29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that this morning His Excellency the GovernorGeneral determined the appointment of Dr Cass as Minister for the Environment and Conservation and subsequently appointed him Minister for Environment. Senator Wheeldon will represent the Minister for Environment in the Senate.
– The following petition has been lodged for presentation:
To the honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That when the Vietnam Peace Agreement was signed in Paris on January 27, 1973, many thousands of Australians who had opposed our country’s involvement in the American war of aggression in Vietnam rejoiced. But almost two years later the Vietnamese people have had not yet obtained peace. The Paris Agreement remains only partially implemented and the Saigon administration openly declares that it has no intention of honouring many of its most vital provisions. The United States Government continues to intervene with massive military and economic aid, without which Saigon could not continue its large-scale violations of the Agreement.
And whereas for reasons of history and geography Australia has a very direct interest and very special responsibility in achieving the implementation of the Paris Agreement. This responsibility now clearly demands a more active policy committment by the Australian government to peace in Vietnam.
Therefore, we call upon the Australian government to immediately: recognise the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam on a basis of equality with the Saigon administration in accordance with the spirit and letter of the Paris Agreement; and call upon the twelve signatory governments to the Act of the International Conference of Vietnam to take urgent measures to restore respect for the Paris Peace Agreement; and extended the reconstruction aid to the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam as Australia has the moral responsibility to assist the people in the areas under control of the Provisional Revolutionary Government because Australia participated in the destruction of these people’s livelihood.
So, therefore, your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate will take action on the above mentioned.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Poyser.
-Has the Minister for
Foreign Affairs considered the position of South Vietnamese citizens with relatives now in Australia, or with other connections with Australia, in the light of the current Indo-China situation? Has his Department drawn up recommendations on what categories of South Vietnamese could be admitted to Australia as refugees? If so, what are the categories? When does he expect a decision on whether these people shall be allowed to enter Australia? Does he think the decision will be made while there is still time?
– I have drawn up what might be termed a ‘working paper’ on this matter and have given it to the Prime Minister. I expect that very shortly the other departments will be brought in to discuss the whole affair. While I am dealing with this question I might say that, as honourable senators know, we have given our ambassador in South Vietnam leave to cut down our own staff. That is what we did with our Ambassador in Cambodia. Our Ambassador in Saigon has cut the staff to a very small number and we are keeping that matter under consideration. We have now sent 2 letters to Australians in South Vietnam advising them that we believe that it is desirable for them to leave at this stage.
-I ask the Minister for Agriculture whether negotiations are taking place between private Australian interests to establish a large cold store in Bahrain for the purpose of storing Australian meats. Have these negotiations the support of the Australian Government? If so, what advantage would flow to Australian meat producers if such a cold storage plant were established?
-Recently in Bahrain I discussed this matter with the Bahrain authorities. Certain proposals have been put to them for the construction of such a facility. In particular there had been a proposal by New Zealand which appeared to be quite attractive to the Bahrain authorities at that stage. I understand that subsequent to that proposal the Bahrain Cabinet discussed the matter again approximately a week after my visit there.
The Australian proposition by a private company was given very favourable consideration. I am not aware whether a firm decision has been taken by the Bahrain authorities as to which country would receive the contract. Obviously, there would be an advantage to Australian exporters, expecially of sheep meats, in the area and, to a lesser extent, of beef if this facility could be developed. So I would expect that there would shortly be a decision by the Bahrain Government. If there is any further information that I can obtain from the Minister for Overseas Trade I shall advise the honourable senator.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. Is the Minister acquainted with details of the damage caused to dwellings and other properties by 2 cyclones that struck parts of the Western Australian coast in recent months? Will the owners be eligible for compensation from the Commonwealth Government?
– I am well aware of the cyclones to which Senator Drake-Brockman refers. Both of these cyclones occurred within the State of Western Australia, the Government of which would have primary responsibility for the matters that are involved. So far as I know, no action has been taken by the Western Australian Government to engage in any form of compensation. The position of the Australian Government would be that, as has been the case in similar circumstances in which unfortunate events of this kind have occurred within the States, we would await any submissions that might be made to us by the relevant State Government- in this case the Western Australian Government- and, if that Government proposed to do something itself and intended to seek assistance, then any proposition put to us would of necessity be examined on its merits.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is he in a position to give an updated report on how far current negotiations have gone towards a more equitable settlement of the problem in Cyprus?
-No. I think I should get the latest information on that and let the honourable senator have a considered reply.
-Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware that Mr S. D. O’Donnell, the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Rhodesia, is Australian-born and, until 1972, held an Australian passport? Also, is he aware that at the time when the McMahon Government declined to renew Mr O’Donnell’s passport it was said that, if he desired to return to Australia on humanitarian grounds, consideration would be given to issuing him with a document of identity? Did not this Government make the same statement of another Australian in the employ of the Rhodesian Government when it refused to renew his passport after it came to power? Will the Minister say why this Government, after granting a passport to Wilfred Burchett and after welcoming to Australia representatives of the Vietcong and African terrorist movements, has refused to grant Mr O’Donnell’s application to come to Australia on a visit for humanitarian purposes? Why did the Government take 8 months to reply to his application? Why has it refused to give a reason for refusing the application? Why, in fact, does it refuse to an Australian the right to return to his homeland?
– As to the last part of the honourable senator’s question, the previous Government took exactly the same course with Wilfred Burchett. All the historical material related by Senator Greenwood is correct; that is the way it happened. I will check on the latest situation regarding Mr O’Donnell. As I understand it, it was considered that he did not have grounds, on humanitarian considerations, to come into Australia, but I will check on that and let the honourable senator know the position.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Media. Is he aware that last week in a current affairs radio program on radio station 2GB it was mentioned that the Australian Broadcasting Commission did not engage in the purchasing of programs from Australian film production companies and that, despite this matter having been raised with the Minister for the Media, no change had taken place in the policy adopted by the Australian Broadcasting Commission? Can the Minister say whether this is so? If it is not, what is the actual position?
– I did not listen to the particular program, naturally, because it was on at a time when the Senate was sitting. As honourable senators will know, in my capacity as the Manager of Government Business in the Senate I spend a great amount of my time in the chamber when the Senate is actually sitting. Some commentators appear to think that we should all be available for them at a drop of a hat. They have to realise that members of Parliament, especially honourable senators when the Senate is sitting, have other things to do. My attention, however, has been drawn to the remarks of the commentator concerned. He was way off beam. Firstly, being a radio commentator he should know some of the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act. He should know that under that Act the buying and selling policy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, so far as programming is concerned, is the complete prerogative of the Commission, except where amounts of more than $100,000 are involved, in which case under section 62 of the Act the Commission has to seek my approval for the transactions.
In any event, at present the ABC is engaged in a co-production series with the British Broadcasting Corporation and Twentieth Century Fox on the Ben Hall series. Therefore, it is now engaging in co-production arrangements. Only today it was reported to me by the ABC that it is interested in purchasing exclusive Australian television rights from an Australian film production company which is proposing to produce a series of 16-millimetre colour films about places and events of a contemporary or historic interest in Australia, with a compere to introduce each segment. I am advised that the subjects which can be covered by the program are unlimited. Therefore, the brief answer to the honourable senator’s question is that the ABC is now engaging in the purchasing of Australian productions.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the cost of living index just published to the end of March shows it to be the highest rate of increase in any quarter since 1951? Does it reflect an annual inflation rate of 1 7.6 per cent? Is it not a fact that prices in Australia have risen by 36 per cent during Labor’s term of office?
-The answer to the first part of the question obviously is no, it is not the highest increase in any quarter since 1951. I would have thought that Senator Cotton would recall that to the end of the September quarter last year the increase was 5.8 per cent. To the end of the December quarter last year it was 3.8 per cent and to the end of the March quarter this year it was 3.6 per cent. Obviously the trend in the inflation rate is down, but of course this does not mean that we can be complacent about this problem. The Government is under no illusions as to the difficulties being created by the inflationary trends. But at least credit must be given to the Government that its policies are working to the extent that the inflation rate has been stabilised.
There are those in the Opposition who advocate in a very general sense that the Government should spend less, but they are never prepared to say in what sectors spending should be lowered. The Government will continue to be watchful. It will exercise all the powers that are available to it in order to reduce the inflation rate. I hope that during the course of the rest of this year the Opposition might see wisdom sufficiently to support the Government in its desires to obtain the very important powers over prices and incomes which are an essential part of action against the inflationary spiral.
– Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs noted the statement made by the Christian Democratic Party, which is the largest political party in Chile, that the present regime in Chile is fascist, tyrannical and brutal and that the people have the urgent task of restoring democracy in that unhappy land? Will the Minister give some consideration to conveying moral support to the parties, legal and illegal, in Chile as they endeavour to re-establish democratic procedures in that country and defeat the military dictatorship?
– No, I have not seen the statement about this matter. I did not quite get the purport of the rest of the honourable senator’s question, so I will take the question on board, have it examined and let him have a reply.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. As a result of the lack of sufficient funds for shire roads- a shortfall of 50 per cent and more, consequent upon reduced actual allocations and inflated costs- councils are faced with the immediate prospect of laying off experienced men of lengthy service. Would it not be reasonable for councils to retain their impending redundant staff in employment by using Regional Employment Development scheme moneys on council works, within the proper guidelines of that scheme? Would this not avoid a break in the continuity of their employment with consequent disaster to their long service and superannuation benefits? Alternatively, would the Government make available to councils urgently sufficient funds to enable them to retain their full complement of valued employees in continuing service and so secure at least the rates of maintenance and development of recent years, particularly in the area of rural roads? Would not one of the above methods also provide a chance for local government authorities at least to stabilise their levels of rates?
– The honourable senator’s question involves about 4 different ministries. It is difficult for me to answer precisely all the matters raised in what is, in fact, not a question but a series of questions. This Government is aware of the difficulties that exist in the various municipalities of Australia. Indeed, this Government was the first government to introduce direct support to municipalities to assist them in their financial problems. The whole purpose of the Regional Employment Development scheme has been to maximise employment in those areas that have been affected most by the downturn in economic activity. I do not think anyone would argue against the fact that the scheme has been very largely successful, as was evidenced by the figures released by the Minister for Labor and Immigration over the weekend.
The whole purpose of the scheme is to keep people employed in useful jobs and to ensure that programs which have been initiated and which are socially useful can be maintained. As to the specific qualifications required, as expressed in the honourable senator’s question, I would need to refer that to the Minister for Labor and Immigration, whose direct responsibility it is, because I know that he has laid down specific guidelines regarding the qualifications of people who may apply under the scheme. I shall refer this matter to him and, if there is anything he can add to the answer I have given, I shall obtain it for the honourable senator.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. He will recall that in the Senate on 5 March I drew his attention to a report in the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ of 3 March, wherein Senator Carrick was quoted as saying that the Monarto project had been entered into in undue haste, before it was properly researched. I now ask the Minister whether the exposition on Monarto, which went on public display in King’s Hall today for a period of 10 days, gives conclusive proof that the project has been extensively researched and expertly planned, down to the minutest detail?
– I recall the question that Senator McLaren asked me. I note that I replied at some length, although I thought at the time the question was associated with whether there was conscription of public servants to go to Monarto. I outlined in some detail the research that went into the project. I had always known, long before the site was selected, that there had to be some satellite town in South Australia to stop the expansion of the State capital and I knew that about 2 years’ research had been undertaken. I think that is proved by the display in King’s Hall. The display shows that there has been considerable research into the future planning for Monarto, which I am confident will be a successful venture and which is heavily supported financially by the Department of Urban and Regional Development. I commend the display to anyone who has the time to see what has been achieved by one of the earliest moves in new town development in Australia.
– The Minister for Repatriation and Compensation will recall stating in answer to a question on 15 April that the Government would do everything it could to ensure insurance industry workers do not lose their jobs in the event of the establishment of an Australian Government insurance office. I ask the Minister whether this is an adequate undertaking in view of the Government’s expressed concern at the current high level of unemployment. Will the Government guarantee that no competent insurance worker will lose his or her position as a direct result of Federal competition in the insurance field?
-Yes, I recollect very clearly giving that assurance. I fail to see how the establishment of an Australian Government insurance office, which will provide work presumably for people who are not working and will create jobs in this proposed office, will cause other people to lose their jobs. Even if one assumes that only the same volume of insurance business will be transacted as was transacted previously, and all that the Australian Government insurance office would do would be to take some of that business away from someone else, there would still be the same number of people presumably involved in that work. If, as is hoped and expected, the Australian Government insurance office, through engaging in new fields of insurance, expands the present amount of insurance which is written in Australia of course there will be more jobs available.
I do not take awfully seriously the claims that are made by some of the insurance companies about dismissals of staff or the potential dismissals of staff. 1 can remember that not many months ago the Commercial Union Assurance Company of Australia Limited in Queensland dismissed a large number of members of its staff and made a statement at the time that it had done this because of the Australian Government’s proposed national compensation scheme. To this the Australian Insurance Staffs Federation, the industrial organisation of employees in the insurance industry,, was able very convincingly to reply that, first of all, the national compensation scheme had not come into effect so it was very difficult to know how the company was losing business to a scheme which did not exist. Secondly, all of the workers compensation insurance in Queensland was conducted by the State Government Insurance Office of Queensland and none of it was conducted by the Commercial Union Company. So if I were Senator Sheil I would look with very close scrutiny at the arguments that are put to him by the insurance companies. If Senator Sheil has any doubts about this matter, I suggest that he sees me or the Australian Insurance Staffs Federation which is well able to look after the interests of its members.
-My question is directed to the Posmaster-General. It was recently announced that the Government would establish temporary transmitting facilities for Radio Australia in Western Australia to replace the facilities put out of action by cyclone Tracy at Cox Peninsula, Darwin. Can the Postmaster-General indicate whether a site in Western Australia has yet been chosen?
– I think I answered a question last week from Senator Drury and said that 3 locations were under consideration, namely, Gnangara, a place called Wagin and Carnarvon. A decision has now been made. It is considered that Carnarvon, the old site of the NASA tracking station, is the most suitable for a number of technical reasons. Consequently, the temporary facility will be located there.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health refers to the report of a working group on diet and coronary heart disease published today by the Academy of Science and commented on publicly by the group chairman, Professor R. J. Walsh. I ask: Will the Minister ensure that copies of the report are made available to all members of this Parliament, and indeed, to members of State parliaments? Since coronary heart disease is the major disease in Australia and of epidemic and growing proportions, will the Government give consideration to the establishment of a committeepresumably a joint committee of this Parliament- to consider the implications of the report and to recommend those measures which are considered necessary and desirable to bring about, by voluntary choice of each individual in the community, those conditions of change in life style, and particularly of diet, which will minimise the impact of this disease?
– The suggestions contained in Senator Carrick ‘s question sound very sensible to me but the honourable senator will appreciate that I am not the Minister who has responsibility for these matters. I shall see that the question is referred immediately to the Minister for Health. My view would be that overall the propositions he has put forward ought to be given very favourable consideration by the Government.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration, or it may come within the purview of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It is prompted by the interest of a group of women in Devonport, Tasmania, who desire to be identified with and contribute towards efforts to relieve the suffering and distress of the civilian victims of the Vietnam war. Will the Minister ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration, if that is the appropriate ministry, to examine the feasibility and desirability of extending the present arrangement for bringing out Vietnamese orphans to embrace a plan whereby, in the case of the loss of the male parent, a mother with a child or children can be assisted to come to Australia and be provided with such facilities and opportunities here as are necessary to start a new life as a young family unit in this country?
-Yes, I will pass that suggestion on for examination. As I understand it, what we are doing so far is merely to accelerate applications for adoption, a process that would have taken a longer time except for what has happened. I certainly will pass on that suggestion.
– My question, addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, follows on that asked by Senator Cotton. Is not the rise in the consumer price index in the March quarter higher than that in 1971, 1972, 1973 or 1974? In fact, do not the figures show that it has been the worst March quarter rise in the consumer price index since 195 1?
-I could not say off the top of my head whether it has been the highest increase in the March quarter for the last 24 years. I would need a mind like a computer to be able to remember whether it was or was not. Even if it was, the important point, as I indicated in my reply to Senator Cotton, is that the inflation rate obviously is coming down despite the difficulties of the Government. I know the Opposition was hoping before the figure came out at lunch time that it would show an increase of about 5 per cent or 6 per cent. The fact is that the trend is in the direction that we intend it to be and it demonstrates, as I said earlier, that the Government’s policies are having their effect.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment. In view of the fact that the title Department of the Environment and Conservation’ has been amended to ‘Department of Environment’, can the Minister inform the Senate whether the administrative arrangements under which the Department operates will be affected? Will the Department continue to place the utmost importance on conservation?
– It is not proposed that there should be any change in the administrative arrangements of the Department. The change in name resulted from a suggestion from Dr Cass, the Minister for Environment. He consideredand what he put forward was agreed to- that the title ‘Environment and Conservation’ was unnecessarily cumbersome, that the conservation referred to in the title ‘Environment and Conservation’ was intended to mean conservation of the environment, and that it was a rather long winded title which caused some confusion. I remember that one day one honourable senator in this chamber, without attempting in any way to be satirical, referred to the Department as the Department of the Environment and Conversation. In fact, in 1973, when the Australian Labor Party amended its platform, it amended the section which previously had been entitled ‘Environment and Conservation’ to ‘The
Environment’. It is considered that this is perfectly meaningful and that nothing is added by the other words which only make the title longer without saying anything extra.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I refer to the proposed legislation to establish separate commissions to run the postal services on the one hand and the telecommunications services on the other. I ask whether the Government has yet determined whether, in the event of these commissions being established, there will be a duplication of premises and of staff, particularly in country areas, and whether some estimate has been made of the increased cost that would be the result of such duplication?
– I am not able to give the information requested by Senator Durack because the matter has not been developed to the stage when a proper report might be made. I think I answered a question from him at the Estimates Committee E meeting last week.
– You did not answer it. That is the problem.
– There you are- Senator Durack is very clever.
Opposition senators- Hear, hear!
– Listen to my reply first, before you laugh. In the first place, the legislation has not come before the Parliament. 1 would be guilty of presumption if I should give the information to the honourable senator without first having the Parliament approve what is proposed by the Government. That is the first point. Even if I had the information, I should not give it to the honourable senator. I told Senator Durack last week that we hoped that the Bills would be put before our legislation committee and other party committees and confirmed, and that I would try to introduce the Bills in the Senate on Wednesday of this week. I hope that I can do so. If I do, the honourable senator will have the opportunity during the period of the recess to consider that legislation.
In relation to the aims of the 2 commissions, what was recommended by the Vernon Commission and what amounts to an examination by expert groups in the Post Office, consideration has been given to the location of premises for both commissions in various regions. But this matter is indeterminate because in many places, as I told Senator Durack- I can answer with respect to specific areas and I can get the information for him- the commissions will be located in the present premises. In other places, they will move into separate premises. The telecommunications commission will be requiring premises in some areas.
Generally, there will not be any early disruption. There certainly will be no disruption of staffs in the first 12 months. There will be a necessary planning period to get the 2 commissions working. Let me point to one urgent factor. I hope that the Opposition will support the legislation; I presume it does accept its earlier statements about corporations and commissions. The urgent point is that it is intended at this stage to help the management and the staffs to get on with the job by passing the legislation. On the information that I have and from the inspections that I have made I believe that both sections want the legislation passed as quickly as possible. I suggest to the honourable senator that after the Bills have been introduced into the Parliament, in the course of the forthcoming break the Opposition committee which will consider the legislation might like the assistance of departmental officers to answer as to specific locations. I am quite sure that they will give the honourable senator as much information as it is possible to give at present.
-Is the Minister for the Media aware that Sydney radio station 2CH is holding an exhibition entitled ‘Communications Horizon 75 ‘ at the Centrepoint, Sydney, between 14 July and 26 July 1975? If so, can the Minister tell me whether his Department is participating in this exhibition? If it is, what is the Department’s role in the exhibition?
-My Department is taking part in the exhibition. The exhibition is similar to the one that was run last year by the broadcasting station referred to. That exhibition, which my Department sponsored, was visited by about 800 000 people. The exhibition takes the form of an audio-visual presentation of the history of radio, communications, audio-visual techniques and the electronics industry generally.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs by referring to statements made recently by a wide variety of people and organisations, including the Honourable David Fairbairn and the Reverend John Mavor of the Australian Council of Churches
Resettlement Department, requesting the bringing of families- not just children- from Vietnam to Australia. Has the Minister or his Department conferred with the Department of Labor and Immigration on this matter? Is his department aware that a number of voluntary agencies are ready to give all the assistance they can in this regard? Will the Minister’s Department confer at an international level to make any emergency arrangements for the asylum or resettlement of such families who may be placed in situations of acute danger?
-I largely answered this question a little earlier. I think Senator Davidson probably would know that we set up a special task force in which the Department of Labor and Immigration is involved at the working level. As I said in answer to a question earlier from Senator Withers, I have prepared a working paper on this. It has gone to the other Ministers concerned. It takes all those matters into consideration.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Recently the Opposition spokesman on defence matters, Mr Killen, criticised the Government decision to give patrol boats and aircraft to Indonesia. He implied that the Government’s decision had bewildered senior naval officers. Can the Minister give any background information on why this decision was made?
– I have seen the statement. I would have thought that Mr Killen would remember that the projects had been approved by the previous Government, because the $20m aid program to assist Indonesia in maritime surveillance was originally announced in Jakarta on 8 June 1972 by Mr McMahon when he was Prime Minister. While the previous government did not give formal approval to specific items in the maritime package, there is no doubt that the first aid program included the gift of Attack class boats, which was specially mentioned, and also some types of aircraft. So, really, the present Government and Mr Barnard are simply carrying out a commitment which they considered ought to be continued by the present Government. That is the origin of the decision.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. I preface the question by informing the Minister that it has been brought to my attention that a number of people who have applied for war service homes loans have been told that their applications have been approved and then have been told that no money is available. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the war service homes division has funds on hand? Is it a fact that the Division is out of funds and awaiting new appropriations?
-The Defence Service Homes Division is administered not by me but by the Minister for Housing and Construction. I am afraid that I cannot answer the question, but I will see that it is referred to the Minister for Housing and Construction so that he can give an answer to Senator Bonner.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for the Media, concerns statements by Mr Cowan, M.L.A. for MerredinYilgarn, and others, that an original plan to erect a 500-watt regional television transmitter near Merredin in Western Australia has been changed and that only a 20-watt transmitter will be erected. These statements were reported extensively in the Merredin ‘Mercury’ of 12 March. I ask: Have any changes been made to the original television transmitter proposals for the Merredin area? Was there ever a plan to erect a 500-watt transmitter?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDSenator Walsh raised this matter with me privately last week and I told him that I would obtain some information on the subject from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which is the statutory body responsible to the Parliament for the planning and provision of broadcasting and television services. I have made those inquiries. The Board advises me that the Merredin translator is to be established at the PostmasterGeneral’s radio-telephone terminal in the Merredin township. The program source for the translator will be demodulation, at the Merredin radio-telephone terminal, of the signal on the main television bearer from Perth to Kalgoorlie. Effective radiated power of the translator will be 20 watts and an omni-directional aerial will be used. The translator will operate on Channel 10. I emphasise that the foregoing operating conditions remain unchanged from those which originally were determined by the Board about 12 months ago. There has never been any change to the proposed technical operating conditions that I approved, and the Control Board advises that no changes are proposed. The translator is expected to go to air during the last quarter of 1975.
– My question to the Minister representing the Special Minister of State relates to a question I asked of the Minister for Agriculture last week which he was not able to answer, lt concerns the availability of statistical information to Ministers on matters related to imports, particularly rural products, lt appears that statistical information on imports of goods such as processed potatoes is not available for 6 to 7 weeks after the end of any month by which time, in a sensitive supply situation, irrevocable damage may well have taken place before either the Minister or the people involved in such an industry could take any action on control. I ask: Will the Minister endeavour to have such figures available on a weekly basis and to see that the release times are more pertinent to the period under scrutiny.
-I ask the honourable senator to place the question on notice and I will refer it to the Special Minister of State.
– Will the Minister for Foreign Affairs confirm or deny reports from Bangkok that Australian citizens were among foreigners executed by communist forces in Cambodia? Has he requested an immediate check? Will the Minister also give the Senate any information which is in the Government’s hands concerning reports of mass atrocities by communists against women and children in South Vietnam?
– I have seen no report that suggests that any Australians are involved in the alleged massacres. We have seen Press reports concerning the latter half of the honourable senator’s question-that people have been killed. Everybody, of course, deplores such actions as these, if indeed they have occurred. We hope that the People’s Revolutionary Government will treat its opponents with magnanimity whatever the part they have played in the tragic events in Vietnam, and that reprisals and retribution will find no part in its policies. The Prime Minister has written to -
– That is not what is happening.
– We hope that reports of what is happening are not true. If it is happening we hope it will cease. I was about to say that the Prime Minister has written to both the People’s Revolutionary Government and representatives of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in these terms.
The PRG has issued a 10 point statement from 1 April and an earlier 7 point statement on 25 March which set out its policies towards the South Vietnamese in those areas which have recently come under its control. These statements, if adhered to, are most encouraging.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Media and refer to a report in the ‘Age’ newspaper of 18 April 1975 of the Minister’s comment on Channel 9, Melbourne, the previous evening, as follows:
Television entertainers should refrain from political comment.
Was the Minister correctly reported? If not, what was the precise opinion he expressed? Does he not realise that the long and effective tradition set by political satirists and cartoonists in Great Britain is one of the best features of its democratic system? Is it possible that the Minister and his Department are doing more than he realises in encouraging political satire in this country? Does he not accept that political comment and satire from television entertainers could be one effective way of pricking the self-esteem and undue pomposity of Ministers and other politicians in the rarefied atmosphere of Canberra?
– I did not see the report to which the honourable senator refers nor did I make the comment, as far as my recollection goes, that television entertainers should not engage in political satire. I certainly did not make that comment. I said that the General Manager of the Channel 9 network had advised me that a particular entertainer had been taken off a program because he had made political comment without the person against whom the political comment had been made being given the opportunity to reply on that same station. I was asked for my comment on that situation. I thought I said that I had no comment on it. So far as political satire is concerned, I think the ‘Mavis Bramston Show’, which was shown in Sydney and Melbourne about 10 years ago, was one of the best Australian programs produced, and it was full of political satire.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Education a question relating to the tertiary education assistance scheme. Is the Minister able to give any information with regard to the delay in payment of allowances to students under this scheme? I understand that the non-payment of this year’s allowances has been claimed to be related to administrative difficulties due to the increase in applications and to the fact that 10 000 applications have been received in State offices during the past 5 weeks. Does the Minister know the hardship which has been caused to students by the delay? Is he able to suggest any emergency assistance which could be provided to obviate the discontinuance of tertiary courses by students who have no other source of income.
-The Minister for Education has not mentioned to me a delay in the payment of tertiary scholarships, but I will take into account the matters raised by Senator Guilfoyle and refer the question to my colleague the Minister for Education for advice.
-Can the Minister for the Media say how many people will be in the Australian delegation attending the Cannes Film Festival? How many of these people will be Government sponsored? What is the estimated cost? What is the composition of the delegation? What will be their various functions?
-As a result of arrangements between my Department, the Australian Film Development Corporation and the Department of Overseas Trade, it was determined that an exhibition of Australian feature films and television productions be sponsored by Australia at this year’s Cannes Festival. The television market is being held between 2 1 and 26 April. The film market is being held between 9 and 23 May. I am not quite certain of the exact financial arrangements that were made between my Department, the Australian Film Development Corporation and the Department of Overseas Trade. I think the reference is taken from previous examples of trade missions which have been sponsored by the Department of Overseas Trade.
I understand that 29 production groups had applied to attend the television market and that 19 production groups had applied to attend the film market. A total of 72 was involved at the stage of application. I am not quite certain of the number who have gone, but I can check, advise the honourable senator. If I understand the arrangements correctly, the person who is sponsored pays his own fare to and from the exhibition and his expenses at the exhibition. If he sells a program or is able to get a sale on behalf of the Australian market, the cost of taking him is met by the Film Development Corporation and the Department of Overseas Trade. I think that is the arrangement, but I will certainly check it and let the honourable senator know.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation aware that the Liberal-Country League which dominates the South Australian Legislative Council prevented the South Australian Government Insurance Commission from entering into the life assurance field, for the sole purpose of ensuring that the Commission would not enter into competition with private insurance companies in this field? Does the Minister expect the same kind of opposition by the Liberal Party of Australia, for the same purpose, when he introduces legislation to set up an Australian Government insurance office?
-The distressing occurrence of which Senator McLaren has reminded us is similar to an occurrence in another State- Western Australia- when the Labor Government there attempted to broaden the activities of the Western Australian State Government Insurance Office to cover life assurance. This was also rejected not only by the Liberal Party but also by the Country Party in the Legislative Council in that State. I would hope, however, that honourable senators in this chamber would adopt a more national constructive attitude than their parochial colleagues in the mausoleums in the State parliaments in Adelaide and Perth. Despite many distressing experiences down the years I retain some faith in human nature, even in Liberal Party senators. I hope that at least some day before I leave here I will see justice done by Opposition senators.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. In view of the many complaints being made about aircraft noise over the city of Launceston, which under current procedures is under the flight path of nearly all aircraft approaching and leaving Launceston airport, will the Minister ask his colleague the Minister for Transport, the Honourable Charles Jones, whether any suitable flight paths avoiding the city, which has very busy aircraft traffic, could be safely and economically introduced, particularly during the late night and early morning hours?
- Senator Marriott gave me a copy of his question earlier and 1 was able to obtain some information for him. The information given to me is that most of the air traffic concerned is bound for the mainland. The nature of the noise abatement procedures, including the preferred flight path in use at the present time, is dictated very largely by the high terrain in the area. With regard to the air traffic during the late night and early morning hours, this is mostly piston engine aircraft involved in freight operations between Launceston and Melbourne. Because of the poor climbing capability of these aircraft compared with jet aircraft, there is a requirement for them to gain altitude to the south of the airport before setting course for Melbourne. This procedure is necessary because of the high terrain and has been the cause of many of the complaints. I am told that the procedures are reviewed regularly and that the existing arrangements are the most satisfactory. Because of the additional request of the honourable senator I will ask the Minister to look again at the answer he gave to see whether something else could be added to it.
– Without asking a question, I make a personal request to Senator Bishop to be added to the list of complainants referred to by Senator Marriott. I direct a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs which relates to Vietnamese refugees or other persons desiring to come to Australia from South Vietnam. I refer in particular to 2 categories. The first comprises close relations of Australian citizens who were formerly Vietnamese but are now naturalised Australian citizens. A number of applications by people in this category have been made to the Minister’s Department. The other category to which I specifically refer includes those South Vietnamese citizens who trained in Australiaparticularly a large number of them who trained at Australian universities- who have now indicated that they would wish to leave the war area of Vietnam and return to Australia. I ask: Will the Minister, in the discussions which are taking place, press for the highest priority to be given to people who do fall within those categories? Will the Minister also give an undertaking to the Senate that he will take some steps to expedite some resolution of the Australian Government’s policy in this area? I would say that it does seem to be dragging somewhat- if a comment is acceptable at the end of the question.
– The answer to the last part of the honourable senator’s question is yes. I will do that. The answer to the first part of the question is yes, in broad terms. I think the honourable senator has put forward an interesting proposition. The Government has taken into consideration some of the points raised by the honourable senator, but I cannot quite remember whether it considered all the points raised. I will certainly take up his suggestions.
-I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General whether it is a fact that, irrespective of the substance of any existing law of the Commonwealth, a paramount duty of government is to ensure that laws are enforced in accordance with legislative provisions. Is it a fact that it is now a general practice in the Australian Capital Territory for the police not to make arrests in cases of individuals found to be in possession of marihuana? Until such time as the relevant laws are changed why and on what grounds is the law not being fully carried out now?
– I would not quarrel with the general proposition that laws should be enforced. However, the fact is that in the Australian Capital Territory it was found by trial and error that the law seeking to prohibit the smoking of marihuana was defective, mainly in its definition of cannabis sativa, the botanical name for what is known pejoratively by some as ‘ marihuana ‘ and affectionately by others as ‘pot’. In any event, several prosecutions were brought and were thrown out by the courts in the Australian Capital Territory because of this deficiency in the law and the police developed the practice of not prosecuting pending the amendment of the law. As a matter of fact, it was a very costly process. Costs were awarded in several cases and it seemed to be rather counter-productive. In fact it might even have been considered to be an encouragement to pot smoking to keep bringing prosecutions that did not succeed. Accordingly the police stopped prosecuting and the deficiency was brought to the attention of the Attorney-General. A new ordinance is in the process of being framed which is designed to correct this anomaly in the law. I have no doubt that the law will then take its course and prosecutions will ensue for the possession of marihuana.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a Cities Commission report in 3 volumes, entitled ‘River
Murray In Relation To Albury-Wodonga ‘. Due to the limited number available, reference copies of this report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library. Copies of a synopsis of the report can be obtained from the office of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a ministerial statement on the Australian ministerial mission to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– On behalf of Senator Willesee I move:
I seek leave to incorporate a copy of the second reading speech in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The purpose of this Bill is to bring about a number of fundamental changes in the organisation of our statistical services in order to increase their effectiveness and relevance for modern conditions and to strengthen further the guarantees of objectivity and impartiality of the Statistician. Clearly, the national statistical service is vitally important to the whole Parliament and the nation at large. There is no need for me to argue the virtues of statistical information in providing a generally informed society; in providing a firm base for decision making in Government, business and the rest of the community; in providing a basis for the development of programs and a means of measuring their progress over time.
The main provisions of this Bill, which I shall comment on more fully a little later, are to establish the Australian Bureau of Statistics as a statutory body to fulfil the functions of a central statistical authority; to establish a statutory position of Australian Statistician and to establish an Australian Statistics Advisory Council as a statutory body. By way of background I refer to the great growth in statistics since the Second World War. Particularly in government, but also in most other sectors of the community, there has been a great awakening to the value of all kinds of statistics and statistical services. Prior to the War, statistical activity was directed towards the provision of basic statistics such as population, births and deaths, employment,’ manufacturing and agricultural production, overseas trade, and so on.
After the War, the emphasis turned to the provision of a wider range of more frequent and uptodate economic statistics and indicators such as retail sales, capital expenditure, overseas investment, building statistics, monthly production, balance of payments, considerable development in national accounts, labour force and unemployment, and many others. Monthly and quarterly statistics supplemented the established annual censuses.
In recent years, development in statistics has been marked by a greater sophistication and complexity and by a growing need for special purpose economic and social surveys. Aided by the introduction of computers and the development of sampling and other techniques, notable developments have taken place in the fields of seasonal adjustment, constant price series, social surveys for a wide variety of purposes, inputoutput tables and the development of econometric model building and forecasting. Economic censuses and surveys, which were originally developed as independent projects, are being progressively integrated within common conceptual frameworks on the basis of common units, definitions and classifications. In the future I see major developments in the integrations and coordination of data systems, in the establishment of readily accessible statistical data bases, and in the responsiveness of the statistical system to changing needs in a rapidly changing world. Economic statistics and indicators will continue to be of basic importance but social and manpower statistics and data for urban and regional planning must continue to develop.
As a result of all these changes over the years the Bureau of Statistics has grown to become one of the larger bodies in the Australian Public Service. Concurrently with these developments there has been a growth in the statistical activities of other Governmental authorities, particularly in the area of analysis and interpretation of statistics but also in the production of statistics from administrative records and even in direct collection from business and the general public. It is now considered that the large size of the Bureau and the objectivity and impartiality which it must exercise in its operations require that it beestablished as an administratively independent authority with a status reflecting its important role. It is also necessary that it be accorded the functions of a central statistical authority to ensure that all statistical operations in government departments are integrated within a common framework in accordance with common standards. This will result in considerable economies through the avoidance of duplication of effort. It will lessen the burden on the reporting public and will provide a common data base for use by government and the community as a whole.
It is further desirable that the Statistician be relieved of the necessity to determine priorities for the multiude of statistical demands being made upon the Bureau. Despite the great increase in statistics now produced by the Bureau, there are many other needs yet to be satisfied. It has to be recognised that the demand for statistics and statistical services is insatiable and that only the most important requirements can be serviced. Clearly, the decision as to which of the multiude of demands should be met should lie with the government of the day. For this reason, an Australian Statistics Advisory Council with a membership widely representative of government and community interests will be established to advise the Minister and the Statistician on all matters pertaining to the statistical service including its annual and longer term priorities and work programs.
I understand that the development of new statistics legislation which would have achieved the same objectives by the implementation of virtually the same measures was already proceeding under several previous governments. The Senate will be aware that in December 1 973 the Government appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Professor Crisp to advise on the general principles and administrative arrangements which would enable the Government to integrate the various departmental data systems servicing related areas of its social and economic policies. The report of the committee has been widely circulated. Among other things it recommends the measures covered by this Bill.
The present Bill is in respect of an Act which shall be read in conjunction with all existing Acts including the Census and Statistics Act 1905-1973 and the Statistics (Arrangements with States) Act 1956-1958. All this legislation is at present under review with the object of preparing comprehensive legislation to bring the relevant provisions together in one Act and to provide for certain more detailed recommendations in the Crisp Report. The provisions covered by the Bill are being sought at this stage to avoid unnecessary delay in making the major administrative changes necessary to achieve the important improvements mentioned earlier.
I come now to the main provisions of the Bill. Part I contains the usual definitions and provides that the Australian Statistician shall have all the powers, functions and duties vested by other Acts in the Commonwealth Statistician. The present statutory office of Commonwealth Statistician shall cease to exist with the proclamation of the new Act. Elimination of the word ‘census’ from the title of the Bureau merely reflects the fact that this word is now widely used in many statistical contexts other than that of the national census of population and housing to which it originally referred almost exclusively. It further emphasises that the national census of population and housing is a collection for statistical purposes.
Part II provides for the establishment of a statutory position of Australian Statistician and for the establishment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics as a statutory body with the functions of a central statistical authority. In addition to existing functions relating to the collection, compilation, analysis and dissemination of statistics, this section provides also for the co-ordination of the statistical activities of other official bodies in the interests of avoiding duplication, attaining compatibility in statistical activities, achieving economies through the use of all available sources of data, achieving adherence to common standards in statistical work, providing statistical assistance and providing liaison with other countries and international organisations on statistical matters. While these functions are largely in the hands of the Bureau at present, this legislation will formally recognise them as the proper functions of the Bureau.
This Part also provides for collaboration between the Bureau and non-official bodies for the same purposes. The terms and conditions for the appointment and removal from office of the Statistician or a person acting as Statistician are stated. These are similar to those applying to the Commissioner of Taxation and thereby ensure the security of tenure appropriate to an office which must operate without fear or favour. In relation to the Bureau, the Statistician is vested with all the powers of, or exercisable by, a permanent head under the Public Service Act 1922-1974, as befits his status. The continued staffing of the Bureau under the Public Service Act is also provided for.
Part III relates to the establishment, functions and composition of the proposed Australian Statistics Advisory Council. The Council has wide functions to advise the Minister and the Statistician on any matter relating to statistical services, including the extension and coordination of those services and annual and longer term priorities and work programs. The composition of the Council of up to 24 members provides adequate scope for it to be widely representative of community interests. It is the Government’s intention to ensure this wide representation of the membership. Part IV of the Bill provides for annual reports to the Parliament by the Statistician and the Council. This provision will make a further contribution towards ensuring the Bureau’s objectivity and independence while at the same time making the Statistician and the Council publicly accountable. I am sure that the constructive nature of these proposed changes in the statistics legislation will have wide support and I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator James McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The main purpose of this Bill is to amend the Trade Practices Act 1 974 to prohibit the sending of unsolicited credit cards. The Bill also provides for amendments to section 5 1, to adjust the scope of operation of certain exceptions to the Act. and sections 62 and 63, to allow promulgation of consumer product safety and information standards which do not apply to the export trade.
Credit cards are a part- in many respects a desirable part- of everyday life for many Australians. A great deal of business is transacted on credit and credit cards are undoubtedly a convenient means of obtaining credit. If credit cards are furnished only to persons who have sought them, there is in general no cause of complaint. This Bill will have no application in those circumstances. Last year a vast number of credit cards were sent out to persons who had not sought them. That was not desirable. The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General last October expressed particular concern about the matter. The Bill will accordingly prohibit the future sending out of such cards on an unsolicited basis.
The Trade Practices Act already contains provisions with respect to unsolicited goods, but those provisions are not appropriate for credit cards, the special nature of which, when sent out unsolicited, gives rise to special objections. When credit cards are sent out unsolicited, they can, and often do, find their way into the hands of the wrong persons. They then become a means by which unscrupulous persons can perpetrate frauds- a means by which such persons may obtain goods and services to which they are not entitled. The cards then become a menace to the business community and to the persons who are put to considerable trouble and expense in establishing that they are not liable for goods or services obtained on the faith of cards issued to them. I refer to goods or services supplied in their name but never received by them. Many cases of this kind occurred last year when the mass distribution of unsolicited bank cards took place.
Apart from the risk of credit cards getting into wrong hands, there are other objections to their being sent out unsolicited. A person who receives an unsolicited card that has been issued to him is confronted with a problem as to what he should do with it. Many such persons have little knowledge of the law and they are placed in a position of some anxiety as to what steps they must take to ensure that they incur no unintended liability. There are also reasons, from a privacy point of view, why credit ratings of persons who have not sought them should not be made and recorded, for example, in a computer to which many other persons could well have access. A credit arrangement is a personal matter between the person providing the credit and the person receiving it. It should remain that way and should not be rendered impersonal by credit cards that are sent out without any request. Although it is a matter of opinion that is not the subject of general agreement, it is, or has been, claimed that the mass distribution of unsolicited credit cards can create undesirable inflationary influences. Persons who have not sought credit find it readily available and are encouraged to use it- with a consequential increase in the demand for goods and services. Other countries, notably the United States of America and the United Kingdom, have taken a similar approach to the matter and have banned unsolicited cards.
I turn briefly to the other amendments proposed by this Bill. Section 51 of the Trade Practices Act provides certain exceptions to the prohibitions of the restrictive trade practices provisions of the Act. A question has arisen, however, whether a contract excepted by the section may nevertheless be rendered unenforceable by section 45. Such a result was plainly never intended and the Bill makes it clear that an excepted contract is enforceable.
Sections 62 and 63 of the Act authorise the making of regulations to prescribe consumer product safety and information standards. These standards seek to ensure that goods which can be unsafe or hazardous in the hands of consumers are either not supplied to consumers, or are supplied to them with adequate warning of potential dangers. As the Act now stands, a standard must always apply to Australia’s export trade as well as to domestic trade.
The amendments proposed in the Bill enable the regulations prescribing such standards to exclude from their operation goods intended for use outside Australia. In such situations, the Government believes that the standards of the country to which the goods are to be sent should apply, not the standards of Australia. Many other countries of the world set standards with which consumer goods sold in their countries must comply. Although there is some uniformity of approach between countries in these matters, one must expect some differences to arise. These amendments would permit regulations promulgating standards to be made inapplicable to exported goods, so that Australian exporters are not faced with the problem of compliance with incompatible standards. The amendments would also help to prevent inconsistency arising with standards set pursuant to Australian Exports Regulations. Mr President, I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Missen) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I seek the opportunity, on the occasion of the first reading of a Bill which the Senate may not amend, to speak to matters that are not strictly relevant to the Appropriation Bill. I desire to speak on a subject that I think reveals the inhumanity of the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). I believe that it reveals the hypocrisy of the Government and that it represents a denial of right to a citizen of Australia who is seeking Australian citizenship and who has not been given any reason, let alone any adequate reason, why he should be denied citizenship. He has been subjected to interrogation and inspection by the Commonwealth Police and he has been treated with complete ignore by the Minister for Labor and Immigration.
My interest in this matter arose in 1 974. 1 have checked on the dates, and it must have been on 5 May of that year when, on a television broadcast, the then Minister for Immigration stated that under a Labor Government nobody had been refused citizenship on political grounds. The point was made during an election campaign, and within a week I had received a visit from the gentleman, Mr John Dvorscek whose case I am now putting forward to the Senate. As a result of what Mr Dvorscek told me I forwarded a telegram to the then Minister for Immigration, Mr Grassby. The telegram said:
Am informed that contrary to your statement last Sunday evening on TV there has been one case of refusal of citizenship on political grounds. What is the reason for refusal of citizenship to John Dvorscek of 59 Manfred Avenue St Albans. Seek your co-operation in provision of information as to why his application has not been granted. Is he on deportation list as he has been told by Commonwealth Police. If so why.
Shortly thereafter I received an acknowledgment that my telegram had been received. I wrote a fuller letter to the then Minister for Immigration on 20 May 1974. In the course of that letter, which I wrote while awaiting a reply to my telegram, I said that Mr Dvorscek had given me an account of what had happened to him in recent years which made incredible reading. I pointed out that he had not been charged with any offence and, on his account, appeared to have been discriminated against simply because he was Croatian. I also pointed out that naturally I was not aware of any reasons which might have been available to the Minister or to his Department which might have been relied upon by the Minister or his Department to explain why Mr Dvorscek had not been granted citizenship. I stated that on the material available to me it appeared that he had been refused citizenship and had been given no reason for the refusal. I then stated that Mr Dvorscek believed that the refusal was on political grounds because of what had been said to him by the Commonwealth Police on occasions when they had visited his premises and confiscated certain of his property. They had told him, as he related to me, that he was on a deportation list. Mr Dvorscek believed that his citizenship application was denied on political grounds. I sought the reason. As the chain of events indicates, one still does not know why he has been refused citizenship.
I have stated that I wrote my letter on 20 May 1974. On 24 May I received an acknowledgment that my letter had been received. I received no other reply. I wrote again on 15 July 1974. On 24 July I received an acknowledgment that my letter had been received, but I received no other reply. On 8 November 1974 I wrote again and received another acknowledgment that my letter had been received. Finally, on 5 December 1974 I received the shortest possible letter, and it came from Mr Cameron. He said:
I am writing in response to the representations you have made concerning the application for the grant of Australian citizenship lodged by Mr Ivaca (also known as John) Dvorscek of 59 Manfred Avenue, St Albans, Victoria.
This letter has been given the most careful consideration and after examining all aspects of Mr Dvorscek ‘s application I have decided that it is not one for approval. Mr Dvorscek will be informed of my decision shortly.
Between May and December 1974 a long wait had ensued. A short reply was eventually forthcoming but no reason was given why Mr Dvorscek had been refused citizenship and no explanation was given why the delay had occurred.
– That Minister should not receive an appropriation of one cent.
– I note what Senator Wright has said. One recognises the problems and the conventional system which would suppose or suggest is the remedy. All I can say is that it represents, on the Minister’s part, conduct which ill becomes him when he says that he has at heart the interests of the persons he has a duty to look after. On 19 December 1974 I replied to the Minister for Labor and Immigration as follows:
I note also that no reason is given although you have examined all aspects of Mr Dvorscek’s applications’. You do not even state that the refusal is not on political grounds. 1 seek again from you further information as to the reasons for the refusal of Australian citizenship. I know, having heard the statement made, that your predecessor stated that the Whitlam Government did not refuse citizenship on political grounds. Has there been a change of policy under your administration?
The circumstances of my original letter, over six months ago to Mr Grassby, suggested strongly that the objection to Mr Dvorscek was on political grounds- and the simple political ground was that he was of Croatian birth.
I would appreciate some indication from you as to whether there is any reason why an Australian resident in the position of Mr Dvorscek- who has been in Australia, as I am informed, for fifteen years- should be refused citizenship.
Not only has he been in Australia for 15 years, but he has 5 children of school age, 3 of whom were born in Australia. I know that he has been subjected to personal humiliation and distress because of the problems he has experienced because of the fact that, under this Government, he suffers the great crime that he is of Croatian birth. I wrote on 1 9 December, and received an acknowledgement from the Minister’s secretary on 17 January. Finally, on 23 March I received a further short reply from the Minister, as follows:
I am writing again in reply to your letter 19 December 1974 concerning the application for the grant of Australian citizenship made by Mr Ivaca (also known as John) Dvorscek of 59 Manfred Avenue, St Albans. Victoria.
You ask mc whether there has been any change in the policy of the Government not to refuse citizenship on political grounds. The answer to your question is no; the political beliefs of an applicant for citizenship are not the grounds for refusal, and membership of or association with a lawful political party is not considered in itself a reason to deny citizenship to any applicant.
Mr Dvorscek’s application has been given the fullest consideration in the light of all the requirements of the Citizenship Act and I am unable to change my previous decision that it is not one for approval.
On 2 April 1 wrote to the Minister again, as follows:
Your letter of 23 March reaffirming your refusal to grant Australian citizenship to Mr John Dvorscek is singularly uninformative.
Is it the plain fact that Mr Dvorscek is not to be granted citizenship and you are not prepared to say why? Is it also the plain fact that there is no known or obvious reason why he should not bc an Australian citizen?
If my assumptions are wrong I would be grateful for your explicit correction as to why they are wrong.
I suppose we shall have the same pattern of letter and acknowledgement and a long wait before receiving an uninformative reply.
I have raised this matter, because I think the account I have given speaks for itself Wo have a Minister who is completely inhuman in hi.-, reaction to the problems of the persons wilh whom he has to deal. I leave aside questions relating to his other responsibilities as Minister i’.ir I labor and Immigration. I am concerned willi <>mI one individual, who is entitled to mme information that he has been given and who ought to have the right to know why his citizenship application has been refused, and on what valid ground. I heard Mr Grassby saying that the Whitlam Government did not refuse citizenship on political grounds. As I understand it, that is still the Government’s proud claim. If so, will it explain why the gentleman about whom I am concerned has not been given his citizenship?
– I think it is fitting that I should enter this debate because, unlike the former AttorneyGeneral, not long ago I testified before Mr Justice Hope on aspects of security. I did that deliberately, because, irrespective of what Party is in power I know that, regarding questions of security and citizenship, we can never get a perfect system. It is remarkable that during the 2 years or more of this Government’s term of office I have had more than 15 successful cases, including those that were constantly rejected by the previous Government in which Senator Greenwood mainly was the Attorney-General. Although he may say that, as the AttorneyGeneral, he did not make the final decision but that the Minister for Immigration did the plain fact is that he was an accessory in decisions that were made. If we are to argue this question of political background with regard to citizenship applications, let us be real about it. Senator Greenwood was an accessory of the then Minister for Immigration, Dr Forbes, who in the realm of civil liberties took the passport of Mr Srecko Rover, a man of Croatian origin, who happened to be in Canada. Supporters of the present Government did not critcise that decision. If a person is going to get his government into grave difficulties the State and common good must prevail on the basis of security. We did not criticise Senator Greenwood as an accessory to that decision. As a matter of fact there have been a number of other decisions in the same vein. Dealing with people who were refused citizenship on security grounds, or what was basically party politics, the fact is that I have successfully ventilated cases which included that of a Spaniard who had the temerity to stand with a placard outside the Spanish Embassy in Canberra and the cases of four or five Yugoslavs who, for Senator Greenwood’s information, had left the Communist Party in the 1950s. They were active in Australian Labor Party and trade union affairs. 1 do not go bull-headed in these cases. I have my ways of getting information, the same as Senator Greenwood has. These people were well to the centre of politics but because of the stupid
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation evaluations that were made under Senator Greenwood’s Government those people were stigmatised. The last case in which I made successful representations was concluded a month ago. The high school children of the man involved were able to say to me that they felt proud to be Australians. I could have gone before the Hope Commission in open court and made allegations and attacked Senator Greenwood but I had enough respect for the law of Australia to give my evidence in camera. I did it in a dignified way, not in a party political way.
I say again and again that there will never be a perfect system. In relation to Croats I throw into the faces of Senator Greenwood and others of the Opposition the charge that they have chickened out of continuing the inquiry set up in the last Parliament. They knew what was coming to the surface was an indication that a minute section- I emphasise that–of the Croatian community was guilty of things of which other Croats, Slovenes and other Serbs had had a bellyful- pressure tactics. When we got the Commonwealth Police Commissioner and others before us that was proved to the hilt. Senator Greenwood knows that subsequent court action in New South Wales frightened him out of continuing that inquiry. 1 refresh the minds of the Opposition on one important point. I was a member of Estimates Committee A when we inquired into the Estimates of last year’s Budget. Most of the people from the legal fraternity were on that Committee and I think my colleague Senator James McClelland was in the Chair. I asked Commissioner Davis, a very fine and competent officer who is now the Commissioner of the Commonwealth or the Australia Police Force as it may be called: ‘Do you agree with the opinion of some people that we are over-reacting about Croat extremists and that we should take the police away from the Yugoslav Embassy?’ He said: ‘Not likely’.
Any government, whether it be acting through its Attorney-General or its Minister for Immigration, if there are people so imbued with oldworld hatreds that they are prepared to create these incidents at embassies, must be able to withdraw or deny citizenship. To show how objective I am- I said there were a number of cases in which I have been successful- I state that even pi some cases under the previous Government I did have doubts. I found that one fellow who made representations was a brothel keeper and another was connected with drugs. 1 told them to get out of my office or 1 would heave them out as I had no desire to handle such citizenship claims. I am not saying, neither is Senator Bishop, that a Minister on occasions will not reject citizenship. That is not the point. There may be cases where governments err but no government can give a blanket assurance that everybody will get citizenship. It is not on. I am probably at a disadvantage because I do not have the full details on the man referred to by Senator Greenwood.
I was prepared to go before an inquiry set up by a government to improve the system. We do not say it is perfect. I imagine that if the honourable Clyde Cameron were sitting in this chamber instead of being represented by Senator Bishop he would state the same view. We know how difficult it is to assess these cases. I have commended as special reading to the Opposition Hour of Maximum Danger’ by James Barlow. The motivation for these problems is not all coming from marxists or from fascists; it is also coming from people with old hangups, and they can be a menace to society. The point I am getting at is that, even if in this instance the Minister felt that there was some reason to stall a little, Senator Greenwood and his Party did the same thing for many years. I know the answer that the honourable senator will give to me. He will say that he and his colleagues had second thoughts about some cases and gave citizenship to the people concerned.
I could talk about all the peculiar cases that they had hidden under the carpet. Less than a month ago I had a case involving a man in the electorate of Mr William McMahon, the electorate in which I live. He had been to Mr McMahon, but Mr McMahon had reared away from the case. This man came to me. He had his case documented. He had tried 9 times. I made my own inquiries about when he had very left wing ties. I do not say that that is a reason for disqualification; 1 am arguing about Senator Greenwood’s hobby horse, communism. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was so stupid and so dilatory that it had not updated its records from 12 years before when the applicant had left the Communist Party. This man had remained in a sort of citizenship limbo. Within 48 hours of my asking for his file, justice was done and he had citizenship. The honourable senator may think I was conned; but I made further inquiries and there was no question on the part of State authorities that he had been grossly wronged.
I conclude by pointing out to Senator Greenwood thai he would bc much more effective on the issue of civil liberties if he appeared before
Mr Justice Hope. The honourable senator should look at the Canadian appeals system. Even my own Party has not accepted it completely, because it is quite wrong when it clutters up certain things and gives undue rights to people in tourist visas as distinct from people who come here as permanent citizens. But there is an appeals system for those who seek citizenship in Canada and portions of the Canadian appeal structure may well be worth considering. When Senator Greenwood’s Party was in the saddle it did not want an appeals system. It had its Roman holiday as to who was a goodie and who was a baddie. 1 know my colleagues and as time goes on we will look at and probably introduce a new appeals system. I end my speech where I started; no system is perfect and I am trying to get a better system. But, if we totalled the wrongdoings that were done- the 1 7 cases 1 know of and those of many people who never go near members of Parliament- we would find that they suffered because of the ideological bias of Senator Greenwood and his colleagues.
– I admit that I am offended by what Senator Greenwood had to say, because it reminds me of the many times I made representations on behalf of people who for many years were refused naturalisation. Those refusals were on political grounds and no reason was given. Therefore, it seems strange to me that Senator Greenwood should come here now and take up the very position that we took up for so many years. I say to Senator Greenwood that if the man he mentioned has been refused citizenship on political grounds, as he said, then the case ought to be reviewed and I will help him review it. But the honourable senator must keep in mind the number of times that good citizens in this countrythey are good citizens now and were good citizens previously although they were not naturalised- were hurt, their families were hurt and their communities were affronted. If what Senator Greenwood said is to be the new attitude of the Opposition, we must welcome his speech. Nevertheless, I must go back to the fact that it was a little hard to take his speech, considering the many hundreds of applications that were refused by the Opposition when it was in Government.
The case he presented was presented as one that conflicts with Labor Party policy and needs to be researched further. I assure Senator Greenwood that I will approach the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) to test whether what the honourable senator said is true. As Senator James McClelland has said, one comes up against one or two cases which are unsupportable. They are unsupportable because the grounds for refusal of naturalisation are associated not with politics but with some other reason.
– Such as?
-For instance, I remember not proceeding with a case for naturalisation when I was informed unofficially and confidentially- I do not doubt that Senator Greenwood would be so informed if he sought reasons, not in this case but in others- that the person concerned was a proven Nazi collaborator; that he had been before a court and had been convicted of that offence. Somehow, he got through the screen. In that case, I did not proceed with my support for his application for naturalisation. He had to search elsewhere for support. As far as I am concerned, those grounds are not political ones. There are other grounds. There may be in this case, and in other cases in which the claims have been rejected, grounds other than political grounds. Generally speaking, the senator or member who makes an approach is confidentially informed that there may be another reasons for rejection. The refusal to reveal the reason, it must be obvious to the honourable senator, is because there is no reason that the person concerned should be further prejudiced and the information therefore remains confidential. There could be an argument, as I think Senator Mulvihill pointed out, that the person concerned should have the right to appeal and he should perhaps receive that information in confidence. But that is a matter for the person concerned and a matter for appeal.
The system being as it is, if the Opposition, when it comes back into government, takes a guide from Senator Greenwood, something useful may come out of his stand today.
– In the first place, I am very surprised that Senator Greenwood has not followed the courtesy or formality of advising the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration in this place about the matter that he has raised. If he was so much concerned about the case, I would have thought that he would have come along to me and said: Look, I am aggrieved about this matter. You can check it with the Minister for Labor and Immigration’. That is the understood practice in the Senate not only with respect to these matters but often with respect to questions. Honourable senators seeking information contact the Minister concerned.
I am not in a position to reply in regard to the case that Senator Greenwood has raised but I wholeheartedly support what Senator Mulvihill and Senator Georges have said. We can all recall many occasions when complaints were raised in this House about the actions of previous Ministers for Immigration in refusing entry to Australia for various reasons. Those matters were directed to the relevant Senate Minister representing the Minister in the other place. Senator Mulvihill examined among others the Rover case in which, while this man was overseas, his passport was withdrawn. Senator Mulvihill has told me that he has a file containing the names of at least 20 persons who, for various reasons, were refused entry to Australia by former Ministers for Immigration. Refusal in many cases after examination in the light of circumstances, information given to the Minister and information obtained from overseas sources is no surprise. All I can say is that it is quite contrary to what the Labor Party has been saying and quite contrary to our policy to presume that anybody would be discriminated against on political grounds. If the honourable senator would like to reinforce his argument presented today by giving to me all the evidence he has, or states that he has, in his possession I certainly will take it up with the Minister for Labor and Immigration, have it checked out and later report the circumstances to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
Copies of the second reading speech of this Bill and the second reading speeches with respect to the Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 1974-75, Supply Bill (No. 1) 1975-76 and Supply Bill (No. 2) 1975-76 are being circulated to honourable senators for their convenience in an amalgamated form. I ask for leave to incorporate the second reading speech on this Bill in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
This Bill, and the accompanying Appropriation Bill (No. 6), which I shall introduce shortly, seek appropriations of the Consolidated
Revenue Fund for the services specified in the schedule to each Bill. The 2 Bills constitute the normal additional Estimates for the year ended 30 June 1975 and will provide additional funds required to meet necessary expenditures up that date. They follow 2 earlier Bills which sought additional appropriations required, particularly as a result of the Darwin cyclone and to provide additional assistance to the States and which were enacted on 6 March.
Appropriation Bill (No. 5) seeks appropriations for salaries and pay amounting in all to $ 175.4m. Of this $ 138.3m is required to meet increases in rates of salary and wages that have become effective since the Budget, as a result of the operation of upwards of 460 awards and determinations. Payment of the $138. 3m for increased rates has already been authorised under section 5 of the Appropriation Act (No. 1 ) 1974-75.
The elements of this amount now sought under various departmental items are submitted for formal appropriation action and to clear the charges temporarily made to the special appropriation. The remaining $37. lm sought for salaries and pay also under the relevant departmental items is required to meet the cost of overtime, furlough, reclassifications, allowances and increases in staff numbers. In the latter category are 1,041 staff for the Department of Social Security- 913 for processing unemployment benefits and other social welfare payments and 128 for Darwin re-settlement activities.
An amount of $152. 8m is sought for the Department of Defence. Of this, $70m is for payment to Papua New Guinea to facilitate the purchase from Australia of defence assets associated with the transfer of the responsibility for the defence function to that Government. A corresponding credit will be paid to revenue in this financial year. Of the balance of $82. 8m, $7 1 m” is for salaries and pay and $1 1.8m is attributable to general price increases. A further amount of $ 12.9m is included under the Department of Manufacturing Industry for expenditure related to defence, again mainly due to general price rises.
Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account
An amount of $3.5m is required for payment to the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account to cover, among other things, an allocation of $2m from the Trust Account to the recently established Aboriginal Housing and Personal Loans
Fund. This Fund will be administered by the Aboriginal Loans Commission and will provide loans to Aboriginals to enable them to acquire homes and to meet other personal needs. The balance of the additional provision is mainly for allocation to Aboriginal housing and building societies in Queensland.
Independent Schools in the Territories
Under the capital aid scheme in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory the Australian Government has been reimbursing independent school authorities each year, over a period of 20 years, one-twentieth of the principal sum borrowed for approved school projects. It has now been decided that, as a measure of assistance to these schools, the reimbursement period should be halved- from 20 to 10 yearsthereby doubling the annual rate of capital reimbursement. The total reimbursement, of course, remains the same. The estimated additional cost in 1974-75 is $3.2m.
Adult Secondary Education Assistance
The Government has decided to introduce a new measure of assistance affecting adult students undertaking the final year of full-time matriculation studies at secondary schools and other approved institutions. The new scheme, operative from the beginning of 1 975, provides means-tested living allowances and other benefits similar to those available under the tertiary education assistance scheme. The additional cash requirement in 1974-75 is $638,000.
Foreign Affairs and Overseas Aid
A further $4.6m is sought for expenditure on Colombo Plan aid projects because of a greater availability of equipment and other supplies in Australia which has enabled purchases for various aid projects to proceed faster than was envisaged.
Assisted Migration Program
To provide for increased air and sea fares, an amount of $966,000 has been included for the assisted migration program. A further $109,000 is required for payment to the Intergovernmental Commission for European Migration.
Child Migration Education Program
A further $ 1 .4m is required to meet increased teaching costs in schools.
Health Insurance Commission
An amount of $3. 5m is sought for the running expenses of the Commission. This includes the cost of 1700 new staff for 70 cash payment centres which have had to be opened following the refusal of most private medical and hospital benefit funds to act as agents of the Commission.
Compensation for loss of or damage to property-Victims of Cyclone Tracy
An amount of $25m has been included in the Appropriation Bill (No. 5) to enable payment of compensation in respect of property damage resulting from Cyclone Tracy. Payments from this proposed appropriation will be conditional on the passage of separate legislation dealing with the compensation arrangements which the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation will introduce shortly. A further appropriation of $33m will be sought for this purpose in Supply Bill (No. 1) 1975-76 in order to meet payments in the new financial year.
Handicapped Children Assistance
An additional $3m is provided for assistance to handicapped children reflecting an increase in the number of eligible organisations seeking grants under the Handicapped Children (Assistance) Act.
Australian Government Taxation Office- Sydney
In accordance with the Government’s policy to increase the proportion of its office space requirements that is Government-owned, an amount of $7.4m is being provided for the acquisition of a site in Sydney on which to erect a large office block to consolidate the various elements of the Taxation Office in Sydney, which are now widely dispersed over leased accommodation.
NCDC Construction Program
A further $ 13m is sought to meet rise and fall payments to contractors, higher consultants’ fees and larger contract payments than expected on the Commission’s 1974-75 construction program.
Civil Works Program
An additional $8. 8m is sought because of improved progress on many projects together with increases in building and construction costs.
Appropriation Bill (No. 6) seeks a further $127m for the Post Office to meet unavoidable increases in costs which have arisen since the Budget was framed. This will maintain the Post Office program at the level then envisaged.
Defence Service Homes
A further $15m is sought to meet increased requirements for advances under the defence service homes scheme, following the decision to increase the maximum loan to $15,000 and the liberalisation of eligibility conditions.
Commonwealth-State Law Courts- Sydney
Faster progress than anticipated together with rising costs has meant that a further $720,900 is required to meet the Australian Government’s share of construction costs in 1974-75.
Acquisition of Part of South Australian Railways
An amount of $26.434m is included for payment to South Australia in the current financial year by way of a financial adjustment in respect of the proposed acquisition by the Australian Government of part of the South Australian Railways. Details of the arrangement will be available when the formal agreement between the Australian and South Australian governments is brought before the Parliament shortly. Payment of this financial adjustment to South Australia, of course, will be subject to ratification of the agreement by the Australian and South Australian Parliaments.
In all, Appropriation Bill (No. 5) seeks appropriations totalling $399,649,000. This includes the $ 138.3m already authorised under section 5 of the Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1974-75 for increased rates of salaries to which I referred earlier. Appropriation Bill (No. 6) seeks appropriations totalling $240,313,000. Savings are expected to occur in some appropriations already made for 1974-75. While the figures cannot be precise because of possible changes in the circumstances affecting them between now and 30 June, departments have estimated that, for various reasons, unspent appropriations will amount to $ 136.8m. As honourable senators will be aware, all annual appropriations lapse at 30 June of the year in respect of which they were made. Nor can these savings be used to offset the additional appropriations now sought in these Bills. An information statement retailing the estimated savings has been distributed to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through ail its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I rise again on a Bill on which one can speak to matters relevant or irrelevant to the purpose of the Bill and this again concerns the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) and his treatment of an individual who is dependent upon the exercise of a ministerial discretion. It is a glaring example of what an Australian citizen may expect of this Government and this Minister in particular if the citizen suffers from the crime of being a Croatian by birth. It is an example of what constitutes the rights of an individual under this Government.
The gentleman whose case I put to the Senate is one whose name has been mentioned in the Senate in the past. His name is Ivan Pavlovic, a man against whom no convictions have been recorded. He has no criminal record in any sense except the contrived sense that his name has been bandied about in this chamber on many occasions and he has been subjected to an incessant barrage of questioning and public vilification. Of course, as to the things which have been said under privilege he has no redress whatsoever. He was accused in this Parliament under privilege of being a man who had said he would kill the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia, and I invite honourable senators to recall the events which took place in this country in early 1973. It is an accusation which has been denied on behalf of this man in this place; it is an accusation which he himself denied on oath when he appeared before a Senate select committee of this Senate. But he has been unsuccessful in obtaining a passport. He is a naturalised Australian citizen, married with 4 children, living a law abiding life in Australian society. That is the account which was given to a Senate committee. I know of no reason to suggest that is still not the position. He was subjected, as were countless other Australian citizens of Croatian birth when the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia visited this country, to a type of treatment never before or since fortunately meted out to people in this country.
My concern with Mr Pavlovic arose in July 1 974 which was the first occasion, to my recollection, that I had met him though, of course, I had heard of his name before then. He applied in Melbourne on 8 July 1974 for a passport and he was told to come back to the Melbourne passport office on 24 July. His wife attended at the passport office and she was told that the passport would not be provided. Mr Pavlovic himself then went to the passport office and he was told that he could not have a passport and he was also told that no reason could be given.
I then wrote to the Minister for Labor and Immigration on 29 July 1 974. 1 said:
Mr Pavlovic is an Australian citizen resident in this country since 1959. I understand that on 8 July 1974 he applied for a passport. The appropriate documentation was provided and he was told to return on 24 July. On that day his wife attended at the passport office in Melbourne where she was told that her husband could not have a passport. Mr Pavlovic then attended and saw, as he recalls, either a Mr Stuckey or a Mr Strickland. He was told that he could not be given a passport and that he could not be provided with any reason except that it had been refused.
Prima facie there is an infringement of the rights of Mr Pavlovic to have a passport.
I write to invite your urgent attention to this matter with a view to ensuring that Mr Pavlovic is provided with the passport he seeks or an adequate reason- if there be one- for refusing him a passport.
I received in due course an acknowledgment of that letter. On 16 July the Minister replied stating that Mr Pavlovic’s application for a passport had not been refused, it was still in process, and he hoped to be able to reach a decision on it shortly. Not having received a reply, I wrote again on 9 November and I received a reply on 12 November in which Mr Cameron told me that a passport was refused. No reason was given, which he said was in line with the usual ministerial practice. He said:
As I pointed out previously it has been the practice of successive Ministers in the exercise of their discretionary power generally not to reveal reasons in respect of particular cases. This has been the practice for many years even prior to the election of a Labor Government in 1972.
I acknowledge that there is a practice, which has been exercised from time to time, to refuse to give reasons. When we on this side were in government the members of the then Opposition regarded this as a most improper practice and they gave assurances to the people of Australia that when they came to office the practice would be changed. Now they are in government and apparently they see a virtue in the previous Government’s conduct which when in Opposition they never saw. They ought not to be surprised if, now that we are in Opposition we find that instances are occurring where people are being denied what prima facie are their rights, complaint should be made. I am not going to be dissuaded from airing these matters simply because it might be said a different practice applied some years ago. Citizens are entitled to have their rights aired in this place and governments ought to be prepared to respond and to give the reasons.
I responded on 1 8 November to the Minister and I sought to have a reason given as to why Mr Pavolovic had been denied a passport because on the face of it there is no sound reason why he should be denied a passport. The reason why he had sought a passport was to visit New York to see his mother whom he had not seen for 17 years. She is resident in Yugoslavia and she was visiting New York to see, I think, her daughter, and the opportunity was therefore available for Mr Pavlovic to go to New York to see his mother. Of course, by the time the reply had come from the Minister in November 1974 that purpose could not be availed of because Mr Pavlovic’s mother had left New York. No explanation, of course, was given as to why the matter could not have been resolved at an earlier stage.
I thereafter received from Mr Pavlovic further facts which again concerned me. I set them out in a letter which I wrote to the Minister on 18 November. I said:
I write to seek information as to why Mrs Pavlovic was refused a visa to come to Australia when she applied to the Consulate in New York. I understand that following upon her son’s inability to obtain a passport to leave Australia she applied to come to Australia. She has been unable to do so because she was refused a visa.
I understand that her passport was held by the Consulate for a period of approximately 2 weeks and she was eventually told that because she could not produce some paper from the Yugoslav police she was not entitled to a visa. I am not clear from what I have been told as to what was the nature of the ‘paper’ required to be obtained from the Yugoslav police.
I would appreciate your early intimation as to the circumstances of the refusal of this visa and the justification, if any, for her requiring some certification for a visa application in New York from a police force in Yugoslavia.
I also seek information as to the circumstances in which Mr Pavlovic’s father has been unable to obtain a visa from the Australian Embassy in Belgrade. Mr Pavlovic has heard through mutual friends of his father’s inability to obtain a visa because, apparently, he is required to pass numerous doctor’s tests before he can obtain a tourist visa. This appears to me to be a curious reason but Mr Pavlovic has been unable to receive replies to his letters. He knows that a ticket has been issued for his father and a plane booking has been u n fu Ki I Icd on two occasions. The best explanation he can get from his Melbourne travel agent is that his father must have been unable to secure the necessary visa to enable him to travel. On checking with the travel agent I received confirmation of the bookings and the issue of the ticket.
The T of course refers to myself. The letter continued:
I would be grateful for your investigation of the circumstances which I have outlined and for the consideration of an early reply.
I drew attention to the fact that a 4-month delay had occurred since the earlier reply. I received a reply from the Minister in which he said:
The matter of the visitor applications lodged by Mr Pavlovic ‘s parents is being examined, but the information currently available is inconclusive.
On 22 January 1 wrote a further letter to Mr Pavlovic in which I indicated that if no further reply was received I would raise the matter in the Parliament. So the matter has been in this dormant position since January of this year. I still do not know the reason why Mr Pavlovic was refused a passport. He does not know. I do not know, nor does he, why his mother was refused a visa to come from New York and why his father has not been able to come to Australia. In those circumstances I raise the matter not because I think the Minister is really going to give the information but because I think a vendetta is being pursued by this Government against Croatian-born citizens. I think it is worthwhile that these matters be revealed so that the nature of what is being practised can be exposed for what it is- a selective treatment against some citizens because the Government does not like them.
– I wish to reply briefly to Senator Greenwood. He refers to a case which was determined in November last year for reasons which he himself admits were good. He wants to pursue the case.
– I did not say that.
– The honourable senator accepted the various guidelines and criteria which the previous Government had used. The honourable senator has had since November to raise the matter in the Senate. He did not see the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) personally by deputation. He has had every opportunity to raise the matter in the adjournment debate or in some other more appropriate discussion, but he would rather frustrate the business of the Senate today. The honourable senator excused his behaviour by saying that honourable senators on this side of the House did the same thing. The honourable senator could have had this matter vetted in the Senate Estimates Committees. The Committees were attended by specialised officers of the Department of Labor and Immigration- not the Minister, I agree- who are experienced in the matters about which the honourable senator talks and who have had postings overseas. The honourable senator would receive more information and satisfaction from those sorts of inquiries than he will receive today.
I cannot reply fully because, as I mentioned earlier, I was not warned about the cases which the honourable senator has brought up. For those reasons it seems to me that Senator Greenwood in bringing this matter up is personally and politically motivated. Surely an examination of these cases could be carried out in a more constructive way. Had I been wishing to bring up the matters I would have gone to the Minister straight away and requested the hearing of a deputation and then complained to the Senate about things with which I did not agree. Senator Greenwood has had since January to come along to me or to ask me to take him to see Mr Clyde Cameron. He could have ventilated the case in the Senate. In the circumstances it seems that the honourable senator does not really want anything done with the cases; he just wants to bellyache.
-l think the reply of the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) is wholly unworthy of him. 1 for my part will not condone this attitude. Every member of Parliament has a proper right to pui forward a grievance on the part of an elector. The Minister referred to the Senate Estimates Committees. He knows that we took particular care to compress our inquiry to conform with the Government’s program which limited Estimates hearings to a mere fraction of the time to which we would be entitled if we took full opportunity to examine this sort of matter. When these sorts of matters arc brought up in Estimates Committees we are told 100 times to one that we are here to examine Estimates and not to engage in grievances or second reading debates. I rise only to say that Senator Greenwood is to bc applauded for bringing these cases to attention and not rebuked by a Minister who cannot answer them. The Minister’s duty in such circumstances, recalling that he is a representative of the Crown, is to say to an honourable senator representing grievances from his electors that he will take the earliest opportunity to get the information and lay it before the Senate on the application of the honourable senator seeking such information.
- Senator Wright on most occasions is provocative. One is justified in replying to what he says because someone may be in the House who takes him seriously. I think the honourable senator felt that he had a loyalty to his colleague in the Parliament who had made such a hash of trying to put up a case, and he was trying to pull him out of the mess he had got himself into. No one denies the right to bring up a grievance. We accept that the Standing Orders are so moulded to give honourable senators the opportunity on the first reading of a money Bill to bring up grievances. Everyone who feels that an injustice has been done has a perfect right to bring it up. The traditions of this Parliament show that if an honourable senator brings up a matter just for political purposes he brings it up in secrecy and no one can reply to it. If an honourable senator wants a reply and to see that justice is done when he feels that justice has not been done he should inform the Minister representing the Minister what he intends speaking about so that some justice can be achieved for the individual whom it is claimed has been deprived.
On this occasion Senator Greenwood, knowing he was going to bring the matter up. had no intention of getting a reply. He did not want a reply. He did not want in the case of Mr Pavlovic or the other case to which he referred to get the justice he claims has been denied. He wanted to use the case as a political manoeuvre against the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). There may be a justifiable reply. Hansard will show that the name of Mr Pavlovic has been raised in this Senate. The name was frequently brought up by Senator Greenwood when he was Attorney-General. I think the record would justify the attitude the Minister has taken. This may be the answer. Senator Bishop said he would seek to obtain a reply on thefirst grievance aired by Senator Greenwood. It became obvious that Senator Greenwood did not want a reply to the second grievance. He brought it. up for political reasons and had no intention of getting justice for what he said was a matter of injustice.
Senator Wright tried to justify his colleague’s rising on the spur of the moment without any notification. Senator Wright, as a former Minister, will well remember the occasions onwhich we have brought up questions on the first reading stage of a money Bill after having informed the relevant Minister that we wanted a reply. No reply was wanted on this occasion. Senator Wright should be the last person to accuse anyone of wasting time on estimates committees.I have never known him to be reluctant to ask a question which sought information, even if the matters were not under the particular appropriations which were before the estimates committees. Senator Greenwood has not been shy in asking questions in estimates committees. Those 2 honourable senators are weak in their whole argument. Today Senator Greenwood wanted to make the question a political one and wanted to get marks out of it. He did not want justice for individuals. He made such an ass of himself that Senator Wright found it necessary to come to his defence. There is no kudos for either honourable senator in the attitude which they took in this debate.
– What seems to have fallen from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) in this latest extravagant outburst is a proposition that the Senate is no longer political- that is interesting- and that senators are not entitled to seek answers to questions in the Senate, at estimates committees or anywhere else. That is an extraordinary proposition to come from a senator who in his time as an Opposition senator was most persistent in seeking information.I am quite astonished.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Motion ( by Senator Wriedt) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stageswithout delay.
Bill (or motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
Motion ( by Senator Wriedt ) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16 April on motion by Senator Wriedt:
Thai the following questions respecting the qualifications of Senator James Joseph Webster be referred to the Court of Disputed Returns-
whether Senator Webster was incapable of being chosen or of silling as a senator: and
whether Senator Webster has become incapable of sitting as a senator.
– Today this chamber must make not one but 2 major decisions. They are fundamental to the dignity and the standing of the Senate. Both are necessary in the public interest and in the Parliament’s interest. The first question is that of the qualification of Senator Webster. Ii involves allegations made against him by a Melbourne newspaper. I do not believe that allegations in newspapers normally should be the subject of a substantive motion in this chamber. However, these allegations have cast a cloud not only over Senator Webster but also over other members of this Parliament. The allegations have resulted in an unprecedented examination of the Constitution. Even so, opinions on its meaning vary. I do not believe there is any doubt about the intention of the constitutional provision now being debated. Anyone who has read the constitutional debates will have seen what its framers desired. These sections came about because abuses, both apparent and real, were taking place in the colonial parliaments in the 1890s. The federationists were determined to end such practices. They were determined to ensure that this Parliament was composed not only of men of probity but also of men who were obviously of the highest moral character.
As it was argued at the time, the intent of the provision was to prevent any member from using his public position for his private profit. I think all of us agree with that intent. It is essential that members of this Parliament have the respect of the people. It would be grossly wrong if any honourable senator used his elected position for his personal advantage. No one has suggested that Senator Webster has done that. Even the journal which raised this issue has made no attempt to accuse Senator Webster of having knowingly misused his position, lt has not been suggested that Senator Webster’s private interests or activities have come into conflict with his duties as a member of Parliament. It has not been suggested that he has sought io make a persona! profit from any influence which he may have as a member of this place. Even his most bitter critics have not suggested that.
What has been suggested is that he may be in breach of section 44 of the Constitution. The exact meaning of that section is uncertain. No one can say with any degree of preciseness whether Senator Webster has unwittingly breached this section. For this reason there is only one way in which this matter can be handled. Whatever the rights or wrongs of Senator Webster’s position, the question has been raised and there is a doubt, lt has been suggested that this doubt should bc dealt with by the Senate. I believe that would be wrong. I am not saying that I do not believe the Senate could judge the matter impartially. In fact, I think it could. But justice must not only be done: it must be seen to be done. If we attempted to judge one of our fellows ourselves we would risk justified condemnation of this chamber. For that reason, there is only one proper body to examine this matter- the High Court of Australia, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns. In Senator Webster’s case the High Court will be able to determine whether the Constitution was breached. This will put an end to some of the innuendoes now circulating. This matter has gone so far that the High Court is now the only body competent to clear Senator Webster’s name. If someone is accused of breaking the Constitution- the most important law in the land- that should be clarified. If it is not clarified, the whole Parliament will be demeaned.
There are 2 other points which I must raise in this debate. Senator Webster may consider it improper for him to take pan in deliberations of this chamber while the court decision is pending. If he should so believe and if he should ask for leave, I would expect the Senate to give him leave until the matter is determined. Should Senator Webster seek leave of the Sen; ite anc should the Senate grant that ‘leave, I would expect the Government to grant him a pair during that period, because the Constitution places heavy emphasis on the importance of maintaining State strengths in the chamber. If Senator Webster’s request for leave were not granted or if he were not paired, Victoria would be deprived of a voice and a vote in the Senate and thus disadvantaged. This would be unfair. I hope that the Government and the Senate will grant the requests if they are forthcoming from Senator Webster.
I believe that the Government has a further obligation. In clarifying the application of this section of the Constitution, Senator Webster could face a massive financial burden. The case not only will involve his reputation but also will play an important part in clarifying the Constitution. In this case, in the interests of the Parliament and the Australian people, the Government has an obligation to pay the costs which could be incurred by Senator Webster before the High Court because the case will be dealing with the public interest. No one, including members of this Parliament, should be forced to suffer when such issues are involved. I trust that the Government will honour its responsibilities in this respect. I believe also that the Government should take steps immediately to introduce legislation to abolish the capacity of the common informer to take action under section 46 of the Constitution. The common informer provision is an archaic provision for the enforcement of the law. It has fallen into disrepute in the administration of all other laws. There is no real reason why it should still exist. No doubt it has been overlooked in the past because the requirement has never been there, until now perhaps, for its use. Now that it has come to light the best course would be to remove it, just as it has been removed from almost all other statutes, both Commonwealth and State.
I am sure that no honourable senator takes any pleasure from what the Senate is debating this day. We are involved in an unpleasant but necessary duty. I hope, in part at least, we will renew the proper respect for this institution. It might be, of course, convenient if we could let the matter rest there. Were it possible for the High Court to offer a broad legal opinion to the Parliament, then it might be possible for us merely to pass this motion and let the matter rest. But the Court will not, and we cannot. The High Court has traditionally taken the attitude that it can only deal with the matter immediately before it. That matter will be Senator Webster’s case. Some issues particularly relating to him will be clarified, but the 2 important sections of the Constitution, sections 44 and 45, may still be unclear when that hearing has concluded. Though their intent is obvious the words used may be imprecise.
That there is uncertainty is patently obvious. We have heard all sorts of interpretations. It has even been suggested that the renting of a telephone could constitute a breach of the Constitution. lt is not good enough to say that such a thing would be only a technical breach and should not be enforced. In the laws that govern this Parliament there can be no such thing as a technical breach. The law is the law. To breach it is to break it. We could not expect the people to obey the laws we pass to control their conduct, if the laws governing the conduct of Parliament were also not observed. To do so would demean the Parliament. To do so would be dishonourable. At the moment it is uncertain exactly what is required by the laws governing Parliament and members of the Parliament. If we ignored this uncertainty we would be inviting challenges to every member. If we ignored this uncertainty we would be encouraging public suspicion about ourselves. We would be just as deserving of contempt as we would be if we refused to let the High Court judge Senator Webster’s position. We have a duty to ourselves, to our successors and to the public, to immediately examine the meaning and application not only of section 44 but also of section 45 of the Constitution.
The aim of these clauses is clear. They are intended to ensure that every honourable senator is seen to be a person committed to carrying out the job he or she has been elected to Parliament to do. They are aimed at preventing any suspicion that a senator’s parliamentary actions may be influenced by his outside activities or interests. They are based on the principle that justice not only should be done but also should be seen to be done. We are sent here to legislate. We are sent here to devote ourselves full time to the duties imposed on us by this Parliament. The public is entitled to feel confident that we carry out those duties honestly and honourably. It may well be that few, if any, honourable members or honourable senators, were aware of the implications of these sections- one dealing with arrangements with governments, the other dealing with private arrangements. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. We cannot ask the High Court to resolve Senator Webster’s position without ourselves considering the wider questions which may involve many, even all of us. The public is entitled to know exactly what activities senators and members may or may not carry out without breaching the Constitution. So are members and senators. Never again should there be any doubts or any uncertainties about that.
Many suggestions have been made about breaches. Many involve farcical suggestions. It has even been suggested that the purchase of a postage stamp which would involve a contract with the Public Service to deliver a letter could be a breach of the Constitution. That would certainly not be the intention of the Constitution but it may well be the law. And the law cannot be ignored. If it is wrong, it can be changed, but until it is changed it ought to be observed. I believe this Parliament now has a duty to itself and to the public to ensure that the situation is investigated. Doubts cannot be allowed to go on. If this institution is to be respected, it must ensure that it deserves respect. For this reason, I will be moving that a judicial inquiry be commissioned to investigate the likely meaning of this section of the Constitution. This will allow the matter to be investigated in an impartial way. It should provide some indications of what interests may or may not be carried out. This will benefit both the Parliament and the public. The inquiry could also consider the relevance of these sections to the present.
I believe the Senate has an obligation to call for the establishment of such an inquiry. I hope the Government will agree to commission it. I give notice that, if the Government does not commission it, the Opposition will attempt to establish a Senate select committee to do the same job. We would prefer a judicial inquiry, however, and we can see no reason why the Government itself would not establish one. It has an obligation to every member of this Parliament to clarify the position. What it should do is to examine the Constitution as it stands and define what would or would not constitute a breach. This would ensure that the matter was taken out of the parliamentary arena and put where it belongs- in the legal arena. It is a matter of clarification, not of prosecution and not of persecution. This inquiry could take evidence from legal and constitutional experts. It could look itself at the meaning of that section of the Constitution. It should certainly be given an opportunity to look at the legal advice which presumably is now available to the Government.
I note that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) have been publicly offering opinions about the application of the section. Presumably their advice is based on legal opinion from the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. If so, the advice should not be confined to the Government because this is not a political matter; it is a constitutional and parliamentary matter. Legal opinion should be made available not just to the Government but also to the Parliament. I would expect the Government to provide details of any advice it has received on this section. This will be valuable to the Parliament and to the public. It will greatly assist in considering what action should be taken. I do not believe anyone could cavil at that course. It has, in fact, the support of the Prime Minister himself. For once I agree with him. The Prime Minister is not a legal authority I often quote, and for good reason but his remarks in this context are of interest. Last week, in another place, he said:
If we find that many of us have transgressed the Constitution and have placed our seats in jeopardy, then the cure is not to ignore the Constitution but to ask the people to amend the Constitution.
I agree with him that the cure is not to ignore the Constitution. In fact, I would perhaps go further. Anyone who breaches the Constitution, knowingly or not, should not remain here. The Prime Minister agrees with that. Referring to the position of doctors, chemists, barristers and solicitors the Prime Minister said:
This is a matter which should be tested in the High Court.
It may be that that will be necessary. We do not know. It may well be that sections of these clauses may, in the light of modern events, be considered irrelevant. Section 44 contains a number of provisions which may unfairly prevent people becoming members of Parliament. For example, the question of dual nationality is involved in section 44 (i) which prevents anyone who is a citizen of a foreign power being elected. The reason for such a debarring is obvious. But it does not allow for people whose original homeland does not recognise their new citizenship and it would be unfair to debar them. It may also be that section 44 (ii) may need revision. At present it debars anyone convicted of an offence punishable by more than one year’s imprisonment from being elected. That may not be relevant in the present day and age. These and other areas could well need review and this could admirably be carried out by the inquiry we suggest to the Government. There is considerable public disquiet about the meaning of the Constitution and about the position of members of Parliament. It is a concern that should not be allowed to continue. We cannot hope that the problem will go away merely by dispatching Senator Webster to the High Court. We cannot close our eyes to it, because the Constitution is our basic document. Persons cannot be elected to the Parliament and remain here in possible breach of the Constitution. If there is doubt we should clarify it. If the clarification is unpalatable we must nevertheless accept it. For this reason I move:
We must show the public that we have nothing to hide. We must show the public that we do not pursue vendettas. We must show the public that we are concerned to maintain the public’s respect, and that can be done only by the Senate’s supporting my amendment. I hope that the Government is sufficiently concerned with the Parliament to agree to my amendment.
– I seek leave to make a brief statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-When I moved the motion in respect of this matter on behalf of the Government last week I indicated quite clearly that the Government’s principal concern was to ensure that the proper processes were followed to allow a proper determination to be made. The Government of course supports the view that this matter should be referred to the Court of Disputed Returns. I am pleased that Senator Withers has indicated on behalf of the Opposition that he and his colleagues apparently concur with that procedure. However, it will be necessary for the Government to consider the other matters which have been raised by him which he has included in his amendment. I would hope that by tomorrow it will be possible for the Government to have done so and the debate can then resume in the Senate. Until such time as the Government has been able to do that I am not in a position to comment any further on the amendment that has been moved by Senator Withers.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wriedt) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 16 April.
Clauses 25 and 26- by leave- taken together and agreed to.
Section 85 of the Principal Act is amended-
– To enable us to deal with clause 27 I ask leave of the Committee to divide the consideration pf the subclauses because the Opposition will have a different attitude to sub-clauses (a), (b), (c) and (d).
– Is leave granted? With the agreement of the Minister for Agriculture, there being no objections from other senators, the Committee will deal with sub-clauses (a) and (b) and then proceed to the other sub-clauses.
Sub-clauses (a) and (b)- by leave- taken together and agreed to.
– I move:
The Opposition is well aware of the abuse which the Parliament is trying to overcome by this sub-clause. In fact the Opposition supports the principle that the abuse should be overcome. But the Opposition puts to the Government that the method by which the Government intends to do it, which is by way of a new form for each election, is not the right method of doing it. After all, the Commissioner of Taxation uses basically the same form every year but he uses a different coloured form. The whole intention of our amendment, while supporting what the Government intends to do, is that it should be done by a different coloured form. That is to say, red ink should be used on one occasion, green on the next occasion, and brown or some other colour on the next occasion. The Government is suggesting basically that there should be a different type of form for each election. I do not think that that ought to happen. As far as possible all matters under the Commonwealth Electoral Act ought to remain fairly constant so that the public can get used to them. In making this proposal I do not think I am breaching anything that I should not breach. I understand that the Commonwealth Electoral Office did look at this proposition originally, but for some reason rejected it. I have never been able to understand why the Electoral Office rejected it because I think it is the simplest way. There would be a standard form for every election but before each election the Commonwealth Electoral Office would promulgate that for the next election the colour would be, I say, green. It would be of no use trying to save up forms of a specific colour any more than it would be any use trying to save up newly cast forms. It is for that reason that we have moved that there ought to be different colours and not different forms for each election.
– The Opposition amendment proposes that instead of the form of application for a postal vote to be used at an election being in accordance with a form issued under the authority of the Chief Electoral Officer and specified by him by notice in the Gazette, there should be a form of a colour specified by him by notice in the Gazette. Consideration was given to specifying colour but because of problems associated with paper shortages, particularly in obtaining paper in sufficient quantities of specified colours, it was decided to leave the matter more open. This does not prevent the Chief Australian Electoral Officer from specifying a colour but the proposal in the Bill is more flexible in that it allows him to identify the form by some other means, for example, by the words ‘1977 Election’.
– Perhaps it is a drafting problem which has confused us when we talk about colour. I am talking about the colour of ink to be used. Perhaps there has been confusion between the Parliamentary Counsel who has assisted me with the drafting of this amendment and myself. I can understand the Electoral Office having problems over producing different coloured paper on which to print. I see no reason why it should not always be printed on a white form but in a different coloured ink. Perhaps where we refer to a form of a colour, what we should really have is a reference to a print of a colour. That is what I am wishing to put forward. I am sorry if I have misled the Committee; in fact, I probably misled parliamentary counsel in putting forward what I was attempting to arrive at. I cannot see that the Electoral Office would have any problems in always printing on white paper and just specifying a coloured ink that the various Government Printers should use to print their forms.
Paragraph agreed to.
– I move:
This is one of the necessary provisions for the Government if it is to limit the capacity of people to lodge postal votes. The proposal in this paragraph is that 6 p.m. on the Thursday preceding a polling day will be the cut-off point. This proposal is linked up with the Government’s objective of getting a speedier result on election night. The Opposition holds the view that the capacity of the electorate to vote is more important than the capacity of the Government or the Opposition to know the result of an election by midnight on polling day.
If one looks over a large proportion of elections in the past 30 years, I think one can see that it is fairly clear before midnight on polling day which Party will be elected to govern. I know that there are exceptions. The 1 96 1 election was one case. I do not think there was much doubt in 1 974 that the present Government had won the House of Representatives, although there was doubt about the Senate result. However, I have yet to be convinced that any factor intervened that caused a desperate need for the Government to know exactly what was the result. I do not think that, in 1972, there was any doubt on polling night that the Labor Party had been elected. I am trying to remember what has happened at elections. In 1966, there was certainly no doubt about the result, and there was no doubt in 1969. It is only now and again that a doubt arises, and I do not see that this is sufficient reason why people should be deprived of the capacity to cast a postal vote.
Right at the last moment numbers of people cast a postal vote, as the present Act allows them to do. They may have been prevented from voting in the ordinary way through sickness or another intervening cause, and they should still retain the capacity to lodge a postal vote. The other aspect of the Government’s intentions that is wrong is that the Government imagines that the postal service works in such a way that a postal vote can be received in time, in any event. I suppose that, in the good old days of the Post
Office, we could rely on something being posted on Friday and being delivered on Saturday; at least there was a delivery on Saturday morning. However, these days, with strikes by airline pilots or hostesses, by postal workers, or by transport workers, it has become notorious in the Australian community that the mail services are most unreliable.
There would not be one honourable senator in this place who not only would have received complaints from his electors about the delay in postal deliveries but who also would have suffered from the delay himself. The other day I had a simple instance of this myself. On Tuesday my electorate secretary in Perth posted an envelope addressed to me at Parliament House through priority paid certified mail, and it arrived the following Monday. If that is the best one can get from priority paid certified air mail, what hope has the average elector got of getting in his vote in reasonable time? For the reasons I have just given and for the reasons advanced in the second reading debate, the Opposition will vote against clause 27 (d).
– The Opposition’s amendment in respect of clause 27 proposes to leave out paragraph (d). This paragraph substitutes a new sub-section (2a) of section 85 as follows: (2a) An application (other than an application made by the applicant in person at the office of the Divisional Returning Officerfor the Division for which he is enrolled ) shall be deemed not to have been duly made if it reaches the officer to whom it is made-
In effect, the Opposition’s amendment would continue the situation that presently obtains under the Act, whereby postal voting material in response to applications received by a Divisional Returning Officer up to 6 p.m. on the Friday preceding the polling day is posted to the applicants. In view of the postal arrangements, where there are no postal deliveries on a Saturday, this would be an ineffective action, and consequently the Government proposes 6 p.m. on the Thursday as a reasonable cut-off time for applications to be made, except where the applicant attends personally at the office of the Divisional Returning Officer for his division.
Also this matter is related to the Government’s proposal that the completed postal voting material must be received by the Divisional
Returning Officer for the division concerned by the close of the poll. Accordingly, it is deemed necessary to make the close-off time for the receipt of applications by assistant returning officers at overseas places 6 p.m. on the Monday prior to polling day.
That paragraph (d) stand as printed.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary ChairmanSenator Devitt)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 27, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 28 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 28a.
– I move:
This is a new provision which the Opposition seeks to include in the Electoral Act. For some time the Electoral Act for the State of Western Australia has contained this provision. It relates to what is sometimes termed the ‘remote areas roll’ and concerns electors who live in remote areas of Australia. Basically our amendment proposes that any elector living in a division that exceeds 26 000 square kilometres in area- I understand that is roughly 100 000 square miles and that it includes the electorates of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, Grey and Wakeheld in South Australia, Darling in New South Wales and Leichhardt, Kennedy and Maranoa in Queensland, and the Northern Territory- would have the right to apply to his divisional returning officer to be placed on a special roll. Sub-section (2) of proposed new section 88a reads:
Where a person is enrolled as an elector for a Division referred to in sub-section ( 1 ), otherwise than by virtue of section 39a or 41 a, and it is normally difficult for him to vote at a polling booth open in the State for which he is enrolled by reason of-
And this is important-
The elector has to prove 2 things to start with, and they are set out in paragraphs (a) and (b) of the proposed new sub-section to which I have just referred. Upon receipt of that application the divisional returning officer decides either that he thinks the elector has sufficient grounds for being placed on this roll or that he has not. If he has not, in the opinion of the divisional returning officer, that is the end of the matter. If the divisional returning officer believes that the elector has sufficient reason for being placed on this roll- there are a few exceptions where the returning officer cannot afterwards cancel the registrationproposed new sub-section (8) provides:
As soon as practicable after the hour of nomination for an election the Divisional Returning Officer shall send a postal vote certificate and a postal ballot-paper or postal ballotpapers, as the case requires, to each elector who is registered on the register for the Division, other than an elector who has made an application under section 85.
This provision has worked quite successfully in State elections in Western Australia. At the last federal election a large number of people in the Kalgoorlie Division in Western Australia, who had written in requesting a postal vote and who had received a ballot paper back, found they had no capacity to get their vote in because the ballot paper arrived too late to allow them to vote. We are of the opinion that with mail services being what they are and with the problems which arise in bad weather- roads washed out or aerodromes closed- people in remote areas in huge divisions- they are huge, they are 100 000 square miles and more- ought to have a greater capacity for voting. As a result of representations made to me by some of my electors in the Division of Kalgoorlie after the last electionI raised this matter with the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). Because of the shorter period allowed between the close of nominations and the poll, it is estimated that some 300 people in remote areas in the Division of Kalgoorlie never got a vote at the last federal election. My colleague, Mr Garland, who led for the Opposition when this Bill was debated in the other place, recently received a letter from Mr H. P. G. Daly of Errabiddy Station at Meekatharra, and I intend to read it to the Senate. It is dated 1 1 April 1975 and reads:
Hon. R. V. Garland, M.H.R., Member for Curtin, Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T.
Dear Mr Garland,
I was interested in your debate on the Amendments to the Electoral Reform Bill (1954), heard over the ABC last night. Please accept my congratulations on the quality of your logic.
For many years people in these areas have been trying to have established in the Commonwealth Electoral system, the same conditions that apply in the Western Australian State Electoral System, whereby electors in the remote areas are registered and receive their ballot papers automatically, without any further application to the Electoral Department.
On occasions we have been isolated by floods and road closures, for periods of up to seven weeks. The present situation is such that if the official Mail Truck does run as now scheduled for Thursday 17 April, this will be the first official mail we shall have received in three weeks, otherwise this letter will only be posted by courtesy of some person calling at the homestead on their way to Meekatharra.
On 10 May. prior to the last Federal election held on 18 May. 1974.I sent the following telegram:-
Commonwealth Electoral Registrar, Kalgoorlie.
Please advise when we may expect to receive our ballot papers in this area for Federal Election 1 8 May.
P.G. Daly, Errabiddy Station, Meekatharra.
No reply was received to this telegram.
As far as the remote areas of Australia are concerned, I consider that the poll for any electorate in these areas should not be declared until a reasonable time for all the ballot boxes to reach the Electoral Registrar for the Divisions concerned.
I hope that this letter may be of some use to you. With every good wish,
Yours sincerely. H.P.G. Daly
Mr Daly, too, is interested in electoral reform. I put it to the Mr Daly in another place, who comes from an electorate of only comparatively few square miles, unlike Mr Daly, who lives in an electorate of over 940,000 square miles, that what the Opposition is putting forward is a reasonable and sensible method of giving people in remote areas an opportunity to vote at elections. I do not think that it is an unreasonable proposition. I suspect that there will be departmental opposition to it because it is novel and it may mean a little more work. No doubt the departmental officers will be able to raise all sorts of interesting reasons why it should not be introduced; but, if we are talking about giving electoral justice, people in remote areas ought to be able to have a postal vote.
I do not know whether this is the system in any other State, but I do know that it works successfully in Western Australia, where it is supported by all political parties. I have never heard of the
Labor Party there saying that it is a disadvantage to it. All parties were agreed on its introduction and consider that it works successfully and equitably. I have been informed- I put it no higher than that- that similar provisions operate with respect to Assembly elections in the Northern Territory. I am not certain that that is correct; I have not been able to check it. I suggest that the amendment is a fair, reasonable and equitable means of giving persons in remote areas the opportunity to vote at Federal elections.
– The Opposition’s proposed new clause 28a provides for a system of registered general postal voters. I understand that Senator Withers ‘ remarks relate to section 93 of the Western Australian Electoral Act. The proposed system appears to be similar in principle to the system applying in Western Australia in that it provides for electors in outlying areas to be registered as general postal voters and, while registered, to be issued with postal voting material at elections without having to submit an application for a postal vote on each occasion. It is proposed that the system will apply in respect of divisions exceeding 26 000 square kilometres or approximately 10 000 square miles. In Western Australia, the facility applies to a defined area and to any other portion of the State declared by proclamation to be a remote area.
On existing divisions throughout the several States, I have been told by the officers who are advising me, the proposed amendment would relate to 29 divisions, namely, in New South Wales, the Federal divisions of Calare, Cowper, Darling, Eden-Monaro, Farrer, Gwydir, Hume, New England, Paterson, and Riverina; in Victoria, the divisions of Gippsland, Indi, Mallee, Wannon and Wimmera; in Queensland, the divisions of Capricornia, Dawson, Kennedy, Leichhardt and Maranoa; in South Australia, the divisions of Angas, Barker, Grey and Wakefield; in Western Australia, the divisions of Canning, Forrest, Kalgoorlie and Moore; and in Tasmania, the division of Wilmot. On the Federal divisions as presently constituted, 8 Labor Party, 8 Liberal Party and 13 Country Party divisions would qualify.
– I enumerated the divisions in my remarks. I said that I was aiming to apply it to Kalgoorlie, Grey, Wakefield, Darling, Leichhardt, Kennedy, Maranoa and the Northern Territory. I thought I said 100 000 square miles. In fact, the amendment should read 260 000 square kilometres’.
– I am told that the proposed amendment refers to 26 000 square kilometres’.
– I will ask that that be amended to read ‘260 000 square kilometres’. That was the intention.
– The advice tendered to me is the result of the officers’ perusal of the amendment, which reads in part:
The Divisional Returning Officer for each Division that exceeds 26 000 square kilometres in area shall keep a register, to be called the Register of General Postal Voters.
When Senator Withers was speaking, I knew that he was speaking about 260 000 square miles. I thought he had added a ‘0’ there rather than in the amendment. There is ambiguity. Be that as it may, the circumstances in which an elector of the division concerned may apply for registration are that normally it is difficult for him to vote at a polling booth in the State by reason of the distance between his enrolled address and the nearest normally appointed polling place in the division, or the lack of adequate means of transport from his address to the polling place. No specific distance from the polling place is stated.
I am advised that the Opposition’s proposal envisages that as soon as practicable after the close of nominations for an election the divisional returning officer will send postal voting material to the electors who are registered on the register for his division. Thus it appears that the Opposition proposes to add a system of automatic issuing of postal votes to persons in the larger country divisions who register as general postal voters. Under the existing postal voting arrangements, applications for postal votes may be made after the tenth day prior to the issue of the writ, thus allowing generally about 6 weeks before polling day. The Opposition’s amendment eliminates . the making of a normal postal vote application by persons recorded as general postal voters and unnecessarily into the Act introduces a new concept of postal voting that could widen the possibility of abuses of the postal voting facilities. The provision sought by Senator Withers appears in section 93 of the Western Australian Electoral Act; but, as I understand it, there is no similar provision in any of the other States. However, there is a provision in the Northern Territory Electoral Act, which is related to the Legislative Assembly for the Territory. There, as I understand it, provision is made for a postal vote to be issued to a person whose place of living is more than 5 miles from a registered polling place. Under the Northern Territory electoral arrangements, such a person is automatically issued with a postal vote. I have been told that considerable problems have arisen in that area and that there have been complaints in many of the Northern Territory electorates. For those reasons, the Government cannot accede to the amendment.
- Mr Chairman, I seek leave to amend the amendment to read: ‘260 000 square kilometres’ instead of 26 000 square kilometres’.
– Is leave granted?
– The Government does not object to the amendment being amended. Although the number of divisions to which I referred would be reduced considerably, the arguments I have advanced on behalf of the Government remain the same. Therefore, we will oppose the amendment.
– Leave has been sought to amend the figure 26 000 in the Opposition’s amendment to 260 000 square kilometres. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales) (5.20)- I should like to get some clarification from the Minister. I may have misunderstood him. In stating that he would not accept the amendment he talked in terms of the period of time available from the issue of the writ. Will he establish the point of the period of time after nomination in which a ballot paper can be sent to an individual who is some distance away from the voting centre in an electorate of more than 260 000 square kilometres? It seems to me the test of the argument contained in the proposed amendment is the time lag from when the postal vote can be produced to when it can be posted. He rests his case more on the time of the application. My experience- I think this has been the experience of many senators and members in parliamentary campaigning- is that the delay in getting the ballot paper completed and returned to the Divisional Returning Officer is the main problem. I think the Minister was resting his case rather on the 6 weeks that are available to make an application. In most cases the experience of delay is in getting the ballot paper through; the more important delay is in getting back the completed ballot paper. Perhaps the Minister could clear up that point. I had in the back of my mind that the period from the close of nominations to election day was of the order of 3 weeks. I should like to be corrected if I am wrong on that.
– Firstly, in defence of the departmental officers in relation to the figures of 26 000 and 260 000 they remind me that the amendment as moved by the Opposition in the House of Representatives stipulated 26 000 square kilometres. So far as Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson’s argument is concerned, true it is I said that under the existing postal voting arrangements applications for postal votes may be made after the tenth day prior to the issue of the writ, thus allowing, generally speaking, a period of about 6 weeks before the actual polling date. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, as I understood him, said that it is not so much a question of getting in the application for the postal vote but after the application has been processed and the ballot paper has been sent back to the voter, of getting the voter to fill in the ballot paper and then return it.
– Not quite. There is a delay before nominations close so that that can be produced.
-Of course the ballot paper cannot be sent out until after nominations have closed because no one would know who the candidates would be.
– That is the point I am making.
Therefore the voters have 3 weeks or more in advance, from 10 days after the issue of the writ to the close of nominations, to make application for the ballot paper. Therefore I suggest there is ample time under these provisions and we reject the Opposition ‘s amendment.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales) (5.24)- The very essence of the point I am making is that in some of these vast areas- we were talking of a period of 3 weeksquite a distinct period of time is required particularly in situations which may be affected by climatic conditions which may occur, and which have occurred. Indeed, on one occasion in New South Wales climatic conditions caused polling in certain electorates to be abandoned. This seems to me to be of the essence, if not the entire essence, of the amendment. The Government has attempted to meet half of the problem by providing that there should be quite a significant period in which voters may make applications for a postal vote, but in these vast scattered areas there is a tremendous lag period after nomination in getting the ballot paper back to the voter and then in due course having the completed paper returned. I think that is one of the factors that has to be looked at in the totality of the amendment as it has been proposed.
– It seems that the amendment proposed by the Opposition is designed to extend the opportunities for postal voting. I was interested to hear the Minister say in his explanation that there had been complaints about the operation of a similar provision in the Northern Territory and that the Government feared it might extend the opportunity for certain abuses. I would be grateful if the Minister could advise us of the kinds of complaints that have been received, and the kinds of abuses which he contemplates and about which he is fearful.
– Perhaps I can answer the last question and add to something Senator Withers said. There is no justification, because a State wants something, that legislation should be altered. If that were the case -
– What is that?
– There is no justification for an alteration of the Act because a State wants it.
– I did not say that.
– With respect, you did.
– Do not put words into my mouth. I said: ‘The electors want it. ‘
– It is the same thing. If Senator Withers goes to Queensland I will show him that 99 per cent of the electors there want the poll to be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. There has never been any attempt to vary that in State elections. In Federal elections all political parties complain that they have to man the booths until 8 p.m. It does not matter whether the booths are closed at 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. One will always find somebody coming up at one minute past six or one minute past eight. We have always found that it is by far the best and appeals to the greatest number of voters in Queensland to have the booths open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
– We are not discussing the time of polling.
– Now, now, now. Let us consider another aspect of what the Opposition has said. I can see the great disadvantages that can occur. I think I have done my share of political work in the country areas of Queensland and I have heard no complaints whatsoever of anybody not being able to get in his ballot papers in time. With respect to the fact that perhaps there are floods, bushfires or things of that kind and people cannot get their ballot papers, I think Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson said that one poll in New South Wales had to be abandoned in such circumstances. There is no difference now. If there are floods, the people on the roll will not be able to get their ballot papers so I do not think that is a valid excuse. But I shall tell honourable senators where the system can be manipulated, if I may use that word; that is, where there is a roll of people who claim to want a postal vote, as Senator Withers has indicated. Suppose some of those people who have claimed that they want a postal vote because they are on a postal vote roll are itinerant workers, timber cutters or shearers. They may apply for a postal vote and in the meantime move on.
– They do not get on the roll then. It is not compulsory.
– Of course it is not compulsory.
– If you are one of those people you do not go on the roll.
– Just a moment, please. You have had your say; let me have mine. Senator Withers said that such people can apply to go on the roll. A worker may feel that he will be working in an area for a considerable time, but for some reason he leaves the area. Who gets the ballot paper then? I know who gets the ballot paper then, and I know how it is filled in. This system is open to abuse. I do not know whether it is open to abuse in Western Australia but I would have to be convinced that there have not been occasions on which the system has been abused. I believe that the system as it operates at present- I have been in the areas to which Senator Withers has referred tonight, Leichhardt, Maranoa, Capricornia- is fair. I have heard no complaints about the present arrangements. There are local returning officers and divisional officers to which people may apply and get their postal votes very quickly indeed. I am surprised to hear that there has been any difficulty whatsoever. In my opinion the system the Opposition enunciated is open to misrepresentation and I prefer the one that operates at present.
-There is no justification for the fears that Senator Milliner has about this proposal. After all, before a person would get his name on this roll he would have to apply. He would have to sign the application and no doubt the records would be kept by the Returning Officer. If somebody was not in the district and somebody else picked up the ballot paper and signed it the situation would be pretty dangerous because the record of signature would be in the possession of the Returning Officer. There is very little reason to think that that situation is likely to occur.
Two steps are involved. Firstly an application has to be made for a ballot paper and then there is the necessity for a witness to sign the application. People in these very remote situations who want to vote have the difficulty of getting somebody, an authorised witness, to witness their signature on the application form. That is a problem which could arise for people in remote situations, quite apart from any other difficulties they may have by reason of distance. I think they have enough problems already without knowing that because of the poor mail service in these areas they may well miss out on their opportunity to vote.
I think that this is a highly desirable idea to put into our Electoral Act. It is not, as I understand it, a request from a State; it is simply that this has been used in a State and is thought by the Opposition to be a desirable idea. Therefore it has been put forward and I urge support for it.
– When I moved this motion I talked about an area of 260 000 square kilometres or 100 000 square miles. I then enumerated the electorates that I thought it would cover. I think I missed the electorate of Grey. The Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland), when he first replied, was able instantaneously to give the political composition of each and every one of those large electorates. Basically I am talking about only 8 electorates and the political composition of them is that four are held by the Labor Party, three are held by the Country Party and one is held by the Liberal Party. The Government could hardly say that we are not being evenhanded. As I understand the situation, the Labor Party holds Kalgoorlie, Darling, Leichhardt and Grey, the Liberal Party holds Wakefield, and the Country Party holds Kennedy, Maranoa and the Northern Territory. This proposal is not aimed by one Party at another. What it is aimed at is giving people in the very remote areas the capacity to get a postal vote quickly. We are not talking about thousands of people. In the electorate of Kalgoorlie we are probably talking about 300 or 400 people out of 60 000.
I suppose the Government could take the cavalier attitude and say: ‘Well, what do those people matter? Why should they have a vote?’ I am obliged to my colleague Senator Missen who put forward quite fairly that the people who live in these remote areas have enough to put up with. Surely there are some things we ought to do to make the position easier in those areas. I know that people in the metropolitan areas are used to complaining about mail deliveries. We complain about delays of a week or 10 days. Anybody who knows these remote areas is aware that they are subject to floods. They are not subject so much to fires because most times there is not enough in them to burn. However, when the floods come the roads are cut literally for weeks, railways are washed away and aircraft cannot get in to land. These people have enormous problems.
We are not talking of the people who live in the towns; we are talking about people who live on outback stations, often in very remote mining areas and places where you could not get a polling booth established anyhow. I do not know what the present requirement is but once upon a time there had to be at least 20 people voting before a polling booth could be established. We are talking about three or four people stuck on a station, maybe 200 or 300 miles from the nearest town. We are talking about places where there is a husband and wife, maybe a son and a jackeroo, and maybe a couple of others around. These are the people who ought to be given an opportunity to have a vote.
Why is it that when anything is put up to the Labor Party we immediately get the suspicious reaction about manipulation and all the sorts of things that occur? This suggestion has been in operation in my State, for example, and I have not heard any political Party in that State complain about the fact that the Electoral Office does not have the capacity to look after it properly. I think it was Senator Baume who said that if there are inconveniences and abuses in the Northern Territory no doubt we will be told of them, and no doubt the Minister for the Media will reply in a moment. I anticipate that the Electoral Office, with such a small number of persons who would be involved in each electorate, would have the capacity to control abuses and manipulations.
– Firstly, the Northern Territory is covered by the Northern Territory electoral regulations. I am told that there provision is made so that people are issued automatically with a ballot paper if they live more than 5 miles from the nearest polling place. They are issued automatically with a ballot paper without the necessity of registration or of the necessity on their part of making an application. This is an automatic provision. People living more than 5 miles from the polling place are issued automatically with a ballot paper. I am advised by the officers that there have been complaints or suspicions that from time to time people to whom a ballot paper is sent do not receive them.
– Is this done automatically without registration?
– It is automatic.
– Without registration?
Without registration and without the need for making application. In other words, if I am the Returning Officer and you live 5 miles from the nearest polling booth I automatically send you a ballot paper.
– That is not analogous to this amendment.
– That is what I am about to say. I think I said also that Senator Withers has not proposed a system of registration. We say that under the existing system and under our proposals if a person makes an application he expects to get a ballot paper. If there were to be an automatic issue of a ballot paper upon registration the ballot paper could not be sent out until after nominations closed. This would involve that period of time in any event. People living in these outlying areas know that an election is to be held on a Saturday, whatever the date is. It is mandatory that the day for a poll shall be a Saturday. They know that if they cannot get to a polling place they have to submit an application and they invariably submit their application before the nominations close. The ballot paper is sent out to them.
– How do they get their application? They have to write for it.
-And it is sent out to them. As soon as the nominations have closed the ballot papers can be issued. I am advised that section 63 of the existing Act says that the date fixed for the poll shall be not less than 7 days nor more than 30 days after the date of nomination. In those circumstances it is considered that there is time under the present provisions for the ballot to be in order, and therefore the Government will oppose the proposal moved by Senator Withers.
That proposed clause 28a be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman- Senator D. M. Devitt)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
Clause 29 ( Inspection of applications).
– The Opposition will oppose the insertion of the provisions of clause 29 into the Act. This clause is intended to prevent persons from inspecting lists of those people who apply for postal votes. We did not press our amendment to the proposal to alter the postal vote form so that there will be different forms for each election. If the Government had not altered the earlier provisions, this clause may well have stood on its own; but, as the change in the form to be used for each election ought to prevent most of the previous abuses which went on in this area, I think it is only reasonable that as far as possible all that happens in the electoral system should be open to inspection. The more inspection there is and the more open the electoral system is, the less capacity there is for people to commit abuses. It appears to be part of the Government’s proposition that the harder or the dearer one makes inspection the more likely one is to prevent abuses. We in the Opposition take the opposite stance. If the Government had not been able to proceed with clause 27 (c) there may have been some merit in clause 29; but I put it to the Committee that as the Government has now inserted clause 27 (c) into the legislation clause 29 ought not to go in. These applications ought to be open for inspection and persons who are interested ought to abe able to go along and see who voted at the previous election. For those reasons we will oppose the insertion of clause 29 into the Act.
– I assume from the way the debate is flowing on this matter that if the Opposition is successful in opposing clause 29 Senator Withers will move the next foreshadowed amendment as a consequential amendment. Do I understand the situation correctly?
– No; that was consequential on amendment No. 2 1 , not this one.
– I see. I think Senator Willesee handled amendment No. 21.I was trying to get my lines of communication clear. The Opposition is opposing clause 29 which deals with inspecting applications for postal votes at divisional offices. At the present time section 89 (3) of the Act provides that all applications for postal votes shall be open for public inspection at all convenient times during office hours from and including the third day after polling day until the election can be no longer questioned. It has been found that this entitlement has been misused by certain persons who list the names of electors who recorded postal votes and retain such a list until just prior to the next election, when postal vote applications are forwarded to those electors without really knowing whether they are still entitled or desire to vote by post. It is suggested that this is an undesirable practice and in some instances has probably gone close to contravening the electoral law. For example, section 87a of the Act provides that a person shall not persuade or induce or associate himself with a person in persuading or inducing an elector to make application for a postal vote certificate and postal ballot paper. The Bill provides that a person is not entitled to inspect applications for the purpose of compiling a list of the names of the persons who made the applications, except where such a list is genuinely required solely for the purposes of or in connection with an inquiry into an alleged or suspected contravention of or failure to comply with the Act or a petition to a Court of Disputed Returns. If this clause were left out of the Bill the effect would be that the present situation would continue to obtain and persons could continue to list the names of electors who voted by post, for misuse in the manner I have already mentioned. It is for this reason that the Government seeks the passage of clause 29 as it is written in the Bill.
That the clause stand as printed.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary ChairmanSenator D. M. Devitt)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause 29a.
– I move:
I am assured by the Parliamentary Counsel that the insertion of this clause is consequential upon proposed new clause 21a being accepted. Proposed new clause 21a was inserted by division earlier. It is for that reason that I have moved for the insertion of proposed new clause 29A.
– The Opposition proposes to insert after clause 29 proposed new clause 29a which, in effect, is a consequence of the Opposition’s proposed new section 88a dealing with general postal voters, and provides for the numbering or other means of marking of automatic postal votes issued under the proposed system of registering certain electors as general postal voters. I appreciate what Senator Withers has said that, on the advice of the parliamentary draftsman, this proposal is consequential upon the success of the Opposition’s earlier amendment. The Government will oppose this amendment on the voices.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Section 92 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (2).
– The Opposition will vote against clause 30 of this Bill. The effect of this clause, if inserted, would be that postal votes would have to be delivered or posted direct to the relevant divisional returning officer. At present a postal vote can be delivered or posted to a divisional returning officer at other than the division for which the elector is enrolled. I know that the Government’s aim is to speed up the result on polling night, but we have consistently said throughout this debate that it is more important that an elector should vote than that the result be known one or two days earlier than might otherwise be the case. Clause 30 and I think clauses 31 and 32, relate to postal votes. Basically they all fall much within the same category. We will be opposing clauses 30, 3 1 and 32. I have an amendment to clause 32. As I understand the Bill, clause 3 1 is consequential on clause 30 being agreed to. If clause 30 is not carried, clause 3 1 becomes unnecessary.
We are taking the same stance as we have taken all through the debate on this Bill. As long as it is compulsory for electors to vote, the electors ought to be given the widest capacity to be able to vote. No real reason for this clause is given either in the explanatory memorandum circulated by the Minister or in the remarks of the Chief Electoral Officer which were sent to Mr Hunt, our colleague in another place. The clause basically is devised as an administrative convenience. We take the view that the electors’ convenience is more important than that of the Department of Services and Property or of the Government. For that very simple reason we oppose the insertion in the Act of clause 30.
– The Government presses the inclusion of this provision in the Bill. We are dealing with clause 30 which states:
Section 92 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (2).
In other words, this clause proposes that subsection (2) of section 92 be omitted. The subsection makes provision, in effect, that where a postal vote, if posted prior to the close of the poll, would not reach the divisional returning officer for the division concerned before the end of a period of 10 days after the close of the poll or, if delivered, would not reach that divisional returning officer before the close of the poll, it may be posted or delivered to any other divisional returning officer, to an assistant divisional returning officer or may be delivered on polling day to any presiding officer in charge of a polling booth. The Government suggests that the effect of the Opposition’s amendment would be that this subsection would stand and consequently we would still have the same situation as exists at present. A 10-day period for the return of postal votes to the divisional returning officer for the division concerned would be retained and electors would continue to be able to transmit their postal votes to another divisional returning officer, to an assistant returning officer or to a presiding officer, and provided one of those officers receives the envelope containing the vote before the close of the poll, the divisional returning officer for the division concerned must await its receipt for inclusion in the scrutiny.
These provisions have contributed to delays being experienced in finalising the scrutiny, a matter which has been the subject of a great deal of public criticism from time to time, especially when the political fate of the nation could hang on them. Therefore the Government believes that clause 30 of the Bill, which seeks the deletion of sub-section (2) of section 92 of the principal Act, should be pressed.
– One of the matters which I think I ought to bring to the notice of the Committee is a remark that Mr Ley, the Chief Electoral Officer, made in his letter to Mr Hunt. He said, in relation to clause 30, among other things:
A significant change will be that henceforth an overseas postal voter will not be able to hand his postal vote to the Assistant Returning Officer for dispatch to Australia. Nevertheless, there will be no prohibition against an Embassy, High Commission, etc., as distinct from the Assistant Returning Officer, acting as an agent for a voter and accepting his postal vote for transmission to Australia.
I read those sentences as meaning that the change is a quite vast one. Previously one could hand a vote to an embassy official who was an assistant returning officer. Immediately one handed a vote to him, it became a valid vote to be counted. In future such an official will be only a post office. If, through inadvertence, he does not post it in time, if there is a mail delay, a strike or if somebody beyond the control of the elector or of the embassy official intervenes, that vote will not be counted. It is counted now. I do not see why it should not be counted in the future. The fact that Senator Douglas McClelland said that the fate of a government may depend on these votes is all the more reason that they ought to be counted. An inference to be drawn from his remarks- I hope I am not doing him an injustice because I admire him too much as a person- is that it is far better to determine the fate of a government by not counting all the votes than determining it by counting all the votes. Surely in the democratic process every vote which can possibly be wrung out of the electorate ought to be wrung out of it and counted.
If that is not the view which the Government has, the obvious thing is to change to voluntary voting. There cannot be compulsory voting without giving everybody the most generous terms on which to exercise a vote. This clause rather surprises me. If anybody is looking for a simplified, quick system, why not have a voluntary enrolment, a voluntary vote and a cross against somebody’s name? That is not the Australian system. I do not think the Government would propose a voluntary enrolment, nor do I think it would propose a voluntary vote. Yet they would be two of the more obvious methods of simplifying and speeding up the poll. They are not wanted. All these other matters are. I put it quite frankly to the Committee that the Government cannot have it both ways. As long as the Government quite rightly compels people to enrol or suffer a penalty and as long as the Parliament compels the people to vote or suffer a penalty- I think that is the proper course of action accepted by all Parties- we should in no circumstances limit the capacity of electors to exercise a vote.
SenatorMISSEN (Victoria) (8.23)- I do not think I need say much more because Senator Withers has put it too well. I think I should say that two kinds of people are involved. The first group constitutes those postal voters in Australia, and they are people who, under the existing provision in the Act, have posted their vote prior to the close of the poll. They have made their decision. They want to be considered. They want to be counted. If the postal system in Australia is so bad that it leads to delay, then it is not the fault of the elector; it is the fault of the postal system. We should continue to accept their votes.
The second group covers those postal voters who are overseas. I see this provision as one which is designed distinctly to favour one Party. It is thought, no doubt- it is probably right- that the majority of people who vote overseas and who want to use these facilities are Liberal voters rather than Labor voters. That probably is a fact. I think this clause is a most blatant one in the sense that the Government desires, for speed, to deny people abroad who want to exercise their vote the right to have it considered. I suggest this is one of the most undesirable parts of the legislation.
– The Government is saying that it is the voter’s responsibility to get his vote back to the divisional returning officer. If he uses someone else as an agent to post it for him, namely an assistant returning officer, the vote must get to the divisional returning officer for the division for which the person is enrolled. If a person overseas hands a vote to an ARO it is up to the ARO to get the vote to the divisional returning officer. If the vote is handed to the assistant returning officer before the poll is recorded the divisional returning officer must await that vote. In short we are saying that this enables people to leave their postal voting to a late point of time. Then they must or can get it back to the divisional returning officer within 10 days after the actual day of the poll, provided they record their vote before the close of the poll. When a vote is given to an assistant returning officer overseas, if he receives it before the close of the poll it must be put into the count and it must get to the divisional returning officer. That could take some time. That is the type of circumstance which the Government has in mind in this provision. Therefore, by clause 30 we propose to remove sub-section (2) of section 92 of the principal Act.
That the clause stand as printed.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary ChairmanSenator D. M. Devitt)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 3 1
Section 94 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words “a Divisional Returning Officer, a Registrar, a Returning Officer or an Assistant Returning Officer or delivery to a presiding officer,” and substituting the words “the appropriate officer”.
-The Opposition will oppose this clause. As I understand the Bill- I think the Minister will confirm this - clause 3 1 is consequential upon clause 30 being passed. Therefore it is merely a drafting operation. The Opposition opposes the insertion of clause 31.
-I agree that this proposed amendment of the Opposition is consequential upon the amendment to clause 30, to which the Senate has agreed. Whilst the Government seeks to have this clause inserted in the Bill, it does not intend to divide the Committee.
Clause 32 (Preliminary scrutiny of postal ballot-papers).
– The Opposition seeks to do 2 things: Firstly, it seeks to leave out the clause; and secondly, it seeks to insert a further clause. Originally it was the intention of the Opposition to vote against clause 32 simpliciter. Clause 32 deals with postal votes and seeks to amend section 96 of the Act. It provides that the divisional returning officer shall admit to the scrutiny only those envelopes containing postal votes received by him up to the close of the poll. We have been arguing about this matter clause after clause. The Opposition is opposed to clause 32. The insertion of the Opposition’s proposed new clause 32 is consequential upon the Opposition’s amendment No. 21 according to the instructions I have received from the Parliamentary Counsel. I do not know whether the advisers of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) agree with me. I have a note here that proposed new clause 32, which has been circulated in our series of amendments, ought to be inserted consequential to our amendment No. 2 1 . The Parliamentary Counsel advises me that new clause 32, as proposed by the Opposition, is consequential upon amendment No. 2 1 being agreed to. It has been agreed to.
We can deal with this in one of two ways. We can vote against the Government’s proposed clause and then move to insert another clause. I think the way it is proposed by the Clerks at the Table is the proper and more parliamentary method of doing it. I will firstly move to leave out the clause and then I will move the insertion of clause 32, by leave.
– I was going to suggest that, with the leave of the Committee, I simply put the question that the amendment be agreed to. I take it that the Minister will agree with that.
– I have no objections.
– In due course I will put that to the Committee.
-Thank you, Mr Temporary Chairman. It is quite simple. This is a part of the whole argument that the Opposition has been putting forward about postal votes. We have heard the arguments about convenience; we have heard the arguments about the delay in election results; and we have heard all these arguments about previous clauses. We are starting to get to the nub of the problem. This clause forbids the divisional returning officer admitting to the count votes received by him after the close of the poll. I do not know whether any satistical work has been done on this matter. It would be interesting if the Department could inform us which seats would have had a different result if postal votes which came in after the close of the poll had not been admitted. There is a rather famous instance which relates to the double dissolution. I think quite obviously at the close of the poll- with the postal votes in the hands of the returning officer- the seat of Stirling in Western Australia would have been won by the Australian Labor Party. In fact, it was a terrible thing for 2 candidates, especially for the sitting member, to sweat it out for 2 weeks or more. Eventually the sitting member won by 12 votes. I think that is electoral justice. There was an odd vote coming from New Guinea, one from Washington, and one coming from somewhere else. At least all those who were enrolled for the seat of Stirling had the capacity to exercise a vote.
If the Government’s present proposal were accepted the sitting member in that seat certainly would have been disadvantaged. For those reasons and the other reasons advanced previously in the Committee stage of this debate I move for the Opposition amendment No. 26 which states:
Leave out the clause, insert the following clause: 32. Section 96 of the Principal Act is amended-
by inserting after the word ‘ballot-papers’ (first occurring) the words ‘and all applications for registration under section 88a’; and
by omitting from paragraphs (a) and (b) the words application for the certificate’ and substituting the words ‘ relevant applications ‘. ‘.
– The Opposition’s amendment proposes to leave out clause 32 and insert matter consequential upon its proposition for general postal voters, which was contained in clause 28 (a). The object of clause 32 of the Bill is to omit the words: . . up to the end of the period of ten days immediately succeeding the close of the poll by him, or received up to the close of the poll by any other Divisional Returning Officer or any Assistant Returning Officer or presiding officer in pursuance of sub-section (2) of section ninety-two of this Act . . .
It seeks to substitute the words: by him up to the close of the poll’.
This again is related to the Government’s proposal that postal votes should be returned direct to the divisional returning officer for the division concerned and be received by him by the close of the poll. The Opposition’s amendment is consistent with its attitude of retaining the present situation which the Government believes is unsatisfactory and is conducive to delays in the finalisation of the election. This clause of the Bill also proposes to delete the words ‘and that the vote contained in the envelope was recorded prior to the close of the poll ‘ from section 96 of the Act because these words would no longer be necessary in a situation where the vote had to be in the hands of the divisional returning officer by the close of the poll. Whilst we realise that the insertion of the following clauses set out by the Opposition is consequential upon the Opposition’s successful moving of clause 28 (a), nonetheless, because it is also proposed to leave out clause 32, the Government will oppose the Opposition’s amendment by dividing the House.
– Leave has been sought to put the question in the form That the amendment be agreed to’. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
That the amendment be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman- Senator D. M. Devitt)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 33 to 37- by leave- taken together and agreed to.
Clause 38 (Printing of House of Representatives ballot papers).
– The Opposition is in basically the same position as it was in with regard to clause 32. We could just oppose clause 38, but I am advised by parliamentary counsel- I will seek confirmation from the advisers through the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland)- that merely to delete clause 38 would not be sufficient because we have already agreed to clause 1 1 . As I understand the position, we have agreed to clause 1 1 and clause 38 is tied in with clause 1 1. Therefore, it will be necessary, if the leave of the Committee is granted, that the proposed amendment to this clause be agreed to. My original intention was just to vote against clause 38, but parliamentary counsel advises that that would somewhat wreck the intention of the Bill.
– You have done that, have you not?
-I have not really started yet; I am just warming up. As I understand clause 38 of the Bill, it does 2 things. It provides for drawing for positions on ballot papers for the House of Representatives. That is basically what this clause does. I suppose that the argument could be put that where one appears on the ballot paper should not be a lottery decided by accident of birth. My name begins with a W and I have always been just about on the bottom of the ballot paper. I think- the only person in this place who suffers a little worse is Senator Young, but the Woods, Wrights, Youngs and Withers have always been right down at the bottom.
– Not in the Senate.
-The Senator Cavanaghs of this world have always been on the top of the ballot paper. There is very little distinction between a lottery based on the surname with which one is born, which one adopts, which one marries into or which one takes by deed poll and a lottery based on somebody drawing a name out of the ballot box. What does it matter much? The argument is mounted that a ballot box makes for fairness. I do not know whether anybody is elected to Federal Parliament because people do not know for whom they are voting. I recall that 3 or 4 years ago Senator Townley was running as an Independent on the Senate ballot paper in Tasmania. There were 4 or 5 teams- I forget the exact number- spaced across the ballot paper with five or six Independents and Senator Townley was buried in the middle. Are Tasmanian electors more intelligent than electors on the mainland? Somehow or other, they had the capacity to seek out Senator Townley, because they wanted him, and to send him here as an Independent and the holder of the fifth seat. Electors do have a capacity to sort out whom they want. I do not think the idea that somehow electors have to be continually treated as lesser people, as people of not very great intelligence, is correct.
There is much talk about the donkey vote. I do not know whether there is a donkey vote. I do not think there is any real evidence of such a vote. Merely because, say, 1 per cent or 2 per cent of ballot papers are marked from the top to the bottom in a certain order, I do not know what right we have to say that this is a donkey vote. Some people might have voted that way deliberately and, if people deliberately vote from the top to the bottom of the ballot paper, I think it is a bit of ruddy cheek for members of political parties to say that they are donkeys or that they have cast donkey votes and that they do not know what they are doing. They know what they are doing; they vote that way quite deliberately. For all those who vote 1 to 5 down the ballot paper, I imagine that at least half that number vote from the bottom to the top.
After all, this is still a free country. When a person goes into a polling booth with his ballot paper, he goes in there in secrecy, and what he does with his ballot paper is his business. If he wishes to write some biblical quotation across it, if he wishes to pass comments on the candidates whose names appear on it- many informal votes result from that practice- or if he wishes to do nothing with the ballot paper, that is his business. As I understand it, the only obligation on him is to return the ballot paper and to put it in the ballot box. While a person is in the polling booth it is his ballot paper to deal with as he likes. Why politicians should want to interfere with the way a person casts his vote, I do not know.
As to whether this system advantages one political party or the other, I do not think any suggestion has been put forward by the Government that the Government, the Opposition, or any other party benefits from balloting for positions or from people having their names in alphabetical order. I know that in pre-war days there was an argument about the use of the alphabetical order in relation to voting for the Senate. I think that in New South Wales for some reason gentlemen by the name of Amour, Armstrong and Ashley were nominated.
– And Arnold.
-And Arnold. People used to go for candidates whose surname started with the letter ‘A’. In our State, we had Cunningham, Clothier and, I think, Fraser, or some names such as those. Candidates tended to be people whose names started with the early letters of the alphabet. That practice no longer operates in the Senate: We have a different system.
However, at present we are dealing with the procedure for the House of Representatives. As I understand it, at the last election the average number of names on the ballot papers for House of Representatives seats was five- not seventythree as in the case of the Senate, for which we have a system of running in teams. For the Senate, parties, in effect, decide the order of names on the ballot paper, and then positions are balloted for. However, we are talking now about the House of Representatives ballot papers; that is the only case we are talking about. For many House of Representatives electorates, there are only 3 candidates; in some cases there are four; and the average number of candidates is five. I know that in the electorates of both Mr Whitlam and Mr Snedden, merely because at the time of the last election they were the leaders of the 2 major parties that were in confrontation with each other, there was a great number of candidates. I do not know exactly how many candidates stood for Mr Whitlam ‘s seat; I think it was about twenty. Mr Snedden had 16 or 17 opponents- I forget the exact number. However, the electors of Werriwa and Bruce knew what they were about, as both those honourable gentlemen were re-elected to the House of Representatives.
I have heard no argument put forward to support adequately the view that the system should be changed. I know that the voting system for local government has been changed, as has the voting system in some of the States; but I do not think that is necessarily a reason why a change should be made for the House of Representatives. lt is a matter of which lottery is preferredthe lottery of the candidates’ surnames or the lottery of a draw from the hat. I do not know why one lottery should be regarded as fairer or more equal than another lottery. For these reasons, the Opposition moves the following amendment:
Leave out the clause, insert the following clause:
Section 106 of the Principal Act is amended-
by inserting after paragraph (b) the following paragraph: “(ba) where a candidate has specified a former name or former names in a declaration made in pursuance of sub-paragraph (iii) of paragraph (a) of sub-section ( 1 ) of section 73, the former name or former names shall be printed after the name of that candidate; “: and
by omitting from paragraph (d) the words “except as otherwise provided by the regulations”.’.
– Whilst the Opposition, in accepting this Bill into the Committee stage and therefore accepting many of its provisions, has adopted a much more forward attitude than it adopted when the Bill was introduced in a previous year and the Opposition knocked out the whole of that Bill, it is resiling in this case by refusing to accept what is undoubtedly the most just means of listing candidates for House of Representatives elections. I just do not believe that Senator Withers is as innocent as he would have us believe from the speech he has just made. If he looks at the list of members of the House of Representatives he will find a very heavy weighting in favour of those whose surnames start with letters at the beginning of the alphabet. Apparently it pays for a condidate to have his surname begin with the letter C as there are 19 members of the House of Representatives whose surnames start with that letter.
Obviously, in his political life Senator Withers has heard of the search that his Party has made in particular seats for candidates whose surnames begin with letters that will put them on the ballot paper ahead of the sitting member who represents the opposite party. Senator Withers knows that political scientists can substantiate claims that a certain percentage of votes at an election goes to the candidate whose name is first on the list. Why would the Opposition want to oppose a scheme that removes that automatic advantage that a candidate can have over a sitting member?
Why should a sitting member be disadvantaged by the fact that the opposing party can find a candidate with a surname that begins with a letter of the alphabet that is ahead of the letter with which the sitting member’s surname begins? Such a practice gives an unfair advantage to the candidate who opposes the sitting member. In opposing the provision in the Bill, the Opposition is intending to perpetuate a scheme that is blatantly unfair to sitting members of Parliament, and political scientists can prove it is unfair. I can see not one whit of reason why the Opposition would oppose a provision that would give sitting members at least the right to fight an election on the basis of their performance rather than have to contend with smartalec tricks used by their political opponents. Although Senator Withers may be innocent in many other matters, I do not believe that he is as innocent as he has made out in his remarks about this provision.
He has not revealed to the Committee why his Party proposes to vote against this clause. He has said that he will have one lottery as against another. He also said- I think I heard arightthat nowadays members of the public are intelligent enough to select the candidate they want. He knows very well that the overwhelming number of people will vote for the party they want. Therefore, the party will search for a person whose name begins with a letter of the alphabet that will give him a favourable position on the ballot paper. I do not think that position should be supported by Senator Withers or any other member of the Committee.
– This clause, which the Opposition seeks to omit, provides for the order of the names of the candidates on the ballot papers for a House of Representatives election to be determined by means of a draw instead of by alphabetical order of surnames as at present exists. The alphabetical listing of candidates’ names on the ballot papers gives an advantage, so the Government says, of probably not more than 2 per cent generally, to a candidate whose surname commences with a letter at the beginning of the alphabet and who, as a consequence, is placed first on the list of candidates on the ballot papers. In a close election, this could well influence the result. Admittedly, under the Government’s proposal, whoever is fortunate enough to draw first position will gain the advantage of what is commonly referred to as the donkey vote; but this is considered to be afairer system than one based on the standard alphabetical system, under which a candidate whose surname happens to commence with the letter ‘A’, or perhaps the letter ‘B will always gain an advantage over a candidate whose surname commences with a letter lower down the alphabet.
I was constantly intrigued when nominations were being called for House of Representatives seats, especially in New South Wales, to see that, in choosing candidates, the Democratic Labor Party always seemed to go for the fellow whose surname started with the letter ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C. It was always interesting to observe that in comparable electorates like Barton and St George the DLP candidate in one of the electorates whose name started with ‘A’ received about 2 per cent more votes than the DLP candidate in the other electorate whose name started with ‘R’. Therefore, notwithstanding what Senator Withers has said, I believe that there is such a thing as a donkey vote and that it favours the person whose name appears in the first position on the ballot paper.
The principal effect of the Opposition’s amendment is that the alphabetical listing on House of Representatives ballot papers would be retained, despite the fact that we have a system of drawing for positions on Senate ballot papers. The clause which the Opposition proposes to substitute amounts in part to acceptance by the Opposition of the provision contained in paragraph (b) of proposed new section 106, which is to be inserted by clause 38 of the Bill, which deals with the printing of the former name of a candidate on the ballot paper after his or her present name in circumstances where the candidate has changed his or her name, except by marriage, in the preceding 1 2 months. A further relatively minor aspect of clause 38 has been included in the Opposition’s substitute clause. However, the fact is that the major reform in clause 38 of the Bill is the introduction of drawing for positions on House of Representatives ballot papers in elections for the House of Representatives, and that apparently is a reform which the Opposition wishes to avoid. The Government presses this proposal.
– I was intrigued by the argument advanced by Senator Hall. I did some work on this question. One of the simple pieces of work that I did was to take the 10 most vulnerable seats on the Government side in the House of Representatives, and the 10 most vulnerable seats on the Opposition side in the House of Representatives. The swing required to unseat the sitting members in those seats ranged from 0.2 per cent to 2.5 per cent. The surnames of the members on the Government side who hold those seats are: Whan, Clayton, Thorburn, Patterson, McKenzie, Cross, Keogh, Child, Mathews and Collard. The surnames of the members who hold those seats on the Opposition side are: Viner, 0 ‘Keefe, Lusher, Sullivan, Bourchier, Cairns, Cadman, Ruddock, Cameron and Wilson. If one assumes that the letter ‘M’ is halfway through the alphabet- I am told that is wrong- the surnames of 5 Labor members in that list begin with a letter in the first half of the alphabet and the surnames of 5 Labor members in that list begin with a letter in the last half of the alphabet. A similar position is to be found with the surnames of the Opposition members to whom I have referred.
One of my colleagues pointed out to me that when one is dealing with surnames the letter ‘ M ‘ is not halfway through the alphabet because according to the telephone book the letter ‘K’ appears about halfway through the telephone book. I was delighted that a Queenslander told me this. I then looked at the telephone books for the 6 State capitals and I found that only in Queensland does the letter ‘ M ‘ appear halfway through the telephone book. In the other States the letters ‘K’ or ‘L’ appear halfway through the telephone books. If we take the interesting situation of the 20 most vulnerable seats in the House of Representatives- these would be the seats, one would assume, which would determine who is in government and who is not- we find that the surnames of half of the sitting members in those seats start with a letter in the first half of the alphabet and that the surnames of half of the sitting members on those seats start with a letter in the second half of the alphabet. I do not know what that proves.
– I suppose that it is only a piece of useless and irrelevant information.
– They were probably all elected on preferences.
-That is right. I would say that every one of those members was elected on preferences. It is quite interesting that the most vulnerable seat of those 20 seats, Stirling, is held by Mr Viner. The second most vulnerable seat is held by Mr Whan, and the third most vulnerable seat is held by Mr O ‘Keefe. Funnily enough, the next most vulnerable seat is held by Mr Clayton whose surname begins with a letter which is near the beginning of the alphabet. The next most vulnerable seats are held by Mr Thorburn and Mr Lusher. So it goes backwards and forwards. I do not know what conclusion one can draw from it. The only reason I thought I would give this somewhat interesting if useless information to the Committee is that it shows that whilst it may appear to Senator Hall that persons whose surnames begin with ‘C and ‘B’ appear to have a great advantage in an election, I do not think that basically they do. This is apparent when one gets down to the nitty gritty of the surnames of the persons holding the 20 most vulnerable seats in the Parliament. Initially I thought along the same lines as Senator Hall because as I looked through the members of the Ministry in the Labor Government I found that most of their surnames began with the letter C- Cameron, Connor and Cairns. I forget who else. There is a great mass of them.
– Some are ‘ Bs ‘.
-I think that they all are, but do not lead me into that. I wonder whether in the Labor Caucus they ballot for positions because it seems rather surprising- I think it would be a statistical fact, although I have not worked right through it- that the great bulk of the surnames of the 26 or 27 Ministers out of a Caucus of 96 members seems to begin with a letter in the first half of the alphabet. Whether that is because the surnames of the great bulk of the members begin with letters in the first half of the alphabet or whether it is the result of the balloting system, I do not know. I suppose that Mr Whitlam, like me, might be in favour of balloting because we are amongst the ‘Ws’. People like Senator Cavanagh have always had a great advantage in this regard. I give that information for what it is worth.
– It is a pity that Senator Withers started to talk about the initials of people. The first letter of Mr Fraser’s name is ‘F’, and ‘F’ stands for something, too. Senator Withers said he does not know whether there is any advantage in a candidate ‘s surname beginning with a letter in the first half of the alphabet. He is wrong. Very few people would vote for the Nazi Party. I think that would be accepted. If one looks at the records one sees that the Nazi Party candidates, when their names appeared first on the ballot paper, scored 3 per cent of the vote. Do not tell me that there is no donkey vote. Do not tell me that 3 per cent of the people of Queensland voted consciously for the Nazi Party. They voted for that Party because they cast a donkey vote. It is easy to see why the Opposition is opposing the Government’s proposal. The Opposition runs the risk of losing the preferences of the Australian
Democratic Labor Party if the names of candidates in an election are drawn from a hat, because the DLP used to be very rigid with its preferences.
– So you are doing this to disadvantage us, are you? It is all coming out.
– Wait a while. Senator Withers has made his contribution and now he wants to deny everybody else the right to make a contribution, and he talks about democracy. It is well known that the DLP used to wait to see who the other candidates were in an election. If Withers was the name of a candidate in a House of Representatives election one could wager guineas to gooseberries that the DLP would not have a candidate named Young as its candidate. It would not ask people to vote ‘ 1 ‘ for Young and 2’ for Withers. That has been done consistently by the DLP. That is why the Liberal Party does not want a change in the Act.
– I think that Senator Withers has provided his own answer. He referred to the 20 seats which would make or break the Government. He went through the surnames of the sitting members, indicating the letter of the alphabet with which their surnames begin. One thing that Senator Withers knows is that opposing parties will look for candidates whose surname starts with a letter at the beginning of the alphabet. That is the automatic search which the parties will make. Some parties will decide in their preselection machinery that a candidate whose surname starts with a letter at the beginning of the alphabet is more valuable as a person than someone else. Most certainly the letter of the alphabet with which a person’s name begins will be an important consideration. I ask Senator Withers whether he wants the Government of Australia to be decided in the 20 seats to which he referred by the letter of the alphabet with which the names of a number of candidates begin. I suggest that he does not want that. I suggest that he ought to stop being caucused and vote for a most desirable clause.
– After listening to Senator Wither’s remarks on the 2 occasions on which he has spoken on this clause it is abundantly clear why he does not wish to see the Act amended in the way that we have suggested in this clause. I think that Senator Milliner touched on that when he referred to the Australian Democratic Labor Party. It has been said in many quarters of the Democratic Labor Party that it was improperly named, that its right name should have been the Deputy Liberal Party or the Dummy Liberal Party. I have always been inclined to believe that its true role was that of the Dummy Liberal Party.
– They did not believe in Monarto.
-That will be debated in relation to another Bill. What Senator Withers is afraid of is that, if the Act is amended to remove the undemocratic system which now prevails whereby candidates are listed on the ballot paper in alphabetical order, his Party will lose much advantage it gets by the Democratic Labor Party nominating people whose name begins with the letter A. Senator Withers also said that there would not be much consequence if we adopted the situation which prevails in the Senate. Senator Withers apparently does not attend the draw for the places on the Senate ballot paper as do his Liberal colleagues in South Australia. On the 2 occasions I have been at the draw in South Australia there have been many Liberal candidates present, together with their management. Their eyes were all agog to see whose name came out of the hat first. If they happened to be the first out of the hat, they had a grin like a cat eating cheese; they were so happy. But if they drew somewhere down the ballot paper, they were very disappointed. I know that they were very disappointed that they drew so far down the ballot paper in the Senate election in which 1 was elected, because I happened to come into this place on the Liberal Party’s preferences.
This is what happens. I think the most democratic system we could adopt is to have a draw for the positions on the ballot paper. To continue with the present system would be most undemocratic, and I cannot see why Senator Withers should have said to Senator Milliner that the reason why we were amending the Act was to disadvantage the Liberal Party. That is not the case, because everyone will be on a fair and even basis. As the amendment states, the electoral officer shall put the names in a box and shake them up, the first name out will be the first on the ballot paper and so on until all the candidates have been allocated positions. Is this not what they do even in the great Melbourne Cup? They also draw there for positions when they line up for the race, and this is the way it ought to be when we line up for the greatest race in the world, namely, to see who can be elected to this Parliament. I cannot for the life of me see why Senator Withers wants to retain the outdated position that exists now. Undoubtedly the reason why he wants to retain it is to give his own Party some advantage. He is hoping that the Democratic Labor Party, or as it is rightly known the Dummy Liberal Party, will come back into the field at the next election and that he will get some gain out of it by having candidates on the ballot paper whose surname begins with the letter A.
– I always remember Sir Robert Menzies saying that a government elected to Parliament under a certain system of voting never changes that system, because people who do not like it bring down their wrath on the government at the next election. Regarding whether there is a so-called donkey vote- and I hate that expression- if one looked up the records of the 1966 election, when Prime Minister Holt was returned to power with the biggest majority the non-Labor parties have had in my term in the Parliament, one would see, I believe, that 23 new people were elected as members of the Liberal-Country Party coalition. All senators will agree that, in certain seats throughout Australia, one could put up a person with a name beginning with any letter and he would win a Labor, Country Party or Liberal Party seat as the case may be. Quite a large percentage of seats in Australia are or have been semi-blue ribbon or blue ribbon seats but in the 1 966 election the people of Australia- they were not changing a government, but were re-electing it to office with a new Prime Minister- elected, out of a total of 123 members, 23 new members to the Parliament from the non-Labor Parties. Some of these were the result of people such as Mr Mackinnon and others whose names do not come readily to mind having resigned from the Parliament.
New names in politics came forward and people such as Irwin, the member for Mitchell, were elected in the middle of the field in proLabor seats. There were many other examples. If one looks at the record one will find that, when the people of Australia are put to the test, they are politically conscious and will look for the name of the man and/or the Party they want and will not go for the Amours, the Ashleys and the Ayletts. They will go for those they want first, and I do not believe that there is any factual information available to us which will show that, because a person is at the head of a list, he will get a favourable vote.
– With the concurrence of the Committee, I propose to put amendment No. 27 relating to clause 38. There being no objection, that course will be followed.
That the amendment be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary ChairmanSenator D. M. Devitt)
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the clause stand as printed.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman- Senator D. M. Devitt)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 39 (The polling).
– The Opposition opposes this clause. The purpose of clause 39 is to -
– Your business is opposition.
-Oh, do not sulk if you get a beating. Do not grizzle about it.
– You are grizzling now.
– You are still whinging. Stop it. You annoy me. The purpose of this clause is to provide that the polling booths be shut at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. I know the argument advanced is that 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. polling apparently- that is what the Chief Electoral Officer says, only apparently- works satisfactorily in Queensland and that if adopted other State governments will probably follow suit. It is a nice old probability. We come back to the same argument again. As long as people are compelled to vote they ought to be given the widest possible opportunity to vote. I have heard the argument advanced that the present system is unfair to those who work for the Electoral Office. That is an argument only for the staff- the polling clerks and the presiding officers- who have been there all day. But there is nothing to prevent the Electoral Office, if it is worried about long hours that its staff is working, from showing a little initiative and getting different people to count the vote. To put up this sort of sob sister stuff that we are working people employed by the Electoral Office for 15 or 16 hours I think is unreal. We could have 2 different sets of people. The quality of the person needed to strike people off the roll and to deliver ballot papers could be quite different from that of those who count the vote. That argument cuts no ice. After all, the people who ought to be most considered on polling day are the 6 million electors.
Every honourable senator has worked on polling booths. I suppose we all know that if the polling booths were open for 24 hours, at the last minute people would come along to vote. But some groups in the community would be disadvantaged by the proposed polling hours. My colleague Senator Baume will speak about some of those people. He adverted to them in his speech in the debate on the second reading of the Bill. There are people who could be disadvantaded because of their religious beliefs. Who has ever complained about the hours being from 8 a.m to 8 p.m.? 1 know one of the problems. I do not know whether it happens in other States, but in my State there seems to be a fairly large poll between 8 a.m. and midday; the booths then die down; and then there is a bit of a rush between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. I do not think that the 8 p.m. rush in my State is as bad as it used to be. I recall what happened many years ago. Before the advent of television and drive-in theatres, when there were the old-fashioned picture theatres, lots of people voted between 7. 1 5 p.m. and 7.45 p.m., when the movies started. Those days seem to have gone. Today people go to drive-ins, or get their entertainment in modern hotels or from television at home, and I do not think there is that rush at the last hour. The Opposition takes the simple view that if people are compelled to vote they ought to be given the greatest opportunity to vote.
It is alleged that the proposed system works satisfactorily in Queensland State elections. No evidence has been presented to me to indicate that the Queensland electors jump for joy about the beautiful hours on State polling day but bitterly resent those on Federal election day.
– You are never there.
– No evidence has been given to me by any of my colleagues. I have never heard this suggestion raised as part of the argument of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). The basic argument seems to be convenience and getting the result earlier. Mr Whitlam sits in Sydney and wants to know the result by 8 p.m., not by midnight. If honourable senators on the Government side were as confident as they make out that they are of being returned at the next election, why worry? We are quite confident that, no matter when the election is held, we will know by 10 p.m. that night that we are in by a large majority because the vote will be such. We are not worried about speeding up all these odd peripheral things in the electoral process. For those reasons and for the reasons advanced by a number of my colleagues in the second reading debate, the Opposition will vote against clause 39.
– I remind Senator Withers of the saying that pride comes before a fall. He will come a tremendous fall when we have an election. However, Mr Temporary Chairman, I do not think that is the issue.
– That is right; it is not.
– The issue is whether it is to the advantage of the people of Australia that on polling days the voting hours be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The old-fashioned cliches that have been drawn out for years in support of 8 p.m. closing have been propounded tonight by an equally old-fashioned Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers). On no occasion did he justify his remarks by producing any logical argument. He said that his Queensland colleagues had never told him of the advantages of 6 o ‘clock closing. I was astounded to hear him say that because they have told me of the advantages of 6 o’clock closing. Their colleagues in the respective parties have never been slow to point out the advantages to the workers, the poll clerks and the presiding officers as a result of 6 p.m. closing. It is all very well for Senator Withers to try to joke about the long hours being no disadvantage to the people who are there all day. Obviously he has shirked his responsibility to his Party and has never stayed at the booths all day. If he had, he would not be so flambuoyant about the whole question and would not speak so sarcastically and cynically about anything said in support of 6 o’clock closing. If he believes that the people of Australia would prefer to be able to go to the polls until 8 p.m. rather than that the polls should close at 6 p.m. I believe he is not trying to ascertain the wishes of the people.
I have done a fair bit of work at polling booths for both State and Federal elections and on every hand I have found that people, particularly the workers, complain about the 8 o’clock closing for Federal elections. Out came the hoary old argument that some people would not be able to get to the polling booths by 6 o’clock. Honourable senators will notice that no evidence has been adduced that that is the case. Senator Withers adduced no evidence when he made those outlandish statements. He leaves in the minds of people the idea that perhaps some voters in country areas cannot get to the polling booths by 6 o’clock. Of course, there is a simple solution to that problem, and that is for them to apply for postal votes. I call upon my Queensland colleagues on the Opposition side to deny that what I am saying is correct: There is no greater proportion of people who do not vote in the State elections than in the Federal elections, notwithstanding the fact that for the State elections the booths close at 6 p.m. whereas they close at 8 p.m. for the Federal elections
Perhaps I could be a little uncharitable to the Queenslanders on the Opposition side and remind them that one of their leaders in Queensland said recently that, if the Queensland Government said that there should be a certain proposition, irrespective of their party affiliations they should vote in accordance with the desire of the Queensland Parliament. Let us put that proposition to the test tonight and see how it works out. Country Party-Liberal Party governments have been in power in Queensland since 1957 and never on any occasion have they tried to alter the hours of voting which presently are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Obviously they favour those hours rather than 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. That is the test now, and we will see how the Opposition senators react to it. I believe it is entirely wrong to keep people, both paid staff and volunteers, working all day on the booths when it is unnecessary.
Senator Withers joked about the fact that even if the booths close at 6 o’clock instead of 8 o’clock people will want to vote at one minute past the closing hour. That is true. They will want to do that, but it is their responsibility to get to the booths within the prescribed hours. That is no argument for having the booths open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; nor is it an argument for having them open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The logic of the matter, particularly in these days of modern transport, is true that there is no reason- none has been advanced by Senator Withers on behalf of the Opposition- for continuing the 12-hour spread rather than cutting it down to a 10-hour spread. I believe that all the evidence supports the Government proposition. I hope that Opposition senators have discussed this question with their party officials or with the little people in their electorates and have ascertained their wishes. I believe that if a plebiscite were taken on this issue amongst people throughout Australia the overwhelming result would be that the hours of voting should be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. as is proposed in this Bill.
– The Committee is debating an amendment which proposes to exclude clause 39 of the Bill. If anything points up the cant and hypocrisy of Labor’s claim to electoral reform, it is this proposal in the Bill. If we look at what the Labor Party has said about electoral reform over the period of the year since I have been here, we find, turning to the second reading speech of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), that in discussing the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1973, the Minister said this about electoral laws: if they are manipulated to reflect the political interest of persons or parties- it would be a denial of the very essence of democracy and a travesty of the electoral process.
That is what the Minister said then.
We have here a proposal that is clearly designed to limit the right of some people to use the electoral process. This comes from the Party which talked about one vote one value, and the necessity for everyone to be able to exercise his or her vote and to have his or her rights at the polls. It is the Labor Party that is proposing to alter the hours of polling. No reason has been given for this proposal apart from the very valid reason that polling day is a difficult and long day for poll workers. It is a 12-hour day for party workers and the officers who man the polling places. I adverted to this aspect in my speech in the second reading debate and I do not want to go across the same ground entirely.
No point has been made to indicate any extra electoral justice or any great value to the electoral system in cutting back the hours of polling by the 2 hours proposed. I point out to Senator Milliner that it is perfectly possible to open the polling places later and to close them at 8 p.m. if what we are seeking is a shorter day for those who work at the polls. I think that Senator McLaren in his speech at the second reading stage referred similarly to the length of time people had to work. I will not argue about that. But I come back to the point that 6 p.m. closing of the polls has very special and definite disabilities for people of certain religious groups. Without going through the full argument again, I remind the Committee that for 27 weeks of the year 6 p.m. closing will prevent those people coming personally to polling places and voting because for 27 weeks of the year sunset occurs after 6 p.m. and those people will not be able to attend polling places.
I would like the Government and the Minister to express a view on what the Government ‘s attitude is towards the rights of the Seventh Day Adventists community in Australia and the rights of the Jewish community in Australia. I want him to express a view on what his Government sees as the virtue in disenfranchising them in the sense that they cannot come to the polls for any more than half of a year if 6 p.m. closing of the polls is brought in. It is for the Government, if it wants to change the electoral laws, to show us some advantage to Australia. We say again, as we have said before, that getting a quicker result is no justice, is meaningless and is, in the end, unimportant. What is most important is that we get the right election result so that everyone’s vote can count and everyone ‘s vote can be counted.
These 2 religious groups are not small groups in Australia. There are more than 70 000 people in the Jewish population and more than 50 000 in the Seventh Day Adventist population. They are aware of what is being proposed by the Labor Government and they are not happy about it. The Seventh Day Adventist community in this country is organised in what is called the Australian Division of Seventh Day Adventists. Its chief minister is known as the President of Seventh Day Adventists. The President of this Division is Pastor K. Frame, an eminent man, a man who is the leader of his church in Australia. He sent me a telegram today on this matter. 1 shall read that telegram to the Senate:
Re electoral amendment Bill. SO 000 Australian Seventh Day Adventists urgently request consideration of their plight and possible disenfranchisement if polls close at 6 p.m. Frame, President, Australian Division of Seventh Day Adventists. 148 Fox Valley Road, Wahroonga, New South Wales.
This is a matter of some concern to Seventh Day Adventists, lt is not just a matter to be lightly laughed off. The postal voting arrangements and facilities are not all they should be. We have seen in this Bill a concerted attempt to limit the right to a postal vote even further. The Seventh Day Adventist community wants a clear answer.
– When does it want to vote?
– Members of that community can vote after sunset. Let us be clear about this.
– I was not aware of that. I did not think they voted at all.
– Their sabbath runs from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. They do vote. They turn out and vote, given the chance. The Seventh Day Adventist community is an active involved community. It is almost a model community in the way it looks after its affairs. Those in Sydney will know that it runs probably the finest private hospital we have in that city. It is run with great dedication and care. The Seventh Day Adventists run a complete, well organised and most responsible community. They want answers as to where the electoral justice is in cutting the hours of polling back to 6 p.m.
Let us take the points made by Senator Milliner and Senator McLaren. Let us open the polling places later if we feel that there is some urgent need to cut down on the work on polling day for polling officers and party workers. The Seventh Day Adventists want to know why their right to vote should be abrogated. If it is just a matter of expediency to achieve quick election results, they are not going to be impressed, and that answer is just not good enough. The Government has to justify its proposal to cut back polling hours. Unless it can do so, we will persist in our intention to vote against what this Bill proposes and to seek to leave the hours of polling as they are now. As the hours of polling are at present, people can vote for almost all of the year because sunset almost never occurs after 8 p.m.
– Two arguments have been put forward on this clause suggesting why the hours of polling should not be reduced and the polls closed earlier than 8 p.m. The first argument was put by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) who claimed that the farming community would be inconvenienced. The other argument put by Senator Baume was that members of the Jewish faith and the Seventh Day Adventists church would be disadvantaged and inconvenienced. To use his own words, he said that they would be disenfranchised.
– That is not true.
– I live at Murray Bridge in South Australia where quite a large group of Seventh Day Adventists lives. None of those people has ever complained to me when an election has been held in summer that they, because of their faith, have not been able to attend polling booths. They have made arrangements for postal votes when an election is held in hours when they cannot attend in person. 1 have never had one complaint from those people and I know quite a few rather well. So Senator Baume cannot say that the people of his faith or of the Seventh Day Adventist faith will be disenfranchised if polling closes at 6 p.m. because it is quite in order for them to have postal votes. Postal votes would be required only when elections are held in the time of the year when daylight hours are longer and the sun sets after 6 p.m.
I think that Senator Withers has defeated his own argument. It will be recalled that he moved an amendment which sought the establishment of a special register for general postal voters under which people who find that they cannot get to a polling booth on election day can register as general postal voters. In putting his argument that farmers cannot attend polling booths, Senator Withers was defeated by his earlier amendment. My main concern is the comments made by Senator Withers about Government members using sob sister sort of stuff- they were his own words- in claiming that the long hours of work on election day had inconvenienced polling booth workers. I know a lot of people, including the presiding officers and poll clerks, who work in polling booths. As 1 pointed out in my speech on the second reading, election day is a very long day for those people. Some of them must be at the polling booths, or set out for the polling booths, at 5 a.m. or 5.30 a.m. to have those booths ready for polling to open at 8 a.m. In many cases they are there until 1 o’clock or 2 o’clock in the morning before they finish. I would say that those people are more inconvenienced than are the other people referred to- the 50 000 Seventh Day Adventists and the people to whom Senator Baume referred as belonging to his faith. The people who work at polling booths are more inconvenienced and disadvantaged, by reason of the fact that they have to work those very very long hours, than are those people who are unable to attend polling booths at certain times because of their religious beliefs. At least the people who, because of their religious beliefs, cannot attend at certain times have the option of applying for a postal vote whereas the people who work at polling booths have no option. It is not as Senator Withers would say and as he has said- that the returning officer should engage another group of people to count the votes after the booth closes at 8 ‘clock. In my experience most returning officers find it very difficult to obtain enough staff to man polling booths. They either have to get people from the Postmaster-General’s Department or rely on school teachers.
– You will not get very many at Monarto.
– We will get enough. That is another matter and I will debate that with Senator Steele Hall whenever he feels inclined to do so. What I am saying is that returning officers in most cases find it very difficult to get enough staff to man polling booths, lt has been suggested that booths could be manned in shifts, that one group of people could man the booths until 8 o’clock and another group of people could come in and work from 8 o’clock till midinght. We just would not be able to conduct a poll in those circumstances. Senator Withers threw that argument into the ring but he did not bolster it up by saying where we would find the people to do the work. In my opinion the Government is seeking to do something that ought to have been done many years ago, that is, to close the polling booths at 6 p.m. Senator Baume in his argument did not mention the position in Queensland and how the people get on in that State. Senator Milliner quite adequately pointed out that there is no public objection to State polling booths closing in Queensland at 6 p.m. He also pointed out that, even though there is a difference between polling hours in a Federal poll and a State poll in Queensland, there have not been fewer votes cast in State elections than in Federal elections; so he has completely answered that argument. I fully support the Government’s proposal in this case.
-Last week I spoke about the hours for which polling booths should remain open. It is a very easy matter to speak about shortening the hours in which people may vote. As Senator Milliner said, in Queensland we do have 6 o’clock closing for State polls. In Queensland we do not have a very large Jewish population. I think that is a fair statement. Is that correct?
– The aim of a government is to get as many people to vote as is possible and to make it as easy as possible for those people to vote. I think that in doing that the principle that should be adopted is that no section of the community is put at a disadvantage. It is very easy for those of us who can turn out to vote at any time on polling day to say in respect of those people who cannot do so: ‘Let them get a postal vote’. To get a postal vote is more difficult and more troublesome than just to go along and record one’s vote. In a democracy eveybody should have an equal right. Because of the special circumstances that attach to Seventh Day Adventists, the Jewish people and others who are not able, because of their religious beliefs, to go out at certain times, that is, before sunset, those people have to be considered. As a consequence of my speech on this subject last week a letter arrived in my office today from a Seventh Day Adventist who heard my speech being broadcast. He said: ‘You are quite right. Why should I and other people in the Seventh Day Adventist Church be put at greater inconvenience than any other Australian?’
Polling hours should be laid down so as to give everybody an equal opportunity. I do not think it is right for the rest of us to close off polling at a certain time. We should not say: ‘Do not worry about the Jewish people and the Seventh Day Adventists. Let them get a postal vote. ‘ It is not a matter of disfranchising them; it is a matter of making it an inconvenience. In this democracy, everybody should have an equal right in the recording of votes. If people have other reasons for wanting to cast a postal vote that is their business, but in the normal course of events everybody should have an equal opportunity.
So far as polling booth hours are concerned, it has been suggested that booths could be opened later in the day. I would say that one of the reasons for opening polling booths so early in the morning, that is at 8 o’clock, is to enable employees who are on their way to work to vote. That is a convenience that was created, I believe for the employed members of the community. If a convenience operates for those people at that time of the day there should be an opportunity at the other end of the day for people who cannot go to the polling booth before sunset.
In regard to people working at booths throughout the day, I must say I was very touched by the comments of my fellow Queenslander, Senator Milliner. He talked about the long hours that are worked. I suppose I have worked outside polling booths for as long as, if not longer than, anybody else in this chamber and I have worked from 8 o’clock in the morning until 8 o’clock at night handing out how to vote cards.
– You pay girls to hand out how to vote cards.
– I stand there. Not only that, but we do not find difficulty in getting workers to work for a good Party like the Liberal Party and the Country Party. We work from 8 o’clock in the morning until 8 o’clock in the evening and if necessary there are people there to act as scrutineers too. Although polling booths for Federal elections are open 2 hours longer than they are for State elections I have not heard any great moaning amongst the workers at the polling booths or heard them asking for the polling booths to be closed at 6 o’clock.
– Because you are never there.
– I am there and I have not missed an election for a long, long time. There has been a lot of weeping about the terrible amount of work to be done on election day but 1 have never heard any great moans and groans amongst the people who work at polling booths. To me the paramount thing is that in this democracy every citizen should have the right to vote in the same way as anybody else. It is not for me, it is not for honourable senators opposite or for anybody else who can go to a polling booth between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. to say that other people should be forced to cast a postal vote because they cannot attend until just before 8 p.m. I believe that in fairness everybody should be an equal chance to vote in the same way at the voting table. It is not for us to say that some section of the community, because of their religious beliefs and because they are a minority, should be made to vote in a different way to the rest of the community.
If the Jewish people and the Seventh Day Adventist people comprised half the population of this country and they objected to the present proposal- bear in mind that the President of the Seventh Day Adventist organisation has sent a telegram to Senator Baume and I received from a person in Western Australia a letter saying that he approved of what I said and wanting to know why his people should be put to this inconveniencethe Labor Government of this country would not be game to change the polling hours. But because these people are a minority group this Government thinks that it does not matter. As far as 1 am concerned everybody in this democracy counts the same and they have the same rights. In those circumstances I think that we should leave the voting hours at 8 o ‘clock in the morning until 8 o’clock in the evening.
-We on this side of the chamber are being accused of trying to deny people votes because we decided that we would like to have 6 o’clock closing at polling booths. What has not been mentioned tonight in this debate is the fact that 6 o’clock closing applies at the present time in any summer election in three of the 4 eastern States, because of daylight saving.
– The polling booth is open for 12 hours.
– That is not the argument to which I am referring. Senator Withers did not concern himself with religious groups. I am exercising my mind about the arguments being put up by Senator Baume and Senator Wood that some people cannot vote before sunset. Many thousands of such voters in the eastern States of Australia, with the exception of Queenslanders who have not yet been enlightened about the value and the advantages of daylight saving, cannot vote in an election held in summer when the polls close at 8 p.m.
I should like to see the same concern expressed by certain people in the community when municipal elections are held. Most municipal elections close at 6 p.m.; some even close at 4 p.m. This is done to stop the workers from casting their votes at all. These elections are held on a weekday to ensure positively that the elite of the town are the only people who can vote at them. The closing of polling booths at 6 p.m. is common for municipal elections and ensures that the persons who are working all day do not exercise their right to vote and the conservatives who have controlled these organisations for so many years continue to do so. Those conservatives will not tolerate any suggestion that a poll will occur on a Saturday. They are held on a weekday to make it more difficult for the ordinary person in the street, irrespective of his political or religious beliefs, to vote and to exercise his right. I have not heard Senator Baume speak on the disfranchisement of persons in those areas.
We are voting tonight on a situation which has existed for many years in Queensland. I have been there at State elections and have worked in that area with the Party to which I belong. I recall on one occasion that hotels did not open until such time as the voting had closed. After voting people lined up outside the hotels for a drink. Do honourable senators opposite suggest that this kind of thing should continue? Any person who has certain religious beliefs will not be disadvantaged by applying for a postal vote. This can be done now in the summer months in Victoria when daylight saving is in existence. Some people are unable to vote in the summer months because the sun has not set. Opposition senators are saying, in effect, that there can be no change in the law of this community because some minority groups will be hurt. I recall that Senator Baume said, in answer to an interjection during the second reading debate, that we should have a public holiday when an election is held. He said that elections should be held on a day of the week other than a Saturday so that everybody can be accommodated. He should exercise his mind about what such a situation would mean to the rest of Australia. He should exercise his mind about the inconvenience that would be caused to many thousands of shift workers who work 12-hour shifts. Many thousands of those workers still would not be able to attend the polling booth even if a public holiday were declared for an election. Such workers would still be inconvenienced to the extent of having to obtain a postal vote. Many thousands of people who have no problems in voting because of their religious beliefs still would not be able to vote on the Saturday because they work a 12-hour shift.
Many thousands of people travel interstate, perhaps on a holiday or for the purpose of visiting relatives, and before they leave their electorates they cast a postal vote. It is not a great inconvenience for any person who is likely to find himself in this position to make the normal application for such a vote and to cast his vote on the day prior to the election. It is utter nonsense to suggest that by shortening the hours of voting we are stopping people from casting a vote as they wish to do. There is no suggestion of that in any pan of this legislation. The proposed situation is no different from situations which exist at the moment. In State elections, as has been expressed by Senator Milliner, 6 o ‘clock closing already exists. In many municipal elections 6 o’clock closing already exists. The position in relation to summer time already exists in several States. The people concerned have been able to vote at elections by vitue of their right to cast postal votes. No great attempt is being made by the Government to stop any person who desires to vote in an election from doing so.
I think Senator Wood is talking a lot of humbug when he speaks against the proposal in respect to federal elections and will not, under any circumstances, attempt to change the election hours in Queensland. His excuse is that there are not many people of the Jewish faith in that State. It would not matter if there were only two as far as the arguments being put up by Senator Baume are concerned. Senator Wood is salving his conscience by saying that not many people of the Jewish faith live in Queensland. He received confirmation from Senator Baume on that. He says that the number of Jewish people there does not matter in a State election but it is important in a federal election because there is a far greater number of persons in the other States of the faith of Senator Baume and it is far more important in the other States because more people are concerned. The principle about which we are talking is not whether there are a few or a lot. The situation applies to many thousands of persons other than Seventh Day Adventists or Orthodox Jews who wish to exercise their right to cast a vote at an election. The situation applies to many thousands of workers. We can say, in effect, that we will keep the booths open for 24 hours because certain people in our community must go along and get postal votes as they cannot vote within the 12 hours that are allocated to them. This is a lot of nonsense and a lot of hypocrisy. No person in the community will be denied the right to vote because we are shortening the time allowable on voting day by 2 hours.
– I rise briefly to oppose any alteration in the voting hours to reduce the closing time from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m. As far as I can gather the chief argument, if not the only argument, submitted by the Government is that the alteration would make things speedier. I do not believe that is the real object of the voting exercise. Surely the object of a voting exercise is to make sure that all the people who may vote do vote and do so with the greatest amount of ease. It has been my experience at polling booths at provincial cities and towns that a voting pattern does exist in which voters present themselves basically in any of 3 periods. The voting periods during the day are the early morning period, the noon to 1.30 p.m. or 2 p.m. period, and the night period from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. To take the 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. period away is to take away one third of the major options which are there for the Australian voter to use. I believe that keeping the polls open until 8 p.m. affords the many tens of thousands of Australians who spend their Saturday afternoons in various sporting activities an opportunity to go to the polls without the race to get there before 6 p.m. I believe that the later closing time is of some real advantage to these scores of thousands of people.
I have noticed also a tendency to brush over the value of an 8 p.m. close to the farming community in the Australian scene. I do not think that it should be brushed over as it is. In this area the added 2 hours are of real significance not only to farmers themselves but also to share farmers, the thousands of casual workers, the people who work at silos and the road hauliers. Any number of people are involved directly and benefit by having a further 2 hours, at the end of a long working day at that time of the year, in which they can properly cast their vote. So I do not believe that that opportunity should be overlooked. 1 do not believe that the suggestion that there be made available to these people literally thousands more postal votes is a suitable solution. It involves the voter in a measure of difficulty, and it puts a greater burden on the workers at the polling booths.
I was impressed by Senator Milliner’s conviction that all was well in Queensland where 6 p.m. closing at State elections was proving so successful. I am not too sure of the grounds on which he actually decided his degree of success. It seems to me that, politically, in the Federal election which closed at 8 p.m. the success of his Party in Queensland was somewhat greater than it was in the State election when the polls closed at 6 p.m. I am not sure of Senator Milliner’s reason for suggesting that a 6 p.m. closing in Queensland was successful. If he is as thrilled as he purports to be with the situation in Queensland, let him remember that five out of the six States do not hold to this view. I feel that the opportunity of the Australian voter to vote is better served by leaving the closing time at 8 p.m.
– There has been a lot of discussion on clause 39 of the Bill. Clause 39 provides for the closing of the poll to take place at 6 p.m. in lieu of the existing 8 p.m. The Opposition has stated that the clause is to be opposed, thus retaining 8 p.m. as the closing of the poll. The argument that has generally been advanced is that people in country areas particularly cannot be expected to get to the polling booths by 6 p.m. and that a change to a closing time of 6 p.m. would result in considerable inconvenience to those people and possible disfranchisement in some cases. I understand that is the gravamen of the case put by Senator Scott.
Reference was made by Senator Baume and Senator Wood to members of religious groups who are unable to vote before sundown. Although mention was made of such persons being unable to attend personally at a polling booth in summer months if 6 p.m. closing were introduced, I should point out that there is provision for them to vote. That provision is in the existing section 85 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. That section provides that a person who, because of his religious beliefs, is precluded from voting throughout the hours of polling on polling day or throughout the greater part of those hours may apply for a postal vote. I suggest, with great respect to Senator Baume and Senator Wood, that if one took their case to its logical conclusion, if they wanted to give minority religious groups the same right as they give to other sections of the community, they would probably be moving for the deletion of section 64 of the Act which provides that the day fixed for polling shall be a Saturday or they would be moving an amendment to this clause so that the times of polling would be from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. or from noon to midnight. I suggest, with great respect, that that argument is equally as logical as their proposal that because members of a minority group cannot vote between 8 p.m. and 6 p.m. ipso facto they cannot apply for a postal vote.
The Government’s view is that polling hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., together with the absentee and postal voting facilities, provide ample opportunities for persons to record their votes. Whatever time were specified for the closing of the poll, even if it were 10 p.m., people would still leave it until the last minute to record their vote. Arguments about the number of people who vote between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., I suggest, are not valid in trying to establish a case for the retention of 8 p.m. closing. We believe that if the 6 p.m. closure were introduced, as it was in Queensland some years ago- it has not been altered since the Country and Liberal Parties came to office in Queensland in 1 95 7, which is 1 8 years ago- the electors would adjust to this closing hour without any undue inconvenience. As has been said by everyone, an important byproduct of the earlier closing hour is that it will enable the counting processes to commence 2 hours earlier. Consequently, the progressive results of the counting of the first preference votes for which the nation is waiting will be known much earlier on the night of polling day. For all those reasons the Government opposes the Opposition ‘s attitude and seeks the retention of the clause.
That clause 39 stand as printed.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary ChairmanSenator D. M. Devitt)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
-At the outset I indicate that earlier todayI advised Senator Greenwood, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, that I proposed to speak on a subject matter in which he has an interest. I understand there was some misunderstanding last Thursday evening when I was not present. I wish to bring to the notice of the Senate a matter that was raised in this chamber on Wednesday 5 March during the debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1974-75. Senator Greenwood proposed an amendment to the motion that the Bill be read a second time. He moved that the following words be added to the motion:
But the Senate is concerned at the dangers to Australia’s security.
Some discussion took place as to the validity of Senator Greenwood’s amendment to the motion. Subsequently you, Mr President, ruled that it was an appropriate amendment and Senator Greenwood accordingly continued to debate the matter. He moved that amendment to enable him to utilise the opportunity to vilify the Party of which I am a member, and to discredit the Ministers of the Crown and the present Government. I believe, as a consequence, he was hoping that this would have the effect of undermining the confidence of the Australian people in the present Government. I replied to his remarks the following day, 6 March. I thought that might well have settled the matter. I think it is necessary to remind the Senate of the debate which took place by recounting the principal evidence that Senator Greenwood relied upon. His remarks could only be described as an incredible attack on the Australian Labor Party generally, its subsidiaries, members of the Australian Labor Party, the members and the Ministers of the Crown, and the Government as a whole. Senator Greenwood’s remarks commence on page 694 of Hansard of 5 March. He relied for his argument on a series of articles which appeared in the ‘Sunday Observer’ on 23 February. The series purported to be an interview with and a story given by a Mr Maxmillian Wechsler who claimed to be a former Australian Security Intelligence Organisation agent. I might point out, for those who are not aware of it, that the ‘Sunday Observer’ is a publication of Maxwell Newton, a person who is known to have a deep abiding blind hatred of the Australian
Labor Party. One only has to read the various political comments in that newspaper to come to that conclusion. Notwithstanding that, Mr Newton ‘s newspaper was prepared to publish such an article. I want to refer to only one or two headlines. One headline states: ‘Max The Spy Tells His Chief. This purports to indicate that this person, who alleged that he was an agent of ASIO, decided that he would see his security chief and resign at 10.30 a.m. on Thursday in a room on the 15th floor of the Melbourne Southern Cross Hotel. The newspaper goes on to tell us, with great glaring headlines:
AS10’s super agent exposes the treachery poised to ruin us. Terror plot to take over Australia!
The comment by the ‘Sunday Obsever’ is interesting because this was the sort of atmosphere that Senator Greenwood attempted to recreate in the Senate on 5 and 6 March. I will read to honourable senators a brief comment by the ‘Sunday Observer’ which is tantamount to an editorial. It is entitled: ‘Stop The Rot Now’. It states:
The astonishing spy-and-tell disclosures exclusively reported in the Sunday Observer today must not stop here.
They must be only the beginning- the first, dramatic step towards stopping a group of blood-thirsty fanatics from overthrowing the established Government.
The startling revelations by ASIO agent Max Wechsler have challenged- in a way that no one before him has dared- all right-thinking Australians to consider the future of their country.
They are a challenge to the Australian Labor Government to act to expose the radical cancer growing in its own ranks.
Proof is not needed that left-wing fanatics are a positive threat to our society- they’ve convicted themselves from their own mouths. The Government must act.
Wechsler’s act of conscience is a beginning to which others must respond.
His incredible story is a weapon that must now be used by elected politicians, by Parliament, by the Government in Canberra, for defence against these extremists.
Obviously Senator Greenwood decided to pick up the suggestion that this incredible weapon be used by elected politicians, lt continues with headlines such as: Sex, Sabotage, Crime Makes Max’s World’. I do not say this in a disparaging way to the gentleman concerned, but on reading the details of these articles one can only draw the’ conclusion that the only person concerned with the sex, sabotage and crime that made Max’s world was in fact Max himself. Nevertheless, a very responsible member of the Senate, a former Minister of the Crown and the first law officer of the Commonwealth during the time that he was Attorney-General, has seen fit to have communication with this person, evidently travelling to another State, and was thoroughly satisfied, according to his own words which are recorded in
Hansard, with this person. I quote from Senator Greenwood’s words as reported in Senate Hansard of 5 March 1 975 on page 694:
I have spoken to Max Wechsler and have spent many hours listening to and recording his story. I believe he was regularly reporting to ASIO and was paid by ASIO.
Then he went on to say that he was satisfied concerning other matters, too. On the basis of that and the information that he had received from this gentleman he attacked my Party, Ministers of the Crown and the Government as a whole. Subsequent to the statements made by Senator Greenwood, we found that he achieved a certain degree of success because the Melbourne ‘Sun’ on 6 March 1975 carried a small article entitled: I talked to spy: Senator’. It retails the fact that Senator Greenwood has taken advantage of the opportunity to speak to this person to find out the sort of information which Senator Greenwood conceded was similar to, or at least substantiated by, the reports in the ‘Sunday Observer’ of 23 February.
In the ‘Australian’ of 6 March 1975 there was report entitled: ‘Communist plot warning ignored’. It tells us that the shadow AttorneyGeneral, Senator Greenwood, in a prepared statement said that the organisation had close links with the Australian Labor Party. On the same day there was a report in the Melbourne Age’ entitled: ‘Armed Takeover Plans: Senator’.
– It is really an achievement to get it into the ‘Age ‘.
– The honourable senator set out to achieve a particular object and he succeeded to a limited degree. This article relates that on the previous night, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Greenwood, had given details of what he had described as ‘a plan to take control of Australia by force of arms by Trotskyite elements in the Australian Labor Party.’ I repeat that the whole thrust, of course, was against the Labor Party.
Then on 7 March, the following day, there was an article in the ‘Australian’ with the substantial heading: ‘Cairns Accused of Aiding Communists. ‘ A diatribe similar to the previous one was repeated. It was only a matter of repeating what the senator has said on the previous 2 days in this House. On 7 March, also in the Melbourne ‘Sun ‘ there was an article headed ‘Labor Three “help Trotsky groups “. ‘ It singles out 3 Ministers of the Crown, namely, the Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Dr J. F. Cairns, the Minister for Environment, Dr Cass, and the present AttorneyGeneral, Mr Enderby. There is a further report. I wish to refer these matters to the Senate because I think it is important to understand the sort of coverage that this outburst by the former Attorney-General received in the Australian Press. In the Melbourne ‘Sun’ of 1 1 March 1975 there appeared an article entitled: ‘“kill” threats to ASIO man- Arab terrorists’. Alongside that article is another article entitled: ‘ “Belief” in his story’. The article attributes words to the former Attorney-General in which he said that he believed Wechsler. The article continues:
I have spoken to Max Wechsler and spent many hours listening to and recording his story. I believe he was regularly reporting to ASIO and was paid by ASIO.
That is the sort of coverage that this matter received, which was obviously the intention of Senator Greenwood in the first instance. I believe that on 6 March I effectively answered Senator Greenwood but there was a flow on. Between that time and last Thursday I was overseas for a brief period. I received the same sort of communication that my colleague Senator Melzer received from the Women’s Abortion Action Campaign. Senator Melzer read a communication from that organisation into Hansard and Senator Greenwood understandably responded. I quote Senator Greenwood ‘s words as reported in Senate Hansard of 17 April 1975 on page 1113:
I went to Tasmania to interview him. His name was Wechsler. He had been a member of the Socialist Youth Alliance and the Socialist Workers’ League, and he assured me- and I believe him- that he had also been a member of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation reporting to that organisation on the activities of these bodies. There was no manufacturing. I still retain the tapes of the information which he gave to me and if anyone in responsible positions desires to listen to those tapes they are available.
Evidently Senator Greenwood was endeavouring to fortify the outlandish accusations that he had made against persons in the Australian Labor Party and in the Government of this country on 5 and 6 March 1975. Between the time that he first launched his attack on 5 and 6 March 1975, and the time that he replied to Senator Melzer on 17 April 1975, Senator Greenwood overlooked some rather pertinent information which should have been made available to him having regard to the fact that he was so closely allied to Mr Max Wechsler. In the Melbourne Sun’ on 14 March 1975, which is no more than 6 days after the second part of the attack in the Senate, there appeared an article entitled: “ASIO Man” Remanded’. The article states:
A man charged with having carried a loaded rifle in Lonsdale St. told the City Court yesterday he was an ‘under cover secret agent’.
I am a secret agent for ASIO and can only talk to ASIO officers. Because of publicity over the past 2 days, I need police protection,’ Max Millan Wechsler, 24, told Mr J. M. Duggan S.M. ‘I am hiding from the Palestine Liberation Group’.
Wechsler of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to having carried a loaded firearm in a town, and to having carried a firearm without a permit. Sen. Constable J. O Toole, of the Russell St. crime car squad, told the court Wechsler had told him after being arrested outside Myer’s yesterday:
I am going to fly out of Australia in a few days and seek refuge in Israel. I am an under cover agent for ASIO’. Wechsler told Mr Duggan: ‘I think I will need a lawyer. ‘ He was remanded to appear in the City Court today. Bail of $500 with a similar surety was allowed.
Mr Wechsler is reported as having said: ‘I am a secret agent’. He did not say: ‘I am a former secret agent’. I wish to direct the attention of the Senate briefly to the Senate Hansard of 5 March 1975. After telling the Senate that he had close contact with this gentleman and had been with him for hours listening to him and recording his story, Senator Greenwood, as reported at page 694, said:
I believe he was regularly reporting to ASIO and was paid by ASIO. … He has terminated his agent’s role because he is concerned- concerned about the Government’s inaction in respect of the matters which he has supplied to it.
That was on 5 March. In the ‘Sunday Observer’ of 23 February the same gentleman retailed the story of how he terminated his arrangements with ASIO. In the Senate Hansard of 5 March Senator Greenwood read a copy of the gentleman’s resignation. It reads:
I decided to resign as an agent of ASIO. I feel that my efforts were rendered useless due to the attitudes of the present Labor Government towards internal and external national security.
I joined ASIO voluntarily and resigned voluntarilywithout any outside pressure.
That was as late as 5 September. Senator Greenwood substantiated that on 5 March. Yet on 13 March- because it was the day after when a report appeared in the Melbourne ‘Sun’- this self-same gentleman said: ‘I am a secret agent of ASIO ‘. He was still claiming to be one then.
In the Melbourne ‘Age ‘of Saturday, 15 March 1975, there appeared an article headed ‘Man from ASIO fined over firearm ‘. It stated:
A man who told police he was an undercover agent for ASIO was lined $200 on firearm charges in Melbourne Magistrate ‘s Court yesterday.
Max Wechsler, 24, of no fixed address, was charged with carrying a loaded rifle in Lonsdale Street, on Thursday.
He was also charged with carrying a firearm without a permit in Lonsdale Street the same day.
Wechsler pleaded guilty.
Senior Constable J. OToole, of the Russell Street crime car squad, told the court he saw Wechsler sitting in a car with a rifle beside him. 0 ‘Toole said the rifle had an unusual feature in that it was like a machine gun.
He told mc he was an undercover agent for a secret organisation, ASIO, and that his life was in danger, ‘O Toole said.
He said he had the rifle in the car because he was on the way to get a permit from the police.’
Mr W. E. Guy, SM, fined Wechsler $100 in default 10 days imprisonment, on each charge.
It is a serious matter, carrying a semi-automatic weapon in the heart of the city, ‘Mr Guy said.
There was a further report in the Melbourne Sun’ of 15 March which is only more or less a reprint of much of what is in the article I have just read. That article deals with the self same gentleman whom Senator Greenwood relied on extensively for his attack on the Labor Party, individual members, Ministers of the Crown, and the Government as a whole in an attempt to undermine the confidence of the people in the Government.
– Did he not also want political asylum?
– Yes, I know, but not here. I understand he is going to Israel. 1 understand that Senator Greenwood relied on one other article for some support of this outlandish claims, and that was a pamphlet entitled ‘A New Threat to Labor’ published in 1974 by a John Russell and a John McArthur. I note from his remarks in the Senate Hansard, for reasons best known to himself, Senator Greenwood described these gentlemen as graduates: I do not know what that means, whether it is supposed to improve their status at witnesses, as with the statement that Mr Max Wechsler was said to be an ASIO agent. I want to make the point that that pamphlet would have no official status or standing in our Party. It is an obscure pamphlet, and this would not be the first occasion that I have known like pamphlets to be distributed in similar fashion in the past. So I would not be unduly concerned about that pamphlet if I were Senator Greenwood.
Senator Greenwood relied basically on Mr Max Wechsler’s statement to support his outlandish claims about the Australian Government and the members of the Party to which I belong. This raises a number of pertinent questions. Apart from what I said on 6 March, the credibility of the person on whom Senator Greenwood relied so heavily has to be charitable about it, been proved beyond all doubt to be suspect. I repeat that he was one concerned with sex, crime and sabotage, and I repeat that the only person who seemed to be engaged in that was the self same man, because I invite honourable senators to read the articles that I have here; but he is a convicted criminal.
This poses a number of questions. I realise that in normal circumstances one could not expect to ask these questions and, if one asked them, one could not expect a reply. There are at least 30 references to this matter, apart from Senator Greenwood’s reference, in which the gentleman himself, namely Wechsler, has claimed publicly to have been an agent of ASIO. Senator Greenwood has supported this and has substantiated it in his own way. Therefore, it is not a secret any more. The sorts of questions I think need to be answered would be directed, I presume, to the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) through the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator James McClelland) who represents the AttorneyGeneral in this chamber. First, was Wechsler ever an ASIO agent? Secondly, if he was an agent, was he a full-time agent? This is what he claimed, according to the newspaper report to which Senator Greenwood seemed to give some credence. Thirdly, did he receive $ 100 per week for his services to ASIO if he was so employed, plus a $36 per week sickness benefit cheque, as he was reported to have claimed on page 15 of the ‘Sunday Observer’ published on 23 February 1975?
This is a serious matter. I was concerned at the time not so much that Senator Greenwood had attacked the Australian Labor Party or this Government- that is politics- but that a man of his standing and status should have done so. Whether we like him or not the fact remains that he has standing and a status in this Australian Parliament. When he is willing to rely on that sort of evidence to support such a vile attack on individuals, on the Party to which I belong, and on this Government, I think it calls for strong measures to be taken to have the matter clarified beyond all doubt and laid to rest once and for all. These allegations have been made by one who I thought would have shown much more responsibility than he has shown. As I have said, on this occasion he said that he was concerned about the threat to the security of this nation. Likewise, I am concerned. I am concerned about the fact that the security of this country is in jeopardy while people are able to misuse and abuse the privilege of this Senate to attempt to undermine a Government which has been elected twice within 14 months. The honourable senator is still not prepared to acknowledge the will of the people but is prepared to resort to this tactic- to create fear in the minds of people- to endeavour to secure support.
This technique is not new. It is a technique we have seen in recent years, particularly in the 1950s. I think we can expect a revival of that type of tactic in the future. Therefore, I hope that the Minister representing the Attorney-General, if he cannot answer my questions this evening, will at least obtain answers to my questions, as I believe that it is critically important that they be answered in the interests of this Government, this Parliament and the people of Australia.
– I am not accustomed to speaking as late as this. I should have thought that the remarks of Senator Brown would have evinced some response from Senator Greenwood, who was responsible for the original outrageous charges surrounding this man. I think I will call him by the correct German pronunciation of his name- Wechsler- because that sounds more sinister and is more in keeping with the atmosphere with which Senator Greenwood sought to surround this extraordinary case. Since we are dealing with horrendous Marxist plots, perhaps Senator Greenwood will forgive me for quoting Marx.
– Karl Marx. I am sorry that I do not have the text in front of me. I have not got his ipsissima verba. As I recall the text- I will explain to Senator Greenwood how I happen to have some familiarity with this text- Marx said that history repeats itself, that what occurs first as tragedy repeats itself as farce. In the history of this Parliament we had a spy hunt, a really fantastic scare based on a character named Petrov.
The Petrov case had its transparently ludicrous side. It is all right, Senator Greenwood, I will not be long. I notice from perusing Hansard that Senator Greenwood wasted some hours of the time of the Senate with his fantastic charges. I can promise him that I will be no more than 10 minutes. He need not stay if he does not wish to do so. We had our fantasy of 20 years ago, but still it was a tragedy. The Petrov case was a tragedy even though, as I have said, it had its ludicrous side. It had the effect of destroying a great man in the person of Dr Evatt. It had the effect of splitting a great party- the Australian Labor Party. It had the effect of perpetuating in office a government which was unworthy to run this country. If one looks at it historically, it had the result of producing a series of disastrous Liberal Prime Ministers who preceded the accession of a government which came to the rescue of this country. So for all its ludicrous side, we may regard the Petrov case as a tragedy.
However, Mr Menzies’ Petrov has been replaced by Senator Greenwood ‘s Wechsler, and I suggest that this is an example of what Marx said- that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce. I have been looking at the way in which this great expose by Senator Greenwood was launched. It makes quite astonishing reading. It says a lot for Senator Greenwood’s hide that he is even prepared to sit here and listen to a repetition of what he said about this man who exposed the awful connections between the revolutionaries in Australiathe members of the Socialist Workers League, I think it is called- and the Australian Labor Party. Looking back at the Senate Hansard of 5 March 1975 I find this marvellous melodramatic opening by Senator Greenwood. There should be a roll of drums to introduce it. He said:
There is in Australia a young man named Max Wechsler. He is a Czech refugee from the Russian communism which was so forcefully re-imposed on Czechoslovakia in 1 968.
So far so good- even perhaps true. But as the story of Max Wechsler unfolds it hardly bears out the fine promise of drama and tragedy adumbrated by the honourable senator in his opening remarks. Senator Greenwood went on to say that he had been cloistered with this Wechsler for some hours listening to his horrifying story of the threat to the security of this country. It is really a touching picture of a hardboiled, sceptical Queen’s Counsel, cloistered with this obviously pathetic, psychological misfit and swallowing his outlandish story. That is exactly what he did.
What did Senator Greenwood seek as reinforcement for this belief in this outrageous story? He sought none other than the highly authentic report of that conservative, careful, documented newspaper, the ‘Sunday Observer’ which every other reader of newspapers in Australia knows to be a muck-raking, gutter rag. Senator Greenwood accepted this newspaper’s highly coloured story of this man going to bed with women in order to get their secrets from them. We remember a few weeks ago Senator Greenwood standing in this place and being outraged by the suggestion that Australian journalists and the Australian party that went to Russia might have been bugged. To him the mere allegation that this had happened was proof that it had happened. This was the most extraordinary, fantastic James Bond story. Perhaps we have to go back further to Rider Haggard and to people we can hardly remember who wrote these extraordinary stories. To Senator Greenwood this sort of thing was gospel when it came from this extraordinary young, neoritic, unverified character named Max Wechsler.
As he goes on to unfold the story we find that Max Wechsler had infiltrated one organisation which constituted a threat to the very foundations of Australian society. As Senator Greenwood told the story, Max Wechsler says that in Victoria there are about 50 or 60 activist members and several hundred supporter members of this organisation. Of course, these people were mostly young people. As a matter of fact, I have met this type of young man, and in order to show my familiarity with the problem, I inform Senator Greenwood that at the age of 20 years I belonged to just such an organisation. I recall that at the height of our power, when we really constituted a threat to Australia, there were about fifteen of us. We were doctrinally pure. In fact, whenever our group rose beyond the size of about 20 members we used to split up because we were not doctrinally pure enough. I have no doubt that at that time- in fact I know- I was on the files of what was then the predecessor of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, but I would have been terribly flattered, as would all my colleagues, to have been thought to be any sort of a menace to the security of Australia. know that in those days the security forces regarded people like me and my like as something of a jest, some sort of a joke. In all societies there have been romantic young men and romantic young women who thought that they could take society by storm, that they could rush up to the barricades. I have met a lot of them today who usually come from the more affluent families and who are ready to drive up to the barricades in their fathers’ Volvos. These are mostly the sort of people whom Senator Greenwood heard from Mr Wechsler constituted a great threat to the very fabric of Australian society. Senator Greenwood seriously stood up in this place and tried to scare the Australian Senate and the Australian people with the notion that we should not sleep easily in our beds because of the presence of these people who had been infiltrated by this patriotic young man, this young man Wechsler who had experienced the horrors of communism in Czechoslovakia. He had come to Australia presumably to expiate his crimes or his illusions. There is the fact that for a while he had believed.in the romantic dream that you can overturn existing society by storming the barricades. So he decided to join ASIO and expose this awful plot. He told his amazing story. He even had the code name of Bosch. Perhaps that was misread. It may have been something else. He got so far in the organisation of this terrorist outfit that was a threat to Australian society that he even became a member of the elite 8-man brains trust. I ask honourable senators to contemplate the awful threat to Australia of this 8-man brains trust, consisting of 18, 19 and 20- year-old boys and girls ready to roll up to the barricades in their fathers’ Volvos, Mercedes or Jaguars.
As I will show a little later, this obviously neurotic, unbalanced young man sat himself down with Senator Greenwood and told him this terrible story of a double life, of taking girls to bed for sex and information. He regaled Senator Greenwood with this horrifying tale, and Senator Greenwood then came into this Parliament and regaled us with it. Of course, after a while the real purpose of the exercise became clear when Senator Greenwood started dropping a few names which Wechsler had dropped, namely, that when he was in any trouble, or when the wild revolutionaries with whom he associated were in any trouble, all they had to do was to get on the blower to Dr Cairns, Dr Cass or Mr Enderby. He did not mention wild revolutionaries such as Senator Poyser, Senator McAuliffe or Senator Milliner; but, undoubtedly, the implication was that there were people in the Labor Party with whom any cloak and dagger men who wanted to bomb Australia could get in touch, and they would fix it all up with the police and conceal all these crimes. Unfortunately for Senator Greenwood, the bubble finally burst. For this poor unfortunate man- I say this advisedly- I have nothing but pity because, after all, the extremities of political life attract the ratbags, the misfits, the neurotics and the dropouts. We would be just as entitled to accuse Liberal Party members of being identified with the League of Rights, because a few madmen on the Right seek them out and infiltrate them, as Senator Greenwood is in branding us with the extremists of the Left because a few of them have infiltrated- as I have no doubt they do- the Labor Party.
Is the honourable senator suggesting that there is some sort of Wassermann test that political parties can conduct on those seeking to join them, that we can take some sort of test to show that they are pure and uninfected by marxism, fascism or whatever else, or that there is some way in which a political party can protect itself from any infection? I suggest that a healthy party such as ours can stand a few ratbags, a few infiltrators and a few misguided idealists who one day will grow out of their mistakes, and that an attempt such as Senator Greenwood has made to brand this Party as being something like a party suffering from gangrene because a few of these people might have happened to get into it was, if not a dishonest exercise, a paranoid exercise. It all came undone because one day his knight in shining armour, his infiltrator, his honest man seeking to expose the Labor Party for its infection with communism, finally showed himself to be the poor misguided ratbag that he was. He was picked up in the street, carrying a rifle, and gave an hysterical, disjointed and obviously paranoid story to the police who arrested him. Senator Greenwood’s exposer of the Labor Party was exposed for the poor, pathetic character that he was. 1 think that, as matter of common decency, having seen what became of his exposer of the Labor Party, Senator Greenwood might now stand up in this place here and admit that he was deluded and that he needs much better evidence than Wechsler ‘s in order to flay the Labor Party.
– I have listened with interest, for approximately 40 minutes, to the pathetic defence by 2 members of the Australian Labor Party to a challenge to members of the Labor Party to explain certain conduct on their part which I had felt was never going to be answered. What an inadequate answer one did receive some six or seven weeks later. I imagine that Senator Brown must still feel dissatisfied. He asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General whether Mr Wechsler ‘s allegations that he was an agent of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation were or were not true. He wanted to know whether what I had related to the Senate about Mr Wechsler ‘s revelations that he had sat in on various bodies so that he could report to ASIO were or were not true. If Senator Brown was concerned I should have thought that he would have obtained an answer from the Minister representing the Attorney-General.
I believe that Mr Wechsler was such an agent and I believe that that gave weight to what I alleged. But the Minister representing the Attorney-General was not prepared to say one word in confirmation or denial of that allegation. I believe that he was not prepared to do so because he knows that the allegations that Mr Wechsler was paid by ASIO was in fact the truth and that ASIO was concerned to know what was happening in the organisations referred to because ASIO believed it was in the national interest and part of its charter to protect Australia from sabotage, espionage and subversion that it should know what was happening in those organisations. I hope that Senator Brown will pursue his inquiries in due course and endeavour to find out from the Minister representing the Attorney-General whether Mr Wechsler was a representative of or employed by ASIO.
We did not receive from Senator James McClelland, who is the representative in this chamber of the Attorney-General, any confirmation or denial of the allegations which were made by Mr Wechsler and which I faithfully reported to the Senate, expressing my concern about them. I think it is a matter of relevance to know whether there is an organisation in existence which is planning, scheming and contriving to create a revolutionary situation in this country. It may be fashionable- certainly it may be fashionable with the present Government- to decry prospective revolutionary situations, but there are many democratic countries in this world which have lost their democracy because an internal revolutionary situation has developed in respect of which the Government of the day was not alerted. I should have thought that this would have been a matter about which Mr Wechsler could have been concerned. He certainly said to me that he was concerned. I have expressed his concern. But from the Minister representing the Attorney-General we have had tonight not one word of confirmation nor one word of denial.
I interpolate with the expressed hope that Mr Wechsler is still alive. He expressed several times to me his concern about his future. He was, as the record indicates, convicted of the offence of possessing a firearm. I do not believe that he possessed that firearm simply because he wanted to create an impression. Maybe there was an element of that, along with the fear which he expressed, but I have not heard from Mr Wechsler for five or six weeks and he spoke to me or sought to speak to me many times before then. I simply express the hope that he is alive. I hope that the Government is concerned. I have expressed my fears, without any publicity to the Press, to the Commonwealth Police. I hope that he is alive.
I was concerned, as other people have been concerned, about the activities in this country of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Mr Wechsler was concerned. He was concerned about the fact that people who wanted to push and to promote the objectives of the PLO appeared to have an inordinate influence within the Australian Labor Party. He instanced, for example, the fact that the Young Labor Association had been involved with pro-PLO activities.
He instanced that in 1 974 the Young Labor Association had expelled its Socialist Youth Alliance members because they were promoting PLO objectives. He was concerned that the State Council of the Australian Labor Party had readmitted these expelled members as a result of the persuasion which had been brought to bear by Dr Cairns, Dr Cass and Mr Enderby. I wait to hear a denial of that allegation. I wait to hear an explanation as to why those persons promoted the objectives of these expelled Young Labor Association members so that they were readmitted to the Australian Labor Party. I wait to hear what will be the reaction to the statements of Mr Hawke only yesterday when he criticised Mr Hartley and his activities on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
Is not the view expressed by Mr Hartley the view expressed by those expelled members of the Young Labor Association who were readmitted into the Australian Labor Party because Dr Cairns, Dr Cass and Mr Enderby were persons alleged to have urged their case before that organisation? If that fact is not so- my basis for it is what Mr Wechsler told me and in his position he ought to have known that- I wait for someone, Dr Cairns, Dr Cass or Mr Enderby or someone on their behalf, to deny it. The Minister representing Mr Enderby in this chamber spoke tonight. He knew when he spoke that he was responding to my allegations as reiterated tonight by Senator Brown. I might have expected him to canvass this particular question, but he did not advert to it. I suspect that he did not advert to it because the fact is incontravertible and the record discloses that Mr Enderby has been interested in pursuing and supporting the activities of those expelled Young Labor Association members.
I did not resurrect this issue tonight. I had made my statement, as I felt my concept of the public interest required me to do, in March this year but Senator Brown brought it to the forefront again. I suspect that Senator Brown has not been satisfied with the answers he has received from Senator James McClelland, and I suspect that Senator James McClelland will be called upon to come into the Senate again and to give another answer, not to satisfy me but to satisfy that other element in the Labor Party which wants to ensure that it has the information and the material in order to score points off other elements in the Labor Party back bench. All I am concerned about is that the security of Australia should be safeguarded. I am reassured to know that even under a Labor Government, and possibly without much assistance from that Labor
Government, there are people in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation who are still looking after Australia’s security. I hope that even though they get little encouragement from this Government they will continue their work. I therefore feel that Mr Wechsler has contributed, has helped, towards the exposure in this country of something that ought to be exposed. There will be a day when we will be indebted to these people for their courage in exposing things which a lot of noisy people do not want to have exposed.
Senator JAMES MCCLELLAND (New South Wales- Minister for Manufacturing Industry)- Mr President, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. Senator Greenwood suggested that I have dodged the questions that were asked of me by Senator Brown. I should have thought he would have had the delicacy, in the light of what happened to his informant, to be content with the oblique answers I gave about Mr Wechsler. But if he wants it more directly, I shall tell him this: Mr Wechsler was never, as suggested by Senator Greenwood on 5 March, a paid employee–
– I rise on a point of order, Mr President.
-You wanted the information; now you will not have it.
– Order! I call the Senate to order. Senator Greenwood, on the point of order.
– My point of order is that Senator James McClelland rose to make a personal explanation. With respect, he is going beyond that. He is giving substantive information which he seeks to give in this guise only because there cannot be any reply as it is being given by way of a personal explanation. I think the practice of the Senate ought to be recognised. If I have misrepresented him, certainly I think he should be given an opportunity to reply. But I submit, Mr President, that to come out with rebuttal material, which is what he is doing, is not what personal explanations are designed to do.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr President. Senator James McClelland sought to make a personal explanation because he was misrepresented. He claimed he was misrepresented in statements that he was not prepared to reply to Senator Brown as to whether Mr
Wechsler was a member of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and the whole argument was destroyed, because the man concerned was not a member of ASIO. In making his personal explanation, Senator James McClelland is showing that he is prepared to give the information. As he was earlier maligned for not giving the information, and is now seeking to justify himself in that respect, I think this is the most valid personal explanation we have had in this chamber for some time.
– My ruling is that Senator James McClelland sought the leave of the Senate to address the Senate, and leave was granted without any dissent. Senator McClelland will continue.
– I should have preferred to have left my reply oblique, but now I have to spell the information out specifically. My information is- and this comes from ASIO, if Senator Greenwood wants to know- that Mr Wechsler was a casual informant, paid casually and not taken seriously. He was a man who, like many hundreds of people who give information to ASIO, was not believed without corroboration. ASIO regarded him as an unbalanced character, a man who was always claiming that his life was threatened, that his house had been burgled and who was not taken seriously in respect of the information that he gave to ASIO. Perhaps the reason why Senator Greenwood has not heard from Mr Wechsler for a long time- and this is a piece of information that he has forced me into giving- is that Mr Wechsler has been, on my information, in a mental institution in Queensland for some time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
What procedures exist to ensure that all members of the Australian Public Service dealing directly with potential clients of the welfare system (a) know what benefits are available, and (b) communicate this information accurately, courteously and expeditiously.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In the last 1 8 months, over 400 Departmental officers have undergone these forms of training.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
In announcing the introduction of the Appeals Tribunals it was stated that the ‘The Tribunals in each State would consist of two independent members, usually a lawyer and a welfare worker and a full time member seconded from the Department’.
The Departmental Officers were chosen as members of the Tribunals because of their technical expertise in the area of assessment of Benefits and Pensions. They are:
N.S.W. Mr. D. E. Franklin
Vic. Mr G.J. Morley
Qld Mr J. J. O’Connor
S.A. Mr R.L.Tilbrook
W.A. Mr M. Davies
Tas. Mr G. J. Morley
A.C.T. Mr D.E. Franklin
The independent members of the Tribunals are:
New South Wales (i) Ms C. Baker. Ms Baker is a North Sydney Councillor who has been a teacher in low income areas in Sydney. She is a member of the State Consultative Committee on Child Care and for the last five years has been involved in the Community Aid Group in North Sydney.
Victoria (i) Ms E. Morgan. Ms Morgan is a social worker with the Collingwood Council and has been very active in welfare rights. Before joining the Collingwood City Council Ms Morgan worked at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
Queensland (i) Mr M. Kane. Mr Kane is a Brisbane solicitor who has been in private practice for nearly twenty-five years.
South Australia (i) Ms M. Nyland. Ms Nyland is an Adelaide Barrister and Solicitor with extensive experience in social legislation.
Western Australia (i) Dr V. Brady. Dr Brady is a catholic nun and a lecturer in English at the University of Western Australia. Dr Brady is well known in Western Australia as a speaker on a wide range of social issues.
Tasmania (i) Mrs K. Ley. Mrs Ley is a mother of three and a part-time office worker. She has always shown an interest in welfare matters and has been a member of the Good Neighbour Council.
Australian Capital Territory (i) Ms J. Boorer. Ms Boorer is currently a co-ordinator and teacher at the Canberra Technical College in the welfare field. She is a former Director of the Research and Social Action Branch of the Brotherhood of St. Laurence in Melbourne and is co-author of a number of books including ‘High Living and the Cost of Free Education’ and author of a number of papers on poverty. In recent years she has worked in England as a co-ordinator of voluntary workers in psychiatric hospitals and as a volumtary services information officer for the King Edward Hospital Fund for London.
I am forwarding under separate cover a copy of the Principles and Procedures of the Social Security Appeals System in case the Honourable Senator has not already received a copy.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
Will the Minister provide an updated immigration table for the period beyond the financial year 1 973-74, as outlined in the answer given on 26 November 1974 to House of Representatives Question No. 524.
– The Minister for Labor and Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Is the amount of money recently made available for the provision of (a) home dialysis and (b) stoma appliances sufficient for the needs of all of those persons who require these services; if not, how is rationing of services to be carried out.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Amendments to the National Health Act, passed by Parliament during the current sittings, give legislative authority for the implementation of a home dialysis scheme and the provision of stoma appliances free of charge to those who need them.
The full details of the home dialysis scheme have yet to be developed and the Australian Government has made available in the interim a special grant of $310,000 to be distributed among the States to ensure continuity of treatment of home dialysis patients until 30 June 1975. By then, arrangements are expected to have been concluded with the States for the scheme to be run on a permanent basis and home dialysis machines and other special equipment will be supplied free of charge by the Australian Government upon application from a Renal Director of a recognised dialysis transplant centre.
The provision of stoma appliances free of charge to all who need them is being investigated by the Department of Health. It is expected that these investigations will be completed within the next few weeks and that the scheme will be in operation soon after.
The Government will ensure that both home dialysis and stoma appliances are provided without rationing of services to those in the community who need them as was announced by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech in September 1 974.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
How much of the $1,830,000 proposed for expenditure during 1974-75 on hospitals in New South Wales at Westmead, Campbeltown and Gosford is to be spent on each of those hospitals.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The basis on which the provision of Australian Government funds are provided under the five year Hospitals Development Program is that financial assistance will be directed to total State programs submitted by the various States rather than individual hospital projects.
In the case of New South Wales an initial grant of $8,830,000 will be made available in 1974-75 for the development of public hospital facilities included in the approved hospitals works program for New South Wales. Because of the urgent need to develop hospital facilities in the Western Suburbs of Sydney, it was proposed that $ 1 , 830,000 of the initial grant would be required to bring forward the development of hospital facilities at Westmead, Campbelltown and Gosford.
– On 4 March 1975, Senator Wright asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs the following question, without notice:
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether he would be reminded, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs advised me on 12 February, that the United Nations first took up the general question of terrorism on an international basis following the Munich Olympics in 1 972? The news of the present hijacking in the Middle East forcing the release of prisoners, to me is an indication of a lack of civilization internationally.
Is the Minister in possession of information that since that proposal was made to the United Nations in 1972 no progress has really been made? What is the explanation for the United Nations dragging its feet on this matter when one would think that a convention between all civilized countries was instantly available to combat international terrorism?
The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Senator will be aware of the general background to consideration of the item on international terrorism by the 27th United Nations General Assembly from my letter to him of 12 February. The item was included on the agenda of the twenty-eighth Session. At the twenty-eighth Session, consideration of a related preceding item, the Draft Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Diplomatic Agents and other Internationally Protected Persons, was not completed by the Sixth (Legal) Committee until 5 December, 1973 and the Committee Chairman subsequently proposed that the item be deferred to the twenty-ninth Session. The Sixth Committee adopted the Chairman’s proposal by consensus.
At the twenty-ninth Session, there was no substantive debate on this item. It was generally agreed that because of the profound and well known differences in the Sixth Committee on this subject and the item was best left last on the agenda, and in the event, there was no time to debate it. It was deferred by consensus to the thirtieth Session of the General Assembly.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 April 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750421_senate_29_s63/>.