28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 47 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of certain citizens of New South Wales respectfully sheweth:
That Australian citizens place great value on the sanctity of human life and the physical, mental and social welfare of mothers and children.
That we are deeply concerned to preserve throughout Australia the law’s protection of human life from the moment of conception.
That proposals to change the law to allow abortion on demand and the termination of pregnancy for non-medical reasons are unacceptable to the people of Australia.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the honourable House will not extend the laws governing abortion and will uphold the right to life of the unborn child.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
A petition in identical terms was presented by Senator Douglas McClelland.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, the Select Committee on Shipping Services between King Island, Stanley and Melbourne, appointed by resolution of the Senate on 3rd May 1973, have power to proceed to the dispatch of business: notwithstanding that all members have not been duly nominated and appointed and notwithstanding any vacancy.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate take note of the report titled ‘An Assessment of Tasmania’s Interstate Transport Problem’ by the Bureau of Transport Economics, dated March 1973.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: In view of the action taken by the unions in placing bans on all French goods, ships and aircraft, what alternative arrangements will be made by the present Government if Qantas flights operating through Tahiti to Mexico and on to Europe can no longer be refuelled in Tahiti? Does the Minister agree that if this occurs it will further weaken the Australian Government’s position in any air traffic rights discussions with the United States if alternatives are precipitously closed off?
– I am not in a position to forecast what might happen if the events suggested by the honourable senator occur. I am unable to say whether, if these situations eventuate, future airline negotiations will be bedevilled. This matter is in a fluid state at the moment and I think that I can advise the Senate of developments only as they occur.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the present trade mission to China being headed by the Minister for Overseas Trade and Secondary Industry. Is it a fact that the Minister has had a conference with the Prime Minister of Cambodia’s Government in exile, Mr Penn Nouth, in which Dr Cairns indicated his personal support for the guerrilla forces in that country? If so, in view of the fact that Australia recognises and has diplomatic relations with the Cambodian Government headed by General Lon Nol, and that Dr Cairns is presently on an official trip as a representative of this country, will the Government expressly dissociate itself from the remarks apparently made by Dr Cairns? Further, in view of the Prime Minister’s clear indication when he was reported to have rebuked Dr Cairns earlier this year that he, the Prime Minister, would be the sole spokesman for the Government on foreign affairs, why is Dr Cairns able to repudiate his Prime Minister so often and still remain in the Ministry?
– Some pretty familiar propaganda is associated with the question asked by the honourable senator. The honourable senator asks whether the Government will dissociate itself from statements ‘apparently made by Dr Cairns’. I do not know how one can either associate or dissociate oneself from statements ‘apparently made’. In due course we will find out whether Dr Cairns has said or done anything that would be cutting across Australian Government policy. No evidence is available that he has done so. If he has, the Government will deal with the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour. In view of the, total trade and communications bans imposed on France by the Australian Council of Trade Unions because of the proposed nuclear tests in the Pacific, does the Minister expect that the trade unions will impose similar bans when a further nuclear test date is announced by China, which is reported to be currently negotiating new trade agreements with Australia? What action is the Government taking to prevent so-called industrial unions involving Australia in political strikes and embargoes which pre-empt the Government’s responsibility for foreign affairs?
– The honourable senator probably knows that really his question ought to be directed to Senator Willesee who represents the Prime Minister in this place. The subject of nuclear tests is largely one related to foreign affairs. With respect to the action of the ACTU, I understand that; in another place this morning, the Prime Minister advised the Parliament that he. is conducting negotiations with the ACTU. All I can say to the honourable senator in expressing an opinion with respect to the ACTU’s ban is that this is an attitude which is designed to affect the tests to be held in the area with which we are concerned and which is of concern to the ACTU. The area of concern is more important than is the question of what China might do in the foreseeable future. I understand too that the trade unions which are affiliated with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the International Transport Workers Organisation have asked the ACTU and Australian unions to support the international ban. The unions in the area that will be affected by the French tests so far have similarly supported the international call for these bans. That is all the. information that I can provide to the honourable senator. Largely the question is one which falls within the ambit of the responsibilities of the Minister representing the Prime Minister.
– Does the Minister representing the Prime Minister wish to add anything to the answer given by Senator Bishop.
– No. I did not listen to the question.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting AttorneyGeneral. Further to my question yesterday concerning the statement in the ‘Illawarra Mercury’ newspaper of 27th March that Senator Murphy told an Australian Labor Party victory dinner at Port Kembla on 2nd March that people should write to him if they wanted Australian Security Intelligence Organisation dossiers, I again wish to raise this matter with the Minister. Will he urgently investigate how many such dossiers have been distributed to the public, especially in view of the fact that my office has since been in touch with the editorial office of the newspaper which believes the report to be accurate and to contain no errors? Further, the newspaper states that no ALP official in Wollongong or any member of Senator Murphy’s staff has complained to it that any question of inaccurate reporting is involved.
– As I understand the question, Senator Gair wants to know whether any Australian Security Intelligence Organisation files or dossiers have been given out to the public.
– As offered by Senator Murphy.
– The honourable senator claims on the basis of a newspaper report which he is backing up that they have been offered. I will refer the matter for attention.
– The newspaper says that the offer was made at an ALP victory dinner.
– I will make inquiries.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. By way of preface, I refer to the laudable gesture of Qantas Airways Ltd in assisting to make available transport facilities for Australian participants in the Festival of the Brides held in Slovenia in Yugoslavia. Why has not Qantas sought to make direct flights to Belgrade and Zagreb in view of the high charter flight loadings of JAT, the Yugoslav national airline, rather than, as hinted, suggesting a cut back of charter flight facilities which can only penalise the intending passengers?
– Qantas Airways Ltd will conduct affinity charter flights to other countries by arrangements made in accordance with Australian Government policy on charter flights. At the present time, Qantas considers that the traffic between Yugoslavia and Australia does not justify any increase in these charter flights. The question of charter flights to Yugoslavia and other countries is under constant review. At the present time, it is considered that insufficient normal fares are available to permit an extension or continuation of such charter flights. These charter flights will be considered from time to time in the light of Qantas policy, taking into consideration the flights already available to the public, the traffic that may be expected from a flight and the question of services from one country to another. If arrangements could be made at any time - services warranting it - Qantas would be prepared to- provide charter flights.
– Has the Minister for the Media seen a report in today’s Press that television programs will be awarded points on a merit basis from now on? ls this report correct? Is it also correct that some of the more popular programs will rate the lowest points? Is it correct that a television station must obtain a certain quota under the points system or it may lose its licence? If this is so, is this one method of reducing the number of commercial television stations and an indirect method of obtaining some Government control over the television media?
– I have seen the report which appeared in at least one if not 2 morning newspapers. The report is not quite correct. The introduction of a new points system is a serious attempt on the part of the Government and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to improve 1jj6s/73- s- I6U the quality and standard of Australian television and to remove, to some extent, many of the anomalies and weaknesses in the current straight quota system by which a station gets the same number of quota percentage points, as it were, for a gardening talk as it would for employing many Australians on a professional variety program. I note that one of the newspapers which gave coverage to the report has proposed this morning to conduct a poll of its readers on the proposed points system. Given that the details of the system as published by the newspaper are incomplete and deficient, frankly such a proposal can be regarded only as being thoroughly irresponsible. It would be like conducting an election before any of the parties had a chance to outline their policies. The results of any such poll cannot be considered to be at all relevant. If the newspaper concerned had waited until full details of the system had been made public, as they are expected to be next month after the Broadcasting Control Board has had dicussions with the licensees of the commercial stations, as is required under the Broadcasting and Television. Act, it would have been much more responsible and it might even have been helpful. I suggest that, a poll at this stage would be utterly irrelevant.
It is most unlikely that Australian television viewers are about to be deluged by a spate of poetry readings on television in peak hour viewing times. Commercial stations are goverened to a very large extent by the rating systems, and the proposals set -out by the Control Board at this stage and which have just been forwarded to the commercial stations allow for complete flexibility in the programming arrangements of the stations. It is not mandatory for a station to program according to each category which is set out. I can hardly visualise, for instance, Abigail of ‘Number 96’ being charged with responsibility of singing ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ or Paul Hogan of Channel 9 being asked to recite for an hour Henry Lawson’s poem ‘Faces in the Street’. The existing standards contain a category for the arts. Despite the fact that there is such a category, very little, if any, of this type of programming has been carried out. If stations want to carry it out, they are entitled to do so and they are entitled to receive a points credit for doing it. Whether they do so is a matter .for them. The new system will allow complete flexibility in their programming arrangements.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. No doubt he is aware that the recent national wage case decision will add from $800m to $900m to the national wage bill. Is the Minister yet able to indicate how much of that money paid out in wages to Australian workers will be collected by the Government in extra taxation? If not, will he make such figures available and public as soon as possible?
– Yes, I have seen the estimate of the cost of the national wage case. No, I do not know how much will be returned in taxation. Yes, I will find out, if I possibly can, and let the honourable senator know.
– I direct a question to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister. I refer to the answer given yesterday about the appointment of Professor F. H. Gruen to the personal staff of the Prime Minister. Does Professor Gruen’s appointment represent a replacement of Dr Coombs as economic adviser to the Prime Minister?
– I do not know. I will find out.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer been drawn to a report that the United States balance of payments deficit was $10,000m for the first quarter of the year and to the report that the price of gold has risen to over $100 an ounce? In view of the new and sustained pressure on the United States dollar and of the likelihood of a further devaluation of that currency, will the Government keep a close watch on the position to see that the income from Australia’s trade with the United States of America will not be unduly affected, even if this means a devaluation of the Australian dollar?
– Yes, the Government will keep a close eye on trade not only with the United States of America but also with everywhere else. I do not know whether that close watch will require a devaluation or an appreciation, but the Government would act following on the close survey that the honourable senator has recommended we make.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Minister or his Department received a submission from the Embassy for South Vietnam detailing acts of aggression amounting to a renewal of the war by North Vietnamese and Vietcong elements? Will the Minister, on behalf of the Australian Government, express concern to the North Vietnamese at their breaches of the ceasefire agreement and call for an immediate ceasefire and/ or withdrawal as a step to real’ peace in Vietnam?
– I . do . not know whether our Ambassador has been handed a. note on this matter. The very, difficult situation that has prevailed following the ceasefire is one to which we are not a. party. There’ could be an adverse effect if -we were to start to move in at this stage. Up til) this point,, both on the prisoner of war. question and the. whole question of the ceasefire, we havebelieved, as we have no direct-, responsibilities, in this matter - we are not a signatory to any of the ceasefire arr.angements-that the agreements that were reached at Paris should be given a chance, to- work out. without outside interference.
Just prior to my coming into’ the Senate the Minister for Health did give me some information on this matter. The Minister for Health has advised me that’ no batches of influenza vaccine have failed ‘ this year and that the backlog of orders by distributors, which at one stage had reached almost 6 weeks, should fall to 2 weeks by the end of this month. There have been’ some wild public statements about the efficiency of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, : but, according to the Minister for Health,, the’ facts are, as students of an illustrated science strip in some leading daily “newspapers 1 will realise, that appropriate virus strains have to be decided some months in advance of production.
As soon as the prevalent strain in the recent northern winter was confirmed by the World Health Organisation production was started in anticipation of orders for 800,000 doses, based on last year’s orders of 55,000 doses. Before last Christmas that was revised to 1.2 million doses because of unofficial reports of a mild Northern Hemisphere epidemic. That, of course, does not mean that there need necessarily be an unusual incidence of influenza in Australia this year. Present indications do not indicate the likelihood of a major outbreak. By the end of May, 2 million doses will have been issued, subject to routine final sterility testing. This has been achieved by 24 hours a day 7 days a week operations. That compares favourably with the efforts of private enterprise producers in the Northern Hemisphere who, as it so happens, at a corresponding period in the Northern Hemisphere winter .completely failed to meet their own demands and have been unable to assist us, as our Government laboratories have in the past assisted their countries. The Minister for Health advises me that in 1 967, in the United States, for example, several firms were unable to produce a satisfactory vaccine until late in the winter. Our Commonwealth Serum Laboratories produced 5.5 million doses in Australia during the following epidemic season, which was 10 times the previous year’s average output. Bulk concentrate was sent to the United Kingdom to supplement that country’s production.
– 1 ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question which is supplementary to the one that he has just answered. Will he ask the Minister for Health to allay the confusion that exists amongst patients, chemists and doctors as to whether a person needs one or two injections of the new influenza vaccine for booster purposes? If a person is having an immunisation he needs 2 injections and the following year he needs only one. But certain advice from the instrumentalities of the Department of Health indicates that a person needs 2 injections. The Department of Health implies that a person needs 2 injections because it has changed the pharmaceutical benefits list from one injection to 2 injections.
– Is that two and two, or two altogether?
– No, two altogether even for a booster, and I am talking about boosters now. If a person has not been immunised previously he still needs 2 injections and, because of the added different strain A, he needs to have a booster. There is this difficulty in ascertaining whether a person needs one or two injections. Will the Minister please assist doctors, chemists and patients by giving us an answer?
– As everyone knows, Senator Turnbull who has asked the question, is a medical practitioner, as is the Minister for Health. I certainly am not a medical practitioner and, therefore, I will let the doctors fight it out among themselves. I shall refer the honourable senator’s question to my colleague in another place and obtain the correct information for him.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property obtain for the Senate a statement detailing the areas of office accommodation leased for Commonwealth ministries, departments and/ or instrumentalities in the Australia Square building in Sydney and indicate the length of the leases listed and the annual rate of rental agreed for each lease? Is it a fact that nearby, newer and more prestigious office space is available at a rate which is at least 12i per cent lower than the lowest rate charged in the Australia Square building? My authority for asking that question is the statement by a spokesman for the Australia Square building reported in today’s ‘Australian’.
– I do not think that Senator Marriott would expect me to have those figures in my head. I will ask the Minister whom I represent in this chamber and obtain the figures for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that last week the Minister had a conference with the Premier of Tasmania and the Minister for Agriculture of that State on the subject of the apple industry? Will the Minister be good enough to inform me whether the subject matter of the conference was devaluation compensation, or the underwriting of the industry’s exports for the 1973-74 season, or both? If it related to the underwriting of the 1973-74 season, the Minister will be aware of the direct contradiction between his statement that he did not refuse assistance and the statement of the Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture that the Minister did refuse assistance. Will the Minister state the facts on that subject to the Senate?
– The discussions that I had with Mr Costello and Mr Reece did involve the underwriting of the next fruit crop for 1973-74. But the discussions primarily revolved around the restructuring that would be necessary in order to bring about the viability of the industry which I am sure Senator Wright, along with the rest of our Tasmanian colleagues, would like to sec, I think that there was some misunderstanding on Mr Costello’s part as to the subject matter of our discussions. As I stated in my Press release, there was no intention to make any definitive decision that night as to the future of the industry and the Commonwealth’s involvement in it,, I wanted Mr Costello and Mr Reece to present, particularly to the Federal Treasurer, precisely the State’s views on what that restructuring should be. No decision has been made. Certainly there has been, I reiterate, no rejection of Tasmania’s request to the Commonwealth and I hope that in perhaps the next three or four weeks I will be in a position to say something positive about what the Commonwealth’s involvement in that industry will be.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. As it has been suggested that the marketing of exports of primary products would be handled in future by the Department of Overseas Trade rather than by individual producer organisations, and bearing in mind that there is at present a world shortage of many of these products, will the Minister give an assurance that traditional lucrative markets built up over the years will not be undermined by Dr Cairns in his enthusiasm to negotiate sales of our products to China? Will the Minister ensure that the producers concerned, who own the products, are fully consulted before any agreements are made?
– I am not aware of any suggestion that has been made that the market ing of Australian primary products will come under the control of the Department of Overseas Trade. If the honourable senator can tell me where he has read any such suggestion I would like to hear it. The responsibility for the marketing of primary products remains within my Department. The development of trade between Australia and overseas markets is primarily the responsibility of Dr Cairns, and although I am basing this .only on Press reports of Dr Cairns’ efforts in China, I would say they have. been of great value to Australian primary producers. It could well be that his efforts are opening markets for Australian primary products which should have been opened by the previous Administration if it had not been so blind in its political approach.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Is it a fact that an election is to be held on 11th August in which only Aboriginal voters will be eligible to cast their votes for .’ .the purpose ‘ of electing 80 representatives from all States and the Northern Territory to the ‘National Aboriginal Consultative Committee? (s it a fact that these representatives are - to be paid a minimum salary of $10,000 , a year, plus expenses? Is it a fact that maps, of Australia showing the new Aboriginal electoral boundaries have been published by the Division of National Mapping of the Department of Minerals and Energy and are currently circulating among Aboriginal members of the National Steering Committee? Is it a fact that Aboriginal members of the National Steering Committee have been instructed to keep any information regarding the proposed elections a tight secret until these matters have been discussed at the State conferences of the National Steering Committee to be held about mid-June? Will the Minister inform the Senate how much the proposed National Aboriginal Consultative Committee is estimated to cost the Treasury?
– All I know is that a consultative committee comprised of Aborigines and elected from Aborigines is to be formed. Obviously I cannot give the honourable senator the detailed -answer he seeks about costs and so on. I will refer it to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. However, it is obvious from the question that the advice to keep secret ali matters concerning the appointments was not heeded.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a report in the ‘Australian’ newspaper of 15th May suggesting that acting upon the Campbell report on university and college of advanced education staff salaries the Government will break the existing nexus between the rates of pay applying in universities and colleges of advanced education? Is the report accurate?
– 1 have not seen the report to which the honourable gentleman refers. I will refer the question to my colleague in another place and obtain a reply for him.
– 1 ask the Minister assisting the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that at yesterday’s Press conference the Prime Minister stated that he knew that there were terrific similarities between Queensland’s Premier. Mr Bjelke-Petersen, and the Rhodesia n leader, Mr Ian Smith. Is that supposed to be a criticism of or a compliment to the outstanding statesman, Mr Bjelke-Petersen? Does the Minister recognise that there are terrific similarities between several of the leading Labor Party Ministers and leading Communists in the world? Does the Minister recognise that this is no compliment to the Labor Government?
– 1 raise a point of order. I think that that is an insult to members of the Government. It should be withdrawn.
– I do not know. I think that if the Prime Minister’s description of Mr Bjelke-Petersen were meant to be severe and ironical there is no deprivation in the honourable senator saying the same thing about others.
– I do not see that what the Prime Minister said at a Press conference comes within my portfolio’. Nor do I think I have to answer what Senator Webster thinks. I do not know whether he means that I look like some leading Communist. I do not know. I certainly cannot ask my Department for any advice on this. I think that this sort of question is a bit of a waste of question time.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to this morning’s Press announcement of a new wheat stabilisation scheme. Will the Minister consider an increase in the first advance of $1.10 which amount I concede-
– The honourable senator is behind the times.
– I know that $1.10 ls mentioned. As far as I know the amount of $1.20 has not yet been paid. wm the Minister see what can be done to speed up the second and final payments due to wheat growers under the stabilisation scheme as great numbers of them have been suffering hardship because of the long delay in getting final payments? In saying that I do not place all the blame for these delays at the door of the Minister.
– Under the stabilisation scheme which- would normally expire this year the system of first advance has been used, with a final payment made after the Australian Wheat Board has disposed of the wheat. For many years that first advance has been $1.10. It is normally determined in February of each year. This year the Government decided to increase that first advance by 10c to an effective amount of $1.20 for the 1973- 74 crop. That is the first method of payment. In the case of the pool payments a much more involved and complicated system operates. I can only say to the honourable senator that this is one of the matters which have exercised my mind quite a deal since I took over this portfolio.
I do not like the present system at all because of the factor which the honourable senator mentioned. To me it does not seem reasonable that a grower should have to wait for extended periods of up to 3 years, as he does at the present time, to receive the balance of the value of the goods which he has delivered to the Wheat Board. But these matters will be the subject of review this year. In fact, today I issued a Press statement on this matter. I trust that after some careful consideration of the whole system which is operating now we can come up with something which will obviate the very point which the honourable senator has raised.
– My question, which relates to the intention of the People’s Republic of China and of France to continue atmospheric nuclear testing, is directed to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister. I ask: How does the Government reconcile the blatant double standards under which the Minister for Trade, Dr J. F. Cairns, is currently actively seeking maximum expansion of trade between Australia and China while at the same time, the same Dr J. F. Cairns and other Government Ministers and members, together with the Australian Council nf Trade Unions, are working to impose a ban on Australian trade with France? What is the Government’s policy with regard to trade and sanctions as to France and China? Does it intend to be consistent on the. principle involved? If the Government does not support the current trade union ban against France, will the Government take all action necessary to ensure that the ban is removed . and that the government of this country is restored to this Parliament?
– The long and involved question asked by the honourable senator concerns trade and arises out of the nuclear tests being conducted at the moment, mainly by France but possibly in the future by China. I do not see anything incongruous in sending a trade mission overseas to try to develop trade with another country. That the country happens to be China I know does upset some honourable senators opposite. We now recognise China. We have exchanged diplomatic representatives with China, and the sending of a trade mission to China is a normal flow-on from that. I understood Senator Carrick to say that the Government was assisting in a ban on French goods. That, of course, is hot true.
– I did not say that. I said that Dr Cairns advocated it.
– If he did not say that, I withdraw what I said. The situation is that the Australian Council of Trade Unions has decided to apply certain bans against people connected with French businesses and the like in Australia. I think Senator Carrick well knows, although of course he did not refer to it, that the Prime Minister cabled the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions asking that the bans be not applied before the International Court of Jus tice hearing and pointing out that ne was anxious that the conventions to which Australia is a party be maintained. 1 would hardly call that a Government trying to place bans on France.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health inform me whether it is true that the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia has recently approved a project to investigate the incidence of. incest amongst Aborigines in Australia? Can the Minister also tell me what practical purpose this research would serve? Further, does he agree that the research project implies that Aborigines are more incestuous than other Australians and’ is therefore insulting to the decent, law-abiding Aboriginal citizens of Australia?
– Because I only represent the Minister, for Health in this chamber I know nothing about the, matter. Obviously it is a matter for my colleague in another place. I suggest that the honourable senator place, his question on the notice paper. ,.
-My. question which is directed to the -Minister representing the Prime Minister- follows other questions which have been asked. I am hopeful that, the Minister will answer this one. In view of the Prime Minister’s telegram to. executive members of the- Australian Council of Trade Unions, stressing’ that action of the type which the ACTU was then sponsoring by way of bans on. communications and trade with France was clearly contrary to the national interest, what does the ‘Prime Minister now propose to do in the light of the repudiation of his request by ‘the ACTU and in the light of the fact that action contrary to the national interest is now taking place? I ask seriously: Are we to expect that once again the sectional interest will be’ paramount to the national interest?
– I’ think Senator Greenwood knows the situation in regard to industrial action in Australia because he was a Minister in the previous Government; but his record in handling the trade’ union movement was not one to which I think he would like to advert at any time. The situation is in a state of fluidity at the moment. Emotions were aroused. Senator Greenwood is interjecting. He has asked his question. Perhaps I had better not say what he might do if he had the power. The views of the Australian Government in both fields in which we were interested have been made known. It is a difficult situation when strikes and nationwide boycotts take place. Obviously, the Army cannot be called in to shoot people, to mow them down, or to do those things which might be in Senator Greenwood’s mind.
Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation will recall two earlier questions I asked relating to requests by Western Australia for further Commonwealth finance to extend the Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme in that State. He also will recall that the Minister for the Environment and Conservation replied that the whole question of Federal Government assistance for water development schemes was under review. I now ask whether the Minister is aware of the critical water supply position in the York-Greenhills and Corrigin-Bullaring areas and the detrimental effect it is having on the maintenance and extension of cattle feed lots and, in tam, the development of increased supplies of meat, particularly beef? Is the Minister for the Environment and Conservation now in a position to announce financial assistance for the Western Australian Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme? If not, will he give the matter urgent attention so that producers may make plans now for production next year7
– If my memory serves me correctly, the answer to the previous questions was that consideration was given to this matter as a result of a request by the Premier of Western Australia. I presume that details of the conditions to which the honourable senator has referred on this occasion have been conveyed to the Minister for the Environment and Conservation by the Western Australian Premier. It is unlikely that a reply would be given to the Parliament before it had been given to the State Premier but 1 shall take up the matter with the Minister and if there is anything on which I can inform the honourable senator I shall certainly do so.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Media. The Minister answered my previous question about quotas for television stations on a points system but I also asked him whether they would stand the risk of losing their commercial television licences if they did not receive a certain base quota. The Minister did not answer that point. Will he do so now?
Under the existing Broadcasting and Television Act, which was amended from time to time by the previous Government, the only penal power is revocation of licence. In drawing up proposed amendments for presentation to this Parliament, I hope in the Budget session, consideration is now being given to this matter by my Department and by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I hope that additional penalties, or penalties other than revocation of licence, can be presented to the Parliament for consideration in the Budget session.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Acute concern is developing following the announcement by the Government that the development and resiting of Brisbane airport may not be accomplished before 1980. The Minister will be aware of the new policies of the domestic airlines in introducing economy fares, and the existence of the curfew on aircraft operations at Brisbane airport. A problem will arise in accommodating the increased air traffic within the curfew time and it may be necessary to extend it. In the light of all those circumstances, can the Minister tell us anything encouraging about the earlier resiting and completion of the Brisbane airport?
– The Government has given consideration to the further development of the Brisbane airport and has made an allocation for the purpose of acquiring the land around the airport which is essential to that development. The Government is in the process of acquiring that land at the present time and I believe plans are being drawn for that development. On the question of when the work will start or when the work will be approved, other Government expenditure must be taken into consideration and priorities established. This project will be considered by the Treasurer in formulating the forthcoming Budget for the purpose of deciding when a date can be set for the commencement of further development of Brisbane airport and a program established for construction and completion of those works.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Transport indicate what is happening in relation to the proposal to restore the ship ‘Straitsman’ on a temporary basis to the King Island service? Is the Minister aware that the position in relation to Bass Strait island shipping to King Island and Flinders Island is now becoming extremely serious?
-Previous answers to questions and the debate on the transport services to King Island have indicated that the Commonwealth Government and, I think, the State Government are fully aware of the urgency of the need to provide some other facilities for the purpose of transporting goods to and from King Island. A study revealed to the Commonwealth that the Straitsman’ was not a paying proposition on the King Island run and therefore interest was lost in using that vessel for that purpose. Press reports - their reliability I do not know - have stated that the Tasmanian Government was considering making approaches for the purpose of hiring the ‘Straitsman’ for a trial period until such time as it could be replaced with a ship more suitable for the service to King Island. No definite plans have been presented to the Commonwealth in respect of any proposal to hire the ‘Straitsman’. The question is continually under review by the Tasmanian Government and the Commonwealth Government. A decision could be delayed somewhat, I think, as a result of the motion agreed to by the Senate recently to refer this question to a Senate Select Committee because if the Commonwealth acted to provide other transport arrangements for King Island it could well be said to be inconsiderate of the decision of the* Senate to appoint the Committee to inquire into the suitability of the ‘Straitsman’ and it could-
– The Committee will not be inquiring into the suitability of the ‘Straitsman’ at all.
– The terms of reference of the Committee include the question why the ‘Statesman* is not employed on this service. I think that there would be some hesitancy on the part of the Government to take action before the Committee is in operation. The Senate will recall that in the debate on this matter I said that one possible result of agreeing to the motion was that the relief which the people of King Island so deserve might be delayed.
– I ask a question of the Special Minister of State who is Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate. Can the Minister advise the Senate of the position of Mr Kerry Milte, barrister-at-law, as special adviser to the Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, at, we are told, a daily retainer of $125? Has Mr Milte taken a prominent part in the investigations into Croatian activities in Australia? Has he been appointed to investigate the operations of the Northern Territory Police Force? What qualifications has he for this appointment?
– I think that the question should have been directed to me in my capacity as Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. I will refer the question to the Attorney-General to seek information on it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Media. It relates to Press reports that the Government plans to impose a points system upon the programming of television stations as a condition of maintaining a licence. I ask: Is not the Australian Broadcasting Control Board an independent statutory corporation, autonomous and responsible for discharging the duties prescribed under the Broadcasting and Television Act, including the important responsibility of providing adequate and comprehensive programming? Is not the proposed imposition of a particular points system based on Labor Party policies a serious interference with the Board’s charter? Is not the proposed points system a classic example of socialist big brother imposing upon the viewers the programs that a Labor government decrees they shall see? Finally, is the Board in future to be regarded as an instrument of Labor Party policy?
During the course of the recent Federal election campaign the Prime Minister said that in the carrying out of this section of the Australian Labor Party policy we would seek the utmost co-operation of all commercial television and radio licencees. In the implementation of this section of our policy, I have set out to achieve that co-operation and assistance. I can state that to date I have received the utmost co-operation and assistance from the commercial licensees. I can assure the honourable senator that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is a statutory authority within the terms of the Broadcasting and Television Act and that it is regarded by me, as the Minister, as a statutory authority within the terms of that Act. All of the negotiations that have been carried out on this subject to date have been a matter for the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which is now about to consult the commercial licencees.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Government is planning $1 for $1 grants to public organisations to purchase works of Australian artists? If so, what safeguards are proposed to ensure that public moneys will be directed to the purchase of paintings and sculptures of real merit and value? On whose authority will eligibility for subsidy finally be determined?
– I do not know the details of that matter. I will find out and let Senator Laucke know.
– Has the attention of the Acting Leader of the Government been drawn to this morning’s Press report that the Australian case against French nuclear testing being heard at ‘the Hague may take up to 12 months to be heard? Does this mean that the Senate may be deprived of the inspiration of Senator Murphy over this inordinately long period?
– No, Senator Hannan need not fear. We will have Senator Murphy with his ability back here well within the 12 months.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to my earlier question about the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ ban on shipping and communications with France in the context of the Government’s oft repeated assertion that it can deal with the trade union movement far better than any alternative government. Why is the Minister unable to answer, except by way of criticism of the previous Government, my question as to what the Prime Minister now proposes to do in the light of the repudiation of his request to the ACTU not to act contrary to the national interest and in view of the fact that the Prime Minister’s own concession indicates that the ACTU’s present action is not in Australia’s best interests?
- Senator Willesee, before you answer that question, I wish to make a statement. I suppose I have been fairly lax today during question time in that Standing Orders state that honourable senators must not ask Ministers questions relating to policy. I have allowed that to go on today. I merely mention this in order to draw the attention of honourable senators to the standing order that relates to this matter. Having said that, I now call Senator Willesee.
– Mr President, I had intended to refer to that situation, but not quite as directly as you did. Obviously if a decision is made by the Government to do anything at all, that decision becomes a matter of policy. It would be quite impossible and quite improper to make forecasts on such decisions. Senator Greenwood has to realise that there is a new government in office and that the present Prime Minister does not purport to be a dictator. He gave the opinion of the Government to the Australian Council of Trade Unions. He gave it in our name. That does not mean that he is a dictator. That does not mean that he will demand that everything he says in giving an opinion will be placed before the ACTU before it makes a decision. It means that we do not have to go to the extreme lengths which I atn sure Senator Greenwood would want to go if he were the dictator of Australia.
– I ask a question of the Minister for the Media in his capacity as Minister representing the Postmaster-General. It concerns frequency modulation broadcasts. Is the Minister yet able to say whether the present Government intends to introduce FM radio broadcasting on the frequencies which were decided upon by the previous Government or to adopt what would appear to be a more sensible plan and use the frequency bands which are used in most other areas of the world so that persons at present owning FM receivers will be able to use those sets and so that Australian manufacturers will be able to build FM sets relatively cheaply by using tested systems and circuitry? Finally, has the Government any plans to introduce FM at an earlier date than that previously announced?
– The matters raised by the honourable senator come within my immediate portfolio and not that of the Postmaster-General. Therefore I will answer the honourable senator in my capacity as Minister for the Media. I shall answer the last portion of the honourable gentleman’s question first.
– The Minister should refer to Senator Townley as the honourable senator. There is a subtle distinction, I understand.
– It is the policy of the Australian Government, as announced during the course of the recent Federal election campaign, for the Government to introduce frequency modulation broadcasting, if it is at all technically possible, at a date earlier than that which was envisaged by the previous Government when it accepted the recommendations of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The technical advisers of the Control Board, for whom I have the greatest respect, are now investigating whether, on a technical basis, it is possible to introduce frequency modulation broadcasting at a point earlier in time.
I shall now answer the first portion of the honourable senator’s question. I am assured by the technical advisers of the Board that whilst it would be possible to introduce frequency modulation broadcasting in the very high frequency band, if there were adjustments to some television stations, there is a problem with the broader aspect of the mat ter. I am not a technical man in this regard, but my technical advisers assure me that, after giving the matter very great and detailed consideration, the overall national interest of the country so far as frequencies are concerned would be best served by ensuring that frequency modulation is introduced in the ultra-high frequency band. I mention, for the benefit of all honourable senators, that I have asked the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to convene a seminar in Melbourne some time after the Parliament rises for the winter recess - probably about the last week in June - so that all these technical matters can be explained to members of the Australian Parliament.
– I ask a question of the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It refers to the request which Australia has made to Great Britain to support it in its protests against the French nuclear tests in the Pacific. As it obviously must be very embarrassing for the British and Australian governments, which collaborated in a long series of tests and got all the nuclear information that they wanted, to suggest that France should stop after having gone only part of the way in its investigations, would it not be a much better alternative for Australia to ask the Government of Great Britain to make available to France the full information which it has obtained with our assistance and so make it unnecessary for France to conduct further tests?
– Senator McManus has put forward part of the case that obviously will be presented against us, that is, that Britain and Australia collaborated in the conducting of atomic tests many years ago. But we know a lot more about pollution today, particularly atomic pollution. I do not believe that even the previous Government would have allowed atomic bombs to be exploded in Australia if it had had the knowledge that it has now. The present Government certainly would not have done so. It is all right to be wise after the event. That is the situation in which we find ourselves at the moment. I imagine that that is going to be some embarrassment to us. Senator McManus has picked up some of the case that I think is going to be used against ais - we are used to that sort of thing happening in this place - and presented it to the, public. Great Britain was asked to come into the matter of the
French tests because she has dependencies in the Pacific Ocean area within the environs of Mururoa. That was mainly the reason. We thought that she would have some interest in protesting because of her dependencies.
Whether full information should be given is a very vexed question. In the early days of atomic research people went to gaol because they believed that the communist countries of the world should be given the same information as was developed in the. United States of America. The names of some very famous people are recorded in history as having gone to gaol on precisely the same principle as Senator McManus is advocating today.
– Two were executed.
– I am reminded that 2 people were executed. This question is one. which may well depend upon what influence we have with Great Britain. I do not know from where the honourable senator obtained the information that Great Britain has all the knowledge that France requires. I do not know about that. Somehow I would be inclined to doubt it.
- Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Extensions to Windsor Telephone Exchange, Melbourne, Victoria.
– Is Government Business, Notice of Motion No. 1, standing in the name of Senator Willesee, formal or not formal?
– Mr President, I seek leave to amend the notice of motion standing in my name.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
Tuesdays - 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; 3- p.m. to 6 p.m.; 8 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.
Wednesdays - 11.30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m.; 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Thursdays - 10.30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m.; 8 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. and from and including 25th May 1973 -
Fridays- 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; 2.15 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.
Honourable senators will see that in respect of Tuesdays I have deleted ‘2.15 p.m.’ and inserted ‘3 p.m.’. There is no alteration in respect of Wednesdays or Thursdays. In respect of Fridays I have deleted ‘4.00 p.m.’ and inserted ‘4.30 p.m..’. Paragraph. (2) now reads:
That, unless otherwise ordered, on Fridays the Sessional Order relating to the adjournment of the Senate have effect at 4.30 p.m.’
Those are the amendments to which Senator Withers and I have agreed. We discussed my proposals this morning, he took them to a meeting of his Party and he made these rather minor amendments to which I have no objection. While I am on my feet there is one thing that I. should say. It is not intended that these amended sitting times should apply this week. As paragraph (2) of the motion states ‘That,’ unless otherwise ordered it will be ordered that these amended sitting times do not come into vogue until next Tuesday. Then it will depend on how the legislation flows through this chamber. I should think that We will sit on Friday of next week, but it does not necessarily mean that we will siton every Friday. Obviously we will not sit around if there is nothing to do.
– Mr President, I wish to indicate firstly my pleasure at the opportunity that I have to deal with Senator Willesee each day. Generally, at about 8.30 each morning we meet and sort out a lot of these problems. I appreciate his courtesy in seeing me at that hour. The Opposition does not object to these extended sitting hours. We realise that the Government is now putting through in almost a sausage-machine fashion across Kings Hall, an enormous amount of legislation and that the Bills will be introduced into this place with a rush as from tomorrow or if not tomorrow, as from next week. Whilst we do not want to put this chamber in the sort of situation where legislation is guillotined or rushed through without due consideration being given to it, we realise that the Government is entitled to have its legislation brought before this chamber and properly considered. It is for that reason that I have agreed to an extension of the sitting hours.
From reading the notice paper of the other place I know that there is a lot of legislation to be considered, and we are prepared to deal with it. I think that our attitude on this question of sitting hours indicates that the Opposition in this chamber is not frustrating the Government’s legislative program. Time and again I have indicated that we will do our utmost to defeat those Bills to which we are opposed and that we will give the speediest possible passage to those Bills to which we are not opposed. Again I should like to thank Senator Willesee for his co-operation in this matter.
– The Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Willesee) is asking the Senate to agree to extending the sitting hours of the Senate by about 1 U hours a week. This is a practice that has been followed over the years. Usually at this time of a sessional period the Leader of the Government in the Senate or his Deputy has asked the Senate to approve of extended sitting times. One has to have a sense of humour when one has been a member of this place for a long time. Last year I was sitting in the chair which Senator Willesee presently occupies and I asked the Senate to agree to extending the sitting times by 4 hours a week - without any sittings on Friday:’ - because I thought that the House of Representatives would rise on about 25th May. Now, 12 months later, almost to the very day, the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate is asking the Senate to agree to an increase of Hi hours a week in sitting times because the House of Representatives is expected to rise on about 24th May. When I proposed an extension of the sitting hours A the Senate on that occasion Senator Willesee said.* ‘Well, looking at the legislation coming forward, I do not think that we should agree to this at this stage’. I accepted bis suggestion and I put the proposal aside for a further week, with the result that when we finally rose 3 important pieces of legislation had not even been considered by the Senate. Therefore, on that hand 1 believe, that Senator Willesee should be given extra time in the sittings of the Senate during the coming weeks. The Country Party is prepared to stay here until we complete the legislative program.
Government Senators- Hear, hear!
– Having said that, I now want to say - some honourable senators might not say ‘hear, hear’ to this - that although I will not oppose it, I object to the proposal to sit on Fridays because 80 per cent of my members have to travel for 5 hours to reach their homes. I admit that in the past we have sat on Fridays, and I recognise that the members of the now Government have agreed to do so, and I accept that. In accepting it, however, I say that if we are to sit for a few hours on Friday then let us sit for the whole of Friday and Friday night as well.
– There was no ‘hear, hear* to that.
– That is right.
– It would be a good idea to sit on Saturdays and Sundays as well.
– Then you vote for that, Senator. I recognise that very important legislation is coming through but as some honourable senators have to travel for many hours, having sat all the week for extended hours, they must have some time to study the legislation that is coming up in the following week. I accept this but I put the Acting Leader of the Government on notice that in sessional periods to come I would like him to take note of my objection to sitting on Fridays. I am willing to accept the extended hours but over the 3 days, as I asked for last year.
– You believe in a 35-hour week.
– I would have plenty of takers on that one, would I not? I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) in accepting the proposals put forward. I have some doubts about them but if we have to be here for a couple of weeks after the House of Representatives rises to finish the legislation that ls before the Senate, then we in the Country Party will support the Leader of the Opposition by being here to see that this legislation gets full and detailed consideration. I support the proposals.
– On behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party I indicate that although the burdens of sitting will be extremely heavy and as the legislation which is to be considered is extremely important, one would hope that the demands of time do not make the proper consideration of it even with the extended hours, unsatisfactory. The items of legislation are important. They represent changes of policy in the hands of a new government which necessarily will require examination and would receive comment, criticism and opposition. Towards the end of long sitting periods one could expect some exacerbation of situations which I trust will not eventuate. I issue the mildest of rebukes to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Willesee). These proposals were distributed - I acknowledge that to Senator Willesee - but there was no actual personal’ consultation, I understand, between Senator Willesee and Senator Gair and, I think, with Senator Drake-Brockman, as there was with Senator Withers. I am subject to correction if I am wrong. I know that Senator Willesee would be the first to concur with me when I say that very often situations can be overcome by close consultation prior to the matter being brought into this chamber.
I think, Mr President, that we should not be healing the iteration and reiteration of allegations that the Opposition is holding up legislation. One of the matters to which the present Government has pointed with some pride is that it has moved very quickly, much more quickly than previous governments had done in a comparable period of time. Those movements have been made not only legislatively but also administratively. But once a government crowds in or claims it has crowded into a few brief months what might have been done over an expanded period, one must expect that many more . matters of a general non-legislative character would be coming before this chamber for analysis and criticism.
As we know, certain actions have been taken which we might describe as administrative and these have precipitated the attention and the criticism of the Opposition. A government which wants to do so much of an administrative character must, expect that. Therefore it does not appear - logical that, those things having been done and having attracted discussion and opposition, those who have a duty to ventilate their opposition and to express their criticism should be in any way criticised and told that the result has been an impediment to legislation. As Senator Withers said, there has been no substantial impediment to legislation, if any at all. The major Bills which are still to pass through this chamber have not, as yet been impeded by any other matters. A great deal of legislation has already proceeded through this chamber. ‘ For the reasons I have suggested and because of the sheer physical burden and the possibility that as a result honourable senators will not be able to give that alert attention which is customarily given in this place by so many we do not welcome additional hours. I hope that the suggested new hours will operate. I assure the Government that this motion will attract .the complete support and co-operation of the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
– The question is that the motion-
– Mr President,1 may I speak on behalf of myself? I am an Independent senator. I cannot speak on behalf of the others.
– Senator Negus, you only have to spring to your feet very quickly and I will see you. I do not wish to deprive you of any rights.
– I have no objection at all to the extra hours but I do object to some of the extra hours, which I presume we are allocating in order to get’ through necessary legislation, being taken up by question time’. I have said this before and I say it again: Let us have question time on the normal sitting days but, if we have to sit on Fridays, for the Lord’s sake let us be sensible enough hot to have question time on Fridays when we are sitting specifically to pass legislation/ Let us be a bit sensible about the matter. I do not mind the extra hours and I do not think anybody else does. But we are taking up possibly an hour and a half, an hour and a quarter, or more at question time. Let us cut it out on Fridays and get straight down to business.
– For the benefit of Senator Negus I inform the Senate that over the last week and the previous week question time has averaged about 61 minutes.
– in reply - I thank the Leaders of the Parties and Senator Negus for their comments. Firstly, in relation to Senator Byrne’s comments, I point out that I certainly have no objection to talking to Party leaders. But in this situation the motion went on to the notice paper and I thought that that would give everybody 24 hours in which to make their comments. I certainly welcome those comments. I know that nobody likes sitting on Fridays, including myself. I suppose the honourable senators from Western Australia get it worst. I am a Western Australian who, unfortunately for the last few months, has not been very interested in trips to Western Australia. I understand the position quite clearly. I point out that the motion includes the words ‘unless otherwise ordered’. If We could get through the vital Bills more quickly- that is those which are going to be rejected or amended and sent back to the other place - this would be taken into account in trying to dodge Friday sittings and we could certainly amend the sitting hours. While I am on my feet I inform the Senate that later in the day I will move a motion to enable us to meet at the normal time tomorrow, otherwise when this motion is passed we would meet half an hour earlier tomorrow. And Friday will not come into the matter.
Question time was mentioned by Senator Negus. He suggested that there be no question time on the extra day on which the Senate sits. This thought crossed my mind too. We are sitting for a specific purpose. But question time comes up. I make no suggestion that it be cut out because it is something which the Opposition always wants. But if there is any suggestion that we make question time shorter, or something like that, then I could well fit in with the suggestion. I think that Senator Negus has a point but it is the sort of thing which the Government cannot suggest. If it is something on which the Opposition wants to co-operate and if it wants to halve question time, make it less, or to go the full hour, then I am completely in the hands of the Senate. I thank the Senate for its help. As I say, we do not have to adhere to this arrangement. If we have had a bad day and we have got some Bills through, there is nothing to stop us from adjourning a few minutes early.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have received letters from the leaders of the parliamentary parties nominating, in accordance with the resolution establishing the Committee, the following senators and members of the House of Representatives to serve on the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, namely, Senators Devitt, Hannan, Marriott and Milliner; and, from the House of Representatives, Mr Cooke, Mr Hallett, Mr Kerin, Mr Olley and Mr Whan.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) agreed to:
The the senators nominated be appointed members of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory.
– I have received letters from the leaders of the parliamentary parties nominating, in accordance with the resolution establishing the Committee, the following senators and members of the House of Representatives to serve on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, namely, Senators Carrick, Drury, McManus, Maunsell, Milliner, Primmer, Sim and Wheeldon; and, from the House of Representatives, Mr Berinson, Mr N. H. Bowen, Mr Coates, Mr Cross, Mr Duthie, Dr Forbes, Mr Hamer, Mr Katter, Mr Kerin, Dr Klugman, Mr Luchetti, Mr Lucock, Mr MacKellar and Mr Oldmeadow.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) agreed to:
That the senators nominated be appointed members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.
COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL BILL (No. 2) 1973
Debate resumed from 15 May (vide page 1613), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Senate is debating the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1973. As the name of the Bill suggests, it is the second of some four or more electoral Bills to be presented, the overall aim of which is to alter very drastically the nature of the electoral laws in this country. As we learn more of the Government’s intentions in this regard it emerges that its aim is to alter the electoral laws so as to entrench the Australian Labor Party in power. Indeed, it is a pity that the Government in bringing down this legislation did not bring down the whole series of Bills so that the Parliament and the people of Australia could see as a whole its intentions regarding the alteration of the laws, because any alterations to electoral laws strike right at the heart of the individual franchise of the elector. Indeed, the very sovereignty of the elector is threatened by variations to the laws which may adversely affect him. So every elector in Australia has a keen interest in what is now being done. I suggest that the Government should have introduced in parallel with this Bill its Bill to provide that the Senate be enlarged by some 4 senators from the Territories. As I mentioned last night, I would find such a Bill destructive of the very nature, shape and intention of the Senate. This Bill would alter the Senate as a States Mouse. Indeed, it threatens to put the control of government in Australia into the hands of a handful of people in the territories. Because those people are predominantly public servants we could have the situation in the future where the decision of government, the balance in this Senate, could be decided by those who predominantly represent the Public Service. That is a principle which has been rejected throughout the world.
Moves also have been foreshadowed to alter the method of voting. It is not clear whether the Government intends to breach its electoral promise not to bring in first past the post voting. It is not clear whether it intends to introduce the beautiful euphemism called the modified preferential system, a device aimed at getting all the advantages of the first past the post system while pretending not to do so. It is pertinent when considering this legislation to keep in mind that the Government has announced its intention to bring in alterations to the electoral laws, the intention and effect of which will be to destroy the minority parties and groups in this country. Not only the Australian Democratic Labor Party, which has been a special target- of the Labor Party, but also every minority party - I refer specifically to the Australia Party, the Defence of
Government Schools party, every group of people which bias a right to exist, to express its views and to seek to get a representative into this Parliament - is threatened by the present Labor Government. This Bill represents a cynical misuse of power. The Labor Government which .cynically exploited the second preference votes of the Australia Party, the Defence of Government Schools party, the Women’s Electoral Lobby and others, will now discard them in case the preferences of those parties should turn against them. If the Government does not live up to its promises, and that is likely, then those who elected it are to be exterminated in case they use their power to defeat it. Every person who believes in the right of minority groups or minority individuals in this country to have the right of election, should look to the threat that is inherent.in this foreshadowed legislation.
Against that is one segment of this Bill which appears to be all innocence. It seeks to alter the considerations which distribution commissioners must have in mind when they change the shape, size and content of the 123 federal electorates in Australia. When 1 refer to distribution commissioners I atn talking of people who, tinder the previous Liberal Government, were men of massive integrity, senior public servants who discharged their jobs with complete objectivity. That has been proved by the results. Those people were mostly Commonwealth electoral officers, surveyors-general and top public servants who know how to be non-partisan and ‘ to serve the ‘ public, had desiderata given to them to help them in their decisions on the. shape, size and content of electorates.
Lest anyone should think .’that what the Labor Government is now seeking to alter are some wicked things that a Liberal government put into the Electoral Act in order to entrench itself in office, I want to! say, firstly, that it is the proud and accurate boast of the previous Liberal Government’! the present Liberal Opposition, that throughout the whole of its 23 years in Government the redistributions carried out under its supervision and through this Parliament at all times preserved the principle of majority rule. That is the true: test of a proper electoral system; the true test of the principle of one vote ope ‘ value which is being humbugged in the mouths of members of the Labor Party in this debate. The: true test is that a party which gets the majority of votes shall get the majority of seats.
That happened in all cases under our distributions. Indeed, I understand that the Australian Labor Party on 2nd December 1972 received 49.6 per cent of the voltes in Australia and received S3. 6 per cent of the seats. That happened under a distribution carried out by the Liberal Government of the day. That is proof of the principle of at least one vote one value.
The Government is not seeking to change some devices of burs. It is seeking to change essentially the principles which were enshrined by great Labor Prime Ministers. 1 refer to Mr Chifley, Mr Curtin and Mr Scullin. Those principles were in the Act and were accepted as being essential to the Act by Labor governments of the past. The onus is on the Labor Government of the day to say why these principles are wrong now if they were right then and were right throughout the 70 years of federation. I remind you, Mr Deputy President, that the first of the 3 proposed changes in the Bill before us is to reduce from 20 per cent to 10 per cent the tolerance which the distribution commissioners have to put electorates either above or below the quota. To explain that, if the average size or quota of an electorate in Australia is 60,000 electors, under the present Act and throughout the course of history the distribution commissioners have been enabled to make electorates 20 per cent larger or 20 per cent smaller than the quota. That provision has been in the Act under Labor governments of the past. It was there during the time of the massive changes to the electoral law by the Chifley Government in 1948. It was there during the time of the massive changes which a man named Arthur Calwell brought about and which led to an alteration of this chamber. I refer to the introduction of proportional representation which in my judgment has altered immensely for the better the quality, nature and character of this chamber. 1 pay Mr Calwell the respect due to him for that action of the past.
The things 1 have spoken of have been in the Aci all that time. There is nothing new in them. There was no plot by some Liberal government to bring in these things. As I reminded the Senate last night, the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review reported on this matter in 1959. That Committee consisted of responsible officers, experts of the day such as the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth, Mr Ainsworth, the Common wealth electoral officers, and the surveyorsgeneral of each of the States, and it reached a preponderance of view in favour of leaving the 20 per cent tolerance in the Act, although the parliamentarians, by majority, reached another view. The important thing is that those who had the non-partisan view reached the conclusion that the 20 per cent provision ought to remain. The Government is not seeking to remove something which the Liberal Party included in the Act for its own benefit. It is seeking to remove something which has been in the Act throughout history, something which the expert officers of the day recommended should remain. We of the Liberal Opposition’ also think it should remain. The same applies to the provision which provides for the divergencies in the seats which must occur as a minimum to bring about a redistribution.
The second of the changes seeks to guide the electoral officers, the distribution commissioners, on the nature of electorates. 1 refer to disabilities of remoteness, distance, sparsity or density of population, or the area of a division. It is true that the specifics of this provision were written into the Act in, 1 think, 1965 but it is equally true that throughout the 70 years of federation the distribution commissioners read those terms into the existing Act and carried out distributions in accordance with them. In other words, since federation distribution commissioners .have always considered the specifics regarding the difficulties and disabilities of size, remoteness and distance. So, I repeat that we are not talking about a provision which a Liberal government inserted.
I repeat also that if .the principle of one vote one value is to be tested it has to be applied to an electoral system so, in the end, the conjunction of all the electorates and their results produce a majority of votes and a majority of seats. That always happened under the previous Liberal Government which- left on the statute books legislation which worked absolutely fairly, honestly and impartially. We are proud to say that. No one can say that the previous Liberal Government, in its .23 years of office, sought to- gain specific advantage from the electoral laws. The results from the ballot box- have proved otherwise.
Let us look at the working of these specifics. The first question is whether the tolerance ought to be 20 per cent or 10 per cent above or below the quota. It is’ important to keep in mind that members of the Labor Party concede straight away that there must be a per.centage tolerance. They say: ‘Yes, of course there must be a percentage, but we think it ought to be 10 per cent and not 20 per cent’. There is no argument on their part that there ought to be no movement from the quota at all. The argument is only in terms of degree. They tend to argue that in the past the practice of determining the size of electorates as either above or below the quota in a large fashion has been abused for a subjective electoral purpose. 1 reject that theory. 1 remind the Senate that in the last redistribution in 1968 the distribution commissioners of the day put some 90 of the 125 seats in the House of Representatives 10 per cent or less above or below the quota. Ninety seats out of 125 were very close to the quota, being either above or below. Some 6 seats were 15 per cent above or below the quota. Some 27 seats were 10 per cent or more. Some 90 seats were below 10 per cent. The distribution commissioners, while having the power to use the 20 per cent tolerance, used it rarely. The tendency-
– When was this?
– It was in 1968. lt was the last redistribution, the one which is functioning now. The fact is that the distribution commissioners, men of great integrity, used with great discretion the tolerances provided. lt is important to examine whether the principle of one vote one value would work in Australia in the current electoral climate better at a tolerance of 20 per cent or 10 per cent. 1 will spell out that argument. The need to have a tolerance derives from the fact that the numbers of electors in an electorate are never static. They are either increasing or decreasing. It is rare indeed that any stagnation of population occurs in any electorate. The growth of Australia in the past 20 odd years, together with our great migrant intake, has resulted in great expansion occurring in the number of electors in some electorates. The aim has always been to try to achieve a situation in which the’ commissioners would place the enrolments of seats that were growing in population as such a point below the quota that half way between that redistribution and the next redistribution the number of electors in those seats would reach the required quota. So, in the period between one redistribution and the next redistribution, the population of those electorates would move from below the quota to above the quota and at the median point of that redistribution period-would equal the quota. The reverse occurred in electorates which were of declining population. They would be put above the quota at the start of a redistribution period. Their population decline would be such that at. the median point between redistributions they would reach the quota and then begin to decline. Indeed, by that device one gets the best of all possible chances that the one vote one value principle will operate. Clearly, at any time in an electorate which has more electors enrolled than the quota set, the value of the vote of an elector in that electorate would be less than in an electorate which has fewer electors than the quota prescribes. If such a population declines from above the quota to below the quota the value of a vote evens out over a cycle.
It has been normal for governments of the past to hold redistributions about every 7 years after a census takes place. If that is done, the pattern I have described would emerge. As some honourable senators have pointed out no seat better than the seat of the Minister for Services and Property, Mr Daly, who initiated this Bill, better illustrates the point. That is the seat of Grayndler. The population of the electorate of Grayndler has moved vastly. The population has declined and the number of electors has moved very rapidly through a great range. Therefore, it is important that that electorate should be put above the quota, as the commissioners have done, at the start of a redistribution period because the population will be well below the quota when a’ new redistribution occurs. I say to the Senate that to express best the principle of one vote one value a tolerance of 20 per cent should be adopted. In the period between 19’68, when the redistribution occurred, and the next election the population of a number of seats had grown so fast that they were already out of kilter. This is the important factor. It is important because of the rapid growth in the provincial seats in the suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney, lt is important that those seats should be put below the quota so that they can grow above the quota and in the cycle the principle of one vote one value can be evened out.
It is important also to put this matter again in perspective. How do other countries face up to this problem? How does Australia compare with other countries in the equity, pf its approach. It is interesting that in Canada - a country with many similarities to Australia, and a great democracy - under the 1965 Redistribution of Representation in the House of Commons Act a variation of not more than 25 per cent is provided. Does any honourable senator say that Mr Trudeau’s Government is gerrymandering? If he does, let him get up and say it. In Britain the electoral system is old fashioned, like so many of its practices, including the lack of a written constitution. Matters of this nature have not been spelt out. Constituencies vary from 40,000 to 80,000 electors without any difficulty whatsoever. In France, at the last election, constituencies ranged from 25,000 to 150,000 electors. I think honourable senators on the Government side tended to quote United States practices and decisions made there. It is interesting to note that in the famous cases which were recently before Chief Justice Warren, as in Wesberry v. Sanders in 1964, the meaning of ‘as nearly as practicable’ was interpreted. In the United States today a percentage of the order of 15 per cent variation from the quota is accepted as being ‘as nearly as practicable’. If that interpretation were, applied in Australia some 117 seats of the 125 seats in the House of Representatives at the last redistribution would have been within the 15 per cent tolerance; only 6 seats or sowere above that tolerance. Therefore, compared with other countries Australia has a pretty healthy record in this respect. We have observed the principle of one vote one value better than any other country. We express it in the ballot box better than any other country. We can proudly say and proudly acknowledge that the distribution commissioners who have been appointed in the past have been people of absolute integrity.
There has been a great deal . of talk by members of the Australian Labor Party about alleged gerrymanders. I remind them, and all subsequent Labor speakers in this debate, that if they speak in that way, they are implying that people such as the Chief Commonwealth Electoral Officer, the. Commonwealth electoral officers of the various States, the surveyorsgeneral and departmental heads of that status and independence over the decades have brought about a corruption, a gerrymander or a fraud. It was those people who brought about these redistributions and who are given the task of interpreting the Act. They have done a magnificent job. I want to say this:
There is no need whatever for the Labor Government to alter in any way the laws of this land in relation to electoral matters if it wants to bring about a major gerrymander. If it were to choose people who were flexible in their approach to electoral matters to fill the positions to which I have referred, a gerrymander could be produced.
The real test of this Government will come when it appoints the distribution commissioners. The real test for those distribution commissioners will come when they accept the need for absolute objectivity. 1 simply acknowledge that over the years the people who have done this work have been magnificent. I reject out of hand any suggestion that in the past 2 decades any public servant, electoral officer or distribution commissioner has been a party in any way to any kind of adverse influence by the government of the day. I hope that in the years to come we will be able to say the same when looking back on the term of this Government.
I turn to the question of what this Bill is trying to do. There has been an enormous reaction on the. part of Government senators who say: ‘Because of. their size we will not have country electorates - such, as - Darling, which occupies one-third of New South Wales, Kalgoorlie, Grey or any of these great electorates, throughout Australia’. We will not have two or three thousand less electors in those seats than in others because that wouldbe bad. It would not be in -. accordance .with the principle of one vote, one value’. I want to say that on the votes- cast in the ballot box in my State . of New South Wales in December 1972, one country vote, taking into account the electorate of Darling and all these other large electorates, was equal to 1.06 extra metropolitan votes. I think that any person in the city would agree to this very marginal loading because of the size and remoteness of some country seats and the need for the members concerned to get to. their electors. The value, of a vote is to be judged not only by its value in the ballot box. It should be judged by the availability of the member of the House of Representatives or senator to his constituents. It should be judged on his ability to visit the hamlets, villages and towns in his electorate. In some cases, he has to visit 20 or 30 municipalities or shires throughout his district.
The acquisition of local knowledge enriches the value of parliamentary representation. If we have weakened representation of a country electorate such as Darling caused by a superficiality of knowledge, a vote in that country electorate has not the value of a vote in a city electorate such as Phillip which has an area of 3 square miles. So the concept of one vote, one value is enormously complex. As I say, if we were to remove the electorate of Darling from New South Wales and leave in the electorate of Eden-Monaro - it would take 2 days to drive around its 122 polling places - one country vote at the last general election was equal to 1.04 extra metropolitan votes. That tiny margin is some very small recognition of the fact of distance, remoteness and the enormous difficulty of servicing any electorate the size of Eden-Monaro, Gwydir, Riverina or Hume. It is important that the people of the rural electorates of Australia should understand very carefully the intention of the Labor Government. The. Labor Government, in its electoral laws, is aiming to weaken the representation of the people in the towns and on the farms throughout Australia. It is a deliberate attempt to make it difficult - even impossible - to give proper representation in the Parliament to country electors.
I remind the Senate and the people of Australia that nothing the previous Government did in the electoral field was unacceptable to the Chifley Government, the Curtin Government or the Scullin Government. All these principles contained in the present Commonwealth Electoral Act have stood the test over 70 years. They are being altered now. The real question that must be asked is this: Why is the. Government doing this? The Government that mouths the principle of one vote, one value is seeking to bring about a gerrymander of a massive kind, despite the fact that gallup polls are now starting to run against it. The inevitability of its policies, particularly those in relation to inflation, its industrial laws and its foreign policies will accelerate this trend. It is trying to defeat the will of the people. This is the very negation of democracy. If there is one reason for which a parliament exists, it is for the sovereignty of the individual elector to be expressed in the ballot box. This is the one time in 3 years that the elector can say: ‘ have the power to decide who shall and who shall not form the government. I have the power to recall’. That is 4he elector’s moment when he decides at the ballot box. This proposal is an attempt to frustrate. This Senate over the last 5 months has demonstrated the real reason for its existence - its responsibility for State rights and its sensible approach to reviews. It has been doing a job of review and stopping irresponsibility. It is to be destroyed in that purpose by means of the 4 or more bills relating to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The people of Australia must understand this: The Labor Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Whitlam, has an incensive hatred of the Senate. Opposition senators have sitting opposite us on the Government benches men who have signed a pledge to commit a kamikaze act to support a party platform to abolish the Senate and themselves. Many of them have done that intellectually without knowing it. But they come here and talk of the rights of the Senate when it suits them. They talk of the numbers game and say that it is shocking that the Opposition uses its numbers to defeat something. But they are now proposing to play the numbers game themselves.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– The purpose of the proposed changes in the Commonwealth Electoral Act is to bring it into line with the principle of one vote, one value. This will mean a reduction in the variation permissible from the quota specified in section 19 (1.) of the Act from one-fifth to one-tenth or, in other words, from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. Also they mean a revision of the factors to which the distribution commissioners are required to give due consideration by deleting references which hitherto have been in the Act. Those references are: Disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance, density or sparsity of the population of the division and the area of the division. Finally, it is provided that a redistribution may be directed whenever one-quarter of the number of electors in a division of a State differs from the quota by one-tenth, which is the fraction now inserted in lieu of the previous 20 per cent - one-fifth.
One would imagine, as a result of the contributions from the speakers who represent the combined view of the Opposition, that the views of the Australian Labor Party have been hidden in past years, that it has never endeavoured to explain itself in respect of the principle of one vote, one value and that it has, in fact, endeavoured to fool the Australian people. The evidence shows that to be contrary to the facts. The evidence shows that the Labor Party, in its policy and platform, has consistently adhered to the principle of one vote one value and has consistently moved in the Houses of Parliament amendments to achieve that objective. Therefore one has to doubt the hysterical statements which were made by some Opposition speakers in an endeavour to draw incorrect conclusions and to suggest that the Government’s attitude and its proposal in the Bill are open to other considerations. When introducing the Bill in the other place, the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) made the Government’s position quite clear. He said:
Free elections are basic to a democratic society. But free elections in themselves are not enough - the results must reflect the will of the majority both in individual constituencies and throughout the nation.
Each Opposition speaker has suggested that he agrees with those principles. Yet by the time each had participated in the debate each had gone to a great deal of effort to decry that principle. Of course the greater the tolerance under which distribution commissioners operate the more electorates can be manipulated and gerrymandered. The smaller the tolerance the less opportunity there is for suggestions that manipulation can take place to be given any credence. It is interesting to examine the arguments of the various Opposition speakers. For instance, the previous speaker. Senator Carrick, had the temerity to suggest that it was Government speakers who were suggesting that previous redistributions had been fixed by those who had been charged with the responsibility of redistribution, whether they were senior public servants, judges or retired judges. In fact, it was Senator McManus, the principal spokesman for the Democratic Labor Party, who in opposing the Government’s propositions, made that point and suggested that all redistributions carried out by all governments in the past had been fixed. I challenge Senator Carrick to name a Government speaker who has suggested that redistributions in the Commonwealth sphere have been influenced by governments, Oppositions or persons who had not been given the responsibility to carry out the redistribution.
Speakers who opposed the electoral changes - all Opposition speakers - have consistently tried to give a false impression that the Government was attempting to gerrymander the Australian electorate. This is a curious position for them to take,, considering the great electoral gerrymanders which have been carried out by Liberal-Country Party State governments. Senator Carrick, who was an official of the State Liberal Party in New South Wales, would know something about that. Here we have this great contradiction. We have one speaker for the Opposition, Senator Carrick, suggesting that great lengths of time between redistributions were required to prevent frequent redistributions and to allow a settling down situation. Can he explain how it is that the New South Wales Liberal Party, of which he was a significant administrative member when he was a full time ‘ official, has engaged upon the third redistribution in the past 7 years, whereas the State Labor Government in. its 24 years in office carried out only 4 redistributions? If the State Labor Government, which was defeated in 1965, had been responsible for a bodgie redistribution, which has been suggested by some Opposition speakers,’ - it seems that the State Government made a pretty bad fix because it was defeated- at the 1965 election.
What Senator Carrick . seems to fail to understand’ is that in the. post-war period there has been the most significant population change in Australia’s history. .This significant change requires recognition by Commonwealth and State government’s. We are concerned not only with what has been done federally but with what has been done in the States. The Labor Party’s, policy, which we are pledged to carry out iri dub course, states that our Government ‘ is pledged ‘to ensure that the House of Representatives and each State House of Parliament is composed of members directly elected from electorates in each of which the number of people is as nearly as practicable the same’. I do not think there is any secret in that. The Party’s policy is clear. Its endeavours are clear. Its purposes in introducing: the Bill are not open to anything other than serious consideration.
Let us look at the subjective situation in the States. It is very interesting to refer to the contribution to the debate of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Withers. He pleaded with us to omit any reference to what happens in the States. He said: 1 suggest to all honourable senators that they confine ‘the debate on this Bill to what happens under the Commonwealth Electoral Act. If we started to talk’ about the gerrymanders that have taken- place under all governments, composed of all parties, of all political colours, in almost all States, we could be here until Christmas.’
It is interesting to note that the Opposition should take the view that we should not take into consideration what have been the established policies of other governments. We have to examine what has been the attitude of the other political parties. Because Senator Carrick and other speakers have endeavoured to attack the motivation of the Government, we are entitled to attack the motivation of the Opposition parties wherever they have been in government. Let us look at the position in Queensland and South Australia. Let us see how little regard the Liberal-Country Party governments in those States had for electoral justice. in Queensland the coalition Government, led by the Country Party, created a gerrymander so great that it was possible for the Labor Party to get 46.75 per cent of the vote, as against 42.23 per cent for the LiberalCountry Party coalition, and yet win only 33 seats as against 47 seats won by the Government. It is significant that no Opposition spokesman has made any reference to that fact. Yet we are asked by the leading Opposition spokesman, the Leader of the Opposition in this place, Senator Withers, to make no reference to that gerrymander. In Queensland the Country Party, led by this great democrat Bjelke-Petersen, can poll less than 20 per cent of the total vote and win 26 of the seats. The Labor Party can poll 2i times that vote and gain only 7 seats more. Yet the Deputy Leader of the Country Party in the other place, Mr Anthony, accused the Federal Labor Government of sheer political skulduggery in introducing the Bill. Where is the credibility of the Country Party in these matters?
In South Australia events over the years were so bad that books were written about the gerrymander in that State. In the 1959 State election - one could go back to each election prior to that and find somewhat the same result - the ruling Liberal Country League received 37 per cent of the vote as against the Labor Party’s 49.5 per cent of the vote. Yet the Liberal Country League was returned with 16 seats, while the Labor Party won 13. Do we hear any complaints from Opposition spokesmen? No, of course we do not, because over the years they have shown themselves to be completely unconcerned about electoral justice. It is a lot of poppycock for Senator Carrick to talk about electoral justice, the rights of the voters, the rights of rural communities and the rights of people when he turns a blind eye to gerrymanders of this kind.
I have already referred to the events that took place in New South Wales recently. In the very week in which this legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives the New South Wales Liberal-Country Party Government, virtually in the dead of night, rushed a Bill through the New South Wales Parliament without giving the Opposition Party and the Independents in that Parliament an opportunity to consider fully the very drastic alterations that were proposed to the electoral laws of that State. Do honourable senators opposite maintain that that action was taken for the purpose of further^ ing electoral justice? It was taken purely and simply to enhance the fading electoral prospects of the Liberal-Country Party in the election to be held in New South Wales next year.
There has been a great deal of comment from Opposition speakers, particularly those from the Country Party and Senator Carrick, who was the last speaker in the debate, about the alleged desirability from the point of view of country people to retain the imbalance that exists between the rural voter and the urban voter. No argument has been advanced to show that, as a result of this imbalance both in the State and Federal Parliaments, the lot of the rural dweller has been improved. There is no evidence to show that a person has to represent a rural voter before he can act and vote conscientiously on matters affecting the rural community. The Opposition Parties favour the retention of a system which is undemocratic and which gives the conservative parties an inbuilt advantage.
The accusations that the Government is trying to gerrymander the electorate are completely groundless. Not one speaker has produced any evidence to that effect. In fact, it has been the Opposition Parties and their counterparts in the State spheres that have been responsible, when in government, for the greatest gerrymanders in Australia’s history. The Government is attempting to reduce the variation from the quota of voters in federal electorates from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. This is not merely a whim of the new Government. The Labor Party has consistently advocated such a proposition in the Parliament since 1961. ‘
It is necessary to examine the motivation of some of the Opposition speakers, particularly Senator Carrick, in objecting to this legislation. In his contribution to the debate last evening Senator Carrick painted a false picture when he endeavoured to create the impression that the evidence of one of the witnesses before the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review represented the view of that Committee. Quite the contrary is the case. One has only to look at the draft constitutional alterations suggested by that Committee to see that I am correct. Honourable senators on this side of the chamber have referred to the all-Party character of the Committee. It was a Committee made up of 12 members. Significantly enough, the principle was established in relation to this Committee of appointing 6 members from the Government side and 6 from the Opposition side. It was not the bodgied up sort of committees that we have seen emanating from the actions of the Australian Democratic Labor Party in this chamber during this session. It was recognised even in 1959 that there should be an all-Party approach to the question of equality of voting power. The Committee made this unanimous recommendation to the Parliament:
Accordingly, the Committee has recommended that the Constitution be altered-
Npt ‘Parliament changes’ but the ‘Constitution be altered’ - to provide that -
We have heard a tirade of abuse from Senator Carrick - a performance for which he is becoming notorious in recent times - suggesting that there is something ulterior about the Labor Government’s attempt to implement the all-Party recommendations of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. These recommendations have formed the basis of some of the proposals which the Australian Labor Party has consistently placed before the Parliament whenever amendments of the Commonwealth Electoral Act have been considered. So there is nothing new about the
Government’s proposals on this occasion. They are not a whim. They do not involve a’ gerrymander. They are not an attempt to pull;’ the wool over the eyes of either the Parliament or the people. Rather are they an attempt to establish parity between the value of city votes and rural votes. One vote one value is a fundamental principle of our democratic system of government. Anything less should not be tolerated.
– Have you achieved it in this legislation?
– I can understand Senator Webster’s concern because he is involved in the big squeeze that will take place in the next election. But the Senate is dealing with more fundamental things than Senator Webster’s political survival; it is dealing with principles involving our democratic system of government.
It is a simple mathematical fact that the margin of 20 per cent, allows one division to have up to 50 per cent more electors than, another- division in the same .State. As a result, we have the sort of imbalance about which. I have spoken in South Australia and Queensland. Let me refer also to. what happened in, for example, New South .Wales in the .196&. election. I quote these figures , only because, they are comparable to those, of all the other elections. It took 26,000 votes, in New South Wales to elect a member of the Labor -Party. Even though the principle of redistribution in ‘ New South Wales cannot be ‘‘compared with that of Queensland, it took! 20,000 votes to’ elect someone from the Country Party and 26,000 to elect someone” from the Liberal Party. Despite the parity that ‘ exists in New South Wales between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party and despite the disparity that exists in that State between those Parties and the Country Party, Sir Robert :Askin, the Premier of New South Wales, is- going about a last minute redistribution because the winds of change are blowing pretty fiercely in New South Wales. He has sought to find some consolation in an electoral redistribution. On the previous occasion when there’ was an elec’toral redistribution in New South Wales the Government spokesman who- introduced the Bill into the State Parliament said that the reason there had to be changes -was that the electorate of Temora in New - South Wales had 17,000 voters whereas- the electorate of The Hills had 33,000 voters.’ This was regarded as- sufficient justification for the
Government to make last minute changes to the electoral laws. Of course, in 1968 the figures were 20,000 for Temora and 32,000 for The Hills. So very little had been done to reduce the imbalance that existed between those 2 electorates and which is now being cited by the Liberal-Country Party in New South Wales as justification for a last minute electoral change.
The justification for the variations is that consideration should be given to disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance, the density or sparsity of population of a division and the area of a division. Surely in this day and age those factors ought to be taken more into consideration than they would have been in the previous 70 years of which Senator Carrick spoke. We do not have the communication problems in 1973 that we had in 1906. If difficulties do exist, I am sure the Parliament could be prevailed upon to provide additional resources to those members who may experience some difficulties in servicing their constituents because of the area of their electorates. However, the difficulties do not warrant the sacrificing of the principle of one vote one value. The Leader of the Opposition in the other place, Mr Snedden, agrees with my contention, because when he was speaking on this Bill in that chamber he said:
So the Leader of the Opposition in the other place has suggested that we should work towards this objective. But if one considers the contributions from honourable senators opposite one finds they suggested that there is something ulterior, something to be feared in the legislation which the Government has brought before the Parliament. What has to be considered is that elected governments should be truly representative of the will of the people, but there is sufficient evidence to show that that is not the case in a number of State government areas. There is sufficient evidence to indicate that if the present imbalance which exists in the Federal sphere is not be corrected, the same sort of imbalanced government could emerge.
We are entitled to say that people living in rural areas have no need for greater representation in the national Parliament than do people who live in the cities. We know that more than 80 per cent of the people live in the cities and that it was in the cities where the voting changes took place at the last election. The plight of the people living in cities occupied the attention of the Labor Party and resulted in the Labor Party being elected to office. It has never been suggested that we are not concerned about the problems facing the other 20 per cent of the people. If we are not frustrated by honourable senators opposite, we will be introducing legislation to take into consideration the problems facing the people who live outside the great metropolises and also the needs of those people.
– By what method?
– In due course the honourable senator will be surprised at the legislation which this Government has in mind. It will solve the problems which Senator Webster’s party failed to solve in the 23 years in which it was a part of the coalition Government. Last evening we listened to a great contribution from Senator McManus. He selected isolated reports of the Victorian Labor Party and of the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) and suggested that there should be drastic alterations in the whole electoral system. I thought that we were to be asked to vote on an amendment; that is what I thought he was suggesting when he spoke in this debate. It is interesting to note that now that the Australian Democratic Labor Party faces the prospect of having its number of representatives reduced from 5 to 2 in a Senate election, it is putting pressure on the Victorian Liberal Party and possibly on the Victorian Country Party to change the voting system in that State in order to provide for proportional representation, or whatever other name Senator McManus calls this new voting procedure. It is interesting to note that hitherto the Democratic Labor Party has not shown any great interest in voting procedures. But now that there is a distinct possibility that members of that Party may be out of jobs very shortly, they are resurrecting the matter of proportional representation with a view to finding jobs for their representatives.
It is true, as Senator McManus stated, that there are members of the Labor Party - and I would be one of them - who believe that there is some merit in the proportional system. There is nothing wrong with having a private view about these matters, anymore than there was in Mr Cameron having a point of view about proportional representation, or in the same point of view being expressed by a committee of the Victorian Labor Party. I am not sure whether that committee finally got its view adopted as the policy of that Party, but that is quite immaterial. The fact is that many people in the Labor Party probably would agree that there should be changes in the electoral system.
Therefore, it is rather novel for Senator McManus of the Democratic Labor Party to suggest to us that it does not matter very much what we do. He says that the system can be fixed, whether there is a 20 per cent variable or a 10 per cent variable. Other Opposition speakers say that the end of the world will come if we reduce the variable from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. I do not know who is the expert on this matter. Is Senator McManus the expert? Members of the Democratic Labor Party are seeking to become the leaders of the Opposition in this place; that is the way in which they have been carrying on in recent times. Who are we to believe? Are we to believe that Senator Withers speaks on behalf of the Opposition, or that Senator McManus speaks on behalf of the Opposition? Their contributions are quite contradictory.
The question of an optional preferential system has been raised as some sort of red herring in the debate. I am one who would be prepared to look at any reasonable proposition and to take into consideration all the views of the various political parties regarding the question of voting changes. But to suggest that the Labor Party is committed to a firm policy on this matter, that it is seeking to ignore the expressed will of the people and that it is seeking to bring about a situation where there will be elected a government that will not reflect the will of the people is quite contrary to the expressed views of the Leader of the Labor Party, of the platform of the Party and of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review which found sufficient weight of evidence to make a unanimous recommendation to the Parliament in 1959.
Senator Drake-Brockman, on behalf of the Country Party, spent a great deal of time denigrating the Labor Party’s approach to electoral reform. He took us all around the world in order to justify his action. Other honourable senators also did this. Honourable senators from my side of the chamber who took part in the debate have shown that there is sufficient evidence to indicate that we do not have to draw upon the lessons of other countries. We have to apply electoral com* mon sense based on experiences in our own country. Nothing has been said in the debate to date to suggest-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I desire to make a short contribution to this debate in opposing this Bill. We are debating a Bill which provides for the redistribution of all the electorates in Australia. It is a short Bill but it is a very important Bill, lt seeks to make 2 principal alterations in the instructions which are to be given to the distribution Commissioners who are to be appointed. It is seeking, firstly, that the 20 per cent tolerance above or below the quota be reduced to 10 per cent. I think it has already been pointed out that the 20 per cent tolerance has been in the Commonwealth Electoral Act since just after federation. It has never been found necessary by any previous government - Labor governments or governments from our side of politics - to change the tolerance. The change was apparently suggested just recently when the present Government decided that it does not want to give such a big tolerence because it thinks that the areas outside the metropolitan areas have too few voters.
I believe that it is a physical impossibility to keep within a 10 per cent tolerance. Populations in some electorates change very quickly. It is all right to say that when the number of voters in electorates get above or below the tolerance we should have another redistribution. We do not want redistributions every year or two. We have the spectacle now of people not knowing what electorate they are in, not knowing who is their Federal member, not knowing who to approach for help and advice. Only recently we gave the vote to the 18, 19 and 20-year-olds in this country. According to the number of these new electors in each electorate, the enrolments are pretty slow and this could upset the redistribution to some extent and a sudden spate of applications for enrolment just before the election could change the quotas very much. As I have said, the 20 per cent tolerance allows the distribution commissioners a wider latitude. It allows for most electorates to keep within this tolerance for a much longer period and so avoid the necessity for continual redistributions.
The Bill proposes to remove certain instructions to the commissioners which have been in existence for some years. The instructions which it is proposed to remove are, I believe, very fair and cover the whole of Australia and make it fairly easy to hold a redistribution. They are, the disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance, the density or sparsity of population of the division and the area of the division. It is proposed to substitute another series of instructions for the commissioners, the first of which is:
Let us consider some of the electorates.I mention, firstly, Kalgoorlie, the largest in Australia. It includes the city of Kalgoorlie, the Ord River and the iron ore mines. How in the name of goodness can the commissioners consider this as a community of interests within the division including economic, social and regional interests? It just happens that it is a big part of the State of Western Australia and has to be included in one electorate and cannot, therefore, fall within this instruction to the commissioners.
– The member for the district supports the Bill.
– Maybe he does, Mr Minister. We hear from many of his electors in different parts of the huge electorate of Kalgoorlie: ‘We never see our member. Where do we get in touch with him? He has not the time to travel around the electorate to meet us to ask us about our problems’. He might be all right but many electors of the Kalgoorlie electorate are not happy about it. Next, let us consider the electorate of Darling which takes in the city of Broken Hill, much of the area round the Darling River, some of the richest pastoral districts in New South Wales, and goes into the mixed farming areas. I have been told that at one time onehalf the wealth of New South Wales came from this electorate.I do not know whether that is the case now. Another instruction to the commissioners is that they are to take into account the ‘means of communication and travel within the division’. In the electorate of Darling, if one wants to get to Bourke from Broken Hill it is necessary to go to Sydney and then go back unless one has a car. To go from Bourke to the southern part of the electorate ‘around Wentworth one has to go via Sydney and Melbourne. The pre vious member was always complaining about this setup of his travelling arrangements. It was not a good set-up for travelling. Yet the commissioners are supposed to draw up electorates by taking this instruction into account.
The electorate of Kennedy in Queensland, under the Bill with the 10 per cent tolerance, will have 5,000 or 6,000 more electors added to it. It already takes in a very large part of Queensland from the mining area of Mt Isa down to the mixed farming areas near the coast within about 200 miles or a little more of Brisbane. This must be added to under this new set-up. Is it any wonder that many people in this area are complaining about the proposed new arrangements and are opposing them?
This is part of the Government’s electoral legislative program and apparently the legislation will be brought in piecemeal. We believe that the Bills could have been brought in together and that we could have debated the whole concept of the Government’s electoral legislative program instead of dealing with a Bill now, another in a month’s time and another or perhaps a couple more in the next session. We have already passed the Bill to provide the vote for 18-year-olds and, as I have said, those young people are apparently not enrolling as quickly as many had expected they would. Apparently some of them are not so interested in enrolling. However, as election time nears that position will probably change. Now we have this Bill and we are told that several other Bills are to follow. One of them, we are told - we do not know how many of them will come to pass - is to provide Senate representation for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. We are told too that the Australian Capital Territory will be able to elect 2 members to the House of Representatives instead of one, and we are told by the grapevine-
– That is not so. The Bill provides for 2 senators, as I understand it.
– We are told, Mr Minister, that apart from providing for 2 senators the Bill will provide also that the Australian Capital Territory will be entitled to 2 members of the House of Representatives.
– What is the Premier of Queensland doing?
– The Premier of Queensland is quite able to look after himself. He has done a very good job and he is doing a very good job. We are told that there will be a number of amendments to another important Bill which is to be introduced in the Budget session. Why could not many of these things be done at the same time? The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) who was in charge of the Bill in the other place made the statement that he did not want cows, haystacks and trees to be taken into consideration. Apparently the Minister does not want to admit that representation of the sparsely populated areas is much more difficult. When one is a member of the Senate and is doing his job, he learns of the problems of the members who represent these areas as he goes around them trying to help the electors or when he is working in electorates which cover big areas that have a sparse population. Compare the situation in those electorates with the situation in city electorates, some of which have been reported as covering only a handful of square miles and around which the member can drive before breakfast. I have said that in the more sparsely populated areas the constituents have the greatest difficulty in contacting their member and having a personal interview with him. True, they can write to him but that is not the same. Many electors like to meet their member, have a talk to him and put their problems to him. Government senators have staled here last night and today that there have been no complaints from their members for the electorates of Kalgoorlie, Leichhardt and Grey, to mention but three.
– You have just told us that there were.
– I said that last night Government senators said that their members for the 3 electorates that I have mentioned support the Bill, and have said they have had no complaints from their electorates. I am saying that the electors have complained to us and to other honourable senators that they cannot find their members, they cannot see them and they cannot get in touch with them. The electorates are too big.
I shall mention the position in the United States of America which has been referred to several times. Until recently the State legislatures drew up the boundaries for the congressional seats. This arrangement has apparently worked pretty well. Congress was told that it could have so many seats in such and such a State and the electorates were drawn up. It has not been left to the Federal legislature to redistribute in the United States. I now come to the Mother of Parliaments in the United Kingdom. The electorate of Kelvingrove has 19,019 voters as compared to the electorate of Antrim (South) which has 144,734 voters.
– Surely the honourable senator does not support that?
– Just recently we have heard a lot about one vote one value. I am not saying that we condone this; I am not saying that it is right. But our position is not too bad when compared with the position in some of these other countries. I am pointing out what happens in other countries. I am pointing this out to answer the one vote one value argument. In the electorate of Kelvingrove in the United Kingdom it took 6,106 votes to elect a Labor man. Yet in the electorate of Billericay in Essex it took 47,700 votes to elect a Conservative member. Is that one vote one value? I say that it is not.
– How many were in the electorate?
– I gave the number in the electorate, originally. This situation has been in operation for a long time in the Mother of Parliaments in the United Kingdom. They do not have redistributions too often. Labor governments and Conservative governments have been in office for a good while, and they have not seen fit to change the position. They thought that it was suitable for the. Mother of Parliaments, the home of democracy. It is interesting to note that in Britain an Act was passed to reduce the frequency of redistribution to between 10 and 15 years. Here we want to make the period much shorter than that.
– How long would the honourable senator suggest?
– The United Kingdom found these arrangements very suitable and I see no reason why we in Australia should not do the same thing and have longer periods between redistributions with a bigger margin of tolerance. There is nothing to stop the present Government from having a redistribution under the present Act if it wants to, except in Western Australia. We agree that it is necessary to have a redistribution in Western Australia. I suggest that if the Government wants to get on with the redistribution it could so so. This is a Bill to diminish the representation of areas outside the big cities and to increase the representation of the big cities. Today almost half Australia’s population is in Sydney, Melbourne and the satellite cities. If this Bill is carried and put into effect Australia, in the numbers game, will be. dominated by Sydney and Melbourne.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting of the Senate was suspended I was just concluding my address on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2). I had said that almost half of Australia’s population is now located in Sydney and Melbourne and satellite cities, and that if this Bill were carried and its provisions put into effect Australia, under this numbers game, would be dominated by Sydney and Melbourne. The areas which earn most of Australia’s export income would have even less say in the government of the country. Their voice in Canberra would be much weaker. 1 refer now to balanced development. If this Bill were carried and its provisions put into effect, I just wonder whether we would only be paying lip service to. balanced development. I think the whole scheme is part of ari overall plan to develop Sydney and Melbourne at the expense of the rest of Australia. I believe that the Bill is part of a master plan to enable the Government to centralise and socialise everything in Australia, to destroy our federal system of strong States united in a federation, and to centralise all power in Canberra. I believe that the Australian electoral system compares more than favourably with those used in most other democratic countries. We have a system of compulsory voting. We also have a preferential system of voting which enables the person who votes to have a second or a third choice which is taken into consideration if his man does not get enough primary votes. I believe that except in Western Australia, redistribution is not justifiable at present. I believe that when it becomes necessary for a redistribution to take place the existing tolerance of 20 per cent should remain unaltered for the reasons I have already stated. I believe, too, that the Australian electorates are fairly drawn at present, otherwise the Australian Labor Party could not have won its way to the Treasury bench on 2nd December last. The more sparsely settled areas should have fewer electors in each electorate than the closely settled areas, as at present is the case. I ask the Senate to reject the Bill.
– The question is-
– Mr President-
– I beg your pardon, Senator Georges. I was considering another matter. I apologise that I did not see you, but I now see you and I call you.
– I understand your confusion, Mr President. One did not expect Senator Lawrie suddenly to come to the end of his argument,, such as it was. For that reason also I rise unexpectedly to my feet. May I remind you of the Bill, Mr President? It is in effect a Bill relating to the distribution of the States into electoral divisions. It is a simple Bill and, being a simple man, I find ease in supporting .. it. The main provision of the Bill is contained in clause 3. Proposed new .section 19 provides:
That in making any proposed distribution qf a State into Divisions the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration, in relation to each proposed Division, to -
community of interests within the’ Division, including economic, social and regional interests;
means of communication and travel -within -the Division;
the trend of population changes within the State;
the physical features of the Division; and ‘ ‘
existing boundaries - of Divisions and Subdivisions -. . .
The Bill provides for one essential ‘change, and it is a change considerably for the -better. This is referred to in clause 4 which reads:
Section 25 of the’ Principal Act -‘fs- amended’ by omitting from paragraph (b) of sub-section (2) the word ‘one-fifth*- or 20 per cent -
. and substituting the word ‘one-tenth’.’
This amendment affects the proportioning of electoral strength between rural, electorates and city electorates and reduces the amount of. disparity from the quota from 20. per cent to 10 per cent. If any measure were .needed to restrict the Government in doing what, the Opposition has been accusing us of doing - I refer to the ability of a government to gerrymander - this measure would be ari added restriction. It surprises me to hear ‘coming from the Opposition senators, particularly from Senator Carrick, the type of proposition which they have brought forth, namely, that the Government, the Labor Party, is endeavouring by means of this Bill to carry out a gerrymander of some sort to load the electorates in such a way as to perpetuate ourselves in government for an indefinite number of years. This is an outrageous suggestion. The proposition in the Bill is to limit the ability of any party so to do. For the long period of 23 years when the Opposition was in government it endeavoured to misuse the Commonwealth Electoral Act to its own advantage and, of course, this was to the disadvantage of the nation.
If we believe in a 2-party parliamentary system, if we believe in democracy, if we believe that Parliament should be responsive to the will of the people, it is necessary that we give to the commissioners who are responsible for redistribution guidelines which will enable them to present us with a redistribution which gives equal value to each electorate. At the present time that is not the case. As Senator McAuliffe clearly stated last night in the most impressive speech of this debate, this has not been the case federally; it certainly has not been the case in Queensland; and it certainly has not been the case in other States. The electoral system, as it exists at the moment, has enabled one party, with the support of a minority party, to stay in power for 23 years. No democratic form of government can survive when one party stays in power for 23 years. When we seek to bring in an amendment to correct this position we are criticised and accused of endeavouring to take away from the people their rights within the electorates. Let us not forget that in the Senate each State is equally represented and each State has equal rights. The method by which they are elected has nothing to do with the end result. Whether there are fewer people in Tasmania than there are in Queensland or New South Wales, the purpose of this chamber is to have equal representation from each of the States. This is achieved. What we are suggesting is that each electorate for the House of Representatives shall have equal value, as far as is possible. That is the purpose of this Bill.
To my mind the Bill does not go far enough. It improves the position by reducing the tolerance from 20 per cent to 10 per cent, which restricts the ability of any Party or any government to misuse a redistribution, if such a thing can happen. To a certain extent I am prepared to resist this. I believe that under the guidelines given by governments the distribution commissioners have endeavoured to do their best, but given the 20 per cent tolerance they have had far too much latitude. Virtually they have been given a direction from the Government that the guidelines per mit them to allow for this 20 per cent tolerance either way. This has meant in effect that the rural electorates have been advantaged while’ the more populous city electorates have been disadvantaged. Therefore, in this respect this Bill provides a definite improvement.
This Bill is one of several that will come before this Parliament and each must be treated on its merits. This Bill should be supported. I am surprised at the attitude taken to it by the Opposition which has heaped abuse upon the. Government. We heard from Senator Carrick the scare tactic used by the Australian Democratic Labor Party prior to the election on 2nd December. The tactic used on that occasion by the DLP was that if the people elected the Australian Labor Party to government it would change the electoral system and would stay in power indefinitely. Perhaps the DLP was judging the Labor Party by its own standards, the standards set by its Leader, Senator Gair, while he was Premier of Queensland. He was perhaps the best gerrymanderer of them all. He loaded the electoral system in Queensland so that even when the Opposition Party obtained more than 50 per cent of the votes it remained in Opposition with a minority of the seats. The example set by Senator Gair, who is now Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, was promptly followed by the Country Party in Queensland led by Mr Bjelke-Petersen, whose efforts at gerrymandering have exceeded the efforts of Senator Gair, as was shown by the election results outlined by Senator Ron McAuliffe last night, that is, that the Party with the minority of support is in power because of the electoral system operating in Queensland.
It is important that in this nation we support the 2-party system which has survived so well in Great Britain. That system depends upon certain discipline. It depends upon party discipline. What is more, it depends on something that the Opposition abhors - the first past the post method of election. Providing that the electorates are of equal value throughout Australia, the first past the post system is the most honest, the most sensible, the most effective, the most simple way of electing a government to power. That system does not deny the minority parties a right to be represented in Parliament. In fact, where there are 5 candidates it offers a better chance for a candidate representing a minority party to be elected. Taking it for granted that in this case each of the electorates within Australia is of equal value, a minority party fielding a good candidate and with a good policy can achieve representation in the Parliament by gaining 30 per cent of the vote within that electorate. Why not? Why should not that be the case?
Let us consider a system which, although it is not the best, is the best of those available. Lc.t us consider the preference system that has been foist upon us for so long and which gives so much power to a minority party such as the DLP. Use of the preference system in Australia has made it possible for the DLP and other minority parties to influence the Government. That system can decide which Party shall rule. Its use has negated the 2- party system. The preference system which is illegal in the United States of America and the United Kingdom does not give the best result. Why should I who have always supported the strongest party in an electorate and have always voted for the strongest candidate, be denied my preference when the second and third parties are allowed to play their preferences backwards and forwards? 1 support the strongest party in an electorate and have done so year after year but my preference has not been counted. I wanted the Australian Labor Party candidate to be elected. He was the strongest candidate and be topped the list, but when it came to counting the votes I found that he was not elected. Do I get a preference? Can I say that since John Smith, the Australian Labor Parry candidate, has not been elected, I do not want Billy Jones but 1 want Clarrie Harvey, or some other candidate? Why should not my preference be counted? But it is riot counted. The strongest party in an electorate, is denied the right of preference. This multitude of opinion, these opposition parties - the Country Party, the Liberal Party, the Democratic Labor Party, the Independents - continually assert that the preference system is the best method. It is not.
There is a better method, a method between the preferential system and the first past the post system. I refer to the optional preference system. In that situation I can say that I want that particular person and no other. I can mark my vote against one candidate on the ballot paper and against no other candidate. Under the present situation -that vote is informal, but under the selective preferential system it would be counted, as would those of people who vote first for a certain candidate and then show their preferences down the line, 2, 3, 4, 5. What is wrong with that system? Why should so many votes be declared informal? I recall that in the electorate of Lilley it took 2 weeks for the result to be decided. We were scrutineering night after night until the early hours of the morning. I clearly recall how many votes were discarded as informal because the voter had placed ‘1’ against the name df the candidate that he wanted but had not placed any other figures against the names of the other candidates. Why should not that elector’s vote be valid? The preference system does not work because it is under direction from a political party. In fact it is under direction from the minority party. In the electorate of Lilley the preference system did not really operate because the party directed how an elector should vote when he went to the polling booth and received a card. So, in effect, to a certain extent preferences are a confidence vote imposed upon the electorate’ by the minority party which endeavours to frustrate the will of the majority of the people.
– What are you . talking about?
– Let me tell the honourable senator that the seat of Lilley was won by a narrow margin by the Australian Labor Party on DLP preferences; much to the discomfort of Kevin Cairns ‘ who depended so much on those DLP preferences. The Australian Labor Party won on DLP preferences; the preferences were those of absentee voters. They were absentee voters who were not under the direction of the Democratic Labor Party.
– What do you mean ‘under the direction’?
– The direction that the DLP issues that those who vote for the DLP shall allocate their preferences in a particular way.
– What does your Party do? It gives out ‘how to vote’ cards.
– Yes, we put out *how to vote’ cards. The point that I am making and which members of the DLP are supporting is that the preferential system does not really operate as it is intended. Firstly, the people who vote for the strongest candidate do not have their preferences counted ‘ and, besides, the other preferences are allocated at the direction of the Party. In the case of Lilley, it was the minority party. The proposition contained in this Bill ought to be supported but the 3 Opposition Parties - the trinity, and what an evil trinity it is - have decided to oppose it. Not only will they oppose this legislation but also will they oppose other legislation to be introduced. The Opposition Parties are on a collision course with the Government. This will be to their own disadvantage. They intend not only to object to and to frustrate the passage of this Bill but also to frustrate other electoral reforms. They have predetermined their attitude just as they predetermined their preferences at election time. That is how they have aborted, if I may use that word, the whole system.
The electoral amendments which the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) has included in this Bill and the electoral amendments which he intends to introduce subsequently are worthy of support. Personally I can think of other systems of voting. I can think of other systems of government and in particular one system of government which possibly would be to the advantage of this country as well as to the advantage of small and rapidly developing countries. However, I will not throw that cat amongst the pigeons tonight unless I am forced to.
– What is that - a one party State?
– It is the one party system. The one party system of government is in operation in many Commonwealth countries. The honourable senator should not decry it. Many countries are members of the Commonwealth of Nations, part of our Commonwealth, and have a one party system. They do not govern any less effectively than we do at the present time. I will speak now of the proportional system which the DLP has indicated it will support. The DLP is proposing to move an amendment to this Bill seeking to introduce the proportional system of voting. The DLP states that that method will give each vote an equal value. In judging that system the end result is important. What would happen in the Parliament under a proportional system? An effective government of the type which we have depended on for so long under the 2-party system is not achieved. The proportional representation method applied to House of Representatives elections will do to that House what the proportional representation method has done to this House. To the House of Representatives will be elected a multiplicity of parties to be bought and sold, as has happened in many European countries which have endeavoured to use that system. There would be a multiplicity of small parties owing no allegiance one to the other, changing their position within the Parliament, serving their own narrow purposes, frustrating the continuity of government and destroying what we have become used to in Australia and in the United Kingdom, that is, the 2-party system. That party system imposes a discipline upon members and protects members from other influences. What happens under a multi-party system? The result is the type of chaos which occurred in France and which led to a guided democracy and then a virtual dictatorship.
– You do not care for the presence in this chamber of an independent such as Senator Turnbull?
– I would suggest that Senator Turnbull, under a 2-party system-
– What about the presence of independent senators?
– I would suggest that the place for independent senators is within the 2-party system. The 2-party system is the guardian of. the people.
– The independent senators are the guardians of the people.
– No. Independent senators hold the balance of power in this place and they have no right to hold that balance of power. They do not have the right to hold the balance of power as they do at the present time to frustrate the will of the people. They vote as they wish. The whole of this Parliament is subjected to the vagaries of the attitudes of independent senators. In the 2-party system of government with the first past the post method of voting independent senators would have to decide to what side of the Parliament they would contribute their talents. I would suggest to those honourable senators that they should make up thenminds as to which Party they should belong and then join that Party so that we can return to a 2-party system which will give continuity of government to this country.
At the present time the whole of this country is frustrated by the efforts of the DLP. One only has to witness what has occurred in this House in the past 2 or 3 weeks to see an example of the irresponsibility of a minority party. This small groups does not even hold Caucus meetings. Its members can gather in the corridors of Parliament House. As one honourable senator suggested the other night, they can even meet in a telephone box. They do not need to hold Caucus meetings. They merely ring each other by telephone to suggest to one another the course that they will adopt on legislation. They come into this place and move motions which are supported by the Country Party - another quasi minority group - and the Liberal Party to frustrate the will of the Senate. They frustrate not only the will of this place but also the will of the government which was elected by the people.
– By 49 per cent of the vote.
– What percentage of the vote did your Party obtain? It was about 30 per cent! What percentage did the Country Party poll? It received about 9 per cent. What percentage did the DLP obtain? It was about 5 per cent - a minority vote. But the DLP has the audacity to challenge the rights of a Party which attracted 49 per cent of the votes. The DLP is frustrating the Government’s efforts. What the DLP deserves and what it will get because of its attitude is, soon enough, a double dissolution which will force the DLP to make up its mind which Party it supports.
We need a simple form of election. The electorate requires that regularly, but not too often, it shall be required to vote for either one party or another. It should have a simple form for and method of electing a representative. It should be required to vote only for the person that it wants and should not be forced to vote preferentially by placing ‘2’, *3’, ‘4’, and ‘5’, for example, against the names of other candidates giving such preferences a value equal to the first preference vote. It should not be required to do that. If a first past the post voting system is not acceptable, surely preferences can be indicated or not indicated. Either manner of voting ought to be valid. But what happens when we suggest such a thing and when we anticipate that such legislation might come forward? We ‘ heard Senator Carrick rise and state what we normally hear from members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party - that what we are out to do is to distort the electoral system and endeavour to place ourselves in power for a limitless number of years. What we really deserve as a Party is to have at least 20 years in government to make up for the 23 years during which the LiberalCountry Party Government made a shocking mess of the economy and of this country. I do not believe in this system. 1 have indicated what sort of an electoral system I would have if I had my way. But I could not even get support for it within my own Party-
– The honourable senator got one supporter.
– Yes, myself.
– Would the honourable senator deny the right of any man to stand for Parliament?
– A person can stand for Parliament if he wishes. But he- takes his chances on a first past the post system: If he cannot get sufficient votes under the first past the post system, he is not good enough. The people of Australia should not 1 have to vote and elect members on blind preferences.
The ACTING DEPUTY ] PRESIDENT (Senator Brown) - Order! Senator ‘.Georges, it might be appropriate if you directed your remarks to the Bill -before the Senate.
– I am, Mr Acting Deputy President,, but you will recall, that we have not had the benefit-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! I am asking the honourable senator to direct his remarks to the subject matter of the Bill, namely, redistributions.
– I will .direct my remarks to the Bill. Mr Acting Deputy President, we have not had the benefit pf your chairmanship in the Senate for the last day or sp. For that reason the debates have ranged right across not only Bills introduced ‘ in the past but also Bills to be introduced in the future. When I commenced my remarks I indicated that tonight the Senate was concerned with a simple proposition; to reduce the permissible disparity between electorates from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. I even read out the title of the Bill. I have been indicating that the Bill would lessen the ability of any party to conduct a gerrymander. Instead of that being accepted by the Opposition, we have had outraged criticism from Senator Lawrie, Senator Carrick, Senator Byrne and other honourable senators opposite.
If we are to have the democratic system of government to which we are accustomed, we must have a system which will make this Parliament responsible to the will of the people. This can be done only if the electorates are of equal value. It can be done only if there is a clear indication within each of these electorates of whom the people want. It should not be confused by some quasi preference system which has been imposed upon us for so long. Nevertheless, as you have indicated, Mr Acting Deputy President, the Bill has nothing to do with this. 1 suggest that such a simple Bill as this Bill should receive a speedy passage. Of course, it is not likely to have a speedy passage because for some reason the Opposition has decided to oppose it. It has also decided to oppose other Bills and indicated that although it will give a speedy passage to the bills that it supports, it will do its best to resist other bills. As far as I can gather, there is hardly a bill that it accepts.
– ‘Hear, hear!
– It seems to me that we will have to face over the next 2 or 3 weeks frustration and opposition from the Opposition, supported by Senator Webster to Bills that have been brought forward by the Government under its clear mandate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I will not try to reply to Senator Georges except to say that there is nothing of William Pitt about him.
– William what?
– 1 said that there is nothing of William Pitt about the honourable senator.
– Pitt. I think that it was William Pitt who said: T disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’.
– Voltaire said that.
– 1 stand corrected. I believe that this Commonwealth Parliament since Federation-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown) - Order! I remind honourable senators that Senator Lillico has the call. I propose to ensure that he is heard in silence. I ask honourable senators to cease this constant interjection across the Senate chamber. I remind them that they are being broadcast across the national radio network. The standard and quality of debate in the Senate is of some merit. I would hope that it would be maintained. This institution is on trial this evening before the electorate of Australia because its proceedings are being broadcast on the national radio network. I ask honourable senators to remember that.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I was in the course of saying that I believe that the Commonwealth democratic system, as operated by the Commonwealth Parliament since Federation, has reflected the will of the people, with few exceptions, better than those systems operated in most other countries. I would say that one of the exceptions would be New Zealand. It has been reiterated during the course of this debate that the strength of political parties in the Parliament has reflected the number of votes that were cast for them in the electorates. This Bill is a pointer, a pipe opener or an indication of what, is yet to come. We have heard something about the first past the post voting system. Senator . Georges would use that system to obliterate small political parties. He would stifle their influence, nullify their preferences and eventually evolve a system under which only 2 parties would be elected to the Parliament.
– At one stage he got it down to the one party system.
– Yes, I think that the honourable senator got it down to one party. The same first past the post system in the United Kingdom reduced the once great Liberal Party in that country to a party comprising 11 members in a House of approximately 600 members. As Lloyd George used to say, at every election his Party used to be tripped by the triangle. . It continued until there evolved a system in the United Kingdom under which there were only 2 parties. I have been amazed at times at the reflection of the votes cast because the votes cast for a certain political party were in no way reflected in the percentage of members returned. It seems to me to be a most haphazard, go-as-you-please method of electing a - Parliament. Contrasted to this, it has been claimed that the Tasmanian system is as near as possible to perfection, even with all its disabilities, inasmuch as the percentage of people who vote for the Labor Party, for example, is reflected in almost the same percentage of Labor members elected. In the United Kingdom it is hard to imagine such a system when comparing the number of electors who voted for a particular party with the number of members of that party who were elected to the Parliament. I believe that a lot of that trouble was due to the first past the post system that operated in that country.
This Bill is a pointer. It does not contain much. The crux of the Bill is to be found in that part of the second reading speech of the Attorney-General and Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Murphy) which dealt with deleting references to disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance, the density or sparsity of population of the division, the area of the division and so on. He also spoke about altering the 20 per cent discretion to a 10 per cent discretion. A lot of the arguments which were used by supporters of the Bill fall to the ground. I am one of those people who would increase country representation.
– You would give the cows a vote.
– No, I would not give the cows a vote. I would not treat the people like a lot of cows and herd them into electorates which are supposedly equal in number of voters and not have regard to the problems which are confronting them and the type of representation which is necessary for them. A lot of the arguments of supporters of the Bill fall to the ground by reason of the fact that we are not dealing in any way with a normal country. Australia is not a normal country. Fourteen years have elapsed since the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review was tabled in this place. I have no doubt that, taking into consideration all that has happened since that report was tabled, a lot of the members of that Committee would have very different opinions today. I quote from a leading article in the Melbourne Herald’. K states:
Further ominous facts on the clotting of our population come from the Census Bureau. They show that 8S.S per cent of Australians, at the census last June, were living in towns and cities - compared with 82.9 per cent 5 years earlier.
The worst feature is the growth rate of the largest cities. These already held the bulk of our unevenly distributed people. Now they are swelling more monstrously.
Sydney and its mushrooming suburbs added 11.03 per cent in 5 years, reaching a population of 2,717,069. Melbourne, devouring its hinterland even faster, grew by 13.3 per cent to 2,388,941. Once we might have been proud to see such figures hoisted. Now, we ought to be alarmed.
So we should. If one adds to that terrific acceleration towards centralisation the proposals contained in this Bill, one goes a long way towards extinguishing altogether the rural vote, the rural voice and the rural influence.
– What happened prior to 1969?
– It is since 1969 that this growth towards centralisation has accelerated at such an alarming rate. The Bill has come at a time when the Government is proposing to do something about halting that acceleration. The Government has talked about the Albury-Wodonga scheme and other things. It has tried to do something about this monstrously centralised population which has no equal anywhere on earth. Senators, without any regard to that fact, talk about one man one vote under conditions in which the metropolitan area of Sydney alone elects as many members of the House of Representatives as do the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania combined. Is that a healthy sign?
– Does not the Senate rectify that position?
– The Minister talks about the Senate. We heard what the Government proposes to do in regard to the Senate. I will not take up time reiterating that. I Van think of no worse fate which could befall this country than that it should have one House of Parliament in the Federal sphere. Honourable senators should remember the position in respect of delegated State powers. The State parliaments will lose all their powers except those delegated to them. I cannot think of anything worse than the abolition of the Senate which would mean that the holding of power and the concentration of power was in the hands of a coterie which was largely from the big cities of Melbourne and Sydney. I cannot think of anything more calculated to rend Australia asunder.
– The people in the big cities are not aliens; they are fellow Australians.
– If the honourable senator had taken some regard of the evils of excessive centralisation in history he might have said something very different to that. I wish to say a word or two about this fetish of one man one vote in this country where most of the people are herded into the cities. The Government proposes to apply that principle. There would be some logic in applying it in a country such as the United Kingdom. In my view, to try to apply it in a country such as Australia is sheer lunacy. But it is a fetish, a Wi’l-o’-th’-Wisp, a delusion. The Minister, in his second reading speech, mentioned certain electorates, and I took note of the fact that in one electorate 43 per cent of the population did not have a vote. I suppose that they were not old enough to have a vote. In another electorate 60 per cent of the population did not have a vote. It was rumoured, it was reported and it was said in this place that the fairest way in which to perfect this one man one vote principle was to divide electorates so that they were commensurate with their populations. If we did that we would get a terrific disparity in regard to the people who actually voted. Eventually we would reach the stage, I think, at which we were just chasing a Will-o’-th’-Wisp. It is all very fine to try to apply these things when some political advantage is to be gained from them. In this place last year I heard the story about a union election.
– The boilermakers union?
– Yes. I think 18,000 members did not get a ballot paper. That is one of the unions upon which the Labor Party claims that it is based. Now it proposes to bring forward legislation to facilitate the amalgamation of trade unions. That legislation will provide that only half of the membership of a union need vote on a proposed amalgamation and that only half of the membership voting need vote in favour of the proposed amalgamation for it to be given effect. In other words, just over a quarter of the membership of a union could effect an amalgamation that affects all of the members of the trade union concerned. There is a lot of merit in what Senator McManus has said about this matter. Apparently it is all very well to do these sorts of ‘things when there is some political advantage to be gained.
There has been a lot of talk about the principle of one vote one value. Years ago during the term of office of the Curtin Government I did something which I seldom do but which I have never forgotten - I sat at home and listened to a Parliamentary broadcast. Most of the speeches were sanctimonious speeches about a sacred principle that is enshrined in the platform of the Australian Labor Party, that is, the principle of one man one vote one value. Speech after speech was delivered on that occasion as to how this was the very essence of democracy. I have never forgotten that. It is one of those things that through the course of my lifetime has remained fixed in my mind. It was not long afterwards that Billy Hughes said, referring to people who talk about this alleged sacrosanct principle of one vote one value:
The members of the Government come into the citadel and propose, upon the pretence of some innocent and beneficent purpose, to disembowel, to eviscerate, to emasculate the Constitution, and to do all this while still posing as federalists.
Billy Hughes could have gone on and said: and do it all merely by an Act of Parliament without any reference to the people whatsoever’. I was a lot more innocent then than I am now, although I suppose I am still innocent. Billy Hughes was speaking about the kind of people whom I have heard delivering high principled speeches about how important it was that all the tenets of democracy should be observed to the utmost. Whenever I have heard that fantasy trotted out - it is fantasy because it is impossible to achieve - I have been left as cold as a stone. I shall cast my vote against this Bill. I take no notice of the various threats that have been handed out.
– The honourable senator knows that he will be going out next time anyway as he will be retiring.
– That is a good many years ahead. I believe that it is entirely necessary that the voice of the people from the remote areas of this country should be given due credence and that their problems should be brought forth before the Commonwealth Parliament. I oppose this measure.
– Opposition speakers have accused the Government of deliberately setting out in this legislation to secure a gerrymander of the electorate. What has in fact been happening, especially since 1966, is that the electorate has been intolerably weighted in favour of a minority Party in this Parliament, namely, the Austraiian Country Party. This Bill explicitly sets out to make the electoral weighting the same as it was before 1965. It is true that the one-fifth provision has been in existence since federation but the legislation was worded in such a way as to make it exceptional for a 10 per cent differential to be exceeded. The opposition to this Bill on the part of the members of the Liberal Party of Australia and, more particularly, the Country Party amounts to an example of what 1 would regard as political hypocrisy.
Since the Electoral Act of 1902, a 20 per cent weighting discretion in favour of rural electorates has ben allowed. Notwithstanding that allowance, and having regard to the conditions that existed in the first half of this century compared with the conditions that exist at this time - Australia has transformed itself from being only a primary production country to a primary production and manufacturing country - it was the custom and practice to have only a 1.0 per cent tolerance. Indeed, despite what Senator Carrick of the Liberal Party had to say last night, a 10 per cent electoral tolerance was recommended by the all-Party Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, which was set up in 1956 and which reported to the Parliament in 1959.
Serving on that Committee were some very eminent members of the Australian Parliament. One still sits in this chamber, namely. Senator Wright, who is a Liberal Party senator from Tasmania and who was a Minister in the previous Government. There were 2 members of the Country Party on the Committee, namely, Mr Hamilton and the late Mr Drummond. The 4 members of the Liberal Party on the Committee were all lawyers. They were Senator Neil O’sullivan; Senator Wright, to whom I have referred; Mr Alec Downer, who was a Minister for Immigration in the Menzies Government and later High Commissioner for Australia in the United Kingdom; and Mr Joske, Q.C., as he was at that time, but who is now His Honour Mr Justice Joske of the Commonwealth Industrial Court. The Labor movement, which was at that time in Opposition, was represented by Senator McKenna, who was an eminent member of the Senate and a distinguished lawyer for many years; Mr Whitlam, the present Prime Minister of Australia; and 4 members of a previous Labor Ministry, namely, Mr Calwell, Mr Ward, Mr Pollard and Senator Kennelly.
Let me repeat what Senator Carrick had to say last night about the Committee. He is reported at page 1613 of yesterday’s Hansard as having said:
I remember the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review of 1959. I will be happy to read paragraph 345 of the Committee’s report. It states:
The Committee considered the extent of! the problems which would arise from inserting in the Constitution a requirement that no division in a State should depart from the quota for that State to a greater extent than one-tenth more or one-tenth less. The Committee was assisted in its task by the then Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth, Mr L. Ainsworth, who also obtained the views of tha Commonwealth Electoral Officer and the SurveyorGeneral for each of the States. The preponderance of that opinion was clearly in favour of retaining the marginal allowance at the existing one-fifth fraction.
That is what the honourable senator from the Liberal Party cited last night as having been the Committee’s report on this matter. His own words, which again 1 quote, were:
The fact is that the non-partisan and entirely unbiased experts who came before that committee said: Let us keep the 20 per cent; let us not move to 10 per cent’.
He was referring to paragraph 345. In order to put the record in its true perspective, I refer to paragraph 346, which states.
Undoubtedly, it would be easier to apply a onefifth margin than to work within the limits of a onetenth marginal allowance from quota. Nevertheless, the Committee-
And this is the report not of the experts who were advising the Committee but of the Committee which reported to this Parliament.
– Including Senator Wright.
– Yes. Paragraph 346 continues:
Paragraph 351 on page 50 of the report states:
It is the Committee’s view that each large division can be fitted into a marginal allowance of one-tenth without frustration of the purposes of section 19.
Quite clearly, after taking voluminous evidence on this matter, a very eminent-
– Over 3 years.
– As my colleague, Senator Cant reminds me, it took evidence over 3 years, from 1956 to 1959. After taking voluminous and detailed evidence from a large section of the Australian community including what the Committee and Senator Carrick describe as, expert witnesses, the Committee came to the conclusion that there should be allowed only a onetenth discretion in electoral boundaries, so far as voters are concerned. That is what this Bill which the Labor Government is putting to the Parliament now sets out to achieve. It sets out to achieve that which is written into our Party’s policy. The policy states that the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review will be implemented by a Labor Government.
– Would you read the last sentence in paragraph 345 which refers to Mr Ainsworth and the Surveyor-General for each of the States?
– I will be pleased to read it. That is the part of the paragraph which Senator Carrick cited. I have read it, but for the benefit of the honourable senator I will read it again. It states:
The Committee was assisted in its task by the then Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth, Mr L. Ainsworth, who also obtained the views of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer and the SurveyorGeneral for each of the Slates. The preponderance of that opinion-
– Of the experts.
– Of the experts - . . was clearly in favour of retaining the marginal allowance at the existing one-fifth fraction.
They were the experts; they were not making the Committee’s recommendations. The allparty Committee went on to say:
Undoubtedly, it would be easier to apply a onefifth margin . . . Nevertheless, the Committee is satisfied that the problems of applying a one-tenth margin are quite manageable.
In paragraph 351 the Committee clearly stated:
It is the Committee’s view-
And it was not a Labor Party Committee; it was a Committee on which the Labor movement had only a minority of members -
The members of the Liberal Party, the Country Party and the Labor Party who comprised that Committee were unanimous in those recommendations. I say quite frankly, with the greatest of respect to Senator Carrick, that he did not put the record straight last night when he referred only to that section of the report which dealt with the Committee’s recommendation. As I have said, and as my colleagues have reminded me by way of interjection, Senator Wright, who is now a member of the Opposition but who was Minister for Works in the previous Government, was a member of that Committee which unanimously agreed that an allowance of 10 per cent- was adequate for electoral purposes.
The stance taken by the members of the Opposition on this matter is blatantly biased and . against the political history of this country because a 20 per cent differential was forced on the Liberal Party by the Country Party in 1963 when Mr John McEwen, as he then was, was the Leader of the Country Party and Deputy Prime Minister. In 1963 Mr Gordon Freeth, who is now Australian Ambassador in Japan, was Minister for the Interior. He was a member of the Liberal Party, indeed a very prominent member of the Liberal Party, as I am sure Senator Laucke will agree. In 1963 Mr Freeth, as Minister for the Interior responsible for the administration of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, expressed dissatisfaction with the then electoral boundaries. I believe that it was at Mr McEwen’s insistence that Mr Freeth was transferred from the portfolio of Minister for the Interior and in his place was substituted the honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony) who then, for the first time, became a Minister of the Crown, he was appointed Minister for the Interior. Mr Anthony, a leading member of the Country Party, then became responsible for electoral matters.
– Why is it that so few could tell so many what to do in the coalition Government?
That was when they were in government. They are still trying to tell this Government what we should do, but we will not tolerate that. In 1965 an amendment to the Electoral Act was passed, encouraging a 20 per cent tolerance to be allowed in order, to keep the Country Party alive in this Parliament. But if in 1959 an all-party Committee, comprising members of the then coalition Government - members of the Liberal Party and members of the Country Party who were in the minority in the coalition Government - and distinguished members of the then Opposition, the Labor movement, could reach a unanimous decision on a 10 per cent weighting, what is the difference now, or what suddenly became the difference in 1965 when a member of the Country Party for the first time in the political history of this country, as far as I can recall, became Minister for the Interior and responsible for the administration of the Electoral Act?
As I have said, it is blatant political hypocrisy for members of the Opposition now to favour retaining the Country Party pressured amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which came into being in 1965 in opposition to an expressed all-party opinion of 1959. Having regard to present day conditions in Australia, obviously the Act is outdated and outmoded. Let us face it. It is the usual practice following the taking of a census to proceed with a redistribution in all States to remove the malapportionment of electorates for the House of Representatives. Clearly the purpose of this Bill as has been stated by the Minister who introduced it, is to bring down legislation which will establish a quality of representation, a standard of representation, equality of representation as the paramount objective in the redistribution of a State into electoral divisions. As I said earlier, what this Bill does is explicitly make the electoral weighting as it was in custom and practice between 1902 and 1965. It is true as I have said that the one-fifth provision has existed since federation, but the wording of the section was stated in such a way as to make it exceptional to exceed a 10 per cent differential.
When the amendments were inserted in 1965, according to Professor Crisp in his book ‘Australian National Government’, the wording encouraged its use because in the 1934, 1948 and 1955 redistributions only one electorate ever went below the 10 per cent quota, and that was the electorate of Darling which was held- always, as far as i can recall, by a member of the Labor movement. Some electorates went to 12 per cent and 15 per cent but none, so far as I can ascertain, ever went to 20 per cent. But in 1968, 5 electorates went above the quota of 10 per cent - this was after the 1965 Electoral Act which was put through by the Country Party - and 8 fell below.
I have heard it said, and I think Senator Lillico was the latest to say it, that opponents of the proposal for 10 per cent in the present Bill indicate the wide differentiations that occur in Great Britain and in Canada. On the other hand, however, our sister Dominion of New Zealand allows only a 5 per cent differential on the quota. We say plainly that it is the policy of the Australian Labor Government, the Labor movement, that in no terms should a person’s vote depend on his geographical location. Commonwealth law fails in several ways to provide that one elector’s vote shall carry the same value as does another’s. That is part of the paramount importance of this legislation - equality of representation as far as is practically possible. The provisions of the outdated Electoral Act which we are seeking to reform by this legislation have allowed the distribution commissioners to set boundaries enclosing populations in particular electorates up to 20 per cent above or 20 per cent below a State quota figure. Since 1968 this power to vary electorate size from the quota has been applied principally by the commissioners to produce some rural electorates well below the quota and some urban electorates well above the quota. So there is a disparity in representation whereby a person living in an outlying area, in a rural community, can have a vote nearly twice the value of that of a person who lives in an urban electorate. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Constitutional Review to which 1 have already referred was not particularly happy about that type of gerrymander. At paragraphs 328, 329 and 330 the unanimous all-Party Committee had this to say: 328. The Committee concluded that the absence of constitutional guarantees in the Commonwealth Constitution had not prevented the rule of law from characterising the Australian way of life. The Committee believes that as long as governments are democratically elected and there is full parliamentary responsibility to the electors, the protection of personal rights will, in practice, be secure in Australia. The Committee has nol chosen, therefore, to recommend the writing into the Constitution of a charter of individual liberties. Instead, the Committee considers it appropriate, at this stage of Federal history and having regard to recent and contemporary world events, to recommend a constitutional amendment to protect the position of the elector and the democratic processes essential to the proper functioning of the Federal Parliament 329. Thus, the Committee concluded that it should recommend the inclusion in the Constitution of provisions ensuring the regular review of the electoral divisions of each State and also accord near uniformity to the value accorded to the votes of the electors for each of the States.
That is what this legislation is doing. In paragraph 330 the Committee went on to say: 330. One form of gerrymandering is the creation of electoral divisions in which there are substantial disparities in the number of enrolled voters, so securing for a political party greater representation than it should have.
That was the 1965 amendment of the Electoral Act by the Australian Country Party. The Committee went on:
In making possible minority governments, the majority can be deprived of the Government of its choice and the way is opened for arbitrary action impairing the freedom of the individual even though that action stands condemned by the majority of the people who comprise the electors of the Commonwealth.
Year in and year out, on the total aggregate of votes cast throughout Australia at Federal elections, generally speaking the Labor movement has secured more votes than the total votes of the Liberal Party, Country Party and Democratic Labor Party put together.
– But not at the last election.
– At the last election we received the overwhelming number of votes and for the first time, thank goodness, despite the gerrymander of the honourable senator’s Party in 1965, the electoral weight of the people was so much against the then Government that they threw it out of office and now we are trying to bring parliamentary democracy back into the Australian electorate by reducing the 20 per cent disparity to what was normal custom, practice and tradition until 1965. Professor Crisp had something to say also on the 1965 legislation in his publication ‘Australian National Government’. Professor Crisp, as all honourable senators will know, is a distinguished professor of political science in Australia.
– A man who left the Labor Party.
– All right, he left the Labor Party. That is all the more reason why the honourable senator who belongs to the Country Party should take cognizance of what Professor Crisp had to say in his book, namely:
Notwithstanding that the Country Party members of this Committee subscribed to its recommendation
That is the all-Party Committee to which the Professor is referring -
Not more than 10 per cent, I emphasise - the Leader of the Country Party and Deputy Prime Minister, Mr McEwen, between 1963 and 1965 prevailed on his Liberal colleagues in the composite Ministry, not only to retain the 20 per cent tolerance, but to amend the Act in ways calculated to permit a gerrymander -
And he uses the word - . . in favour of rural electors. In May 1965, the Country Party Minister for the Interior, J. D. Anthony, moved and carried the necessary amendments to the Electoral Act to open the way for the basis of territorial representation’ (or gerrymander) which, in a speech of June 1964, he also had declared to be his aim.
There was no crude zoning of rural and metropolitan areas and fixing of different quotas of electors or aggregates of seats for each zone as has occurred in the more shameless of the State gerrymanders. The McEwen-Anthony formula was less blatant. First, the considerations’ to be taken into account by the Commissioners in drawing electorate boundaries were increased in number, with some of them being worded or re-worded to sharpen the requirement that rural electors be favoured. Secondly, the opportunities for interests and parties to apply pressure to the Commissioners in terms of the statutory considerations so favourable to rural electors were multiplied and made more open and pressure more difficult to resist. Both before they commence work and after they have drafted their proposed electorate boundaries there will be statutory ‘open seasons’ for pressure to be applied. Moreover, the Chief Electoral Officer, who is responsible to the Minister for the Interior, has now been required, in the words of the Minister’s Second Reading speech, ‘to arrange for consultations between the Distribution Commissioners appointed for the several States for the purpose of obtaining uniformity in procedures and to ensure the proper interpretation of the law by the Commissioners’. Thirdly, in the’ absence from the Act for the first time of any statement that the basic norm should be the quota figure or the democratic ideal of ‘one adult- one vote - one value’, the legislation can, as It was undoubtedly intended to do, produce only a rural-oriented gerrymander. Finally, the Country Party, if still unhappy with the outcome, may, as it did in 1962, seek the support of’ one or other of the major parties to throw out the Commissioners’ redistribution plans when they are tabled in Parliament.
Time has just about concluded for me. J wish to reply to 2 matters in relation to which the Government has been subjected to criticism during this debate.
Two reasons have been propounded - mainly by members of the Australian Country Party - as to why the existing 20 per cent discretionary allowance should be maintained rather than 10 per cent proposed by the Government. The 2 arguments put forward by the Country Party to justify what one might call over-representation of rural areas were, firstly, that an area manageable in terms of transport and communication by the local member is essential and, secondly, that rural economic interests, particularly exports, are so important to the national economy that they must have adequate representation. Frankly, the first argument can be dismissed easily because there is no evidence whatever that in the 23 years of the Liberal-Country Party coalition any real attempt was made to decentralise and develop country areas. Indeed, it was anathema to the coalition because decentralisation would bring workers into country areas and these might be prepared to vote for the Labor Party. That is the reason why few, if any, decentralisation policies were put into effect by previous governments during their 23 years of office.
They have relied on the argument of local community of interest. Lel us take the electorate of Lyne in New South Wales which is represented by the Country Party. It is on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. It starts in the industrial area of Stockton, a suburb of Newcastle, where the workers are engaged in heavy industrial plants in and around the city of Newcastle. It goes up the coast to Port Macquarie, through the dairying district of Taree and the tourist region of Port Macquarie, Wauchope and other areas. Then it suddenly jumps the Great Dividing Range and goes to Walcha where there are grazing and timber interests.
Hie DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I speak on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, which cannot be charged with attempting to gerrymander. I also say that 1 am on the side of the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) in what he had to say about the voting system. Strangely enough- (Government senators interjecting)-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott) - Order! Senator Kane will be heard in the same silence as was accorded to the Minister for the Media, who has just resumed his seat. There is a limited time in which to speak when the Senate is being broadcast. Interjections are disorderly.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I was saying that I was on the side of the Minister for Labour in what he said about electoral reform and his support of proportional voting. Strange as it may seem and despite what we heard from Senator
McAuliffe iri the Senate last night, I happen to be on the same side as Senator McAuliffe. Before the last election my Party warned that a Whitlam Government-
– We heard all this last night.
– That is right, and the honourable senator is going to hear it again. We warned that a Whitlam Government would alter the Commonwealth Electoral Act to keep Australian Labor Party members of Parliament permanently in office by gerrymander.
– What a horrible thought.
– Yes, it is certainly a horrible thought.
– That is something like Hitler-
– I suggest that Senator Mulvihill hold his horses: he will keep. I will have something to say to him in a moment.
– The honourable senator is frightened that I will drown him out on the air.
– That is OK. The Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) is the first episode in a long story of electoral jobbery which is about to unfold. Let there be no doubt about that. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), in his second reading speech in another place, promised a full scale review of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. It has been said that he proposes about 100 amendments to the Act. So we have his word for it that a full scale review is proposed and that he hopes the amendments will be passed into law before the next election for the House of Representatives and the Senate. 1 understand that today the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has issued further threats about a double dissolution unless his Bills are passed without delay in the Senate. Let me say on behalf of my Party that threats of a double dissolution hold no terror for us. The Minister has promised a full scale review of the Act. He has promised extensive amendments to it. In less formal language, the Minister is promising the Australian Labor Party members of parliament a safe tenure of office by gerrymander.
The Prime Minister tested the wind quite recently for wholesale scrapping of the Act when he floated the idea of optional preferential voting. It will be recalled that during the last election campaign the Prime Minister said, when finally smoked out by the advertising campaign of the Democratic Labor Party, that he did not intend to alter the Act to a first past the post voting system until after the next election. Very recently he tested the wind by proposing his idea of optional preferential voting. Honourable senators will know, as everybody knows, that optional preferential voting is just a slight modification of first past the post voting.
– It sounds a bit nicer.
– It does; that is true. First past the post voting, the introduction of which is part of the long term program of the Government, is well worth looking at because those who advocate it have the infernal hide to stand here and claim that they are true democrats, that they are concerned-
– That means that Canada’s-
– 1 can understand Senator Mulvihill getting a little hot under the collar. I saw his performance in a Party election in New South Wales. In the party to which I once belonged there was an election for the executive. The returning officer and those who controlled the ballot were none other than Joe Chamberlain and his colleagues. There were 2 sets of candidates offering for election - the group to which I belonged and the group to which Senator Mulvihill belonged.
– This is when you were known as a near communist?
– No, a member of the Australian Labor Party.
– At the 1955 conference we had the numbers.
– Wait a minute. In this ballot, which was controlled from beginning to end by Senator Mulvihills colleagues, the group to which I belonged won every position except one; the group to which Senator Mulvihill belonged was soundly defeated.
– What does that prove?
– Wait a minute. The federal executive then dismissed those who had been elected in the ballot it had conducted and replaced them with those who were rejected, and Senator Mulvihill had the honour, if I might say that, of replacing me as the Assistant Secretary of the party in New
South Wales. That was in 1955 and Senator Mulvihill ought to be the last person to pre? sent himself here as a democrat.
– We won the federal conference ballots.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott) - Order, Senator Mulvihill Senator Kane, please address your remarks to the Bill.
– I am sorry, Mr Acting Deputy President. I was referring to the undemocratic procedures proposed by the Labor Party’s policies. I was referring also to a statement made recently by the Prime Minister on what he called optional preferential voting. Let us look at this system of first past the post voting which the Labor Party claims is the essence of democracy.
– That is not in this Bill.
– I would suggest that the Minister might keep quiet, too.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. There is no mention in the Bill of first past the post voting. There is nothing in the Bill about the election of Senator Mulvihill. The honourable senator has not directed a word of his speech to the provisions of the Bill. There is no mention in the Bill of the voting system.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I do not wish to prolong this argument, but your predecessor in the Chair - I think it was Senator Brown - allowed a great deal of tolerance in relation to the discussion on this Bill when Senator Georges was speaking. Senator Georges referred at great length to first past the post voting as distinct from preferential voting. Of course, that is not necessarily a precedent which you would feel obliged to follow but I merely draw your attention to the fact - perhaps you were not in the chamber at the time - that tolerance has been extended where perhaps it was necessary to do so. I suggest that you may well take the same attitude. However, I understand that you are not bound by any departure and the precedent established by the previous occupant of the Chair.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! I have already reminded Senator Kane that he should address his remarks to the Bill, but it is my belief that an honourable senator is quite in order in speaking about voting procedures and systems, as other honourable senators have done, when speaking to a Bill to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
– 1 will not refer any further to first past the post voting since it upsets the Government senators to such an extent. However, I do want to say that the Prime Minister, having promised on the election eve not to introduce first past the post voting until after the next election, did talk about a system of optional preferential voting. He completely disregarded the promise he made on the eve of the election, which shows just how dubious the Prime Minister’s promises are. I am reminded that they are like cats’ licences. Renewal is necessary every 4 months for them to be valid. The Prime Minister was forced to run for cover in relation to preferential voting, but ‘let us have no doubt about the fact that the Government is still sponsoring this Bill as the first of a series of measures aimed at perpetuating the ALP in office by gerrymander.
Much has been said about the inequalities of the electoral system. Let us have a look at some of the accusations that Labor has made about the present system being rigged against it. lt is interesting to note that every time a Labor spokesman endeavours to present an argument in support of his case that the present system is loaded against his party he always ignores the DLP vote when doing his sums. Of course, the truth is that the present Act is not at all unkind to the ALP. Let us look at the facts. The facts are that the system was never as unkind to the ALP as the electors have been, although it is worth saying that the system has been very unkind to the DLP.
The election results since 1958 show that the Labor Party failed to win office whenever the people wanted out. On no occasion has the Labor Party been unfairly denied Federal office. In 1958, 42.8 per cent of Australian electors wanted a Labor government and 55.9 per cent of the Australian voters made it clear by supporting the DLP, the Country Party and the Liberal Party that they did not want a Labor government. In 1961, 47.9 per cent voted for a Labor government while 50.8 per cent voted against it. In 1963, 45.5 per cent voted for a Labor government while 53.4 per cent voted to prevent a Labor government from coming to office. In 1966, 40 per cent of the Australian electors showed by their votes that they wanted a Labor government while 57.2 per cent showed they did not. In 1969, 47 per cent showed by their votes that they wanted Labor government while 49.4 per cent were decisively opposed to it.
– What about the size of the electorates? That is the point.
– One cannot get away from these facts. The Australian Labor Party claims to be the biggest party in the country. We should not disguise the fact that this Government has never won the support of the majority of the Australian electors, that it has never won 50 per cent plus one of the votes in any election held from 1958 up to and including 1972.
– What did the Liberal Party get under its own right?
– That is not the question. In December 1972 the ALP won 49.59 per cent of the total votes cast. It was forced to depend upon the silver tailed pseudo-radicals of the Australia Party to gain office. The Party falsely claiming to be the Party of the workers depends for election on the whims of a millionaire and his hobby. Let us clear away once and for all this nonsense about the present Act being loaded unfairly against the Labor Party. That statement is just not true. Since 1958, the present electoral system has rewarded with office the parties able to muster more votes than their opponents. This is shown in the record. The fact that the ALP now governs with a minority - it has done so since the 1972 election - is an example of this, and it certainly is an argument in support of and not against the present system.
– That is not right.
– It is right. The fact that the ALP now is running in tandem with Mr Barton’s Australia Party merely reflects the preference of the ALP for strange bedfellows. It is not an indictment of the present electoral system.
– You are running with the squattocracy.
- Senator Mulvihill will burst a blood vessel in a minute. Members of the Australian Labor Party have an infernal hide to claim that they are the great democrats. The greatest barrier to the ALP is not the electoral system but the fact that so often it has proved to be unworthy of the majority support of the Australian people. Let us consider some of the actions of the present Government in the last 4 months.
– I hope that this refers to something in the Bill.
– This is relevant because this Government is endeavouring to gerrymander itself into power permanently, and I can think of nothing worse for democracy. This Government, whether or not it likes to admit this, has an authoritarian streak which would leave any other government in Australia for dead.
– What about Senator Greenwood and the draft resisters. Was that brotherly love?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott) - Order! Senator Mulvihill, you have been interjecting continually and I ask you to stop, and 1 mean it.
– I have hardly opened my mouth.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT -
You have opened it once too often.
– I was saying that Labor’s authoritarianism extends to the highest level of Government, to the Prime Minister himself. I want to quote as my authority an article written by Maximilian Walsh which appeared in the ‘Financial Review’ of 6th April 1973. He wrote:
The adjective which we will see cropping up more and more to describe Mr Whitlands parliamentary style will be that of ‘arrogant’. At the moment it is an inaccurate one. So far Mr Whitlam’s behaviour would more merit the description of juvenile bullying. In 5 weeks of Parliament he has managed to commit every parliamentary sin that he spent 5 years accusing the Opposition of committing.
The author went on to say, still referring to Mr Whitlam:
He has treated questions and questioners with Ignore and contempt.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise to take a point of order.
– You do not like this. It is hurling.
– 1 do not like to hear this when we are dealing with a Bill. This Bill relates to the distribution of the States into electoral divisions. The opinion of someone about Mr Whitlam is irrelevant to the Bill unless that opinion relates to the distribution of electoral divisions. My previous point was that the whole question of the voting system was outside the ambit of the Bill. I appreciate that when 1 took that point of order some speakers had been wandering from the Bill to deal with elections, but surely a criticism of Mr Whitlam does not help our discussion on this Bill. I respectfully submit that the honourable senator must keep his remarks somewhere near the point of relevancy.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, Senator Kane, having been challenged across the chamber, was asked to relate his remarks to the Bill. He pointed out explicitly that the logic behind his presentation was that this is a Bill which would have the effect of keeping the present Government in office indefinitely, or that it would tend towards that end. Senator Kane said that if this were so it was relevant to examine the performance of the Government which the electoral machinery of this kind would establish permanently in office. For those reasons I submit that Senator Kane’s analysis of the operation of the present Government against that background is relevant to the Bill now before the Senate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - I have already warned Senator Kane that he should relate his remarks to the Bill. I suggest also that he should not go out of his way to be provocative and waste the time allotted to him for his speech. He should not proceed with a continuous attack upon the Prime Minister that so far is unrelated to the Bill.
– I ask you, Sir, to reconsider the matter.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Kane, relate your remarks to the Bill or your time will be wasted by the Minister for Works rising to take points of order. I will not allow you to continue criticising the Prime Minister or any person unrelated to the Bill. If you relate your remarks to the Bill you will be in order and you will not be interrupted by me or by the Minister.
– I certainly will relate my remarks to the Bill. I was quoting what was written by Mr Maximilian Walsh. He said:
All the time he has played to the gallery for laughs. What was for the first few days of Parliament an understandable self-indulgence in paying off a few scores has become a tasteless exercise in histrionics.
My point is that the Government’s contempt for democracy extends into this Parliament, and therefore this chamber must be very careful about accepting any proposed amendments to the Electoral Act which would perpetuate this Government in office. During the course of this debate one Labor Party supporter - I think it was Senator Gietzelt - referred to amendments made to the New South Wales Electoral Act by a Labor administration. He went to great lengths to instance the defeat of the Renshaw Government in 1965 as a case to prove just how fair and democratic the Labor Party was in New South Wales. Of course he did not spell out exactly what he meant by that remark. Everybody knows that the Renshaw Government was very narrowly defeated in 1965. The truth is that it polled only 43 per cent of the votes. Only 43 per cent of the electors of New South Wales wanted a Labor government in 1965 and 57 per cent did not. Yet, the Australian Labor Party almost won the New South Wales elections in 1965. Senator Gietzelt tried to lead the Senate to believe that the defeat of the Renshaw Government in 1965 was an argument in support of how democratic the Labor Party is in New South Wales.
– Redistributions in New South Wales have not been held with more frequency than Sir Robert Askin has held them.
– 1 am not defending Sir Robert Askin at all. He can defend himself. I will tell the honourable senator something else. What I say in this House I will support outside it. I will not put up an argument in the Senate for one course of action in respect of electoral proposals and then go round the corridors after and skite about how well I fought for proportional representation in my own Party.
The test of the value of the present Bill is whether its provisions advance the cause of democracy. Does it help in any way to achieve electoral justice? The answer to that question is no; it does not. Firstly, the Government proposes to replace the longstanding 20 per cent variation above and below the quota with a 10 per cent variation. In passing, I should note that the last Labor Federal Government, the Chifley Labor Government, accepted the 20 per cent variation when it initiated its 1948 electoral redistribution. Secondly, the Government proposes to abolish all reference to area, density and sparsity of population, remoteness or distance, from consideration by the distribution commissioners when they redraw electoral boundaries. On the question of quota, the DLP feels that the rapid changes in population in Australia, and the need for stability, justify the present arrangements. All honourable senators will be aware that the- 20 per cent variation establishes the limits that the Parliament permits to the commissioners. It is not a compulsory variation. The commissioners are not bound to use the full variation. They are permitted, but not compelled.
I turn now to the question of deleting from the Act all reference to area, density and sparsity of population, remoteness or distance. When this Bill received its second reading in another place, it was quite clearly demonstrated that in New South Wales, the State that I represent, the Government could not establish its argument that rural interests were being outrageously over-represented in Parliament. As a matter of fact, as Senator Carrick pointed out earlier, by balancing out in New South Wales the average number of electors in non-metropolitan divisions against the average number in metropolitan divisions, it was found that the value of a country vote was equal to 1.06 of a metropolitan vote. Surely the distribution commissioners must be congratulated for the high degree of fairness that time has shown they have exercised in drawing these boundaries. If the difference between the value of city votes and country votes is the tiny margin that I have mentioned, the Parliament in 1965 was well justified, as I see it, in writing into the Act concern for electors living in divisions vaster than some of the largest nations of Europe, peopled by a thinly scattered population, remote from the great population centres of the Australian seaboard. It is not my purpose to speak any longer than I have done. I urge the Senate, despite the threats of a bullying Prime Minister, to reject the Bill now before it.
– I am sure that honourable senators and any person unfortunate enough to have to listen to Senator Kane tonight would deplore how he attempted to overcome your ruling, Mr Acting Deputy President. In his concluding remarks, Senator Kane, the greatest political accident that ever sat in the Senate, tried to denigrate the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). If an honourable senator is to conduct himself in this way and speaks in that fashion - and I repeat that Senator Kane is the greatest political accident that ever sat in this chamber - 1 wonder where parliamentary democracy is going. So, I trust that I will be able to bring the debate substantially back to the purpose of the legislation. The purpose of the legislation is very well based and is set out in the second reading speech of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy). For the purpose of the record and for the benefit of those people who may be listening to the broadcast of the Senate’s proceedings I wish to read some of the important statements made by. the Minister in his second reading speech. Senator Murphy said:
The result of the census on 30th June 1971 established that Western Australia is entitled to another seat in the House of Representatives, making a total of 10 seats. This matter was repeatedly brought to the notice of the Parliament by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who was then Leader of the Opposition, but nothing was done by the previous Government. Nor was the general practice followed of having a redistribution of Federal electoral boundaries following a census.
That statement is the basis for the legislation. lt seeks to put into effect what the law of the land said should be done.
The previous Government when, unfortunately for Australia, it was in power, neglected to carry out its responsibilities. The census of 1971 revealed that Western Australia, because of the increase in its population, should have a total of 10 seats in the House of Representatives. It revealed that Western Australia should have an additional representative in that House. That fact was brought to the previous Government’s attention on innumerable occasions. But the Liberal-Country Party Government felt that it would be to its disadvantage to listen to what should be done in accordance with the law and it ignored that fact. Consequently, it is now the responsibility of the present Government to introduce legislation and to act in accordance with the law. I refer again to the second reading speech in which the Minister continued:
The Western Australian situation, therefore, makes a redistribution not only necessary but also urgent and, if the provisions of the Electoral Act relating to distributions are to be changed, appropriate legislation must be passed by Parliament.
That is the very legislation that we are discussing tonight. The second reading speech continues:
The proposals in this Bill are therefore introduced lo allow the redistribution in Western Australia to proceed as quickly as possible as, generally speaking, the formalities take about 28 to 31 weeks. In accordance with the usual practice, following the taking of tha census, it is proposed to proceed with a redistribution in all States to remove the malapportionment of electorates for the House of Representatives.
Could anything be more clear than that statement by the Minister when he was introducing the legislation? He is giving effect to what should have been done by the previous government. But because that government knew that it was in bad odour with the people of Australia, it conveniently forgot what was stated in the law of the land.
– There were threats of High Court action against it.
– Senator McAuliffe reminds me that there were threats of High Court action. The threats went even further than that. The threat in Western Australia was that there could be a challenge to the validity of the election held in December 1972 because the Government had failed to carry out its responsibilities in relation to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was the Leader of the Government in the Senate at that time. I always remember what he said on one occasion when his attention was drawn to the possibility that people could be escaping from their obligations to pay income tax. Senator Wheeldon asked him a question about whether his attention had been drawn to this. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson replied that it was the responsibility of government when something is wrong with the law to see that the law is amended and corrected. I agree. Everybody would agree that such a proposal should be put into effect. But this was not done by the Government that was in power in 1972. It thought that it would be to its political disadvantage to observe the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Consequently, we now have this legislation before the Parliament of Australia introduced by a Labor Government. What did the AttorneyGeneral say in relation to equity of distribution? I ask honourable senators opposite to listen to what he said because it is obvious that they have not read it:
Exact equality in the numbers of electors per division cannot be achieved, nor is it desirable. Some degree of variation from the quota or average must be allowed. At the same time, equality of political rights is inherent in a truly democratic State and these rights must he indisputably safeguarded by the legislature. To this end we intend to amend the law so that, as far as may be practicable, the value of the vole of one citizen shall be equivalent to the vote of another.
Do honourable senators of the Opposition dispute that that is equality? Do they say that the Minister has laid down an unfair principle? Do they say that they would never agree to that principle? I hear no reply. Perhaps, Mr Acting Deputy President, that may be because you have asked honourable senators opposite not to interrupt. I do not mind in the slightest if they do because they would make themselves look so stupid by their interjections. What does the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Withers, say about this? He spoke in the debate on 15th May 1973. His remarks are recorded on page 1583 of Hansard. If honourable senators opposite listen attentively they will find out what their leader said about equality and one vote, one value. He said:
Of course, Mr Daly has made great play on the slogan ‘one vote, one value’. This is a principle to which we can all subscribe.
Senator Withers, the leader of honourable senators opposite, is reported to have said that in the Senate at page 1583 of the Hansard of 15th May 19” 3. Yet honourable senators opposite would say that they do not agree with that principle. Yet their own leader has said that he does agree with it.
– The honourable senator should quote the whole passage.
– I am asked to quote further from what Senator Withers said. I will do so. He continued:
However it is not possible to have this principle incorporated perfectly or absolutely into any voting system.
– There you are. That makes sense.
– Hear, hear!
– Thank you so much. The members of the Opposition have at least come to life and said: ‘Hear, hear!’ It appears that they agree with that. Why do not they agree with what was recommended by the independent authority in 1959, the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review set up by this Parliament? What did that Committee recommend? It said almost precisely that one cannot have a perfect system but that there should be at the most a 10 per cent variation. Senator Lillico said tonight that if these same honourable senators and members of the House of Representatives had an opportunity to change their minds, they would do so now. Why would they do so? What is different now to when they made their decision in 1959? If there is a difference it is in favour of their unanimous recommendation because there are less people in the country areas of Australia now than there were in 1959. I repeat that Senator Lillico said that if these gentlemen had an opportunity they would reverse their decision today. I have never known Senator Wright, who was a member of that Committee, to hide his light under a bushel. I think that everybody would agree that he is very forthright in making his declarations.
– But he does change opinions quite often.
– Senator Cavanagh might know that better than I. But the situation is that if Senator Wright is going to change his decision - frankly, I do not think that he would - he must declare himself in the Parliament. I do not think that up to date he has declared himself in the debate. Consequently, I think that Senator Lillico’s statement was not in accordance with fact. Again, I want to quote from the second reading speech of the Minister. He said:
The existing law allows Distribution Commissioners to depart from the quota of electors by 20 per cent either way and it is a simple mathematical fact that this margin, in application, allows a division to have up to 50 per cent more electors than another division in the same State.
I ask honourable senators: Is that position equitable? Is it equitable that one division should have 40,000 electors and yet another division h ave 60,000 electors? 1 do not think that an argument of that nature can be justified. I do not think it can be justified by the argument that some members may have additional miles to cover in their divisions. I believe that honourable senators would agree that Mr Daly has been fair to a vast majority of honourable senators and members of the House of Representatives. He has gone further now by providing additional allowances for members of Parliament who operate in divisions over a certain number of square miles. I just forget the exact figure. Irespective of the amount granted or the area for which the allowance will be paid, the fact is that he has recognised that some members in another place may have some of those difficulties. He has indicated in a positive way that they should receive an additional allowance to help them to overcome some of their problems. Is not that a fair proposition? Is that not an indication to the people of Australia and to honourable senators opposite that this
Government is conscious of some of the difficulties that may be experienced and that it is prepared to go out of its way to assist in overcoming them? But honourable senators opposite cannot sacrifice a principle with which the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, agreed - ‘that there should be, as near as possible, one vote one value. It is incomprehensible that any senator opposite should attempt to justify some adjustment of that principle.
What is the position in Australia today because of the shift in population? In some divisions the number of electors is well above the quota. In other divisions it is well below the quota. How can honourable senators opposite justify the division of Darling having 18.65 per cent of voters below the quota and the division of Grayndler having 14.01 per cent of voters above the quota? Comparatively speaking they are almost adjoining divisions. Let me refer to some other divisions. The division of Brisbane has 15.4 per cent above the quota. Griffith has 16.08 per cent above the quota. Kennedy has 17.95 per cent or almost 18 per cent below the quota. Swan in Western Australia, I am informed, has 15.76 per cent above the quota. How in the name of conscience can honourable senators opposite justify disparities of that nature? A law which permits such variations is most certainly not good enough, and it should be altered. That is the purpose of the Bill.
There are other matters which, I believe, indicate that the Opposition is completely unaware of the whole intention of the Bill. To give an indication of this unawareness I propose to read some of the comments made by honourable senators opposite. Senator Withers, as recorded at page 1584 of Hansard of 15th May 1973, said:
The Labor Parly is not interested at all in having one vote one value.
This is only a smokescreen hiding the Labor Party’s true intentions. This Bill is an exercise in deception. The Labor Party is not interested at all in having one vote one value. This Bill is just the first step on the way to redistributing the electorate on a population basis.
– That is absolutely right.
– Do not come in yet. He has led you into a trap. Just listen to this.
– 1 have read it.
– What did the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate say, if you have read it? He said:
This Bill is just the first step on the way lo redistributing the electorate on a population basis - that is, equal numbers of people, not voters, in electorates. On this basis we could end up with equal populations in electorates but with 40,000 voters in one electorate and 60,000 voters in another, ls this one man one vote one value?
Of course it is not. That is the very point which we make. By his own words Senator Withers has refuted his whole criticism of the Bill. Therefore I suggest to honourable senators opposite that if they take notice of what their leader says they must vote for the Bill.
– I am sure their leader will.
- A do not think he will, because he has been instructed by his Federal secretary that in no circumstances is he to favour this Bill. If he did, the Country Party would be hostile to the Liberal Party. If there were a marriage - I will not say what the ‘Australian’ said about it - between the Country Party and the Democratic Labor Party, that would completely isolate the Liberal Party. Senator Withers, have you heard the latest? Tonight one of your members, Senator Lillico, said there should be more Country Party members in this chamber. Senator Withers nods his head in approval. Your Party loyalties are going down the sewer. You will finish up without a feather to fly with. I am sorry that Senator Carrick is not in the chamber because I, in company with Senator Douglas McClelland-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - (Senator Marriott) - Order! There is too much audible conversation in the chamber.
– Yes, from the Opposition. I regard Senator Carrick as one of my friendly foes. I sit on committees with him, and I appreciate his thoughts. I appreciate his sincerity of purpose. On this occasion I am sorry that I cannot agree with the way in which he referred to the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. In view of what I have just said, I want to be very charitable to him. If I continue to get a number of interjections from the other side I will not be quite so charitable. Senator Carrick has been referred to as the man who led the previous Prime Minister to defeat. The honourable senator quoted part of the Committee’s report. He said that the Committee said that there should not be a tolerance of 10 per cent. In justification of that statement he referred to part of the report. I want to read the relevant paragraphs of the report, and I want to emphasise some of the words contained therein. Paragraph 345 on page 49 of the report states:
The Committee considered the extent of the problems which would arise from inserting in the Constitution a requirement that no division in a State should depart from the quota for that State to a greater exent than one-tenth more or one-tenth less. The Committee was assisting in its task by the then Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth, Mr L. Ainsworth, who also obtained the views of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer and the SurveyorGeneral for each of the States. The preponderance of that opinion was clearly in favour of retaining the marginal allowance at the existing one-fifth fraction.
I do not know whether Senator Carrick intended to convey that that was a recommendation of the Committee. I will be charitable and say that he did not mean that, but the very strong inference was that he meant it. He failed to read the following paragraph, paragraph 346, which states:
Undoubtedly, it would be easier to apply a onefifth marging than to work within the limits of a one-tenth marginal allowance from quota. Nevertheless, the Committee is satisfied that the problems of applying a one-tenth margin are quite manageable.
That puts an entirely different complexion on that section of the report. If Senator Carrick were present I would appreciate it if he were to make clear how he read that section of the report.
– He made the distinction clear when- he was speaking last night.
– Did he?
– If he made it clear when he was speaking last night, why has he been taken to task on at least 3 occasions since then? If I have misinterpreted his remarks, I trust that I have been charitable. But, Senator Wright, there have been others who probably have far more ability than I-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott) - Order! Address the Chair, Senator Milliner.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, it seems strange that Senator Wright should interject on me, especially as be took part in the making of the unanimous decision and must have known when Senator Carrick was trying to indicate that what I have read - paragraph 345 of the report - was a part of the Committee’s recommendation that that was not so. Yet he has not risen to his feet to say anything about that.
I am not going to traverse what has happened in Great Britain, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Ireland or anywhere else. I want to stick to what Australia has done; and what Australia has done surely must be a disgrace to the Parliaments of Australia. Senator Lawrie, a member of the Australian Country Party, had the temerity to get up tonight and criticise this legislation. He said that if this legislation went through the Parliament there would be a gerrymander. Fancy a member of the Australian Country Party saying that! I was going to describe the Australian Country Party as the ACP but I know that the supporters of the Party are a bit worried about that abbreviation lest it be confused with the Australian Communist Party. The Premier of Queensland, Mr BjelkePetersen, governs that State on a 19 per cent vote. Anybody from Queensland who is critical of any gerrymander in any other part of Australia or any other part of the world for that matter should hang his head in shame.
Senator McManus said a lot of things last night. Of course, it is easy to say half truths when there is nobody to deny them. I have heard plenty of Senator McManus’s ilk say: ‘I have a notebook in my pocket. If I were to read the names I have in it those people would shudder or be ashamed*. On being challenged to read them, they put their notebooks back in their pockets. That was typical of the approach of Senator McManus last night. I do not deign to answer some Of his utterances. They were completely unfounded. He said that some members of the Australian Labor Party say to him: ‘You are still a good fellow’. On behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I invite Senator McManus to get up in this chamber and say who those persons are. It is easy to engage in that type of character assassination. I heard Senator Gair the other night name someone whom he said used to be a prominent member of the Groupers in Queensland and who had been seen kissing some North Vietnamese people. Rubbish!
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott> - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
Senator LILLICO (Tasmania) - Mr Acting Deputy President, I wish to make a personal explanation. 1 claim to have been misrepresented by Senator Milliner. I did not say that I would like to see more Australian Country Party members of Parliament; I said that I would like to see more country representation in the Parliament. If that were to be by more members of the Country Party, well and good; 1 would not mind. But I did not say that 1 would like to see more Country Party members of Parliament.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I accept entirely the explanation by Senator Lillico. I also accept his statement that if there were more Australian Country Party members of Parliament he would be happy about that-
– I want to say at the outset that I oppose on 2 main counts the principle of lowering the 20 per cent tolerance to 10 per cent. I oppose it firstly on the ground of the impracticability of operating on a ‘10 per cent basis. The Government has introduced this legislation under the guise of one vote one value. If it really believes in the principle of one. vote one value, why has it not brought in a system whereby there is no tolerance at all? The obvious reason for a tolerance is to ensure that it is not necessary to have an electoral redistribution after every election or maybe twice within the life of a Parliament. We must have some stability in our electoral system. The population density is shifting all the time. The other point is that in order to develop the nation on sound lines it is necessary to ensure that the remoter areas, particularly those areas from which the primary production of the nation comes, have adequate representation and a say in the national Parliament.
There is no doubt why the Government has brought in this measure. It is not because the Government believes in a 10 per cent or 15 per cent tolerance or no tolerance at all but because the Government is itching to have a crack at changing the electoral boundaries and no redistribution is justified in any State except Western Australia at the present time. It wants to sort them out so that, as other members of the Opposition have already said, it can set itself up in office for years to come. The Government knows that it does not have as firm a grip on the Treasury bench as it would like. The Government is rushing the nation into socialism. This is just another part of its plan. 1 wish to speak for a while on the subject of one vote one. value. One of the drawbacks in a democracy is that, being a numbers game, the interests of minority groups are not protected. It is necessary to build a mechanism into a democracy to ensure that minorities get a say. The situation could arise in any election in this country in which, say, 2 parties were vying for votes and where one party got 51 per cent of the votes in every electorate and the other party got 49 per cent. Although 49 per cent of the population felt that the party for which it voted should be in government they would, in effect, have no representation whatsoever. That is why it is necessary in a democracy to build in some protective mechanism. That is why we have in this chamber in particular equal representation from all of the States. That enables the less populous States to have a say in the governing of this country.
The situation could arise where Sydney and Melbourne, because of their populations, could dominate and control the House of Representatives. While representation in that House is on a population basis, there is some similarity between the interests of people in the country areas of Queensland and people in the country areas of New South Wales. The interests of those people can be protected if they have sufficient representation. The interesting point is that if we allocate a large amount of money for Sydney, nearly everyone in Sydney benefits. But if we allocate money for Albury-Wodonga, does that mean that the people in Mt Isa or in Tamworth will benefit from it? When a preponderance of the population is concentrated in one area, as in our big cities, the people in that area get the advantage because of the numbers and because of the situation with representation. There are so many members to represent their interests, whereas the people who are scattered throughout the country have in most cases only one member to look after many hundreds of thousands of square miles.
It is sheer hypocrisy for the members of the Labor Party to come into this chamber and talk about one vote one. value. As has been mentioned, the Federal Executive of the Labor Party is selected on an equal basis among the States, irrespective of the population in the States. After all, the Federal Executive is the overriding and controlling body of the Labor Party; what it says goes. I do not say that that is a bad system, that the organisation should not say: This is the policy’, and the members who are elected to the Parliament should not carry out that policy. If that is what members of the Labor Party believe in, that is fair enough, and I am not arguing about it. But the fact is that the Federal Executive is not elected on a population basis.
This evening we received a sermon from Senator Douglas McClelland on the principle of. one vote one value, but I have not heard him suggest to the Labor Party or to this chamber that because Tasmania has a population of only 420,000 people, it should have so many members on the Federal Executive, and that New South Wales with a population of 4.5 million should have 10 times as many members on the Executive. Also, it is proposed to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act to provide for 2 senators from the Northern Territory! lt is no good arguing, as Senators James McClelland argued yesterday, that the Constitution provides for this. There is no reference in the Constitution to 2 senators coming from the Northern Territory.
– They are mentioned in section 122.
– Yes, but it is not necessary to have them. The Government intends to amend the Electoral Act to provide for 2 senators from the Northern Territory; it does not have to change the Constitution in order to do that.
– Section 122 provides for that.
– The Government is just doing this because it believes that it might be able to stack this chamber. The whole point is that the Government suggests that there should be 2 senators from the Northern Territory which has a population of some 30.000 or 40,000 people. Where is the principle of one vote one value in that? It is sheer hypocrisy. Senator Milliner and Senator McAuliffe, 2 of my Queensland friends, spoke earlier in the debate. They both follow a sport called Rugby ‘League with which I too am associated. It is amazing bow they will support the principle of one vote one value particularly in the selection of Rugby League test teams. I remember occasions when Queensland was able to defeat New South Wales at Rugby League - I see Senator Mulvihill grinning - but Queensland was not able to get one member in the test team because the numbers game applied; there were more selectors from New South Wales than from Queensland. Because Queensland did not have the numbers on the selection panel it did not have any representative in the test team. Queensland might as well have had nobody on the selection panel. These are the areas where democracy fails.
Our nation is probably more centralised than any other nation. Concentrations of population are in certain areas. But most other nations have a great deal more elasticity in electoral matters than we have in Australia. There has been talk about the so-called gerrymander in Queensland. But the fact is that with all the redistributions- in Queensland we are nearer to equality of voters in electorates today than we ever were. So what is all this talk that only the Country Party carries out gerrymanders and the Labor Party does not do so? The Labor Party was in power in Queensland for 40 years and it had every opportunity to gerrymander, and, boy, did it do a job of gerrymandering! lt is no good for honourable senators opposite to say that the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party did that. Honourable senators opposite are not too proud to own men like Ben Chifley, John Curtin, and Ned Hanlon in Queensland. They were the leaders of the Labor Party in the days when those so-called gerrymanders were carried out.
As far as the Federal scene is concerned, I think honourable senators will recall the remarks that were made after the last redistribution. Most political commentators considered that in some States the government of the day had an advantage, that in other States the then Opposition had an advantage and that overall probably the Opposition gained out of the total redistribution. Surely that gives the lie to the stories about the gerrymander carried out by the government of the day. I am very concerned about what might happen if this Bill is passed by this chamber and becomes law because in the last few months we have had a fair taste of what this Government is likely to do and we have been given notice of a few other measures that are certainly revolutionary, as far as this country is concerned.
– What is your definition of ‘revolutionary’?
– Senator Mulvihill knows quite, well what it is and. probably he does not agree with half of the things that have been suggested. Members of the Labor Party talk about representation, but one of the things they want to do is to abolish the Senate. I do not know whether that is still part of their platform. There has been talk of reference to abolition of the Senate being taken out of the platform. I do not know how many honourable senators opposite would support that proposal.
– We would as long as you are still here.
– I reckon that Senator Cavanagh would support the Senate’s retention as long as he is here. Only when he was going out would he agree to its abolition. Perhaps it is in the back of his mind that one day the Senate should be abolished. I have no doubt that as long as certain other senators are here the proposal will not come to the fore as a real issue. It is amazing that while members of the Labor Party talk about abolishing the Senate they are also talking about bringing more members into the Senate. It is quite a ridiculous situation. There is no doubt that this is only part of the pay-off to the big cities of Sydney and Melbourne which voted for the Labor Party and put it on the treasury bench after 23 years. This is only one of the pay-offs. There have been many others - revaluation and other issues that I could mention. lt is quite obvious that honourable senators opposite will give all the assistance in the world to the big capital cities to the detriment of the remote country areas in Australia. The rural sector certainly has been copping a hiding ever since 2nd December.
– Where has the rural sector been copping a hiding since 2nd December?
– I will tell Senator Wriedt in time, if he does not know now.
– Spell it out now.
– Revaluation - is one matter, and Senator Wriedt knows what effect that can have. There is also the question of rising costs. The rural sector, particularly the export industries, will have to face all the increases in costs which it will not be able to pass on. We see excuses now being made with the setting up of a prices tribunal and prices committee. The first group being attacked are the people in the rural sector - the meat producers and others. This is what we expected and obviously this is what will happen. I am pleased to know that the Opposition parties will vote against this Bill. I think that I would only be wasting the time of the Senate if I continued to speak. Most other speakers on the Opposition side have spelt out the hypocrisy of the Government in introducing this measure. I have much pleasure in opposing the Bill.
– I rise to make a fairly brief contribution to this debate. I think it could fairly be said that practically every argument that could be advanced in support of the Bill, and in opposition to the Bill, has been advanced. The central feature that we are dealing with is whether one person’s vote in one part of the country is of the same value as that of another person living in another part of the country.
– What do you believe?
- Senator, I have hardly started. If you are prepared to be a little more patient, you will find out. I dare say that the central thing when we talk about one value is that we have to try to determine what we mean by that expression. I suppose that right through the history of representative government and democracy there has always been at least an underlying assumption that one person’s opinion is worth that of another person simply because there is no ultimate standard by which we can make these judgments. We can for example - I have just heard the word ‘Quaker’ used - set a certain standard as individuals. We can believe that we are Christians or that we accept some other brand of religious or philosophical thinking, and we can say that the standard by which we make our assessments is the ultimate standard. But we know that there is no ultimate standard, and therefore the views of one person must be assumed to be equal to those of another. We could not say, for instance, that a professor of political science at the University of Sydney has a greater right to determine what should be the political colour of the Government of this country than has an agricultural worker in western New South Wales. I am sure that he has no right, no privilege, to claim that he is a better judge of what the government of the country should be. On the other hand, an agricultural worker in western New South Wales has no more right to have a greater say in what the government of the country should be than has a professor of political science at the University of Sydney. This is so because we have no standards by which we can make this assumption, lt is important and fundamental that we accept the fact that no matter who a person is, and irrespective of his occupation or where he lives - that surely is the basis of the whole democratic process - his right is as great as that of any other person. Once one breaks down that principle one breaks down the whole principle of democracy, and every person in this chamber knows that. For example, Senator Drake-Brockman yesterday commented that the rural people of Australia deserve equality, not privilege. That is true. That is central to the whole debate. There should be equality but there should not be privilege to any section of the community. I suppose that if we accepted the principle that some people have greater rights than have others we would wind up with the almost horrendous conclusion that politicians have a greater right to determine who should be in power than have people who are not politicians. We would probably wind up in a more difficult situation than we are in now. So at the beginning of all this is the right of the individual.
– I am glad that you are conscious of it.
– 1 think, Senator, we have to concede the fact that all the political brains of Australia are not necessarily in this room or in the other place. Many people outside the Parliament and possibly some in the gallery tonight could make as good a contribution as we make.
– j was referring to your expression about the difficult situation that you are in.
– That is correct. But these are the considerations that we must not lose sight of. Unfortunately during the debate it has been evident that many members of the Opposition have lost sight of it. What are we dealing with in this Bill? We are dealing with an amendment to the present electoral system which operates in this country, and fundamental to that system is the fact that it is an imperfect system. It has been demonstrated as being imperfect in this country, and it has been demonstrated as being imperfect in all the other countries which have so called representative government - the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland and other places that have been mentioned. It would be tiring of me to go through all the statistical evidence that has been quoted during this debate but it has been pointed out, and rightly so, that in all those countries there is a disproportionate representation of people living in certain areas. In the United States, I believe, it is as high as 6 to 1 in favour of rural areas, and in the United Kingdom a similar situation obtains. It is just not a reasonable proposition to suggest that those figures can be justified, and this Bill is an attempt to rectify as far as is practicable the inequalities which exist under the present law. It would be ridiculous to suggest that the Country Party particularly has not been guilty of abusing the present electoral system of single electorates. The prime example is Queensland, where Mr Bjelke-Petersen is the Premier. His Party governs when in fact he has no mandate to govern. We are attempting in this legislation, not to deprive any person of his rights under the electoral laws but to correct the imbalance which now exists between certain areas of the Commonwealth. My main purpose in rising in this debate is to make clear that I am not prepared for one moment to accept the proposition that people living in rural areas have some prior right over people living in urban areas.
– A terrible thing to say as a Minister.
– I can assure Senator Webster in all seriousness that if the position was the reverse and if a proposition was being put before this Parliament whereby the rural people of Australia were being disadvantaged and given less opportunity to express their political views over urban people, T would fight that legislation. If one accepts the first principle that every person in this country has the right of equality and not privilege, as Senator Webster’s Party Leader said last night, and if we accept that a rural dweller has the same rights as has an urban dweller, and vice versa, it is unfortunate that Senator Webster’s emotional attachment to his representation of the Country Party causes him to lose sight of the rationale of what elections are all about, and he adopts an emotional attitude that the people he represents should have a higher representation than do people in non-rural areas. That is not the way in which to approach it.
– You agree with the principle for you are allowing a 20 per cent variation. Be truthful about the matter; You do agree with the principle. Why do you talk such hogwash?
– It is not hogwash.
– It is hogwash. You speak of one vote one value and then your Party allows a 20 per cent variation.
– I am emotional about this, Mr President.
– You are quite sure you are finished?
– I will put you right.
– If you read Hansard tomorrow you will see that I did not talk about one vote one value. I said that we are working under an imperfect system. I made that point at the beginning of my speech. Because it is an imperfect system it is necessary to build in some variation, but the variation should not be an overt variation, which is what the honourable senator and his friends want. What we want is a reasonable balance between the fact of equality of voting and the fact that a variation must be built into the system. That is why it is imperfect. I made that point at the beginning but you were not listening; you were more interested in interjecting in order to throw me, but you are wasting your time. If we accept the fact that it is an imperfect system - I do not wish this debate to degenerate into a battle of interjections between Senator Webster and myself - I want to make one point in the time that I have left.
I think it is time that the Australian Parliament thought very seriously - I am not talking in Party political terms now - of the alternatives that are available to it. The rather peculiar race of people in the island called Tasmania to the south of Australia, who have been enlightened in many matters and have shown the way to their mainland friends on many occasions, many years ago introduced an electoral system known as the Hare-Clark system. The purpose of the Hare-Clark system is to give equality to everybody in the electorate. It was designed in such a way that no Party or person could gerrymander the electorate as applies under the single electorate system. In all the years that the HareClark system has operated in Tasmania it has brought political stability. The fact that Tasmania is involved is not important. The point is that the principle operates there and it has been proved to be successful. But above all else it means that when a change of government has occurred there has been no opportunity on the part of the ruling Party to doctor the system as it has been doctored under the single electorate system. Also under the refinements which have been devised by various persons and in particular by the research worker, Dr Howatt, at the University of Tasmania on no occasion can a government be formed unless it has the support of the majority of the electors. Certainly in a House where there are comparatively small numbers there is the problem of a deadlock developing, not specifically in the numbers of the major parties but in that an individual, such as we saw happen 2 or 3 years ago, can hold the balance of power. It was an exceptional circumstance but under the system which applies now the majority Party rules that, State; it forms the Government.
– Does the honourable senator advocate that system?
– Naturally I support it. I thought that as a fellow-Tasmanian the honourable senator would support; it also.
– I am just asking for a definite expression of the honourable senator’s views.
– I would have assumed that the honourable senator imagined that I did support it. I am talking now not in specific terms about the Bill but about what we, as a national Parliament, might consider as an alternative to the present system which as I said earlier in imperfect. Whether the Hare-Clark system is an answer to the problem is a debatable point.
I make the observation that as a Parliament we ought seriously to consider the alternatives that are before us. All of us know that debates of this nature on electoral gerrymanders and injustices have occurred in this Parliament, I suppose, since Federation. They have occurred probably in every State Parliament with the exception of Tasmania over a great number of years. While we are dealing with an imperfect system we will continue to have these debates because there will be accusations and counter-accusations of doubledealing, of gerrymandering and of people being disenfranchised. If we want to overcome the problem it is inevitable that we have to look at some alternatives. It may not be that the Hare-Clark system, as it is known in Tasmania, is the answer on a Federal basis. But I believe that there is a great responsibility on all of us in this Parliament to consider very deeply whether we are prepared to go on with the system which exists now. If we are then obviously we go on with the risks of gerrymander right through the whole history of the Commonwealth. I do not think anybody really wants this because it is open to abuse. The Australian people - this is the important point - are entitled to know that every time they record a vote on the ballot paper their vote means as much, whether they are living in Sydney, Kalgoorlie, Hobart or Cairns. Under the present system that does not apply. What we are endeavouring to do under this legislation, which I support, is to remove some of the injustices which exist under the present legislation. I am sure that if the Senate is wise it will pass this Bill. I understand that there is another matter to be dealt with; so I ask for leave to continue my remarks upon the resumption of this debate.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move:
The reason for this motion is that Senator Willesee, when moving a motion today to alter the sitting times of the Senate, included the commencing time of 10.30 a.m. for Thursdays. In his statement he said that the new times would not apply until next week. This motion honours his statement, despite the decision of the Senate. The original motion included the words ‘unless otherwise ordered’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.57 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
Will the Postmaster-General examine the possibility of having only one telephone directory for the whole of Tasmania, rather than 3 as is the case at present.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLAND- The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There were a number of factors involved in the introduction of revised Directory arrangements throughout the Commonwealth. Basically, the aim was to improve the utility value of directories by aligning the Directory coverage with trunk switching boundaries so that each book would contain an integrated alphabetical list of subscribers located within a community of interest who could call each other without the need for special dialling procedures.
Nevertheless, these arrangements are currently under review. However, should it be decided to alter the present directory arrangement in Tasmania, there is not sufficient time to vary the 1973 books due for issue later this year.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
On what grounds, ethical and medical, does the Minister support his approval in principle of the use of the drug cyproterone acetate in the treatment of sex offenders.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLAND - The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
My approval or otherwise of treatment is justified on the principle of least harm. I would approve the use of cyproterone acetate for sex offenders only on responsible therapeutic and not penal grounds. The Australian Drug Evaluation Committee has yet to assess whether the safety of this drug is established sufficiently to allow clinical trials to be undertaken for determination of efficacy. Drugs, including stilbestrol, have been in use for decades to reduce sexual drive where this appears medically to be indicated, for example where uninhibited sexual activity in a mentally subnormal adolescent would result in depriving him of attendance at a school for the handicapped. Such drugs may well be preferred to jail by some sex offenders, but such alternatives should be offered only after careful assessment by and consultation among specialists in psychiatry and social rehabilitation. These opinions were made clear in my recent reply to a journalist.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLAND- The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 May 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730516_senate_28_s56/>.