8 weeks of sitting. It took the Estimates Committees 10 weeks to deal with the 1971-72 Budget. It could take them nearly as long as that to deal with this Budget. As the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate and having been through the experience of the last sessional period of which Senator Willesee spoke, I believe that I have to make a move to extend the sitting hours of the Senate if it is to deal with the business in the manner in which I believe the business should be dealt with and not in a manner such as that to which Senator Mulvihill and other speakers referred. Senator Mulvihill said that in the past his Whip has asked him to curtail his contributi>n to a debate because the debate had been going long enough. I do not want any senator to have to face that prospect, if it can avoid it.
– We will have to do that, though.
– That may be so.
– Will the Minister assure us that he will not gag us?
– 1 do not want to do any of those things. That is why I am asking that the hours of sitting be extended.
– Yes, now, so we can avoid that sort of thing. As Senator Gair said, in the event of a decision being made that the election should be held before the 12-week sitting period has elapsed, we would avoid that sort of thing. We would not have one mad scramble to try to get legislation, even budgetary legislation, through this place. I know that senators do not want to sit after 10.30 or 11 p.m. and into the we* hours of the morning as we used to do in the old days, which many of us can remember. T do not want to do that. I am asking senators to forgo some of their committee work in the mornings so that the Senate can sit and deal with legislation. I want each senator on the Estimates Committees to have enough time to cross-examine, if they like to put it that way, the departmental officials who attend those committee meetings. I want honourable senators to feel that by the time they have finished their cross-examination they have asked all the questions that they wanted to ask. This is why I am asking that the motion be agreed to. Let me make some remarks on some of the points that have been made. Senator Murphy, in replying to my motion, wanted to know why it was worded as it is. May I say to honourable senators that this motion is worded in no different manner from every other similar motion that has been moved by previous Leaders of the Government in the Senate. The reason why I cannot give honourable senators a final date is that, as will be recalled, the Senate has on many occasions sat longer than the House of Representatives. 1 do not know whether in this sessional period we might not sit one day longeror one week longer. So I cannot give any definite date.
Senator Devitt and Senator Mulvihill look up the point again of why cannot I give a definite programme. J think that their Deputy Leader answered that point when he said that in this place we are not masters of our own destinies. We are dependent on legislation coming from the other place. So I cannot give honourable senators any fixed programme. But I can, together with the leaders of the Australian Labor Party and of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, look at legislation that may come before this House and try to work out some programme. That is why I have presented this motion. When I look at the business of the Senate I see that there are 6 reports of the Senate standing committees that I believe should receive some discussion before we rise for this sessional period. I would hope that each and every one of those standing committee reports draws some debate. I want to give honourable senators an opportunity to debate them. So I have asked for extended sitting hours for the Senate. Surely those men and women who have comprised the standing committees and who have worked so hard, compiled reports and presented them to the Senate do not want the Senate to rise and an election to be held without some discussion having taken place on those reports. So I would like to see that brought about.
– Do you not think that the Prime’ Minister should tell you when the election should be held?
– No, I do not think that, I want to say, as Senator Gair said, that the Prime Minister is the leader of the Government and he has the prerogative to make the decision when he things fit.
– The Labor Party senators all reveal a lack of administrative and legislative knowledge.
– I would go further than that and say that I could not see Premier Tonkin, Premier Dunstan or Premier Reece telling the world 6 months, 4 months or even 2 months beforehand when they were to hold an election. I believe that the same situation would occur in each of those 3 States as is occurring here at the present time. I want to say to honourable senators that this is not done to try to make the Senate sit longer hours. I recognise that every honourable senator has a responsibility in this place and he has a very busy period ahead of him. But I want to get legislation through and I want to get it through without long hours of sitting or extra days of sitting. The only way for the Senate to do it is by supporting this motion. For that reason, I oppose the amendment moved by Senator Murphy and ask the Senate to support the motion.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Murphy’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority .. ..7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
I am indebted to the Senate for the opportunity which has now been given me to present this motion for consideration by this chamber. This is one of a series of motions which have come before the Senate and which indicate the interest of the Senate in matters relating to the education of children. In a number of cases these have taken the form of a reference to the newly created standing committees of the Senate so that the matters can be investigated in depth. Such a motion related to handicapped children - I think it was put by Senator Fitzgerald - and was the subject of a report by a select committee. There was a reference to teacher training which was considered by a standing committee and was the subject of a report. There is a reference already in my name to the Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts to which it is proposed to refer this matter in relation to the education of deprived children, that is, children who come from certain economic and geographic areas and who by virtue of some degree of intellectual starvation or lack of communication within the domestic environment, arrive at school somewhat disadvantaged when compared with their contemporaries. The Committee is already directing its attention to that reference.
This is a similar reference, lt relates to children in isolated areas. This is a matter of very great consequence, particularly to anybody who moves in the country such as honourable senators who represent the Australian Country Party and who know that in the remote areas of Australia this is of importance and great concern to the parents of children living in those areas who, for financial or other reasons, are not able to see that their children receive an adequate education which will equip them for the role they are to play in life according to their disposition and talents. Recently I participated in a seminar at Dirranbandi in the south-west of Queensland along with the Leader of the Opposition in the other place, Mr Whitlam, Mr Killen, M.P., and the Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr King. In spite of all the other problems which are of great concern to those people who are gravely distressed because of the economic recession in the rural industries, a matter which was occupying their minds with great intensity was the deprivation of educational opportunities which they felt, rightly, should accrue to their children in these areas. This is something which is manifest in these more remote parts of the continent.
As a consequence of this, there is a body called the Isolated Children’s Parents Association - the ICPA. It has a federal executive and is constituted on a very wide basis. It is dispersed over the whole continent, particularly the eastern part, and is very active in its attempts to secure some measure of educational equity and justice for children in these parts of Australia. This Association is composed of very good people who are devoting their time and energy to see whether this great disability can be overcome. Only last week they travelled to Canberra and interviewed members of all political parties, including my own, and placed their propositions before us in a personal sense, propositions that they have placed many times by correspondence. The work and research which have been done by that Association indicate, firstly, the dedication of the people who are doing it; secondly, the depth of their concern, and thirdly, just how grave the problem is. 1 spoke to the general secretary, Mrs Edgley, who comes from Bourke in western New South Wales. I told her what was proposed in this regard. These people are most enthusiastic that this matter should be discussed by the Parliament, and even more enthusiastic that it should receive scrutiny from the appropriate committee of the Senate which, in this case, is the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts. They are concerned at the delay which has taken place in attention being directed to this problem.
Only this morning I received a letter from this good lady to whom I had indicated that I proposed to present the motion which I am now presenting to the Senate and of which I had then given notice. She indicated her concern by saying that at this stage she would prefer that I proceed by way of an urgency motion rather than by this motion. This is not an indication that she thought that the method which I am now pursuing in inappropriate but that it is so urgent that perhaps an urgency motion might be the way of bringing it immediately before the Parliament. However, the opportunity has arisen within a few hours to present this motion and this is still the more appropriate way in which this matter can most effectively receive parliamentary attention, examination and scrutiny. That is why 1 present the motion to the Senate as I do now.
The position of isolated children is desperate. When we speak of isolated children I do not want it to be thought that we speak of the sons and daughters of very wealthy sheep graziers or beef graziers of whom some cynic might say: ‘They should have enough money themselves to provide education for their children’. The children to whom I refer are not necessarily by any means children of that type of person. They are the sons and daughters of people who live in these country areas. The parents may be occupied in quite humble avocations. They may be workers, artisans, small shopkeepers, those employed on properties as shearers or in occupations which do not bring tremendous financial returns, as well as the sons and daughters of the rural settlers in those areas. We know that, in view of the recession in the rural industries, many of this latter group are people who, whatever might be thought of their traditional economic position in the community, today no longer enjoy that position and are finding tremendous difficulty in financing their properties and many other things, including the education of their children.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) - Order! It being 9 o’clock, the time has expired for the consideration of motions.
Motion (by Senator Drake-Brockman) proposed:
That consideration of motions be further proceeded with until the arrival of the Ordinances and Legislations (Notification) Bill from the House of Representatives.
– When do you expect that?
– The last word was that it was expected at 9.30 p.m., but dc; not tie me to that.
Senator Willesee - I discussed this matter with Senator Drake-Brockman and we thought that this was the most expeditious way in. which to handle it. I do not know what other speakers will say, but because this is a reference to a committee and the committee will be doing the work, it may be possible to get the reference off our plate if we exercise a little discipline. I will be speaking on behalf of my Party, and I will speak for about four or five minutes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I am indebted to the Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman) and to the Senate for giving me the opportunity to continue this debate. I am extremely sensitive of the remark that has been made by Senator Willesee and the motion which the Senate has now carried. We shall proceed with this matter until the arrival of a very urgent measure from another place. I think it would be a shame if, because of protracted speeches on this matter, this debate was not concluded before the arrival of the Bill and bad to be postponed. Therefore, I do not propose to speak at any great length.
– But it is always possible for us to use commonsense and, 5 minutes after the arrival of the measure from another place, conclude this debate definitely.
– I think Senator Wright for his suggestion. The point is that I might speak unduly long, the Bill would arrive and other speakers would then be precluded from participating in the debate and possibly we might not conclude the matter. As Senator Willesee has said, the object of this exercise is to have the whole matter examined in depth by a standing committee of the Senate. Therefore, it is not necessary for us to canvass the question here in detail because the object of the reference is to ascertain the facts. Any facts which I might put before the Senate - and I shall do it very briefly - are facts which have been gleaned by these good people from statistical evidence to justify the reference and the proposition I am putting. Of course, on examination more facts will be gleaned, more statistics will be accumulated, no doubt propositions will be examined, solutions will be discovered and, we hope, recommendations will be made. However, I will refer to some matters. If I may be permitted to read from documents which have been presented to me by the Isolated Children’s Parents Association, I will indicate what are the matters that that Association considers might well come before the committee. First of all, there is the definition of an isolated child, and it falls into a few categories. Those categories are:
It goes on in more detail. The next category is:
Again further details are given. The next category is:
Those children attending a small secondary school where one teacher supervises up to 35 pupils in 5 or 6 grades.
Further categories are:
Then there is further detail extrapolating that proposition. The last category is:
Those are the types of children and the types of situations to which the Committee will be asked to direct its attention and upon which it will be asked to recommend. The submission from the Isolated Children’s Parents Association goes on to speak of the provision of accommodation, the cost of accommodation and what may well be provided. That is the important thing. If children have to leave a local area and seek schooling in a more remote area, they must be accommodated. Therefore, there is a question of what type of accommodation should be provided - whether it should be provided by the erection ot hostels in regional areas or whether it should be provided by the subvention of the cost of accommodation provided in hostels or in private homes or institutions. That is another matter which is quite germane to this inquiry and which the Association considers should come under scrutiny.
No parent will willingly send a child to boarding school before it is essential. Most parents prefer their children to attend a local school up to the grade where it is possible, or even to do the work by correspondence. But, of course, that imposes tremendous strains on parents. In these days when very often there are depressed conditions in rural areas, mothers as well as fathers are working to run the property. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to try to conduct, on some basis, a correspondence course for a child. That again is another matter to which the Association suggests the Committee might give its attention.
It is suggested, and it is submitted, that perhaps a correspondence supervisor allowance could be made available to a parent, and the Association suggests a figure of $400 per annum. If a mother is required to teach a child for 6 or 7 hours a day she is virtually doing the work of the Education Department. I shall give a few figures to indicate how severe is the occurrence of this situation. On the figures supplied to me, as at 22nd April 1972 there were 1,795 correspondence pupils in New South Wales. In Queensland 194 mothers supervised, 30 families employed domestic help and 40 families employed governesses. There were 241 fulltime correspondence pupils, 7 of whom were doing a secondary correspondence course.
In Western Australia there were 477 correspondence pupils on a fulltime basis. In South Australia there were 206 fulltime correspondence pupils in homes; the number of mothers supervising those pupils apparently was not known: there were 26 families with governesses, and 4 families employed domestic help. As I say, this imposes severe physical and financial burdens on a group of people who today are not able to bear either burden, and unless some solution is found for this we will find more and more distress in the rural and remote areas, we will find more and more educational deprivation, and ultimately we will find a further erosion of people from the land and a loss of interest in the rural areas with all the consequences that flow from that. In this regard I might quote Oliver Goldsmith, who said:
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.
If that happens there is abandonment of the land. Whatever economic remedies we might try to apply to rural reconstruction or rural regeneration, unless we are able to assure the people that their children will have as good an opporunity in life as children in urban areas, one cannot expect those people to stay on the land. That is an inevitable outcome, and it must be our aim and purpose to try to retrieve the position and to assure these people of this equality of opportunity which will sustain the strength and vitality of the rural population, our rural cities and our regional cities and towns.
– It is very important in mining areas, too.
– Of course, Senator Durack. who comes from Western Aus tralia, would be very conscious of this matter, and I am indebted to him for his interjection. With the development and exploitation of our mining resources, and with mining towns springing up mostly in the more remote areas of the continent, this becomes a very dominating situation in those areas. Possibly it is a situation which will not disappear in time. It will intensify and extend as the years pass. In those circumstances we can see that the Committee will have a very important, very relevant and very opportune task to discharge in examining the whole situation at this stage.
I should like to read into Hansard the figures contained in a table, provided again by the Isolated Children’s Parents Association, which sets out the numbers of what it calls white isolated children in the Commonwealth who were known to the Association as at 10th April 1972. I presume that this table does not include indigenous children - Aborigines; it refers purely to white children. It is suggested that in South Australia there are 348 children who might be described as isolated children. It is estimated that in New South Wales there are 2,000 isolated school children, approximately 1.200 of whom are in the Western Division. As at the end of 1971 the New South Wales Correspondence School had the following numbers of full time isolated pupils: 310 in the infants grades. 240 in the primary grades 3 and 4, 119 in the primary grades 5 and 6, 173 in the secondary forms at home, and 215 in the secondary forms at school - a total of 1,057. In Tasmania it is estimated that there is a maximum of 17 isolated children, but no exact figures have been obtained. There are only 3 Tasmanian full time correspondence pupils. Of course, Tasmania has a smaller area and it has an excellent system of area schools.
– That indicates an extremely narrow view of what an isolated child is.
– That may well be. That is not my assessment or evaluation. This evaluation has been presented to me by this Association. It may err on the conservative side. If that is so, the problem is even greater and the depth of the problem is even more than I have indicated and the figures show. In the Northern Territory the figures are not known to the Association, but perhaps they would be known to the Department of Education and Science. No doubt they will become known to the Committee. In Western Australia there are 750 isolated children in Zone A. The total number of claimants for living away allowances in Zones A to D in 1970 was 2,857. The Western Australian Correspondence School has 477 full time secondary pupils.
In Queensland as at 22nd April 1972 there were 29 branches of this Association. That extraordinarily large number indicates again the breadth of the problem. There are 29 centres in which people have been able to form a branch of this Association. They are mostly in the far flung towns and smaller regional cities of Queensland. It is not possible to gather a congregation to form an active branch of this Association unless it will meet a need, because these people do not meet for academic or social discussion; they meet to do a job. The fact that this Association is so extensive and its personnel figures are so high indicates that there is a real job to be done.
– May I ask about Zone B in Western Australia?
– This is the way the information on Western Australia reads: 750 in Zone A (total number claimants for living away allowances Zone A-D 1970 - 2,857).
Senator Sim may be able to interpret that more accurately than I can. There may be some local method of designation. In Queensland there are 809 families and 2,205 children made up of 469 at the preschool level, 1,038 at the primary level, 670 at the secondary level and 28 at the tertiary level. There are 46 split homes, 40 governesses, 194 mothers who teach correspondence in the home, 30 families that employ domestic help and 748 children who live away to attend school at distances between 100 and 1,000 miles. Twenty of those 748 children travel interstate, and 15 children have been removed from school for economic reasons. As at August 1971 the Queensland Correspondence School had 213 primary pupils and 214 secondary pupils, but the Queensland Education Department has not established whether all of these are from rural areas and are all full time pupils.
– Have you a suggested solution to this problem?
– I thank the honourable senator for his interjection; but this document also states:
Provisionally, we estimate total numbers of isolated children in Commonwealth would not exceed 7,000. This figure could be expected to decrease over the years as -
Families forced off land.
Amalgamation smaller holdings.
Present decline rural white birthrate.
Provision of additional rural school bus services as sealing of roads progresses; also upgrading of schools in isolated areas.
Therefore, whatever financial provision is made to solve this problem, it may reasonably be expected that this will be a diminishing rather than increasing burden on the Budget. Unfortunately, that is not a happy solution because it means that we are solving the problem by taking people from the western areas. That is bad in itself. Obviously the ideal solution would be, with adequate concern, solicitude and financial assistance, to keep people on the land.
In answer to Senator Cavanagh’s earlier interjection, I repeat that this is a motion to refer the matter to a standing committee. These good people have put forward certain suggestions which I have presented earlier in my address. I personally do not know the solutions. I imagine that the first step would be a financial solution. However, that is a matter for the standing committee to attempt to discover. The Commonwealth might provide the money and the States might see to its proper disbursement. This money could be expended on the provision of regional schools, the provision of accommodation near schools in remote areas and the provision of financial assistance to parents to send their children to school or, in the case of parents who are conducting school at home by correspondence or otherwise, financial assistance in that direction. Then there could be taxation concessions for parents who are required to spend money on transport - by road, air or whatever it may be - or on accommodation in areas remote from the home for the provision of schooling for isolated children.
– When they have to leave their parents, is that a satisfactory solution?
– I presume that Senator Cavanagh has in mind the fact that this involves a separation of the child from the parents and perhaps involves the child living in a non-domestic atmosphere.
– Is it the best education?
– Undoubtedly it is not the best education. But this is the old conflict between a child going to day school and living at home and a child going to boarding school. There are 2 schools of thought on this. Many parents think that there is no substitute for the continuous residence of the child in the home and the child’s attendance at day school. But part of our education system which has been extremely successful in producing very great men and women in Australia is the boarding school. It entails the separation of the child from the parents, except during holidays. Nevertheless many parents elect for the boarding school, and it has been successful. I do not know that it has trespassed unduly upon the relationship between child and parent in the home. Certainly in a situation such as this we will not find the ideal solution-
– I was wondering whether a school of the air such as that in the Northern Territory would be of value.
– I dealt with that. Senator Cavanagh may not have been in the chamber when I mentioned it. Correspondence schooling in Queensland may be through the school of the air or through home tuition supported by communication with a central correspondence school from which the lessons are transmitted by post. But education in the home requires a mother who is interested, who is skilled and who has the time and is not required to help her husband during the day in the conduct of the property or business.
– I was thinking of the school of the air in which a tutor talks to the children over the air.
– That is canvassed in the submissions I have received from the association to which I have referred - the Isolated Children’s Parents Association. That Association contemplates that idea, but it is asking for a financial subvention as a component of this joint system of tuition.
I do not feel that I should extrapolate on this matter any more. I think the problem is evident. The figures that have been presented are compelling and disturbing. I am sure it will gratify the Association and the parents who are interested and involved in it if they know that the Parliament is giving the matter its attention, and doing so in a most practical manner by calling evidence and examining the whole situation. I have indicated to these good people that when this matter comes before the Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts, they undoubtedly will be invited to appear and probably will have a prior invitation to make their submissions, following the normal practice, in writing and then to support them in person by members of the Association making oral presentation to the Committee.
In addition, any parents who may wish to come before the Committee would be in a position to make their individual submissions. I say this because problems are very often unique to one family, they are not shared by every family. It may be that the Association will not deem it necessary to put a particular situation but one family might wish to present on its own behalf a submission on that aspect. Ample opportunity will be given by this method for examination of the whole problem. I am gratified as I feel that members of the Government and the Opposition are disposed to support this motion. I only hope that the Senate Standing Committee will be able to give its attention to this matter at a reasonably early date.
– I would support it only because I do not know the alternative.
– There could be better reasons, Senator Cavanagh, but at least that is a good reason and probably a compelling reason. Perhaps we do not know any alternative because we do not know how deep the problem is. That is the idea behind this reference. It is to alert the nation to the need for action. It is to alert the Parliament and the Federal and State governments for the need for some steps to be taken in relation to this matter. No doubt the State governments will be invited to make their submissions.
– We were all alerted before the presentation of the Budget. Nothing was included in the last Budget.
– That may be so. However, this is a practical step. 1 am sure that it will be greeted enthusiastically by those who are involved in the problem or, alternatively, are affected by the situation individually or in groups. I commend my motion to honourable senators. It should have and I am sure that it will have their enthusiastic support.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I support this motion. Senator Byrne seeks to refer this matter to the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts for investigation and report. The Committee will take evidence. It will go into the matter thoroughly to find out what is the best proposal to help children living in isolated areas in respect of their education. It will see what can be done to give to those children educational opportunities equal to those of children living in more favoured areas. It will seek to find the manner in which these children can be provided with an education suitable to their talents and interests, which will equip them for employment in the occupational field which they select. The Committee will inquire also into the way in which it can help to prevent these children from becoming second class citizens. I draw to the attention of the Senate that, in the current financial year, the appropriation for the Department of Education and Science is $426m. I do not think that this comparatively small number of children would require a big vote out of that appropriation to enable them to enjoy chances equal to those of children in other parts of the community.
– If the allocation was made, where would the money be spent?
– Ways of doing this would be found. In the early 1920s, Australia produced a great man. I refer to the Reverend John Flynn, known as Flynn of the Inland, who realised that one of the greatest hazards facing people living in isolated areas was the lack of medical attention in case of accident or sickness.
Flynn, together with another South Australian, developed the pedal radio system. The use of this system increased and, partly by accident and partly by the development of its use, it became part of the School of the Air to which Senator Cavanagh has referred.
Several such School of the Air undertakings operate in Australia. I think that there are 3 in Queensland. The others are scattered in the various States. These Schools of the Air do have limitations to my way of thinking. They provide a very good service. But, whatever is done, supervision of the child student in the home is required. The organisation to which Senator Byrne has referred has said that a governess to supervise even one child in School of the Air work would cost $1,200 a year. A child cannot be left to answer the teacher on the School of the Air broadcast and to communicate with the teacher. Supervision is needed. A family may not be able to afford a governess. So, more work is put on the already overworked mother. I think that this is one of the weaknesses of this system.. The Correspondence School and the School of the Air systems are wonderful. But they have these weaknesses: Either the work must be performed by the mother or money must be found to employ a governess.
These systems have one or two other weaknesses that I have seen. These children do not mix with other children when they are educated at home. When they do mix with other children, they suffer a terrible shock and they are under a considerable handicap. I remember being in Broken Hill one day and seeing the annual sports day of the School of the Air in that district. Children came from 300 miles and 400 miles away for that one day of the year. They saw their fellow School of the Air pupils. They met with other children. But this was not quite enough to give them the confidence that is required to take one’s place in life today. Queensland has a remote area allowance.
– Have you a solution to this problem? You have mentioned the School of the Air.
– Yes, I have a solution. We must get these children away from their homes as much as possible and enable them to attend schools by paying allowances to stay at hostels and subsidies to attend boarding schools. This is being done today with respect to Australia’s Aboriginal children. I do not think that a great deal of money would be required to ensure that this comparatively small number of children had some chance to attend at boarding school.
– Would that not conflict with what Senator Byrne has proposed?
– 1 do not think so. I mentioned the remote area allowance in Queensland. It goes a little way towards helping in sending these children to hostels or to schools. An allowance is paid in Queensland also - I think it applies in some of the other States as well - for the person, perhaps the mother, who drives children to state schools if they are within a reasonable distance of those schools. Again, this imposes a hardship on the mother. Probably she must make 2 trips a day each of 20 miles. While she does receive some allowance - probably it is only enough to meet the cost of the petrol used on the journey - the time taken for the trip eats a big hole in her day and extra work is imposed on her.
We have the other case, as has been pointed out, of the families which have split homes, as they are called. This means that the mother and several children go into a town nearby to their home - it may be 50 miles, 60 miles or 100 miles away - to rent and use accommodation for 4 nights of the week so that the children may attend school in that town. This part of the family returns to the family home for the weekend and is there for the remaining 3 nights of the week. Extra work is created. Additional expense is involved in maintaining 2 homes. This problem must be considered. No doubt the Senate Committee will look at it. Hostels are difficult to maintain. I know that problems exist in this area. Senator Byrne pointed out that this matter does not apply only to the children of station managers or property owners. It applies to the children of people living in scattered areas and to the children of bush workers and itinerant workers. It concerns those people who want their children to have a fair chance of getting some education in life.
– Senator, your whole solution is a financial one. Senator Byrne’s solution was not.
– The Committee will determine that. It will go into the matter. We are debating now a motion for the reference of this matter to the Committee. We are not providing the solution. The Isolated Children’s Parents Association is very strong, lt has its headquarters in Bourke in New South Wales. We commend it for what it has done and hope that its scheme will get off the ground and will achieve something. We must see that all Australian children, wherever they live and whatever the occupation of their parents, are given the same educational opportunities to fit them for their chosen occupations in life as children in more favoured areas receive. 1 support the motion.
– The Isolated Childrens Parents Association is to hold its annual conference in Bourke, New South Wales next week. This will be a conference of vital importance, certainly for at least 2,000 isolated children in the State that I represent in this Parliament. Frankly it is a tremendous pity that this type of motion to refer a matter to a standing committee hits to be raised a mere 3 weeks after a Budget that does not provide one cent of assistance to overcome the problems of the isolated children of Australia has been introduced by the Government.
– Which party raised it?
– It is the fault of this Government. The Government was approached by the Isolated Childrens Parents Association at the same time as my party was approached. The fact is that despite a Budget that was introduced giving this, that and the other to many sections of the community, there was not one cent of assistance included in the Budget to assist overcome the problems of the isolated children of this country. Therefore I have no objection to this matter being referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts.
I do not want it to be thought by those who might be listening to this debate that the mere fact that a matter has been, is going to be or will probably be referred to a standing committee of this Senate for inquiry automatically means that the committee’s recommendations will be implemented and that assistance naturally will be forthcoming. I think that Senator Byrne in raising this matter referred to the inquiry that the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare held into the problems of the physically and mentally handicapped. The report of that Committee on this reference was tendered in this Parliament some 18 months ago. A departmental sub-committee consisting of various departmental officers has been formed now to consider the recommendations of that Committee. I suggest it will be some time before the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts will be able to get round to investigating this problem because I understand that the Committee at the present time has embarked upon a very lengthy inquiry into all aspects of broadcasting and television. Therefore 1 merely say that the recommendation that this matter be referred to a Senate standing committee should not give people who are urgently in need of assistance the impression that this automatically means that something is going to be done for them. Regrettable as it is, not one cent of assistance was provided in the last Budget to overcome or assist to overcome the problems of isolated children and their parents in the outflung and far reaching areas of my State.
The debate on this matter gives me the opportunity to raise one or two other matters where this Goverment has fallen down so far as education is concerned. During Senator Lawrie’s speech my colleague Senator Cavanagh interjected and suggested some of the ways in which this problem can be overcome.
– Have you just discovered this? The Australian Democratic Labor Party discovered it, did it?
– I hope that my friend Senator Withers will be attending the conference at Bourke and will talk, as I have done, for a long, long time, with some of these people. 1 tell Senator Withers that these people have been to see members of the Australian Labor Party as well as the Government. We have told them that their problems will receive the closest scrutiny along with the other problems of education by the Australian Schools Commission which a Labor government will establish when it comes to office.
I would like to outline to the Senate one of the ways in which this problem could well have been tackled by the Government. I refer to the extension of educational television facilities to a great number of these people. Senator Wright scowls at me, but the fact is that the vast majority of isolated children - not all - are in receipt of television reception.
– The honourable senator knows that I was one of the original and most ardent advocates of the extension of television services for education.
– I agree, but that was when Senator Wright was a backbencher. But what has happened since he has been in the Ministry? Just let me tell him. In 1965 this Government received a report on educational television from the Advisory Committee on Eductional Television Services, known as the Weeden Committee. The Weeden Committee recommended the establishment of a frequency for an educational television station. The Government refused to accept the recommendation of that Committee and said that additional funds should be made available to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for educational purposes. At the same time the Government decided to establish a conference between State Ministers for Education and the Commonwealth Minister for Education and Science to consider how the matter should be tackled.
Only yesterday I received an answer to a question that I have had on the Notice Paper for some time. I asked:
Did meetings of the Minister for Education and Science, the Postmaster-General and State Ministers for Education on educational television take place in 1961 and 1969; if so, when is il proposed that, another such meeting shall take place.
I was told - and mind you, the Weeden Committee’s report was tabled in this Parliament in 1965 and rejected by this Government - that a meeting of the Commonwealth Minister for Education and Science and State Ministers for Education took place in 1966 and that it took another 3 years before there was another meeting in 1969. I was told also that a date has not yet been set for a further meeting. How serious is this Government when it talks about solving the problems of isolated children when educational television is one of the weapons at its disposal to overcome the problem? There have been 2 meetings of Ministers in a period of 6 years.
A sub-committee made up of various departmental officers has been formed to advise the Government on the subject of educational television. In a further question on notice I asked:
Has any report yet been submitted to the PostmasterGeneral and the Minister for Education and Science from the Sub-Committee comprising Commonwealth and State representatives established to investigate the technical developments involved in the establishment of educational television in Australia?
The answer was: ‘Yes’. The Minister has received a report from the sub-committee but nothing has been said about it in this Parliament. It is about time the Government said something about what its attitude is in regard to the extention of educational television programmes in this country. The special committee that was established met 4 times, the last meeting being in May of this year. Only this afternoon a Government senator - from recollection I think it was Senator Hannan - asked a question about the removal from the Australian Broadcasting Commission of a programme called ‘Adventure Island’ which is one of the most popular educational programmes on national television.
– Who took it off?
– The ABC has taken it off. And why? Because its budget has been reduced and it has not the wherewithal to go on producing the type of programme that it should be producing.
– It is wasting its funds on current affairs programmes.
My friend Senator Withers, in his vitriolic way, is always determined to have a shot at current affairs programmes. If he had his way there would be no educational television in Australia.
– Does the honourable senator think that current affairs programmes are educational?
My word I do. They are enlightening, and < I think the people of Australia will show at the forthcoming election the result of this enlightenment.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) - Order! I ask Senator Douglas McClelland to keep more to the point.
– I am discussing the education of isolated 1 children. Surely the problem of educational , television is very much wrapped up in this problem. .
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESI-‘ DENT - The honourable senator is getting onto current affairs and a few things of that kind which I think are away from the point.
You might think so, Mr Acting Deputy President, but I think it is very pertinent to the point, because one of the matters on the agenda for the conference to be held the week after next is educational television and how educational television can help overcome the problems of these people.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - I am not objecting to a discussion of educational programmes over the radio, but I think that when we indulge in a discussion of current affairs and things of that kind we are getting outside the realm of this motion.
– I bow to your ruling, but with great respect I was merely answering an interjection from an honourable senator sitting on your right. I was about to refer to the programme ‘Adventure Island’ which, as I mentioned, has been taken off by the ABC. The producer of that programme, Godfrey Philipp, has written to me and I understand that he has written to most honourable senators, if not all. He said that those who are associated with the programme are proud of what it has done.
– I rise to order. We are not debating the appropriation of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. If we were we would state that its appropriation had been greatly increased this year. I submit that this is quite irrelevant to the question whether the subject of isolated children’s education should be referred to our Senate committee.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - I ask Senator Douglas McClelland to make his remarks more pertinent to the subject matter of the debate.
– I am suggesting that if this motion is successful one of the terms of reference of the Standing Committee should be to inquire into the way in which educational television and educational broadcasting services can be utilised to a much fuller extent than they are at present, as a means of overcoming the problems of children in isolated areas. I believe that it is because of the neglect of the Government to utilise these facilities adequately in these areas that the problems of these people are so serious. I believe that the Government and the Parliament must go out of their way to assist wherever they can to overcome the problems of children of the outback. These problems concern families, the children of men and women from all walks of life. A child in the outback is at a great disadvantage. He suffers a tremendous disadvantage when compared with his counterpart in a capital city or in the urban areas of Australia. I have no objection to this matter being referred to the Standing Committee, but I regret that nothing was done by the Government in the last Budget to assist people to overcome their problems, as a result of which it has become necessary to consider a proposition of this nature.
– I support the motion. I have had a continuing interest in the welfare of people in the outback, in the remote areas of South Australia and other States of the Commonwealth. In fact I referred to this in my recent speech on the Budget. It seems to me that the responsibility for education rests largely upon the States. In the course of my speech on the Budget 1 mentioned this to the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who is in charge of the House at the moment, and said that I thought the Commonwealth should take more interest in people in the remote areas of Australia. The Chairman of the Senate
Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts, Senator Davidson, has shown an interest in this matter. He led a delegation from Bourke to meet the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on this very subject. It seems quite ironical that Senator Douglas McClelland has not received similar delegations. This seems to indicate that people in remote areas of South Australia have confidence in Government supporters in this place.
I have made representations to the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) on many occasions, the last occasion being in respect of the 1971-72 Budget. I ask him to pay some regard to the plight of people living in remote areas and to give special additional consideration to expenses incurred by parents in sending children to schools in centres which are remote front their homes. Although the Government did not make special provision in this respect it did at least increase taxation allowances for education. I renewed my plea as a result of representations from the Port Augusta Outback Parents Committee and the Far Northern Association at Leigh Creek with respect to this matter. I raised it with the Minister for Education and Science in January this year and asked again that special attention be given to the matter. I know that the Minister is sympathetic to the plight of these people and he has indicated this on many occasions. In addition he demonstrated in the recent Budget his interest in education. In the Budget the Government provided an additional $200m for State governments to spend in this field of education.
I believe that some responsibility for this problem must fall on State governments. I know that the Outback Parents Committee at Port Augusta has made repeated representations to the present South Australian Labor Government with regard to this matter and I know that on one occasion Mr Hudson, who is the Minister of Education in that State, treated them rather casually, so much so that members of the deputation were rather upset about the way he treated them on that occasion. However, I was pleased to see in the speech made recently by the South Australian Governor that the State Government is giving recognition to the need to help people in outback areas. Unfortunately there is no evidence in the present
Budget of the South Australian Labor Government to indicate that it intends to provide funds for these people. I have been approached by many people in South Australia, the latest being by people living in the Yunta area in the north-eastern part of that State. They asked me, at very short notice last Saturday, to attend a meeting at Yunta where a branch of the Association is being formed in order that they may be able to make representations to the meeting at Bourke, to which Senator Douglas McClelland referred, at some time in the near future. People in these remote areas deserve some consideration. It may well be that referring this matter to a Senate committee is the appropriate way to handle it. I believe that we must pay attention to the need to consult with State governments about this matter.
When outback children are mentioned people immediately think of station owners and farmers. However, I must remind honourable senators that other people in remote areas are involved. I know that people who work on the Commonwealth Railways, such as fettlers in remote areas who service the Trans-Australian Railway, face problems in educating their children. There are the station hands who support rural industry in these remote areas, without whose assistance businesses would be in a sorry state. The Senate must pay some regard to this matter, and for that reason I believe we should support the motion to refer the matter to the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts. We, as the Senate, have a tremendous responsibility to collate information that will prove to be of some use in making a realistic assessment of the plight of these people. Perhaps referring this matter to the Senate Standing Committee is the best way to provide accurate information on this matter to the Commonwealth Government and to the State governments. I support the motion.
– I am prompted to enter this debate because of the remarks of Senator Jessop. I have received correspondence from the Isolated Children’s Parents Association which caters for outback children, mostly those in Queensland. I visited the school at Katherine in the Northern Territory where a paid tutor was employed to educate the children. I watched an entire lesson during which he asked questions and received replies from the children for which he allocated marks. Other than the lack of visual aids, the lesson was similar to the lesson any child would have in an ordinary school. I recognise that children in such places spend only a small part of their time undergoing education and that there could be some children who could not participate in the class every day because of flat batteries in their wirelesses. They had some method of informing the tutor that they would be absent. These are some of the problems that have to be faced. I would say that in South Australia we do not have as great a remote area problem as there is in the Northern Territory, north-west Western Australia or north Queensland.
– What about Oodnadatta?
– There is a State school at Oodnadatta which children can attend. There is no better State Government in the Commonwealth than the South Australian Government in regard to planning and building schools. I refer not only to building schools in small localities. South Australia has more facilities for outback children than has any other State. There is a problem in places like Yunta although I believe that it at least has a primary school. There are problems, however, at places like Deakin on the east-west railway where the State Government provides area buses, if possible, to convey children from their homes to an area school up to 30 miles away. The children return to their homes each day. I do not doubt that there are still some isolated children who deserve consideration. We cannot enter into party politics when considering this matter but no government has done more for outback children than has the South Australian government, and I refer not only to the present Labor Government in that State. I think that South Australia has been far ahead of other States in this respect.
I support this matter being referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts because so many people have suggested that finance is the solution to this problem. Such suggestions have come from, f think, Senator Jessop and Senator Lawrie. Of course, it is essential that people who have to send their children to hostels and boarding schools should receive financial assistance. I do not know whether that is the most desirable form of education. I have been greatly impressed by those who claim that education is not limited to what one learns in the 4 walls of a classroom but is a continuing process, and both home life and school life are part of the education process. I recognise, particularly as I come from South Australia, that there are areas where there is a great problem and, therefore, I support the move to have this matter considered by the Senate Standing Committee in an effort to find a solution. 1 hope that not too much emphasis will be placed on the question of financial aid. There are other problems to be considered. 1 rose mainly to oppose any attempt to denigrate South Australia’s effort to overcome this problem. That would be an incorrect interpretation of what has happened in that State.
– I enter this debate briefly for 2 reasons. The first is because of personal connections that I have with various educational institutions that serve outback areas in their own way, particularly in my own State, but my main reason is because of my position as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts to which it is proposed to refer this matter of education for isolated school children. Anybody who has made any study of the 2 areas concerned will be aware of the problem that exists in places served by the Isolated Children’s Parents Association. As was indicated earlier by my colleague Senator Jessop, I had the opportunity of meeting a delegation from the Association led by Mrs Edgley and Mr Wally Mitchell, both from Bourke in New South Wales. I took them to meet and talk with the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I know something of the response of the Minister and of his concern for the total field of education. This has been very adequately displayed by allocations in recent times of funds to the States for the development of education, and also in the current Budget.
Referring a subject of this nature to the Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts poses the rather difficult problem of when the matter will receive attention by the Committee. Assuming that the Senate carries the motion and the matter is referred to the Committee, it will be the Committee’s job to make a decision as to when it can give the matter attention. At the moment the Committee is in the midst of a far-reaching inquiiry into all aspects of broadcasting and television. In reply to references which have been made earlier this evening 1 say that the Senate will understand that as the Committee is doing a complete and wide-ranging study of all aspects of broadcasting and television, educational television must loom large in the discussions. The Committee will make its decision in due course as to what kind of recommendation it makes in regard to the subject matter of the motion.
The important thing is for the Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts to recognise the urgency with which the arguments about the needs of members of the Isolated Children’s Parents Association have been put forward tonight and for the Committee to have some understanding of their situation, to have more than sympathy for them, and to recommend to the Senate the steps that can be taken to meet their needs. Australia owes a great deal to those who over the years served and who today still serve Australia in distant places. The matters involved aTe more than matters of an educational nature. They impinge on the social and economic areas and on the areas of national development. Referring the matter to the Committee will provide the opportunity for all these areas to be examined thoroughly and totally and for an adequate dialogue to be established between the Parliament and the people concerned. Therefore I hope that the Senate will refer the matter to the Committee. As the Chairman of the Committee I will certainly give it as strong a commendation as I can.
The Minister for Education and Science has a deep and personal concern about the matter. He has talked with State Ministers about the educational problems of isolated children. His Department has had consultations with State officials. To say that the matter is constantly under review is not a sufficient answer. To refer it to a committee will provide an opportunity to establish a dialogue and an opportunity for the Committee to talk with the people who are involved not only in the sphere of education but in the total sphere of outback needs, the whole area of decentralisation and the social welfare of the people who serve Australia so well and so worthily in this sphere. In doing this they follow in the van of pioneers such as John Flynn, whose name has been mentioned. I very readily take the opportunity of mentioning his name. For a considerable number of years I have been a member of the Board of the Australian Inland Mission, which he founded. I know something of his work. I have visited and have been part of many of his hospitals and hostels in many parts of Australia. I know something of the work of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and its School of the Air.
– He did not like blacks.
– As Senator Cavanagh has mentioned this, I invite him to inspect any of the hostels and hospitals that are serviced by the Mission. If he does I know what he will find. He will find a great percentage of Aboriginal people.
– I am not talking about the missions. I am talking about Flynn.
– I am talking about Flynn and 1 am talking about the work that Flynn did. I am talking about the work that Flynn set up. I am talking about the Mission that Flynn established. I know what I am talking about because I have been associated with it for the greater part of my life. I will not stand here and hear this great Australian defamed in that way that he was when the honourable senator was hurling his comments across the chamber at me. Flynn led the vanguard in the care of isolated children. He stood up for isolated children long before the honourable senator thought of them. I will stand up for him. I shall see to it, when the matter is referred to the Committee, that we get the record straight. I return to the 4 points in which the Isolated
Children’s Parents Association is particularly interested - the important matter of living away from home allowance, the correspondence supervision allowance, what Senator Lawrie referred to as the split home allowance, and government finance for the provision and maintenance of hostels. A number of areas could be discussed. All of them impinge on the total wellbeing of education. The important thing is that the matter will be referred, I hope, to the Committee. I shall prevail upon my colleagues on the Committee to give the matter the most urgent and sympathetic attention.
– It is with considerable enthusiasm that I rise to support the motion which seeks to refer to the Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts a matter as important as aid to isolated children and the parents of isolated children throughout Australia. As a Western Australian I am deeply conscious of the problem not only in the northern or north-, western part of the State but in a great many other parts of the State where the problem may not be readily apparent. I refer to the eastern goldfield regions, the Murchison area, the Pilbara area and the Kimberley area. The problem is a very grave one. I and, I am sure, the many people in Western Australia who are concerned about it will have been most interested to hear in the course of the debate that the problem is one that is shared by so many other people throughout Australia. Because it is such an obvious national problem it is appropriate that the matter be referred to a committee of the national parliament for consideration at the national level.
As all honourable senators know, the actual responsibility for education has been traditionally the responsibility of State governments. I am pleased to say - I think it must be said - that the State Government in Western Australia has attempted to deal with the problem in the past. Apparently State governments in South Australia and other States have attempted to deal with it, too. Living away from home allowances have been provided, certainly by the Western Australian Government, for many years to parents of children who are in the situation about which we are speaking tonight. Certainly in recent times these allowances have proved to be quite inadequate. By way of example I quote the situation in the more remote part of Western Australia - the zone which attracts the highest Jiving away from home allowance for the parents of children who have to be sent away from home to obtain certainly portion, if not the whole of their education. The allowance in this zone - that would be the area of the north-west of Western Australia - is $300 a year, yet the charge at the hostels to which children are being sent is $600 a year. This is the cheapest possible accommodation that can be provided for these children. A family which has several school age children has to pay prohibitive costs just to send the children to a hostel for a period - perhaps it is only for a period of their secondary education. If the parents wish to give their children a boarding school education the costs are far greater than that.
I stress that the problem is not simply one which faces a few people living on pastoral properties. I know that the people who are most active in the Isolated Children’s Parents Association are from pastoral areas. Particularly as a result of droughts and of the recession in the wool industry they have found themselves in a position which very few of them have had to face previously. In most cases they had been able to send their children to private boarding schools. But the problem is by no means confined to these people. I think it would be quite wrong for us to consider this problem as one that is of declining importance in Australia. I believe it is growing importance because of the development that fortunately we now see occurring throughout the remoter parts of Australia. I am particularly conscious of this and as I am sure other honourable senators are.
In the remote areas of Western Australia and Queensland mining development is occurring. In places where we have a number of small towns developing as part of mining development throughout Australia it will be impossible to provide in each town the full range of education, both primary and secondary, which the parents of children who are going to these areas would be entitled to demand for them. Although it may be possible to pro vide primary schools in these towns, it is certainly impossible to provide secondary schooling of a high standard in each of them. Therefore one must look to the development of regional schools, certainly for secondary education and the necessity to establish hostels for children sent into these regional areas to complete their education. Other points have been made in this debate tonight in relation to the school of the air, education by correspondence, television education and other fields. The school of the air and education by correspondence have been traditional ways of overcoming the problem to some extent. But nobody has ever suggested that these ways or even the development of educational television - we see the possibility of that - provide a real and full solution to the problems.
All of these matters clearly point to the need for a consideration of this problem at a national level. As I said before, I believe that the States have endeavoured to tackle the problem to some extent. I think that providing the total solution to this problem has now got beyond the State governments. The time has come when the Commonwealth Government will have to play a part in the solution of it. So I think that it is highly appropriate that this matter be considered by the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts, I fully support the motion.
– As Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the Senate, 1 simply want to say how grateful I am for the cogent consideration that has been given to this matter by Senator Durack and Senator Davidson, who followed the mover of the motion, Senator Byrne. I am sure that we are all persuaded that the matter concerned is important, and very worthy of occupying the consideration of our purposeful Senate Standing Committee. As to the usefulness of any recommendations that we receive from that Committee, I only have to remind honourable senators of the degree to which the recommendations of the Committee in regard to teacher training have been adopted. As the Minister in charge of this matter in the Senate 1 look forward with anticipation to the Committee’s recommendations as a stimulus to the appropriate means by which this important problem will receive resolution, particularly in a period when the outback economy is greatly depressed.
Senator Douglas McClelland, who preceded Senator Davidson in the debate, wove into the discussion a reference to education by radio and television, which was most appropriate from one point of view, lt was the point of view of showing that this is a facility which would be very well considered as perhaps an appropriate facility to solve, in some measure, this problem. The fact that at the present time the same Committee is investigating all aspects of broadcasting and television shows that in the course of that existing inquiry of great deal of the problem of the education of outback children could be investigated and decisions arrived at.
I want to conclude by putting the record straight with regard to the appropriation in the Budget this year, compared with that last year, for broadcasting and television. Last year the appropriation for broadcasting and television was $74,282,621. This year the appropriation has been increased to $79,447,000. Another increase that is important is in relation to scholarships which are provided for in the Commonwealth Budget. Of course, they include living away from home allowances as one item. The appropriation for scholarships and other educational grants in the Budget this year is about S56m. Only 4 years ago the appropriation for scholarships in the Commonwealth Budget was $28m, half of that amount. I am most grateful to the Senate for giving an item relating to education, so appropriately introduced by Senator Byrne, a very thoughtful debate this evening. I believe that the motion will receive the assent of the Senate and the support of all honourable senators.
– in reply - May I, in concluding the debate, thank the Senate for the consideration it has given the motion. I appreciate that members of the Senate are conscious of the depth of the problem and I appreciate the unanimous support which the motion has received.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Before we deal with Government business I wish to deal with a matter raised by Senator Cavanagh this morning on which I promised to make a statement. If the Senate is agreeable, I should like to defer the next item of business to rule on the matter raised by Senator Cavanagh, because it is important to the Senate. I understand that the honourable senator will be in the chamber to hear what 1 have to say. The matter raised by Senator Cavanagh refers to the time at which under sessional orders the motion for the adjournment should be put. Last night I allowed the matter which was before the Senate to flow and subsequently put the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. I was quite clear in my own mind when I ruled on this matter last night but I felt that Senator Cavanagh, with his well known interest in Standing Orders, was entitled to more than a cursory answer from me when he asked the question this morning. Therefore I have here the considered support for the ruling and the attitude which 1 adopted last night. I ask honourable senators for their attention.
asked me a question relating to the putting of the question for the adjournment at 10.30 p.m. when a point of order is before the Chair. Last night a point of order was under consideration at 10.30 p.m. I decided not to put the question until the point of order was resolved, in the same way that the question for the adjournment is not put until a division is resolved. I considered that, in the particular circumstances of last evening it was proper that there should reside in the Chair a discretion to delay the question for the adjournment until the point of order had been determined, especially as it involved a very serious matter of the conduct of an honourable senator. Having said that, I point out that I am supported by the Senate Standing Orders. The relevant Standing Order which is No. 426 is as follows:
All Questions of Order and matters of Privilege which have arisen since the last sitting of the Senate, until decided, suspend the consideration and decision of every other Question.
It was on that basis that 1 ruled last night.
– I seek leave to make a statement on the ruling.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Greenwood) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is an urgent Bill. Its introduction follows a decision yesterday by the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory in which the Supreme Court held that the Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance 1972 was not notified in accordance with the requirements of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act, and is not therefore in operation. The Act provides that every ordinance shall be notified in the Gazette. The Act further provides that a notice in the Gazette of any ordinance having been made, and of the place where copies can be purchased, shall be sufficient compliance with the requirement of notification. Two of the judges of the Supreme Court found that neither of these prerequisites had been satisfied in the case of the particular ordinance before them. The third judge held that the first, but not the second, prerequisite had been satisfied.
The form of the notification in this case was based on the form used for many years in the Australian Capital Territory. A form to similar effect has also been used for varying lengthy periods in regard to the notification of ordinances of other Territories and of regulations made under Acts of the Commonwealth Parliament. The matters raised by the decision of the Supreme Court are extremely urgent. If the decision is correct then no ordinances made in the Australian Capital Territory since 1940 are in operation other than those ordinances notified in yesterday’s special Gazette. Similarly, ordinances made in the Northern Territory, in Papua New Guinea and in other Territories of the Commonwealth over varying periods of years may be inoperative. Moreover, if the decision is correct, doubts exist whether regulations made over many years under Commonwealth Acts are in operation.
The Government has considered the course of appeal to the High Court. But the urgency of the matter and the far-reaching effect on the decision require that the effective operation of all these ordinances, regulations and other instruments be placed beyond doubt immediately by an Act of this Parliament. This is the purpose of the Bill before the Senate. It is designed to cover the position with regard to ordinances of all the Territories of the Commonwealth and also with regard to regulations, rules, or other instruments under a law of the Commonwealth or a Territory of the Commonwealth.
This is a Bill which has reached the Senate enveloped in an air of political controversy. It is unfortunate that much has been said which I think in more reflective mood would not have been said. There has been a degree of mischievousness and malice which has prevented a proper consideration of a matter which is designed to rectify a defect which it is in the community interest to have rectified as soon as possible. I am aware of what has been said in another House of the Parliament. I am also conscious of the fact that in this place one may rise to correct misrepresentations which have been said. I know that currency has been given to certain remarks attributed to me. In the course of the second reading of this Bill I take the opportunity to explain how I have been grievously misrepresented in a chamber where I cannot defend myself. I did not say to the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) that I believed that a Miss Russell, currently in prison for refusing to pay a fine, was being held illegally. I said to him in conversation, and quite frankly, that she was possibly in gaol illegally but that I did not know. It was a question which depended on whether the petty sessions ordinance was in force and that this was a matter of which I could not be positive. I also said that if Miss Russell or her advisers wished to take action they could do so, but my hope was that the validating legislation would be passed quickly and that this would resolve the position.
I did not say to the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) that I was prepared to withdraw charges if he could say to me that the people currently facing charges believed that at the time of the alleged offences the ordinance was invalid. I did not say that. I told Mr Enderby that I was not prepared to withdraw the charges. I believed that as hosts of other persons were in the same position as the people for whom Mr Enderby was making a plea, it was discriminatory to favour some and not others. He said that the cases could be distinguished. I said that if the persons concerned had a belief that the ordinance was invalid they could plead that and I thought that that would be a good defence. Mr Enderby said that of course they could not say that. But this is vastly different from what he attributed to me.
I also wish to correct the statement by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) that I had broken the law by falsely declaring my electoral expenses. I have previously publicly denied this allegation and I deny it again. Mr Cameron’s statement was completely without foundation and is totally untrue. 1 feel it is prudent to recapitulate certain of the events which have led to the situation which has brought this Bill before the Senate. The Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance was made on 20th July of this year and it is No. 28 of 1972. Under it the main Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance was amended by the addition of provisions which made it an offence to do certain things such as camping, parking, leaving vehicles or erecting structures on certain Commonwealth unleased land. The ordinance desirably and sensibly filled a gap in the law. Of course, it provided power for an inspector oi a member of the police force to request persons who left their vehicles or erected structures without permission on unleased lands to remove themselves and their structures from the land. If they did not do so the ordinance empowered the inspector or police officers to remove the vehicles or articles from the land. Of course, we are all aware that, purporting to act under that ordinance, certain articles and structures were removed from unleased lands in front of Parliament House on 20th July.
Following action on 20th July, a writ was issued out of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. That writ was issued by 4 persons: Mr Ambrose Francis Golden-Brown, Mr William James Richard Harrison, Mr Allan John Sharpley and Patricia June Eatock. In the writ before the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory they sought a declaration that the Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance 1972, gazetted on 20th July 1972, was invalid and of no force and effect. They also asked for an injunction to restrain the defendant - the defendant was the Minister of State for the Interior and any inspector appointed under the Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance, any member of the police force and/or any other person - from preventing or interfering with the re-erection of tents and the replacement of articles therein or attached thereto at the place where the structure had previously been.
That writ and a motion for an injunction which was issued at the same time as the writ came on for hearing before the Supreme Court. The case was argued before the Court and the judgment of the Court was delivered, as we are well aware, yesterday. I think it is prudent to refer to certain things which the judges said. The judges made a declaration to the effect that the Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance was inoperative for the reasons which I have already set out. But they then had to deal with the claim which was made by these persons for an injunction to stop the Australian Capital Territory Police Force or any inspector or the Minister of State for the Interior from interfering with them or stopping them putting back their tents and other structures on unleased lands. Mr Justice Fox said:
The case for an injunction is based on an allegation that the plaintiffs fear that the police, acting under the Ordinance, will either prevent re-erection of the tents, or remove them if they are re-erected. Section 8a (2) of the Ordinance forbids the erection of tents by the plaintiffs on the land in question. Under ss. (5), if the necessary preliminary steps are taken, police officers can remove any tent erected, and the contents thereof.
am of the view however that the plaintiffs have failed to establish any case for an injunction. They do not claim simply to be on the land, as pedestrians, or for some casual recreational purposes, or even as members of an assembly, as that term is ordinarily understood. They claim a right to erect and maintain a number of tents and live therein for an indefinite period. Whatever the position may be if the Commonwealth consented to such a course, it is apparent that the Commonwealth does not consent, but on the contrary actively opposes it. In these circumstances, the plaintiffs have no right to go on the land, or remain thereon, for the purposes mentioned.
That was the decision of Mr Justice Fox, the senior judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. He emphatically denied the right of these people to be on those lands for the purposes for which they claimed to be there. That is a judicial decision which ought to have the respect of all members of this Parliament.
The other aspect of the judgments to which I will refer is what was said by Mr Justice Blackburn and Mr Justice Connor who, in a separate judgment, concurred with the view expressed by Mr Justice Fox. At the conclusion of their judgment they said these words, which I think are significant:
Our decision may have highly inconvenient consequences. There may be other subordinate legislation, vital to the orderly government of this Territory and other parts of the Commonwealth, which has been notified in the same way. Moreover, as we have not found the Ordinance to be invalid but merely inoperative, any benefit the plaintiffs receive from our decision is likely to be short-lived.
There we have from those 2 judges not only a recognition that the consequences of their decision extend far beyond the particular question which they then had before them and which they were resolving, but also a recognition that if a government acted responsibly and sensibly it would soon put right what was a defect capable of being put right and that any benefit which people might have temporarily would be a short-lived benefit. This is the way in which the Government views the situation.
In the light of all that has occurred 1 suggest that there is a degree of urgency attaching to this measure. I regret that for some 6 or 7 hours the Opposition in another place has debated politically this measure, and it is now some time after half-past ten this evening that a vital measure comes to this chamber. I know it is unreasonable to expect the members of this chamber to pass this Bill tonight, and no-one would seek to ask them to do so, particularly as a debate on the general implications was cut short today because we knew that this Bill was coming in. But 1 think that the wisdom and merit of having this Bill passed as soon as possible ought to commend itself to the responsibility of members of the Opposition, lt is the Government’s hope, and certainly as far as we are able - if the Senate will agree with us - it is the Government’s intention that this Bill should be passed tomorrow.
Certain consequences are already becoming apparent. The Court of Petty Sessions in Canberra did not sit today, and persons who were to have had their cases heard did not have their cases heard and magistrates who were to sit in the court did not sit. This means that at some stage in the future those matters will have to be determined. The Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, in its criminal jurisdiction, did not sit today. Whilst there are doubts, for example, about the Juries Ordinance, the Court cannot sit. There are many questions concerning the whole body of law in the Australian Capital Territory - of course, this is what Mr Justice Blackburn and Mr Justice, Connor referred to - which have to be clarified if there is to be orderly government in this Territory.
So many matters are in doubt. There are the rights and obligations of persons which are dependent upon the various ordinances applying in this Territory. There are the many rights and obligations which people have under regulations made under Commonwealth legislation extending right across the territory of the Commonwealth of Australia. There are many pieces of legislation. There are the Companies Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory, the Legal Practitioners Ordinance, the Workers Compensation Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory and many others about which there is doubt as to the validity, under which the obligations imposed upon persons are inoperative and under which the rights which people would expect to be able to exercise from those laws cannot be exercised until this Parliament sets the position right. I hope that we will find from the Opposition in this place a willingness to recognise that there is a community responsibility reposed in the Parliament which we should exercise, and that the Opposition will not use this as a forum for engaging in some political debate. The Government has an obligation and the Parliament has a responsibility to enact this legislation as speedily as possible, and to the best of our endeavours we shall see it done.
It has been said by the Opposition - and it was apparent from question time in this place today, if one does not extend one’s researches any further - that there is something reprehensible about what the Government is proposing to do, because it is said that this legislation in some way raises the question of retrospectivity. In the course of question time I recall that my colleague, Senator Rae, asked me whether there was a difference between retrospective legislation and validating legislation. Obviously there is a difference, and it is that difference which ought to be borne in mind on this occasion. Retrospectivity in the narrow sense, the accepted sense in which lawyers use it. is making some provision which was not in existence at a time in the past and allowing that to operate so as to be deemed to have been the law at that time. In the case of a truly retrospective provision it would, for example, affect things done at a time when it was quite lawful for them to be done and perhaps make them unlawful to have been done at that time. That is retrospectivity - when someone has done something which is lawful and then you turn round and say: ‘You have done it lawfully in the past, it is now unlawful’.
On the other hand, validation is making valid something that, while generally believed to have been valid, when acted upon is found - and usually it would be found by a court of law - to be invalid. A validating measure may be expressed to validate the invalid provisions only for the future. But it depends on the nature of the problem, lt may be expressed to operate retrospectively by deeming the provision concerned always to be valid. That, of course, is the pattern that this Bill follows. I ask honourable senators: Do they really feel that there is a principle of law which says that, when the whole law of a community which has been operative for 30 or 40 years is said possibly not to be operative because of some technical defect, we as a Parliament with the authority to do it cannot say: ‘We shall validate and make clear and lawful that which everybody has believed to be lawful all the time’? It would be unreasonable to suppose that there was any proposition that denied that course being adopted. Of course, that is what the Government proposes to do.
It has been said - .1 have heard the Opposition use this expression - that the Government is departing in some way from the great principles of the rule of law and is not following the practice of observing the accepted legal procedures. I am more than pleased to affirm again that the Government of this country does uphold the rule of law, it does believe in legal procedures and on this occasion it is acting consistently with the rule of law and with proper legal processes. It is strange to hear the Opposition parading an emotional adherence and dedication to lawful processes. The dedication we hear expressed at this stage is a charade and a sham. We know that members of the Opposition will support the rule of law only when it. is politically convenient for them to do so, because the record of the history of this country over the past 12 months and longer is full of examples in which the Australian Labor Party, contrary to its fine written platform, ignores lawful processes and ignores respect for the law.
I believe that what we have on this occasion is an instructive example of how the rule of law operates in practice. Under the rule of law all persons are equal, be they wealthy or poor and be they people in a position of privilege with access to wealth or humble people who have not many friends in high places. Also under the rule of law the Executive is equal with the citizen. The citizen is subject to the rules of the courts and the judgments of an independent judiciary, and so is the Executive. If the Executive is shown not to have followed procedures and so to have prejudiced the rights of individuals ->n a particular occasion, the courts will say so and the Executive will uphold the judiciary’s right to say so. That is what has happened on this occasion. The Court has said that the procedures that have been followed have a technical defect. Whilst there may be some doubt as to whether the judgment would be upheld if it were appealed from - all lawyers have these doubts from time to time - the practical problem confronting the Government is to act immediately to set right what, if it is not set right, will cause havoc, dismay and a great deal of suffering for many people.
I believe that that is what the rule of law requires of a legislature. If it finds a situation in which the ordinary rights of people are subject to doubt, it sets the legislative processes in motion with a view to having the matter rectified. That is why we believe that this Bill will achieve its purposes. It indicates why we believe that it is important that this Bill be dealt with speedily and why we believe that so much of what has been raised and is being aired in various places is just so much political claptrap. I commend this Bill to the Senate.
– It is fortunate that this country will soon be rid of the incubus of an insensitive and authoritarian Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) who once again today has demonstrated his unfitness for his high office. Listening to him here tonight, one would have thought that we on this side of the Senate were responsible in some way for the mess into which he, his Government and his advisers have got the law of the Australian Capital Territory. Perhaps we would have expected some apology from the AttorneyGeneral. After all, who created this mess? What is us? Did we have anything to do with the drafting or gazetting of this Ordinance? But there was not a word of apology from him. There was only a suggestion that in some way or other we on this side of the Senate bear some blame for the mess into which he and his Government have got the law. This great proponent of law and order does not even know how to ensure that his legislation is operative.
I wish to contrast the high sounding protestations of this first legal officer of the Commonwealth with his performance. Here tonight he has given us his usual selfrighteous, Pharisaical defence of his own attitude.
– What about giving us something on the Bill?
– I will give the honourable senator everything. I will give him more than he wants.
– You can only indulge in personalities. Get on to the Bill.
– Order! Opposition senators listened to the Attorney-General with a reasonable degree of quietness. Now the least honourable senators who sit on my right can do is listen to Senator James McClelland replying, without intruding on his right to speak in the debate.
– Mr President, I rise to order.
– What is the point of order?
– I raise a point of order under standing order 418. My submission is that offensive words have been used against the Attorney General by Senator James McClelland and. as well as his remarks not being in relation to the subject matter of the debate, imputations and personal reflections have been made. I take the point of order so that the Bill may be dealt with on what I suggest would be a proper basis, namely, a debate on the merits rather than a personal attack on the Attorney-General which is unfounded particularly in the light of what we heard this afternoon from other honourable senators opposite.
– 1 listened to what was said and I do not think it reached the stage where that standing order can be invoked.
– I was about to draw a contrast between the protestations of the Attorney-General and his devotion to the rule of law and the practice of the Government, of which he is the leading legal adviser. On another occasion on which we were debating in this chamber his fitness to hold his office, he made this defence of himself and his announcement of the principles that he claimed guided him in his conduct:
I believe in freedom under the law and I believe that the law can be maintained only if people arc vigilant to recognise the values which it has for society, and the freedoms which il protects. I will persist in that statement and I will use every forum, every platform, every debate and every opportunity that I have to make sure that the people of Australia appreciate the values of freedom under the law.
A little later he said:
The obligation of an Attorney-General is to uphold the observance of the law.
– When did he say that?
– He said that in a debate in this chamber on 1st March 1972. Let us look at the history of this Ordinance which he is now defending and which he is so anxious to reinstate. The Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) referred in a debate in the other place to the existence of what came to be known as the Aboriginal embassy, which was situated opposite this building and which was an example of a frustrated minority in this country attempting, as dramatically as it could, to draw attention to the fact that it just could not get its voice heard by this insensitive Government. He remarked that the men and women who were camped there were behaving with decorum and had given no reason to be removed. That is a matter of record, although the honourable senator has on his face the smirk which usually betokens his discomfort when he is reminded of the truth. After the Minister for the Interior had acknowledged thai these people were behaving themselves, hr nevertheless announced on 11 th May that the Government did not like to be reminded of its own shortcomings by having these people opposite Parliament House, and indicated that he would introduce an ordinance in order to have them removed. He made this significant promise, a promise by the way which he went back on: ‘Adequate public notice will be given of the coming into effect of the ordinance’. I would ask honourable senators opposite, including the learned lawyers who are amongst them, to study the judgment delivered yesterday by the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court. This judgment makes it perfectly clear that if there was one thing which was not done it was that adequate notice was not given of the coming into effect of the ordinance.
– It was given to the Aboriginals in the camp there.
– What was that?
– It was given to the Aboriginals in the camp there on the Monday. They said that they would depart. Then the other people came in to make a confrontation.
– Let us look at the sequence of events to see what actually happened. The Ordinance was made on 30th June. Nobody knew about it until the Commonwealth Gazette of 20th July. At 9.45 a.m. on that day, the Aboriginal embassy was removed. The occupants of the embassy had no opportunity to get a copy of the Gazette. Does the Attorney-General deny that statement? What opportunity did the Aborigines have to get a copy of the Gazette?
– The Aborigines would not be able to read it.
– How long had negotiations been going on to provide alternative accommodation?
– I wish to draw the attention of the Senate also to a very intelligent interjection which has come from Senator Negus, who suggested that the Aborigines would not be able to read it. Also, I would like honourable senators to hear-
– Who said that?
Senator Negus, the enlightened senator from Western Australia.
– What did he say?
– He said that they would not be able to read the Gazette if they had it. Surely the Attorney-General should be astute to uphold the principle that people who are about to feel the force of the law should be fully acquainted with what that law is. But no, the occupants of the embassy had no opportunity to get a copy of the Gazette. The Gazette said that copies of the Ordinance could be obtained by post from various places of which the addresses were not stated. Is this informing people of their rights?
– What do you call an address’?
Senator, have a look at the judgment.
– How do you define an address’?
– In any event—
– Come on! Support your argument.
– If you will read the judgment, senator-
– Come on!
– If you read the judgment and if you are capable of understanding it, you will find that the judges said that these people had no opportunity.
– Come on! Stay with your argument.
– They were not told where exactly they could get it.
– They only had to go to the Department.
– I know that this is a joke to Senator Rae.
– It is?
– It is a great joke to this upholder of the rule of the law. He does not really believe in the rule of law for Aborigines. Let us go a little further. This step was taken significantly when the Parliament was not Sitting in the hope that it would go unnoticed and that there would not be a protest from senators on this side and from members of the Labor Party generally. Let us consider the next step when the Government came undone, as it came undone yesterday. The Commonwealth Gazette gazetting the new Ordinance was published after midnight last night, bearing the date of the day before yesterday. The House opposite rose at 20 minutes to midnight. The Bills and Papers Office of that House was closed at 15 minutes to midnight. After midnight, the Gazette bearing the date of the day before yesterday was published. Nobody could obtain a copy of the Gazette. These are the people who would tell us that they are devoted to the rule of law. If we recall the statement that I have just read from Senator Greenwood’s protestations of his noble principles, we can see how far the Government of which he is a member and which presumably takes his advice on these matters departed from the noble principles that the enunciated on that and on several other occasions when he has been justifying himself. We claim - and we claim that we can prove our case up to the hilt - that the real vice-
Give me a chance, senator, and I will prove everything that I claim to be able to prove. We claim that the vice of this Bill which is before us tonight is that it has retrospective operation and that it makes acts criminal which were not criminal at the time when they were committed. We claim that this breaches a sacred principle of our system of law. We say that if the Attorney-General and those on the other side had any devotion to the rule of law they would make an exception of those who have already been charged under this law. At this stage, I wish to foreshadow an amendment that I will move during the Committee stage. I will moye, if honourable senators are interested in hearing it, the following amendment:
Page 2 after Clause 3, add the following new clause:
Nothing in this Act affects in any way the rights and liabilities in civil and criminal law of persons charged wilh offences arising out of incidents outside Parliament House, Canberra, on Thursday, 20th July 1972 and Sunday, 23rd July 1972-
I interpolate here to say that there was another incident on that date - where those charges or incidents arise out of or are related to the purported notification in the Gazette of 20th July 1972 of the Trespass on Commonweatlh Lands Ordinance 1972.
I point out that this is a very limited amendment and it seeks to establish the principle, to which we on this side are dedicated, that the people who have been charged with offences under laws which the courts of this land have said were not operative at the time should not have those charges proceeded with.
– All the laws that were not operative?
– No, not all the laws. We are not here gloating over the difficulties in which your ineptness has landed you. We admit that you are in a hole. We do not want to see you foundering in that hole. You have not the decency to admit that you have made a mess. We do not want to see you wallowing in that mess. If you had been listening closely you would have seen that our amendment is confined to those people who are the victims of this particular Ordinance.
– You wish to be selective for the benefit of your own friends.
– I take it that the principle that Senator Rae is espousing now is one of consistency. I would have thought that the lawyers opposite would have been a little more humble in the situation in which they find themselves. They are really not in a position to boast about their performance, are they? I wonder why Senator Rae did not notice this before the Full Bench of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory told him. Mr President. I notice the hour and I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Drake-Brockman) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 11 a.m.
Motion (by Senator Drake-Brockman) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Mr President, I wish to reply to the answer which you gave a few minutes ago to a question that I asked you this afternoon. I sought to make a statement when you had completed your reply, as I thought thatI had justification for making my attitude known, but there was not enough decency in the Government forces to permit me to have the freedom of speech which, we hoped, operated in this chamber. I was not granted leave to make a statement. Therefore I take the first opportunity available to me to comment upon your answer to my question. I do so not for the purpose of canvassing your judgment but in order to emphasise the importance of the position of the Chair when it is asked for a ruling.
If we study the ‘Australian Senate Practice’, written by a person whom we recognise as an authority on Senate procedures, we find that a lot of the operations of the Senate is the result of precedents that have been established. Of course, if what you said today, Mr President, in regard to your ruling last night is accepted without a challenge and remains a procedure of this place to be adopted whenever similar circumstances arise in the future, the proper course to take, if one is concerned about this, is to submit a motion to disagree with your ruling. I will not take that course today because I do not have sufficient facts about the question to support a motion of disagreement. But I do respectfully ask that consideration be given to the wording of the sessional order whereby the President must put - it is mandatory - the question ‘that the Senate do now adjourn’ at 10.30 each evening other than on those evenings when the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast.
We have to consider how much standing order 426 supersedes some decision of the Senate. Of course, this raises the question of whether standing orders supersede a decision of the Senate from time to time. Mr President, perhaps I could raise some doubts in your mind in regard to the matter on which you have ruled. Perhaps what I put forward could guide you on a future occasion when a question of this type arises. I wish to put forward 2 points. First, I want to give some consideration to the answer which you gave to my question and, secondly, I want to make some comments about what happened last evening. 1 want to determine whether a grave injustice is being inflicted upon a member of the Senate.
I believe that at the commencement of each session sessional orders are formulated and are adopted by decision of the Senate. One sessional order states that at 10.30 p.m. on non-broadcasting days the President shall put the question ‘That the Senate do now adjourn’. This sessional order precludes any other consideration and removes the matter from any standing order we have adopted.
The importance of this procedure is commented on by the Clerk of the Senate at page 130 of his book ‘Australian Senate Practice’. He wrote:
Until 1950 the procedure for adjourning the Senate was regulated solely by the provisions of the Standing Orders, except for a sessional order wilh respect to adjournment on Fridays. Following a disagreement between a minority Government party and the majority Opposition party in regard to sitting arrangements. . . . The Senate adopted, on 25th May 1950, a sessional order proposed by the Opposition fixing the time at which it shall be mandatory for the question for the adjournment of the Senate lo be put from the Chair.
In the Clerk’s opinion it is mandatory for the President to put from the Chair without a resolution the question ‘that the Senate do now adjourn’. Therefore this sessional order, which was adopted in 1950, supersedes other procedures. Mr President, you have placed your reliance on standing order 426 which states:
All Questions of Order and matters of Privilege
And I believe that a question of order arose last evening - which have arisen since the last sitting of the Senate, until decided, suspend the consideration and decision of every other question.
If we accept that the wording ‘of every other question’ includes something decided by the Senate as a whole under sessional orders obviously this is a correct decision. One would have thought, and one would be forgiven for thinking, that questions arise in this Senate, as outlined in the Standing Orders, in regard to a Bill, a motion or an amendment and not in regard to the taking of a point of order, an infringement or matter irrelevant to the question. A point of order could be that matter was irrelevant to the question and if it were irrelevant to a question obviously it would not be a question. But only by the interpretation that the word ‘question’ is a point of order was there justification for the ruling given last night.
I am not challenging your ruling, Mr President. I think for the time being we will leave it as it is. Therefore, without challenging your ruling I say that although you were justified, we should throw some doubts on it and ask that if this question should arise again more serious consideration be given to it. We have to consider whether we should follow the precedent that you have established this evening or again consider what is the true definition that should be given to the word ‘question’ in the Standing Orders and whether it should be extended to a notice or a question of order that arises during the course of a debate.
The other point I want to raise - and this is why I asked the question this morning - concerns Senator Georges. Last night he tried to raise a matter. The Senate decided that Senator Georges had made some imputations against the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). This action was challenged under standing order 418. I think that in giving your ruling, Mr President - and I would think you would be advised by the Clerk - you considered that Senator Georges’ words were an imputation against the Prime Minister and were a breach of standing order 418 and therefore you were justified in seeking a withdrawal.
– I do not think you can make that assumption.
– Well, at least there was a request for a withdrawal. A point of order was taken and upheld insofar as you, Mr President, asked for a withdrawal. Today I talked with someone - and 1 do not want to relate a private conversation - who, I think, would be accepted by the Senate as an authority on Standing Orders. He acknowledged the right and the duty of an Opposition to condemn a Government in power. He said that it was one of an Opposition’s rights and possibly it was a duty. Therefore, any reference to Mr McMahon, as the right honourable member for Lowe, which implied improper motives would be a breach of standing order 418, would be disorderly and would have to be withdrawn. However, if it were a condemnation of the Prime Minister, not as a member of the House but as part of the Government - the Administration - which we have a right and responsibility to condemn if we think we are justified in condemning it, that would not be a breach of the standing order. When an honourable senator condemns the Prime Minister he is not condemning Mr McMahon as such, nor is he condemning the right honourable member for Lowe as such; he is condemning the head of an institution which we have a right to condemn. I have no right to condemn Senator Wright, a senator from Tasmania, but 1 have a perfect right to condemn the Minister for Works for his handling of the Department of Works. I do not say this as a reflection on the honourable senator.
I tried to deal with this question on a high level when discussing it with Senator
Rae last night because I am anxious to have an interpretation of the standing order. Only by cases being decided do we know what the Standing Orders mean. We cannot give a literal meaning to the wording of a standing order. We find in Mr Odgers ‘Australian Senate Practice’ that we must be guided by precedent and decisions made in previous cases. There must be some doubt whether the request last night that Senator Georges should withdraw a statement was a justifiable request. Accepting that the request was justified and that the honourable senator was in breach of standing order 418, the length of the argument which ensued on the meaning of standing order 418 deprived the honourable senator of his right to speak in the Budget debate.
I suggested at 10.30 last night that you, Mr President, should put the question That the Senate do now adjourn’, but your ruling was that the question would not be put until we had decided what you thought was the issue at that time. The question was not deferred until we had finished the Budget debate, in which we had been engaged, but until we had resolved a point of order. That subject was discussed for 25 minutes and Senator Georges did not participate further in the Budget debate. Because of the 25 minutes occupied in discussing the point of order, the time permitted to Senator Georges under the Standing Orders has expired. I raised this matter with the Clerk of the Senate today and he said: ‘Yes, but there is justification for that. If the President had adjourned the Senate at 10.30 last night, when you came back today you still would have raised this point and 25 minutes of Senator George’s time would have been taken up on it today.’ I suppose that is a proper interpretation of the Standing Orders. Nevertheless, the situation is clouded with doubt. It is not my desire to humiliate someone or to suggest that someone was wrong, but I do ask for deep consideration of the Standing Order and, possibly, further consideration of it by tha Standing Orders Committee. If there is any ambiguity it may be possible to remove that ambiguity by altering the wording of the Standing Order.
Before all the confusion occurred Senator Georges had been proceeding with his speech on the Budget and had reached the stage where a remark that he made was considered to be objectionable to the Senate. I hope that he has now passed that point in his remarks. He has a story to tell on the Budget, but because someone wanted to raise a point of order and wanted to delay Senator Georges in making his remarks by asking for a proper interpretation of the Standing Orders, or perhaps was confused about the Standing Orders, the honourable senator has been deprived of his time to speak on the Budget. If there is any feeling that the honourable senator has suffered an injustice, the only way to rectify the situation is by granting an extension of time to the honourable senator when the debate on the Budget resumes. In view of the matters that I have put before the Senate tonight I hope that there will be sufficient honesty and sense of justice in the Government to give sympathetic and generous consideration to my suggestion that Senator Georges be permitted to continue his remarks in the Budget debate.
– Tt will be remembered that Senator McAuIiffe in the adjournment debate on 15th August raised some criticism of the Hotel Kurrajong and advanced some suggestions for improvement in this utility. I told him that I would refer the matter and that after I had received advice from the Department I would respond to his suggestions. I want briefly to indicate that the history of the Kurrajong goes back to 1926, when four 2-storey accommodation pavilions were erected, together with the necessary kitchen amenities and staff accommodation. Four further pavilions were added in 1936. At that time the Hotel Kurrajong was regarded as comparing more than favourably with other accommodation in Canberra. The purpose of this establishment was specifically to provide accommodation for members of Parliament, their wives and staff. At that time conditions gave members little option but to stay there, as honourable senators will recall, but different circumstances which have developed since 1950 have given members a much wider choice of accommodation, as is well known to us.
During the 1950s it was thought that the Hotel Kurrajong had few competitors, but the present position is that other accommodation houses have grown in Canberra and there are many competitors. The company incurs deficits, despite the fact that it has expended more than $500,000 progressively on improvement to modernise the hotel. Centra] heating, wall to wall carpeting of rooms and corridors, en-suite shower and toilet facilities in more than 100 guest rooms, installation of telephones in rooms, air-conditioning of dining room and the refurnishing of the main lounge room are the improvements that I refer to. But they have failed to arrest the drift from the hotel by the beneficiaries for whom it was intended - members of Parliament and their wives. For example, members and their staffs used the hotel for a total of 12,410 accommodation days in 1961-62 and for a total of only 6,200 accommodation days in 1969-70. In that period the patronage dropped by half.
I do not wish to detain the Senate long tonight, but I make the comment that Senator McAuliffe’s suggestions are very appropriate, if the hotel is regarded as a tourist trade unit; but that is not the conception of its function or purpose. What is to be the future use of this establishment? That is the critical decision to be made. Is it to remain a special accommodation centre offering certain advantages for parliamentarians? Is it to be put to other possible government uses? Is it to serve the dual purpose of providing accommodation without special privileges or advantages to parliamentarians? This, of course, would involve booking-in in competition with the general public every time we arrive here, and there would be no concessions such as those given now of allowing one’s wardrobe to remain in his suite over the weekend.
I have mentioned those matters so that they will provoke some interest. I hope that Senator McAuliffe will give the responsible authority at the Kurrajong Hotel the full advantage of his experience. The Minister has arranged for a pilot survey to be put in hand immediately to provide preliminary answers to the questions I have posed. A decision on whether to engage a consultant will be made after the pilot survey is concluded.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.21 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
By way of preface, the Commonwealth Statistician has advised that only a limited amount of the information requested is available from statistics collected by the Bureau of Census and Statistics.
Some information on the degree of overseas participation in Australian industry is available in studies relating to the manufacturing industry and the mining industry the most recent of which refer to years 1966-67 and 1968, respectively. These results are contained in 3 statistical bulletins (ref. nos 12.19, 12.20 and 10.42) copies of which are available in the Parliamentary Library. I have also arranged for the Statistician to send copies of these publications to the Honourable Senator. Information on the degree of foreign ownership and control of Australian industry is also discussed on pages 21 to 27 and 138 to 140 of the Treasury Economic Paper No. 1 ‘Overseas Investment in Australia’ which was tabled in the House of Representatives on 16th May 1972 by the Treasurer.
Statistics of the annual inflow of direct overseas investment in Australian companies, classified by industry, an analysis of the capital structure of Australian subsidiaries of overseas companies, and information on the net liabilities of Australian branches of overseas companies to their head offices are contained in the ‘Annual
Bulletin of Overseas Investment’ (ref. no. 5.20). The latest Bulletin, for 1969-70, is available from the Parliamentary Library and the bulletin for 1970-71 is expected to be published shortly. A copy of the 1969-70 bulletin has been sent to the Honourable Senator. Information on the industry of overseas investment is also considered on pages 20 to 21 of the Treasury Economic Paper.
No statistics are compiled by the Statistician in respect of the value of all assets owned in Australia by the companies in question, nor is the Statistician able, under the Census and Statistics Act, to disclose any details in respect of individual companies.
Information in respect of manufacturing industry is, however, contained in the publication of the Department of Trade and Industry entitled Directory of Overseas Investment in Australian Manufacturing Industry 1971’. A copy of that publication is available in the Parliamentary Library and a copy has been sent to the Honourable Senator.
to (5) Specific information on these matters is not available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Senator WRIGHT- The Minister for Foreign Affairs has furnished the following reply:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
How many private school enrolments were there for the year 1971-72 in the State of New South Wales.
Senator WRIGHT- The Minister for Education and Science has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Details of private school enrolments as at August 1971 are available in the bulletin ‘Schools: 1971 Reference No. 13.5 published by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. Figures as at August 1972 will be published by the Bureau towards the end of the year.
asked the Minister representing the Post master-General, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD- The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s ques tion:
Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
(Question No. 2291)
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes, the papers may be published by the authors: some in fact have been.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Senator WRIGHT- The Minister for Foreign Affairs has furnished the following reply:
Note: Of the Charges d’Affaires above four, including one woman, are acting pending the arrival of Heads of Mission.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Is it a fact that the Prime Minister of Singapore disclosed that certain pro-Communist students were being sent to Australia for tertiary education; if so, what notice is given to the Australian Government that a student in the above category is to come to Australia and how many such students have either been in, or are at present in Australia?
Senator WRIGHT- -The Minister for Foreign Affairs has furnished the following reply:
In a television interview screened in Australia on 6th July, Prime Minister Lee referred to his government’s policy of sending communist students abroad for overseas studies, saying inter alia, ‘the communists whom we have dispersed to universities, many of them on scholarships to universities in Canada, Australia and even New Zealand, have come back and they have become fairly middle-class and comfortable.’ The Singapore Government acquainted the Australian Government, in August last year, with the emergence of its policy of rehabilitating former communists through overseas study. This was conveyed to the Australian Government in connection with a special request to accept the first such person who it was proposed should come to Australia. That student was subsequently admitted to Australia, on a scholarship granted by the Singapore Government, his status in Australia being that of a private student. The Singapore Government has not subsequently sought entry to Australia for any further such people.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD- The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The following conditions apply to privately operated recorded information services.
Once established, the service is to be maintained satisfactorily and a reasonable transmission level is to be provided at all times. The applicant should lest call the service at least twice daily.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 September 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1972/19720913_senate_27_s53/>.