27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. able Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– L give notice that 6 sitting days after today I shall move:
That the Honey Industry (Election of Board) Regulations as contained in Statutory Rules 1972, No. 136. and made under the Honey Industry Act 1962-1972, be disallowed.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether the Government has taken any interest in the happenings in the Philippines. If so. is it possible to make a statement to the Senate? In that statement will the Minister give any information on the position of Senator Benigno Aquino who would have been the chief contender for the presidency when that election was held?
– Yes, of course the Government has been following closely the recent events in the Philippines. The question in relation to making a statement I shall refer to the Minister for his personal decision. I have taken note of the particular point to which the honourable senator referred.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to forecasts that the price of woollen goods will rise substantially because of the increase in wool prices. I ask the Minister whether the price of woollen goods was reduced when wool prices fell to disastrous levels.
– I do not recall seeing the price of woollen goods reduced for some years now. Even when the price of wool has been at its lowest level, because the cost of preparing the material - be it a suit, frock or something like that - and because wages and other costs have gone up, the cost of the completed garment had to be increased. To me it seems rather strange at this time to see statements about increased prices when one realises that the garments which are now on display m shops for sale - such as suits and frocks - were apparently manufactured from wool which was purchased some time last year. Honourable senators will recall that between July and December 1971 wool growers received for their wool some of the lowest prices in the history of the industry, in fact, the Government had to introduce a scheme to give assistance to the wool industry and particularly to growers who received prices Jess than the average Australian price of 35c per lb. ft seems extraordinary that manufacturers or people selling woollen goods in shops now can claim that the price of wool has forced them to raise the price of their goods when those goods were manufactured from wool which attracted the lowest price in the history of the raw product.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the prime responsibility of lie Commonwealth Government to expand the tourist industry will the Minister - consider whether the Commonwealth Government should pay the same ratio towards meeting the costs of the proposed Lord Howe Island airport as was originally promised when the project was first mooted?
Sentor COTTON - 1 am quite familiar with the Lord Howe Island airport situation. 1 would be quite happy to get some papers together early next week for the honourable senator to have a look at. If may well be that he is proceeding on the basis of information which is not quite correct and that the situation is not quite what he thinks it is. The Commonwealth Government has been most co-operative in this respect. 1 think it has been more than reasonable and mme than prepared to help. If the honourable senator does not mind, I will have a talk with him about this matter early next week.
– I direct a question io the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware that a large emporium in Adelaide which has stores in other capital cities in Australia increased the price of Australian produced woollen blankets by approximately $4 last week on the ground that the price of wool had gone up? As the steep rise in the price of wool took place only a few days before, is that not a glaring example of a large store taking advantage of a situation, particularly as it did not reduce the price of woollen blankets and other woollen goods when wool prices were terribly depressed last year?
– This is the same sort of thing as I was talking about in answer to Senator Sim’s question earlier, but it goes even further in this instance. The Australian Wool Board has a wool promotion programme under which it spends a great deal of money on promotion campaigns in stores throughout Australia. I deplore the practice of some stores saying that, because wool prices rose a few days earlier, the price of a woollen product that was probably manufactured from wool that was purchased in 1971 when wool prices were at their lowest in history has gone up by $4.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasure!. Is the Minister aware that in many countries a great number of people save coins - I do not mean 10c and 20c pieces; I mean larger coins - and that the people who do save newly minted coins outlay a great deal of money for coins that are immediately removed from circulation? Is he aware that in Canada a one dollar piece is struck each year but that on special occasions a silver dollar is minted and sold at a premium? Has the Government considered this possibility and thought of how popular its coins could become and how they could be used at places like the Hobart Casino?
– Order! Ask your question and do not give information, Senator Townley.
– I thought that we could have a special coin each election year with the effigy of the successful Prime Minister on the back?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON I must confess , I suppose it is because of my Scottish ancestry , that I was not aware of all the circumstances of the preservation of coins that the honourable senator has brought out in his question. I would like to get some background information on this matter. Therefore I will refer the honourable senators question to the attention of the Treasurer. If an effigy of the successful Prime Minister were to be put on such a coin the present Prime Minister would be on it for many years to come.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Australian Government received any confirmation of reports which were issued this morning that France intends to resume nuclear testing in the Pacific area later this year? What action is proposed by the Government? In an attempt to resist such tests does it, intend to take any joint action with countries in the Pacific area which are now greatly concerned about the French action?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am not in a position at this moment to respond to the question. Possibly I will be able to obtain some information during question time because I have my brief with me. With your concurrence, Mr President, I will respond to the question in a few moments.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to a recently reported statement by Mr Marko Magaric of Footscray, the editor and manager of the Croatian newspaper Osyit that he has been threatened with death for publishing an expose of the so-called antiUstasha campaigner, one Jurevic? Is it a fact that the Supreme Court of Victoria recently refused to grant the said Jurevic an injunction to prohibit Magaric from publishing a 3-part article which described the said Jurevic as a ‘liar, imposter, bigamist and fraud’? Is it a fact that complaints have been made to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department that 4 of Magaric’s advertisers also have been threatened with death unless they withdraw their advertising from his Croatian newspaper? Is it a fact that one such advertiser,
Mr Dusin Franac. claims that the threat made to him possibly was made by a member of Tito’s UDBA, the Yugoslav secret police, known to be operating in Australia? Can the Attorney-General assure the Senate that adequate protection will be given to ordinary non-political Croatian migrants who refuse to bow to threats from Tito’s secret police, its agents or anyone else?
– I will reply to the last part of the honourable senator’s question first. The Commonwealth Government and all State governments accept as a primary obligation the protection of the lives and properties of the citizens for whom the police forces for which those governments have responsibility must take care. To the extent that the police forces of this country are able to protect people, they do so. But as I have said on many occasions, in an area where clandestine activities are taking place what the police need most of all is information which will enable them to have their enforcement activities carried out properly. As to the other matters raised by the honourable senator, I have seen Press reports to the effect that this gentleman who has been attacking Mr Jurevic in his paper claims that he has been threatened with death. It is a fact that there was a refusal by a court to grant an injunction which was sought by Mr Jurevic, as I understand it, along the lines that Senator Hannan has mentioned. I am unable to say whether conplaints have been made to my Department of the character which the honourable senator has mentioned. But I do say that there have been many complaints of that general character made by a number of people who are apprehensive about what has been happening amongst certain members of the Yugoslav community. I can assure the honourable senator that it is a matter in which all allegations that are made are investigated because it is believed that this type of allegation requires investigation in case facts can be established which will lead to an unravelling of many complex problems.
- Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, do you now wish to respond to Senator Bishop’s question in regard to French nuclear tests?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONYes, I should like to respond to Senator Bishop’s question now. The brief that I have is dated 10th October 1972. The Government expects the French Government will continue with its plans to develop a thermonuclear warhead for its missile force. These plans could include the atmospheric explosion of a thermonuclear device in the Pacific. The Government is seeking information on the position. The Australian Government would oppose strongly further testing. This year the Government has continued actively to oppose atmospheric nuclear testing in the Pacific, particularly by mobilising international opinion against the French testing programme. At present Australia is, with New Zealand and other Pacific countries, acting at the United Nations in New York to prove the extent of international opposition to nuclear weapons testing, especially in the Pacific area. Consideration is already being given by interested departments to the implications for Australia of the explosion of a high yield thermonuclear device in the atmosphere over the Pacific, possibly as early as 1973. This consideration includes an examination of any courses which might be open to the Government in anticipation, or as a result, of such an explosion.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service institute an examination of the methods employed by mining companies in northern Australia to ascertain whether the type of accent in an applicant’s speech determines his prospect of employment?
– I know of no circumstances that would warrant my saying that a particular examination should be made of that matter. The Department is constantly informed of the circumstances of industrial relations in mining areas and if any irregularity or injustice is created in regard to conditions of employment the Department obviously takes notice of it as a matter of its ordinary duty. Unless there were special circumstances that the honourable senator advanced I would not think, on my present information, that any inquiry was warranted.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for National Development aware that only 2 cultured pearl farms now exist in the Torres Strait area because of the apparent damage caused by detergents used in the area at the time of the grounding of the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ on 3rd March 1970? What action has the Government planned to cope with oil spills that may occur in future? Is there available any type of oil dispersant that will not damage marine life?
– I am aware to some extent of the circumstances of the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’.
– Two culture farms left out of 8.
– Yes, I know. The honourable senator has told me that and I am interested in the information. I saw the Oceanic Grandeur’ when it was stranded on the reef on that occasion. I do not know what dispersants or detergents were used on that occasion, but I think this is one circumstance in which the honourable senator would expect me to get precise information for him. I shall direct the question to the Department at the close of question time.
– My question is to the Minister for Health. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a report that last May the New South Wales Government appealed to the Commonwealth for urgent financial assistance in order to meet the mounting deficiencies in the New South Wales hospital system? Is this report correct? Will the Minister agree that there is a serious dearth of public hospital facilities in the outer metropolitan areas of Sydney and that it has not been possible to meet the adequate hospital needs of Sydney because of the inadequacy of Commonwealth funds allocated to New South Wales? What action, if any, has the Minister taken in consideration of the New South Wales Government’s request?
– I cannot with precision refer to an alleged statement by the honourable senator about some representation that was made. I would not challenge that a representation was made because that is the sort of request that comes from all States under all heads of administration where the Commonwealth and States are in collaboration. I do know that in June of this year there was one of the traditional Premiers Conference and Loan Council gatherings and that on such occasions all these matters are dealt with. At these meetings every State raises issues in relation to all heads of expenditure. I would have no doubt that an arrangement was entered into between New South Wales and the Commonwealth, that New South Wales received additional finance and that hospital capital works would have been a feature in the allocation. There would not be any doubt about that, because that is the normal procedure, and it would not be unique to this year.
The distribution of hospital beds in New South Wales is quite clearly a State matter. My understanding is that there may well be a maldistribution of hospital centres in the metropolis but, there again, that is a State matter. In some parts of the metropolis there is a need for further development in hospital programmes and, as I understand the position, in other areas there may well be hospitals which are not being used to their optimum level. I repeat, because I would not like to think that any politics were involved in the question put to me, that that is clearly a State matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Air in his capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. It has relevance to the question asked earlier by Senator Young who drew attention to a situation in, I think, Adelaide where advantage appeared to be taken of the current substantial increase in wool prices. In all the circumstances, would it not be proper and appropriate, for the protection of the good name of those organisations which have not resorted to this practice and for the protection of the public at large, for the name of the organisation concerned to be mentioned?
- Senator Devitt has asked me to give the name of the organisation. I do not know it. Senator Young referred to a particular shop in Adelaide. Senator Devitt will have to ask Senator Young for the name.
– Is the Minister for Air able to say whether any Royal Australian Air Force personnel from Richmond in New South Wales were involved in refurbishing aircraft purchased from Trans-Australia Airlines by the Jetair organisation subsequent to the purchase of those aircraft? Will the Minister make inquiries to ascertain whether any Service personnel were engaged at any time on such TAA aircraft?
– I would not know at this time. The honourable senator has asked me to do a great deal of investigation in the Department. I am quite willing to see whether it can be done. If it can be done, I will furnish the honourable senator with as much information as I can obtain.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Air, arises from answers given to previous questions concerning the unwarranted price rises in respect of manufactured woollen goods. Does not this obvious exploitation of the buying public by private enterprise fully justify the Australian Labor Party’s policy for the setting up of a prices justification tribunal?
– Order! I do not think the Minister for Air can answer that.
– I just say no.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. In view of the many complaints received by the Postmaster-General and some members of this chamber from subscribers who doubt the accuracy of their telephone accounts, will the Minister take whatever action he can urgently to start the installation of some type of automatic billing system for telephone accounts so that the details of all subscriber trunk dialling charges ase supplied to subscribers? Is he aware that early attention to this matter is desirable, because no doubt any modifications will take a fair deal of time to carry out?
– I think I responded yesterday to a question of similar import. The Postmaster-General or the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs has recently indicated that the complaints made are not of the prevalence which has been alleged by those who appear to want to cast some doubt on the efficiency of the system. That complaints do occur is unquestioned and that there have been errors is undoubted. I will convey the honourable senator’s suggestion to the PostmasterGeneral for his consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Would the issue of passports by a person or persons or an organisation in Australia other than the appropriate department be a breach of Commonwealth law? If the Minister agrees that such conduct is a breach of Commonwealth law, what action has been taken against the person whom I have cited in correspondence to the Attorney-General, which person is said to be the person from whom such passports are available? j
– I am unable to answer the particular matter which the honourable senator has raised. I would assume that the issue of forged passports would be an offence against law. I ask the honourable senator to put his question on notice, and I will have the matter investigated.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that the infant mortality rate among Australian Aborigines is far and away the highest infant mortality rate in the world? Is it also a fact that it is becoming even worse? Will the Minister tell the Senate the reason for this set of circumstances which is becoming an international scandal what has been done about it and what is proposed to bc done about it?
The infant mortality rate goes up and down. There has been a cycle.
– It is mostly up.
I am answering the question, and I do not need any help from the gods. I do not think Senator Keeffe would understand what I mean when I say ‘the gods’. That is another story.
– He is not in the front stalls.
– No he is not in the front stalls. As I indicated in response to a question earlier this week, in the Northern Territory there has been a departmental reorganisation of health facilities. As from July the Department of Health per se has been giving a much more direct coverage of health facilities in the Territory. There has been a variation in health, particularly in relation to Aborigines. I do not agree with Senator Murphy that the infant mortality rate among Aborigines is rising again. My understanding, subject to correction, is that it is in the down cycle. In early September I issued a Press statement in which I indicated that the Department was embarking upon a special immunisation campaign. I think it was completed in September in the Centre and in a large area south of Elliott. Mortality rates among Aborigines indicate that approximately 40 per cent of deaths occur in the first year of life. That figure is considerably higher than the total Australian figure. The main causes of infant deaths are premature birth, gastro-enteritis and respiratory infections.
This is a serious matter and I do not walk away from that fact. Big efforts are being made in relation to this matter by my Department. As is known, early in the life of my responsibility for this portfolio, I visited the Centre, A motel was purchased in Alice Springs so that we could achieve separation from the hospital. One of the problems that we discovered was that Aboriginal kiddies who had entered the hospital faced the danger of infection to themselves from other sick cases during the convalescent period. When they recovered sufficiently to return to their natural environment with their parents, very often it was difficult to be satisfied that they could return with a reasonable expectation of maintaining their recovery.
As a result of the acquisition of this motel, we are able to hold these children longer in the Alice Springs area. The motel has been converted for this purpose. When these children return to their settlements or, very often, to their tribal communities, there is a better chance that what we have been able to do for them in hospital will stay with them. Under the new arrangements with the settlements themselves, the Department of Health will move, as it has already moved, certain nurses into these areas. Quite a critical redevelopment of nursing care in the various settlements will occur. As I said yesterday, in these areas we may be able to work harder on the principle of prevention being better than cure.
– Is it a fact that last Monday week the Minister for Works telephoned officials of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Tasmania and demanded to appear on the current affairs programme “This Day Tonight’? Is it a fact that, after an initial refusal from one official, the Minister’s demands were met and that he did appear on the programme that night in a segment related to the Jetair issue? Is it a fact also that the Minister contacted officers of the ABC, including the General Manager of the ABC. Mr Talbot Duckmanton, to complain about that segment not being used in the mainland States?
– I appeared on ‘This Day Tonight’ in Canberra on last Thursday week by invitation, in the presence of a representative of the Australian Labor Party. The subject was Jetair. I stipulated that that appearance would be on the basis that any criticism of the transaction that was to come on the programme should be made known to me. I thought that it wholly was. When it came, I criticised it. The following night, ‘This Day Tonight’ in Canberra saw fit to expose a session on the same subject without any notice and without any answer or opportunity for criticism. I saw it at my home on Monday night. I waited until Tuesday morning and communicated with the producer of ‘This Day Tonight’ in Hobart.
As Senator O’Byrne refers to officials, it should be known that this man was a Labor candidate in the Tasmanian State election last year and, following that campaign, was reinstated as the producer of this current affairs programme in Tasmania. This reinstatement led to the resignation of 4 other officers who thought that the integrity of the programme was being impugned by the appointment as producer of a publicly avowed political representative. I make no animadversion against the producer. I did not understand him to refuse my request to give an answer to the programme which had been produced ex parte. My request was referred then to the manager in the presence of the producer who said that of course I would be readily given that opportunity. That was supplemented by a request that the same opportunity should be given outside Tasmania to refute that matter. That was the subject of the communication with the General Manager of the ABC. That is where the story can rest for the moment; but it is not resting there.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry and follows one asked earlier today. I ask the Minister whether he will ascertain the name of the firm in Adelaide which has in fact increased the price of blankets consequent upon the increase in wool prices and advise the Senate of the name of that firm?
– I will endeavour to do so.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate as the representative of the Prime Minister. Bearing in mind that country meatworks provide a logical decentralisation of industry, does the Commonwealth provide financial assistance for the extension and upgrading of abattoirs to meet the standards requirements of export meat markets such as the active American market? If not, will the Minister endeavour to have such financial assistance measures incorporated in future decentralisation of industry planning?
I am inclined to think that this question might be better directed initially to the
Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I think we are all aware of health and handling requirements that have been imposed on certain abattoirs to make them eligible to export to the American market. I have become aware of certain areas in which improvements have been carried out and of abbattoirs which were put under an embargo but have had that embargo lifted as a result of improvements made to their establishments. The suggestion now being made is that, in this area of decentralisation, governments - and that means the taxpayers of course - should be called upon to make facilities available for some organisations, particularly in private enterprise, to bring their abattoirs to a certain standard. This would have to be looked at fairly critically, particularly since that while we all recognise that it is desirable to secure overseas markets for primary products, the basis from which a start should be made in a free enterprise economy is that the establishments themselves have an obligation to look to their own capital resources and to do their own development in order to attract trade. I will refer the question. I should think that after it is referred to the Prime Minister’s Department, it will be forwarded to the Department of Primary Industry. Still, I will refer it in the first place.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the cablegram from our Ambassador in Cambodia dated 19th January 1971 in which he complained of memorandum No. 537 dated 27th December from the Department of Foreign Affairs which asked the Ambassador for a firm shopping list covering expenditure of $190,000 at a time when consideration was being given to spending $190,000 on aircraft belonging to Jetair Australia Ltd. Will the Minister accept memorandum No. 537 as having a relevance to Jetair and included in the papers concerning Jetair which have already been tabled? As it is a confidential document, could it be made available for perusal by the Leader of the Opposition so that he may see the shopping list that the Departmen was asking for?
– In order to gain some understanding of the rather involved question of the honourable senator it is needful for the Senate to know that the honourable senator requested production of this document that he refers to, a communication from the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Australian Ambassador in Cambodia. I informed him that the communication was not relevant to the Jetair transaction, that it was on another file and that in any case it was confidential. That answer is valid. 1 will give some consideration to the suggestion that it be made available for the perusal of the Leader of the Opposition, as was the situation in regard to any other documents relevant to Jetair that were considered confidential.
– My question, directed to the Minister for Health, is supplementary to that asked previously by Senator Murphy. Is the Minister aware that poor health and malnutrition exist widely in Queensland among Aboriginal children in fringe areas and on Government reserves? Are Commonwealth funds made available to alleviate the situation or is it the sole responsibility of the Queensland Government?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe health services in a State would be the responsibility of that State subject always, of course, to the eligibility of the person concerned to be in a fund or to receive benefits from a fund, whether it be a hospital fund or a medical fund. In Queensland, unlike most States, there are different arrangements. I understand that in Queensland hospitalisation is free. In the generality, responsibility for the care and treatment of Aborigines in a State would be the responsibility of the State. I am aware that the Aboriginal population of Queensland is much greater than that of any other region, apart from the central Australia area. Of course it is competent for any State to make representations to the Commonwealth, under the guidelines which we all know about, for special grants or special aid if there are problems which the State considers go beyond its constitutional capabilities or perimeter.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. In answering the question put to him by the Leader of the Opposition the Minister stated that gastroenteritis was a major cause of infant mortality among Aborigines. Can the Minister say whether this disease is more prevalent in the warmer areas of Australia in which the majority of Aborigines live? Can he say whether the incidence of infant mortality among Europeans also is higher in such areas compared with other places in Australia which experience a more temperate climate?
During the time that I have administered the Health portfolio I have always been very careful about expressing medical opinions. I am Minister for Health in the administrative sense and 1 am very aware of the impropriety of giving judgments without reference to my medical advisers. All I can say to the honourable senator is that I will get a precise answer and will put it down. I have always had an understanding of the situation as was mentioned by the honourable senator but I must not be taken as saying that in categorical terms because it would be improper to do so. I certainly will gat a proper answer from my medical advisers on the suggestion put by the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the figures shown in the annual report of the Department of Civil Aviation relating to chartered flight loadings between Yugoslavia and Australia, does the Minister visualise Qantas Airways Ltd making Belgrade a permanent stopping place? Conversely, is the Yugoslav National Airline, JAT, renewing negotiations for a direct service to Australia?
– In negotiations between one country and another we have the bilateral air arrangement situation. We have this arrangement between Yugoslavia and Australia. It gives both of us reciprocal rights in each other’s country. In Yugoslavia the arrangement is largely based on the carriage of migrants to this country. I do not want to comment beyond that point except to say that it is quite important to be accurate in this matter. I need to obtain from Qantas Airways Ltd its future plans before I can give the honourable senator the full details.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: In view of the serious drought prevailing in the highland area of New Guinea and coinciding with the delicate negotiations for independence, will the Minister indicate what measures are being taken by the Australian Government to assist the Government of Papua New Guinea in alleviating this most unfortunate situation?
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories to answer that question.
– As I represent the Minister for External Territories in this chamber I have been provided with information that about 30,000 people have been affected by this drought. It may be that that number will grow to 100,000 or even more. The Sydney office of the Department of External Territories has already dispatched 325 tons of rice, 330 tons of wheatmeal flour, 21,000 cases of tinned meat, 15,600 tins of meat, 30 tons of salt, 20 tons of seed potatoes, smaller quantities of corn, maize and assorted vegetable seeds and 8 million ascorbic acid tablets. All these supplies are additional to the normal store requirements of the Papua New Guinea Administration. Commonwealth officials are working closely with Territory officials to ensure that there is effective communication and co-ordination of requests between the authorities.
– I ask the
Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he has yet made a decision in relation to the request from Senator Willesee for the tabling of Department of Civil Aviation and Auditor-General files in the Jetair matter? Has the Minister consulted with the Prime Minister about tabling these documents?
Every question asked of me which is not directly within my personal responsibility is processed and sent, as normal procedures provide, to the relevant department. Without having to check I am quite certain that that would have been done in the normal way ki relation to this matter as it is in relation to every other question. Indeed, that will happen to questions asked this morning which have been put on notice.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. I realise that this matter has been raised today but I want to draw attention to it again. Is the Minister aware that over the past 12 months many people have complained that their telephone accounts for local calls have increased to 3 or 4 times the amount paid by them for years? Is the Minister aware that these increases have occurred only since new computer equipment has been installed by the Postmaster-General’s Department? Does he know that some people in private homes are being charged for up to 28 local calls a day 7 days a week as against their previous average of 4 telephone calls a day? Are people expected to accept and pay an account when they know full well that they are being charged for telephone calls which were never made? Will the Minister advise what further action a private citizen can take after written appeals to the PostmasterGeneral and his Department have failed to produce relief?
– I have indicated that these matters will be referred to the Postmaster-General for his considered opinion. I think the honourable senator is unfair in some of the accusations which he makes. While it is true that over recent years there has been an increasing use of computers and electronic equipment as a means of ascertaining costs and charges, also in recent times there has been an increase in telephone charges. In terms of the total which a person may have to pay, I think it is incorrect to attribute the reason for any increase to one cause alone. Neither I nor the PostmasterGeneral can say whether the particular telephone charges are in fact overcharges. Allegations are frequently made on that score which, when they are checked out, prove to have no basis. But on other occasions, as has been conceded, errors have been made and corrected. These are all matters for the Postmaster-General. I shall refer the honourable senator’s question to his attention.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, arises from the answer he has just given to the Senate concerning emergency food supplies for Papua New Guinea. In view of the over production of eggs in Australia, why were eggs and egg products not included in the supplies which were sent to Papua New Guinea? Will he give an undertaking to give some consideration to the forwarding of eggs and egg products to Papua New Guinea?
– I am without information as to the availability of eggs and egg products in Papua New Guinea at the present time, but I will most willingly refer the honourable senator’s suggestion to the attention of the Minister for External Territories so that consideration can be given to the inclusion of these foods in any further shipment.
– Pursuant to section 9 of the Medical Research Endowment Act 1937, I present the annual report on work done under the Act during the year ended 31st December 1971.
– Pursuant to section 23 of the Australian War Memorial Act 1962- 1966, I present the annual report of the Board of Trustees of the Australian War Memorial for the year ended 30th June 1972, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Australian Tourist Commission Act 1967, I present the 5th annual report of the Australian Tourist Commission for the year ended 30th June 1972, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 18 of the Tariff Board Act 1921- 1972, I present the annual report of the Tariff Board for the year ended 30th June 1972. The report is accompanied by an annexure which summarises the recommendations made by the Board and shows the action taken in respect of each of them.
– I present the following paper:
Annual report of Qantas Airways Ltd for the year ended 31st March 1972, together with financial statements and the report of the AuditorGeneral on those statements.
I seek leave to make a statement concerning the report.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Mr President, the annual report of Qantas Airways Ltd for the year ended 31st March 1972 shows that the company’s operations for that year resulted in a net loss of nearly $6m, compared with a net profit of over $5m in the previous year. Such a disappointing result has been predicted for some time, and has been the basis of much speculation and comment both in the Parliament and elsewhere. It would be appropriate, therefore, for me to comment on the 1971-72 operations and to mention the steps that have been taken to improve matters and how these are faring.
Mr President, neither the Government nor the Board and management of Qantas have taken lightly the downturn in the company’s fortunes. However, we must keep this matter in proper perspective, because to do otherwise could lead to inept judgments and hasty actions, with the possibility of adverse effects on the situation. Let me first summarise a few of the Qantas achievements over the past 10 years, some details of which are shown on pages 42 and 43 of the annual report. In that period -
A very important factor to be remembered when considering the Qantas results for 1971-72 is that they are a reflection of the current serious financial state of the international airline industry. Since 1969 the international airlines generally have suffered a sharp decline in profitability, culminating in 2 economically disastrous years in 1970 and 1971 and involving a number of airlines in heavy operating deficits. Major and well-established airlines throughout the world have not been immune from the adverse economic consequences that have beset the industry, and reports of the 1971-72 results of a number of these airlines show losses, or reductions in profitability, greatly in excess of the reversal experienced by Qantas.
The significant factors producing the adverse trends in international airline profitability included a marked decline in traffic growth on the world’s air routes, steeply rising operating costs aggravated by severe inflationary trends, an economic downturn in some of the important traffic generating countries, proliferation of low-yielding promotional fares by scheduled carriers without a sufficiently compensating increase in traffic and increased capacity in the major traffic markets resulting from the introduction by airlines of high capacity aircraft such as the Boeing 747. The scheduled airlines have also suffered a considerable and increasing loss of traffic to low-fare charter services that have developed significantly in the major traffic markets over recent years. I will refer to this aspect of competition between scheduled carriers and charters again later in this statement.
The company’s annual report describes in detail the particular factors which affected the Qantas financial position adversely last year. It refers to such significant problems as the unprecedented increases in salary, wage, superannuation and aircraft insurance costs, the curtailment by the Commonwealth of the migrant intake, the increasing competitive impact of additional European airline services on the Kangaroo Route, the non-scheduled charter carrier competition offering low fares between Europe and South East Asia, the introduction of lower international mail carriage rates, and the fall in the rate of traffic growth on the South Pacific route following a general economic downturn, especially in the United States. None of these events could be avoided, either by Qantas or by the Government, and the obvious course to follow was for Qantas to adjust its organisation and service pattern to the new circumstances in which it had to operate. That it did so is evidenced by the fact that Qantas was able to hold its loss down to $6m - a considerable achievement in view of the factors influencing its business last year.
The Government, for its part, has shown its confidence in Qantas by providing $25m in the 1972-73 Budget for subscriptions of additional capital in the company, and by authorising it to go ahead with the order for its sixth Boeing 747 aircraft and with its new head office building, Qantas Centre. The Government has also carried out a major reorganisation of the Qantas board, increasing its size from 6 to 8 directors. This has been designed to bring added strength to the company in the fields of engineering, management, personnel relations, international and civil aviation policy and finance.
The first signs of real difficulty for Qantas appeared late in 1970, and the board and management took immediate steps to strengthen the company’s commercial approach to its difficulties and to make appropriate adjustments and improvements in the company’s cost structure. In fact, the company was able to turn a potential net loss of Si 5m into one of less than $6m. This is the achievement that is not readily apparent in the balance sheet Qantas was faced with cost increases totalling $12m, but managed to keep actual expenditure growth down to $3m, or 1.6 per cent.
It cannot be said, therefore, that Qantas has neglected to out costs wherever possible - the company did so within the limits available to it, having regard to the unavoidable increments in wage and salary levels which it had to meet. At the same time, it is pleasing to record that the drastic pruning of costs which had to be undertaken did not herald any ruthless large-scale dismissals of staff. Numbers were reduced largely through normal attrition and a freeze on recruitment, and the small additional reduction was achieved with proper regard for the interests of those found to be redundant in the changed circumstances.
During the latter part of the financial year 1971-72, the company introduced new low-fare proposals to meet the growing demand for cheaper air travel to and from this country. These fare initiatives, and I refer particularly to the $700 EuropeAustralia return fare and the $420 one way fare, had the strong support of the Australian Government, as did the more recent introduction of low cost package tours between Australia and Singapore. These moves have evoked remarkable public response, and the possibility of operating similar low cost holiday tours to other destinations is being examined by Qantas.
These efforts, in themselves, do not guarantee a significant improvement in the company’s operating results for 1972-73 because the short term outlook in the industry is expected to remain difficult and Qantas cannot be isolated from world wide conditions. It is too early to predict the future trend with any certainty. However it is pleasing to record that the initiatives taken by Qantas to recover from the 1971-72 loss have produced some encouraging results so far. The new low-cost fares and the passenger appeal of its Boeing 747 aircraft have helped to increase substantially the Qantas load factors on the Kangaroo Route between Australia and Europe in the past 6 months. In fact, in August the average weekly economy passenger loading reached a record high of almost 80 per cent. This compares with a yearly average for economy passengers of about 53 per cent on that route for the 1971-72 financial year. It will be appreciated, however, that the profit margin from these new fares is low, and substantial patronage is required to make them profitable. Later this year Qantas will step up to a total of 5 Boeing 747 services a week on the Kangaroo Route, and the company is planning to increase to a daily Boeing 747 service on this route as soon as practicable.
While figures for the first 5 months - April to August - of the current financial year show a steady traffic growth on the Qantas total network, growth on the South Pacific route to the United States is not as buoyant, and capacity still remains a problem. However, under the procedures agreed between the United States and Australian governments in September 1971, the 2 governments are required to take into account the fact that the basic air transport agreement prescribes that the services operated by their airlines over the South Pacific route should bear a close relationship to the requirements of the public for such services. The decision of American Airlines, upheld by the United States Government, to reduce its current frequencies into Australia, and not to proceed with extra frequencies planned for the end of this year, was a heartening indication of an acceptance of the view we had emphasised in Washington concerning the excess capacity situation on the route. There has, in fact, been no increases in capacity provided by United States and Australian carriers this year since Qantas introduced its 4 Boeing 747 flights very early in the year and, at the same time, reduced the number of its Boeing 70? flights but retained a daily service.
The general performance by Qantas on the South Pacific route has clearly been enhanced by the introduction of its Boeing 747 services. In the financial year 1971-72 the company’s competitive position suffered from the fact that one of the United States carriers had this aircraft type in use on the South Pacific for the whole year, whereas Qantas did not. As part of the settlement of the disagreement with the United States on frequencies in September 1971, after some deferment the Qantas Boeing 747s were brought into operation and the company’s competitive position was thereby considerably improved, especially as the arrangements agreed upon have given Qantas the advantage of one 747 operation in 1972 more than the United States carriers. Any real improvement on the South Pacific, however, depends on an absence of undue increases in capacity and the stimulation of traffic growth. The Government encouraged and fully supported the Qantas move, with other airlines, to introduce new lower group fares on the South Pacific route between Australia and North America in April 1972. We are working with Qantas at the present time to find if other possible reductions can be effected in promotional or other kinds of fares to provide greater incentive for travel, especially of tourists, between North America and Australia.
In the context of the present financial difficulties being experienced by Qantas, it is relevant to mention the need for the Government to adhere firmly to its longstanding policy of limiting the commencement of new services into and out of Australia. Additional carriers are authorised only where it can be demonstrated that their operations are justified by the volume of traffic between the country concerned and Australia. At the same time, the Government must also continue to assure for Qantas, through negotiations with other selected governments, that essential traffic points are available for the Australian airline so that there should not be an undue dependence on too limited a number of points on the route. A most significant long term problem is the growth of charter operators, and their competitive impact on Qantas as well as on the other international airlines. This problem is aggravated by a lack of an internationally accepted regulatory framework enabling scheduled services and charters to develop as a viable total transport system, provid ing a stable and orderly environment to meet the increasing pressures for mass low cost transportation. Civil aviation authorities of responsible governments with a big stake in civil aviation, including Australia, are giving close attention to this difficult problem which has become most acute on the North Atlantic route. It is hardly necessary for me to say that the Australian Government is determined to continue to provide a suitable environment for Qantas to function as a profitable enterprise and fulfil its invaluable national role in a most highly competitive and technologically expensive industry. It would be inappropriate for me to divulge detailed financial information relating to Qantas operations during the current year, but I can report that, although the company continued to operate unprofitably in the first 4 months of the year, its financial results have improved steadily. July showed an almost break even result and good profits were earned in August and September. The company has consistently bettered its operating budget in this period. The benefits gained from overseas currency revaluations have been mentioned in the annual report they are extremely great - and these gains will be brought into account each year as they are realised. It should not, of course, be assumed that these promising signs indicate an end to the problems facing Qantas. In particular, the international airline industry is a seasonal one, and some of the months to follow are not normally good traffic months. I have mentioned earlier the commercial initiatives taken by Qantas to improve its operating results. Naturally, the company will also consider, at the appropriate time, any technical innovations which may help to keep it abreast of its competitors. One project which is the subject of very careful study is the Concorde supersonic aircraft, as I have mentioned on many occasions.
In conclusion, let me say that Qantas is not only an instrument of national prestige. Tt provides significant economic benefits as a major employer and contributes foreign exchange advantages of the order of $100m annually. Qantas has been a strong promoter of tourism to Australia and carries half of Australia’s exports by air. The airline, furthermore, constitutes a vital transport enterprise in times of emergency. Despite the problems now being experienced, I am satisfied that the Qantas board and management have taken, or have in train, constructive measures which will strengthen the company’s financial position and ensure a return to profitability. Indeed, given the long term growth pattern of the aviation industry, there is no reason to be anything but confident that Qantas will continue to expand and prosper as it has during the past 52 years. I move: That the Senate take note of the statement.
– Several matters emerge from the report and ministerial statement presented by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton). The first is that the report of Qantas Airways Ltd which he has tabled is for the year ended 31st March 1972. As I understand it, the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation have been dealt with already by Estimates Committee D. I think that it is not proper that there should be such a delay in the presentation of the report of Qantas to the Senate. The report ought to be made available at least before the estimates of the Department are dealt with in order that matters may be raised in the Committee hearings. It is true that they may be raised subsequently in the Senate, but the appropriate procedure is to deal with them in the Estimates Committee. I ask why the report was not tabled in sufficient time for this to be done.
Next, it is apparant that a substantia] loss has been suffered by Qantas. While the Minister indicates that there has been some change of attitude by Qantas in relation to a number of matters and while he speaks of the commercial initiatives of Qantas, I well recall that some of the matters which are now being referred to as commercial initiatives by Qantas were suggested several years before Qantas took those initiatives. They were suggested in this chamber by members from the various Parties. On all hands there was a request that Qantas do something about introducing fares which were within the reach of the ordinary person. It took a long time for those initiatives to be taken, after it had become apparent to the ordinary observer and certainly to honourable senators that such a course was necessary. The predictions which were made in this Senate that not enough was being done by Qantas and that it would run into very heavy weather unless it bestirred itself certainly have been borne out.
I hope that what has been said by the Minister indicates a considerable change of heart. We welcome what has been done in regard to the fares for holidays. Nothing has been said, though, about introducing a general low fare structure including low fares for those engaged in trade and commerce. I would hope that Qantas would not continue to regard those who engage in trade and commerce as being in a captive class. Concessions designed for holiday tours should not be aimed at preventing those who are engaged in trade or commerce and business or government from being able to take advantage of low fare structures.
Australia is in a special position in the world. Our great difficulty is our geographical isolation. In the period since European civilisation commenced here, the one factor which has militated against us in trade, in commerce and in culture has been our separation and isolation from the rest of the world. That has been reduced by technological advances in the sense that the time difference has been broken down. However, the expense remains. Australia should make every effort to reduce costs of communication and the cost of travel between this country and the rest of the world. I hope that the Minister for Civil Aviation will be able to ensure that Qantas plays a real part in endeavouring to reduce this geographical isolation. It is apparent that the interests of Qantas do not necessarily coincide with the national interest in this matter. It may be that the general interest of Australia would be served even if more airlines were operating into Australia or if fares were cut to a point where it would not be possible for Qantas to make a profit. I am not saying that this follows, of course, but the interests do not necessarily coincide. I hope that the general national interest will be given attention and that the problem of air travel between Australia and the rest of the world will not be considered merely as a matter of whether Qantas makes a profit.
Mr President, I think some of the matters raised in this statement are of sufficient importance to require perhaps some inquiry by a standing committee of the Senate into the operations of Qantas; the appropriate committee would appear to be the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. I ask the Minister to give some consideration to this. I do not propose to move a formal motion, but I ask the Minister to give some consideration to this. Having raised these questions, I want to say also that I think the Senate is indebted to the Minister for having gone further than the annual report and made a statement which gives a good deal of information about what has happened and why it happened. I for one am very pleased to see that the Minister is taking a constructive approach and indicating an attitude which, if pursued, would give one heart that there will be a considerable improvement in the operation of what is, after all, a very great national undertaking - one which we hope will prosper and of which we have been proud in the past.
(11.24) - I point out to the Senate that the business now before us in the tabling of papers. Under this heading the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) presented a report and chose to make a statement on it. There is now a motion before us that the Senate take note of the paper, and the debate on the motion could continue for some time. I know the Minister wants to respond to what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and no doubt other honourable senators would like to speak. In the circumstances, from the point of view of management of our business, I should like to ask for leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I produce to the Senate the report from the Joint Committee on Publications related to the pink pages advertising project for the Victorian telephone directories. There is also a statement relating to this report but rather than seek leave to make it, I would ask leave for it to be incorporated in Hansard.
– Is there any objection? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
In July of this year, the Joint Committee on Publications became aware of a dispute over the award by the Post Office of a new advertising contract for the Victorian pink pages telephone directories. As a result of the new contract let, Edward H. O’Brien Pty Ltd lost the contract for the Victorian directories which it had held since 1924. The new contractor for the Victorian directories is Directories (Aust.) Pty Ltd, a whollyowned subsidiary of the General Telephone Directory Company of the United States of America. Newspaper reports at that time indicated that Edward H. O’Brien Pty Ltd, supported by the Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union, disputed the correctness of the Post Office’s decision to award the new contract to Directories (Aust.) Pty Ltd.
The Joint Committee on Publications, having power to initiate its own inquiries within its general terms of reference, resolved to inquire into the circumstances of the granting by the Post Office of the new contract. The Committee received written submissions from the interested parties and held a public hearing in Melbourne on 10th August. The bulk of the criticism levelled against the Post Office appeared to be, firstly, that the tender conditions and requirements placed Edward H. O’Brien Pty Ltd and other small Australian tenderers at a disadvantage in competing for the contract against Directories (Aust.) Pty Ltd who have large overseas financial backing. Secondly, that the Post Office in assessing the tenders had placed too much emphasis on the levels of minimum guarantees and projected sales, and should have given greater consideration to the percentage bids and proven ability of _ the tenderers to perform and meet obligations. Thirdly, that it was undesirable for economic and political reasons, to allow this activity to be in the control of overseas commercial interests, and that the Post Office should have given preference to Australian-owned tenderers. And, fourthly, that by changing the contractor the Post Office was in some way responsible for the threatened unemployment of the Victorian employees of Edward H. O’Brien Pty Ltd.
The postal unions also put forward the proposition that the ‘Post Office should itself arrange the advertising for the classified telephone directories, that is, that the Post Office should undertake the work of the contract. The Post Office view was that this type of function was more properly and satisfactorily performed on its behalf by private enterprise, there being more affinity between the work of selling pink pages advertising and a selling organisations in the private sector than there is between that function and the work of the Post Office in the public sector. The Post Office did not believe that there would be increased revenue and profit to the Post Office if it carried out the operation itself. It was the Post Office View that private enterprise, being competitive, would be more likely to achieve the optimum result.
The Committee investigated the criticism made of the Post Office and came to the following conclusions. Firstly, that the decision of the Post Office to award the contract to Directories (Aust.) Pty Ltd was in accordance with accepted practice. Directories (Aust) Pty Ltd submitted the best tender in every respect: they submitted the highest estimate of gross sales, offered the best overall percentage of gross sales as payment to the Commonwealth, offered the highest minimum guaranteed payment to the Commonwealth, and proposed the highest expenditure on sales promotion. Secondly, while smaller firms may be at some disadvantage when tendering for a contract there is no evidence that in this tender Edward H. O’Brien Pty Ltd was placed at any special or unusual disadvantage by the tender requirements. Thirdly, on the question of foreign ownership and preference to Australian-owned industry, the Committee makes the observation that the Post Office tender board had not received any Government direction to give preference to Australian-owned tenderers. All resident Australian firms are treated in the same way and compete on exactly the same basis for Government business. Further, there is no evidence to suggest that the contractor’s foreign ownership will be detrimental to the production of the directories. In the opinion of the Committee, however, whether the national interest would be better served if a degree of preference was given to Australian-owned industry is a matter to which the Government should give its urgent attention. And finally, the Committee found that the dependence by a contractor on retaining one contract which is subject to periodic competition by public tender is an unfortunate aspect of the whole situation. There is no evidence to suggest, however, that the Post Office can be held responsible in any way for the hardship that may now be caused employees of Edward H. O’Brien Pty Ltd. But it can be envisaged that the same hardship will recur each time the contractor is changed if the contractor has been relying or specialising on the work of the contract.
This is the first inquiry of an ad hoc nature by the Committee, on its own initiative carrying out its task of keeping under review the Commonwealth’s publishing arrangements. The Committee’s role in th’is inquiry has been purely investigatory; it did not set out to be an arbitrator in the dispute, but rather to investigate the validity of the criticism publicly made of the Post Office. The conclusions reveal that the Committee is satisfied that the arrangements for the pink pages advertising contract in Victoria were properly made by the Post Office in accordance with accepted practice. The Committee has not made any recommendations, but has observed that whether the national interest would be better served if a degree of preference was given to Australian-owned industry is a matter to which the Government should give its urgent attention.
(11.25) - by leave - I move:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-72 the Parlia mentary Standing Committee on Public Works have leave to meet during the sitting of the Senate on Tuesday, 17th October 1972.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has agreed to that proposition.
– I only want to say a few words about this motion. From time to time we are faced with this encroachment upon the time of the Senate by permitting committees to meet during sittings of the Senate. It started with a few meetings of the Estimates Committees and now we find that the Public Works Committee wants to do the same thing. Perhaps this committee system will run away with us and I am beginning to wonder whether we should bother having sittings of the Senate. After all, the Senate is the forum of the nation and it should meet. There should be no encroachment upon the duties of senators to the Senate. We should not permit senators to be absent from the Senate for the purpose of engaging in committee work. Their work on committees should be done at times when the Senate is not meeting. I take note of the remark of the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has agreed to the proposition. I take the matter no further than voicing my protest. I hope that there will be a reconsideration of this attitude and the precedent of committees meeting during sittings of the Senate.
– I understand, that this is a special case.
– There is for the sitting of the Senate too.
– Yes I know that Senator Cavanagh has previously objected to this sort of thing. When the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) asked me about this being done next Tuesday because there is some special problem I did indicate that I would agree to this motion. I think, Mr President, that to save feelings about these matters we should in the future have some discussion on the principle and clear it up once and for all. Some honourable senators object strongly to committees meeting during the sittings of the Senate. Others do not object and think it ought to be permitted. Perhaps we should lay down some principle. It may be that it will not be permitted; it may be that it will be permitted under certain special circumstances. However, we ought to be able to arrive at some principle and decide the matter generally rather than have a discussion each time it arises.
– I am a member of the Public Works Committee and normally I would support the line taken by Senator Cavanagh on this matter. Every honourable senator knows my views and I have spoken on many occasions against encroachment on the time of the Senate. However, there are special circumstances on this occasion because of 2 references in particular. I am particularly interested in one of them which relates the Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital. That reference will be held up. The Committee will not be able to present its report to the House approving or disapproving the project unless we can find time next week to hear evidence on it.
– The House is not sitting on Friday or Monday.
– I have no objection to sitting on Friday. In fact, I said that I would be able to sit on Friday but other Committee members from both sides of the Parliament probably have commitments because the date of the election has been announced. I imagine that is the reason they want to get back to their electorates. On this occasion the circumstances are special. I know the circumstances and these references must be approved or disapproved by the Committee otherwise the work will be held up until some time late in the next session. They are important works which I believe should be initiated at the earliest possible moment if the Committee, after deliberating, believes that they should proceed.
Question resolved ki the affirmative.
– I move:
That at 12 o’clock midday the sitting of the Senate be suspended until 8 p.m., to enable Estimates Committees A and C to meet.
Estimates Committee A will meet in the Senate chamber and Estimates Committee C will meet in Committee Room L 17.
Tonight after 8 o’clock it is proposed to call on general business and I understand that it will be a continuation of the debate on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1972.
– Will the Minister move that that take precedence?
– That can be done at 8 o’clock.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) advising a change in the membership of Estimates Committee A as follows: Senator Prowse will replace Senator Lawrie.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is one of 2 measures to give effect to the proposals I announced on 24th May this year with respect to restrictive trade practices and monopolisation. The Bill provides for a number of amendments to the Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1971. The purpose of the amendments is to strengthen the operation of that Act so as to give effect to conclusions reached in the course of a thorough and comprehensive review of the legislation the Government has conducted. Before proceeding to explain the nature of the changes the Bill proposes I take the opportunity to recapitulate the Government’s philosophy in regard to restrictive trade practices and monopolies, bearing as they do on the competitive climate of our economy.
The Government believes in a system of free enterprise under which citizens have as much freedom as possible to participate in the production and distribution of the nation’s wealth. It believes that competitive conditions tend to initiative, resourcefulness, productive efficiency, high output and fair and reasonable prices to the consumer. But the Government does not subscribe to a doctrinaire view that all restrictions of competition are undesirable. On the contrary, it recognises that the lessening of competition may, in some aspects of the economy, be unavoidable and indeed be, not only consistent with but also a proper ingredient of, a truly free enterprise system. The Government also recognises that the nature of the legislative provisions to control restrictive trade practices in Australia must be attuned to the requirements of the size and character of our economy. We can certainly profit from the experience of other countries and from knowledge concerning their legislation. But it would be quite inappropriate for us to follow blindly the legislation of one country or another. The Government’s present proposals are accordingly based on our own experience and are designed to meet our own needs.
Prior to 1965 the available information on the extent and the effects of restrictive trade practices in Australia was very limited. Since then, however, we have under the Trade Practices Act 1965 and under the present Act, which was passed following the High Court’s decision in the concrete pipes case, steadily increased our knowledge and understanding of the agreements and practices being observed or followed. In the light of experience we have been able to assess the effectiveness of the 1965 legislation and to determine in what respects amendments are needed. The first stage of the Government’s review related to the practice of resale price maintenance and, as honourable senators are aware, provisions for the control of that practice were enacted last year. The main purpose of the present Bill is to make more effective provision for the examination and control of what are referred to in the Act as examinable agreements and examinable practices. These are the classes of agreements and practices which are liable to be examined by the Commissioner of Trade Practices and where appropriate by the Trade Practices Tribunal, to ascertain whether they are contrary to the public interest. If such an agreement or practice is determined to be contrary to the public interest it can be restrained for the future. But unless and until such an agreement or practice is so restrained, it is not rendered unlawful by the Act.
The examinable agreements are defined in section 35 of the Act. A basic requirement is that the parties to these agreements are carrying on businesses which are, or should be, competing with each other. For this reason they are sometimes referred to as horizontal agreements. They are examinable agreements under section 35 if the parties agree amongst themselves that they will accept restrictions with respect to matters mentioned in the section. The most common type of restriction relates to price and related matters such as discounts and concessions. Other common restrictions provide for market sharing arrangements. Distribution arrangements are also concerned if they are agreed to between businesses at the same level of the distribution process. The observance of such restrictions is commonly reinforced by agreements to refuse to deal, that is, boycotts.
Examinable practices are defined in sections 36 and 37. Section 36 covers the practices of obtaining discriminatory terms, inducing refusal to deal and forcing another person’s product. Section 37 relates exclusively to the examinable practice of monopolisation. The Act does not at present require that all examinable practices be brought forward for examination by the Trade Practices Tribunal. The only agreements and practices that are to be brought forward for the Tribunal’s examination are those that the Commissioner has concluded are contrary to the public interest. In addition, where he has so concluded, the agreement or practice must be one in respect of which the compulsory consultation procedure has not resulted in abandonment or in a variation so as to make the agreement or practice acceptable in the public interest. Most of the examinable agreements, but none of the examinable practices, have to be registered with the Commissioner of Trade Practices. The sole purpose of the register is to ensure that relevant information is available to the Commissioner.
In my statement of 24th May 1972 I mentioned that as at 30th June 1971 there were some 3,311 horizontal agreements between groups of manufacturers, groups of wholesalers and groups of retailers. I pointed out that these are the agreements which tend to have the greatest impact on the competitive climate of the economy and that the Government has concluded that many of such agreements are likely to be found on examination to be contrary to the public interest. With these agreements 1 grouped the examinable practice of inducing a person to refuse to deal, which is covered by paragraphs (e), (f) and (g) of sub-section (1) of section 36. I pointed out that .this practice tends to be engaged in to force persons to become parties to or to comply with examinable agreements.
I accordingly announced that the Government had concluded that there should be a stronger procedure for dealing with the examinable agreements that are registrable and the examinable practice of inducing refusal to deal. The present Bill gives effect to that decision. It will, in effect, provide for 2 streams of control - a stronger one for the agreements and practice I have just mentioned and one not greatly different from that already provided for the others. Under the stronger provisions all the agreements and practices to which the provisions apply will have to be brought forward by the Commissioner for public interest examination by the Trade Practices Tribunal. The Commissioner will no longer be required to form an opinion of his own that such an agreement is contrary to the public interest. There will, moreover, be no statutory requirement for consultations before the institution of proceedings, and a new public interest test will apply in lieu of that at present provided in section 50.
Before referring to the details of the new public interest test I would say a word or 2 about the proposal to omit the statutory requirement for consultations before proceedings. On the face of it there appears to be much to commend a system which provided opportunity for businessmen to consult with a view to adjusting their ways so as to make them compatible with the public interest. But experience has shown that in this context the consultative process often tends to be used rather as a means for defeating or delaying the purposes of the Act. Moreover, if an agreement is to be given a clearance as being compatible with the public interest, the clearance should desirably be given openly by the Tribunal and not in the secrecy that the Commissioner is by the terms of the Act required to observe.
The public interest criteria in the stronger provisions are set out in proposed section 49D, which is in clause 11 of the Bill. These criteria are in accordance with the proposals in my statement of 24th May 1972, apart from some drafting refinements. In order to establish that an agreement or practice is not contrary to the public interest under these provisions the parties will need to establish one or other of the specified grounds of justification. The main ground is that the agreement or practice results, or is likely to result, in a specific and substantial benefit to the public as producers, consumers or users of goods or services being a benefit that would not otherwise be available.
As has been observed in relation to the announced proposals, no comparable ground related directly to the interests of producers is being proposed. But it should not be overlooked that it is generally in the interests of consumers that producers should be strong, efficient and viable. In this way it will be possible for account to be taken of the interests of producers. But what the criteria do not do is to provide for a restrictive practice to be justified merely on the ground that it is advantageous to the producer irrespective of whether it has, or is likely to have, a beneficial effect in meeting the needs of the public. Other grounds of justification included in subsection (1) of proposed section 49D will cover agreements that are necessary for health considerations, agreements needed to enable the parties to compete effectively with other persons or for the effective operation of other acceptable agreements or practices. There is also an express provision to cover agreements and practices that do not restrict competition to a significant extent. If any of the specified grounds of justification is established it will be open to the Tribunal to determine that an agreement or practice is contrary to public interest if it is satisfied that such a determination is warranted. A conclusion that such a determination was warranted would be based on some established detriment to the public or to persons other than the parties to the agreement or practice.
The procedure for examinable agreements and examinable practices that will not be subject to the stronger provisions I have outlined will be basically the same as that provided in the Act at present. This procedure with 2 modifications will continue to apply in relation to those examinable agreements that are not subject to registration and also to the examinable practices of obtaining discriminatory terms and forcing another person’s product. One of the modifications to this procedure relates to the existing requirement that before instituting proceedings the Commissioner must form his own opinion that the agreement or practice is contrary to the public interest. This has proved to be a time consuming process and which is subsequently duplicated by the determination that the Tribunal makes. It is not proposed to require that all agreements and practices subject to this procedure should be brought forward for examination by the Tribunal, but the Bill will make it unnecessary for the Commissioner to reach an opinion of his own on the matter. It will authorise him to institute proceedings if it appears to him to be desirable to have the Tribunal determine whether the agreement or practice is contrary to the public interest.
The other modification to this procedure will be the omission of the present statutory obligation on the Commissioner to consult with parties before instituting proceedings. I have already referred to this consultative process in the context of the stronger provisions. In the context of the procedure I am now outlining there will be scope for discussions between the Commissioner and the parties because the Commissioner will not be under an obligation to institute proceedings in all cases. The Commissioner can, I am sure, be relied upon to act responsibly in such matters. There is no need to subject him to a statutory obligation to consult which might be used by some parties to defeat or delay the operation of the Act. The Bill does not vary the public interest criteria for agreements and practices subject to this procedure. The only amendments proposed to section 50 will remove provisions mat were needed for its application to the examinable practice of monopolisation.
In accordance with the announced proposals the Bill provides for the omission of all provisions in this Act relating to the examinable practice of monopolisation. This is on the basis that more comprehensive provision in regard to monopilisation is contained in a Bill to establish a monopolies commission. I had hoped, originally, to introduce that Bill at the same time as the present Bill but, as the drafting of the Bill is not yet finalised, I propose to introduce the Bill next week. Having outlined the 2 proceedures provided for in the present Bill to deal with examinable agreements and examinable practices I now indicate some changes proposed in regard to the scope of the definition of examinable agreements and to the obligation to register certain examinable agreements. An examinable agreement is defined in section 35 of the Act. The definition covers an agreement between competitors to require their customers to observe specific prices for the resale of goods - that is to say horizontal agreement for resale price maintenance - but it is not clear that it covers agreements between competitors with respect to the prices that are to be recommended to their customers as resale prices. This situation is rectified. I should add, however, that the means by which this is done will not prevent a supplier when acting unilaterally from recommending resale prices in the manner specified in Part VII of the Act.
The definition of examinable agreements is also expanded to cover agreements by which parties are obliged to furnish information about their prices and matters closely related to prices. They will also include agreements under which a party is obliged to make recommendations with respect to terms or conditions of dealing, to quantities or kinds of goods that may be produced or the persons who may be dealt with. The intention that the class of examinable agreements will be extended to cover both price information agreements and agreements by which the parties undertake to make recommendations to each other was indicated in the proposals which I have earlier outlined in the Senate. The Bill gives effect to that intention. Recommendations made in pursuance of collective agreements have, in practice, much the same restrictive effect on price competition as an actual agreement between competitors to impose price restrictions.
Similarly, experience has shown that the purpose of provisions directed at agreements by which the parties accept price restrictions can be defeated by replacing those agreements with agreements by which parties undertake to notify each other of the prices they intend to charge. The effect of such an agreement is, in practice, virtually the same as if the parties agreed to conform to the prices notified. The Bill therefore provides that agreements of the character I have mentioned should be examinable in the same way as other agreements within section 35. Agreements relating exclusively to exports are to be taken out of the definition of examinable agreements by clause 6 (d) of the Bill. The need for this exemption stems from the introduction of the stronger procedure I have already outlined, particularly as i: is compulsory under that procedure for all agreements to which it applies to be brought forward for examination by the Tribunal.
The reports of the Commissioner of Trade Practices have drawn attention to the fact that a large number of agreements, which has referred to as distribution agreements, are at present subject to the registration requirements. These are agreements between a supplier and his distributors and resellers, The reason why some of these agreements are at present required to be registered is that the supplier to some extent carries on business in competition with his distributors and resellers. In many cases the extent of this competition is not significant. It is desirable that, in appropriate cases, such agreements should continue to be examinable, but it would be inappropriate that they should be subject to compulsory examination in all cases under the proposed stronger provisions. The Bill provides in clause 10 for certain kinds of distribution agreements to be exempt from registration and it will follow automatically that the agreements so exempted will not be subject to the stronger examination procedure. This exemption is confined to agreements the parties to which comprise two persons only, neither of which is a trade association. Examples of agreements that will be within the exemption are agreements for exclusive dealing, whether mutual or otherwise, and area franchises. The exemption will in no way detract from the illegality of resale price maintenance under Part VII of the Act.
I turn now to one or 2 miscellaneous provisions that have been included in the Bill. Clause 20(c) of the Bill relates to the definition of resale price maintenance in section 66. In his 5th annual report the Commissioner of Trade Practices drew attention to the possibility of a minimum advertised price being used as a substitute for a minimum selling price. The Bill will remove such possibility. Clause 22 proposes the inclusion of a provision which will make it clear that it is for the parties wishing to rely on the fact that they are related to each other to establish that fact in proceedings in the Tribunal or in a court. Clause 23 provides a regulationmaking power which will enable agreements made in pursuance of or for the purposes of inter-governmental agreements to be exempted from the operation of the Act. The need for this provision again stems from the compulsory examination requirements being introduced in the stronger examination procedure.
Finally, I point out that clause 4 provides for the Act to draw upon constitutional powers in addition to the corporations power which at present is the source of constitutional power for the existing legislation. The clause has been drafted witu close regard to the views expressed by the High Court in the concrete pipes case. The clause is to ensure that the Act applies to as large a proportion of all restrictive agreements and practices operating in Australia as the Commonwealth’s constitutional power may permit. The Bill does not use the reference which was made by the Tasmanian Parliament in respect of the 1965 legislation - but, as I have informed the Attorney-General of Tasmania, a reference will be sought from Tasmania next year when the legislation has been passed. The State of Western Australia has also evinced an interest in making a reference to support the operation of the Commonwealth legislation in that State.
As I have indicated to the Senate, the Government regards it as important that there should be adequate opportunity for the detailed provisions of this Bill to be properly studied and assessed. The Government believes that the Bill should not be passed through the Parliament without there being an adequate period for those affected by its provisions to give consideration to what is proposed and, if it is so desired, to make appropriate representations to the Government and to members of the Parliament. Accordingly the Government does not propose that the Bill be passed in the current sittings of Parliament. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– Mr Deputy President, the duty of the Government is to introduce laws which will protect the public, especially in an area in which, on the Government’s own admission and by general agreement, it is necessary that there be laws for the protection of the public. We have had some 10 years of neglect and delay by the Government in introducing effective laws against restrictive trade practices. We have reached almost the end of this Parliament and the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood) has just introduced a Bill on a basis which is a contemptible basis for any government - that is, it has introduced a Bill which it has no intention of trying to pass through this Parliament. What is the purpose of introducing the legislation when there is no intent at all to pass the measure through the Parliament? The AttorneyGeneral said:
The Government believes that the Bill should not be passed through the Parliament without there being an adequate period for those affected by its provisions to give consideration to what is proposed and, if it is so desired, to make appropriate representations to the Government and to members of the Parliament. Accordingly the Government does not propose that the Bill be passed in the current sittings of Parliament.
These are the last sittings of this Parliament. So it is not proposed that the Bill should be passed at all by this Parliament. On 24th May this year the AttorneyGeneral made a statement to the Senate in which he said that there had been a thorough and comprehensive review of the existing legislation and that it was proposed to make some changes of great importance and a number of modifications to provisions of the existing legislation which would improve its effectiveness. Then he said:
The net effect of all the changes will be both to strengthen the legislation and to widen its scope.
He said that he was making the statement relating to the proposals to the Parliament so that there would be an appropriate opportunity for the proposals to be studied and fully debated. Then he said:
The proposals outlined . . . are an earnest of the Government’s intentions to attack the basic causes of inflation wherever they may be found. Restrictive practices and monopolisation contribute importantly to inflation. There is no question about that
He went on to say how the monopolies were contributors to inflation, how there was a lack of efficiency in the operation of business practices and how important it was that this legislation be strengthened and widened. I will say, in fairness to the Attorney-General, that he recognised that the state of affairs was undesirable, that these restrictive practices were injuring the community and that we needed effective laws to cope with them. After the AttorneyGeneral had made his statement I spoke and referred to the pressure that had been applied by powerful interests to prevent the laws being made, and I said that there was no intention on the part of the Government really to introduce effective laws.
What do we see now? At the end of the Parliament the Attorney-General comes into this chamber and says: ‘Here is the legislation which I bring in as a result of the comprehensive and intensive review which was made before I made the statement in May. This had been done by the Government. It has been lying there for the whole world to see. We will introduce the Bill but we will not proceed with it.’ What does that mean but that which was prophesied - that the Government had no intention whatever of making the changes which would prevent the operation of restrictive practices and which would cope with monopolisation in the community. We know that everyone in the community, except those engaging in restrictive practices and monopolisation, has been injured by them. We know that local government authorities are subject to the operation of restrictive practices so that ratepayers have to pay higher rates than they would otherwise have to pay. We know that the Federal Government and the State governments are suffering from the monopoly power operating in the community so that the taxation which is imposed on our citizens is higher than it otherwise should be. We know that consumers are left with no real protection against the restrictive practices which are being operated.
This is common ground. The Government agrees with this. Attorneys-General from Sir Garfield Barwick on have said that these are the facts; this is the position. There is no doubt about that. No. honourable senator disputes that restrictive practices are operating which are injurious to the citizens and to the nation. Yet the Government, because some kind of pressure is being exerted, is unwilling to introduce laws or to attempt to put its concept of what needs to be done. There is no doubt that these changes which, in the Government’s view, are necessary are important changes. The Attorney-General has said so. He has said how the present legislation is not working. He has stated his view - whether I agree with it is immaterial - and he has told us what is wrong with the laws and what needs to be done to clean them up. Why then is the Government refusing to proceed to clean up the defects in the legislation? Why then is the Government refusing to do what it says is necessary to make these laws effective? This has reached the stage of a public scandal in that those who are able to exert pressure upon the Government are so powerful that they can force the Government to refuse to proceed to do what it has said is in the public interest. The AttorneyGeneral made clear his position when, at the end of his speech, he said what has to be done. I noted very carefully how he phrased that part of his speech. He implied that the attitude was not his attitude. He said:
The Government regards it as important that there should be an adequate opportunity for the detailed provisions of this Bill to be properly studied and assessed.
Knowing the Attorney-General, I think the message is clear - the Attorney-General considers that these changes should be made. The Bill is there. The Government, because outside pressure is being exerted, has determined that the necessary changes will not be made. For 10 years Australia has suffered from the delay, neglect, default and refusal of the Government to introduce the necessary measures to cope with the injury to the nation caused by restrictive practices and monopolisation. I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12 noon to 8 p.m.
General Business Taking Precedence of Government Business
– Order! I bring up the sixth report from the Standing Orders Committee relating to urgency motions and notices of motion for the disallowance of regulations, ordinances etc.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) by leave agreed to:
That intervening business be postponed until after consideration of General Business, Order of the Day No. 18, Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1972.
Debate resumed from 28 September (vide page 1361), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Byrne had moved by way of amendment: “, but the Senate is of the opinion that while the extension of the franchise to young people of the age of eighteen years and under twenty-one years will provide for a more accurate reflection of the relevant opinion of electors the most accurate and democratic means of ensuring the equitable Parliamentary representation in the House of Representatives of substantial bodies of political opinion in the community is by the electoral system of proportional representation voting for election to that House.”
– I was rather surprised a fortnight ago to find that the Opposition was very anxious to force a debate on this Bill since some members on this side including myself had a right to speak because we had publicly declared our position. I do not usually adopt a cynical attitude to the introduction of Bills such as this - I am pretty philosophical about it - but I must say I did feel a little cynical. It may have been only coincidence - I do not want to be unfair - that within a couple of days of my colleagues, Senator Withers and Senator Durack, and myself having declared our position quite unequivocally at the Western Australian State Conference of the Liberal Party to support the vote for 18-year-olds, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) announced that he intended to introduce a Bill for this purpose into the Senate. I repeat that it may have been only a coincidence, and I am not quarrelling with Senator Murphy’s right to introduce the Bill or with the tactics he adopted. It is a legitimate political manoeuvre. Nevertheless, it does raise some cynical thoughts in my mind.
I make my own position quite clear. I have declared publicly my support for the vote for 18-year-olds. The first government in Australia to introduce legislation to provide the vote for ,1 8-year-olds, as my colleague Senator Withers reminded us a fortnight ago, was a Liberal-Country Party Government in Western Australia. That legislation had the almost unanimous support of the Liberal ‘Party organisation at the Western Australian State Conference of the Liberal Party in July. Senator Withers addressed that conference on his own behalf and on behalf of Senator Durack and myself in declaring our support for votes for 18-year-olds. Having said that I wish to say that my first responsibility is to convince the Government which I support that it should introduce this kind of legislation. I express some disappointment that it has not done so, but emphasise that for the time being my responsibility is to use all my endeavours in conjunction with the endeavours of others on this side of the ‘House who support the granting of the vote to 18-year- olds to convince the Government that such legislation should be introduced. Therefore I do not intend to support the legislation which is before the Senate either tonight or whenever the vote on it is taken. However, I make quite clear to the Senate that if the Government which I support does not within a reasonable time introduce such legislation my attitude could change very quickly. 1 have no desire at this stage to embarrass the Government. Rather, I adopt the attitude, which I hope I have made clear, that I support the granting of the vote to 18-year-olds but that I shall use my endeavours initially-
– But not this time.
– Not this time. I make that quite clear, Senator Devitt - not this time. I do not want the Opposition to criticise me on this. Let us all be frank: Some senators on this side of the chamber have been prepared to vote against the Government, but I have yet to see a member of the Opposition cross the floor to vote against a caucus decision. They are all too regimented to do that. Let us have no criticism until some members of the Opposition show the political moral courage required to vote against a caucus decision of their Party. Let them not criticise those on this side of the chamber who have from time to time shown that they have the courage to vote against the wishes of the Government when they believe an issue is at stake. An issue is at stake in this legislation but it is not an immediate issue; even if it is agreed to the vote cannot be granted until after the election on 2nd December. I again make my position clear: I will not support this legislation at this stage, but if my pressures and the pressures of those of my Party who also support the granting of the vote to 18-year- olds are not successfully heeded by the Government, then I for one am prepared to reconsider my position.
I have always been intrigued by the arbitrary nature of age limits. At times I have wondered why the age of 21 has become a magical sort of age. I understand that at different periods of history people have assumed adult responsibilities at various ages. I believe that at one period in one civilisation - I am not sure whether it was the Greek or the Roman - girls assumed adult responsibilities at 14 and boys at 16. One viewpoint about the age of 21, which I think is supported, is that in British countries a person assumed adult responsibilities at the age of 21 because that was the age when young men were considered strong enough to bear arms.
– History speaks of what you have said about ages, but on your point about 21 being a magical age, I think the fact that it is the product of 3 and 7, which are magical numbers, has a lot to do with it.
– That is, multiplication of 3 by 7? I do not deny Senator Murphy’s viewpoint, yet I think there are many theories or viewpoints on why .the age of 21 was chosen as the age at which people assume adult responsibilities. The point 1 make, Senator Murphy, is that 21 is not a magical age. It may be that in times gone past a person of 18 was as physically and as mentally mature as a person of 21. That is the point I make, that there is nothing magical about the age of 21, or 20 or 19. There has to be some judgment. I understand from the history that the age was based upon some arbitrary ruling given at some time. I do not know whether it is because 3 multiplied by 7 makes 21 or whether it is for other reasons. The point I am trying to make is that it was based upon some ruling and there is nothing magical about it.
– Two times 9 makes 18.
– I do not know whether that is as magical as 3 times 7 which Senator Murphy mentioned. 1 suppose one could argue about two 9s making 18 just as one could argue about three 7s making 21. Different ages have applied throughout history. We find in our own country that there are now 2 States which have adopted 18 years as the minimum voting age. I understand that a third State is to make a similar decision. 1 regret that State governments have had to give the lead. I would have preferred to see the Commonwealth Government providing leadership.
I noted that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), in reply to the second reading speech of the Leader of the Opposition, said that this matter deserved serious and objective study. I agree with him. I also suggest that there has been plenty of time to give serious and objective study to it. Senator Withers reminded us that in 1943, when he was a young man of 18 years serving in the Navy, he had the right to vote. Probably he is the only honourable senator in this place who has exercised a vote at the age of 18. I do not know whether he voted wisely on that occasion or whether he has become wiser since. It was believed during the war years that a man of 18 years who was old enough, in the view of the Government - I believe rightly so - to fight for his country was also old enough to vote. That decision having been made it seems to me to be a precedent which we cannot ignore.
One can argue about whether youths today are more intellectual and physically mature than they were in past generations. I do not believe they are. I do not believe that there was anything wrong with the youth of past generations; nor do T believe that there is anything wrong with the youth of today. I do not believe that youths today are any better or any worse than those of earlier days. I become rather cross when I hear people say that the youth of today is better or worse than it was. Perhaps people think that the long haired, bare footed and rather shabby looking characters we see are representative of youth today. I do not believe that they are; rather I believe that those people are a minority. The flower people of the day when I was at school were represented by the fellows who wore very wide trousers. Each generation has had a section of youth which rebelled against society in various ways. I think that because of the mass media they now get more publicity and that probably attracts more attention to them. I do not believe that the people I refer to represent youth today. It may be argued, and possibly the argument can be sustained, that the youth of today have greater educational opportunities than did the youth of past generations. Therefore they may be more educationally mature, but it is debatable whether that qualifies them as being ahead of past generations when it comes to deciding how to vote. Apart from the greater opportunities for education that are available, I doubt that the youth of today are better or worse than the youth of past generations.
What has happened, and is still happening in our community - I believe it to be unquestionable - is that today young people are accepting greater responsibilities at a far earlier age. We find this revealed in the participation by youth in many areas of public life. Many people of very immature age provide leadership of a high quality in youth groups and probably those people are far more developed than they were in the generation of Senator Milliner and following generations of people like myself.
– I wish I had enough hair to grow it long.
– I am not suggesting, Senator Milliner, that your generation was any worse than mine or that it was any better.
– Paternalism of the highest order.
– Probably Senator Milliner was belted more than is the youth of today and that is probably why he is as he is today. I believe that youth today are showing a greater participation in many areas of public life. They are showing greater willingness to accept responsibilities in many areas of public life, possibly because they have had better opportunities than did youth in past generations. In the business and commercial world today we find very young men occupying very senior executive positions. We often hear that men are too old at 40 whereas in past generations men were probably 55 or 60 years of age before achieving any great responsibility in the business or commercial world. Today men in their 20s and early 30s are holding very senior positions. People in all walks of life are accepting responsibility at a much younger age than did past generations. I believe that this is germane to this discussion. We only have to look back a few years to see that there has been this dramatic change in Australia and, indeed, throughout the world. If this change continues we can expect to find that people are accepting responsibilities at an even younger age in the future.
There is another significant point to consider. Young people today go out and manage their own affairs at a very early age. They fly from the nest when they are 17 or 18 years of age and go into flats, in groups or singly, and accept the responsibility of looking after themselves. They accept social responsibilities as well. In the old days they stayed at home until they were well into their 20s. Today young people, whether male or female, leave home at an early age and look after themselves. There is also an increasing level of interest by young people in world affairs. Most certainly they have greater selfreliance.
All these things suggest the view that I hold: Regardless of whether 21 years was the acceptable age in the past these factors, apart from others, indicate to me that people today are prepared, willing and capable of accepting responsibilities at a younger age. There is another factor that I want to mention briefly. It is all very well to criticise young people. We often hear them criticised and we often hear people say that they will not accept responsibility. That is not the view I take. The simple answer is that we cannot expect young people to accept responsibility unless they are given responsibility, and people must be confident that young people are capable of accepting responsibility. That is a point which we ought to bear in mind. Young people must realise and understand that the older generation or the generation before them has confidence in them. I think we will find that when they feel people have confidence in them they will accept responsibilities. In a few words these are many of the reasons why I sup port votes for 18-year-olds. I think we all have to ask ourselves a simple question. We can all play politics on this issue. We can all argue and no doubt some people can produce figures to show that 18-year- olds are more inclined to vote one way or another way. I do not think that we really know.
– On 2nd December we may get some sort of an indication.
– Maybe, but I think we all have theories about that. I do not think that any of us can be certain. I do not think that gallup polls reveal with any certainty the way 18-year-olds vote or are likely to vote. But I do not think we should look at the situation in this way. I think that we, as a responsible people, should ask ourselves what is in the best interests of the Australian people and of the generations which are now growing up. If we believe that the best interests of Australia will be served by giving votes to people at whatever age it may be - in this case 18-year-olds - then I suggest this must be the criteria upon which we should make our judgments and decisions. Involved in this debate are amendments which have been moved by the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I find that I cannot support paragraph (1) of the amendment. I find some attraction in paragraph (2). I find a good deal of attraction in paragraph (3). I find nothing to attract me in (4) or (5) which I think is the Queensland position where the polling hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
– It is only paragraph (1) of the amendment which is before the Senate.
– Yes, I am sorry. I recall that a fortnight ago Senator Byrne withdrew paragraphs (2), (3), (4), (5) and (6). We are discussing only the first one. I find no attraction in it although I appreciate the point of view which is expressed. I suppose we can argue that the most democratic way of electing a parliament is by means of proportional representation. Bui I look at the fate of parliamentary government in many countries. I look at Europe where, because of various voting systems, there have been a multiplicity of parties and what has happened has been a great instability of government. Whether this has been because of the volatile nature of the people, or whatever the reason, there have been compromises and defeated governments and then groupings together again. This has been a continual process which has brought parliamentary government into disrepute. I cannot help but bear in mind that while one can argue that proportional representation will reflect public opinion and bring into the Parliament many varying views, I wonder whether stability of parliament and government is going to be effected. One has to weigh these considerations. In weighing these considerations I find myself unable to support this amendment.
I must say towards the end of my speech that I was rather intrigued to hear Senator McLaren, who unfortunately is not in the chamber at the moment, advocate that the first past the post system of voting was the only democratic method. I am reminded that the Australian Labor Party in Western Australia has introduced legislation to bring into effect the first past the post system and also to abolish the Legislative Council which, I understand, is part of the Party’s platform. I understand that the abolition of the Senate is part of the policy of the Australian Labor Party, although I do not think many Labor senators take that very seriously. At least, I hope they do not. But I come back to the point of first past the post being the only democratic method. I suppose it depends upon one’s view of a democratic method. If 4 candidates were standing for election it would be mathematically possible for a candidate to be elected to Parliament on 25.1 per cent of the vote. I find it very difficult to accept the view that that person is the choice of the electorate. In fact, he is the choice of 25.1 per cent and he is opposed by 74.9 per cent. I find it is impossible to sustain this argument. I think that this is muddle-headed thinking. I do not believe that the first past the post system in the United Kingdom produces the result which is required in a democratic system. As I say, mathematically it is possible there for a person to be elected on 25.1 per cent of the vote. Even to be elected by 30 per cent or 33 per cent means the candidate is the choice of a minority only. Let me make it clear that there is no perfect system. We are not perfect ourselves. No perfect system prevails. But what we have to try to seek is a system that is as near perfect as possible and that reflects in every way as far as is possible public opinion.
If our present system is not perfect then, as far as I am concerned, we should by all means seek a better system. But do not let us scrap the present system for a system such as that which in theory - and we cannot disregard theory - could place in power a government which represents 25 per cent, 25.1 per cent or 26 per cent of the electors and which could be opposed by 74.9 per cent, 76 per cent or 60 per cent of the electors. I do not find this argument appealing, logical or rational. I hope that I have made my position clear. I make no apologies for the attitude I adopt tonight in relation to this legislation because I have no wish at this stage to embarrass the Government. I shall continue to use my endeavours, and try to harness the endeavours of my colleagues who support votes for 18-year-olds, to convince the Government that it should introduce this legislation. Before I sit down I merely repeat that after a reasonable time if the Government has not introduced the vote for 18- year-olds then I shall reconsider my attitude.
– The Commonwealth Electoral Bill which has been introduced by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) is designed to amend the present electoral law and to do quite a simple thing, and that is to adapt ourselves to the needs of present day reality. This measure proposes to give to 18-year-olds the right to enrol and vote in State and Federal elections. Some of the States have already agreed that this is a reasonable status for 18-year-olds. Some have not yet got around to legislating along these lines. But the High Court decision highlights the responsibility of Parliament to make a decision in this matter. The High Court expressed the view that it was not its prerogative to interpret the Constitution but that the Parliament, being the supreme body in a democracy, should grasp this problem and deal with it. So it is the Government’s responsibility. We have such a measure before us today on which we can do just that.
Senator Sim, with great sincerity, declared himself to be in favour of the principle inherent in this Bill and then proceeded to adopt a pragmatic approach and draw a dividing line between the principle involved the politics. I think it is a great pity that this issue has been made a matter of politics when it goes deeper than that. The issue itself is of less concern to honourable senators than it is to the 18- year-olds who, in their own way and doing their own thing, believe that they are responsible enough to be able to participate in the affairs of the nation. Senator Sim said that he wanted to it quite clear that he has publicly declared his support for the right of 18-year-olds to the vote. What is the difference between declaring publicly and declaring in this forum in which he represents the public? Why can he not declare himself now? Senator Sim pointed out that he has loyalty to his own Party in Western Australia. It has supported this proposition and it has sent him to this Parliament to represent it.
– My Party does not dictate to me like your mob does to you.
– I am just referring to the situation in which the honourable senator is placed. I admire the honourable senator’s sincerity as a very honourable representative of Western Australia in this Parliament, but I would point out that the honourable senator’s Party in Western Australia has agreed in principle to this proposition.
– It also agrees with my attitude now.
– Of saying: ‘To hell with the 18-year-olds and get on with the polities’?
– The honourable senator should not talk about politics. When he shows enough guts to stand up and criticise a decision of his Party I will listen to him.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wilkinson) - Order!
– I am sorry, Mr Acting Deputy President; I must apologise for interrupting the honourable senator’s interjections. But, being on my feet, I insist on the right of saying that the Parliament is the place where these issues should be decided. I would like to make the observation that when the history of this issue is being examined by historians they will note all of the paraphernalia of tongue in check, double talk, confusing the issue, dragging a red herring across the trail and all the other things that one could think of that has been introduced into this debate by honourable senators from the Government side of the chamber who speak on this Bill. The young people who take our place in society later on will say: ‘How did that Parliament function when there was such equivocation and such insincerity?’ Every honourable senator in this chamber knows the true position.
– What is that?
– That in this day and age young people are maturing earlier. They have been given the right to vote in some States. Those who go away to fight for our country automatically receive the right to vote. Just because of the obstinacy by the and mulish attitude of some people in this chamber other 18-year-olds are being deprived of the right to vote. I would not object if honourable senators opposite were to get up and say: This is not Government policy; therefore I will be voting against it’. But the attitude of those who get up and have the proverbial 2-bob each way and say: ‘I am completely in favour of the proposal but I am going to vote against it’ is difficult to follow. I wonder how Senator Sim feels when he looks at himself in a mirror. Those honourable senators opposite who have already spoken in the debate have portrayed themselves as being the modern father who want to organise his family according to orthodox lines and according to his own values and who finishes up finding that his family leaves him because he is not able to adapt himself to the needs of young people. The inability of the past generation to adapt itself to changed circumstances is a tragedy that is happening throughout the community. I would not include Senator Sim in the category of being a member of the past generation.
– Thank you. I still look young, do I not?
– You do. You look vigourously young. But the youth of today are just as pragmatic as their elders and they want to speak in a language that they understand. They know very well that the only thing that is preventing them from having the right to vote at 18 years of age is the stick in the mud pragmatism of many honourable senators on the Government side of this chamber who are supposedly representing some of them. As I said before, the children of the pragmatic father who is so obstinate that he will not adapt himself to changing circumstances leave him. That is what is going to happen to the Government. Those young people who support its policies are going to change their opinion because they have no reason to have any confidence in a government that takes the stand that the Commonwealth Government has taken on this issue. Senator Sim said that increasing interest was being shown in world affairs by young people. I support that observation. Historically young people have been the successors to responsibilities as time goes by.
– Sometimes the predecessors.
– That is right. Sometimes they are the standard bearers. Interest in world affairs conies from the added opportunities of education. When we create better educational opportunities for our young people we expect some critical and decisive results from our investment and they are showing them; yet we deprive them of the basic democratic right, the final democratic act, of participating in the choosing of members of Parliament. 1 am certain that Government members have failed to understand this issue in depth in view of their tendency to equivocate and try to postpone the inevitable. Senator Sim said that today young people are capable of accepting responsibility at an earlier age. This is very true. If honourable senators look at the younger people today they will see that they are engaged in important scientific research work, that they are expressing themselves in literature and reaching a stage where they are able to entertain and to interpret artistic traditions. In every way, this is a young people’s world. How do we appear in their eyes when we, as an august body, are prepared to speak against or to equivocate against their having the final right to vote and par- ticipate in the selection of those who will represent them in the parliament of the Commonwealth?
Senator Sim said that we cannot expect them to accept responsibility if they are not given responsibility. How important it is for young people to feel that the older people recognise them and give them responsibility. That is all this Bill seeks to do. It seeks to give responsibility to the 18-year olds. Let us see how they accept the responsibility. Those who are prepared either to defer or to find some weak excuse for not giving them the vote now are failing the young people of this country. I ask Senator Sim to prevail upon his colleagues who are having 2 bob each way to come down on the side of reality and support this measure.
– The previous speaker, Senator O’Byrne, said that the matter with which we are dealing was quite a simple one. The position does not appear to me to be correctly expressed in that way. I believe that this is a most important matter. We have before us at present a Bill introduced in the Senate by Senator Murphy on behalf of the Australian Labor Party.
– On behalf of the Australian youth.
– I do not know whether Senator O’Byrne considers that the members of the Australian Labor Party are Australia’s youth. They certainly do not look it to me. It is an important matter. In general, the Bill which has been presented attempts to alter the wording in the Commonwealth Electoral Act by substituting for the words ‘twenty-one years’, the words eighteen years’. The proposition has been advanced by Senator Murphy that 18-year olds in the community should be given the vote. My view would be that at the present time it is not appropriate that 18-year olds should receive the vote.
– Not yet?
– The time is not yet. I believe that the thinking that has prompted the Opposition to present this Bill is not in the interests of the 18-year olds in the community. The Australian Labor Party thought it appropriate for it to gain some political advantage by introducing this Bill.
– That is to be seen.
– What the honourable senator opposite says is quite right. It is a matter to be debated whether or not they would do so. I believe that probably there is a balanced view in that group in the community and the question raised is one to which we would not know the answer. It is estimated that there are 667,000 young people in that age group who would come under a franchise of this nature. I think that it would be impossible to predict the outcome of their vote. If it is fair to say that it is not an appropriate time to give these people a vote at present, it is acceptable to me that within the foreseeable future the vote will be granted to a group of individuals of an age lower than 21 years. At the present time, a number of States have made a move to lower the voting age. We find that in New South Wales legislation has been passed lowering the franchise age to 18 years. I understand that the Act has not yet been proclaimed.
– They say that they are waiting on the Commonwealth.
– 1 think that they are showing some wisdom in doing ‘.hat. I understand that in Victoria the State Government expressed the view that it would discuss with the Commonwealth the prospect and the wisdom of lowering the franchise age to 18 years. The Queensland Cabinet has approved the lowering of the franchise age to 18 years but the Government has deferred consideration pending information as to the Commonwealth’s intention on this matter. South Australia lowered the franchise age to 18 years from 30th June this year. In Western Australia the franchise age of 18 years became operative on 5th December 1970. I understand the position in Tasmania to be that a Bill has been introduced and passed by the Lower House in the last Parliament. Debate has been postponed in the Upper House and to my knowledge the Bill has not been passed through that Parliament. It appears to be the general concensus of State governments, whatever their political complexion, that they are interested in granting the vote to the 18-year olds in the community. So it is fair to say that they think, as I do, that this is not an appropriate time for the Commonwealth to take this action.
I feel that the States have taken action at an inappropriate time to lower the voting age. Of course, they have done that regardless of which government has been in office. They have done that without due consideration of the financial impost they are passing on to their State Treasuries. This is instanced by the fact that today South Australia has the cost of maintaining 2 electoral rolls. It has one for those who are under 21 years and a consolidated one for those over 21 years. But they seek to enter this type of arrangement–
– I do not think that is altogether correct. There is one roll and an asterisk shows whether they arc enrolled for both purposes. 1 think that that is the real position. There are not 2 separate rolls.
– The asterisk in South Australia maybe an appropriate sign I hope to deal with that at a later point in my speech. It is fair to say that there is a demand throughout the world, for some reasons, to give the franchise to individuals of an age lower than 21 years Senator Sim mentioned why in earlier years 21 years was adopted as the age at which one could vote or at which one could be considered to have reached majority. Perhaps there is no reason to restate that, but in those early days it was a challenge to an individual’s capability and strength. We do not consider that to be so today. In Australia between 1894 and 1909 the Commonwealth and the States separately adopted the universal adult franchise and decided upon 21 years as the minimum agc for all voters. With that situation applying throughout Australia we had some consistency in an acceptance of an age of adulthood.
The acceptance of different ages of adulthood in various places throughout Australia may give rise to a consideration of whether there is not some fragmentation today in our federal system. Varying ages of adulthood raise so many interesting legal propositions between the Commonwealth and the States that perhaps we as a Commonwealth should not necessarily be proud of the position at which we have arrived in which it appears to be impossible for Attorneys-General or the various State electoral officers to arrive at a sound or sensible solution for the whole of Australia. The fact is, of course, that throughout Australia today a person who has not reached 21 years is not in the true sense an adult. That is the situation which applies at present in every State of the Commonwealth. Although some States consider some other age as appropriate for the grant of some benefit Dy way of a vote, the individuals who have not reached 21 years but have achieved the vote are not accepted in the true sense as adults. The various State Governments have made their judgment as to the age at which a person should be granted a vote.
One could not but agree that individuals who are much younger than 21 years of age have a competence in many fields that persons of 21 years did not have. 10 or 20 years ago. As an example, let us consider education. If we consider the opportunities available to the youth of today and those who are in their late teens, undoubtedly the educational standard of those individuals is far superior to what had been achieved 10 or 20 years ago by people aged 21 years. If educational standard is to be the basis upon which we judge adulthood, certainly people who are not 21 years old are competent to have the benefit of the franchise. Suppose we were to make the judgment on the basis of the volume of knowledge among individuals in the community today. I well recall being at an educational conference in Victoria some years ago when the Director-General of Education mentioned that the volume of education available to the world today had doubled itself 4 times since the birth of Christ. The interesting factor that came out was that the amount of knowledge required by a person in order to be competent had doubled itself 4 times also. That was to a point in the early 1960s.
The Director-General of Education explained that in the first 1750 years knowledge had doubled from what had been available at the time of the birth of Christ, lt doubled itself again in the next 150 years, and in the next 50 years, that is, from the beginning of this century until 1950, it had doubled itself again. At the time that he spoke in the early 1960s he was able to say that knowledge had doubled itself again over the preceding 10 years. I suggest that all honourable sena tors would endorse the suggestion that the volume of knowledge which the community attempts to cram into the minds of young people today is much greater in volume than it was in former years and that the individual must have knowledge that was not available to or in the minds of individuals 10 years ago.
– On that argument no one would ever get the vote.
– I am not using that as an argument against individuals having the vote; I am using that argument in favour of them having it. I believe that a number of things were not mentioned by Senator Murphy or any other Opposition senator. For example, we have not heard why a person should have the vote because he happens to be 18 years old. The myth has been stirred up in Australia that 18 years is a wonderful age. Honourable senators opposite have not been able to say why they would not grant the vote to 17- year-olds.
– Do you know that there is another issue in South Australia in respect of which the age is set at 21 and not 18?
– The honourable senator is coming in before I was able to reach that point. That was the reason for the asterisk that 1 had placed alongside the proposition that I mentioned earlier. Before I was interrupted by Senator Primmer I was saying that if this issue were to be judged on the basis that I mentioned, certainly individuals under the age of 21 years should be given the vote. I had posed the question whether it should be based on educational standards. I was dealing next with whether it should be based on the amount of knowledge that an individual has at a certain age. Perhaps it should be based on human experience. I am quite certain that my children have had a far greater opportunity to indulge in, or have available to them, human experiences at a much earlier age than the age at which they were available to me in my earlier years.
– They get around more quickly these days.
– That is so. If one were to speak of competence, certainly a person in his late teens nowadays seems to be far more competent in so many areas than was the person of 21 years 10 years ago. But I qualify all these things by saying ‘in certain areas’. When it comes to self-reliance, the youth of today at the age of 18, 17 or even 16 is far more selfreliant than was a person aged 21 years 10 years ago. I believe that the youth of today has an ability to sustain himself in some areas at a much earlier age than was the case 10 years ago. However, I suggest that in many areas they have not had the experience that had been acquired by the person of 21 years 10 years ago. Most honourable senators in this place would have gone into the field to work for their living in the early part of their life. The average boy or girl of 13 today has not had that human experience of having to get out and work, to be relied on the produce what was needed to keep oneself alive at an early age. Honourable senators opposite know as well as I do that they were out to work by the time they were 16 and that by the time they had reached the age of 18 they had experience and mental capacity that many young people of 18 today will never have.
So on what criteria are we to judge? Why should we choose the age of 18 years about which a myth has arisen in the community? That is the age which appears to be popular and the age which is considered to be the thing. But is it so popular? 1 note that a recent gallup poll revealed that 50 per cent of those interviewed thought that the voting age should be retained at 21 years. So is the choice of 18 years so popular? Obviously it is not. The majority of people in Australia do not see it as wise to grant to vote to people aged less than 21 years.
– Do you know that in South Australia, even though enrolment is voluntary, only a very small percentage have enrolled?
– I do, yes. I acknowledge that that is the case, I noted from news reports that, in a poll which was conducted recently among 300 persons in the 16 to 21 years age group, 51 per cent favoured having the vote at 18 years of age, 39 per cent said that they thought it should be given at 21 years of age and 10 per cent were undecided. If one asks a teenager ‘Do you believe that you should get the vote at 18 years of agc?’ one is putting to him a question to which he automatically answers yes.
It would appear to me that generally governments have attempted to move quickly in this field. Undoubtedly Senator Murphy’s anxiety to move quickly in this matter prompted him to bring this measure forward in this place. Honourable senators on this side of the chamber know that Senator Murphy wishes to be a leader in this matter, as in other matters, and he can take that either to his credit or to his discredit. He has figured very prominently in referring matters to committees, and those honourable senators who have been members of the committees have only wished that he had given greater consideration to some of the wording of the references that he has brought forward. It would have created much less concern for members of the committees. That is what we have found. Perhaps that ability is not given to lawyers. In this instance I think that Senator Murphy could have given much greater consideration to this matter before he brought it forward.
The issues, as I see them, cannot be passed over lightly. The most important matter is the one which I have emphasised, that is, that a person under 21 years of age today is not accepted as a full adult in the community. Senator Murphy, with his legal training, accepts the fact that a person under 21 years of age is not a full adult. But he did not indicate the grounds on which he believes that a person should be given the vote at 18 years of age. He emphasised the point that the age should be 18 years and not 19 years or perhaps 17 years. If the Commonwealth is to change the voting age, I believe that it should consider being perhaps a little more modern than Senator Murphy and consider giving the vote at 16 years of age. One could put forward an argument for giving the vote at 16 years of age which would be as good as that put forward by members of the Opposition for giving it at 18 years of age.
The fact is that persons under 21 years of age are still minors in the community today. They are not quite true adults. In my opinion, it has been very unwise to alter some State rolls without doing it on a national basis. People under 21 years of age today are not entitled to make binding contracts at law. The sellers of goods and wares in the community today have to be very cautious in supplying goods to individuals under 21 years of age because they are not legally bound to pay their debts.
– Even if they say they are over 2 1 years of age.
– That is quite so.
– lt is not right to say that they are not legally bound to pay their debts.
– They are not legally bound to pay their debts. If Senator Devitt looks at the wording he will find thai that is correct. As the honourable senator knows, an individual under 21 years of age is not called up to serve on juries today. I understand that in many instances a person under 21 years of age does not have the right to drink on licensed premises. In most States - I think that this is a Commonwealth-wide proposition - an individual under 21 years of age is not allowed to engage in lawful gambling. It can be said that an individual under 21 years of age in our community today is not completely informed on many matters. But I also think it is fair to say that many of those in the community who have the vote at 21 years of age are not completely informed on many matters. I suggest that there is a situational and vocational insecurity within individuals who have not as yet reached their lawful majority. I have suggested that this is a political calculation by the Opposition. The Opposition believes that it would be wise to give the vote to individuals 18 years of age and over.
– What happened in the United Kingdom?
– That was an example of a government seeking to gain an advantage by giving the vote to another age group, but it was surprised to find that the people in that age group cast their votes more in favour of the Conservative Party than for the irrational Opposition.
– It could apply here.
– Undoubtedly it could apply here. This evening I dined with a lass who is attending the Australian National University and her family. She said that a member of the Opposition in the House of Representatives was at the University recently speaking to the students about this matter. He emphasised to them the point that at 18 years of age they were not mature; they were not experienced in so many of the things in which they should really be experienced to enable them to cast a proper and considered vote in this community.
– By whose standards? By the standards of someone who is older?
– No. It was by Mr Enderby’s standards. If Senator Primmer wants to argue the question with him. he can do so. Mr Enderby is considered to be. I think, one of the competent men in the Austral/an Labor Party, and apparently this is his view. 1 mentioned that matter only because I think that the Opposition is trying to tag on to this proposition in order to get publicity within the community. lt really does not believe in the proposition. It is like the Opposition’s proposition about abolishing the Senate. Just ask any member of the Opposition what he really thinks about abolishing the Senate. I will even wait to hear one of them say what he really thinks. Honourable members opposite certainly would not be in favour of what the almighty ALP says they must have as their policy today. I note how quiet they are.
– We have the right lo think.
– As Senator Bishop says, they have the right to think, but they do not have the right to act in this place, and that is what is so desperately lacking in the Opposition in this country. 1 think it could be said that, if 18-year-olds were entitled to vote, their votes would be in the mould of their parents’ votes. I think that is what one would find with the average individual. If one challenged any member of the Opposition at the present time one would find that he is voting in the same way as his parents voted years ago. I think Senator Murphy hopes that 18-year-olds would vote in the mould of the ALP. 01 course, one could not consider a more mouldy vote than that.
A poll was conducted in America in 1970, at a time when I understand the vote was given to those under 21 years of age. The result of the poll indicated an increase in the Independent vote. It was clear that neither the governing party nor the main opposition party was acceptable to the thinking young person who voted in America. I suggest that therein lies a challenge to the 2 major parties in Australia today to see whether their philosophies really are attractive to the young person in the community. I am conservative enough to think that the average young person in the under 21 -year-old group whom meet is not attracted to policies put forward by members of the Opposition which demand no censorship, abortion on demand, freely available marihuana, a central government, the abolition of the States and fellow travelling with the Communist Party. Those are their demands.
It is interesting to note the situation that applies overseas. I do not think that one can say that the general world view is that the voting age of 21 years should be reduced. For example, in the Sudan the voting age is not less than 18. In Israel and Iraq it is the same. Norway has the age at over 20. In 1968 Austria gave the vole to 19-year-olds and over. In 1967 Bolivia gave it to all persons over 21 years or over 18 if they were married. In 1967 Brazil gave the vote to those over 18 years or age. lt is interesting to note that in 1968 in Canada 18 was the voting age in federal jurisdictions but in States such as Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Prince Edward Island the voting age is 18 years or over. However, the voting age is 19 in British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and the Yukon. In New Brunswick the voting age is still 21 years. So a voting age of only 18 in a federation such as Canada, which is an advanced country is not acceptable. I note that in New Guinea-
– What is your opinion?
– I have already expressed it. If the honourable senator had been present he would have heard it.
– What is the position in British Honduras?
– If the honourable senator went outside and had a puff of what he wanted to puff he might be able, to think it out. The objection is that persons under 21 years of age are not adults. That is the whole basis of the situation.
When certain teenagers in South Australia attempted to challenge the stance being taken by the Federal Government on this matter there was a test, and all 6 judges agreed that under section 41 of .the Constitution an adult person was a person of 21 years of age. Those who made the application suggested that because they had the right to vole in a State election in South Australia they should be entitled to a vote in the House of Representatives election. The words used in the judgment are particularly important. I am not certain which judge used them, lt may have been the consensus. The words were that the words of the Constitution, as expressed by section 41 of the Constitution, were to be read in the natural sense they bore when enacted by the Imperial Parliament in 1900. Section 41 of the Constitution states:
No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote al elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament or a Stale shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
So the challenge -fell on the point that those who challenged were not adult persons. I agree with that proposition. It is inappropriate for the Commonwealth to suggest a voting age for individuals who have not obtained their adulthood. I think that a number of laws would have to be altered before the right to vote could be granted to 18-year-olds. I have said that no reason has been given why the age of 18 years has been selected. I wonder why it should have been selected. Why was not 17 years of age selected? I think that today a person of 17 years has a greater competence than a person of 21 years had 20 years ago. I think that argument could well be considered.
The States which have had to prepare separate rolls have incurred considerable cost. Although an asterisk is used to denote those who are under 21 years of age, there is a great problem associated with the preparation of rolls in the States in which 18-year-olds have the right to vote in State elections. I notice that the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) called the Opposition’s move on this matter a political sham. I think that is a fairly appropriate term. It is fair enough to say that the Government’s attitude is that it is not averse to the vote being given to 18-year- olds. The fact that the Government does not intend that the franchise will be lowered before the forthcoming election cannot be construed as opposition in principle to a lowered franchise age; rather the Government takes the view that the time and the circumstances are not appropriate to bring about such a major change. I feel that that is a correct stand. I have posed to Senator Murphy the proposition that members of the Federal Opposition and members of the State governments which have granted to 18-year-olds the right to vote do not really believe that 18-year-olds are as competent as 21-year-olds.
– How would you know that?
– I heard an honourable senator say: ‘How would you know that?’ The latest news from South Australia is that the South Australian Legislative Council is considering a Bill to relax the law in relation to homosexuals. It is considering a matter which is perhaps beyond the thoughts and realisations of the ordinary person in the community.
– Which Party introduced the Bill?
– I do not know whether men speak from experience, but I am putting to the Senate that in a State in which the Labor Party is in control a Labor Minister amended a Bill in the Upper House. Can we believe the ‘Advertiser’? Is that a paper that one can believe?
Sentor McLaren - We do not believe everything it says, but we believe today’s front page which has an article about a split in the State Opposition between Mr Hall and Mr De Garis. Tell us about that.
Sentor WEBSTER- Perhaps I could read what is on the front page of that newspaper because it contains an important matter. The subject is one about which I detest speaking. I do not know how a Bill dealing with the subject was introduced in South Australia. Some of my best friends come from South Austalia. I think they could well spend their time on matters more important than that. The Advertiser’ states:
The law against homosexual acts in private is relaxed under a Bill which was passed by the Legislative Council yesterday.
– I rise to take a point of order. The Bill before the Senate has as its purpose the amendment of the Electoral Act to provide for the enrolment to vote at 18 years of age. I submit with great respect that to engage in a discussion of how homosexuality reform has been dealt with in the upper House in the South Australian Parliament is not relevant to the Bill.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wilkinson) - Order! I have allowed considerable latitude in the debate. I would ask the honourable senator to keep closer to the provisions of the Bill.
– Well, I would do as you say, but, in my view, if you had not permitted such rampant interruptions I would have reached the point that 1 wish to make. I know, Sir, that you were listening closely to what I had to say. I was expressing to the Senate my view that the fact is that the Opposition does not believe that an individual under 21 years of age is a full adult nor that such an individual has the competence to accept responsibilities. I was proceeding to emphasise what a government which has given the right to vote to people of 18 years of age and over is doing in another matter. It is denying to 18-year-olds those liberties which they are apparently-
– It is relevant to consider in this context the marriage age that is conceded, the age of consent that is conceded and this offensive act that has been legalised in South Australia.
– I believe that you are right-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wilkinson) - Order! lt is the duty of the honourable senator when he is speaking to the Bill to address his remarks to the Chair and not to excuse himself by saying that he has been waylaid in his argument by listening to an interjection. I ask the honourable senator to keep to the subject matter of the Bill.
– Thank you. Mr Acting Deputy President. I take it that you will permit me to proceed to emphasise my point and to demonstrate why it is difficult to conceive how the Opposition here in one instance can seek to proclaim that a person over 18 years of age has the full competence of an adult in our community and should be granted the important right to vote when in a House of the South Australian Parliament rights which might be said to be those which should be granted to an adult are confined to persons of 21 years of age and over. This is an important point to make. Senator Murphy raised an objection to my remarks. I do not know quite what the reason for his objection is. He usually rises to take a point of order at question time so that when the recording of the question time is replayed the question on which he has taken a point of order and which is likely to harm the Australian Labor Party will be deleted from the record. But no opportunity exists tonight for that to be done. I cannot understand why he took his point of order. It is difficult to understand the interests of all the people in these various matters.
I wish to quote from the Adelaide Advertiser’ of 12th October 1972. It states:
As the Bill now stands, homosexual acts will still be illegal whether committed in private or not.
But it will be a defence if a person prosecuted can show that the act was committed in private with only one other person and that both people were over 21.
What hypocrisy this demonstrates: Tt is most disheartening to see this double standard created by a supposedly important Party which, we are told, the community should be seeking to follow. 1 again express my view on this matter. I believe that it is inappropriate for a Bill with these provisions to be passed in the Senate at this time. 1 oppose the Bill as it stands. I am firmly of the view that the community is interested in the lowering of the voting age. But I feel that it would be appropriate that full consultation should occur before the State governments and the Federal Government so that a unified approach can be made to this matter and so that a number of Acts of Parliament might be amended at the same time. When granted the vote, persons under 21 years of age should be impressed with the fact that they have been granted one of the most sacred rights that can be made available to an adult in our community. I hope that this will be done not too many years in the future. I am confident that, within the next 3 or 4 years, we will see the right to vote being granted to individuals some years under the age of 21.
– I believe firstly that we should seek a perspective which is a little closer to the provisions of the Bill that the Senate is debating tonight I have listened to honourable senators saying that by the passage of this Bill we will grant the wonderful right of adult franchise to people who are under 21 years of age but not younger than 18 years of agc. We should have clear at the very beginning that that is not the purpose of this Bill at all. Under our electoral system and our electoral legislation, the right or the privilege to vote is not granted to anyone, whether that person be 18 years of age or 58 years of age. We impose upon these people the obligation to vote. Voting is compulsory in Australia. We do not grant the right or the privilege to vote. The responsibility to vote is imposed on people. It is important to understand this fact about our whole voting system: otherwise we will waffle about a philosophy that does not exist in our community at all.
The responsibility to vote in elections is imposed on those so designated by Aci. of Parliament. We vote under a specific system at the moment. Some people w:<.h to change that system. I propose at a later stage to discuss this matter in relation to the amendment that my Party has moved to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. I wish to be quite sure that we all understand what we are voting on. Senator O’Byrne raised the question of the popularity of this action. He said that young people of this agc group in our community are pounding on the doors wanting the wonderful privilege of the right to vote. But if this legislation is passed these people will not be given that privilege at ail. By this Bill we will impose on people of 18 years of age an obligation to vote. If they do not vote, they will be fined.
This is not what has been done in South Australia. The Labor Government there amended its electoral legislation so that voting by persons under the age of 21 was voluntary. The South Australian Government conceded to young people the right to say: ‘I believe that I am old enough and that I have interested myself sufficiently in these matters to be qualified to vote. The Government is now permitting me ‘o vote’. That is one thing. The amending Bill now being debated, merely changes the age at which a person is called upon to vote. But we do not create the South Australian position by passing this legislation. By agreeing to this Bill we will say to every person 18 years of age and over not that he may consider whether he is sufficiently interested in voting or wishes to exercise the right to vote, but that that person will vote or we will fine him for not voting. That is the meaning of what we are discussing tonight.
My Party has a policy that is in favour of lowering the electoral voting age to 18. We make no apologies about that policy. But an argument can be made as to whether such a legal obligation should be imposed upon these young people, even if honourable senators stand by the belief that many of these young people today are interested in voting and desire the right to vote. I do not agree with those who suggest that these people are in the majority. Most of the people at this age are interested in matters quite different from the right to vote or electing governments. Most people of this age today are not very much different in their outlook from what we were when we were their age. They are much more interested in selecting likely husbands or wives for the future rather than deciding who should represent them in Parliament. This is a pretty absorbing activity for those in the 18-year-old age group. It is sufficiently interesting to completely absorb the interest of people in this age group often to the exclusion of everything else. I do not know that this is not a pretty natural and wonderful process. I do not know that we should interfere with it to the extent that we impose upon these young people obligations which might divert them from those things that are a natural attraction to their age group. They are more interested in these matters than those matters of State which interest a lot of old fogies, as they would describe those who have had the honour to be elected to represent the people in these halls of legalisation in which we determine the laws that are imposed upon those who elect us. Do not let us deceive the 18-year-olds by saying we are going to give them something. We are going to impose something on them. In my opinion the majority of young people do not like having anything imposed on them. Most adults would agree with this if they are honest because the young people of today, much more than those of my generation, are not used to having anything imposed on them. Many of the problems which young people face today arise from the fact that they challenge anybody to impose anything at all on them, be it to have their hair cut or to wear a tie or even, in Canberra, to wear shoes when attending lectures at the Australian National University.
When 1 as a boy I and others of my generation were lucky if we had shoes. If we got them, we wore them. Yet today when everybody has shoes it is fashionable to defy authority and to say: ‘If you impose upon us an obligation to wear shoes, we will not wear them.’ I have no doubt that for many young people the compulsion to vote will have exactly the same effect and they will want to challenge the old fogies in Canberra who impose this obligation on them and will say: ‘We refuse to vote.’ The Parliament will have to deal with that problem if it passes this proposition.
When one considers the history of the franchise and then considers Senator Webster’s argument as to who are the best people and whether 18, 19, 17 or any other age is the most appropriate, I suppose the only way one could draw a lin of this character is by an age group. It is impossible to assess everybody’s interest in politics or to assess their intelligence in an area and to judge whether they have reached an age at which it is appropriate for them to vote. If we are honest about it we must accept that the only practical attitude is to fix a standard agc group and to accept the consequence - as we do with other people. I have heard some say they will vote for a certain Party and I am inclined to think it was foolish to have given them the right to vote because they do not seem to be applying that right intelligently. The history of the franchise shows that in early times it was not granted to everybody but to selected groups who were were alleged to be the intelligentsia. If they were no more intelligent than the intelligentsia of today, had 1 been in their community 1 would have challenged their selection. However, being of the intelligentsia was not the only criterion by which one was judged to be capable of making a wise choice from among those who were likely to govern. Wealth was another. Eventually, however, that system was broken down and the adult franchise was achieved. One great slogan which led to this achievement was that there should be no taxation without representation People believed that the qualifying line for the vote was the payment of taxes. In the rotten boroughs of England a valid slogan for people demanding the right to the franchise was ‘no taxation without representation’. Today some perhaps would argue that the reverse holds good - ‘no representation without taxation’, ff that is accepted, and if what I see as the only practical course is adopted - that is tj give the vote to 18-year-olds - the Government would preclude many in that age group from electing a representative to say what should be done with the taxpayers’ money since they themselves would not yet be taxpayers. Many people today do not become taxpayers until they are much older than 18. Many who fought for the right to be exempt from tax if they were not represented would see an anomaly in having representation without paying for it. Others would argue that young people could have a voice in saying how the taxpayers’ money was to be spent although they provided some of it and were still dependent on their parents or on scholarships or some other means of subsistence to complete their education. I do not think we should be so harsh, though it is an argument that can be used. 1 believe the only simplified method for the franchise is qualification on an age basis and. all things considered, about 18 years is a more appropriate age than 21.
My Party’s policy is simply representation for 18-year-olds but I do not think it has ever really considered whether they should be compelled to vote. [ would prefer to see a buffer period fixed between the ages of 18 and 21 before requiring the compulsion as prescribed by the Electoral Act to be applied to young people. Even today many aged 21 simply fill in the electoral enrolment form, after they have been reminded a dozen times, and send it to the Post Office without having any interest at all in voting. Political sensibility comes with marriage and the acceptance of the responsibilities of life. That is when people think more seriously about matters that are of more concern to the whole community than they previously conceded them to be. This is the pattern for average people leading an average life. But in making that statement I concede that people are not the same and that they are not born equal. We are all different from one another. The great majority do not accept the responsibilities of adulthood until they have decided to share their lives and to accept the ordinary processes of marriage and rearing a family. This is the maturing factor which changes a young person into an adult.
That is, of course, where it is possible to change him. Some married people - and some single people - live a lifetime without ever achieving the dignity of adulthood. The services of marriage guidance counsellors are sought because one partner to a marriage never achieves true adulthood. The reasons may be in the educational structure of the educational system or the structure of some families. But this is an indication that it is impossible in our community to achieve absolute perfection.
I return to my original point that a line must be set on an age basis and to that extent the Democratic Labor Party supports this Bill. However, we cannot do so merely on that simple plane. We must take cognisance of those who have placed the proposition before the Parliament. We doubt the sincerity of some of them. The Labor Party has moved this proposition through its Leader in the Senator (.Senator Murphy) who has suggested that the proposition should be discussed now. Not all members of the Labor Party agree on the points we have raised in the amendment to the motion for the second reading. A small percentage of the membership of the Labor Party are students and have an interest in the political system. In several States they have accepted positions on committees of inquiry set up by the Labor Party.
I know the circumstances in my own State of Victoria. A very strong recommendation was brought down for the introduction of the voting system that we of the Democratic Labor Party outlined in our amendment. We fail to see how the
Australian Labor Party can have a great and sincere interest in suddenly granting the franchise to 600,000 people of more in a particular age group when at the same time it wants to take the franchise away from 500,000 people in the age group that already has the right to vote. The objective of those in the Labor Party who want to change the electoral structure to include the first past the post system is plain and obvious. It is to take from every person in the Australian community who votes for the Democratic Labor Party - there are close enough to 500,000 of them - the right to have an effective franchise. That is their purpose.
– Not to take away their right to vote.
– No, but you want to limit them so that they cannot vote for the people they want to vote for, or so that their vote is ineffective in the final result. If Senator Georges is not intelligent enough to know our present electoral system of preferential voting, it would be useless for me to try to explain it to him. The sole purpose of the Australian Labor Party is to do away with the system known throughout the world as the Australian system because we pioneered it. It is used in such progressive countries as the Scandinavian countries where they refer to it as the Australian system. The preferential system gives a clear decision, in the final analysis, on what the electors want out of the final 2 people remaining in the ballot. Nobody can be elected with a minority of votes. Each person elected must be able to say before taking office that he was elected by 50 per cent plus one, or more, of the voters in his electorate once the contest is resolved. I say that because ultimately 2 candidates remain and all the voters select one of the final 2 candidates.
The system favoured by the majority of members of the Labor Party makes voting a political football. Members of the Labor Party come here and say very sincerely: ‘Is it not dreadful that our age limit is so high that we are disenfranchising 600,000 teenagers who are now intelligent enough to vote upon reaching 18 years of age?’ Then in the next breath they prove their insincerity by saying that they want the first past the post system because it will disenfranchise the rock that stands in the way of their obtaining office, namely, the 500,000 people who want to vote for the Democratic Labor Party. The Labor Party says that it will let those people vote for the Democratic Labor Party but it will make their votes ineffective in the final analysis by having the first past the post system.
Committees of rather more responsible people, students of the question, have been set up by the Labor Party and they do not agree with that idea. The committee set up in Victoria came down very strongly in favour of proportional representation because it represents a sincere expression of electoral reform. It is true electoral reform. First past the post voting represents just about as much electoral reform as what I hear described in the community today as abortion law reform. In my opinion, abortion law reform is just the abolition of the abortion laws. That is ali it is. It finally comes down to a person saying: If I do not want to have a baby and do not want to be inconvenienced by it, 1 should not have to have it’. Therefore some people want to amend the laws of society so that they can do this and not be outside the law. All that abortion law reform means is the abolition of any laws relating to abortion. I do not mind people advocating that if that is their view of what is best for society, but I do object to the fact that they call it abortion law reform. 1 object also when people refer to first past the post voting as electoral reform in a community which has progressed to the stage we have of establishing a system of voting. Tt is not perfection; it could not be that. 1 doubt whether any system can provide the millenium but our system is far in advance of first past the post as a fair electoral system. Proportional representation allows every person in the community to express freely his political point of view without the penalty of disenfranchisement because he votes for a minority group. It is impossible to describe first past the post voting as a reform. It is merely a return to the impossible situation of bygone generations although it is still maintained in less democratic countries than ours.
– Would you call the first past the post system an electoral gerrymander?
– Of course it is because inevitably it disenfranchises a great number of people in the community and makes them the exclusive property of the electoral system of a country under the control of parties that happen to be big, in power and popular at a particular time.
– Senator Bishop is drying to interrupt me. He has been a member of unions for many years and 1 know where, in fairness his heart lies. He supports the preferential system of voting as we have it today.
– Senator Young should have asked about the Legislative Council of South Australia but he did not do so.
– I could have answered him clearly if he had done so, and 1 can answer you. I was one of the people who reformed the electoral structure of the Legislative Council of Victoria. Ultimately I became a member of that august body under an adult franchise. In the beginning, all sorts of peculiar methods were used to select the people who were considered good enough to vote for it. People were given more than one vote on many occasions if they so qualified under the system of that day. They had to have a university degree. Surely today we do not consider that somebody has to have a university degree before being able to vote. Sometimes 1 am sufficiently simple minded to think that perhaps people with university degrees should not be given a vote. Maybe that is an inherent weakness in myself and perhaps it is mere jealousy. I do not know However, in bygone days a person had to have a university education or own certain land or property to be able to stand for the Legislative Council in the State of Victoria or to vote for those seeking election. We reformed that system with true electoral reform.
Many of the people in Senator Bishop’s Party today advocate first past the post voting as the millenium of all reforms because at this point, according to the votes his Party is now getting, it will advantage his Party. However, in politics that is always a very short range policy, because one never knows. I remember what was said by a prominent member of the Labor Party who is now an author and is retiring from the Parliament. When proportional representation was introduced to the Senate he said: ‘Never again will we lose control of the Senate’. Things did not work out that way. It was electoral reform and it gave people and the minorities the right to have a say. At that time he did not foresee that people would change their mind about politics. Surely, if we are democrats, we agree that anybody at any time should be allowed to change his mind about politics. That prominent member of the Labor Party did not forsee that there would be minority groups in the community. He was so enthusiastic about saying that his Party would never be out of office that he rubbed his hands with delight, almost as if he had succeeded in a gerrymander. However proportional representation was not a gerrymander. It was true electoral reform that provided a fair system of representation for the people. When the minds of the people changed, instead of his Party being in office in this chamber forever, it has hardly been in office since.
Therefore, I warn members of the Labor Party and those people who want to take the short cut of adopting first past the post voting as a method of electoral reform. Do not make hasty decisions on what you think are the political moves and attitudes of a democracy today, because unless you are prepared to abolish democracy you will receive a check in the future, which will surprise you. If members of the Labor Party alter the present system to first past the post voting, some day they will rue the decision. I do not believe that that form of voting will be reimposed upon the Australian people. I think that the Australian people are too wise. I merely bring this matter up to show why I believe we have every reason to doubt the sincerity of those who, talk on the one hand, talk of first past the post voting and then, in the corridors of this building say to me: ‘We will get you one day. We will get first past the post voting’. This shows the personal venom and spleen which is behind what they call electoral reform.
– It works all right in the Parliament at Westminister.
– The honourable senator might think it does. I have never heard him praising the Parliament at Westminister before. When a party to which he is opposed is in office he seems to find everything in the world is wrong with the British system that does not elect a Labor government. It very seldom elects a Labor Government, the honourable senator will happen to notice. When Senator Murphy’s suggestion was introduced in England, I know that Labor people here and in London said that the Labor Party would win the election because of the 18-year-old voters. And the 18-year-old voters went along and voted for the other party. The honourable senator wants to be very careful before he starts holding up the Parliament at Westminister. At Westminister they may have first past the post franchise but it is granted to people who want to use it. It is not imposed upon them as an obligation. If people are given the right to vote or not to vote as they please that is one thing, but nobody is suggesting that we should alter the compulsory system which we have. At the same time we should not mess around with the preferential system which has gone hand in glove with compulsion. I ask the honourable senator not to prattle to me about the system at Westminister unless he wants to impose the whole of it on the Australian people and have voluntary voting as well as first past the post voting. Then perhaps the honourable senator may illustrate to the Australian people that the system at Westminister is better than the system we have in Australia. But he cannot pick what suits his Party the best.
This proves the very point which I am arguing in relation to the insincerity of the whole matter. The honourable senator wants to have a look at the system in London and pick the eyes out of it to suit his argument. He knows in his own heart that this is not electoral reform in this country. It would be a retrogressive step in electoral matters. The fair thing would be to allow people to have representation in the Parliament in accordance with the number of supporters which the various groups attain in the community. We in our wisdom have suggested an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. It involves changing the Commonwealth Electoral Act not only in relation to age but also in sev eral other respects. During the debate on the second reading we will not discuss those paragraphs in the amendment which are questioned as to whether they are in order. We will do this in the committee stage of the Bill when the various paragraphs are before the chamber. But in relation to proportional representation which seems to be the only portion of the amendment valid in the second reading stage there is no question that it is electoral reform. If we are to broaden the Electoral Act to the extent of granting some form of franchise to people between the ages of 18 and 21 years we should take the further step of seriously considering whether minorities should have the right to representation in this chamber and in the other place in accordance with the number of people who vote for them.
I know there is a valid argument that this can be carried too far. This is what I meant when I said that, after all, we cannot have a millenium because we must sometimes temper democracy to the stage where we make it work. Very often systems are devised which have taken the principle too far and made it somewhat impractical to obtain results. We have those examples before us. We should be wise because of the results. But there are other systems of proportional representation. Perhaps they are somewhat more limited than the complete application of the idea which shows quite clearly that it is possible to give representation which is in accord with that sought by the voters and, at the same time, retain the integrity of Parliament so that it can make positive decisions and not be disrupted as are some Parliaments in some countries where perhaps the system has been taken too far. They are in a situation where they do not have the certainty of continuity which enables them to govern in the interests of the people.
After all, democracy is a fantastic ideal. Politically, it is probably the greatest achievement of the mind of man. But it too can have some limitations because in the final analysis it gives each and every one of us the right to govern one’s self. If we wish to exist as a community we must realise the impracticability of this. The rights of each of us have to be limited by the collective rights of everyone else in the community. Whatever the laws might be and whatever the Parliament, if they are made by a parliament which has been granted majority rights by the community they are valid laws and they should be obeyed by all of us in the community. Indeed, the law makers should be the last ones to advocate that anybody should break the law; otherwise we get back to what may sound a very high ideal - the principle that every man has the right to govern himself. But if we wish to live in a community - as we all must because none of us is an island - we must depend upon each other for so much, particularly in our sophisticated and modern type of community. Even Senator James McClelland, who may hate my politics and not like me very much, to some limited extent depends upon me as I depend upon him because we are both members of the community. Neither of us can take that principle and say that our rights are such that they should obliterate the rights of our fellow man in the community. It is because of that principle that we put forward the amendment to this Bill. We hope that this chamber, with the wisdom which it always displays and for which it has shown much more aptitude in recent weeks, will follow the lead of the Australian Democratic Labor Party and vote for the amendment which it has moved to the Bill which is before the Senate.
– The Senate is debating a Bill introduced by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act to give the right to vote at 18 years of age. To that motion Senator Byrne has moved an amendment which, without detailing it in full, purports to express an opinion on behalf of the Senate that election to the House of Representatives should be under the system of proportional representation. At the outset I indicate that I oppose the second reading of the Bill for reasons which I propose to elaborate and which I trust will have some modicum of support within the Senate. I also oppose the amendment which has been moved. It is not that I disagree with what Senator Little has had to say because I think that the greater part if not the whole of what he had to say, except his conclusion, ought to command the support o£ anyone in this chamber who thinks about democracy and its meaning. But I disagree with Senator Little for a reason which he expressed in the course of his speech. He said that democracy had to be tempered in order to make it work. Reflection will indicate that democracy, in the sense in which it has meaning and is traditionally practised involves people. I should imagine that every person in a society which has to be governed has the right to determine how he shall be governed. But that is an impossible achievement.
Our system is really representative democracy. To make representative democracy work there has to be a limitation on the number of representatives. In this community it would be foolhardy to have a representative assembly which consisted of 100,000, 10,000 or 5,000 representatives because that would be unworkable. The number of representatives is a matter of judgment. When the number has to be limited the really important question is how to divide the persons who are to be representatives among those who have the obligation of electing the representatives. Broadly we can take 2 systems. There is a single member constituency which is the traditional one under which our parliamentary democracy in the Westminster tradition has developed or there is the system which has its origin more on the continent of Europe than in the United Kingdom of having a multi-member constituency. Proportional representation is the electoral system under which those representatives are selected. I believe that both are democratic and both are representative: yet both can lead to different results. I think it would be dangerous in the extreme to the workings of our democracy to have the same system prevailing in each House of the Parliament.
We did have a system different from proportional representation as the method of electing senators prior to the 1949 election and it produced some odious results. But we have had since 1949 a system under which there is in the Senate a genuinely representative assembly which one might say more accurately reflects the divisions of political opinion in the community than does the House of Representatives. I am quite sure that Senator Little will accord with that view because his Party, the Democratic Labor Party, is represented in the Senate whereas although the percentage of votes it gains at each election would normally entitle it to some representation in the House of Representatives if that chamber were a truly representative assembly, it has no representation there. For the reason I have indicated, namely, that democracy must be made to work, and because it would be foolhardy to have precisely the same system applying in both chambers, I believe that as we have proportional representation in the Senate, we should retain single member constituencies in the House of Representatives. Morever a single member constituency does enable a member to identify with a group of people - the people in his electorate. That provides for the contact which is so vital to the working out of the democratic system. Notwithstanding the goodwill which senators have to become identified with the electors in their States, and whilst it may be possible in the States with smaller populations like Tasmania and Western Australia, it is nigh impossible for senators from Victoria and New South Wales to have anything more than a fleeting chance from time to time of becoming identified with any significant section of their elector.Ctc
For those reasons, I feel that the case which the Democratic Labor Party has made in support of its amendment is not a case which will make our representative democracy work in the effective way that it must work to maintain its public acceptance. Proportional representation was for many years the system under which many parties were elected to the Assembly of the French Parliament. We know that that type of system brought down the French Government in the long run. The French have now devised a system which is serving them well but which does not leave proportional representation as the means by which many parties can be represented.
– It is limited to proportional representation.
– The French have 2 elections to ensure that in each electorate there is one person who can be said to have received the majority of the votes at the election. I believe that the French experience is such that we can recognise the value of proportional representation but that we ought not to make it the only means by which a government is selected; otherwise we will have so much in the way of representation in the Parliament that the effective government which we expect from the Parliament will not be possible.
The major part of what I have to say is directed to the Bill which Senator Murphy has introduced. 1 feel that there are 2 substantial arguments, as I see the situation, to be raised against Senator Murphy’s Bill. The first is the timing of the Bill and its impact on the forthcoming general election. The second is the more substantive question of whether the functioning of our democracy is to be served by the granting of the vote at this time and, for my part, in the immediately foreseeable future, to persons between 18 and 21 years of age. 1 shall deal first with the point of timing. As we know, a general election is to be held on 2nd December. Nominations are to close on, I think, 10th November. The electoral rolls will close, if my recollection of the Commonwealth Electoral Act serves me well, at some time prior to the closing of nominations. Therefore, if this Bill were to be passed by the Senate and by the House of Representatives we would have a most anomalous situation. We would have, presumably, the situation where some people between the ages of 18 and 21 years, if they were speedy in their actions, would have the right to vote at the election, but there would be no obligation upon every person between the ages of 18 and 21 years to enrol because the Electoral Act at present provides for a period of 3 months within which a person, after attaining the age of 21 years, may enrol before he commits the offence of failing to enrol.
– There will be no rush to enrol in South Australia.
– I know of the figures for South Australia and I know they reveal whether the 18 to 20-year-olds are really enthusiastic about having the right to vote.
– A tremendous amount of money has been spent on publicising the event at public expense.
– I am indebted to Senator Young, who comes from South Australia, for that information. If publicity has been given to inform people of their right to vote either it has had little impact or the people concerned are not attracted by the prospect. On the other hand, the legislation in South Australia has been operative for only the last 3 months. No doubt over a longer period the numbers will increase. But, as I recall the figures quoted by Senator Cotton when this Bill was last before the chamber and the ones 1 have seen elsewhere, approximately 9,000 out of a total of 55,000 eligible 18 to 20- year-olds in South Australia have enrolled for the purpose of voting in elections in that State. 1 was indicating that if the Bill were to become law the anomalous situation would exist - just because of the practicalities of the situation - where there would be conferred upon some people aged between 18 and 21 years a right to vote at the forthcoming general election. 1 believe that that is inconsistent with the general principle which underlines our electoral law. Our electoral law provides for compulsory voting. It is regarded as a duty on the part of every citizen to cast a vote as to who his or her representative shall be. It is a system which, of course, is not to be found in many other parts of the world. It is a distinctively Australian pattern. But I believe in compulsory voting because I believe the most important function in any democracy is for people to exercise the duty of determining which of the opposing parties they prefer as the party by which they should be governed, I think it makes, theoretically or philosophically, for a sounder base for our democratic system than any of the systems under which there is voluntary voting. 1 believe also that our compulsory voting system goes hand in hand with our preferential system. I could not accept that in a voluntary voting system one could have preferential voting. I think the whole justification of preferential voting would disappear.
Likewise, 1 accept for my part what Senator Little said about first past the post voting, which can result - particularly if there are a number of candidates standing for a seat - in a small proportion of the total electorate determining who the member shall be. In effective terms, if there were some 5 or 6 candidates standing, there could be a situation where the one who polled 21 per cent of the votes was the candidate who was elected. That would not be in accord with the general represen tative and democratic principle to which we subscribe. Therefore I believe, simply because of the timing of this Bill and the impact it would have on the forthcoming election, that it is undesirable that the Senate should give it a second reading. For it to be passed, as I have said, would mean that some people between 18 and 21 years of age would be able to vote and its passing would introduce, for that segment of the community, a voluntary principle which would run counter to the general compulsory principle which prevails throughout the Electoral Act.
– You are nol compelled to vote. You are compelled to go to the polling booth.
– 1 accept the distinction which Senator Georges makes except, of course, that when you go to ?he polling booth you have to receive a ballot paper. Unless you have your name crowed off the roll as having received a ballot paper you would be, as I believe the situation, committing the offence of not having voted. What the individual does wilh his ballot paper after he has received it is his right. If he is wise, he can vote for the Government Party. If he so chooses, he can vote for the Opposition Party. On the other hand, he can vote for the Australian Democratic Labor Party, the Country Parly, informally, or for one of the minor parties. But the essential point is that the obligation upon him is to take his ballot paper and have himself recorded as having gone to the poll and received the vole. Obviously, we have a performance which indicates that people, even though they may grumble about the necessity of having to do it from time to time, accept the obligation which is involved in voting because it is very seldom that less than about 91 per cent of the people in any electorate are recorded as voting. There are occasional cases when, for particular reasons, that figure is lower. But somewhere between 90 per cent and 98 per cent of all those eligible to vote at an election always vote.
– So you are in favour of compulsory voting.
– 1 am in favour of compulsory voting for reasons which 1 feel I have outlined and because I believe it makes our system of democracy more meaningful for the people who participate in it. I have suggested that from the timing aspect this is not an appropriate time to pass this measure. Indeed, I suggest that there is an element of political grandstanding involved in the presentation of the Bill at this time. My recollection is that it has been part of the policy of the Australian Labor Party for some time to grant the vote to persons between the ages of 18 years and 21 years. I seem to recall that about February or March of this year publicity was given to a decision by the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party that the question of whether the under 2 1 -year-olds should receive a vote would be tested in the High Court of Australia. Yet it was not until July of this year that those High Court proceedings were instituted.
– The law is very slow.
– I think we know the reason why the proceedings were not instituted until July.It is because the one State which had effectively passed a law upon which the prospect of a successful argument could be based had not brought its law for voting in that State into operation until 1st July. Accordingly, the Labor Party had to wait until 1st July before it could mount its litigation. The point I make is that the Labor Party, as the course which the High Court ultimately decided was appropriate for any change in the voting age, could have introduced this legislation at any time this year. Certainly, it could have introduced it in March of this year and I believe it could have introduced it at any time over the preceding 3 years. But it chose not to do so until 1 5th August. It chose not to bring the matter on for debate until, I think, 15th September. The date today is 1 2th October.
– It is not possible to choose a date when you know that agreements arc made about when matters will come on in this chamber.
– I will accept that there were probably only 2 or 3 weeks in which it could have been brought on earlier and that these matters are determined by agreement. But we know that general business is a matter which can be raised in the Senate on Thursday evenings. Certainly, we have been talking about nothing else but this Electoral Bill for the last 2 general business evenings.
– We are not the government yet.
– No, and I, fortunately, echo what the honourable sentor has just said. The point I am making simply is that there is an element of politics in this subject of which I think we are all aware. I think that it is an element which entitles one to point out the politics of how this matter was raised. In short, the matter could have been discussed in a totally different atmosphere if it had been introduced at an earlier stage. 1 regard the argument against the 18 to 21-year-old voting as being of much more substantial character. We have in this country ever since Federation accepted that the right to vote at Federal elections is to be granted to those persons who are adults. The term adult’ has been conclusively determined by the High Court to mean those persons of 21 years and over. An exception has been made in war time and currently for those persons who are under 21 years of age and rendering overseas military service. I think that the rationale of that exception to the general principle is well understood.
Because we have had a 21 -year-old franchise since the inception of the Commonwealth to my mind this imposes upon those who would change that franchise a heavy obligation of persuading the community and the Senate that the need for that change is a substantial one. I feel that it is very difficult for that persuasive case to be made. I understand that the reason why 21 years has been regarded as the age of adulthood is shrouded in mystery. Earlier this evening I heard Senator Murphy suggest that there might have been some mystical reason for 21 years being chosen as the age of adulthood because it represented 3 sevens. 1 do not know whether there is any basis in that. I would have accepted that the general view was that in times past when persons reached the age of 21 years they accepted, in regard to their private obligations and certain public obligations, the obligations of manhood; and so it has come through our history that 21 years is the ago of adulthood. But it is quite arbitrary, lt is arbitrary today to maintain that 21 years is the age of adulthood.
I would imagine that persuasive cases could be made out to support the thesis that the age of adulthood should be more than 21 years. There is no reason why it should be 21 years in preference to 30 years, 25 years or, as some would have, it, 18 years. I think that a strong argument can be made that because more people today are receiving educational benefits and therefore, are remaining at school or university for a longer period it takes much longer before they have adjusted, after they have left an atmosphere of formal education, to the problems and exigencies of life outside the institutionalised atmosphere.
– Education is bad for them.
– lt is not that education is bad for them but that the atmosphere in which formal education is inculcated is one which does not equip persons to deal with the knocks of life. That is an argument which colleagues of Senator James McClelland have used in my hearing on many occasions in the past. If persons are not leaving universities or schools until 2 or 3 years later than they were leaving them 20 years ago, they are not becoming as well equipped until they are 22 or 23 years of age. I recall that when I was 21 or 22 years of age and still attending university, my colleagues with whom I had attended school were well established in whatever businesses or vocations they were, following. Some of them were married and some were in the process of buying their homes. Certainly, they were much more attuned to the needs of the world of which they were part than I was. Quite obviously, they were more mature than I was. I think that they were certainly better equipped to cope with life at that stage than I was.
– I can recall a little unwisdom in my own mid-twenties.
– It is simply the passing of the years. I instance this only to suggest that the argument that the voting age should be lowered to 18 because there is an earlier maturing is not wholly the one way. I should have thought that an equally attractive argument could be made the other way. I instance these matters purely to emphasise the arbitrariness of the choice at which we make adulthood and the choice at which we make the voting age. Democracy predicates the equal rights of people who live in the democracy. Necessarily it excludes questions of worth, questions of intelligence, questions of greater or lesser education as standards or criteria upon which a person’s rights in the community must depend. This is indicated by the fact that it is age and age alone which determines what the criterion for voting shall be. There are many people over the age of 21 years who in terms of comprehension of what our voting system is concerned with, and in terms of ability and intelligence to make the type of judgment that we would like to see people make at election time, are not equipped to make that sort of judgment.
– Is that why we have been beaten?
– I imagine that one could raise an argument that if we were to have a different criterion on voting the results might be different, but that might not be the same sort of argument that I would use. The point I make is that we all know that there are persons who are entitled to the vote who either do not care about it or lack the amount of comprehension that we would like to see them bring to the casting of their vote. Nevertheless, the fact that they are 21 years of age entitles them to equal rights with other persons. I do not doubt that a number of people under the age of 21 have a comprehension which is as good as, if not better than, anyone in this chamber, who are fully seized of the obligations of voting and of the responsibilities of those for whom they are voting. They have an enhanced sense of what they are about. But on the other hand, there are many people under that age who have no such comprehension. Unless one is going to pick and choose on some standard, which I do not believe our society will accept, those who are entitled to the vote and those to whom the right to vote will be denied, I believe that we must continue with a criterion which is fixed, specific and arbitrary, that is, a voting age.
As to whether the voting age is to be 21, 20, 19, 18 or some age above 21 is largely to be answered on the basis of opinion and judgment as to maturity and responsibility to exercise and accept public and civil responsibilities. The law provides at present that 21 years is the age of adulthood for a variety of private purposes. To mention some examples, it is the age at which a person may marry. I should have thought that was probably as important a personal decision as any individual could make in his lifetime, yet that is fixed by law at 21 years. There are other age limits which are fixed in a variety of pieces of social legislation as determining the age at which a person may drive a motor car, the age at which he may drink in an hotel, the age at which under industrial law he can be regarded as an adult for the purpose of receiving adult wages, and so on. Under our social services legislation there are various types of differential benefits which are paid to people according to their age. All this indicates that we have a society which has a variety of ages for certain personal obligations and other age limits for different types of obligation.
I refer the Senate to one of the considered works on the age of majority, namely, the Report of the Committee on the Age of Majority, known as the Latey Committee, which reported in the United Kingdom in July 1967. That report was concerned with the age of majority but, significantly, the age of voting was excluded from that Committee’s consideration. The majority of the Committee was in favour of reducing the age of majority; the minority desired to retain the age of 21 as the age of majority. The majority report of the Committee at paragraph 25 stated:
Whether the results of our deliberations would have consequences in the civil field has been the subject of considerable discussion, especially between ourselves and our 2 dissentient colleagues, who take the view that we have disregarded the wider constitutional and social consequences of reducing the age of capacity in the field of private civic law. They are mistaken.
We have to confess that it would not actually keep us awake at night if people under 21 were to serve on a jury - if, that is, one 18-year-old were liable to take his seat with II older people, since it is statistically unlikely to be more. And on the subject of voting we have carefully refused to express a view. But it does not seem to use that changes in the civic field are at all likely io follow changes in the private field even if we wished that they should. It is a very different thing to cope adequately with one’s own personal and private affairs and to measure up to public and civic responsibilities. Not every sound taxpayer is equipped to be Prime Minister and in the United States of America the President must be over 35.
Much the same proposition was indicated in the recent decision of the High Court when this question of the interpretation of the Constitution and, in particular, the meaning of the word ‘adult’ was canvassed. The Chief Justice, Sir Garfield Barwick, said in the course of his judgment:
I turn to consider whether ‘no adult person’ in s. 41 should be construed as ‘no mature person’. In the animal kingdom, maturity is a reference to physical maturity, that point of time beyond which there is no further physical growth. So it is in the plant kingdom. So in the precise use of language it is in relation to humans. I suspect that the physical growth of humans, at any rate of Australians, that is completion of skeletal formation and extension, is complete before the attainment of eighteen years of age. I cannot believe that the draftsmen of the Constitution in 1900 would have contemplated giving the franchise to males and females whose physical growth had reached its maximum, making that fact a criterion of the franchise. But physical maturity apart, the word ‘mature’ may possibly be used to express a person’s suitability, to exercise a capacity in relation to some subject matter or in relation to some specified purpose or activity. For my part I would regard this as an inappropriate use of the word. It is used at times as an adjective descriptive or behaviour or outlook in contradistinction to adolescent or juvenile behaviour or attitudes. But even if thought to be a proper use, it does not follow that a person expressed to be mature in relation to some stated activity or in relation to some altitude or behaviour is mature in relation to all matters or activities or in relation to all purposes. A capacity to engage in contracts, to make a will, to borrow money or to drive a motor vehicle is quite disparate from a capacity to exercise a franchise. To decide to accord the on: is not to compel, or perhaps even persuade, a decision to accord the other.
He then referred to the passage in the Latey Report to which T have referred
– Who said that?
– That was Sir Garfield Barwick in the High Court decision given recently in King v. Jones. I raise these matters because I feel, with respect to Senator Murphy that there, was a tendency running right through his speech in support of the Bill to suggest that maturity in some matters is a sufficient criterion to determine that a person has maturity and an appropriate qualification for him to be accorded the franchise. I feel that as a principle that does not follow. For that reason, that argument alone is not persuasive of the result for which Senator Murphy is contending.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, 1 formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Mr President, we would like the debate on the matter which is presently before the Senate to continue in order that a determination might be reached on it. As I understand the position, there is not a great deal more debate to take place on the matter and we could almost certainly get to a vote this evening within a reasonable time. For that reason we oppose the motion for the adjournment.
– If I am in order in speaking - I assume I am, as we are on the motion for the adjournment-
– Yes, that is the motion before the chamber.
– I think that the Leader of the Opposition must be misinformed because there are more honourable senators on our side who wish to put their point of view. Furthermore, I would like to say that, having regard to what Senator Greenwood has said about timing, I think that few honourable senators would be persuaded that this was an appropriate time to sit late in order to get this Bill to the stage that is desired. We wish the Senate to adjourn.
- Mr President, I wish to direct some brief remarks to the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) in his capacity as Minister in charge of security. Am I in order?
– Yes, you are in order in speaking about such a matter. You would not be in order in speaking to the Bill, the time for discussion of which has expired under the sessional orders. You may speak on any other subject you like.
– I am now speaking on the motion for the adjournment?
– Yes, in the adjournment debate.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Attorney-General to some facts that have only recently been brought to my attention by a distressed mother whose 22-year-old son is in a Yugoslav prison because he is a member of a Croatian youth group - a song, dance, folkloretype of outfit - operating inside Australia. The number of occasions upon which Australian citizens are losing their freedom in visiting Yugoslavia is becoming far too numerous to be allowed to pass unnoticed or as some vague hoary allegation that they are members of some terrorist outfit.
The facts regarding this young man are as follows: Nikola Grskovic lived at 16 Damon Road, Mount Waverley, in the State of Victoria. He was born at Vrbnik Croatia, on 13th December 1950. Until recently he was residing in Mount Waverley with his mother, Maria Deleaste, at her address and for a few months he had been residing in Perth. He decided to visit Croatia in order to visit his grandparents and his other relatives. He had come to Australia with his mother in 1965. He became a naturalised Australian citizen on 14th December 1970. He was called up for military service by the Australian Government on 22nd September 1971 and his call-up was deferred in order to enable him to finish his apprenticeship as a motor mechanic. He left Australia by air on 20th June 1972 for the holiday to which I have already referred. He intended to stay with his aunt, Lucia Apolonia, in Vrbnik He intended to visit his grandparents and other relatives who still resided there and also to visit the grave of his father. In all, he was to spend a 4 months holiday in the country in which he was born.
On 4th July 1972-12 days after his arrival - members of UDBA, the Yugoslav secret police, called at his aunt’s house and took him to gaol for questioning. On the same day they brought him back to his aunt’s house to collect his clothes in order to go to prison. At this stage he was carrying an Australia passport for which he had applied in Perth in 1972. One of the interesting aspects of this matter is that the prison sentence began before the trial. On 22nd September a court trial was held, and I have been informed that the sole charge against this boy of 22 years was that of being a member of a Croatian youth group in Australia. This he admitted. The group gives singing and dancing concerts and indulges in other usual youth activities. Naturally, the members of the group would prefer a free Croatia, but they are not devoted to violence. They are not terrorists.
Grskovic was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment for being a member of this group in Australia. He was in fact represented by a lawyer obtained by his aunt. The lawyer indicated his dissatisfaction with the 2-year sentence and said that an appeal would be lodged with the Supreme Court at Zagreb, but the hearing of the appeal has not yet taken place. Another aunt, a Mrs Katarina Fugosic on 3 occasions in July and August went to the Australian Embassy for help. But she was told that, because of the dual citizenship, the Yugoslav Government regarded the boy as a Yugoslav citizen and the Embassy could give no help. A particularly interesting aspect of this matter is that Grskovic’s mother in Australia has been advised by the Yugoslav Consul-General, Franic Rukavine. that the Yugoslav Embassy had no information and knew absolutely nothing against her son, and that it was perfectly in order for him to visit Croatia. The Embassy had no charges to make against him in Australia. The facts which I have given to the Senate have come from information telephoned to the aunt in Croatia and from letters passing between the mother and the aunt.
The purpose in raising this matter is to ask that some action be taken by our Government to protect the value of an Australian passport and the freedom of an Australian citizen who has already been called up for military service in this country, so that when visiting any parts of Europe the members of our migrant community can feel that the Australian Government is behind them and will give them the same protection as it would give to any other Australian citizen who may be travelling abroad. I commend the rather extraordinary facts of this case to the AttorneyGeneral and trust that some intermediary action will result in the release of this boy whose only offence is that he sings and dances in a Croatian youth group.
– I intervene in this debate because of the remarks of Senator Hannan regarding a particular part of Europe. I think the principle involved is: What protection can the Australian Government afford to Australian nationals - not merely those with Australian citizenship but also those who have resided in Australia for a considerable time? All 1 say regarding the question of Australians of any other overseas stock being in a foreign gaol is that quite a number of young Australians in many parts of the world today have contravened laws by, in some instance, drug smuggling and doing other things. The point I make is that there is certainly an obligation on an Australian ambassador - whether he be in Belgrade, Athens or one of the couple of Asian countries which come to mind - to ensure that there is no kangaroo court.
I agree, with the initial submission which Senator Hannan made. But the point I make to Senator Hannan - and I also direct it at the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) - is that I raised this matter long before Senator Hannan raised it in connection with somebody in Yugoslavia. I ask Senator Hannan to look at the Qantas Airways Ltd figures relating to the number of Australians of Yugoslav origin who have returned to Yugoslavia in the postwar years and at the figures which he has quoted. He has quoted only one case. I am not as worked up as he is about the number of wrongdoers. It is something akin to when a foreign naval vessel comes to Australia and a couple of ratings are lumbered for drunkenness, or something like that. One cannot make a generalisation. I say that at the outset, but I want to take the matter a little further.
If we accept the thesis that Senator Hannan has advanced, let us have a look at the persistent complaints which my illustrious colleague, Senator Georges, and I have raised regarding the situation in Greece. I have a letter dated 5th October from the Minister for Immigration, Dr Forbes, in which mention is made of Greek citizens. In the letter he stated in part:
Dual nationals who wish to clarify their position before leaving Australia should get in touch with a representative in Australia of the country of second nationality. Additionally, officers of my Department seek to provide guidance to persons who may be regarded as dual nationals. My Department is currently examining further measures that may be taken to assist Australian citizens in this difficult area.
My view is a simple one. Whether the negotiations were with the Greek Government or the Yugoslav Government - in many ways those governments are probably poles apart - there was an obligation on the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) to deal with the matter on a Minister to Minister level. There, has been a tendency to downgrade it.
As recently as last night, as Senator Greenwood will recall, I raised the question of Polish and Hungarian citizens in Australia who were seeking to bring out elderly relatives from Budapest and Warsaw. Senior officers of the Department of Immigration pointed out to me that the British Government does the job in a reluctant way, apparently because it is regarded as something which does not rate very highly. Fundamentally we could do a lot more whether it be Franco Spain, Portugal, Greece or any of the eastern European countries. Senator Hannan does not help matters by deliberately glossing over the situation and imposing double standards. I use the term ‘double standards’ for one significant reason. Last night I questioned Government policy in relation to political refugees. Senator Hannan referred to people in Melbourne whom he said were refugees from the UDBA. Last night I got an admission that the Government has no record of any political refugees coming here from Spain or Portugal. The honourable senator would know as well as I do that the British Home Office has numerous records of such refugees. I agree that there has to be more effective protection for nationalists or non-nationalists who have been here for 14 years. I equate Greece with the country that the honourable senator mentioned.
I refer to another case which is equally as bad. If we are to be sincere and if we are to go hand in hand, the honourable senator has to be just as positive in the areas to which I am referring.
– I agree with you about Greece.
– I will not be diverted by Senator Hannan. He has made his point. I deal now with a much more serious case. I was helped by Senator O’Byrne who has a considerable knowledge of Central Europe, World War II and Poland. The case involves a Mr T. Augustyn. He has worked for 13 or 14 years in a labouring grade for the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board in Sydney. He was subjected to a brutal beating in a work camp in Germany during World War II. He has scars on his skull and he has ear deformities. He has been waiting since the war for redress. I took the matter up with the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He referred to certain obligations which arose from international agreements entered into by the Federal Republic of Germany. He said:
There is of course no peace treaty between the Federal Republic and either Poland or Australia.
Mr Augustyn is a Polish national. He was told that if he were naturalised his war reparations claim would be jeopardised. Do not forget that this is 1972 and the war ended in 1945. The Minister spoke about Germany’s domestic settlements. I do not claim to be a legal man, but no-one can convince me that the Department, with the elaborate apparatus that it has, cannot do something. Mr Augustyn now is getting near the end of the queue of those seeking reparation and his case be expedited. This man is in his 50s. His highest position has been operator of a jackhammer and he has no chance of promotion now. The Minister replied:
In the circumstances, ministerial policy cannot extend further than to mention Mr Augustyn’s case to the German authorities with the request that a court case, if possible, be expedited.
If there are injustices, whether they be in Central Europe, Western Europe or Eastern Europe, they should be remedied. Let us have an equality of standards. If Senator Greenwood is concerned about the case which Senator Hannan mentioned, I remind him of the numerous cases involving Australians of Greek origin and of the case of the Polish migrant who is still awaiting settlement from the West German
Government. 1 have made much more serious allegations than these to the Minister previously. They were to the effect that a man cannot serve 2 masters. 1 referred to one gentleman in Sydney who claimed to be an agent for the West German Government. He was taking up the cases with that Government. With all due respect to him, blood is thicker than water. 1 do not see how he could have dual loyalties. If the Minister checks Press statements he will find more cases of Australians of Greek origin who have returned to Greece becoming involved with the Greek Government about military call-ups than cases of the sort mentioned by Senator Hannan. I appeal to the Government to adopt a uniform policy. 1 couple that appeal with an appeal for action on behalf of the Polish national who has experienced this undue delay in the settlement of his claim and about whom, for some reason, the Government feels it is infra dig to make any strong protest to the West German Goverment.
– 1 agree with Senator Hannan’s remarks in the Senate tonight that where there appears to be an infringement of what we think is a right there should be an inquiry by the Attorney-General. If there is an infringement of justice in relation to someone who holds an Australian passport, there should be an inquiry. Senator Hannan must accept that the person to whom he referred was tried by a court in Yugoslavia, was found guilty and was sentenced. 1 do not think that anyone accepts that he was found guilty of belonging to a group in Australia which sang and danced. However, something that does not accord with our system of justice may have happened. Therefore the conviction may not be right. If he is an Australia, certain representations could perhaps spare him somewhat.
I refer to an injustice done to a person holding an Australian passport - a Mr Pilioras an Australian of Greek descent who migrated to Australia in October 1953 and was naturalised in I960. Today he is an Australian citizen. In 1969 he went to Greece to visit his aging parents and subsequently returned to Australia. On 3rd May this year he received a telephone call from his brother in Greece who said that their father was seriously ill, might not pull through the illness and was asking to see his son in Australia. Mr Pilioras left Australia by air on Saturday 13th May, arriving at Athens airport on 14th May. When he arrived there, his passport was taken from him. Two policemen guarded him to see that he did nol leave the airport until such time as the Greek director-general of immigration arrived to interview him. The, director eventually arrived at 7 p.m on Monday, 15th. For all of that time Mr Pilioras was detained at the Athens airport by 2 armed policemen. He was not allowed to leave the airport nor was he given the right to telephone his parents home. He offered to pay the wages of one of the attendants if the attendant accompanied him to see his parents.
The director eventually arrived and informed him that he was not allowed to enter Greece because of an instruction from the Consul-General in Sydney. After further inquiry the director told him that the Greek Consul-General had taken this action because when Mr Pilioras was naturalised in Australia he surrendered his Greek passport. Because his Greek passport had been surrendered, he was not again allowed to enter Greece. Mr Pilioras said that he had been asked to surrender his passport by Australian authorities as one of the conditions of naturalisation. He did this. This was not a bar to his entry to Greece in .1969, when he sought to visit his parents.
The Greek authorities would not let nim go. On 16th May 1972, nearly 3 days after landing in Greece, he was put on a plane to return to Australia. In the whole of those 3 days in Athens, he was not allowed out of the airport. He had mortgaged his home and sold some of his goods to obtain $900 for the purpose of paying his fare to Greece and to buy himself out of service there. In the period when he was attended by the policemen, he suffered a heart attack. Two doctors treated him. He took up his case with the Premier of South Australia who wrote to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) who stated:
The Australian Embassy has been informed that Mr Pilioras had been deprived of his Greek citizenship and that his name had been included in the list of persons who are to be denied entry, ft was for this reason that the Aliens Branch at Athens airport placed restrictions upon him. 1 made inquiries of the Greek consulate in Sydney and finally elicited the information that Mr Pilioras came from a small village where in the past there had been a Communist uprising in which Mr Pilioras had participated. Although that uprising had been suppressed, the haired of the tocal residents against the Communists was so great that, for his own protection, the authorities thought that Mr Pilioras should noi be allowed to return to that village. The Greek consulate provided me with this information. But Mr Pilioras told me that there was no truth in it. In 1969, he returned to Greece and was welcomed in his home town. His visit did not result in any hostilities. The consulate has told me one reason for his detention. The director of the airport gave him another reason. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided a further reason why this man is not being permitted to travel to Greece.
His parents are aged. Possibly they have not long to live. He desires greatly to see them. I suppose that we cannot break the authority of another country if it will not permit him entry. But I believe that some warning should be given to those people returning to Greece that, before they venture from Australia and incur the expense involved in travelling to Greece, they should ensure that they have the right of entry to Greece. Mr Pilioras has spent some S900. Representations should be made for the purpose of seeking a return of the expenditure which he has incurred in paying for his trip and other debts associated with it resulting from the refusal of Greek personnel to permit him to enter that country. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether this matter might again be taken up to see whether some compensation might be obtained in respect of the loss incurred by this individual and whether a warning might be issued to others to make sure of their landing rights in Greece before they venture from Australia on a trip to that country.
– In speaking on the adjournment debate tonight, Senator Mulvihill referred to a letter which he has passed to me and which I have read. One paragraph in that letter attracts my attention and I wish to draw the attention of the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) to it. In this letter reference is made, as Senator Mulvihill said, to people who were considered to have dual nationality, in particular Greeks. It is the latter part of the paragraph that I will read which disturbs me. The letter states:
When such persons are in the country of second nationality, (including a country which permits holders of Australian passports to enter without visas) their Australian citizenship may not exempt them from obligations such as military service in that country.
The next sentence in this paragraph is the part of the letter that I question. J should mention that the letter is signed by the Honourable A. J. Forbes, Minister for Immigration. The relevant paragraph continues:
They may be claimed as nationals of that country in which case Her Majesty’s representatives abroad are unable to intercede on their behalf with the authorities of that country. f question that part of the letter.
I instance the case of an Australian citizen who by some chance enters a country which considers that he is one of its nationals and who is in some way restricted in his movements in that country. Am I to understand from this letter that in such a case our authorities in that country are unable to intercede on behalf of that Australian citizen? If that is the case, what is Australia and the Department of Foreign Affairs dein* to alter the situation? Surely, even though a case of dual nationality may be involved, our authorities have the right to intercede. I ask the Minister to consider this question and to verify that our authorities do have the right to intercede on behalf of Australian citizens in spite of the fact that those citizens may be claimed as nationals by another country.
– 1 rise to support the case that has been put forward by Senator Cavanagh, Senator Georges and Senator Mulvihill relating to the inadequacy of our diplomat.matic and public relations and of our Department of Foreign Affairs. Australia is at the stage of its development where it has encouraged people to migrate here from all parts of the world, particularly from Europe. Many problems that are arising are being left in limbo because of a lack of awareness on the part of the Department of Foreign Affairs in making its contacts with these countries.
Senator Mulvihills intention was to raise a matter relating to a Polish citizen who is an Australian resident. A reply from the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) in respect of this matter indicated that certain obligations arose from international agreements entered into by the Federal Republic of Germany after World War II but that they are not obligations which Australia can enforce as Australia is not a party to the relevant agreements. There is, of course, no peace treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and either Poland or Australia.
I draw the attention of Senator Wright who represents in the Senate the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the fact that, as Australia is acting as a catalyst in attracting people from these various European countries to migrate here, we should be able to make contact on all necessary levels so that the rights of these citizens can be preserved. Contact should be made with the countries from which these people come. 1 wish to support the case that has been put forward to demonstrate the many anomalies, loopholes and shortcomings in the Government’s present policy with regard to the needs of a great number of migrants who have come here. A good deal of consideration should be given to a review to seek to make the necessary contacts with the countries from which these people have come in order to see that whatever rights these people who have been encouraged to come here have are preserved as many of them have migrated to Australia as a refuge or as their hope for the future. We have an obligation to look after their interests and I think the cases raised by Senator Cavanagh, Senator Georges and Senator Mulvihill have a lot of merit. We must take a deeper look at the situation that has been created in this country. These nationals still have a contact with their homelands and we must make closer contact with them.
– I wish to say simply that I have listened to Senator Cavanagh and Senator Mulvihill with interest and 1 shall see that the 2 cases to which they referred are examined.
– I have listened to all honourable senators. This is the second night in succession on which an instance has been placed before the Senate of an Australian citizen who went to Yugoslavia and, I think, finished up in gaol. The story told by Senator Hannan tonight, on the face of it, is absolutely incredible even as we see it for a Communist country. I would have though it was all the more incredible because on the story which has been told the matter was checked out with the Consul for Yugoslavia in Melbourne before this young man returned to Yugoslavia. I have received a number of allegations of this character all of which are being checked out and many of which are being verified, as much as they can be, from the Australian source. They have been referred to our Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen), and I assure Senator Hannan that this particular case will be referred to the Minister. It would appear to be prudent advice, hard though it must be for them to accept, for any young Croations who feel they would like to go back to Croatia to visit parents or relatives to desist from doing so. However, that is a matter for their judgment. As far as the general issue is concerned, that must be referred to the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs for him to take such action as he considers appropriate.
I listened also to what Senator Cavanagh said about a particular instance of a person who went to Greece. This. I think, illustrates the variety of problems which our migrants who become naturalised citizens experience when they seek to return to their homelands. It is a matter which the honourable senator has referred to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Senator Wright has said he will refer it to the Minister. I can only regret that Senator O’Byrne in his comments chose to be impressed by what his colleagues in the Labor Party said and chose not to say one word about his sympathy for the predicament of the man mentioned by Senator Hannan, which is far worse than anything else that has been said.
– I wish to indicate to the Senate that it is the intention on Tuesday, 17th October, following the normal questions without notice and other formal business, that a motion shall be moved for the suspension of the sittings of the Senate to enable Estimates Committees B and E to meet from 2.15 p.m. until the ringing of the bells. If at 10 p.m. that night the Committees have not concluded their deliberations, their proceedings will be interrupted and the sittings of the Senate will be resumed.
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.9 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
What was the backlog of applications from persons seeking to enter Australia as (a) assisted migrants and (b) non-assisted migrants, at the end of the 1971-72 immigration programme, from the following countries: Great Britain, Ireland (Eire and Ulster), Yugoslavia, Italy, Greece, Malta, Lebanon, United States of America, Chile, Finland, West Germany and Mauritius.
Senator GREENWOOD- The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
there is in general no backlog of applicants for assisted passages at the posts mentioned in the sense that there are applications awaiting attention. There are however applications at various stages of the selection process viz:
The numbers of people in each of these categories at the end of 1971-72, who have applied for assisted passages in the countries mentioned are set out in Table 1. Mauritius and Lebanon are not included in this table as assisted passage schemes do not operate from those countries.
However, statistics are available showing:
These are provided in Table 2.
The table does not include figures for Britain and Ireland as most residents of these countries are free to travel to Australia as unassisted settlers without obtaining prior written authority. It also does not include applications from people in categories not eligible for consideration.
Mauritius also is excluded from this table. No Australian officers are based there and visits are made to the island by officers of the Department of Immigration each year. The last visit was made during the period 18th May to 14th July 1972 when all applicants whose applications were pending as at 12th May 1972 were invited to attend for interview. In all, 1,675 persons were interviewed. The applications and interview reports are now being examined. As at 17th August 1972, 49 applications lodged by residents of Mauritius since 12th May 1972 were held pending arrangements for interview.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD - The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Senator WRIGHT- The Minister for Foreign Affairs has furnished the following reply:
These are matters that could only be decided in the light of the particular circumstances existing at the time.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Senator SIR KENNETH ANDERSON - The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
What steps has the Minister taken to obtain agreement among the States for the adoption throughout Australia of international road direction signs.
Senator COTTON- The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian Transport Advisory Council in February 1972 endorsed in principle Part I of the Australian Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices prepared by the Australian Committee on Road Devices as a draft standard to revise the SAA Road Signs Code- AS CEI-1960.
In preparing the Manual, the Committee considered the existing practice for road signs and signals in Australian States and Territories, the provisions of the 1968 United Nations Convention on Road Signs and Signals and decisions more recently made by the United States National Joint Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
The draft standard (Document DR 72133) was issued for public comment by the Standards Association of Australia on 1 September 1972. After comments are considered by the Association the
Manual will then be further considered by Council with a view to approving its useas a standard throughout Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
Does the Department of Immigration provide, either directly or indirectly by grants to the Slates for the purpose, interpreters to provide a service for those migrants who are hospitalised; if not, will the Minister give urgent consideration to providing interpreters in major public hospitals as a contribution to the health and well-being, both physical and mental, of those migrants who are not yet proficient in English.
Senator GREENWOOD- The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Department of Immigration does not either directly or indirectly provide funds to the States for the employment of interpreters. However, the Department has its own interpreter service in each State office, which is available for use in emergency situations arising in the community. Furthermore, the Department is in the course of developing an emergency telephone interpreter service which will be introduced initially in the Sydney and Melbourne offices to provide a service to meet emergency needs in the community.
The Department has recognised the special need for interpreters in hospitals and in particular psychiatric institutions, recognition largely arising out of departmental survey research. The special need has been discussed at meetings of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Immigration. There has been growing recognition also of the need for interpreter services in the community generally, and to assess the actual nature of this need the Department in 1971 commenced an Australia-wide survey to enable an overall assessment to be made. The survey was directed at seeking information on both interpreting and translating needs from a selected representative sample of organisations and individuals who have dealings with migrants in the course of their day-to-day activity. The findings of the survey are at present under active consideration and areas identified by the survey as presenting special needs will receive close attention, and means will be sought to remedy the situation.
Whilst the Department of Immigration has a responsibility for providing interpreter services to meet needs arising directly from its specific functions, we do not believe that interpreter services should be solely the responsibility of government, and it is significant to note the extent to which commerce and industry is already active in this regard. However, the Department accepts a special responsibility for interpreting needs in vital areas and the action being taken to establish an ‘on call’ telephone interpreter service, which will operate on a 24-hour basis, should contribute substantially in assisting many organisations including hospitals which may be faced with crisis situations.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD - The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
To supplement this basic register, aliens over 16 years of age are required to notify some particulars to the Department in September of each year, notably their current address. The response to the annual notification varies. For example 72 per cent of registered aliens notified in 1967, 67 per cent in 1968 and59.9 per cent in 1969.
In 1971 the existing manual system which did not lend itself to follow-up action was replaced by a computer based system. Although some problems still remain to be overcome, this is proving reasonably satisfactory and addresses obtained at the 1971 notification and those that have been incorporated in the register as a result of subsequent information, covered some 80 per cent of registered aliens as at 30 June 1972.
Meanwhile the large amount of information available from the Aliens Register remains most valuable to the Department.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
Senator COTTON- The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senators’ question:
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
This figure includes rejections on security grounds, but a substantial number would have been on grounds other than security. These details are not recorded statistically.
(Question No. 2459)
SenatorWILLESSEE asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
Were 1,500 Yugoslavs who applied to migrate to Australia in 1971-72 rejected on security grounds.
How many persons of other nationalities who applied to migrate to Australia in 1971-72 were rejected on security grounds.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
Senator COTTON- The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– On 24 August 1972, Senator Milliner asked a question without notice concerning Social Services. The Treasurer has now provided the following information:
The question of retrospective payment of increased rates under social service and repatriation legislation is raised whenever increases are made. It has been the accepted practice of all Governments that increases in social service and repatriation pensions and allowances announced in the Budget should operate from the first pension pay-day after the authorising legislation has received the Royal Assent.
– On 30th August 1972 Senator Jessop asked a question without notice concerning investments made by life insurance companies. Further to the reply given at the time, the Treasurer has provided the following information:
Life insurance companies invest their funds as widely as possible within Australia both geographically and by type of investment. Many of these investments have provided finance for a wide variety of projects of a developmental nature. In addition to maintaining substantial investments in Commonwealth, Local and Semi-Government securities, life insurance companieshave invested in a broad range of Australian industries such as iron and steel, petroleum, natural gas, alumina, fertilisers, chemicals, timber, mining and quarrying. Investments have also been made in the pastoral industry as well as in housing finance, the development of new suburban shopping centres and the redevelopment of central city areas.
– On 13 th September Senator Douglas McClelland asked the following question without notice:
Is 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?
The Treasurer has provided the following information on the matters raised in the honourable senator’s question:
The Commonwealth’s decision to introduce the non-metropolitan unemployment relief grants scheme was motivated by its concern at the social and economic problems being caused by the substantially higher rate of unemployment in rural areas. The unemployment is largely of a structural kind and therefore requires particular rather than general measures to deal with it.
While the Commonwealth has imposed certain broad conditions on the scheme, the detailed administration, including the selection of those to be employed under it, is left to the State authorities. The general aim of the scheme has been to achieve the greatest social impact by giving preference in employment to those in the greatest need.
I understand that in New South Wales State, semi-government and local authorities have been asked to give preference in employment to adult persons with dependants after which any remaining funds available under the scheme may be used to employ other persons registered for employment, including single persons.
In this respect the policy adopted by the New South Wales authorities is, I understand, no different from that adopted in other States.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 October 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1972/19721012_senate_27_s54/>.