30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 32 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Australia’s extensive road system is a national asset wasting because of inadequate Federal and State funding.
Commonwealth Government funding of roads has fallen over the last six years from 2.9 per cent of all Commonwealth outlays to 2.3 per cent.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide50 per cent of all funding for Australia ‘s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5,903m of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 93 citizens of Australia:
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 those who have retired and those who are about to retire, are being severely and adversely affected by inflation and Australian economic circumstances.
The continuance of the Mean’s Test on pensions causes undue hardship to them.
We call on the Government to immediately abolish the Mean ‘s Test on all Aged Pensions.
To ensure a pension for all on retirement, and a guarantee that all Australian citizens will retire with dignity.
Acknowledge that a pension is a right and not a charity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 23 citizens of Australia:
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, although we accept the verdict of the Australian people in the 1975 election, we do not accept the right of a Governor-General to dismiss a Prime Minister who maintains the confidence of the House of Representatives.
We believe that the continued presence of Sir John Kerr as Governor-General is a cause of division among the Australian people.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the honourable President and Members of the Senate will call on Sir John Kerr to resign as Australian Governor-General.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 45 citizens of Australia:
To the Honorable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the recent budgetary allocations endanger the quality of Australian education, especially for disadvantaged groups, and, in particular, for migrants, Aboriginals and ternary students from poor backgrounds.
Your petitioners believe that all persons admitted to institutions of tertiary education in Australia have a right to adequate living conditions and that it is the responsibility of Government to ensure that sufficient funds are allocated to protect that right.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the quality of education in schools and tertiary institutions be not eroded but extended through the provision of adequate funds.
That in view of the sub-standard living conditions forced upon many tertiary students as a consequence of a totally inadequate student assistance scheme, there is an urgent need for a substantial increase and indexation of grants provided under the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme to the level of a living wage, and, further, that the needs-based grants scheme be in no way jeopardised by any other program of student assistance.
That in order to preserve the quality of higher education in Australia and so as to prevent discrimination against disadvantaged groups there should be no introduction of fees for overseas students, second degree students, higher degree students or any students.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 1 1 citizens:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That previous public inquiries into the Molonglo Arterial-Western Distributor have not considered Canberra’s total transport needs;
That construction of the proposed Molonglo Freeway will divert scarce public resources away from Canberra’s public transport system;
That Canberra’s high unemployment problems will only be solved satisfactorily, both socially and environmentally, by the construction of urgently needed public transport facilities;
That massive environmental degradation of Lake Burley Griffin’s foreshores will occur if the proposed Molonglo Freeway is constructed;
That Canberra’s air pollution levels are already dangerously high as a direct result of over-dependence on the motor car for private transport and this situation will not be rectified in the foreseeable future by vehicle exhaust emission controls:
That many Canberra residents, particularly in the young and elderly age groups, do not have unfettered access to a car and therefore will be substantially disadvantaged if the money proposed for the construction of the freeway is not channelled into public transport facilities which will benefit these groups;
We your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Molonglo Arterial and Western Distributor be deferred until a full public enquiry has been carried out investigating Canberra’s total transport needs.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government should totally finance national highways and half the cost of constructing and maintaining all other public roads.
That since current roads funding arrangements have seen a deterioration in road assets, this backlog in construction and maintenance needs to be reduced by the Commonwealth Government undertaking to make a larger financial contribution.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Guilfoyle. Petition received.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas an amnesty was announced for all illegal migrants and that whereas Mr Ignazio Salemi, an applicant for amnesty, has been denied amnesty.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members of the Senate will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
That as Mr Salemi fulfils all the publicly announced criteria for amnesty he is permitted to remain in Australia as a resident.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Ryan. Petition recieved
To the honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens repectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide SO per cent of all funding for Australia s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5,903 million of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1 980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads. by Senator Drake-Brockman, Senator Cameron, Senator Jessop, Senator Chaney, Senator Thomas, Senator Martin and Senator Messner.
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 the Government’s Child Care Policy should be immediately clarified and announced to ensure continuity of programmes and allow effective forward planning, and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Baume (2 petitions). Petitions received.
To the honourable the President and Members of the Senate assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between announcements of each quarterly movement in the Consumer Price Index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress to pensioners.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in age and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Jessop. Petition received.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In bringing down the Budget the Treasurer in his statement said:
From the outset we have made our first priority the absolute necessity to combat inflation.
I ask: In view of the 6 per cent increase in the consumer price index announced today, does the Minister believe that the Government’s decisions on Medibank and on devaluation are consistent with its priority of combating inflation? Does the Government propose any further measures which will be as consistent with its priority to combat inflation as the Medibank and devaluates decisions?
-The Government believes that its strategy is consistent. What it has stated is what it intends to do. The Leader of the Opposition is obviously interested in the movement in the consumer price index. Therefore I shall give some details to him and to my colleagues because they might make the whole matter clearer. If we view the consumer price index position totally, the consumer price index figure for December which was released today is seen to consolidate and demonstrate the marked downward trend in inflation in 1976. The figures show the annual rate of inflation in the second half of 1 976 running some 4 percentage points or more lower than in the second half of 1975. In order to achieve that conclusion honourable senators need to have access to the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures which are available, reference No. 9.1, headed ‘Consumer Price Index’. The figures demonstrate the underlying downward trend. The factors are there. They are quite clear. If honourable senators would like me to go on at some length I can do so or I can wait for further questions.
- Mr President, I direct a question to you. In view of the blackout of Parliament House last Thursday night, which lasted some 30 minutes, I ask: What provision had been made for the lighting of Parliament House if such a situation arose? If some provisions were made, why was Parliament House blacked out for so long? For reasons of public safety and particularly for security reasons in Parliament House which could be at risk during a blackout, what steps are being taken to provide emergency lighting of Parliament House in the future, especially with regard to the forthcoming visit of Her Majesty the Queen?
-I anticipated a question along these lines. I inform honourable senators that the blackout which occurred last Thursday evening was due to a failure in the supply of electricity to Parliament House caused by the explosion of a transformer at the Kingston power station. The only emergency lighting available when this occurred was from the lanterns issued to attendants in the chambers and to technical staff, supplemented by torches in the possession of the Commonwealth Police. The delay of 24 minutes in restoring power was due to the time taken by the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority to effect necessary repairs. Last Friday officers of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Joint House Department conferred on the problems they experienced in handling this emergency and on the measures which should be taken to deal with such a situation in future. These officers have recommended that there be installed an emergency lighting system which will operate without delay when a failure occurs. Immediate consideration will be given by Mr Speaker and me to this matter. On occasions of visits by the Royal Family and heads of state it has always been the practice to have an officer of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority stationed in the building, but this would not have averted the problem which occurred last Thursday night.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I remind him that on 22 November 1976 the Treasurer said:
The underlying rate of inflation in Australia today is no more than 10 percent.
In his statement to Parliament on 15 February 1977 the Treasurer said:
The direct impact of devaluation is likely to show up principally in our major price indexes in the March and June quarters of this year.
In view of the 6 per cent increase in the consumer price index announced today, what does the Treasurer now expect the rate of inflation to be at the end of this financial year.
-In this chamber in the past I have referred to the dangers of trying to look into crystal balls because of the unenviable prospects one might see. I will now read out some factual material because obviously the honourable senator has a great and sustained interest in this matter. The figures released today by the Commonwealth Statistician, to which I referred earlier, show that the consumer price index increased by 6 per cent in the December quarter following increases of 2.2 per cent in the September quarter, 2.5 per cent in the June quarter and 3 per cent in the March quarter. A significant proportion of the increase reflects the changed funding arrangements for health insurance. It should be noted that following the Statistician’s first survey of household expenditure in 1974-75 the consumer price index has been reweighted to take account of changed patterns of spending by consumers. The Statistician has explained this effect on the index in the following way:
In accordance with established practice, the ninth series has been linked to its predecessors to form one continuous series. The process of linking ensures that the resultant continuous series reflects only price variations and not differences in cost of the old and the new combinations and lists of items. The introduction of new items and weights by linking does not of itself raise or lower the level of the index.
I have further information which I think will be useful. Over the year to the December quarter the index increased by 14.4 per cent compared with 14 per cent over the preceding 12 months. However, the annual comparison is influenced by the effect of changes to the funding arrangements for health insurance in the September and December quarters in 1975 and the December quarter of 1976. If those distortions are excluded the increase over the year to the December quarter of 1976 was 10.8 per cent compared with 16.7 per cent in the 12 months to the December quarter of 1 975, a period of notable gloom under the previous Government.
-I ask a supplementary question. In view of the 6 per cent increase in the consumer price index announced today, what does the Treasurer now expect the rate of inflation to be at the end of the financial year? Does the Minister believe that on the basis of the current increase in the consumer price index the rate of inflation will be 24 per cent by the end of the calendar year?
– As I mentioned earlier, I do not quote expectations. I do not gaze into crystal balls. I do not make predictions.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services. A recent newspaper report stated that it was the intention of the Federal Government to close down four of its information offices in Europe and cut back staff in other bureaus. Whilst I acknowledge the necessity for strict control of government expenditure, does the Minister deem this reduction wise in the light of maintaining and promoting Australia’s image which is so essential for the success of our export drive and trade with Europe?
-My attention was drawn to the newspaper article.
– So you are reading them now.
-My attention was drawn to the article by Senator Lajovic. As usual, there is far too much speculation. All that has happened is that the Public Service Board has asked my Department for information about its overseas posts as part of its review of overseas staffing. The Board has made no recommendation on any alteration to current Australian Information Service representation overseas.
– My question follows upon the question asked by Senator Keeffe and answered by Senator Cotton. I ask the Minister: Is it not a fact that in quoting the Statistician’s figure concerning consumer price index increases he was quoting a figure which the Statistician classifies as ‘AH groups excluding hospital and medical services’ and that he quoted a figure of 10.8 per cent for the December quarter as allegedly justifying the claim that inflation in Australia had been reduced? Is it not a fact that in the following column the Statistician gives the percentage for all groups, which is the relevant section that affects all the community? Is it not true that that figure is 14.4 per cent indicating an increase in the inflation rate from the time this Government took office?
-If Senator Wriedt reads the Hansard report I think he will find that I did mention the factor he is talking about when I quoted from the material I have here. All I am prepared to comment upon in the Senate is either the Statistician’s figures or the Treasury’s interpretation of them, and I have done that. To the extent that my reading of those things needs further elaboration, the honorable senator may be sure that he will get it from me. However, having looked over this statement, I say that the factor he mentioned was covered.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question. I accept Senator Cotton’s invitation to seek further elaboration. I ask: Does not the Statistician’s figure show that in December 1975 the increase was at the rate of 14 per cent and in December 1 976 the increase was at the rate of 14.4 per cent? Does that not mean that there was an increase in the rate of inflation during that period?
-Perhaps I am dull; perhaps we are both dull. I shall read again exactly what I read before:
Over the year to the December quarter the index increased by 14.4 per cent, compared with 14 per cent over the preceding 12 months.
That is exactly what Senator Keeffe said and exactly what I said, so there should be no attempt to confuse the matter. It continues:
However, this annual comparison is influenced by the effects of changes to the funding arrangements for health insurance in the September and December quarters of 1975 and December quarter 1976. If the hospital and medical services component is excluded, the increase over the year to the December quarter 1976 was 10.8 per cent compared with 16.7 per cent in the 12 months to the December quarter 1975.
I am not referring to the Treasurer’s statement; I am referring to Treasury notes given to me and also to the interpretation they place on the information given by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. As I understood Senator Keeffe, despite what Senator Wriedt said and despite some interruptions, I believe that what I have just quoted was exactly what I said before and that in effect the question was answered the first time.
– I ask the Minister for Education: Is it a fact that university students who are not in a financial position to pay their subscriptions to the Australian Union of Students are receiving additional money by way of an allowance from the Commonwealth Government to assist with the payment of their union fees? If so, will the Minister please explain the rationale of this expenditure?
-It is a fact that under the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme those students who are of very limited means and who receive the TEAS allowance are eligible for an additional $100 for incidental expenses. Those incidental expenses are not itemised by the Commonwealth Government. For example, it would be competent for the students to buy textbooks or use the allowance for other purposes. It is possible for the students to use pan of that money to pay their sporting and recreation fees or student union fees, depending upon the nature of the rules of the individual university or college. It is competent for them to do that. Since tuition fees were abolished compulsory fees for sporting and recreational purposes have to be paid out of the pocket of the student. This was a decision taken by the previous Government and maintained by this Government. Those fees are subject to the by-laws and regulations of the institutions concerned. Some institutions could make it compulsory for sporting and recreation costs to be paid and some institutions could do so for other costs. I make it clear that the moneys referred to by Senator Sheil are for incidental expenses and no actual tags are put on them.
– My question is directed to Senator Withers, the Leader of the Government. The Minister will recall that yesterday I sent him a telegram requesting that any debate in the Senate on the referendum Bills be held on a day on which the proceedings of the Senate are broadcast. The purpose of this request was that the public would be able to hear two sides of the debate on the Bills, not one side as happened in the House of Representatives debate which was held on a day on which that House’s proceedings were broadcast. My question is: Did the Leader of the Government take any action following the receipt of my telegram or does he intend, as the order of business sheet indicates, to have the debate on the Bills today, a non-broadcast day? Is it also true that if the debate is not concluded today the Government intends to bring it on again on Thursday, which is another non-broadcast day? If the Leader of the Government did not refer my request to the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, why did he not do so? If the Minister claims that he could not refer the request because the Committee was not sitting did he follow the usual practice in emergency matters of this nature by referring it to the 4- member grouping of members which can act on behalf of the Committee in emergency matters?
– There are 64 senators in this place and there was a request by one to have the debate on a broadcast day. I thought as it was only from one out of 64 -
– So it was not worth considering?
-I saw no reason to proceed with your suggestion, Senator. I think the Government’s program was notified last Thursday.
-I shall remember that.
– He threatened you then. He said: ‘ I will remember that ‘.
-I did not hear that. The Government’s program was announced last Thursday. The Bills are to come on today. There is a particular reason why we hope to conclude tomorrow the debate on the Bills listed for Wednesday. I take it the Opposition will be arriving at its view on the amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act and related Bills tomorrow at its normal party meeting. I hope that in the afternoon members of the Opposition will be in a position to debate the Bills. If the Bills can get a speedy passage they can go to the House of Representatives and be dealt with before that House rises on Thursday night. As we all know, the Parliament is about to be prorogued. I think I explained here in answer to a question last week that there will be some problems in having a redistribution finalised before Christmas if the legislation is not passed this week. It is all right for senators to take a fairly easy-going attitude to that but there are 127 of our colleagues in another place who, for good and proper reasons, wish to know what the boundaries will look like in their final form. I think in our respective party organisations there is a large number of people who are anxious to get redistribution commenced and finalised at the earliest sensible date. It is for that reason and no other reason that the Bills are being dealt with today. There is nothing sinister in my motives. I hope the honourable senator would not think there was. The program is based on that reason. If those Bills should be completed quickly tomorrow we will certainly broadcast the debate on the constitutional Bills and then they can be further debated on Thursday. If the Government is to meet its hoped-for timetable of holding a poll on the referenda questions on 2 1 May, the legislation will need to pass through this Parliament this week. Otherwise, we will return 10 days later and have to start all over again. In that event, it just would not be possible to hold the poll on that date, with the problems of printing ballot papers and so on. If a referendum is to be held, as honourable senators will appreciate, some 7 million forms presenting the yes and no cases will need to be posted. This involves not only an enormous printing job but also an enormous job of addressing them and Australia Post delivering them to each and every elector in the fond hope that the recipients will all read them with great interest and understand the questions. It is for those reasons and those reasons alone that I came to those conclusions last week. I think I indicated in answer to a question that that basically would be the proposal, for those reasons.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, by saying that no doubt the Minister is aware that the airport runway at Wellington, New Zealand, is of comparable length to the one at Hobart, namely about 6000 feet, and that the Christchurch airport has one runway about 10 per cent longer and another about 5 per cent shorter than the one at Hobart. No doubt, also, the Minister realises that a Boeing 707 aircraft could land at Hobart from New Zealand with a full load of passengers but could not take off again with a full load and enough fuel to reach New Zealand. So, Hobart cannot become an international airport for aircraft larger than Boeing 707s or for Boeing 707s unless its runway is extended by 1000 feet to 1500 feet. In view of the statement of the Minister for Transport last week that Ansett Airlines of Australia and Trans-Australia Airlines may be allowed to service overseas routes that Qantas Airways Ltd does not want to cover as it moves to a full Boeing 747 fleet and in view of the shortness of the runway at Hobart Airport, as I have just detailed, will the Minister have investigated the possibility of allowing Ansett and TAA to fly from Hobart to New Zealand airports with Boeing 727 aircraft in the near future so that both people coming from New Zealand to Australia and people travelling the other way may visit Tasmania en route? Wi the Minister treat this as a matter of urgency?
-I will be happy to bring the question to the attention of my colleague, the Minister for Transport, and to seek a reply.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, follows the questions addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer by Senator Wriedt and Senator Keeffe. Did the Prime Minister, in his election policy speech in November 1975, say that only under a Liberal-National Country Party government will there be a return to business confidence and that only under a Liberal-National Country Party government will there be jobs for all who want to work? In view of those promises made 1 5 months ago, will the Minister agree that the latest drastic 6 per cent increase in the consumer price index and the massive and growing number of unemployed represent an abject failure to fulfil the Government’s promises? When does the Government intend to eliminate the suffering, anguish and frustration it is causing throughout the community and to implement its undertakings?
– Yes, the Prime Minister did make those 2 statements. They were true then; they are true now. If there had not been a change of government, most probably the inflation rate now would be 50 per cent per annum and about 2 million people would be unemployed. That is just what honourable senators opposite do not luce to hear. We not only have arrested the position but also have started to get on with the job of restoring business confidence and providing jobs for all. I say to honourable senators opposite: ‘Do not get excited. You undid in 3 years what had taken us 23 years to build up’. There is no doubt about that. In 3 years, the Government that honourable senators opposite supported undid everything that had been carefully put together over 23 years. Whether they like it or not, that is a statement of fact. I say to Senator Douglas McClelland that he should not become worried or excited. Unfortunately for all honourable senators opposite, this country is a good country -
-It is a good country and it is getting better every day. Even the electors of Western Australia saw that, in spite of some of the gloom spread -
– Three seats.
-Senator Walsh is calling out from up the back. Of course, it is people such as Senator Walsh who gave such an enormous victory to Sir Charles Court. In spite of all the propaganda spread around by the Labor Party during its futile campaign in Western Australia over the last few weeks in which it talked about an enormous rise in housing rents which was about to happen and spreading gloom about this, that and something else, it was almost wiped out. It was a great victory for Sir Charles Court. If honourable senators opposite want an instant sample of what the electorate thinks as of last Saturday, it is that they have full confidence in this Government.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been drawn to recent complaints by physiotherapists in private practice that the Health Commission of New South Wales has made a ruling denying them the right to treat patients in a number of Schedule 3 hospitals? Is it true that previously private physiotherapists were able to supply services to public patients in these hospitals, either free or at greatly reduced costs, and that in return they were able to care for private patients on a fee for service basis? Are these New South Wales hospitals now compelled to advertise for physiotherapy staff to render treatments on a sessional basis and, as a result, is the previous comprehensive service now reduced to limited sessional service only on 5 days a week? Does this mean inconvenience and perhaps unnecessary suffering to patients in New South Wales? Will the Federal Government take up this matter with the New South Wales Health Commission to try to correct this situation?
– I have some information on this matter. I state on behalf of the Minister for Health that, prior to the introduction of Medibank hospital arrangements, medical practitioners were able to refer intermediate and private patients to physiotherapists who charged private fees. With the introduction of the Medibank hospital arrangements, physiotherapy was included in the list of services to be provided to patients of recognised hospitals without additional charge. Accordingly private physiotherapists are unable to charge any patients in recognised hospitals. I understand that a number of smaller Schedule 3 hospitals, for example St Luke’s, Darlinghurst, and the War Memorial, Waverley, prior to Medibank virtually operated as private hospitals. They did not have any physiotherapists on their staff. Private physiotherapists provided honorary services to public patients and charged fees to other patients.
With the introduction of the Medibank agreement whereby all patients are to receive physiotherapy without charge, it became necessary to provide staff physiotherapists at these hospitals on a sessional or pan time basis and to preclude private practice. I understand that the individual hospitals arranged for the provision of physiotherapy services in relation to need. In accordance with the terms of the hospitals agreement, it is the States’ responsibility to ensure that adequate hospital services, including physiotherapy, are available in the State. The Commonwealth is responsible for meeting half the net costs incurred m running a State hospital system. Commonwealth officers are continually monitoring the operation of state hospital systems to ensure that the systems are operating efficiently. I shall take note of the matters that were raised by the honourable senator and refer them to the Minister for Health so that he may pursue them with the New South Wales Health Commission.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations: In the light of the increase in the consumer price index for the December quarter, will the Government review its policy of opposing award increases and thus honour an agreement made between the Government and the trade unions last June?
-The Government will be determining shortly the attitude it will take at the indexation review which will be conducted by the Arbitration Commission. The decision the Government will make on that review will be conveyed, as it has been previously, by counsel for the Government at the hearing of the Arbitration Commission.
-Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of the hostile reaction amongst coin collectors to a recent announcement by the Australian Mint that the price of $14.50 for collectors’ sets of Australian coins which have a face value totalling 88c and which are soon to be released is apparently excessive? Will the Minister seek an assurance from his colleague that the price has been properly determined in line with normal commercial practice?
– I am responsible for industry and commerce. In the commerce world there is a proposition regarding retail margins. The retail margin mentioned in the question seems an excessive one. I shall certainly take up this matter. It seems to me that if we want to sell these coins they had better be priced realistically.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs whether he is aware that in
December 1976 the Industries Assistance Commission, which is to commence an inquiry on 14 March into the furniture industry, a $500m industry employing some 25 000 employees, gave an undertaking to the industry to inspect factories in the Sydney area before the inquiry began. The IAC advised the industry on 9 February 1977 that insufficient funds were available for air fares to Sydney for the planned 2-day inspection by the 2 commissioners. Did the Minister receive a telegram from the Australian Council of Furniture Manufacturers, an employer organisation, and the Federated Furnishing Trade Society of Australasia, an employee organisation, protesting against this decision and offering to pay the air fares and any accommodation required by the commissioners? Will the commissioners now travel to Sydney by car in lieu of aeroplane to honour the undertaking given in December regarding the inspections? I am intrigued to know what the cost difference would be between the differing travel arrangements. Has this happened to other industries? Finally, how can the IAC be expected to give effect to its statutory responsibilities if it is deprived of necessary funds to service its activities?
– I have no instructions from the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs in respect of the very detailed question asked by Senator Brown. In view of the time mentioned by him I appreciate that it is a matter of some immediacy. I shall certainly pass this question on to the Minister whom I represent and endeavour to get an answer as soon as possible.
-Can the Minister for Social Security inform the chamber whether it is her intention to extend the telephone interpreting service to all States of the Commonwealth? If so, when can the citizens of Tasmania look forward to its implementation in their State?
– A working party on interpreters and translators has been making a detailed investigation into the provision of services for non-English speaking migrants in this country. I expect that the report of that working party should be available soon, if it has not already been presented to the Prime Minister. That working party did detailed work with regard to interpreter and translator services. As I understand it, its recommendations related also to the need for officers of the Commonwealth Public Service to be bi-lingual and to a great range of matters that would enable this necessary service to be given to migrants. In the light of the working party’s report I shall give further consideration to the development of the telephone interpreter service, but at this stage I am not able to indicate to the honourable senator any date on which this highly desirable service will be available to the citizens of Tasmania.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether he can give the Senate some clarification of the reasons for the delay in correcting anomalies in the Defence Forces Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973, particularly the no-detriment provisions? Will he also advise whether the amendments, if and when they are made, will provide for retrospectivity from the time of the introduction of the scheme? When can the amendments to the DFRDB Act be expected to be introduced?
-The honourable senator has asked me some fairly technical questions of which I have no understanding. I understand that my colleague in the other place, Mr Killen, either has introduced or is about to introduce some legislation to amend both Acts relating to defence forces retirement and death benefits. The Bills have certainly not reached the Senate. I have been looking for a House of Representatives notice paper to see whether the Bills have been introduced. If the 2 amending Bills to correct some anomalies in the legislation have not been introduced yet, they are about to be introduced.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the reported decision of the Federal Government to issue visas to a 3- member delegation from the Palestine Liberation Organisation to attend the InterParliamentary Union conference in Canberra in April 1977, and ask: Is this not a conference of representatives of the parliaments of recognised states? Is the Government aware of any established parliamentary body associated with or incorporated in the PLO? Does the Minister not agree that this application is a further subterfuge to enable propaganda exercises on behalf of an organisation that is pledged to the destruction of the parliamentary government of the Israeli state- a state recognised by the Australian
Government? Will not the admission of the PLO observers create divisions, animosity and the risk of disorder inside Australia? Finally, if the Government is not prepared to deny visas to PLO observers, will it consider testing the existence of any real sincerity or interest by the PLO in the affairs of the Inter-Parliamentary Union by confining the visas to attendance in Canberra, where the conference is to be held, along the lines of the limited access imposed on Cuban delegates visiting New York while attending United Nations meetings?
– Basically the honourable senator’s question falls into 2 parts. As to the first one, the answer is yes. Generally delegations do comprise delegates from parliaments of national states, but, as I understand the position, observer delegations are also permitted to attend IPU conferences. The Palestinian National Council, as I understand it, will have observer status at this meeting. I notice that Senator Young is nodding his head. He is one of our distinguished representatives on that group; I must be correct for once. As to the latter part of the honourable senator’s question concerning whether the Government ought to test the sincerity of these people by imposing a restriction upon their visas I say that that is a very interesting suggestion. It is a matter that does not fall within my responsibility. I will certainly take it up with my colleague in the other place and ask him to give it consideration.
– I direct a question to you, Mr President. I seek information regarding the non re-employment this session of quite a number of Senate sessional attendants who had over a long period of time given dedicated and faithful service to the Senate and honourable senators. Mr President, will you inform the Senate at your earliest convenience why these attendants were not re-employed, how many were not re-employed and what was the period of service to the Parliament of each attendant both as a sessional attendant and in any other capacity? Was the decision not to re-employ these persons taken because of legitimate complaints made by some of them that they had to wear worn-out, second-hand uniforms? You will recall, Mr President, that I discussed this matter with you last year. Finally, who instigated the move not to re-employ the persons to whom I have referred?
-I shall provide a reply to the honourable senator’s question as quickly as I can.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer to the inadequate television service to the west coast and upper Eyre Peninsula regions of South Australia. I ask: What is the current position concerning investigations carried out by Telecom Australia in an attempt to improve the unsatisfactory television reception over wide areas of western South Australia? Can the Minister say whether these areas will be included in the next phase of the television expansion program? When is this likely to begin?
Senator CARRICK I am aware of the honourable senator’s active interest in this matter. I think he has asked me questions before concerning the Streaky Bay area and the Eyre Peninsula. As I am advised at the moment, engineering studies of the Eyre Peninsula, including Streaky Bay, have now been completed by officers of the Postal and Telecommunications Department. The investigations were commenced by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board last year. Following the abolition of the Board and the transfer of the planning functions to the Department, the studies have been finalised. Before a final decision is made by the Minister a number of other considerations have to be taken into account, including costing and environmental studies. It will be a number of months before the options are firm enough to be put to the Minister; but I will bring the honourable senator’s question to the attention of the Minister.
-I direct to the Minister for Administrative Services a question on the subject of Norfolk Island. What consideration has the Government given to the question of the status of Norfolk Island vis-a-vis the Australian Constitution? What steps have been taken to seek the views of the people of Norfolk Island as to their future, having regard to Australia’s obligations and responsibilities to its Territories and also having regard to the historical uniqueness of the Norfolk Island community? What is the proportion of Pitcairners to the total population? In any referendum which might be held to determine the wishes of the Norfolk Islanders in regard to their future, what can be done to ensure that the views so expressed are those of the real Islanders- that is, the descendants of the association of the Bounty mutineers and the Pitcairners- and not those of the more recent residents, many of whom obviously went there for purposes of tax avoidance and in fact make no secret of it? Can the Minister state a figure representing the loss of revenue to Australia as a consequence of the tax haven used by entrepreneurs following the plugging of this tax dodge opportunity in Australia? What is the general level of Australia’s assistance to Norfolk Island? Is it possible, even at this late hour, to have an assurance that this historically important and quite unique and beautiful island can be preserved for long term residents, namely, people with ties of consanguinity with the Pitcairners? Finally, in the event of a referendum being held, is it not possible- in fact highly probable- that the result would reflect the views of the more recent residents rather than those of the real Norfolk Islanders for whose welfare we are principally responsible?
-Senator Devitt was kind enough to alert me to the fact that he was going to ask a question along these lines. Perhaps I can answer the questions seriatim. The Government announced on 17 December 1976 that it intends to continue to accept responsibility for maintaining Norfolk Island as a viable community and that its constitutional relationship with Australia would remain that of a Territory of the Commonwealth of Australia. As to the second question, “under the terms of reference, the royal commission was. asked to take into consideration amongst other things, the interests of Norfolk Island residents and the historic rights of the Pitcairn settlers. The royal commission presented every opportunity, both formal and informal, for residents to present their views. As to the third question, my recollection is that the royal commission report stated that of about 860 electors some 320 are of Pitcairn lineage. The actual figures, as at 30 June 1976, were 859 electors, 323 being of Pitcairn descent. As to the fourth question, under the laws which provide for the conduct of a referendum on Norfolk Island every elector is entitled to vote and voting is by secret ballot. Therefore it would not be possible to identify the views of any particular individuals or groups in a referendum. However I should mention that I have received a petition, signed by 188 residents of whom 86 are of Pitcairn descent, asking that the Government accept in principle the recommendations of the royal commission.
As to the fifth question relating to tax avoidance and evasion, this is a detailed question that relates directly to the responsibility of the Treasurer and I shall seek information from him. As to the sixth question, evidence given to the royal commission was to the effect that the total direct and indirect assistance given to Norfolk
Island by the Commonwealth during the financial year ended 30 June 1975 was in excess of $2m. As the honourable senator would appreciate, the amount varies from year to year. As to the seventh question, I have given an undertaking that before making any submission to the Government I shall visit Norfolk Island and personally review the situation there and the local factors on which the Government will require to be informed. In response to a request I made in November, following the tabling of the report, I have received the views of the Norfolk Island Council on the recommendations in the report and these are being considered. The matter is one which affects Australia as a whole and therefore the interests of residents both of mainland Australia and of Norfolk Island have to be given proper consideration.
As to the last question, many people in fact have speculated to the same effect. I might just add that I first visited Norfolk Island with the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances when Senator Wood was its Chairman. He led the delegation and Senator Devitt and Senator Cavanagh were also in that delegation. Since I first visited Norfolk Island I have been most attracted to it. The matters to which the honourable senator adverted in his seventh question about this historically important and unique and beautiful island I shall always have very much in my mind.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. As South Australia and the Northern Territory, and the Northern Territory and Western Australia are the only regions which are not connected with sealed roads on the national highway system, what is the present situation in regard to the programming of the national highways for the completion of sealed roads in these 2 areas? In regard to South Australia, has the route for a sealed highway been determined? If so, what is the proposal or proposals? What responsibilities has the South Australian Government for the sealing of the highway and what responsibilities has the Federal Government in this sphere? In view of the South Australia-Northern Territory route being now one of the last to be upgraded, is it the intention of the Government to give it any priority? In regard to the sealing of national highways recently completed in South Australia and in Queensland, what funding if any was made by the Federal Government?
-Senator Kilgariff asks me 5 individual questions. They are very comprehensive and they relate to roads linking the Northern Territory with South Australia and Western Australia. With the indulgence of the Senate I shall endeavour to provide, in as brief a form as possible, some of the information. I may need to supplement my answer later. Honourable senators will know that a joint Commonwealth-State committee investigated the route of the Stuart Highway in South Australia. Its report was recently tabled in this and the South Australian parliaments. Honourable senators will know that the report was accepted by our Minister for Transport and by the Minister of Transport in South Australia. It recommended that the highway be on a new, more direct location, to be selected from 2 alternative routes. The Commonwealth Minister is endeavouring to finalise the Commonwealth’s attitude on the views of the report as soon as possible, and is currently conferring with the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development in another place. The Commonwealth provides funds under the Commonwealth Roads Act to construct, reconstruct and maintain national highways. A State may, if it so wishes, also spend its own funds on such roads.
Works requiring the expenditure of Commonwealth funds require the approval of the Commonwealth Minister for Transport. The State concerned is responsible for the work. The question of priorities for future works in South Australia and the other States will be discussed when the form of future road legislation and amounts to be provided under it are determined. The Government is aware of the need to provide good, all-weather road links to the Northern Territory. This will be borne in mind during consideration of future priorities. In view of the extensive nature of the question I shall provide supplementary, written information to the honourable senator. I have considerable information about the progress of such sections of highway as Meekatharra to Port Hedland, Port Hedland to Broome, Broome to the Northern Territory border sections, etc. With the indulgence of the Senate I shall provide that information in writing.
– I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to a statement made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on 20 October 1976. He stated:
In view of this refusal to accept Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor I ask: Is the Minister aware of reports that postal and telegraphic services between Australia and Dili, East Timor, have been restored? On what basis were the arrangements made? Who authorised the arrangements? Was Portugal, the sovereign country, consulted about the renewal of communications? If not, why not?
-Some of the details of the answer to that comprehensive question are not known to me. I shall seek the information and let the honourable senator have it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in the Arts. I refer to a recent statement by the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in the Arts calling for the involvement of private enterprise and other similar organisations in the promotion of the arts in much the same way as they are already involved in the promotion of sporting events. Has the Minister had his attention drawn to a statement by the managing director of Mobil Oil Australia Ltd, Mr J. B. Leslie, that Australia needs a national business committee for the arts so that they can be co-ordinated, stimulated and encouraged? Will the Government prepare some guidelines so that industry or private enterprise can assist in this field?’ Will the Government give consideration to formulating a business committee to have preliminary discussions on the matter? Finally, will the Government encourage such a committee to seek greater community support and stimulate a wider public involvement and responsibility?
-The honourable senator will appreciate that in this place I represent the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in the Arts. What the honourable senator has put forward I think are very useful suggestions and I shall pass them on to my colleague in the other House.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport whether he is aware of reports which suggest that as a result of pressure from member nations of the European Economic Community, Japanese shipbuilders apparently are about to increase their construction prices by the order of 30 per cent. In the light of this development will the Minister for
Transport reconsider the decision to award construction contracts for 2 Australian National Line bulk carriers to Japanese yards and reexamine the economics of having the ships built at Australian yards, especially the Newcastle State Dockyard?
– I personally am not aware of any action projected by the Japanese to increase their prices, but the honourable senator should understand that the primary decision regarding the Newcastle State Dockyard rested with the Premier of New South Wales who has responsibility for the dockyard. It will be remembered that it was he, the Labor Premier of New South Wales, who decided that it was too expensive to build a dry dock in Australia and awarded the contract for the building of that dry dock in Japan. So basically in regard to both these matters Senator Sibraa, as a Labor Senator from New South Wales, should more properly direct his question to the Labor Premier of New South Wales, because the failure of that Premier to maintain proper and economic conditions in the dockyard at Newcastle was the primary reason for it being necessary to go beyond Australia to build these ships.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. By way of brief preface I refer to the announcement by the Minister for Transport of his approval for certain freight rate increases by the Australian National Line. They will apply to the Tasmanian runs. I ask the Minister to clarify the situation for the people of Tasmania and to indicate whether the rates applicable under the freight equalisation scheme will be adjusted appropriately immediately upon the introduction of the new ANL rates. If not, will this not destroy the effectiveness of the freight equalisation scheme in achieving its stated purpose?
– Because of the clear importance of the freight equalisation policy to Tasmania and Tasmanians I shall get a detailed answer to this question and let the honourable senator have it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Has her attention been drawn to an article in the Sydney SunHerald dated 20 February 1977 claiming that federal public servants in some departments, including the Department of Social Security, believe that telephone lines put through departmental switch boards are being tapped? Can the Minister assure the Senate that this is not occurring in her Department?
– I did see the article and was surprised to see that the Department of Social Security was mentioned in that context. I have no knowledge of the matter. It has never been brought to my notice that there was any suggestion of tapping of telephone lines of the Department. I shall have investigations made to see whether any other information can be given to me.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is the Minister aware that IAC (Holdings) Ltd yesterday announced a property write-off of about $26m, making a total write-off of about $56m over the past 3 years? Can the Minister say whether or not over the same 3 years the company has raised from the public about $300m in debenture and note issues based on prospectuses containing valuations at the pre-write-down figures? Can the Minister say whether or not the Government is concerned about the matter and about the possibility that other companies currently are doing the same thing?
– I have seen the Press announcements- I assume they are correct- in relation to the write-down of values and the effect on the profits of the company concerned. In relation to the second part of the question, the Minister whom I represent has not investigated the accuracy of the report mentioned by Senator Lewis in the detail that would be required to confirm it or otherwise. The officers of his Department will endeavour to check that point and ascertain the actual position. However, it will require a fair amount of research.
As to the third part of the question, the Government certainly is concerned about corporate losses and about the type of problem faced by IAC as revealed in the announcement, but there is not really sufficient detailed information available to enable the making of any further comment at this stage. The existing companies Acts and ordinances do contain provisions for the preparation of accounts by qualified accountants and for the examination of those accounts and also for their further consideration by company officials. However, generally speaking, the matter raised by Senator Lewis is of some concern to the Government, and the Minister whom I represent will go into it further.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer and relates to the healthy state of our coal export industry. I ask the Minister: What benefits to the Australian people have flowed from the Government ‘s decision in the last Budget to phase out the coal export duty at a cost of more than $37m? Will the Government consider reimposing the levy in order to create job opportunities as well as to allocate the funds saved to assist industries such as the ship building industry? I ask also: Is it a fact that the foreign owned and controlled Utah Company Ltd has profited considerably by the levy abolition and that the company’s donation of $100,000 to Australian opera is small compensation to the Australian people for the large capital gain given to the foreign shareholders?
-A lot of that question bears upon what might be called Budget policy and I think it would be better if it went on notice.
– My question is in 2 parts and is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Can the Minister brief the Senate on the present position in regard to the action of the Whitlam Government in acquiring Towra Point as part of the national park concept, which action was the subject of a challenge by the previous New South Wales Government? Secondly, I refer to the protracted negotiations between the New South Wales Government and the present and past Australian Governments on the release of certain harbourside land for the Sydney Harbour National Park, which I understand is interrelated with the Holsworthy land complex.
-My understanding as to Towra Point is that the land was acquired in June 1975 by the Commonwealth under the Lands Acquisition Act for the establishment of a nature reserve in accordance with the provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act. In July 1975 the New South Wales Government challenged the Commonwealth’s right to acquire this land. The matter has not come up for hearing. The present position is that the conduct of the matter rests with New South Wales. It is desirable, of course, that New South Wales should clarify whether it proposes to go on with the matter. As to the harbour foreshores, my understanding is that the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales have recently exchanged correspondence on this subject. It is to be hoped that the 2 parties will be ready to reopen negotiations on this matter shortly. Earlier negotiations lapsed during the term of the previous Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. It concerns reports which reached Australia during the overseas visit of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, when he was alleged to have said that there would be a new 6-point plan to improve the position of Italian migrants to Australia and also that he was discussing a new social security arrangement with Italy. I ask the Minister: Are any such agreements in the course of consummation between Italy and Australia? If so, do they include the points I have mentioned? If such agreements are in fact being promoted between Australia and Italy, will the Minister consider making similar arrangements with other comparable countries from which migrants come?
– I do not have full information with regard to the 6-point plan but I am able to speak more specifically about the matter with regard to reciprocal arrangements for pensions and benefits. In early December I released a statement following the visit of the Italian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs in which I stated that the subject of reciprocal arrangements on social security was raised and the Deputy Minister restated the importance to Italy of the conclusion of the agreement on social security as soon as possible. I affirmed our interest in the prospect of entering into such an agreement at the earliest possible time and I told the Deputy Minister from Italy that Australia appreciated the great interest that many people in both Australia and Italy had in this matter. I also told him that my Department was formulating proposals which would constitute the basis of an offer to the Italian Government. It was planned that these would be examined by the Australian Government early in 1977. We are in the course of formulating that matter at present and I can give no further information on it. I believe the Press report of the statement of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs slightly misinterpreted the matter and gave the impression that there was a greater degree of conclusion about it than is actually the case. We are formulating proposals. I have had similar requests from other comparable countries. I believe it is a matter of reaching some conclusion as early as practicable. In some cases the achievement of reciprocity is a complex exercise. We have had a long history of immigration from many countries and I believe it would be desirable as early as possible to have some conclusion on these matters.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications confirm that the Channel 9 network has obtained the contract to televise the Australia versus England test cricket matches this winter? Will the Minister ensure that as a consequence people living in rural areas will not be disadvantaged? Will the Minister take steps to ensure that the test coverage is broadcast through the regional network of television stations- Australian Broadcasting Commission, if not commercial?
– I can understand the very keen public interest which would prompt Senator Lewis to ask such a question. I do not have the details of this matter. Accepting the basis of the question, I shall take it up with my colleague the Minister in another place and let the honourable senator have a reply.
– On Thursday of last week Senator Grimes asked me a question and I undertook to obtain for him information with regard to resignations in the Melbourne office of the Department of Social Security. He stated that some 31 officers had resigned in the period he mentioned. I want to give figures for the period 1 January 1977 to 18 February 1977 which show that 18 officers in the Department in Victoria have resigned. Eleven of them have resumed study; four of them have gone to other employment or were dissatisfied with the unemployment benefits area; and three of them have resigned for personal reasons.
– I present the second report of the Standing Orders Committee, relating to the incorporation in Hansard of unread matter, the reading of speeches, offensive statements, questions, the notice paper, motions to take note of papers and committees.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That consideration of the report in Committee of the Whole be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the interdepartmental working party on interpreters and translators.
– Pursuant to section 122 of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act 1971, 1 present the annual report of the Commissioner for Employees Compensation for the year ended 30 June 1 976.
– On behalf of the Minister for Health and pursuant to section 42 of the Health Insurance Commission Act 1973, I present the annual report of the Health Insurance Commission for the year ended 30 June 1 976.
– On behalf of the Minister for Health and pursuant to section 32 of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission Act 1973, 1 present the annual report of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission for 1975-76.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the reports of the Industries Assistance Commission on:
Soaps and detergents, etc.
Commercial motor vehicles, parts and accessories: interim report on short term assistance Electric motors, generators and rotary converters Watt hour meters- (developing country preferences)
Consideration resumed from 17 February. The Bill.
– Before progress was reported last Thursday, my colleague Senator Button had discussed certain aspects of this Bill. I well recall that at that time Senator Button asked the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) whether he was aware of any provisions of the legislation which would come into effect immediately in relation to Australia; in other words, whether this country would hold biological weapons which would fall within the provisions of the Bill and would have to be destroyed. If my recollection is correct, at the time the Minister said that he had not been briefed in regard to that matter. As I understand it, he was to seek some additional information and present it to the Senate. Now that Senator Button is in the chamber, the Minister might be able to answer those questions.
-A number of questions were asked on this matter. Senator Button set the ball rolling and Senator Georges asked several questions, as did Senator Cavanagh and Senator Hall. I have had the opportunity of considering in more detail the questions as set out in Hansard than I was able to do when they were first asked. I have had some investigation made of the questions that were asked. I suggest that I deal with each of the questions and answer them at once instead of dealing with them just one by one.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is it the wish of the Committee that we take the suggestion put forward by the Minister? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
-The first question which was asked by Senator Button and which Senator Georges followed up was in regard to the existence in Australia of biological weapons or toxic substances. I think that the purpose of Senator Button’s question related to the immediate effect of the legislation. In other words, he asked whether, when the legislation comes into effect, we will have to take any action in regard to anything of this kind held in Australia. I think Senator Georges followed up that question in different words, but with the same purpose. I have had this question checked with the Department of Defence and I am advised that the Australian Government does not hold biological weapons or toxic substances which would have to be destroyed under the provisions of the Bill. However, as I can make this statement only on behalf of the Commonwealth Government and with the knowledge of information supplied by the Department of Defence, what would be the position in regard to private companies -
– Or the Tasmanian Government.
– … or a State government and so on cannot be definitely answered by me on behalf of the Government. Of course we are accepting a commitment under this covenant and under this Bill. Naturally we would be exercising our best endeavours to ascertain whether any such substances exist in Australia.
The next question- Senator Georges’ questionwas in regard to tests of biological weapons which possibly have occurred or which may be planned to occur in Australia. I am advised that no tests on biological weapons have taken place anywhere in Australia. Tests on the blistering effects of mustard gas were carried out near Proserpine and on the Brook Islands during World War II. No tests on bacteriological agents have been carried out by defence agencies. The marine toxin generated by the Queensland sea wasp- Chironex Fleckeri- has been studied to determine its paralysing effect on humans. This work is finished and has been published in the open professional literature. The Department of Health has carried out experiments on such agents as bubonic plague and anthrax, but for prophylactic purposes only.
Senator Georges and Senator Cavanagh both asked questions in relation to an alleged tripartite agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada for the testing of biological weapons. I have been able to obtain some information in regard to that matter. Senator Georges referred to a tripartite agreement between Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. Senator Cavanagh referred to an agreement between the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. It seems that Senator Cavanagh probably had in mind the articles of agreement governing collaboration between the authorities of the United States and the United Kingdom in the matter of tube alloys signed by Messrs Roosevelt and Churchill in Quebec on 19 August 1943. This agreement related to atomic bomb research and development. It was secret for a number of years before it was published in 19S4. Neither Canada nor Australia is a party to the 1943 agreement although it did give to a Canadian one place on a 6-man combined policy committee which it established. The agreement does not contain provisions concerning- biological weapons or biological warfare.
The honourable senators might also have had in mind an agreed declaration by the heads of government in the. United States, the United Kingdom and Canada relating to atomic energy which was signed in Washington on 15
November 1945. This was not a secret agreement and the text of the declaration was published in the United Nations Treaty Series, UNTS 3, page 123. This treaty does not contain provisions concerning biological weapons or biological warfare either. Those are the only tripartite agreements which we have been able to identify as possibly being the ones to which reference was made.
Senator Georges raised a question concerning the control of trans-national companies’ activities in relation to these matters. In other words, he wanted to know what sort of control of activities in Australia by such companies- by anybody for that matter, I suppose- is envisaged by governments in execution of the Bill It is proposed that trans-national and local companies will be controlled by a system of registration under the legislation. Such a system would allow inspection of these companies’ laboratories which is not possible at present. The expert analysis required by the legislation would best be carried out by the Department of Health as it has scientists with the necessary expertise. The knowledge and skills of other government departments and instrumentalities would also be available if needed and at times overseas advice would be called upon.
I made some general observations myself on departments that I assumed would be concerned in policing the Bill and the principles of the covenant in Australia. Presumably, the major burden of this will be carried by the Department of Health. The detail of the system of registration obviously has yet to be worked out. There is no plan that I can put before the Senate this afternoon and say: ‘That is it’. This has to be worked out but I have given the direction it will take. Senator Steele Hall asked what international control was to be implemented to enforce the covenant which was the subject of the legislation. The regulation at an international level is provided for in Article VI of the Convention in general terms. I draw the attention of the Senate to it. It reads:
I am informed that this fairly general wording is along the lines of other international disarmament agreements which do not set down strict regulations on these matters in an effort to persuade countries to become parties to them.
-I hope that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) appreciates that I do not want to delay the passage of this legislation, even though Senator Baume may want me to delay it, but it is implicit in the answer which the Minister gave to my question that the Australian Government currently has no means of knowing whether companies which might manufacture chemical or biological substances in this country are in fact doing so; that is to say, there is really no information available to the Government at this moment and, in the Minister’s own words, the Government is incapable of in fact finding out whether Australia is capable of honouring the convention which is embodied in legislation once this Bill is passed. It seems to me to be taking private enterprise philosophy to extraordinary lengths to enable companies to be in fact in possession of or perhaps manufacturing substances which might fall within the scope of this legislation and which may be capable of being used as biological weapons, whether it be in warfare or elsewhere, and the Australian Government can do nothing about it.
In fairness to the Minister I should say that he said in answer to a question from another honourable senator about what was to be done about what are called trans-national companies that the Government would in due course presumably make regulations relating to those companies and Australian companies. The only point I want to make to the Minister is that the passing of this legislation is a mockery unless that is done as a matter of great need and concern and is done with great expedition. I hope the Minister will see that regulations are made as soon as possible in regard to this matter and I hope that the Government does not run into any quasiconstitutional difficulties in making them. I think that it is a matter of great importance which should be dealt with without delay.
-I thank the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) for the information that he has given. I am still dependent upon my memory to support my contention that there was a tripartite arrangement between the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada and that this tripartite arrangement was the subject of a report to the House of Commons which led to a question being asked by Mr Dalyell, M.P. In fact, a visit some years ago by
Mr Dalyell, M.P. to a defence standards laboratory outside Ingham revealed that there were certain articles of clothing that were to be used as protection in biological warfare situations, although there was no test of a biological nature. Such clothing was at this laboratory for testing as a result of that tripartite agreement. It was quite an innocent arrangement; nevertheless the tripartite arrangement did exist. In any case, that is in the past.
I think this legislation is progressive legislation which will make unnecessary such tripartite arrangements and agreements for the testing of biological warfare materials or any instrument associated with such warfare. However, I would like to ask the Minister just how the agency, the Government or whatever instrumentality is set up will decide when any experiments are, as they are now called, prophylactic- perhaps I should use the word ‘preventative’- rather than directly connected with some offensive intention. It seems to me that it is hard to define the difference. Each time we have asked questions about certain experiments- for instance, those carried out in Australia with some nerve warfare techniques and other biological techniques- we have been told that the purpose of such experiments was purely defensive, purely prophylactic, I think the word is, and purely preventative. Can we gain some comfort from the fact that some firm policy position will be taken by the Government with regard to any experiments carried out by government agencies, universities or private concerns?
– I think we would have to rely largely upon the competence and good sense of the people who would be concerned with the registration arrangements that I have mentioned are envisaged. As I have said, this would fall largely upon the Department of Health. But, as I mentioned the other day, other departments would be concerned with it. I imagine that the Commonwealth Police would conduct investigations if there were a suspicion that the purpose was not a genuine research purpose. I imagine that it has techniques for investigating this matter, as it has for investigating any other crimes that may be suspected. I think I would be getting into very deep water here in endeavouring to say anything more as to the type of investigation which would have to be carried out in such a highly technical area.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17 February on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition opposes this Bill. It is legislation which is described in some detail in the second reading speech of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) and which supposedly deals with what were called in the language of 1974 and 1975 ‘political appointments’ to the Public Service- We see this legislation as a rather hastily conceived and inadequate means of dealing with what is a serious and important matter, that is, the terms of appointment, the tenure of office and so on of senior officers of the Public Service. We see this legislation as being nothing more than an attempt to fulfil an election slogan which went something to the effect that there would be no more jobs for the boys after the Fraser Government came into office. It is extraordinary that this legislation is being debated in the Senate on the day after Mr Freeth ‘s appointment as High Commissioner to London was announced. That appointment is a salutary reminder of the emptiness of the slogan ‘there will be no more jobs for the boys after we are elected to office’, which was, of course, a slogan used in the election campaign of 1 975.
– The Bill is about the Public Service.
- Senator Thomas reminds me that this legislation is about the Public Service. If he wants some examples in that area, we will come to them later. What we on the Opposition side say about this legislation is that it is ill conceived and hastily prepared. The reason for saying that is that in February 1977 the Fraser Government, looking through its election promises, finds that there is perhaps one which it can fulfil. It cannot fulfil the ones about inflation, the ones about unemployment, the ones about business confidence or any of the others which are fundamental to the government of the Australian society. It can fulfil its promise that there will be no more jobs for the boys in the Public Service and fulfil its promise that permanent heads in the Public Service will come from certain very clearly defined sources.
– What about the promise of an investment led recovery?
-From the depths behind me I am reminded again about the promise of an investment led recovery. Perhaps Senator James McClelland will interject in a minute and say that there will be a permanent head led recovery when this legislation is passed. Hope springs eternal in the human heart, and that is all we can expect from this legislation. There is nothing much else in it to advance the fundamental concern and the fundamental wish which I believe all honourable senators should share, namely, that the Government should introduce the best procedures for providing flexibility and expertise in the Australian Public Service. That is where we believe the legislation fails. It responds to an election slogan but fails to introduce any new procedures which would provide for those criteria to be fundamental to the question of the selection of senior officers in the Public Service.
Let me refer very briefly to the second reading speech on this Bill by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. In one or two areas he set out matters which the Government apparently regards as being of great concern so far as this legislation is concerned. He said:
One of the best safeguards of the political neutrality of the Public Service is a system of appointment-particularly of appointments to senior positions- which minimises the possibility of appointments for purely partisan reasons and increases the chance of making the best possible appointment.
That is a very glib answer to the problem that aroused the slogan of 1 975. The fundamental defect, however, is that it assumes that in the process of government the thing that is to be avoided above all else is the possibility of somebody from the Liberal Party or the Labor Party being appointed to a senior position in the Public Service. In the words of the Minister’s second reading speech, that would seem to be an appointment for purely partisan reasons.
Of course, there is another criterion which should be applied to the question of who should be appointed to senior positions in the Public Service, and that is whether the appointees are people who, as a result of many years of service in the Australian Public Service and many years of residence in this sociological wasteland of Canberra, have assumed a natural conservatism in all their decision making, or whether they are not victims of that process of hardening of the bureaucratic arteries which arises from long term service and long term residence in Canberra. The question is whether they are conservative people like that or people who are capable of innovative and new ideas. That is a question which transcends the narrow limits of party politics. It is a question of fundamental importance to the good management and efficacy of legislation which comes before this Parliament. It is a question which the Minister studiously avoided in his second reading speech. It is something which the legislation completely avoids. The legislation does not grapple with that question at all, because, as I said before, it is before us in response to a slogan.
The sort of problem which the legislation should be designed to overcome is that which was characterised by the Coombs Royal Commission in the following terms:
The present characteristics of the career service enable the administration to function to some degree as a self-contained elite group exercising significant power generally in the interests of the status quo, but without effectively being accountable for its exercise.
That is a characterisation by the Coombs Royal Commission- the Commission appointed by the Whitlam Labor Government, with choruses of approval from the then Opposition, because it was recognised that there were defects in the structure and methods of appointment in the Australian Public Service and that it had been a very long time since these questions had been examined. In the interests of efficiency in administration, in the interests of flexibility and, if I may use such a word, in the interests of creativity in administration, it was thought that it might be desirable that certain new procedures be introduced. That was the genesis, if I might use that word, of the Coombs Royal Commission which was appointed with the approval of both political parties. This Bill goes nowhere towards meeting any of those sorts of considerations. The details of the legislation have been characterised, quite correctly, as a means of perpetuating certainly the senior officers of the Public Service or as a means of self-perpetuation by what is virtually an old boy network operating amongst the permanent heads.
I might just refer the Senate to some of the things which the Coombs Royal Commission did recommend and which this legislation avoids. Firstly, there was the recommendation that a set procedure be adopted which would leave the power of appointment finally with the Cabinet as as always been the practice in the past. It recommended that vacancies first be advertised, that a panel be nominated by the Prime Minister and the Minister concerned after consultation with the Chairman of the Public Service Board, and that a short list of suitable persons be prepared. The Minister would have the right to nominate a person to the panel for consideration and the Chairman would provide a short list of potential appointees, in order of preference, to the Minister concerned and to the Prime Minister. Thus the Minister and Cabinet would make the ultimate selection. The Royal Commission also recommended that these procedures be adopted for reviewing current appointments, or existing appointments, if a permanent head had been in that position for more than 5 years. The Royal Commission also took the view that a period of from 5 to 7 years was long enough for a departmental head to serve without review of his position and that in general he should be reallocated, or subject to those procedures, after a period of from 5 to 7 years as a permanent head of a department.
Those recommendations of the Coombs Royal Commission all go back to this question of flexibility and the capacity for innovation within the Public Service for which this legislation does not cater. All it caters for, as the Minister pointed out in his second reading speech, is 2 classes of appointees to senior positions in the Public Service- first of all, career appointees, that is permanent members of the Public Service; and, secondly, appointees who would have been characterised in the days of the Labor Government as political appointees. That second category would consist of non-established candidates, so called, who would be appointed effectively for a period of 5 years and whose appointment would be subject to termination by an in-coming government of another political persuasion, subject to certain conditions. Of course, I suppose that is some sort of an advance. It recognises, in a sense, that appointments can be made from outside the Public Service. They can be made for a fixed term and so on. But, as I indicated earlier, this is really not facing up to the problem. It is sidestepping it. It is avoiding the problem which the Coombs Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration was asked to deal with. Throughout the second reading speech of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) in all sorts of contexts one finds references to the report of the Royal Commission and of the Government’s wish to consider the matter further.
In relation to the fundamental matter which relates to the appointment and tenure of permanent heads specifically, the Government is not content to examine thoroughly the report of the Royal Commission and has specifically ignored some of its recommendations which were designed to deal with the situation which the Government claims is the basic problem. We see this very much as a piece of political legislation designed, as I have said, to fill an election promise. It introduces into the Australian Public Service a system of selection of permanent heads which is very much subject to the control and influence of the Chairman of the Public Service Board, much less subject to the influence of Ministers and the Prime Minister and very much subject to the influence not only of the Chairman of the Public Service Board but also of his colleagues from among permanent heads whom he selects. The legislation introduces a procedure which does not allow for advertising before the committee, chaired by the Chairman of the Public Service Board, meets to consider appointments. It provides for advertising after that has taken place. As I have said, this Bill ignores in those respects the recommendations of the Coombs Committee. The legislation does not help in any sense in introducing flexibility. In fact, when those procedures become established it may introduce a degree of rigidity and of first and second class permanent heads into the Public Service, but not so described.
The Australian Labor Party sees this legislation as a sort of knee-jerk response in an effort to fulfil a mistaken election promise. It is an inadequate response in that it does not go to the question of the examination of the fundamentals of what the Public Service methods of appointment should be, what the structure should be, and what the desired end should be in providing the best possible advice and service to the Parliament and Government of this country. For the reasons which I have summarised as much as possible, we strongly oppose this legislation and strongly oppose the motives which have led to its introduction.
– The Senate is considering the Public Service Amendment (First Division Officers) Bill, which provides, among other things, for the method of appointment of some First Division officers within the Public Service. It provides for procedures to regulate the entry of what might be called outside or new blood into the top levels of the Public Service. It provides for a means of termination of appointments from outside the Public Service if that is thought desirable with a change of government.
I must agree with some of the propositions put forward by Senator Button. I have no doubt that our Public Service can benefit from the entry of people outside the service to top positions. The concern which many of us have felt has been about the permanency which, up to this time, such appointments carry. There is the dilemma between the permanency which goes with established Public Service career appointments and the benefit which can flow from the entry of independent, new thought into the Public Service by a government anxious to see its programs carried out.
I do not wish it to be thought that I find anything frightening or undesirable about appointments to senior positions from outside the service. This Bill, however, by providing a framework within which such appointments can be regulated and within which they can be terminated, if necessary, in fact enhances the capacity of a government to appoint such people without controversy and without its motives being misunderstood. Having read the report of the debate in another place, it is interesting how few speakers, particularly from the Opposition, have sought to examine any of the appointments which were made to positions of head of department within the Australian Public Service. It is a fact that during the time the Australian Labor Party was in government 3 appointments highlighted the problem which could arise. These were 3 political appointments to heads of government departments of former secretaries of Mr Whitlam.
– Like Mr Freeth?
– I shall come back to discuss each of these men. In order that the honourable senator opposite will not have apoplexy I point out that I intend to make it clear that I consider them men of eminence and capacity. I do not necessarily deplore the fact that they entered the Public Service. I depore the fact that under the conditions then operating their entry meant permanence in the Public Service and it blocked for all time the career opportunities of men who had come through the service. I make that quite clear. The Australian Labor Party would help us if it examined the problems which the entry of people from outside the service can pose to those officers who have made a career working themselves through the service and who see that all promotions to top level can be blocked by a government simply bringing in its own people. Even if it loses office later those people are permanently in possession of jobs in the First Division.
I believe that we are looking at the way in which there should be an interplay between the Executive, Parliament, the judiciary, a courageous Press and the Public Service. The amount of power within the Public Service, particularly within certain parts of the Public Service, makes it of great importance to our community to examine the way in which appointments are made, the way in which we go about seeking people to take jobs within the Public Service, the way in which our departments are structured, the way in which they are led and the way in which those appointments, when they have been made, are given tenure or the way in which that can be discontinued.
I agree with Senator Button that institutions have a certain common dynamic. Most institutions function in a similar way. There is not much difference in the kind of group dynamic operating between a prison, a school, a monastery, a parliament or a government department. They all have the same kind of rules of power. They all operate, whatever their ostensible purpose, by certain hidden agendas which have to do with the use and distribution of power within the institution for the purposes of the people working there. Those hidden agendas may have very little do to with the intended purposes for which that institution or department is working.
Nevertheless, I believe there has been considerable benefit to this country from the existence of an independent, non-partisan- in public at least- Public Service to advise Ministers of State. It has not been entirely beneficial. As Senator Button pointed out, it is true that with the neutrality we get, we also tend to get an inbreeding. We tend to get an entrenchment of beliefs, ideas and practices. I commend honourable senators to the essays by Professor David Butler in his very excellent and readable book The Canberra Model. In it, in looking at the question of the right of public servants to speak publicly, Professor Butler makes some effort to examine the kinds of relationships which should exist between senior public servants and the Ministers of State whom they serve. He draws up the arguments between a neutral Public Service and an activist Public Service and, I think, comes down on balance in favour of the model which has been traditional in this country. Nevertheless, there can be value in providing a flexible mechanism by which it is possible to vary the appointment of officers of the First Division.
The present Bill concerns the appointment of only some First Division officers. It is concerned with the method of appointment of heads of departments. Certain other First Division officersfor example, the heads of parliamentary departments and of some statutory authorities- are not covered by the provisions of this Bill. That would mean that the appointment of, say, the Commissioner of Community Relations would not be covered by the provisions of this Bill. The Bill refers only to those First Division officers who are appointed as permanent heads of departments.
I do not believe that Senator Button did justice to the kinds of procedures which have been suggested or which are envisaged because at all times there is a capacity to seek a wider choice. At all times there is a capacity to go outside the Public Service when seeking the officer one wants. As I understand the arrangements, there will be a committee formed from within the Public Service when an appointment occurs or when a vacancy is about to occur. It is true that that committee will draw up its own short list for presentation to the Minister and the Prime Minister, but there is no requirement upon it to select only from within the Public Service. That committee can go where it wants to seek people who might be suitable for appointment as head of a Public Service department.
– Non-established candidates.
– The committee can go wherever it wishes to seek a candidate. When that short list is presented the Prime Minister, the Cabinet or the Government is not obliged to act upon the recommendations which come from that committee and can then put the appointment to public advertisement. The responsibility rests where it ought to rest, with the government of the day and the Ministers of that Government. It is up to the government of the day in the end to appoint whoever it wishes. The matter can go to advertisement, a longer list can be sought, and in the end the committee meeting again can make another recommendation or series of recommendations, and again the Government can make its own decision on whether it wishes to accept that recommendation. The Government at all times maintains the capacity and right to appoint an outside person.
All this Bill does, besides setting down that selection procedure, is determine that if a government decides to appoint a non-career public servant certain conditions will apply to that appointment. I think that those conditions will provide security for career officers within the Public Service and some security for people coming into the Public Service from outside. It will come as no surprise to those honourable senators who have read Alvin Toffler’s book Future Shock when I say that many people today are not seeking one career which will take them over a lifetime. Many people are prepared to see themselves recycled in a professional sense several times in a lifetime to have the experience of different careers and jobs. Certainly there are many people who would be willing to come into the Public Service and who would be reassured by the conditions that would attach to appointments by government of outside persons.
The conditions would include appointment for a period of up to 5 years- a fixed term publicly identified and stated. It would be an appointment which could be terminated by the Governor-General upon the advice of the Prime Minister should the government of the day change. If the new government found the appointee unsuitable it would arrange his dismissal but, in order to protect him, there are provisions for a negotiated settlement under fair conditions at termination with respect to such things as superannuation arrangements. I well remember the interest which a number of honourable senators had in the abolition of a statutory commission of the Commonwealth, the Social Welfare Commission. There was a period when we had a lively interest in what would happen to the head of that Commission when the Commission was abolished. As is well known, the Fraser Government made most generous and adequate arrangements which were satisfactory to that officer and to all the people who were interested. However, this raised the question of the legitimate rights of a First Division officer when a commission is abolished or, as would happen under this legislation, when an officer’s service is no longer required.
I do not believe that there is necessarily anything wrong with what might be called the American system of patronage appointments where the incoming government puts its own people into senior positions. In America the system works consistently and on a change of government those people go.
The problems with the present system here certainly have been highlighted by 3 appointments made by the Labor Government during its term of office- the appointment of Mr Menadue as Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the appointment of Dr Wilenski as Secretary of the Department of Labor and Immigration and the appointment of Mr Spigelman as Secretary of the Department of the Media. Those are the 3 important appointments made by the Labor Government which forced us to concentrate our attention on this problem.
The position of Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is one of the 3 pivotal positions of power in Canberra. Those positions are the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Secretary of the Department of the Treasury and the Chairman of the Public Service Board. The Labor Party put one of its men into one of those positions when it was in office. Lest it be thought that I am attacking these men, I am not. Mr Medadue had been private secretary to Mr Whitlam, and he was Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet between 16 December 1974 and 20 September 1976. Mr Spigelman was a brilliant law graduate from the university which I attended. He was private secretary to Mr Whitlam and was appointed Secretary of the Department of the Media, Labor’s propaganda department, between 30 June 1975 and 22 December 1975.
– Come on, don’t be ridiculous.
– I was interested to learn of the vehemence with which the Public Service unions attacked that particular appointment. I simply remind Senator Button, who interjects, that Mr N. Campbell, the Federal Secretary of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, said that the placing of Mr Spigelman in the Media post could be described only as ‘ an expensive national scandal’. That was the view of unionists whose members were working in the Department at the time. Mr Spigelman, of course, is now working on the New South Wales Law Reform Commission. Dr Wilenski has had a quite remarkable career from the time he started off, like so many other people, as a junior resident at the Royal North Shore Hospital. If I might just digress, in looking at the people who have come to this Parliament- Cass, Klugman, Everingham, Grimes, Wilenski and myself- one wonders what is wrong with the Royal North Shore Hospital that so many of its graduates leave medicine for ever and enter upon the road of politics or public administration. Dr Wilenski, like so many members of this Parliament, left medicine and has had a distinguished academic career. He too was private secretary to Mr Whitlam. He too was placed in the position of secretary of one of the departments of State, in his case serving as Secretary of the former Department of Labour and Immigration between March 1975 and December 1975.
Under the provisions proposed in this Bill, those appointments could have been made and, with a change of government, the services of those officers could have been terminated by negotiation. I would find that quite unexceptionable. I believe that the Public Service would benefit from a greater capacity to allow in outsiders, but that the conditions attaching to such appointments should be regulated as suggested in this Bill. There is nothing wrong in a government bringing in its own men, however partisan they may be or however dedicated to a particular political view, provided that with a change of government their services can be terminated, as happens in the United States. That is a consistent and proper approach, and I suspect that career officers in the Public Service would find it far less threatening than the position at the present time, where any appointment from the outside means an appointment with life tenure.
There have not been a lot of appointments made to the position of permanent head from outside the Public Service. I am aware that Sir Kenneth Bailey was appointed in 1946 as the head of the Attorney-General’s Department, but he came from the position of Professor of Public Law at the University of Melbourne. Sir Hugh Ennor, an extremely eminent Australian scientist, came in 1967 from the John Curtin School of Medical Research to the position of Secretary of the Department of Education and Science. In 1973 Mr C. C. Halton came from the position of Senior Administering Executive, Planning and Major Projects, in the Federal Ministry of Transport in Canada to the position of Secretary of the Department of Transport. A few other appointments have been made from outside- Sir Robert Jackson to National Development, Dr McMichael from the Public Service of New South Wales, and Major-General Refshauge to the Department of Health, and Air Marshal Sir Richard Williams, who went to Civil Aviation in 1946, as well as 3 secretaries to Mr Whitlam who went to 3 departments during the time of the last Government.
I do not believe it is necessary that all positions at the head of the Public Service should be career positions, but I believe that the permanent officers should have a fair go and a fair career structure. The proposals contained in this Bill, proposals which are soon to become law, will ensure that the just and proper claims of career public servants are at least considered. They will ensure that a government retains the capacity, if it so wishes, to appoint its own people. After all, we have a good history of people appointing those sympathetic to their views. Mr Whitlam, for example, appointed a Governor-General whose views he knew were sympathetic to his own. There have been several other appointments for limited periods to which I cannot object. Senator Sibraa is not in the chamber, but those of us who come from Collaroy will remember our neighbour, ex-Senator John Armstrong, who went to London as our national representative for a fixed period of time. I see nothing wrong with that.
I believe that in the years ahead we may have to look at some kind of separation of powers within the Australian system. One of the things that Ministers and Prime Ministers need is some kind of fresh and independent advice in areas which they consider to be particularly sensitive or particularly important to their program. If they wish to bring in outside people let them do so, but under the conditions provided in this piece of legislation. As Senator Button has pointed out, there is nothing wrong with innovation or innovative ideas, with freshness, originality or creativity. Under the new arrangements, the Government has the capacity to allow those things without interfering with the traditional Public Service structure.
This measure will restore confidence within the Public Service. It will restore confidence to those officers in the Public Service who are looking for appointment to top positions. It will ensure fairness in the treatment of those outsiders who are brought in to fill positions during the tenure of one government. I do not reject and I do not believe my colleagues reject the concept that appointments from outside the Public Service should be made to serve a particular position. I want to see that practice regulated. The Bill does that, and I support the Bill.
– During the course of his remarks Senator Baume tried to draw an analogy between what is proposed in this Bill and what happens in the United States. I suggest to the honourable senator that no analogy of the type he suggests can be drawn. In the United States those who are appointed by the President as secretaries of departments are akin to Ministers of the Crown in this country. They are referred to as secretaries and are not permanent heads of departments. In the United States, when a government goes then those secretaries of departments who have been appointed by the President for the life of the government go with the government. But in this instance, the Government is deliberately setting about creating 2 classes of Public Service permanent heads- the permanent permanent heads and, for want of a better term, the casual permanent heads. Despite Senator Baume ‘s remarks, I can think of nothing more demoralising for those who are career public servants, indeed I can think of nothing more frustrating for the Australian community, than to realise that within this legislation the Government is building into the system what might commonly be referred to as the Canberra syndrome where the whole thinking of a bureaucratic city is virtually being locked in, where little encouragement is being given to people outside the permanent Public Service to come and give their constructive thoughts and ideas to the government in office.
Might I point out that if one were a conservative in this place one would say that perhaps Senator Baume was putting a reasonable case from his Government’s point of view. Of course one would have thought this until he drew the analogy, quite wrongly, of what is happening under this legislation and what happens in the United States of America and until he referred to the Department of the Media as Labor’s propaganda department. Despite all the propaganda of the Liberal Party on that score it has never produced an example of one piece of political propaganda produced by the Department of the Media. Senator Baume ‘s remarks are insulting to the public servants who were in that Department.
I emphasise that when the first permanent head of that Department was brought into the Public Service by a Labor Government- let us face it, he was shunned or ostracised in some respects by permanent heads of other departmentsthe cry went around the Public Service jungle of this city that that permanent head had been brought in to establish a propaganda department. That is the sort of co-operation that permanent head- I speak with some authority on the subject- received from some, not all, senior permanent public servants. After that permanent head of the Department of the Media had been transferred to the important position of Australian ambassador to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation one very senior public servant said to me that on reflection he was concerned by the treatment that the gentleman who had been brought from outside the Service had received from the permanent heads who had been in the Public Service for some time. I remember the uproar within the Public Service when people were appointed from outside the Public Service into the First Division.
I doubt whether this legislation is something that the community wants. I think it is legislation that the permanent permanent heads of the departments want very much. Frankly, I fail to see any reason or logic in the legislation that is put forward except perhaps that it will enable members of the Government to tell their supporters from quite an exaggerated point of view that they as a Government have taken action in accordance with the rather arrogant expression of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his policy speech: ‘There will be no more jobs for the boys’. I suppose it is felt by the Government that by the production of this type of legislation it has satisfied that hollow sounding statement in the Government’s policy speech of November 1975. It is hollow because, as my colleague Senator James McClelland stated, a number of political appointments have been made by this Government since it came to office. Its erstwhile Liberal colleague, Sir David Fairbairn, has been appointed ambassador to the Netherlands. Its erstwhile Liberal colleague, Sir Nigel Bowen, has been made Chief Judge of the Federal Court of Australia. Its erstwhile National Country Party colleague, Mr John England, has been made Administrator of the Northern Territory and, of course, its erstwhile Liberal colleague, Mr Freeth, has now been appointed High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.
I personally do not criticise that type of appointment. I am not criticising individuals. I think that far too often the knowledge of general overall affairs and expertise gained within a political party and especially as a member of parliament is overlooked by the newspaper editors who criticise and by those who seek from time to time to make cheap political capital out of these things. For instance, no one could get a better ambassador for this nation that Mr Barnard in Stockholm. When I was a Minister of the Government I had to go to New Zealand to represent the Australian Government at the funeral of the late former Prime Minister of New Zealand. I can honestly say that Dame Annabelle Rankin, a former member of this Senate, could not have been a better high commissioner for Australia than she was in New Zealand. We appointed Mr Harry Webb, the former member for Stirling, as Administrator of Christmas Island. I was not the Minister who made the appointment but I succeeded the Minister who made the appointment. Mr Webb was recognised by all who dealt with Christmas Island, especially the members of the British Phosphate Commission, as being an outstanding administrator. I am sure my successor in office, Senator Withers, will agree with me.
For heaven’s sake stop this cry of: ‘No more jobs for the boys’. If a person, irrespective of political persuasion has the ability and capacity to do a job let us have the courage to appoint him. For the whole of the time the Labor Government was in office we heard nothing day after day but condemnation because someone who might have been or who was of the political persuasion of the
Labor Government was being appointed not because of his ability, according to the then Opposition’s argument, but only because of his political persuasion. As I have suggested, surely the test is ability for the job and integrity in the job and the general overall national interest. All of those people we appointed as permanent heads to the First Division of the Commonwealth Public Service were people who had outstanding ability. They were of the highest integrity and they had the national interest at heart. When they were appointed they were paid at First Division officers’ rates and when the present Government did not keep them on as permanent heads it still paid them at First Division officers ‘ rates.
That level of the Public Service is like a club. As honourable senators know, in Canberra permanent heads of government departments mix with one another, socially and otherwise. That is natural. For instance, many are members of the Commonwealth Club. Is it likely that those who will be appointed in future from outside the Public Service as a result of this legislation will be admitted to membership of, for instance, the Commonwealth Club? They might be admitted, but will they be accepted within the present group?. I suggest that as a result of this sort of arrangement the Government will create tremendous tensions and tremendous frustrations within the ranks of the Public Service.
As I have said, we of the Labor movement get a bit sick and tired of the constant cry, especially when we are in government, of: ‘Jobs for the boys’. It is easy to pick up an old cliche and peddle it around the community but for goodness sake let all of us in this Parliament, realising the knowledge and expertise that develops as a result of service in a political party, acknowledge that it is just an old hackneyed phrase that newspaper editors and some journalists like to catch onto from time to time. Every government appoints people of all political persuasions to positions of trust. I know that since this Government has come into office it has appointed at least one former member of our side of politics to a position. A former Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Honourable Jim Cope, has been appointed to a committee looking at national buildings. When we were in government we made appointments of certain former members of the Parliament from the same side of politics as members of the present Government. The former Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield is one I can call to mind readily. I say to members of the Government Parties: ‘For goodness sake, forget about the cry of “jobs for the boys” and get on with the task of developing and building this great nation’.
The purpose of this Public Service Amendment (First Division Officers) Bill is to make outside appointments to the First Division of the Public Service, firstly, more difficult and, secondly, less attractive to potential outside appointees. It is designed also to make it difficult for incoming governments to make outside appointments merely by the device of placing very considerable power in the hands of the Chairman of the Public Service Board. Of course, the Chairman of the Public Service Board occupies a statutory office. He is appointed by the government.
– But not subject to the provisions of this Bill.
– No, exactly. His appointment is not subject to the provisions of this Bill. That is exactly what I am saying. Is it not a complete and utter waste of time for honourable senators opposite to be talking as they have been talking in an endeavour to frustrate a Labor government when it comes into office when all that government has to do, as I see the position under this Bill, is to transfer the Chairman of the Public Service Board to some other body and appoint its own Chairman of the Public Service Board. That appointee does not have to come from inside the Service. He can come from outside the Service. Therefore, all the machinations of this legislation go by the board completely. Insofar as it is more likely that a Labor government will make outside appointments than that a conservative coalition Government will, clearly the Bill is aimed at restricting appointments by future Labor governments. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) might like to reply to that aspect of my remarks in regard to the appointment of the Chairman of the Public Service Board.
To my mind, the major parts of the Bill- they have been referred to by Senator Button and Senator Baume- significantly compromise the merit principle that exists within the Public Service. They could well open the way at least to patronage, if not to nepotism; and, far from depoliticising the Service, in fact they could very well politicise it. It is a totally negative Bill and I believe that it is completely unnecessary. The legislation creates 2 classes of permanent head: Those who are career public servants- permanent public servants- and those impermanent or casual permanent heads in the case of anyone else appointed but not fortunate enough to have been a member of the Australian Public Service. The clear purpose of the legislation, as I have said, is to deny an incoming Labor government the opportunity to appoint its own permanent heads on the same terms as a conservative government.
The Bill places in the hands of the Chairman of the Public Service Board extensive powers for which apparently under this legislation he is not accountable to the Parliament. I suggest with great respect to the Minister in charge of the Bill, who I know is not responsible for it but who is responsible for its passage in this chamber, that the Chairman of the Public Service Board, who makes recommendations to the Prime Minister as to who should or should not be a permanent head of a government department, is not accountable to the Australian Parliament under this legislation. I suggest that that is a rather extraordinary situation. Had we as a Labor Government when we were in power contemplated putting legislation of this nature on to the statute book of this country- I am speaking hypothetically, because we would not have done so- I am certain that the then Opposition, having the numbers that it had, would have ensured that a provision of accountability was written into the legislation.
Honourable senators can see the types of dangers that flow from this situation. Apparently the Chairman of the Public Service Board can be someone appointed from outside the Service. Under this legislation, he can place, as it were, a black ban on anyone else coming from outside the Public Service. The Bill does nothing to deal with the substantial question of the tenure of office of permanent heads of departments- a subject which was referred to in the Coombs Royal Commission report. If I may say so, I think that this legislation has been prepared, produced and presented to the Parliament well in consideration of the recommendations that were made by the Coombs Royal Commission on the administration of the Australian Public Service. The Bill ignores or perhaps overrides principles of merit that are central to the operations of the Public Service Act, preferring instead to place some presumed value upon the accident of initial career choice. For this reason it can be said to represent a disincentive to all those persons of merit who might have contemplated by invitation taking up a position of permanent head. Such persons, if appointed, clearly would be second class permanent heads.
Let us take the situation of a government which has, say, one years of office remaining and a position of permanent head becomes available in one of the departments. How in the name of goodness would we get a person from outside the service to accept appointment for the remainder of the term of that government, when the Bill contains provisions such as those contained in clause 3 (8) and (9)? Clause 3 (8) states:
The person shall be appointed to hold office for such period, not exceeding -
I emphasise those words ‘not exceeding’-
S years and not extending beyond the date on which he will attain the age of 65 years, as is specified in the instrument of his appointment, but, subject to this section, he is eligible for reappointment.
Clause 3 (9) states:
The Governor-General may, before the expiration of the period for which the person is appointed to hold office, terminate the appointment of the person on the recommendation of the Prime Minister if the Prime Minister who makes the recommendation is not a member of-
the political party of which the Prime Minister on whose recommendation the person was appointed was a member at the time when the person was appointed; or
a political party of which any other person who held office as a Minister at that time was then a member.
It appears to me that this Government has designed deliberately a situation in which, if it and the present Prime Minister lose office and a Labor government is elected, this Government is binding that Labor government -
– Binding it to what?
– It is binding that government to the appointments that it might make to positions of permanent head. Also, as I read clause 3 (9) (b), the Government also is setting out to bind the Prime Minister in a coalition government. The situation might arise in which a National Country Party Prime Minister is replaced by a member of another political party. Then the appointment of anyone who had been appointed permanent head by the previous Prime Minister, even though it was a coalition Government, could be upset. Therefore, there is a stranglehold on the situation in regard to any change in the political persuasion of governments.
I also draw the attention of the Parliament to proposed new section 54a (2) which provides that the Chairman of the Public Service Board has absolute discretion to appoint bis own committee. The proposed new section reads:
Where a vacancy has occurred, or is about to occur, in an office of Permanent Head . . . the Chairman-
shall prepare a written report nominating persons . . . whom he considers suitable for appointment to fill that vacancy; and
shall, after consulting the Prime Minister as to the persons who are to be members of the Committee, by instrument under his hand, appoint a Committee, to be constituted as provided by sub-section (3), to prepare a written report . . .
So first of all, the Chairman, after consultation with the Prime Minister, has the responsibility of appointing the committee. Sub-section (3) of that proposed new sub-section reads:
Subject to sub-section (4), the Committee shall consist of-
the Chairman; and
such number (not being less than 2) of other persons, being persons each of whom holds an office of Permanent Head, as the Chairman thinks it desirable to appoint.
Frankly, I suppose that in this political game we have all heard a lot and know a bit about stacked ballots. So far as I am concerned, the situation to which I have just referred, where the Chairman of the Public Service Board goes and consults with the Prime Minister and is then responsible for appointing the other 2 members of the committee who will be charged with the responsibility of making recommendations to the Prime Minister and to the Government, certainly is only encouraging the development of patronage. If not, it is encouraging- and I hate to use the word- nepotism in the appointment of officers by the Public Service.
The higher ranks of the Commonwealth Public Service seem very well protected and entrenched by this legislation. I think there are problems ahead for the administration of Australia when this legislation creates 2 classes of permanent head- those who are permanent career officers of the Public Service and are permanent public servants and those who are permanent permanent heads and are brought in from outside the Public Service, not because of their political persuasion, but because of their outstanding ability in whichever sphere their services are sought.
I think this is one of the most backward pieces of legislation, one of the most conservative and reactionary pieces of legislation, that has ever been presented to a parliament by a government. The Opposition sees no logic in it. I join with my colleague Senator Button in urging that the legislation be rejected.
– In my brief period in the Senate I have never doubted the sincerity of Senator Douglas McClelland. However, I must say that in the speech that he has just delivered in regard to the Bill dealing with the appointment of First Division officers of the Australian Public Service, he has expressed many fears which I doubt are well founded. His first charge was that this legislation was hastily conceived. I think that that charge can be easily refuted. One goes back in time to the statement made by the Prime Minister, Mr
Malcolm Fraser, when he indicated that he was concerned, as was the Austraiian community, with the fact that there were many movements of senior heads of the Commonwealth Public Service which appeared to be political. At that time the Australian Public Service was growing at a tremendous rate. As I have indicated, the Australian community did suffer some disquiet at the fact that such appointments were taking place. As other honourable senators have indicated, this is no reflection on the people involved, but it did bring about this sense of uneasiness, this disquiet, in regard to the method by which these appointments were being made.
So the Prime Minister indicated that he felt that there ought to be some set system regulating the means and the methods of bringing about appointments of First Division officers to the position of head of a department. I think this system commenced in November 1975. Obviously, since then a lot of consideration has been given to the Coombs report and the method of establishing these regulatory controls to bring about what is described as a competitive nomination process within the First Division of the Public Service; that is, heads of departments. It has another important effect too, which has been described by other speakers, inasmuch as it can bring in a person from outside the Australian Public Service, who is not a part of that service, to be a permanent head. It can also involve a situation where that person is not on the list of the Chairman of the Committee who reviews and prepares lists of possible candidates for these positions.
Senator Douglas McClelland said that the legislation is unnecessary. I contend that it is most necessary, when one considers the growth of the Australian Public Service since Federation. Since Federation the Commonwealth Public Service has grown from small beginnings to what it is today- a vast executive administration. We feel it throughout Australia. At the same time, of course, we have reached the situation where Australia is now a modern developing nation. I could well imagine that within the confines of the Australian Public Service there is not the person most suited to a position to contend with the modern trends and tensions that are developing in the world today. So I think it is most realistic that a person can be brought into the Service from outside it- a person who can stand up to the competition within the Australian Public Service and offer his services to the Australian nation for a brief period.
Senator Douglas McClelland looks upon this aspect; and as I said before, he spoke as I think he always speaks, with utmost sincerity- as a possible restriction on a Labor government, if it came to power. Nowhere in this legislation can I see such a situation arising. Such a situation could arise if a person were appointed for a time without there being any possibility of his being removed. But this person from outside the Service, this permanent head of a department, is there only for the period of the life of the government. The following Prime Minister can recommend to the Governor-General that this person no longer be required and so he is relieved of his responsibilities. He accepts that because he knows that when he first offered himself for appointment to the Public Service as a head of a department, it was for only a brief period. Perhaps that brief period could be extended according to the life of the government, but he knows that the position that he has accepted is restricted.
Senator Douglas McClelland asks where in the Australian nation would one find a person who would possibly accept a position as permanent head of a department for only one or two years. I suggest that if people in the Australian community who have special expertise that would interest a government were asked to come forward and serve the government and the community for a brief period, there are men and women who would accept that challenge, knowing that the position they would hold would be for a limited period.
I think the proposed method of appointing First Division officers to positions as heads of departments is an advancement on the system that exists today. The suggestion that the chairman of this committee, that is the Chairman of the Public Service Board, will have too much power and the other criticisms that have been levelled against the proposal are, to a degree, a reflection on the person holding the position. I believe that a person who achieves the position of Chairman of the Public Service Board has done so through merit. He must have integrity. Even if one wished to question the proposal many clauses within the Bill contain safeguards which will ensure that the chairman and his committee do not provide what have been described as ‘jobs for the boys’ within the Australian Public Service. The safeguard is there inasmuch as the chairman of the committee has to refer the short list of candidates to the Prime Minister and the Minister in the department concerned. If the Prime Minister is not satisfied with the short list which the chairman and his committee of two or more persons have produced he can say so and request the committee to review the short list and take suitable action to ensure that other names come forward. At this juncture perhaps the Prime Minister and the Minister concerned may consider that there are still insufficient names of people with the required expertise. Then, of course, there is the opportunity for advertising the position throughout Australia. At the same time, the Government has the ability to search outside the Public Service for a person with the required expertise.
Let us have no more criticisms that the members of the committee and the Chairman of the Public Service Board can abuse their positionsthat is, if one wanted to question their integrity, which I certainly would not do- because there are within this legislation safeguards which to my mind will certainly ensure that a person who has the expertise to take over and run the department concerned will be appointed. It has been said that there will be fears within the Australian community that this system will not work. I question that statement. Over the years I have been a mere citizen of Australia who has travelled around to a considerable extent. In those years I never thought that I would be a member of the Senate as I am today. In those days I was like many ordinary citizens- I still am an ordinary citizen- who were interested in what took place in the Federal Parliament. Then the question was always asked: ‘How can we improve the Australian Public Service? Is it capable of being the executive government, as it is today, of a rapidly developing country that requires many skills to ensure that we remain on top of our development and guide the nation in its future?’ While it is no reflection on the Australian Public Service today, people around Australia have often wondered why a person should not be able to come from the community outside the Australian Public Service to offer his expertise in the field in which it is required. As I have said, the position of a person coming from outside into the Australian Public Service for a brief period is well safeguarded.
There is another interesting aspect when one considers the role of this committee. The committee will prepare a short list, discuss the short list with the Government, and so on. The idea of what has been described as a competitive nomination process is not lost. The fact that a person within the Commonwealth Public Service who considers that he has the ability to be a First Division officer in charge of a department has not been nominated by the committee does not mean that his chances have been completely overlooked and that his application, if he has made one, has been ignored. When introducing this Bill the Prime Minister said:
I must stress at this point that nothing in the Bill will prevent the appointment, as permanent heads, of persons not nominated as suitable candidates by either the Chairman of the Board or the committee.
It is my understanding that a person from within the Service who offers his services can be appointed and that if this occurs- I can be corrected if I am wrong- his appointment would be a short term one like the appointment of a person from outside the Public Service. All in all, this is progressive legislation. It will encourage and give confidence to the Australian Public Service. It will enable the efficiency of the Service to continue and make it a service of impartiality and integrity.
Many criticisms have been made by Opposition senators. Some honourable senators have been flying kites to a degree. Others have a sense of frustration or perhaps uneasiness. I believe that this new method of regulating the means of appointing First Division officers to departments of the Australian Public Service is a step forward. It is certainly a step forward from the situation that existed a little while ago. I and many others believe that at that point in time the Public Service was beginning to wander aimlessly. One could sense then frustration within the Australian Public Service because those in control in the Australian Public Service seemed to be wandering along without guidance. I believe that this legislation will do all that is necessary to bring about a continued healthy Australian Public Service.
I have always been interested in encouragement being given to Australian women to participate in industry, politics, the Public Service and so on. For so long it has been said- perhaps it still applies in some of the lower echelons of the Australian Public Service- that the Australian woman cannot make progress when she is in competition with the Australian male. It is certainly surprising that there are only a few women in senior positions in the Australian Public Service. The fact that the senior positions have been described in this legislation as being for men and women must surely give some encouragement to those women who wish to become involved in or who are involved in public life. As I have said before, it is my wish to see the Australian woman participate more in public life. I do not think Australian women are not in senior positions in the Public Service because of a lack of efficiency, competence or whatever. I believe that it is because Australian women have become frustrated by the restrictions that have been imposed upon them over the years. I commend the Government for its endeavours to overcome the situation in that respect. I am sure there are many women who are capable of participating in public life. I believe that eventually we will see such women come forward. I look forward to seeing more women occupying senior positions in the Australian Public Service.
I commend the Bill. I believe it is a good Bill. I believe it is a Bill which has been well considered. I believe it is a Bill which compares favourably with the Coombs report. There are some variations between this legislation and the recommendations in the Coombs report. If I remember rightly, one of the recommendations of the Coombs report was that it should not be necessary for short term appointments to retire when a change of government occurred. To my mind that is unacceptable because of the nature of the appointment. I believe that a person who is appointed the head of a department under these circumstances should go. After all he would realise at the time he offered himself for appointment that this could well be so.
There also has been criticism of the fact that there are various aspects of the Coombs report that are not covered in this legislation. It has been said that certain recommendations of the Coombs report have been ignored and that, as happens to many reports, they will be lost forever. It has been clearly indicated by the Government that there are some aspects of the Coombs report relating to the Australian Public Service that are not covered in this legislation but that they are not to be accepted as having been lost forever. I understand that more work is being done in this regard. A continuing review is being conducted of the Coombs report. I suggest that we will see more action being taken by the Government in the future with regard to various aspects that are not dealt with in this legislation.
Senator GEORGES (Queensland) (5. 3 SiHaving listened to Senator Kilgariff it is obvious that the Government is on a delaying course, for reasons not clear to me. My sympathies are with Senator Kilgariff because I recall having been on my feet many times with sufficient material to enable me to put a very constructive and pithy argument in 10 to 15 minutes only to find myself being required to speak for 45 minutes.
– He did very well.
– I congratulate him. He did very well. The Senate is debating the Public Service Amendment (First Division Officers) Bill 1976. I have risen in order to give another honourable senator a chance to continue, but first I have one or two thoughts to express on this Bill. For many years I have been of the opinion that what we need in this country is a centralisation of sovereignty. That means that I am a centralist. I believe in an Australian government. I believe that there is some continuing role for the State governments. Nevertheless I believe that sovereignty should rest with the Australian government. But I have always been somewhat wary of the centralising of the bureaucracy- of the building up in Canberra of a massive organisation which, by its very nature, turns in upon itself, being concerned with its own interests and its own existence, and which neglects the programs, policies and Acts of Parliament which it is the Public Service’s duty to carry into effect for the benefit of the people of Australia. For some time now I have advocated that there should be some sort of federalism as far as the Public Service is concerned and that there should be decentralisation of the Public Service. It ought to be spread across the Commonwealth; it ought not to be centred in Canberra. So I am a federalist in one way and a centralist in another.
I think the Public Service has suffered in the past from a rigidity within itself that has been to its disadvantage. I do not think this legislation assists this situation. This legislation endeavours to protect public servants, especially senior public servants, from outside appointments which may be made at the whim of a particular governmenta government which may become patronising and which may exercise patronage in appointing those whom it believes will serve its purposes as heads of various departments. It seems to be very much accepted in the United States system that public servants are appointed with governments and that public servants also fall with the fall of governments. The reason for that seems to be protection of the people of the United States against an entrenched bureaucracy. I do not go to that point. I do not believe that that ought to be the case. I also do not believe that the Bill which is before us, which seeks to make appointments outside the Public Service of a continuing nature but to limit those appointments, is good legislation.
I think it would be more to the advantage of government and the Public Service if the problem of the permanency of First Division officers were to be met in this way: A First Division officer- a head of a department; a Secretary of a department- ought not to consider himself elected in perpetuity. He ought not to consider himself to be in a position of complete security from which he cannot bc dismissed but can only be promoted to some ambassadorial position overseas. I believe that that is a disadvantage to proper government of this country. It is a disadvantage to the elected government of the country in that, if a head of a department is not in its opinion capable of carrying out its policy or in some way frustrates its policy, he should be able to be retrenched in some way; it should not be necessary to appoint him to a senior position overseas in the ambassadorial service. If a government is frustrated by a head of a department in the application of its policy, it should be possible for that government to move that head of department aside or to return him to a pool.
It was suggested once that Second Division public servants should represent a pool from which First Division officers should be appointed for the term of the elected government. I think that is a good proposal. It would mean that the second rank in the Public Service would consist of officers qualified and with sufficient experience in depth to take over the First Division responsibilities. My view is that the government of the day should be able to move people up from the Second Division to the First Division or from the First Division back to the Second Division. I also say that it ought not to be necessary for a government to go outside the Public Service. People spend their lives within the Public Service and there are some economic limitations on their leaving the Public Service. In fairness to those people, they are the people from whom appointments should be made. In a way I am defending the right of public servants to be appointed to the First Division and to be protected from appointments from outside the Public Service.
Having made those few remarks in a rather rambling fashion, I conclude by saying that although this Bill will create 2 ranks of First Division public servants, one of permanent officers and another of semi-permanent officers, the Opposition is supporting the proposition. We will look to some future occasion on which to make the necessary amendments in view of changed circumstances.
– in replyDespite the concluding remarks of Senator Georges, I am disappointed that the Opposition is going to oppose this legislation. I was sufficiently mystified about its opposition before I heard Senator Georges’ final remarks. I thank the honourable senators who have indicated their support for the Bill and I trust that it will have a clear passage through the Senate this afternoon.
I have been mystified by the opposition to this measure because, so far as I have been able to understand the case put by the Opposition, it is that this is a political measure. I do not know what objection the Opposition can have to it being a political measure. I thought that that was what Parliament was all about and what the contest between the Government and the Opposition was all about. However, the Opposition says that that is one reason for opposing this Bill. It says that it has political overtones and purposes and is not a practical proposition. The argument is that it is loaded against and directed against a Labor government because it is more likely that a Labor government would wish to appoint people from outside the Public Service to positions of permanent head of a department. I think that the Opposition, both here and in another place, has been somewhat ambivalent on this matter. I was very interested in the remarks of Senator Georges about the need to give priority to the Public Service and the need for a time limit on the appointment of any permanent head. That was a view expressed by several Opposition speakers in another place. Their criticism of the measure was that it was introducing a term appointment for only certain classes of permanent head, whereas in their view all appointments of permanent head should be for a term. So, there has been quite a deal of confusion or contradiction in the attitudes expressed by members of the Opposition to this measure. The only point on which they seem to be in agreement is that they are opposed to it.
The fact is that this measure arises out of certain circumstances which occurred in appointments made to the First Division by the former Labor Government, As a result, the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the then Leader of the Opposition, announced that if elected our parties would take certain measures to correct the situation. Far from this measure really being directed against a Labor government, I would have thought that the present provisions of the Public Service Act could be loaded by a Labor government against a LiberalNational Country Party government which succeeded it. If it is a fact that a Labor government is more likely to appoint people from outside the Public Service, then it could make wholesale appointments from outside the Public Service to such positions and a Liberal-National Country Party government which succeeded it could inherit twenty or thirty permanent heads appointed from outside the Public Service. That would present very great difficulties, as the legislation stands at the moment, as to what to do about them.
As is common knowledge, we inherited 2 permanent heads for whom we did not feel a position could be found in that capacity. It was that sort of situation which gave genesis to this Bill. This Bill is not designed to prevent a Labor government or any other government from making appointments from outside the Public Service to positions of permanent head. It simply says this: If a government wishes to do that, the appointment is to be on certain conditions: Firstly, the appointment must be for a term not exceeding 5 years; and, secondly, on a change of government, the appointment may be terminated on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of the new government.This Bill is specifically directed to a situation of that kind only. It is not directed to the situation where there is a change of government when the same parties re-form the government, or when there is a change of Prime Minister within a party or within parties which form a coalition government. It is directed only towards when there is a change of government as a result of a different political party coming to office in the normal course of events.
This Bill also will protect a person appointed to the position of permanent head from outside the Public Service. The Bill has been misconceived if it is said that it will discourage people coming into the Public Service from outside. The Bill says that on the appointment of a person in this way from outside the Public Service that appointment is subject to a term of not more than 5 years and is subject to termination if there is a change of government as a result of another political party coming to office. It provides that compensation may be negotiated and included in the appointment of that person. So any government contemplating the appointment of such a person can protect that person’s rights against the early termination of his appointment by the provision of such compensation.
I would have thought that there would be ample opportunities and encouragement for people who may be interested in working for government for a few years or during the term of office of a particular government to do so by the provisions which are contained in this legislation. That is what it is all about. It is not designed to prevent people being brought in from outside the P ublic Service. It is not designed to insist that only those people who are recommended by the Chairman of the Public Service Board and his committee shall be appointed. It is simply designed to provide that where people are brought in who have not been recommended under the procedures laid down here, their appointment will not necessarily have the permanency which is attached to First Division officers or any officers under the Public Service Act. Of course, it does not mean that a person coming in under those circumstances would not be able to have a measure of permanency because there is no necessity that he, in fact, have his appointment terminated in the way the Act provides.
He could be re-appointed under the normal provisions of the Public Service Act or under the provisions of the proposed new sections in this legislation. That is the simple purpose of this legislation. That seems to me and to the Government to be a perfectly practical measure. It is not designed or loaded against any party or government. There are provisions in it for the protection of the rights of people who may be appointed outside the procedures which are laid down here. That is the simple and sole purpose of this legislation. I do not think there is any need for me to detain the Senate any longer. Mr President, I suggest that the question be put.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed: That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I want to correct a mistake which I made. I said that the Opposition was in support of the Bill. It was clear to all who listened to me speak that I am opposed to the legislation and that my Party is opposed to it. I make that point clear at this time.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– by leave- I inform the Senate that there is an incorrect statement in my second reading speech on the Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill 1977. At page 195 of the Senate Hansard of 17 February it is stated:
The proposal is in accord with a unanimous recommendation that was made by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Review in its 1958 and 1959 reports.
The fact of the matter is that it was not a unanimous recommendation of the Joint Parliamentary Committee. Senator Wright dissented from the recommendation of the Committee in regard to simultaneous elections. The word ‘unanimous’ found its way into the second reading speech, I think, as a result of inadequate checking of Senator Wright’s view, and I apologise to the Senate and in particular to Senator Wright for an incorrect statement appearing in the second reading speech. Of course, I cannot correct that statement nor seek to correct Hansard. It is there in the speech and there is no question about it. However, I seek to correct the situation now, this being the first opportunity to correct it, so that the Senate will no longer be misled by me.
-by leave-I regret that both in the House of Representatives and in this place the Ministers, when introducing the Bill seeking a referendum to alter the Constitution in respect of simultaneous elections, should have said that the proposal was in accordance with the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Review in 1959. The fact is quite the contrary, and my dissent from that Committee’s recommendation I think was effective in deferring the introduction of any such proposal to the Parliament. In order to make clear what my attitude was I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a copy of what I said on this subject in the 1958 interim report of that Committee and in the Committee ‘s final report of 1 959.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The documents read as follows- .
1958 INTERIM REPORT: CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW COMMITTEE
Senator Wright’s observations and reservations
Commonwealth Legislative Machinery: Report, Part VI
I will agree to a provision facilitating the synchronization of Senate and House of Representatives elections by providing that senators’ terms should be six years provided that if the Senate has rejected any measure on which the House of Representatives goes to the country, half of the Senate should go with it. Or if no decision of the Senate has precipitated the election, then the half of the Senate should go if the Senate so decides.
The recent constitutional development of the right of Heads of Government to obtain a dissolution of the House of Representatives on request in my opinion makes it imperative that the Prime Minister should not have power to treat the States House or the Senate as an appendage to the Popular House and take the Senate out at the will of the Executive Government.
The Senate would be better abolished than exist as an echo of the Federal Executive Government.
It has not shown marked independence except on party lines up to date. But if when it consists of a majority of members whose political policy is to preserve the bicameral system and to have a House of review which has a right to judgment different from the Executive, it could be improved by-
1959 FINAL REPORT: CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW COMMITTEE
A six year term of the Senator is one of the strengths from which he derives his independence.
Continuity of the Senate is regarded as a strength.
But I think it would reduce the Senate to a complete echo of the House of Representatives, and a pretence to any independence of judgment, if one-half of the Senate automatically went out for election every time a crisis sent the House of Representatives to the country.
On the score of economy and from the point of view of the convenience of electors, I can agree that simultaneous elections for members of the two Houses should be held as far as possible; but I cannot agree with an approach to the problem which seeks permanent simultaneous elections at the cost of the Senate’s independence and the strength which accrues to it from its continuity. If elections get out of step, a solution always is for the House of Representatives to shorten its own term to bring it again into line with the Senate, as it did in 1955.
There are, in my view, real objections to a provision that every time the House of Representatives precipitates an election one-half the Senate should go up for election too. Such elections of the House of Representatives may emanate from internal personal differences, alterations of parry allegiances, or miserable party manoeuvres.
Further, the growing constitutional development of the right of Heads of Government to secure a dissolution of the popular House upon request, in my opinion, makes it imperative that the Prime Minister should not have the power to treat the States’ house as an appendage of the Popular House and take one-half of the Senate to election at the will of the Executive Government.
The Senate would be better abolished than exist as an echo of the Federal Executive Government.
– In respect of the Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill, the Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) Bill, the Constitution Alteration (Retirement of Judges) Bill and the Constitution Alteration (Referendums) Bill, I move:
That standing order 242 be suspended to enable the third reading of the Bills to be passed without a Call of the Senate.
The motion seeks to suspend the call of the Senate in regard to the Constitution Alteration Bills which were introduced by me into the Senate last Thursday. The provisions of standing order 242 requiring a call of the Senate and a delay in the putting of the motions in regard to a Bill to alter the Constitution are, in the view of the Government, probably unnecessary in this day and age. They refer to an earlier time when communications were not available to the extent they are today. In fact, on these Bills there has been adequate notice given that the debate will take place this week. Honourable senators are in attendance.
– When was it given?
- Senator Harradine has known about it. He may not have been here last week but he rang me about it yesterday and is here today. Other honourable senators are in the same position and it is the view of the Government that it is completely unnecessary that we should go through the procedure provided for in standing order 242.
– I oppose this motion. The fact is publicly known now that any intention on the part of the Government to introduce any of these Bills was made known, even to party members, late on Tuesday night of last week at the earliest. As the Senate standing order indicates, these Bills dealing with the Constitution concern provisions that are at the basis of our government and are likely to be of some permanence inasmuch as any alterations to the Constitution adopted by the people can be altered later only by a referendum of the people and not by Act of Parliament. It is therefore necessary for the Senate to consult its own prudence to ensure that we give ourselves adequate opportunity to understand what is being done. After full debate at the second reading stage and the Committee stage, the third reading of a Bill to alter the Constitution is not a mere perfunctory matter. Therefore, the Senate in its wisdom, foreseeing that it had special responsibilities in regard to amending the Constitution generally and uniquely special responsibilities in regard to any provisions of the Constitution that deal with the jurisdiction and status of the Senate, provided in its Standing Orders that before the third reading of any Bill by which an alteration of the Constitution is proposed there shall be a call of the Senate.
No reason whatever has been advanced by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) for that standing order not to be adhered to except for a rather peremptory offering of opinion by the Minister that the Government does not think that the occasion calls for the observance of that standing order. That is a standing order of the Senate, and I would have thought that any submission that it be bypassed would have been supported at least by reason. If the Government claims that it has a view, when it is well known from the expressions used by various members of the Government that the view it has is grossly imperfect and studded with defects, it should submit the supposed reasons for suspending standing order 242 to us so that we can debate them on a rational basis. To say that the Government puts forward the view that standing order 242 should not be observed is, with great respect to my colleague the Minister, bordering upon an impertinence to the Senate. I suggest that in this instance where a government is putting forward a view, the members supporting which opposed it to a man 2 years ago, it is imperative if we are going to take our responsibilities seriously that all the senators who joined in the debates 2 years ago should take the period of the call for reflection; but much more importantly, all those who were not here and did not hear those debates and are going to hear the debate anew in this instance certainly should avail themselves of the call. I think that to bypass procedures of this sort is to treat the Senate in a peremptory fashion and as though the Cabinet down in the corner having decided a proposition, why should the Senate have a view in variance or to the contrary.
– I seek some information on this question. I wish to find out what the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) intends by his motion. Standing order 283 provides:
An Order for a Call of the Senate shall be made for any day not earlier than twenty-one days from the day on which such Order shall have been made.
Therefore 2 1 days notice is required. The Minister has put forward a peculiar motion. He requires the suspension of standing order 242 to enable the Constitution Alteration Bills to be passed without a call of the Senate. Standing order 242 states in part:
Before the Third Reading of any Bill by which an alteration of the Constitution is proposed there shall be a Call of the Senate.
Do I take it that these Bills can be debated if the Standing Orders are not suspended and that before the third reading is passed there has to be a call of the Senate, which necessitates a delay of 21 days?
– Not if the Standing Orders are suspended.
– The motion also seeks the suspension of standing order 242 for one purpose. Standing order 242 provides a further condition:
If the Third Reading of any such Bill shall not have been carried by an absolute majority of the Senate the Bill shall be forthwith laid aside . . . and not be revived during the same Session.
– There are 2 questions involved.
– I do not know. The Minister wants to suspend standing order 242 for only one purpose. If he succeeds in that motion, is there still a requirement for an absolute majority?
– Yes, under the Constitution. Section 128 of the Constitution demands it.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (8.14)- I suppose it is no mystery to honourable senators that I hold strong views about the Bills to amend the Constitution which are before the Senate. I have not disclosed these views publicly. In fact, when the representatives of the news media of whatever form, whether it was radio, television, the mass circulation journals or the so-called newspapers of opinion, have telephoned me, as they did last week, on every occasion I replied that my views would be expressed in the place where I was elected to express them, that is, in the Senate. I stated that if anyone wished to hear my views on this subject he should put himself in the Press gallery and listen to what I have to say.
What has become absolutely clear, by any process of deduction to which any honourable senator wishes to apply himself, is the determination of a government embedded in the House of Representatives to force these Bills first through that place and secondly through this chamber by the sheer weight of numbers. I anticipate that the Government has the numbers, but I will not involve myself in that at this stage. Those who have planned this exercise have taken the precaution of putting on notice the responsibilities that accrue to this chamber under the Standing Orders and under a contingent notice of motion that standing order 242 should be suspended in order to speed up the processes by which the constitutional amending Bill can be forced through the Senate. Let us be blunt about this. The Government, manifestly and I assume in conjunction with the Opposition, already has a scheme, that is, that no impediment is to be placed before this Senate, whose position is being placed in jeopardy in a constitutional sense, by allowing the means by which the Senate can defend itself to be used. Standing order 242 is a method by which the Senate can defend itself and it has been placed in the Standing Orders for a specific reason, that is, so that the Senate should not be taken by surprise. That is the essence of the standing order.
– Nor the public.
-Nor the public. The Senate and the public shall not be taken by surprise, and that is the essence of standing order 242.
– You are not fair dinkum, are you?
-I am fair dinkum about it. This is the opening attack, the opening volley, on the Senate by the government of the day. It must get rid of standing order 242 in order to force its opinion on the Senate and on the Australian public at this juncture. I regard the attempt by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) to suspend standing order 242 as the first volley to defeat the capacity of the Senate to defend itself against a sudden unknown attack by the government of the day. Therefore, in company with my colleague Senator Wright, I feel that honourable senators should resist the proposition that standing order 242 should be suspended. I make the forecast that, as far as I am able to obtain support, I shall use every effort on my part to see that the
Government is denied the right to enforce its will by mechanistic systems on this Senate.
– I rise to support the speakers who have indicated that this is a matter of grave seriousness to the Senate, to its Standing Orders and to Australia. Standing order 242 follows the Convention debates. The Convention debates spent a great deal of time considering first of all what the Constitution should provide and, secondly, how we should go about amending it. They provided when they came to drawing the Standing Orders that there should be time for debate, time for debate in this chamber as well as in the other chamber where perhaps one could not necessarily expect the same degree of debate to take place, and within the community. Standing order 242 is the means by which the community may be informed of the varying opinions held by senators- not by leaks or statements made outside the Parliament, but by genuine debate within the Parliament and a period for digesting between that debate and the final vote on the matter. That is the point of standing order 242.
I believe that the matters which we have before us have not been adequately debated in public. Some of them were given consideration in 1974. There was a public debate and at that time the public said no. Now it is proposed to urge that the public should say yes. If members of the public are to say yes they must presumably need some reason to change their recently expressed view.A debate punctuated by a call of the Senate period of 2 1 days, followed by further debate, will give to the community an opportunity to express a view, to form an idea, and perhaps even to help some of the members of this chamber to express their independent view, I trust and hope, as members of the Senate. But no, the proposition put before the Senate a few minutes ago is that we should railroad this matter through in the way it was railroaded through another House without real consideration or debate just last week.
I acknowledge that it was the subject matter of some debate in 1974 but I emphasise that since 1974 one of the opposing parties, in fact the successful party in the 1974 referendum, apparently has done a full 1 80 degrees about face. That is a matter which surely requires some explanation to the public, some opportunity for the public to be able to react and to understand before the matter is finally disposed of in this chamber. For reasons such as those, for reasons which have been outlined by my colleagues who have already spoken, I believe that this is a time when, as we of the Liberal and National Country Parties argued on a previous attempt by a government to railroad through a proposal for a referendum, there should be a call of the Senate. At that time there were arguments put as to why the Standing Orders should be observed. I adopt the arguments then put forward by my leader and others. There should be a call of the Senate for the very reasons which have been outlined now and which were outlined then. I will support any opposition to abandoning the call of the Senate.
– We are debating a motion by Senator Durack, on behalf of the Ministers of the Government I presume, for the suspension of standing order 242 to enable the Constitution Alteration Bills to be passed without a call of the Senate. I think it is important to read what standing order 242 says: It reads:
Before the Third Reading of any Bill by which an alteration of the Constitution is proposed there shall be a Call of the Senate. If the Third Reading of any such Bill shall not have been carried by an absolute majority of the Senate the Bill shall be forthwith laid aside without Question put, and shall not be revived during the same Session.
That standing order has stood for many years. It had its genesis in the debates in the Constitutional Convention prior to Federation. It is a most unusual step for the Government to take to seek to bypass that standing order. I agree with what Senator Wright and Senator Rae have said. They said that the first Government supporters officially knew about these proposals was last Tuesday. But of course the rest of us had to read about it in the newspapers. The first that anyone had heard that the Government was intending to hold referendums was when an article was published in the Melbourne Sun of 13 January 1977. That is only a little over 4 weeks ago. And here we are, the Government and some members of the Opposition, in an unholy alliance attempting to ride rough-shod over the Standing Orders of this Senate in order to put these propositions forward without mature consideration as required by the Standing Orders. What apportunity has the public of Australia had to participate in the formulation of these proposals? Absolutely none. Honourable Senators might say that the public had an opportunity at the Constitutional Convention, but the ordinary public, the rank and file of the Australian community, did not have a chance even to be present at the Constitutional Convention. Also, not all viewpoints of this Parliament were represented at that Constitutional Convention.
The reason for my opposition to the suspension of standing order 242 was ably stated and canvassed by Senator Wright. Those arguments that have been put to the Senate by Senator
Wright have been put over a number of years. The arguments put by Senator Wright in the past are as valid today as when they were first put by him. Senator Wright- I agree with him- has been arguing for a long time that the whole of the federal system of Government in Australia is under attack. He believes, and I feel that other honourable senators opposite, if not Opposition senators, believe that the motion seeking the suspension of this standing order is but another example of how the federal system is under attack. This Senate was not called into being by the founding fathers to be a spongy rubber stamp of another place; it was set up as part of the federal compact. Members of the other place and Ministers there ought to realise that if there had been no Senate there would have been no federation. If it had not been for the creation of this House there would have been no such person as the Prime Minister of Australia. Standing order 242 was designed to keep the Senate as part of the federal compact between the States and the new Commonwealth of Australia. Why was standing order 242 originally written into the Standing Orders?
– It was when they had to travel to Western Australia by ship.
– It is all very well for somebody to advance frivolous arguments by saying that the standing order was introduced by senators when travel was by horse or buggy or sailing ship. I regard that as a ha-ha argument. I believe it was written into the Standing Orders of this place shortly after the Senate first met for the deliberate purpose of ensuring that senators representing their States could ascertain the views and the will of their electors. What must always be remembered about alterations to the Constitution is that they deal with transfers of power. I suppose, tragically, they have always dealt with the transfer of power from the States to the Commonwealth. What referendum proposals are generally all about is the transfer of further and other powers to the federal governmentpowers which the State governments previously had as part of their residual powers. This is why senators are entitled to consult their constituents in the States. What chance have honourable senators had of consulting their constituents in the States? I put it to you, Mr President, although it may sound an old fashioned view these days, that one is entitled also to consult one’s colleagues in the State parliament. It seems to me to be overlooked that there is some sort of comity between members of this Parliament and members of the State parliaments. After all, this is a States House. It was for all those reasons that the Senate in its original wisdom said that in this chamber, following the second reading of a constitutional alteration Bill that honourable senators perhaps supported and voted for, there would be a 3-week delay before the third reading was taken. Iris a great pity that the House of Representatives Standing Orders do not contain that rule.
I considered, after I telephoned Senator Durack as he has revealed to the Senate tonight, what I ought to say about this matter of the suspension of Standing Orders, the motion for which is before the Senate tonight. I could do no better than turn up the debate which took place on 6 March 1974 on an identical matter to one of the matters that are to be put before the Senate. I refer to the simultaneous elections proposition. I could do no better than go to the words of the Leader of the Opposition at that time, Senator Withers- the present Leader of the Government in the Senate. What I have said tonight is precisely what was said by the Leader of the Opposition at that time- the present Leader of the Goverment. It is no good for him to say ‘Burn Hansard’, because what he said -
– I did not say that.
-I guessed that that was what the Leader of the Government would say. It is no good him saying that, because in his address at that time he virtually stated that these principles to which reference has been made are immutable principles. That is what the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Leader of the Liberal Party in the Senate said on that occasion.
– Was he supported?
– Indeed, he was supported, and with some success.
– By the Liberals behind him.
– Yes. The then Leader of the National Country Party, Senator Drake-Brockman, said things similar to what I am saying tonight. Knowing him as I do, I assume that he will stick to the principles he announced on that occasion. I assume that he will be in opposition to the blatant attempt to truncate debate on this matter in the public arena. That is what the Government is trying to do with this proposal. It is trying to deny the people of Australia an opportunity to engage in discussions on the formulation of constitutional amendment proposals.
- Senator Button says Rubbish!’. What chance have the people of
Australia had to involve themselves in discussions and the formulation of proposals? They have had absolutely no chance. The Government will present to them a fait accompli. It will be a take-it-or-leave-it situation. All I am saying is that at the present point of time we should allow the provisions of the Standing Orders to flow. We should allow 3 weeks to elapse before the Bills are given a third reading. We should allow public debate on the formulation of the proposals. Certainly, at the given time the members of the public themselves will determine the issue. But at least we should allow them the opportunity to formulate proposals. Surely the Government -
– Even amendments.
– Yes, they should be entitled to formulate even amendments. Surely the Government is not the repository of all wisdom in regard to the Constitution- or is it? Is that what honourable senators think? Are they frightened to allow the operation of the Standing Orders to go ahead? Are they afraid of the situation -
– Are you afraid of the electors having a vote?
-I am not afraid of what the result will be. I know what the result will be on at least two of the matters. All I am suggesting is that standing order 242 is there for a particular purpose. Only on very rare occasions has the Government or the Senate attempted to by-pass the Standing Orders. Mr President, I appeal to you and to the Senate to enable this standing order 242 to stand for the purpose of allowing the people of Australia to participate in a debate on the formulation of proposals before we finally determine their form.
-I call Senator Sim. Order! Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate wish to speak? He may have the call if he so desires.
- Mr President, I rise to order. If the Leader of the Government in the Senate receives the call, does that remove the opportunity for honourable senators to participate in the debate? Would it close the debate?
– I did not move the motion.
– That is all I wanted to know.
- Mr President, I rise to order. This will be the fifth speech in a row against this proposal. May I ask you -
– It is not the fifth speech.
– There have been at least 4 speakers already who have spoken for one side of this question.
– Order! No point of order arises. I call Senator Withers.
– I recall that when I was Leader of the Opposition I once asked former Senator Murphy, the then Leader of the Government in the Senate, a very difficult question. I quoted back to him a statement he made when he was Leader of the Opposition. He made a very humorous remark at the time. I do not recall his exact words; but he said something to the effect that is is amazing how one’s words come back at times. I think that we ought to put into context what was said in 1974 and what the Government is doing now. To start with, let me say a couple of things as to why standing order 242 ought to be suspended. These Bills were not forced through the other place. As I recall what happened there, no gags or guillotines were applied. For people to say that these Bills were forced or railroaded through that other chamber just does not accord with the facts. One gets the impression that they were guillotined or gagged against the wish of an Opposition which was bucking the passage of the Bills all the way. That just is not true.
Secondly, let us put into context the then Opposition’s view in 1974.
– Sss, sss, sss!
-I do not know whether that is a balloon going down or what it is. I think that the official opposition to the legislation in 1974 was a little more honest because the Opposition had declared its opposition to the legislation in the other place. It was public knowledge that the Opposition in both Houses of the Parliament was opposed to the Bills. There is no doubt that everybody knew at the time that the Opposition took every procedural opportunity in this place to delay and if possible to defeat the legislation. The Opposition was opposed to the legislation in both chambers.
– But not in principle.
-That is right. It was a method of attempting to defeat the matters being put up.
– It is an immutable principle.
-No, it is not. It is a legitimate parliamentary tactic.
– No, it is not.
-Of course it is a legitimate parliamentary tactic. Honourable senators who have spoken so far against the suspension of this standing order would be more honest if they said that really they are opposed to the Bills as such and they are but using this tactic as a method of expressing their opposition. I think that they ought to come out and say that quite openly and not indulge in talk about the sanctity of standing order 242. It has been suspended in the past. It is said that standing order 242 is important so that no honourable senator will be taken by surprise. I understand that of the 64 senators, at least sixty-three are here today. So nobody will be taken by surprise, except maybe one, and I have some doubt about that also. Why do we not get on and debate the substance of the matter before the chamber instead of worrying about whether or not standing order No. 242 ought to be suspended in 1977, with all the means of communication we have within the community?
– We on this side of the House can engage in a difference of an opinion without animosity.
Opposition senators interjecting-
– I am not amused. We know that there are differences of opinion in the Opposition. But if the Labor Caucus decides, like little lambs they all bow down. We on this side can express our opinions.
Opposition senators interjecting-
– They sound like sheep baabaaing at a race. We on this side can express our opinions if we disagree, freely and without fear. That is more than the Opposition can do. Their ha-has haw-haws -
– We are putting the nation’s needs first.
– Order! I point out to honourable senators that every honourable senator who desires to speak is able to do so. Every honourable senator should be able to speak without unnecessary and undue interruptions. I call Senator Sim.
– I do not wish to be provocative, but I do get annoyed with those on the opposite side who toe the line obediently and start to hawhaw those on this side of the chamber who do not have to be slaves to a system. I merely rise -
– Look, we are supporting it.
– I do not wish to listen to you. You toe the line like a little lamb who goes along to the slaughter. I merely rise to express my support for the views expressed by my colleagues, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, Senator Wright, Senator Rae and Senator Harradine so that it will be on public record that I support the view they have expressed.
-I wish to speak only very briefly, but I want to make it clear that there are senators on this side of the chamber who support the Government in this motion, who hope that it will be passed and who hope that the pettifogging and the fogging that is going on here in an endeavour to obscure the issue -
Senator Sim interjecting-
– A moment ago you were going to be polite to people on this side of the chamber who disagreed with you. Just remember that. I happen to think that ‘fogging’ may be a strong word but I think that it is fogging over the issue.
– Fogging the people.
-I thank you, Senator Harradine, for reminding me of your nonsense argument, your argument that we should stand around here for 3 weeks so that the people -
– My argument is-
– Order! Pardon me, Senator Missen. I will not allow further interjection. We have had too much interjecting. Every honourable senator is entitled to be heard. I call Senator Missen.
-With regard to Senator Harradine ‘s speech, apparently we would sit around here for 3 weeks and wait for the people to formulate the particular proposals. This is nonsense because we know that these proposals in the main and with one excellent exception which the Government has improved on have been formulated and discussed over a period of years by a constitutional convention. They have been a matter of public discussion and they have been a matter that has not been brought to the general knowledge of the public without due notice. I know that of course there will be a lot of debate between now and May. If this matter is to be considered in May, it will have to go through this chamber rather speedily. Standing order No. 242 is one which was very suitable in the horse and buggy days, in the period in which honourable senators had to be called from far away when a constitutional amendment was being considered. Therefore they had to have the opportunity to be here and to consider it. As we have been told, 63 out of 64 senators are here anyway.
– They know about it?
– Well, it is near enough. I am sure they know about the matter. You would have to be blind Freddie not to know that this matter is being discussed. It is no matter of disrespect to Senator Chaney when I refer to blind Freddie. Because I think this is a debate to confuse and a debate rather to obscure the issue, I say that I think we are all capable of making up our minds to debate the matter now and tomorrow. I hope we will go ahead and pass this motion.
– I bow to my Leader’s commendable concern for honesty. I shall direct my comments not to the substance of the merit of the referendum proposals, but to the actual motion which is before the Senate, which is for the suspension of Standing Orders about which there has been some disagreement. In the interests of honesty which my Leader holds so high, I shall indeed confine my comments to that aspect.
There has been some suggestion- indeed it has been very forcibly put by Senator Missen- that the Government or the Parliament or the Senate or whichever should be well informed as to public opinion. I am obliged to say that to my knowledge, prior to the Constitutional Convention of last October, there was no consultation as such on this issue of this Parliament. The only previous consultation of the Senate on the issue was during a debate in 1975 when the Liberal and National Country parties unanimously voted against such a proposal. We find ourselves in a very particular difficulty this evening which I find distressing, and one must be open about that. The Opposition may find some hilarity in it. I find some personal and political distress in it. In 1975 the Australian Labor Party decided that it would introduce a Bill supporting referenda and all ALP senators voted for it. At that time, we in the then Opposition opposed it and all voted against it. It is not surprising that the ALP is supporting the proposal now because the proposal is consistent with what it put forward. We on this side of the House obviously find ourselves in a different situation.
The reason why I oppose the motion moved by Senator Durack is simply that there are other possibilities whereby one could bring about the end result of simultaneous elections, if it is agreed that that is desirable for the Parliament and the nation of Australia. There are other means. They have not been canvassed in this House or anywhere else with any degree of adequacy. Defeat of the motion to suspend Standing Orders requiring a 21 -day call of the Senate would enable us to consider alternative proposals which would bring about the objective of simultaneous elections if we were agreed that that is what we want.
I say in conclusion because I wish to speak only briefly that I find it surprising that I am chastised for not having read in the newspaper what the Government’s intentions were. I have been advised publicly and privately not to take my lead on what the Government’s intentions were from the newspapers. It appears that my main sin in this proposal is that I have not followed the newspapers closely enough. By way of personal explanation, I wish to say that I was absent from Australia when the most recent story appeared in January in the newspapers. No newspapers or Press reports were available to me. The first I was aware that the Government intended to proceed with this proposal this year, in this session, in such haste, was when I read a copy of the Australian newspaper last Wednesday morning. Whatever the arguments might be that I should have been better informed I do not believe that that is good enough. Opposition senators might feel that they have some reason to derive some glee from the tone of the debate here this evening. I say to them only that one of the very real reasons why, when making a completely free choice on the matter, I chose many years ago to join the Liberal Party was that I thought honesty and conscience were important.
– You will not get it in your Party.
– According to Senator McLaren’s standards it is possible that I am in error in even thinking. But that is indeed what I think. I cannot pretend to support a motion with which I am in total opposition.
– I call Senator Jessop.
– You are waiting for Joh to come back to give you his orders.
– Order! I appreciate that some heat is being engendered in this debate. I will ask Senator Jessop to take the floor, and I expect that as responsible senators you will listen to what he has to say and have your say thereafter.
– I rise to oppose the motion for the suspension of standing order 242. 1 must admit that when anything put forward by the present Government is unanimously supported by the Labor Party Opposition it immediately gives me some cause tor grave concern. I am sure that many anti-socialists in Australia would hold to that view. I believe that many Labor Party supporters would also share my concern when the Labor Party supports proposals such as those with which we are confronted in this debate. I support what Senator Martin said with respect to the matters discussed by the Australian Constitutional Convention in Hobart. Although some of my colleagues were made aware of the agenda items to be discussed I was not given an opportunity to display my views on this matter. Therefore, no consensus could be expressed with confidence by delegates to that convention.
– Ninety-five per cent of us had no such opportunity.
-Senator Rae has reinforced what I have just said.
I have had an opportunity to discuss this matter with members of my State Party and the same reflection resulted from my conference with them. In fact, this whole exercise has been one of lack of consideration with respect to the importance of the matters we are discussing. It seems to me that matters of such moment, involving radical changes in the Constitution, should be subject to very serious debate in this place. Such debate did not evidence itself in the House of Representatives. A unanimous view_was expressed in the House of Representatives which I respect. I believe that the people of Australia ought to be confronted with an opposing thought if that should be in the minds of honourable senators.
– Even a reasoned argument.
– As a colleague has suggested, a reasoned argument is all that is required. This would meet with the approval of the people who send us to defend them in this place against possible irresponsibility of governments of the future. My view is that when we are discussing matters that have been referred to us by the Constitutional Convention it is fair to suggest that before substantive propositions are put before the Parliament, those propositions ought to be subjected to consideration by a subcommittee of the Constitutional Convention. It seems to me to be reasonable in the light of the experience I have gained in this matter in consultation with my State colleagues that that course of action should have been considered by the
Government. In the absence of that consideration I support the retention of standing order 242 to give the public an opportunity to hear a reasoned argument on both sides of the question.
– I shall speak briefly to oppose this motion. I think that nearly everything that needs to be said has been said. I ask the Government why there is such a need to suspend standing order 242. Nobody has said why there is an urgency.
– It is to enable Fraser to win a Senate election.
– If Senator Cavanagh wishes to speak we will give him special permission to speak again in a minute. I always think that it is dangerous to the Parliament, to democracy and to the people when matters are rushed through this place. Let us remember what happened with the Trade Practices Bill. The Senate insisted that there should be a review of the legislation. That took a considerable time, and then the Government accepted more than 100 amendments to its own legislation because it realised that it had made mistakes. That was the Labor Party Government. It made mistakes. It now appears that this Government, of which I am a part, is also starting to make mistakes. It is trying to rush things through this House.
– You can say that again!
-I may say that again but I shall say it later in the day. That is an example of how a delay by the Senate can help to ensure that Bills which are passed into law have been properly considered. How much more important is it to take this kind of action when Bills are brought in to change the Constitution and to change radically the nature of this House than it is with something such as the Trade Practices Bill?
There are alternatives to the Bills which have been brought into the Senate today. Time has not been given, perhaps by design, for alternatives to be considered, worked upon and presented to the Parliament. I for one will not vote for the motion for the suspension of this standing order. I believe that it is wrong, particularly with matters like this, as was amply demonstrated by Senator Harradine. I feel that the Government will live to regret the haste with which it is presenting this legislation to this House.
– I rise to oppose the motion by Senator Durack to suspend standing order 242. As a member of the public I voted in the 1974 referendum, having listened to the case put forward by the Liberal Party. I found the speeches at that time very convincing and so I voted according to the Liberal Party policy. Since this Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives I have been able to read once again in Hansard the debate that took place at that time. I still find the matters raised in that debate very convincing. I feel that the honourable senators who are not present, as well as the general public, should have additional time to do as I did this weekend and read Hansard. Senator Missen said that he is sure that the honourable senators who are not here would know about the matter. I do not think that that is good enough. I do not know whether those honourable senators know about it. I have no idea. They may have read newspaper reports, but I do not believe that those reports would enable honourable senators to know of matters which have been going on in Parliament. I feel that they should be given the chance to come to this place to debate this matter. I am afraid that I must oppose the motion although it really hurts my heart to do so.
– I rise to support the motion moved by Senator Durack. I have listened to the debate. With regard to standing order 242 I think that one must cast one’s mind back to the time when the Standing Orders were drawn up. Then, communication was a great problem. Today we have jet travel and it is easy for honourable senators to get to Canberra. There was a time when many Federal members of Parliament stayed in Canberra for most of the session because of the problem of transport and communication generally. To a great extent we can discount some of the arguments put forward by speakers tonight. With regard to the call of the Senate and to giving honourable senators the opportunity to be here, as I understand the situation from the Government Whip- I can be corrected if I am wrong- at present we have no pairs. I think the Senate is almost at full strength. There may be one or two absentees.
The argument has been used that the suspension of standing order 242 would not allow enough time for reasoned debate. As I understand the position, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) has neither given notice that the guillotine will be applied nor suggested that the guillotine will be applied in any way. There has been no indication that a gag will be applied, but there has been every indication that plenty of time will be set aside for debate of the various issues. Hence I cannot accept the argument that there will not be enough time for reasoned debate. I admit that differences of opinion will be expressed during the period of the debate; nevertheless there will be enough time for reasoned debate.
One has then to consider whether the members of the public will have an opportunity to debate the issues. The Senate will be deciding whether certain issues or recommendations regarding alteration of the Australian Constitution will go to the people. Having reached that decision, the people then will have time to debate the issues and make up their minds as to whether they want any changes or alterations to be made to the Constitution before a poll is held. So, firstly, I discount what has been said tonight. There is to be time for reasoned debate. I hope that there will not be any guillotine or gag applied. Secondly, we will have to decide in this chamber, following the decision of the House of Representatives, whether certain issues will be presented to the public regarding changes or alterations to the Constitution. There will be time then for members of the public to debate the issues presented to them and to make up their minds as to which way they will vote on those issues. I cannot support the argument tonight against the motion.
– I support the statements of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) and Senator Young. The possession of great power attracts the need to exercise it responsibly and it does not seem to me to be responsibly exercising the power of the Senate, which is great, to refuse to discuss the program that the Executive wants to put to the Parliament, which is what the opposition to the suspension of standing order 242 amounts to. It is not a debate on the merits of the case; it is a refusal to want to discuss this issue properly and responsibly now. As someone once said, if you cannot stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. It seems to me that those honourable senators who are opposing the immediate discussion of this proposition do not want to make a decision.
What is all this talk about running back to the people? I thought we all had been through the democratic processes of winning whatever support we needed to get here. We have been put here by the people. The people expect us to make decisions.
– But not to carry out Whitlam ‘s policy.
– I say to Senator Wright that we do not run this country by a series of weekly referenda. We run it by taking decisions, however hard they may be, in the Senate. I suggest that we get on with our consideration of the Government’s motion, whatever our thoughts may be, by voting responsibly and quickly on the matters that the Executive quite properly wants both Houses of Parliament to consider.
– in reply- I think the arguments in favour of the motion I have moved have been fairly well canvassed. Of course, there has been a lot of opposition to it. I would like to stress the fact that there is going to be ample opportunity for public debate of these referendum proposals.
– And Senate debate as well.
-Senator Young has made that point. There is also going to be ample opportunity for debate of the proposals in the Senate. The proposals cannot be put to the people within 2 months of being passed by the Senate. So there is ample room for the public debate that the honourable senators who oppose this motion have emphasised there should be. I would also like to point out that standing order 242 itself provides for a call of the Senate before the third reading of any of these Bills. It is said that the value of the retention of standing order 242 is that we would have this extra time in the Senate to consider the Bills, to propose and consider amendments to the Bills and so on, but the point is that the call of the Senate is effective only prior to the third reading. The Government could have proceeded with the consideration of the Bills through all the stages when amendments could be moved and voted on and then could have moved for the suspension of this standing order.
– Why did you not do it?
– We did not do it because we wanted to have the matter clearly in the open. I emphasise the fact that the call of the Senate as provided for in standing order 242 has nothing to do with moving or discussing amendments and provides no opportunity for honourable senators to move or discuss amendments. All of that has to be done during the second reading stage and the Committee stage. So there is no value whatever as far as the further consideration of these Bills is concerned in having a 2 1-day delay after that for the third reading. As I said in my opening speech on this motion and as has been said by other honourable senators, the necessity for having standing order 242 obviously belongs to a day and age when communications were poor and it was thought necessary to give those honourable senators who were not present when a proposal was originally discussed the opportunity of getting here so that they could have the opportunity at the last stage of the passage of such a Bill of voting or speaking against it. Mr Odgers said of this standing order in his book Australian Senate Practice that the records of the Parliament give no definite explanation as to the reasons which actuated the early Senate in adopting the rule that there should be a call of the Senate before the third reading of such a Bill. It is so obscure that Mr Odgers has not been able to formulate or discover any real reasons for having the standing order.
I again emphasise that having a call of the Senate is not going to have any bearing on the opportunity afforded to honourable senators to propose amendments and have those amendments considered and voted upon. The Government has put forward this motion. I have moved this motion in all innocence. I am not seeking to ram anything down the throats of honourable senators. God forbid that any Minister should seek to ram anything down the Senate’s throat. Every Minister in this place has discovered the folly of trying to do that. I have simply brought forward this motion on behalf of the Government for the decision of the Senate. I resent suggestions that we are trying to railroad anything- much less this motion- through the Senate. It is for honourable senators to decide whether they will support it, but I am confident from the debate that has taken place so far that there will be a majority of honourable senators supporting the motion.
That the motion (Senator Durack’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr President, I move:
I have moved that motion subsequent to the debate that has just been concluded. I accept the decision of the Senate that has just been made. I disagree with it, but I accept it. However, that decision is no reason for preventing the public from being exposed to the differing viewpoints on these proposals which are of great importance to the future of Australia. You will recall, Mr President, that last week these proposals were debated in the House of Representatives on a day on which the proceedings were broadcast. It would be grossly unfair to this Senate and to those opposing the viewpoint put forward by the Government to deny to the people of Australia an opportunity to hear the full debate on the subject matter of these proposals. Time and time again in the preceding debate the Government’s spokesmen said: ‘Let us get on with the debate on the subject matter of these proposals’. I agree with that; let us get on with it. But let us not deny to the public of Australia a fair and reasonable hearing of the various viewpoints on the subject matter.
I draw your attention, Mr President, and that of other honourable senators to the time. At present it is 9.17 p.m. The Senate is due to adjourn at 10.30 p.m.- in merely one hour and 1 3 minutes time. Will it make any difference to the Government if debate on this question is delayed for one hour and 13 minutes? I believe that it is essential for the public to be exposed even to the indecent arguments that may be put forward in support of at least two of the referenda proposals. I respectfully submit to you, Mr President, and to the Senate my proposal, which is:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the order of business being rearranged to provide that the Constitution Alteration Bills be considered only while the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast, and it be so ordered.
I remind you and honourable senators of the fact that the entire debate on this subject in the House of Representatives was broadcast. It was a very one-sided debate. Why should not the whole of the debate in this House, particularly on those matters which affect this House so vitally, be debated on the day on which the proceedings here are broadcast, so that the subject may be exposed to the varying viewpoints on the subject matter?
-Is the motion seconded? Senator Rae- Yes.
-The Government opposes the motion. The fact is that the debate on these Bills will proceed for the rest of this evening and during tomorrow- a day on which the proceedings will be broadcast- for as much of tomorrow as is required for the debate. The Government has no intention of cutting short the debate tomorrow, which is a broadcast day. But the Government’s view is that the longstanding arrangements about government business and the broadcasting of Parliament should not be disarranged for any Bill. Many important Bills and subjects are debated in this place on non-broadcasting days. If we were to try to rearrange government business or re-arrange broadcasting day every time some honourable senator or a group of honourable senators thought there was something of such great moment that the whole of the Australian public was waiting on their words from the Senate, it would be quite frustrating for the conduct of the business of the Senate, apart altogether from the business of the Government. For those reasons the Government is opposed to the motion.
– Ordinarily I would not support a motion to arrange the business of the Senate so as to have broadcasting facilities available but ordinary business of the Senate does not involve the people in a vote. When we have a referendum of the people, candid attitudes on the part of the Parliament seem to make it prudent and fair that the debates which take place in Parliament can be listened to by those members of the public who will have a duty to vote if the Bills are passed and if the Government goes on. This situation is reinforced by reason of the precipitation, speed, if not steamrolling, with which the Government got the passage of the Bills in another place. I think there was one speech on Wednesday, a few on Thursday and a unanimous vote on two of the proposals which specially concern the Senate. So a debate in the House of Representatives is hardly a model upon which we would mould our attitudes.
It is my view that anybody who is a member of an institution or who becomes an honourable senator has one paramount duty, and that is to leave the institution with at least as much integrity as it had when he entered it. The first duty of an honourable senator coming here is to defend the proper responsibilities and powers of the Senate. We do not expect that from the Government House where the executive of both sides- Whitlam and Fraser- join in one, which is contrary to the Fraser attitude of 2 years ago, to weaken and undermine the Senate by the adoption of a Bill which was then called a fraud by responsible leaders of the Opposition. When we have the situation where people are to vote on this matter- if the Government is supported by the vast majority in this place- when the debate in this place has special responsibilities because now the Senate is challenged as to its powers, authorities and responsibilities, and when the Government which is proposing these measures 2 years ago called them a fraud, then in a unique situation of Senate responsibility and for the elucidation of the allegations as to whether it was fraud, why not let the people hear what we have to say on each of these matters?
This is a unique opportunity for such members of the public as wish to listen to the debates in the Senate to hear them for each of those 3 reasons which the Senate will note I put succinctly for the purpose of not unduly drawing out the preparatory part of this debate. We are only on preliminaries yet.
– I have some concern about the course of action which has been mentioned by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) who in this chamber represents the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), because in reply to Senator Harradine Senator Durack instanced that it was intended by the Government to proceed with this legislation tomorrow. Yet Senator Withers, the Leader of the Government in the Senate -
– He did not say that. The honourable senator did not listen to him. The honourable senator wants to be clear.
-Did I hear correctly? If I heard wrongly I apologise. Correct me if I am wrong, but did I not hear Senator Durack say that the Government intended to proceed tomorrow with debate on this legislation? I see that Senator Durack nods his head in acquiescence. So I was not wrong. I was correct. Obviously Senator Jessop was not listening.
– Tonight and tomorrow.
– All right, tonight and tomorrow. It was indicated by Senator Withers, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, as recently as last Thursday in reply to a question asked by Senator Georges, that the debate on the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill, the debate on the Representation Amendment Bill and the debate on the Census and Statistics Amendment Bill would be deferred until Wednesday so that the Australian Labor Party could give consideration to those Bills at its meeting on Wednesday. The Leader of the Government indicated that it was necessary for the Government to get that legislation through the Senate by Wednesday night- that is tomorrow night- in order to present it to the House of Representatives on Thursday so that the Government could get that legislation on Thursday before Parliament was prorogued. He indicated that if the Government did not get that legislation before Thursday of this week there could be no guarantee that a redistribution of electoral boundaries for the next House of Representatives election would be through the Parliament by the end of this year. That is the matter that concerns me.
I would have thought that the Government would have mentioned to the Opposition that it intended to jettison those proposals and then to proceed with the debate on these constitutional matters tomorrow. Because of the Government’s confusion we on this side of the Senate are now confused as to the timetable arrangements of the Government. It is quite obvious to me that if the Government wants the redistribution proposals put through the Parliament this week before it is prorogued, and if it wants a redistribution of electoral boundaries this year for the 1978 Federal elections, then it has only 2 alternatives. It either has to deal with the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill immediately or the Parliament has to sit next Friday. That appears to me to be the situation. I ask Senator Durack to state the attitude of the Government now before the Opposition determines what its policy will be in relation to the motion moved by Senator Harradine.
– May I further describe the shambles in which we find ourselves. According to the notice paper -
– Order ! Senator Georges, Senator Rae has the call.
– I beg your pardon.
– I wonder whether it would assist if a form of procedure were adopted whereby Senator Durack was given special leave to answer the question raised by Senator Douglas McClelland before the debate continues. It does seem to me to be potentially relevant to what is said in the debate, the question having been specifically raised. I believe I am probably in order by moving that Senator Durack have leave to answer that or alternatively that Senator Withers be permitted to answer the question before the debate resumes.
– I rise to order. I want to hear Senator Georges. I think it is relevant to the matter before the Senate. I do not think that the Government has the right to preempt the forms of the Senate and, notwithstanding the remarks of my colleague, Senator Rae, I would be interested in hearing what Senator Georges has to say.
– I rise reluctantly to point out the shambles in which we find ourselves because the Government -
– I rise to order. I thought that I had the call. I do not wish to lose my call because I wish to debate the issue. I was attempting to be helpful by using part of my time to make a suggestion to the Senate but I certainly do not wish to lose my call. I am happy to defer to Senator Georges if that is the wish as long as I have the right to speak afterwards.
-Is leave granted for Senator Rae to continue his remarks after Senator Georges has spoken? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– We are now in an even greater shambles than we were before. I hope I have something sensible to say after Senator Rae’s ceding to me. I point out to the Senate the desperate position in which we find ourselves at this time, 9.30 p.m., after witnessing one of the most extraordinary performances from the Government benches in my time in this place. I took some joy out of it but from a Whip’s point of view I find myself in complete confusion. According to the notice paper -
– Tell us something new, George.
- Senator Bonner was in some confusion a moment ago; he found himself on this side of the Senate. According to the notice paper we were to discuss these Bills cognately and I proceeded according to that program. Suddenly we find that we are dealing with each Bill separately. I ask: What does the Government propose? What is its intention? Perhaps when Senator Durack answers Senator Rae ‘s questions he could enlighten me about what he intends to do. If he intends to take these Bills one by one he most certainly will have to explain how we are to complete this program on Friday because it seems to me that the Government is in a bind. Having invited the Queen to open this Parliament, the Government has decided to interrupt the program of the Parliament and to prorogue the Parliament. Now we find ourselves unable to complete the program. I ask Senator Durack to explain how he intends to proceed. Are we to debate these Bills tomorrow? I doubt it. I think that the electoral Bills are far more important than these Constitution alteration Bills. I take it that the Government wants the electoral Bills passed because if they do not go through this week the Government is up for considerable expense, as Senator Withers has already explained. So it seems to me that the electoral Bills will have to take priority. Therefore, what is the program for tomorrow, the Government having wasted tonight’s debate? What is intended for tomorrow, or Thursday or Friday? Do we prorogue or not this week?
-As I indicated earlier, I was attempting to assist the Senate to solve a procedural problem by agreeing to defer so that the case could be further elaborated and then answered. I simply wish to proceed with the debate on the subject matter of Senator Harradine ‘s motion. It seemed to me to be important for a number of reasons one of which is that there should be the maximum opportunity for the public to hear and understand the debate upon this matter. It is not a matter upon which there is any lack of controversy or lack of confusion on the part of the members of the public who were bombarded by the Liberal and National Country parties as recently as 1974 with a ‘no’ case in respect of the referendums held then. In relation to the then proposal for simultaneous elections the ‘no ‘ case started off in this way:
This referendum will make the Senate a rubber stamp of a socialist centralist Labor Government.
Presumably if that applied then it could well apply this year, in 10 years or whenever it might be. It presumably could apply to a socialist centralist government of any sort. However, what will most confuse the members of the public is what they were told by the Liberal and National Country parties in 1 974, that is, that in putting up the Bill the then Government was being deceitful and that the question they were to vote on did not explain the real proposed law. I am interrupted by an interjection from Senator Missen asking what is this I am quoting from. I am quoting from the official ‘no ‘ case prepared -
– I rise to order. I did not say that. I ask whether this is in order. I submit that what is being said now is an argument on the substance of the Bill and in no way is an argument on Senator Harradine ‘s motion before the Chair.
– I would like to speak to the point of order. I submit that Senator Missen is out of order because Senator Rae was merely indicating the significance and importance of having this point of view broadcast over the radio. He was merely illustrating it with some excerpts from the ‘no ‘ case of some time ago.
-I ask Senator Rae to connect his remarks to the subject matter of the motion which Senator Harradine has moved.
– Thank you. I shall continue to do so. The reason Senator Harradine ‘s motion should be supported is that in my view this is a matter of importance, as has been indicated by the previous speakers. It is a matter upon which I am suggesting there will be very considerable public confusion. I am endeavouring to elaborate some of the reasons which occur to me for the public confusion. I submit that some confusion will arise from the fact that 3 years ago the Government parties which have introduced this Bill campaigned against an identical Bill. I want to quote further from the case they put to the public 3 years ago in support of my argument that the public needs to have the maximum opportunity to hear the debate on this matter which will take place in this chamber. I go on further to quote from the ‘no’ case presented in 1974 to the electors of Australia. It was stated in 1974 that the referendum question on the Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill 1974 was remarkable for its deceit. The members of the public now will say that an explanation is necessary to tell them why the position has changed since 1 974 if it is a Bill in identical terms.
– I again rise to order. The speaker has made no attempt to relate these remarks to the motion which Senator Harradine has moved. It is obviously a sheer filibuster to talk out time tonight. I ask you, Mr President, to stop this from being done.
– I object to Senator Missen describing Senator Rae as a filibuster. He is not a filibuster at all. As tacitly and as quietly as I can, let me say that all Senator Rae is attempting to do is argue a case in support of Senator Harradine ‘s motion. He is saying that the maximum opportunity should be made available to the Australian public to understand why these Bills are being brought in. That is the issue and that is all he is talking about. If Senator Missen, whom I understand took part in the Constitutional Convention’s deliberations in this area, is trying to argue his own case by taking points of order, I think he should be sat down.
– The point of order is not upheld.
– I go on to refer to one more part of the ‘no’ case for the same reason that I have referred to others. It was stated in 1974:
The Government refuses to tell you the real effect of its proposed law to juggle with the terms of office of the senators in order to make the Senate a rubber stamp of the House of Representatives. Such a dangerous law would vitally affect the parliamentary system. It would cut out the constitutional independence of the Senate and open the way for progressive reduction of its powers.
When a party, a government, a group of parties, whatever it may be, has stated that but 3 years ago and now is putting to the people that they should have a different view, then the people obviously need the maximum opportunity to understand why, and debate in this chamber is the most ordered and responsible manner in which that view can be presented. Should it be a slanging match on television? Should it be by way of interruption by Senator Durack while I am speaking? Should it be by way of proper debate, speaking one after the other in the chamber under the ordered control of you, Mr President, and the Standing Orders? I submit that it should be the latter. I go on to say that I think Senator Wright made an important point when he said that this is no ordinary matter which can be debated and nobody cares very much. This is a matter upon which people have to vote, and the honourable senator made an important point. An interjection was made that only one per cent of the people may be listening. That may be so, but that is one per cent of the community who would be better informed immediately from listening to the debate. However, I dispute those figures. I think it is understood from the surveys which are conducted that the Parliament does have a substantially higher rating than one per cent.
– It is 4 1/2 per cent.
– Thank you; it is 4 1/2 per cent. That is probably about double the number of people who read editorials in newspapers, and editorials are generally regarded as being of significant importance in opinion making in the community. They tend to influence the opinion makers who influence others, and I think that those who listen to Parliament tend to fall into the same category. I propose to ban neither editorials nor the opportunity for this matter to be debated on the air so that the maximum number of people have the opportunity of access to it.
I want to deal with another reason why there will be confusion in the public mind in relation to these Bills- a somewhat extraordinary one as to which there may be a good explanation. I do not know, but I wait to hear it and I think the public would wait to hear it. We have 2 Bills. One is called the Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill 1977 and the other is called the Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) Bill 1977. The innocent abroad, the elector who is expected to cast an intelligent vote in relation to these matters and to differentiate between what he wants and what he does not want by way of constitutional change, would expect to find any provision in relation to casual vacancies in the Senate in a Bill entitled Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) Bill 1977. But whilst that Bill does deal with some aspects of casual vacancies in the Senate, in fact that poor observer would have to look to the Bill entitled Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill to find out what happens to Senator Lewis, wherever he may be, or to anybody who finds himself in a similar position.
Even Senator Brown, I believe, is somewhat interested and potentially involved in this question. As I understand it, there are some people in Australia who regard his interests as being of some importance and who may wish to listen to the debate. No doubt they will be amazed when they find that the Bill on simultaneous elections really does not deal with simultaneous elections at all but deals with who had the power to force the dissolution of half of this chamber and that the other part of the Bill with which we are dealing provides for Senator Brown to have no real opportunity of coming back to this chamber, if I am not too unkind, and for Senator Lewis to have an excellent opportunity of returning. In other words, it deals with what happens on casual vacancies because it will provide that the appointee to a casual vacancy shall be able to see out the full term of the person whom he replaced. What that has to do with simultaneous elections the public will be waiting to hear when this matter goes on the air tomorrow. They will be wondering why on earth the Bill was drafted in this way. There are a thousand and one other things the public will be interested to hear about the drafting of these Bills. In my view, the Bills are just as bad now as they were in 1974, or at least some of them are.
I believe that those advancing arguments regarding the prospective destruction of this chamber and of the smaller States- I emphasise that, and I am sure Senator Harradine was motivated by it when he moved his motionshould have the maximum opportunity by whatever means possible to hear and be heard, for the debate to take place, for the cross-exchange to take place, and for the fertilisation of ideas to be open to the maximum number of members of the community. I emphasise that I regard this situation as being not dissimilar to a situation in relation to editorials. Not everybody reads editorials and not everybody listens to the Senate, but I am sure that both listening to the Senate and reading editorials can form an important part of the opinion making process of the Australian people.
– I rise only because Senator Douglas McClelland in his speech asked a number of questions. As honourable senators will recall and as Senator Douglas McClelland recalled to them, I laid down what I thought would be a sensible program for this week. As I understand the program which was agreed between the Whips last Thursday, we were to deal with these Bills today, with the electoral Bills tomorrow and with some other Bills on Thursday. As honourable senators will know from looking at the Senate Order of Business, it was expected that the suspension of standing order 242 would come on today after the placing of business. Due to a request from some of my own colleagues, I postponed that until 8 p.m. and thereby gave up some 2 hours this afternoon which could have been devoted to this question. In my innocence I expected that we would get to debate the substance of the questions contained in the second reading speech of my colleague the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack).
– In your innocence?
-I am a very innocent person.
– You are the most cynical man in the Parliament. Why are you talking about innocence?
-Senator, youflatter me. I therefore expected last Thursday when the program was arranged that on this day we would have some 41/2 hours debate on the substance of these Bills. To date we have had no debate. I also expected that there would be a cognate debate covering the 4 referenda proposals, as there was in the other place. But to have a cognate debate requires leave and I was informed that I would not be given leave.
– Who informed you of that?
– I think I ought not to disclose that.
– Not the Opposition?
-Not the Opposition, no. I make that quite clear. It was neither the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) nor any of his colleagues.
– Your friends?
-My supporters and colleagues. I did not wish to move into a disputed area and attempt to suspend standing orders in order to bring about that cognate debate. If things cannot be done by leave I learn to live with it. Therefore the honourable senator is quite right. The program is not working out as was expected last Thursday when men of good will on both sides in the 2 Whips put together a program. I must say that over that last 14 months the programs have worked very well and have satisfied both sides as to a reasonable time for debate. We have got on very well in this chamber by doing things sensibly.
– The economy has not worked very well.
-It is working better than you would like it to, senator. Because of what has happened tonight and because 4 hours debate on what I thought would be the substance of the matter has been dissipated in other areas, I will certainly be talking to my Whip and we will be having discussions with the Opposition before the night is out to see what we will do tomorrow. Whether or not we continue with the program and deal with the electoral Bills tomorrow and then come back to these Bills is a matter for decision yet to be made. I hope to do that quite soon. I say that as a matter of information. I should indicate, I think, that the Government does regard the referenda proposals as being of the highest priority. It is anxious to get them through the Parliament so that, assuming the Bills pass, the date already announced for the poll, 21 May, can be met. I hope to have discussions with the manager of Opposition business before the night is out.
– Briefly, I will be supporting Senator Harradine ‘s motion to have these Bills discussed during the Senate’s time on the air. When one considers the history of what happened last week in the House of Representatives one can see that not much time was spent on the air in debating these Bills. I think the second reading debate started at 2.15 p.m. on Thursday, following the introduction of the Bills earlier m the week. A cognate debate went until the end of the day, interrupted only by ministerial statements on the Holmes and Bailey Reports and on the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreements. Notwithstanding those times, a total of 5 hours 55 minutes was spent discussing these Bills while proceedings were being broadcast. I have allowed for the blackout that occurred during one of the divisions relating to these referendum Bills. Again I say that we are rushing these things. If we are going to have them rushed I should like the public to hear as much of the argument as we can possibly let it hear.
– in reply- I do not want to delay the Senate. I think the support for my proposition has been overwhelming. The reasons that have been given by other honourable senators are far more cogent than the reasons that I initially advanced in my opening address. I must say that having heard the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) I feel now that it is more important for the Senate to support the motion than when I initially proposed it, because what Senator Withers is saying is that the Government Whip and the Opposition Whip will get together tomorrow to determine when this debate will take place. We have no guarantee that any part of this debate will take place in broadcast time. That is what has resulted from the debate on this matter. The Leader of the Government has not even given a guarantee that any part of this debate will take place in the Senate in broadcast time.
I suggest that the motion I have moved is perfectly in order to ensure that the public is exposed to the various opinions over the air waves. People may say that the debate will be well and truly detailed in the Press, in the for and against publications that are sent out to all householders. Remember those unfortunate people in the community who are without sight, those people who are ill and those people who for a number of reasons- who cannot readdepend, God forbid, on the broadcasts of the Parliament to learn what is going on in this national capital.
– They will not learn much if they are listening to you.
– I suggest that honourable senators, and Senator McLaren who interjected, should give a bit of mature thought to this matter.
– That is something he may be incapable of doing.
– He may be incapable of that but at least he should try to give a bit of thought to this matter and support this motion because he should know that the Government has not given any guarantee at all that any part of this debate will be broadcast.
That the motion (Senator Harradine’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 17 February, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I understand from the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) that these Constitution alteration Bills are not being taken cognately.
– That is correct.
-The Bill before the Senate is the Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill 1977. Before we have been able to grapple with this subject matter tonight we have had to listen to a number of honourable senators invoking the public interest and concern over this Bill. That same sort of concern was not displayed by those honourable senators, as I recall it, when they voted in favour of the delaying of Supply in 1975. We have heard honourable senators in this chamber invoking the need for the Senate to debate this matter on a broadcast day. The same honourable senators always invoke the views of the founding fathers who, in all their contemplations about the meaning of the Constitution, did not contemplate that debates of the Senate would have to be broadcast on radio. These sorts of tactics have been used tonight in an attempt to put off a discussion, particularly on the simultaneous elections proposal, for a variety of reasons to which I will refer in the course of my remarks.
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs had this to say in his second reading speech on the Bill:
Under the existing provisions - that is of the Constitutionit is theoretically possible to keep elections for the 2 Houses in phase by holding elections for the House of Representatives whenever half Senate elections are due. However, the exigencies of political life are such that synchronisation on this basis is difficult to maintain.
There speaks the voice of genuine experience. The exigencies of recent political life have shown that to be the case and the exigencies of arguments put by the then Opposition in relation to a very similar proposal in 1974 indicate that those difficulties still beset the Government Parties here tonight. I refer, for example, to the difficulty of maintaining a consistent attitude in relation to a provision such as this.
The Opposition has some criticisms of this Bill. I think that a theatrical critic once described a play as having beautiful scenery but said that the actors kept getting in the way. So far as we on the Opposition side are concerned, we have supported the proposals contained in this Bill consistently in the 3 Constitutional Conventions which have been held in the last 4 years. We introduced them into the Senate in 1973. We supported them publicly in 1974. Our position has been quite consistent throughout. The scenery for us has not changed. It is exactly the same scenery as that with which we were involved in all those debates that took place on all those occasions to which I have referred. But on this occasion we have some suspicion, in some ways, of the motives of the Government, because the actors are getting in the way and we are seeing all sorts of devices being used by those actors to stop us getting on with the thing which the Opposition has sought in relation to simultaneous elections over a number of years. Of course, we are concerned about some of the immediate political effects of this proposal if it is carried. The first immediate political effect of which this Government no doubt is well aware is that the life of the Senate will be extended artificially for a period of approximately 6 months by this alteration of the Constitution. This is something devoutly to be wished for by a government faced with the economic difficulties that face this Government. It is whistling like Hotspur to summon spirits from the vasty deep and is not sure whether they will come. It is something devoutly to be wished for by the Government that its life in the Senate should be extended for a period of about 6 months. That is political disability we find associated with these proposals- something introduced by the actors into the scenery to which I referred.
Of course, there are all sorts of arguments which can be advanced in favour of a simultaneous elections proposal, many of them dealt with by the Minister himself in his second reading speech. There is the argument relating to the cost of elections. I would have thought that that is an argument of no great principle or substance; but it is an argument which is advanced consistently. There is the argument in relation to the fact that Australians for a variety of reasons, which might have been reinforced if they had been watching the proceedings of the Senate tonight on television, are sick of politicians and sick of too many elections. That seems to me to be a very valid argument of which we all are aware.
There is the argument for limiting the number of elections to which the Australian people are subjected because unfortunately the Australian people no longer see elections, as they might have done, as an opportunity to reflect their views and wishes and to influence the course of events. Rather, they see them as a disability which is imposed on them by politicians in Canberra. That seems to me to be the reality of the position, a position accepted by many people in the Australian community. There is a quite clear argument for limiting the number of elections. Of course, this could have been done in ways other than the way in which the Government has sought to do it here; but it seems to us, as a matter of convenience and as a matter of rationality, that this should be done in the way the Government has proposed.
Of course, the real importance and significance of this proposal from our point of view in the Opposition is that it does what many of its critics say it will do. It limits the significance and influence of the Senate. That is something which I would have thought is desirable in the interests of good government in this country. We will hear a lot about that from people such as Senator Wright and others. We have heard a lot about it from Senator Rae already. I follow their arguments. I just do not happen to agree with them. I suppose that if one raises this question it points up the very reality which certain people still refuse to accept- the reality that the Senate is not a States House or a House of review in the sense in which the founding fathers used both those terms; the Senate is a Party House. This proposal has been introduced into the Senate on party lines. It has been pushed through by the leader of a political party just as the delaying of the Budget in 1975 was dictated by a political party leader who is not in this House but in the House of Representatives. Just as Senator Wright, Senator Rae and Senator Sir Magnus Cormack and all the others fell into line when they were told by a political party leader outside this House what they had to do, so they are displaying the same sort of inconsistency tonight as we discuss this proposal before the Senate now.
The reality of this proposal is that when it is passed, if it is passed, the Senate will more truly reflect the people’s wishes than it has even done before, except when as Senator Wright quite correctly pointed out in his dissenting view to the Constitutional Review Committee of 1959, that up to that time there had been very few occasions when Senate elections and House of Representatives elections were held separately. But we know that since 1963 that has not been the case. The fact is that if the elections are held simultaneously in accordance with this proposal now before the Senate, the Senate will have more hope of truly reflecting the last obtained wishes of the voters of this country on who they wish to be the government in this country. The composition of the Senate, although chosen by proportional representation, will more surely reflect the views of the people and will be more consistent with the composition of the House of Representatives. That would seem to me to be in the long term interests of good government and the long term interests of this country.
What I find extraordinary about this proposal and the attitude of the Government on this matter is the latter day conversion to this view of so many people sitting on the opposite side of the House.
– Not all of them.
-Senator Missen speaks with a lonely voice. It is sometimes said that the heresies of Labor in one year become Liberal orthodoxies 5 years later. On this occasion the time span has been decreased considerably. The heresies of Labor in 1974 have become Liberal Government orthodoxies in 1977. This is an amazing conversion which in some circumstances might make us suspicious. I do not wish to wax Shakespearian, but I think it was Shakespeare who said: ‘This last thing is the greatest treason, to do the right thing for the wrong reason’. I shall listen to this debate with great interest to make sure that the Government is doing the right thing for the right reason and not the right thing for the wrong reason. By the wrong reason I of course mean political expediency dictated by the sorts of problems it has concerning the management of this country in 1 977. We look on them with suspicion but approval as a matter of principle. When I say that there has been a latent conversion, I refer- and Senator Rae has stolen a lot of what I proposed to say on this matter- to the no case of 1974 to which all Government senators subscribed on the hustings. It is a most extraordinary document. Apart from warning of the dangers of a socialist centralist Labor government- and I do not think as one senator put it that we are in much danger of that in the immediate future- the Government at the time was being accused of being deceitful. Of the real proposed law the document said:
This so-called Simultaneous Elections referendum is the first one of four which the Government is holding with the Senate elections, and in each one the Government has deliberately attempted to mislead you. These referendums are part of a scheme to impose in Australia a centralist onecontrol administration from Canberra. The Government also hopes these referendums will put a smokescreen over the central issues of the Senate election.
What were the central issues? At last we had the 1974 show. What were the central issues of the 1974 Senate election to be? They were runaway inflation, absurdly high interest rates, staggering tax payments, irresponsible government spending and a Public Service growing like Topsy. Perhaps it is not the Public Service that is growing like Topsy; it is unemployment which is growing like Topsy in 1977. That is the main difference. But this is at last the 1974 show, is it not? The Government at that time, with all those bad things which were attributed to the Government and which were running at a much lower rate than they are now, was accused of being deceitful and of trying to bemuse the people and distract them from those essential factors of mismanagement to which I have referred. The document setting out the case for no- the case of honourable senators opposite- goes on to say:
The dishonesty of this referendum question is that it says this is the only way to get Senate and House of Representatives elections held together. That is simply untrue.
Senator Wright knows that that statement that it is simply untrue is correct. He pointed this out in his dissenting report to the Committee of 1959. The document goes on to say:
The Constitution, the law, and parliamentary practice allow each Prime Minister to have a House of Representatives election on the same day as any Senate election. He can have the House of Representatives and Senate elections on the same day simply by his own decision.
He could do that in 1977 and he could do it in 1978. He could have a House of Representatives election with the Senate election if he wanted to do so. The document further states:
The fact that this Prime Minister does not do so, exposes the fraud of this referendum.
Then it goes on to explain the fraud and that ‘the Senate is not an arm of the House of Representatives ‘. We would agree with that. We see the Senate as a sort of palsied hand or a withered leg or something of that kind attached to the House of Representatives- an encumbrance to the process of government in this country. The description is graphic, I suppose, but they are the words of the now Speaker of the House of Representatives. He says of the House of Representatives and the Senate:
Both are established under the Constitution as equal, independent Houses of Parliament with differing roles. The Senate is the only institution in Australia able tobe a barrier to the arbitrary misuse of power by a Prime Minister or his Cabinet.
I hope that we will hear an explanation about that from Senator Wright later in this debate.
Then the document goes on to deal with the falsity of the Federal Labor Government’s position relating to advertisements inserted oy the Government of the day in support of the referendum proposals. Let it be said that we on this side of the House will support this referendum proposal here and on the hustings. There will be no doubt about that because we believe in constitutional change, not just for its own sake but because of the experience of this Parliament and the experience which the government of Australia has had at the hands of the Senate.
We do not believe in the statement that the Senate is an independent and equal House or that it should be an independent and equal House. I can see that if I cite our scriptures they will be quoted by Senator Wright for his own purposes, but that does not particularly concern me. The fact is that we do have a different view of the role of the Senate; we do have a different view of the role of government and the way government should function in this country, and we do have a very strong view that the powers of the Senate should be delimited at every opportunity. These are the basic reasons why we will be supporting the legislation.
In saying that we are being consistent with everything we have said before. It is for Government senators to explain their latter day conversion and the inconsistencies in their position on this matter over 3 years. Some of them will obviously be free from the burden of explaining their inconsistencies because they have at least been consistent in their opposition to any proposals to alter the Australian Constitution. Amongst them are those who described themselves on one occasion, I recall, as the ‘bulwark of the Australian Constitution’. That is a splendid phrase which impressed me when I was a new senator. They are people who have views on the nature of the parliamentary institution which I and the Opposition do not believe are consistent with the continued existence of parliamentary government in this country. They are entitled to put their views.
– Let the people have their say.
- Senator Harradine says: Let the people have their say on this matter. ‘ He invited us earlier tonight to let the people have a say in the drafting of the proposals. Imagine an honourable senator in this chamber sidling up to somebody in a pub and saying: ‘Mate, what do you think about the simultaneous election proposals? What do you think should be in clause 3?’ The reply would surely be less than parliamentary. I consider that it is a somewhat phoney proposition that because of Senator Harradine ‘s false rhetoric in this matter the people should have a say in the drafting of the constitutional amendment proposals. If he is concerned about the people having a say that is what a referendum is for. They will have a say after the Senate has passed this legislation. I remind Senator Harradine that they had a say on 1 8 May 1 974.
– They knocked it off.
-The expression ‘they knocked it off’ is unparliamentary. I would have thought that that is not an appropriate expression to use in the Parliament. What Senator Harradine surely means is that they defeated the referendum proposals in 1974. Let me tell him by what margin that was done. In the whole of Australia the percentage voting in favour of the Constitutional Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill was 48.3. The percentage voting against was S1.7. In Tasmania Senator Harradine ‘s people got a slightly better result for the proposition which he espouses but not much. I remind him that that was in 1974, some 3 years ago, when the whole machinery of the then Opposition, for specious reasons which it no longer advances and which it has abandoned, was arraigned against the proposals put by the Labor Government. Nevertheless, in that political situation in 1974, 48.3 per cent of the Australian people voted in favour of the proposal to alter the Constitution in relation to simultaneous elections.
– Thirty-nine per cent were in favour in my State.
-Thirty-nine per cent of the people were in favour of the proposal in the honourable senator’s State. It is sometimes said that the Tasmanian people are backward. I have now discovered the origin of that expression. It is in relation to constitutional reform. I have never thought of them as being backward in any other way. The fact is that the percentage of people in favour of the proposal for the whole of Australia was a high one and the referendum was carried in 3 States. When people have to face up to a decision on this matter they will do so in the light of the views of the Australian Labor Party, consistently held and put to them over a number of years in all the forums where this matter is discussed. They will do so in the light of the new found wisdom of Government senators in 1 977. 1 predict that the prospect of this proposal being carried is better than it was in most cases where alterations to the Constitution have been sought by a government of either persuasion. For reasons which I have advanced and which have been set out by the Australian Labor Party in the House of Representatives and in political forums in the last four or five years- at least since 1973-1 support the proposal which is now before the Senate. I commend the Bill to the House.
– Earlier today, Senator McLaren asked me a question relating to Senate sessional attendants. At the end of the previous period of sittings the then sessional attendants were advised at a special meeting that, because of the present employment situation and because of relative sections of the Public Service Act, Regulations and General Orders, attendants over the age of 65 years would not necessarily be re-employed in 1977. It would be necessary for such attendants to re-apply for sessional positions when they were advertised. They would be re-employed only if an insufficient number of appropriate persons under 65 years had applied.
In the event, the sessional positions, of which there are eleven, were advertised in January 1977. Forty applications were received. Many of the applicants were under 65 years of age and many were suitable for the positions. All appointments to the position of sessional attendant were made to persons under the age of 65 years. All those applicants who were unsuccessful, including those attendants previously employed, were advised by letter. Only one of the previously employed sessional attendants under the age of 65 was not re-employed. He was not available to fill the position at the date of commencement. I incorporate in Hansard a table showing the aggregate length of employment of those sessional attendants who were employed.
The document read as follows-
– The attendant staff is under the control of the Usher of the Black Rod. The task of employing sessional attendants has been delegated to him. After due consultation on the matter, the necessary decisions were made by him. I concur in the actions taken and am certain that there were no other reasons for the attendants concerned not being re-employed.
– I rise to support the second reading of the Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill. I do it with great enthusiasm. I am confident that its forces will carry through the Senate and that it will carry with other constitutional referendums through the poll which will take place on 21 May. We may well be seeing a new era where constitutional alterations that have gone through the vetting of a constitutional convention, come to the Parliament and then gone to the people will be treated by the people in a new way- not the way to be found in previous dealings with constitutional amendment when fog, fears and so forth have overwhelmed them. We may see a rational debate on this occasion. What happened tonight was not promising but I think that was only an opening skirmish. I am not terribly worried because it did not go to the essence of the matter.
In this debate I must speak only to the general matter in the simultaneous elections Bill and not to the other Constitutional Alteration Bills which I also support enthusiastically. I wish to say one or two things about what has been said by Senator Button before coming to the major aspects of the debate. I congratulate Senator Button on being so lucky as to be consistent in his attitude on this Bill. I hope his attitude will hold throughout all the Constitution Alteration Bills. I have said in the last few days to some of my colleagues that consistency is not always the virtue it is cracked up to be.
– It is the hobgoblin of little minds.
– Yes, Senator. I was about to quote Ralph Emerson ‘s statement that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. It is very often little minds- I do not reflect on Senator Button here, he may be little but he does not have a little mind- that make a fetish or create some hobgoblin that they must be consistent at all times. Very often in politics it is more honourable and appropriate for a person to be able to announce that he has had a conversion of views; that he has listened to argument over the years and that he has seen a change.
– What did Emerson say about inconsistency?
– I do not know. I am afraid that I will have to leave it to my colleague to find out what he said about inconsistency. I merely say that consistency may be a happy and comforting thing but it is not necessarily always a virtue. In fact, I have no worry with regard to this proposal because for many years I have supported the idea that there ought to be simultaneous elections. I had plenty to say on this subject when it came up in 1974, although I was not then in the Senate.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I rise tonight to raise again the unfolding story of the tragedy of East Timor. I have been motivated to rise by articles in the Melbourne Herald yesterday and the Melbourne Age today wherein it is claimed that Mr Jim Dunn, after visiting Portugal, released a report containing some rather frightening allegations, including allegations that Indonesian troops in East Timor at the time of the initial occupation and thereafter rounded up young girls in trucks and raped them, shot 1 50 men in a south coast town because they tried to stop troops interfering with their women, shot entire families which lived in houses which displayed Fretilin flags, killed as many as 500 Chinese in the first days after the invasion, dug up graves and removed valuables, and used cigarettes and electrical instruments to torture women in a special interrogation unit in the top floor of the Tropical Hotel in Dili. Those are rather frightening allegations for any person to make. For that reason, I wholeheartedly support the call by my colleague the Opposition Whip Senator Georges, for the establishment of a Senate select committee to inquire into such matters, particularly the matter of the death of 6 Australian journalists and the manner in which they have been alleged to have been killed.
It has been a long, slow and sorry process for the people trying to get the facts from Timor. Unfortunately I believe that at least one of our own government departments has not helped in this matter. Over the last 12 to 15 months we have had Press, radio and television reports of the Christain churches- in particular, if my memory serves me correctly, the Roman Catholic Church in Indonesia itself- having sent high ranking prelates to East Timor to collect information. They released a report on 19 November of last year. It was a rather frightening report. Radio reports from East Timor have continually reported atrocities having been committed by Indonesian troops. We have now the report of Mr Dunn, which was prepared by him after talking to East Timorese refugees in Portugal. His report has been supported by the reports and statements which were made by Mr Gordon Bryant, M.H.R., after his visit to Portugal during the Christmas recess.
I believe it is high time that some persons in this country- 1 can think of no better personnel than a committee of honourable senators- sat down and analysed just what has gone on in East Timor over the last 12 or 18 months and tried to come to some conclusions about how Australian citizens died in the holocaust that was brought down on Dili in those early days. We had some rather unconvincing statements- in my opinion they were unconvincing- from an Australian team that went to East Timor to investigate those deaths. I know from speaking to people both within and outside this Parliament that many other people also remain unconvinced about the statements that this team brought back. As I have already said, it would appear that we know of dozens of witnesses in Portugal. There also must be a great deal of evidence in the Department of Foreign Affairs in this country. I believe that there is, if only it can be extracted. On top of that we seem to have had a multiplicity of government departments other than that Department and, perhaps more particularly, nongovernment agencies making statements over this period of time. Again there must be a multiplicity of witnesses and a great deal of evidence available.
On top of that we have the information available from the East Timorese community in Australia, which is comprised of people who fled the country at the time and people who were here beforehand and who have received information as a result of messages sent through by all forms and means. Honourable senators may recall that during question time earlier today I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Senator Carrick) in relation to the Australian Government’s actions of recent date. It now appears that we have a telegraphic connection with East Timor. I raised that question because of a reported statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) that Australia still has not recognised the incorporation of East Timor within Indonesia. If that is the case, who organised this telegraphic communication? Was it done through the Indonesian Government or the Portuguese Government? It is a rather strange set of circumstances indeed.
I return to my earlier statement that I believe that a great deal of information must be available within the Department of Foreign Affairs. I am on record publicly and privately as having canned the Department of Foreign Affairs as early as slightly over 12 months ago. It will be recalled that at that time Mr Woolcott, the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, was alleged to have sent cables to the Department in Canberra asking the Australian Government to try to persuade the Australian people that there was nothing all that bad about the Indonesian moves into East Timor and that they should not panic and saying that the Government should tend to play down the scene somewhat. It was rather alarming to me to note Press reports that Mr Woolcott is to be appointed as our Ambassador to the United Nations. To me that is an endorsement by this Government of the actions that Mr Woolcott took over 12 months ago when he sought to pull the wool over the eyes of the Australian population at large.
I think everyone here will recall the publication of those official cables, which I believe were altered by Mr Woolcott and the infamous statement about letting the dust settle, which was published on 16 January of last year, wherein he urged that the tragic plight of the East Timorese people be put aside. In this regard he was arguing a case which served only the interests of the Indonesian Government and its military forces. Mr Woolcott ‘s appeasement of Indonesia undeniably reached its zenith in a cable he sent to the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee, in November 1975 in which he advised Senator Willesee that he had not conveyed the full text of a cable from the Australian Government to the Indonesians in order to conceal the full extent of the concern expressed by Australia at Indonesia’s covert activities in East Timor. I have already related in this chamber- I think I did so on 24 February of last year- some details of a meeting which the foreign affairs and defence committee of Caucus of the then Government had with the Indonesian Ambassador at the conclusion of which every member of the Government’s committee was of the opinion that the Indonesian Ambassador was a liar. I repeat that Mr Woolcott consistently played down the events in East Timor and in doing so acted virtually as an agent of the Idonesian armed forces. To do so is in my opinion an act of complicity with Indonesia ‘s policies in East Timor.
We have read about the effect of the Indonesian invasion. We know that there have been allegations about up to 100 000 people being killed and of rape, destruction, torture and, above all, the total suppression of the right of the people to self determination and independence. I believe it is a disgrace that a man who was so closely involved- right up to the hilt- in the brutal designs of the Indonesian military forces should now represent Australia in the United Nations. It is rather ironic when one considers that on 2 occasions the United Nations General Assembly has expressed its opposition to Indonesian activity in East Timor, and now Australia will be represented at the United Nations by such a discredited figure. I believe that all Australians concerned with justice will feel some disappointment, and surely some apprehension also, that this appointment is being made.
I want to stress this point also: It seems to me that for the present Government it is a case of horses for courses. The type of statement made or the final action taken by this Government seems to depend upon the political persuasion of the country wherein atrocities are alleged to have been committed. A great deal has been said about recent alleged atrocities under a gentleman by the name of Amin in Africa. The Minister for Foreign Affairs made a statement about the alleged killing of Archbishop Luwum; yet the same Minister has not expressed any concern about the massacre of 100 000 people in East Timor. That is about all I want to say. I have said in previous speeches that this matter is a blot on the character of Australia. The word ‘dingo’ is not a nice one to use, but in my early days it was used to describe a person who ratted on his mates. I looked up that word in the New Oxford Dictionary recently published in this country. It is a very true description of a person who rats on his mates, particularly in times of stress. That person is a dingo. For our action or lack of action in East Timor over the last 1 8 months we must go down in the minds of the people there as a nation of dingoes.
– I wish to refer to 2 matters tonight. The first is one I raised at question time today. You, Mr President, were good enough to give me an answer tonight. It is the matter of the employment of sessional attendants in the Senate. You stated that because of a Public Service regulation relating to persons over 65 years of age those positions were advertised for employment during this session. Mr President, I would like you to ascertain, if you could, how long that regulation has been in force and, if it has been in force for a number of years, why it was held in abeyance until this session before being put into operation. You also informed me that it is the responsibility of the Usher of the Black Rod to select persons for positions as sessional attendants. If that is so, it also must be the responsibility of the Usher of the Black Rod to see that the Senate’s sessional attendants are provided with decent uniforms to wear.
This matter of uniforms has been a source of controversy in the Senate for some time. I had occasion to raise it quite a while ago, during one of the meetings of the Joint House Committee of which I am a member. I refer to the condition of the uniforms of the attendants. I also had occasion to approach you in your chambers last year about the condition of the uniforms of some of the sessional attendants. I think I described them in proper terms today when I said that they were ragged, worn out and second-hand. Some uniforms had been handed down on 3 occasions. I was concerned that the present situation could have arisen because some of these persons had legitimately complained to the right quarters and, having got no response, they then came to a senator to take up the matter on their behalf as we are duty bound to do. I thought I was duty bound to do so, being a member of the Joint House Committee. I took the matter up in order to obtain some justice for these persons.
Given the statement you made tonight, Mr President, that it is the responsibility of the Usher of the Black Rod to select persons for employment as sessional attendants, I say that it also must be his responsibility, if there is a legitimate complaint that the uniforms given to these attendants are ragged, worn out and second-hand, to take up the matter and to see that they are provided with suitable uniforms. In the main the Senate attendants have to perform their duties in King’s Hall where they are in close proximity to the general public. We all know that a great many members of the public visit this Parliament. I hope that the people who replaced those attendants who were not re-employed are provided with suitable uniforms and that none of them have to go through the trauma that some other people had to go through and possibly place their jobs in jeopardy. That is all I want to say on that matter at this stage.
The second matter I wish to raise is one I have raised in this Parliament on previous occasions. In particular, I raised it towards the end of last session. It is the plight of the canned-fruit growers in the Riverland of South Australia. I think I had occasion to raise this matter on 4 separate occasions in the Senate. It relates to a joint loan made by the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Labor Government to the tune of some $545,000. Because of the plight of canned-fruit growers in the Riverland of South Australia, the South Australian Labor Premier, Mr Dunstan, saw fit to convert the South Australian Government’s share of that loan, amounting to approximately half the sum involved, to a direct grant in order to help the growers over a stile and to give them some cash flow during the Christmas period. Because of unfortunate events which took place- I will not relate them now- that cash flow did not eventuate until after the Christmas period. However, the South Australian Government did honour its promise to convert its share of the loan to a direct grant.
I have referred to this matter in detail. It is recorded in Senate Hansard of 3 November, 4 November and 2 December. I dealt with it in detail when we were debating the States Grants (Fruit-growing) Bill. When speaking in that debate I was so disturbed that I related to the Senate the fact that Mr Giles, the honourable member for Angas, had accused the South Australian Labor Premier of endeavouring to mislead the canned-fruit growers in the Riverland of South Australia by making the public statement that the South Australian Government was prepared to convert its portion of the loan to a grant. Mr Giles has been proved wrong on many other occasions and he was proved wrong on that occasion because the South Australian Government made a legitimate offer. It has honoured that promise. It has now converted its portion of that loan to a grant. During the debate on the States Grants (Fruit-growing) Bill I asked Senator Cotton, as I did by way of question and during an adjournment debate one night, to take up this matter with Mr Sinclair, the Minister for Primary Industry, and to request the Federal Government to convert its portion of the loan to a grant. Mr Giles made a statement to the Riverland Press to which I referred in my speech.
Mr Sinclair wrote to me and pointed out that under the Act the Government could not convert its portion of the loan to a grant. In the course of my speech I challenged the Government to bring in an amendment to that effect and I said that we would support it. I could guarantee that the Opposition would support it because I am the Secretary of the Parliamentary Labor Party Resources Committee which deals with agricultural matters and we had discussed this matter and had decided that if the Government was prepared to bring in an amendment to the States Grants (Fruit-growing) Act to convert that portion of the loan to a grant we would give it full support. I challenged the people on the Government side to bring in that amendment.
Unfortunately it has not come forth; so I think it can be truthfully said that Mr Sinclair is not really interested in the plight of the canned-fruit growers in South Australia. I checked with Mr Chatterton, the South Australian Minister for Agriculture, as late as Sunday, to ascertain whether Mr Sinclair had made any offer to give some financial assistance to the growers, and as late as 4 p.m. on Sunday no offer had been made by him. The reason I am on my feet tonight is again to make a plea to the Federal Government to amend the Act so that it too can convert that portion of the loan for which it is responsible to a grant to assist the growers of canning fruit in the Riverland district of South Australia.
– Tonight I want to discuss the rather ridiculous situation which developed in Parliament House last Thursday night when the whole place was suddenly plunged into darkness. I accept the fact that the matter was referred to at question time this morning. I acknowledge the reply which you gave, Mr President, that action was already being taken to ensure that the situation did not occur again. But I believe that the matter goes much deeper than that. I refer to the personal safety of the people inside the Parliament at the time the incident happened. I do not so much mean the personal safety of members of Parliament. That is an inbuilt security risk which one takes when one holds public office. I refer to the hundreds of people who visit Parliament and also, of course, the people who work here.
I want honourable senators to recognise what could have happened had that situation occurred on a night when the Budget was being brought down and when the public galleries are packed with people. They have every right to be here. This is the House of the Parliament of Australia and the people of Australia are quite entitled to be here. They are particularly entitled to be here at Budget time to find out what they will get or what they will not get.
I do not believe it is right that they be placed in a situation of perhaps extreme danger, not only to themselves but also to other people. I ask honourable senators to imagine, for instance, a situation of panic in the upper galleries which are reserved for the public. It takes only one person to create panic. A distressing situation in such an atmosphere could occasion injury, not only to the people involved but also to innocent people who are quite prepared to sit and wait for somebody to do something to rectify the situation. I believe that people who come to visit Parliament House are entitled to some sort of protection. I do not believe that anybody who was visiting Parliament House last Thursday night was given that protection. I believe that the officers of the Parliament have to be concerned. They should ensure that this is a matter of urgency and that we will not be placed in such a situation again.
While I am talking about protection I turn specifically to the protection of members of Parliament. I query just what protection members of Parliament have against people who invade our privacy, people who tap our telephones and people who listen to our conversations. The telephone in my office in Parliament House- I see much to the amazement of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers)has been bugged for some 2 years. This situation has been reported to a succession of AttorneysGeneral. It has been reported to a Prime Minister. In fact, in December 1975 I received a reply from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) informing me that he would investigate the matter. He has not, of course, or if he has done so he has certainly not advised me of the outcome. I am quite sure that I am not the only one who has a tap on the telephone. I have heard nothing from him since and I do not believe that I am likely to hear unless the Prime Minister feels that now that I have aired this matter publicly it is time that he actually investigated the situation.
If someone derives pleasure from listening to my conversations, then I suppose that that is a problem which he should discuss only with his psychiatrist. I simply make the point that whoever is bugging me- a number of people bug me- does not even pay me the courtesy of using a clean tape head. The noise from the tape is quite obvious on my telephone. I am a trained telephonist. I am not a hysterical female who suddenly and off the top of her head decides that she must get in on the public debate which is taking place about the tapping of telephones. I want to know what is being done, what can be done and what should be done for the protection and the maintenance of privacy of members of Parliament inside Parliament House. I believe that the tapping of my telephone is an invasion of my privacy. I believe that it is also an invasion of my constituents’ privacy. I have telephone contact with them on a number of occasions.
I have been finding the situation with bugged telephones quite interesting over the past tew weeks. I am sure that all of us have, especially now that the new building for the Department of Defence has been found to be bugged. I am not sure whether they have bugs or whether they are bugging the people who are bugging the people who are bugging. That is something for the Minister to decide. I believe that this is not only a matter for the Prime Minister but also for the executive officers of the Parliament. They should ensure that members of Parliament have their privacy maintained at the time they are inside Parliament House. They should ensure that our constituents also have their privacy maintained. About a week ago in Western Australiaprobably a little earlier in the eastern States because we seem to be a week behind with most of the current affairs programs- members of the telecommunications union expressed some concern on television that they were the people who had to apply the bugging apparatus.
I was speaking a little earlier about conditions which apply in Parliament House. I shall continue along those lines for just a few minutes. I was pleased that Senator McLaren preceded me in this debate tonight because I want to refer to another matter which comes under the jurisdiction of the Joint House Department.
On the lower ground floor, immediately opposite the bookshop, there is a small room. I am not sure of its official title, Senator Withers, but it is an extremely small room. It contains a number of lockers. It is used as a change room by the Senate attendants. It is used as a tea room by the attendants and by members of the post office. I only hope that they do not all decide to use the room at the same time. If they did the foundations of Parliament House would be in jeopardy. It is ludicrous that in this day and age and in this Parliament we appear not to be able to provide the people who work here 48 weeks or 49 weeks of the year with reasonable working conditions.
I invite any honourable senator who feels so inclined- I am quite sure that I do this with the permission of the attendants concerned- to make his or her way downstairs and inspect the situation. I think the attendants will be only too happy to think that honourable senators are taking an interest in them. It is because of their interest that I raise this matter tonight. They are interested not only in their own working conditions but also in the conditions which apply to the people I spoke about earlier, namely the people who visit this Parliament. I will read to the Senate a list of matters which have been referred through the Housekeeper to the Joint House Department by some of the concerned attendants.
It is necessary for me to explain that the air conditioning- if that is what one could call it, because I certainly would not say that we have adequate air conditioning throughout Parliament House- apparently works only during the week. It is not turned on at the weekend. No air conditioning operates at weekends even when the outside temperatures are above normal. Of course, the reverse is the case in winter when the whole place becomes an ice box. I read from a copy of the notice which went to the secretary of the Joint House Department through the Housekeeper. I understand that the Department had advised that nothing can be done. The notice states:
PUBLIC TOURS: AIR CONDITIONING
On 12 February this year, two tours were affected by ladies overcome by the heat and lack of air in the Public Galleries. They had to be assisted from the Chambers. I have had numerous complaints which have been directed to Joint House.
Mr S. Elgood 18 February 1977: Pregnant woman in distress and was taken from the Gallery by ner husband.
– The honourable senator cannot blame the Parliament for her being pregnant.
– I am referring to the distress. Her pregnancy is her own problem, surely. But we have a problem about the distress and, as responsible members of Parliament we should have the concern of a pregnant woman uppermost in our minds. The notice continues: 15 January 1977: Saturday afternoon, I was abused by several ladies because I had not kept the Chamber cool enough (House of Representatives). They were advised to write to Secretary, Joint House.
Mr E. Goodil 11 and 12 February 1977: Saturday and Sunday. Both days two tours had to be cancelled when several people asked to leave the House of Representatives because of the heat.
Mr J. Robins
During the latter days of January and February, we have experienced usual hot summer weather.
During my Saturday duty, I cannot fail to notice the frequent comment by visitors of the enjoyment they derived from the tour, uncomfortable as it was because of the lack of air cooling. This is a prevalent comment by visitors and attention is drawn to it because there must surely be a way to remedy this problem.
Mr B. R. Hartas
Complaints are frequent every summer. People are not in such distress as those mentioned in these specific cases, but are sufficiently uncomfortable to abuse the attendants conducting the tours. There has never been a reliable system of air conditioning public galleries when the House is not sitting. The only possible assistance is from a blower arrangement which blows hot air from one part of the chamber to the other in a futile effort to reduce the temperature. At the same time the offices in the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Library and the Joint House Department are always cool and pleasant because air conditioning continues night and day and even at weekends when all the offices are empty. I find this very hard to believe because I do not think that the air conditioning works in my office anyway. The only people in the building, the visitors and attendants, have no air conditioning anywhere. It would seem to be a fair thing for some of that cool air lavished upon the deserted offices to be diverted to overheated visitors, the expense involved being minimised by reducing the cost of returning the hot chambers to normal temperatures after the weekend. An alternative, if nothing can be done, is to cancel tours when the galleries exceed working temperatures.
I do not believe that people these days should be working in those conditions. I do not believe that members of the Australian public who visit Parliament House should be subjected to those conditions either. I was very pleased to see that even the members of the Prime Minister’s staff have to work under extremely difficult conditions, if I am to believe the report in the National Times of 2 1 February. Under the title Too hot to handle’ the following appears:
Life was apparently not meant to be easy for Malcolm Fraser’s public relations staff. They work out of a small office on the third floor of Parliament House.
The office, under a corrugated iron roof, is not air conditioned. While temperatures in Canberra hit the mid 30s last week, the Prime Minister’s staff were sweating it out at 40 deg. C. Their leader never goes up there.
Perhaps that is one of the problems; we never go to other places in Parliament House to see what the working conditions of the people here are.
– Referring firstly to the remarks of Senator
Primmer, I will draw the attention of my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) to what was said. I will draw the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) to the remarks made by Senator McLaren about the fruit canning growers of South Australia. The other matter raised by Senator McLaren resides in your jurisdiction, Mr President, as do the 3 matters raised by Senator Coleman concerning the darkness in, the tapping of telephones and the working conditions in this place. I must say that I was surprised to hear the allegations that telephones are tapped in Parliament House because the executive Government is but the tennant of the Presiding Officers. This whole Parliament comes under your jurisdiction, Mr President, and that of Mr Speaker, and it is not for me to pass comment on the matter except to admit that I, personally, am comfortably housed in this building but my staff is not. It is fair to say that most people here- it does not matter what their roles are- are appallingly housed. I suppose if this building was privately owned and located in any shire council area it would have been condemned years ago.
– It would be if the council saw the water coming down the panelling in the Press Gallery.
-That is only the members of the Press Gallery weeping at having to report our speeches and I blame them not. I think the building would be condemned as a fire trap or health hazard. However, I take comfort from the fact that it took almost SO years to decide where we would build a new Parliament House. It was almost a labour of Hercules to get a Bill passed by the Parliament which at last settled the site of the new building. It is fair to say that there has been an all party joint committee looking at the preparation of a brief in this matter. I do not think that there is a person in this building who does not see the need for greater improvements. However, we keep making more and more demands on staff, on the Library and on ourselves in a building which was built for perhaps a quarter of the number of people here now. I very much sympathise with what the honourable senator has said. My view is that the sooner we get a new building the better, although the decision is not for me as an individual to make.
-I shall obtain the further information sought by Senator McLaren in relation to the employment of attendants. I have noted Senator Coleman’s comments on the security of visitors in the event of a power failure and the alleged tapping of telephones. I shall make inquiries into the last matter as far as I can and also into the question of air conditioning which I must say is a matter of constant concern tome.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Senate adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question from information furnished by the respective State housing authorities. The figures do not include dwellings built or being built for occupancy by serving members of the Defence Forces under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement (Servicemen):
New South Wales: 39 per cent in 1 974-75. Victoria: 37 per cent in 1974-75.
South Australia: 53 per cent iri 1973-74; 40 per cent in 1974-75 and 40 per cent in 1975-76. Western Australia: 45 per cent in 1 974-75. Tasmania: 31 per cent in 1974-75.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
What action did the Minister take to investigate alternative employment opportunities for persons currently engaged in sand mining on Fraser Island, prior to the Cabinet reaching its decision on the future of sand mining on Fraser Island.
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Advice on the availability of the alternative employment opportunities was provided by an interdepartmental committee which reported to the Government before a final decision was taken.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
Has the Federal Government refused to present a submission to the Moreton Island Committee of Inquiry currently being conducted by the Queensland Government. If so, (a) why has this decision been taken; and (b) in view of the contentious nature of the sandmining issue in Queensland at the present time, and of the fact that the Federal Government may be called on at a later date to refuse to issue export licences for minerals obtained from Moreton Island, will the Government reconsider its decision.
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I understand that the Committee of Inquiry wrote to several Commonwealth Government departments seeking submissions. However, the terms of reference of the Moreton Island Inquiry are limited to consideration of two proposed land-use strategy plans. Sand mining is only a minor component of these plans, and land use matters which provide the major focus of the inquiry are the responsibility of the Queensland Government. For these reasons my Department did not make a submission to the inquiry.
I expect that the report of the Moreton Island Committee of Inquiry will greatly assist the Commonwealth Government in the event that it is necessary to consider the environmental consequences of issuing export permits for minerals obtained from Moreton Island.
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The honourable senator would be aware that on its creation in December 1975 the Department inherited all of the positions and all of the staff from the former Department of Urban and Regional Development, Environment and Tourism and Recreation and from the Housing wing of the former Department of Housing and Construction. At that time, excluding management staff who subsequently transferred to other Departments as a consequence of the transfer of functions, staff of the combined management areas totalled 306.
During the past 14 months the Department has reviewed its establishment and staffing requirements in close association with the Public Service Board. Agreement has recently been reached with the Public Service Board on a firm organisation which provides for a staffing limit of 143 in the Management Division made up as follows:
A staffing limit of 143 will mean that 19.5 per cent of the Department’s staff will be employed in the Management Division. By public service standards this is by no means an excessive figure.
At the time the 1976-77 estimates were prepared it was expected that the average employment of staff directly engaged on Management Division functions would be 166. For estimates purposes it was necessary to add a further 86 to provide for staff who, although occupying positions notionally attached to the Management Division at the time, were not engaged on Management Division work- 30 full-time typing staff and 20 part-time typing and clerical staff physically located in and working for other Divisions; 36 inoperative staff whose firm placement within particular Divisions could not be settled until they returned to duty.
In answer to the honourable senator’s specific questions:
The 1976-77 estimates for the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development did show an estimated average employment for 1976-77 of 826, of which 252 would be attached to the Management Division.
Does the Australian Heritage Commission Act ‘in no way diminish the sole authority of the Queensland Government to direct and control the management of State-owned land’, as was claimed by the Queensland Premier in reply to a question relating to the logging industry on Fraser Island in the Queensland Parliament on 1 8 November 1 976.
I presume the honourable senator is referring to the reply by the Minister for Lands, Forestry and National Parks and
Wildlife Service, Mr K. B. Tomkins, in answer to a question by Mr G. Alison on the logging industry on Fraser Island in Queensland Parliament.
The Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975 does not diminish the sole authority of the Queensland Government to direct and control the management of State-owned land when that authority is exercised within the constitutional responsibilities of the State. If, however, the direction and control of State-owned land takes place under the heads of power of the Commonwealth Government then section 30 of the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975 applies to Ministers and Authorities of the Commonwealth in respect of any action which might affect to a significant extent a place that is on the Register of the National Estate.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice:
-The Minister for the Northern Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
If the answers to ( 1 ) and (2) are in the affirmative, can the Minister give an undertaking that-
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question.
There is now an opportunity for regional organisations and other bodies to take careful stock of the information currently in their possession as a result of these research initiatives, and to identify ways in which existing policies and priorities require modification in the light of this updated data.
The Commonwealth Government has, over a period of years, been developing a range of information systems to assist the planning and co-ordination of public sector investment decisions. The Australian municipal information system, and the urban and regional budget concept, are among the more recent examples of these systems.
There is a general recognition of the importance of this work, and the Government will continue to devote the necessary resources to its expansion and refinement.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
The Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement and Fisheries has provided the following information:
1) No new homes have been built in the Bamaga group of settlements during the period 13 December 1975 to 30 November 1976. However, all available State resources have been fully utilised in repair and renovation works.
2 ) The Department does not identify staff by race.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Public Service Board, which has the exclusive authority in these matters, has now appointed Mr Booker to a First Assistant Secretary Level 3 position in the Department of Foreign Affairs. Mr Booker has indicated that he considers that my Department, and the Public Service Board in appointing him at this level, have acted with prejudice and contrary to the intention of sub-section 72B (4) of the Public Service Act and that he has asked his solicitor to initiate appropriate action in the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court.
With regard to possible retirement, Mr Booker was not told that he must retire, but he was asked for a firm decision about retirement. Until the Department checked with him in April 1976, Mr Booker was on record as saying he would retire on the conclusion of his Belgrade assignment.
Mr Booker was promoted to Level 3 in the Second Division in 1964. He has been paid at Level 3 salary since he began acting at that level in 1963. There are only four positions in the Department in Canberra that are paid at higher than Level 3 rates. They are the Secretary, the two Deputies and the newly created position of Director of the Aid Bureau. Three of these positions are filled, and the position of Director, Aid Bureau, was advertised on 13 January 1977.
Upon the termination of a period of leave of absence granted in pursuance of this section, the unattached officer shall, unless he has been dismissed for misconduct or has attained the maximum age for retirement fixed by this Act, be entitled to be appointed by the Board to an office in the Service of such status and salary as are determined by the Board, having regard to the office previously vacated by him and the period of his appointment as a representative in another country of the Government of Australia ‘.
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Push-button Telephones (Question No. 1597)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
Is it proposed to install push-button telephones in government offices throughout Australia, or is it the intention to retain them for other than Government use, at least until the costs can be justified.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There is no policy as yet determined on the installation of push-button telephones in Australian Government offices.
Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the statement by the Chairman of the Moreton Island Land Use Inquiry referred to in the Courier Mail dated 3 December 1976, that only in very exceptional circumstances would the Inquiry accept submissions after 3 December 1976. If so, will the Federal Government be making an application seeking approval to present a submission to the Inquiry.
I have noted the article referred to by the honourable senator, and refer him to my answer to Question No. 1484 regarding the question of Commonwealth Government submissions to the Moreton Island Inquiry.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
Could the Moreton Island Land Use Inquiry in Queensland have been held under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Act, to avoid the need for two separate inquiries, one to satisfy the State Government, and one to satisfy the Federal Government. If so, why was this procedure not adopted.
The Moreton Island Land Use Inquiry could not have been held under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act because there is no proposed action before the Commonwealth Government at this time relating to land use issues on Moreton Island.
The honourable senator’s question implies that the Commonwealth Government will need to hold its own inquiry on Moreton Island. I am unable to agree with this view.
I draw the honourable senator’s attention to paragraph 7.2 of the Environment Protection Administrative Procedures which requires that in deciding whether to direct that an inquiry be conducted in relation to a proposed action, the Minister shall take into account whether all or any of the environmental aspects of the proposed action have been the subject of a public inquiry conducted otherwise than under the Act.
Australian Diplomatic Missions: Acquisition of Land (Question No. 1621) Senator Knight asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Is the use of the word ‘dole ‘, when referring to unemployment benefits, regarded as an acceptable term by officers of the Department of Social Security.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Where maintenance has been awarded by a Court to a supporting mother, is that maintenance taken into account to determine the level of supporting mother’s benefit if the Court order is not obeyed and the maintenance is not paid.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Maintenance awarded under a court order is included in the assessment of supporting mother’s benefit except where payments are not being made and compliance with the order cannot reasonably be enforced.
Automatic Telephone Services
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications the following question without notice on 2 December 1976:
As a result of the Government’s decision to extend free telephone installation from 8 km from the exchange to 12 km from the exchange, can the Minister give the Senate some indication of when the resulting backlog of construction work will be completed? The conversion of many manual exchanges to automatic depends to a large degree on this matter.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The extension of the free line entitlement distance from 8 km to 12 km by Telecom Australia will not involve any significant diversion of physical resources because in automatic exchange areas the Commission provides the line plant for the full distance to applicant’s premises. This is necessary because of the higher technical standards required for automatic working. The magnitude of the task of extending automatic telephone service to all areas throughout Australia is such that the work must be spread over a number of years. The change in policy has transferred costs of $690,000 in the current year from the country subscriber to Telecom. Telecom Australia’s 3-year program for the country sector includes the following:
Replacing non-continuous services by continuous with the objective of having no more than 10 000 noncontinuous services by 1979.
Reduction of the number of manual services from 130 000 to 85 000 by 1979 with the installation of 300 new country automatic exchanges.
Increasing the expenditure on rural lines by $3.2m in 1976-77 to provide an additional 350 new connections and the replacement of an extra 520 partprivatelyerected lines.
Referral of Wage Fixing Powers
– On 7 December 1976 (Hansard, page 2694) Senator Sibraa asked me, as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs, a question without notice concerning the referral of wage fixing powers by the States to the Commonwealth Government. I undertook to seek information for the honourable senator.
The Commonwealth Government has not sought a referral of wage fixing powers from the States. The honourable senator will be aware that the Constitution gives the Commonwealth Parliament the power to legislate for the prevention and settlement of interstate industrial disputes by conciliation and arbitration. If the Commonwealth Government were to consider more direct wage fixing powers necessary, then the approach the honourable senator speaks of would be one of the options open to the Commonwealth Government.
School Mail Storage Fee
– On 10 December 1976 Senator Melzer asked me the following question without notice:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. The Minister may be aware that at the present time schools are charged $3 a month or part thereof by the Post Office to store school mail during summer vacations. It is claimed by the Post Office that schools are being treated as business firms, but business firms are charged only $ 1 .SO for a similar service. As schools never have sufficient money for their needs and this is an additional burden and must represent a small amount of revenue to the authority, will the Minister use his influence and suggest that the charge be withdrawn?
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has now provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Businesses and schools, for the purpose of holding or redirecting mail, are treated alike. The holding charge, which was introduced in 1973, applies whenever a person or organisation requires delivery of mail to be stopped for a period and stored at the delivery office. There are two rates for this service. The higher rate, currently $5 per month, is payable by business and government organisations, and schools are considered to fall within this category. The lower rate of $ 1 .50 per month applies in all other cases.
The rate differential reflects the fact that business and government organisations receive the highest volume of mail and, as a general rule, higher costs are incurred when postal articles for these organisations are diverted from the normal mail flow for storage. The rates are nominal and, in fact, recover only part of the average cost of providing the service.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 February 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770222_senate_30_s71/>.