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 6 1 citizens of Australia:
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:
Require each quarterly percentage increase in the consumer price index to be applied to age and invalid and similar pensions as from the pension pay day nearest following the date of announcement of the CPI movement.
Give an open assurance to all aged and invalid pensioners that any revision of the items comprising the consumer price index will in no way result in reductions in the value of any future entitlements to pensioners.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present 3 petitions, similar in wording, from 80, 63 and 36 citizens of Australia:
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:
Require each quarterly percentage increase in the consumer price index to be applied to age and invalid and similar pensions as from the pension pay day nearest following the date of announcement of the CPI movement.
Give an open assurance to all aged and invalid pensioners that any revision of the items comprising the consumer price index will in no way result in reductions in the value of any future entitlements to pensioners.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
-I present the following peitition from 3578 citizens:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned residents of Sydney respectfully showeth that the discontinuation of funding for ‘kids activities Newtown, Magic Yellow Bus ‘ has deprived the community of a successful program serving an area of great need.
Our petitioners humbly pray that urgent reconsideration be given to the decision by the Minister for Social Security so that continuity of the program can be maintained.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 272 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned 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 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 $S,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 409 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 months 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 pro vide 50 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 83 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:
Whereas many countries of northern and central Africa have been deeply embroiled in revolutions, racial violence, massacres, forced starvation, abductions, terrorism, and discrimination of all kinds without the United Nations instigating sanctions or other penalty, and
Whereas the Charter of the United Nations clearly precludes it from interference in the domestic affairs of a country or from obstructing the free transmission of news and information between individuals and between nations, and
Whereas the United Nations, in apparent illegality has imposed many restrictions and sanctions upon Rhodesia which has been remarkably free from the bloodshed and turmoil of the other aforementioned lands, even to the extent now of actively encouraging armed conflict against the elected Rhodesian government, and
Whereas Lord Graham as Minister for External Affairs and Defence has said: ‘International Communism is our enemy, all this talk of political advancement and majority rule is no more than a smoke screen in the early skirmishes of an assault upon the whole of Africa … it is even more difficult to see this enemy because it is not merely attacking us, but on a broad front is attacking the whole world order, its standards, its law and order, its moralities, its churches, its patriotisms, its philosophies, and even much of its learning . . .’and
Whereas ample evidence is offered of Communist Chinese infiltration in much of Africa over many years, whilst today trained Cuban Communist troops reported to number 25 000 are evidently dominating nearby Angola and possess modem missiles etc.
So therefore it is urgent that the Australian people determine for themselves the actual facts of the Rhodesian Struggle.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, will accordingly observe common justice and proper humanity by inviting duly authorised representatives of the present Rhodesian government to Australia to do what they have not been allowed to do before, present their case fully and publicly so that this can be examined and tested without interference, and so that the eventual impact on Australia’s own security and defence alliances can be gauged with better accuracy.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– 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’s long-term policy should be to provide 50 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 (5) years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 4 1 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads. by Senator Brake-Brockman (3 petitions) and Senator Jessop (2 petitions).
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate, in the Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government restore the Petrol Price Equalisation Scheme immediately for the benefit of those people who live away from the seaboard.
Your petitioners believe that the matter is urgent and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Sheil.
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 Child Care Policy should be immediately clarified and announced to ensure continuity of programs and allow effective forward planning, and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Baume.
-Is the Minister for Education aware of a statement he made concerning the Independent Schools (Loans Guarantee) Act 1 969 in which on page 1 it is stated:
Until 1974 repayments of loans were being made to schools by equal annual instalments over a period of 20 years. Due to the difficulties that have arisen, the Government has now changed the scheme to reduce the repayment period from 20 years to 10 years.
Is that an accurate statement? If so, would he agree that, in fact, that decision was made by the Labor Government in 1975?
-I think I would have to agree that the decision was made by the Labor Government. I think that that is true. If the statement purports to suggest that the decision was made by my Government and on checking that is revealed to be incorrect, I would be happy to correct it. But I think what Senator Wriedt says is accurate.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, by drawing his attention to the recent meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development at which Japan offered to reduce its shipyard production, raise export prices on ships and limit the number of orders taken from European nations whose own shipbuilding industries are in trouble. Can the Minister inform me whether similar proposals have been made in respect to Australia by Japan? If not, should not this nation, as one of Japan’s principal trading partners, be entitled to such relief? If such relief is at present being negotiated between our 2 countries, can we then look forward to a brighter future for our shipbuilding industry and those thousands of Australians who are depending upon it?
– I was in Japan during late October and early November of last year and was looking at the shipbuilding industry, amongst many other industries. At that time the Japanese Government and the industry were in the process of negotiations with the European Economic Community flowing out of the concern of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development about shipbuilding. The overall situation around the world is one of a very heavy over capacity in shipbuilding. There is a great tonnage of constructed ships that are not being used. Japan is a very efficient shipbuilder, as is South Korea. Those countries have proved to be more efficient in this industry than most of the shipbuilding industries of Europe including the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada. That is the negotiating problem between Japan and the EEC. It has very little relationship to Australia because Australia is a minute shipbuilding nation. It is not a very large user or buyer of shipping tonnage.
Much concern has been expressed about shipbuilding and some of the facts about it have not really come out fully. Perhaps it would be useful for honourable senators if I were to tell them that some of the proposals for shipbuilding in Australia are along these lines: What we want is a totally new, re-equipped shipbuilding yard which, therefore, would be competitive. I went into the matter very carefully. The facts are these: Such a yard would have to build ships for Australian use. They could not be exported. There would be no hope of getting into the export market. Therefore, we would have to build for our own use. An efficient shipyard probably would cost in the order of $500m. On the available construction program it could not be occupied for more than 6 per cent of its time each year.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is the Minister aware that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs in another place yesterday replied to a question and said that the Government has a deep commitment towards a marketing policy which would provide the Australian consumer with petrol at the lowest possible price? Bearing in mind the serious impact that the Industries Assistance Commission’s recommendations will have on crude oil pricing which in turn will lead to increases in the cost of petroleum products used by motorists and the transport industry generally and will indirectly cause substantial increase in the consumer price index, can the Minister inform the Parliament of the views of the Cabinet and his own attitude to the great problems that the nation will be required to face if the IAC report is adopted by the Government? Alternatively, is it the intention of the Government not to adopt the relevant recommendations in the report?
Senate DURACK- I shall refer this question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. The Commonwealth Employment Service does not seem to have the confidence of many employers with regard to the ability of the CES to find them suitable employees. Does the Government have any plans to improve the situation?
– The Government has initiated an inquiry into the Commonwealth Employment Service by Mr John Norgard. That inquiry was set up some time ago and has been proceeding with its work. The Government is hoping that there will be a report from Mr Norgard within the near future.
– Is he the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
– Yes. The terms of reference of the inquiry are wide ranging and the Government does keep those terms of reference under review with regard to developments that are occurring in the course of the inquiry. I believe that the Government has taken such steps as it can at this stage and we will be awaiting the report with interest.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Following the release of the December consumer price index figures which, he must agree, are the highest since 195 1, is it the Government’s intention to make wage and salary earners now bear the brunt of any attack on inflation? Is this not highly unjust considering that in the first 3 quarters of 1976 wage and salary increases lagged behind price increases by approximately 2 per cent? Does not this loss of nearly 2 per cent mean that wage and salary earners have less disposable income? Does the Minister agree that anything less than a full flow-on of the consumer price index increase potentially threatens the concept of indexation and will lead to collective bargaining?
-Yesterday we dealt first of all with this question of what is the consumer price index position adjusted in comparative terms. I think I repeated myself 3 times and I shall do so again today, although much more briefly. 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. But the 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 the December quarter of 1976. If the hospital and medical services component is excluded, the increase over the year to the December quarter 1976 is 10.8 per cent compared with 16.7 per cent in the 12 months to the December quarter 1975. So, in light of the facts, the first assumption by the honourable senator perhaps could be regarded as not correct. With regard to the other propositions about what ought to happen to wages, what should be awarded in regard to wage increases and what should be the effect of indexation, I remind the honourable senator of something which he knows quite well: These aspects constitute a function of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and its hearings at which the employers, the Government and the unions are represented. I would leave it to the Commission to make a proper determination. I do not wish in any way here to prejudge or prejudice or inflame a situation which is really quite difficult.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, relates to allegations of atrocities in East Timor. Is the Minister aware of reports and has he any information concerning allegations of atrocities by Fretilin forces in East Timor?
-I have a note which was supplied to me by my colleague in another place, Mr Peacock, which reads:
The Government is aware of allegations that Fretilin forces have committed atrocities in East Timor. It has received a copy of a document entitled Massacre in East Timor and of the Indonesian Department of Information booklet Process of Decolonization in East Timor which refers to terror and plundering by Fretilin. The Government is also aware of reports that Fretilin used civilians, including women and children, to shield its soldiers in combat.
We deplore atrocities and breaches of human rights wherever they occur and while the Government is not in a position to check or confirm the details of allegations of Fretilin atrocities it is as concerned about them as it is about allegations of Indonesian atrocities.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs explain the apparent easy visa that Mr Vincent Teresa, alias Mr Santana, seemed to acquire on his current visit to Australia?
– I am not able to respond with regard to the apparent easy visa. 1 wish to make it quite clear that posts were instructed that a visa should not be issued to any person of this name without reference in the first instance to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in Canberra. The response was negative from all posts. Subsequent to Mr Teresa’s reported arrival in Australia a check of the passenger movement record on 22 February revealed the arrival on the morning of 21 February of a person believed to be Mr Teresa. He had been issued with a tourist visa at San
Francisco on 8 February. This information was conveyed to the Commonwealth Police late on 22 February and on 23 February arrangements were made with the co-operation of the New South Wales Police for Mr Teresa to be located with a view to his being interviewed by officers of the Commonwealth Police and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has directed that the visa issued to Mr Teresa in San Francisco is to be cancelled and he is to be instructed to leave Australia immediately.
An officer at the airport has been advised to cancel Mr Teresa’s visa should he try to depart the country. He made a false declaration on his application for his visa. He stated that he had no criminal record. His entry permit is invalid as it was not endorsed showing that he came to Australia under section 1 6 of the Migration Act.
– Will the Leader of the Government bring to the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs the concern being expressed in north Queensland about an increasing number of citizens of Papua New Guinea illegally entering that area and staying on? The main reports have come from Townsville, Cairns and Weipa. As it has been claimed that some of these illegal migrants are in receipt of unemployment benefits, will the Government inquire into this matter as soon as possible in order to prevent a situation in which the traffic reaches serious proportions?
-I will comply with the request of my colleague and draw the attention of the Ministers he mentioned to his question.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. She may be aware that Dr Letts, Chief Secretary of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, has made a Press statement in which he said that he has asked the Government to enunciate its attitude on the 2 kilometre limit which will be part of the complementary legislation to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. Will the Minister indicate to the Senate what the Government’s attitude is in this matter which she will appreciate is of great interest to many groups and individuals in the Northern Territory?
– I agree that the matter raised is of considerable interest and importance. I have no view from the Minister but I will get an early answer from him about this matter.
-Has the Minister for Science seen reports about the dangers involved in certain types of genetic experiments which have caused the Australian Academy of Science to place a virtual ban on these experiments on the grounds that no laboratory in Australia has sufficient safeguards to allow these experiments to proceed? Is it a fact that no Australian laboratory has these safeguards? Has action been taken by the municipal authorities in Cambridge, Massachussets, the location of Harvard University, to restrict the conduct of such genetic experiments in the area under their control? Is the Minister entirely satisfied that no risk to public health is presently being caused by any such experiments currently being undertaken in Australia?
– I understand that recombinant DNA research to which the honourable senator referred is an important matter in scientific circles at present. Genetic engineering appears to be one of the most important and significant areas of scientific research available to man ‘s use. The subject is highly technical. I believe that an answer in written form would permit of no error on my part and might better suit the honourable senator. But in brief, as I understand the situation, it is now possible to cut what is called the DNA, which is the hereditary molecule of living cells, and to recombine that with the DNA of dissimilar organisms. In combination with bacterial DNA, it is possible rapidly to grow the DNA of slow growing species for more convenient study. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has been particularly involved in this regard for some years.
The honourable senator asked direct questions relating to whether there are sufficient laboratory safeguards at the moment for risk experiments. My understanding is that there is a number of small laboratories in Australia which have safeguards which would probably make them satisfactory for some of the categories of experiments- that is, the moderate risk experiments- with recombined DNA molecules. However, they would not necessarily be available for this research where, for example, they were dedicated to work which was incompatible with recombinant studies. The honourable senator also asked whether certain action has been taken overseas. I will attempt to obtain that information for him. I did read in a newspaper article that there is a committee comprised apparently of some of the councils of Cambridge in Massachusetts which is seeking an injunction against this type of experiment.
Finally, the honourable senator asked whether I was satisfied whether there are any risks to the public health. My Department is involved more in areas in which public health is not involved, but the standing committee on recombinant DNA molecules that was set up by the Australian Academy of Science has to date approved the conduct of experiments which fall only into the low and minimal categories of risk which I have mentioned. I believe that these are carried out under the safety procedures determined by the national institutes of health and the advisory board of the research councils in the U.K. Although the standing committee has no statutory powers, I believe it has received the cooperation of the directors of major research institutions, such as the CSIRO and the Hall Institute in Victoria, and of the vice-chancellors of the various universities. I am advised on that point which was the direct thrust of the honourable senator’s question that there is no risk to public health in those experiments presently carried out in relation to recombinant DNA research in Australia.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. Does the Minister recall that during the debate by the Senate on the Estimates last year I predicted the closing of offices of the State Councils of Social Service and staff reductions, and was informed by the Minister that I was mis-stating the situation? Does she also recall that Mr Fraser, as Leader of the Opposition, chided the Labor Government for giving insufficient funds to those offices, drawing the inference, if I remember correctly, that the Labor Government refused to countenance alternative welfare policies? Is the Minister aware that the Queensland Council of Social Service is about to close its office because its funds for the year have run out and no further funds are forthcoming from the Federal Government or the Queensland Government? Will the Minister reaffirm the clear commitment that she and her Government gave to the survival of the State Councils of Social Service? Will the Government investigate their financial situation and make sure that they can carry on for the rest of the financial year?
– I recall that during the debate by the Senate on the Estimates there was some discussion on the grant of $150,000 which we had given in this year’s Budget to the Australian Council of Social Service. There was discussion on the distribution of this grant to the State Councils of Social Service. I am aware of a Press statement yesterday that the Queensland Council of Social Service was having difficulty in meeting the staff commitments into which it had previously entered. There was a statement from the Queensland Minister saying that the Queensland Government had no further funds which it would give to the Council this year. I also recall the remarks of the Prime Minister about support for the Councils of Social Service. His comments were made in the context of the year in which the former Government had severely cut the grant made to the Australian Council of Social Service. On coming into government I recall giving an emergency grant of some $60,000 to the Australian Council of Social Service to augment what had been given in a somewhat limited way by the former Government.
As far as this Government is concerned there are no additional funds this year that we can give as a grant to the Australian Council. I understand that State councils are looking to the Australian Council to assist them at present. It also is a fact that State governments assist State Councils of Social Service. Perhaps it is fair to say that the New South Wales Government has given quite generous support to the New South Wales Council of Social Service. In addition to government support the Councils of Social Service may call on community organisations and the community itself. I hope that support will be forthcoming in other ways to enable the State councils to maintain their offices and to assist the Australian Council to do its work.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer to a recent statement by Mr Kennedy, Chairman of the Australian Postal Commission, foreshadowing some rise in postal rates after 30 June next. Can the Minister indicate whether any decision on increases has been made? If no decision has been made, can the Minister say whether the Government will consider allowing the Australian Postal Commission to borrow for necessary new capital works with a view to avoiding any increase in charges to the taxpayers?
– Postal charges is a policy matter and a budgetary matter and therefore I could not properly comment on it. As for the second part of the honourable senator’s question, I shall refer it to my colleague the Minister in another place.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the very informative report from the Australian Industries Development Association which details the result of a recent business survey? Is the Minister aware that the survey shows that employers are having considerable difficulty in obtaining categories of skilled workers as well as noting deficiencies in existing apprenticeship schemes? As the report says these ‘difficulties are not likely to be improved simply by the preservation of high levels of unemployment’, can the Minister say what steps, if any, the Government is taking to retrain workers and to train apprentices so that the needs of industry in this period can be met?
-I have seen the report referred to although I have not studied it in detail. I am sure that the Minister I represent, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, would be doing so and I feel sure I will be able to obtain from him in the near future a detailed answer to the question Senator Gietzelt asked. However, in regard to the specific problem highlighted by the question and by the report, the Government has taken a number of steps to deal with the problem of training people in skills, improving the skills in the work force, and retraining people whose skills are not now required but who could acquire new skills. I refer, of course, to the improvements which the Government has made in the National Employment and Training scheme and the new apprenticeship training scheme, the Commonwealth Rebate Apprenticeships Fulltime Training scheme. Under the CRAFT scheme, apart from increased benefits and incentives given to employers by the scheme, the Government is making available over $5m, I think, in grants to the States to enable them to assist in improving apprenticeship training. Although this matter is more in the field of my colleague the Minister for Education, I also refer to the inquiry into the ability of the educational system to meet the requirements of employers for new skills that are sought by them. I refer very broadly to those areas where the Government has been showing very direct and positive initiatives in this field. I shall refer the question to the Minister whom I represent in order to obtain a more detailed answer.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Commissioner of Taxation since 1 January 1977 adopted the practice of issuing default assessments even in cases where taxation returns, subject to normal tax agent arrangements for late lodgments, have been lodged well within the time limit?
-I do not know. I try to keep as far away from the Commissioner of Taxation as I possibly can. I shall endeavour to find out for the honourable senator. The honourable senator has a specific query about a problem. I shall find out, and let him know.
-As the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs would be aware, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs has funded the State Housing Commission in Victoria to be responsible for Aboriginal housing in that State. Recently an elderly Aboriginal woman of some standing in her community was evicted from her State Housing Commission controlled home without any permanent, alternative accommodation being made available. As the Federal Government is responsible in this area, what steps is it taking to provide proper, permanent accommodation for this elderly lady?
– I have no knowledge of the specific case. If the honourable senator will give me the details, I shall see that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs deals with this matter urgently.
-I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of reports from the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force that in excess of 3000 foreign fishing trawlers are now operating in the waters adjacent to Australia’s territorial waters, and as this represents an increase of 600 per cent in 9 years, will the Minister advise whether any proposals exist for joint venture arrangements with other countries or whether the Government has investigated the possibilities of such arrangements which would enable a major expansion of the Australian fishing industry?
-I have done some work on this matter which is basically the responsibility of the Department of Primary Industry. It is not a function of the Department of Industry and Commerce. When the time comes that we can catch all the fish which are in waters which belong to Australia- a large part of the catch would be capable of being processed- that then would become a matter for manufacturing industry. In this respect, one aspect impressed me in Tasmania. So I have asked Sir Bede Callaghan to inquire into the prospect of a fishing industry being generated in Tasmania with more shore stations than are there now to try to create a facility which will attract people who are fishing in our waters or adjacent to our waters so that they will come on shore with the catch. We should see whether we can do something to encourage Australian industry in some of these areas where this could be valuable. I think I ought to observe that the resources which attach to Australia and its continental shelf, including the pelagical fishing resources, are large indeed. It appears to me- it has for some time- to be an area of Australia’s resources that needs a great amount of development and a heavy degree of protection. This is without any doubt. The idea of joint ventures attracts me. I have done a fair bit of work on this matter. I can give the honourable senator more information but rather than take up question time he should see me if he would like to follow the matter through.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Has the Government made any decision on the fourth report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum, particularly the recommendation that an agency be established to regulate the pricing and marketing aspects of the oil industry?
-It is probable that I have a little responsibility in this area but it belongs to other people also. Discussions have been going on about this matter and there have been some deliberations. A lot of work has been done by officials. I think I need to take the question on notice in order to get a clearly denned answer for the honourable senator. But I observe that a lot of the forecasts about Australia’s glowing and brilliant future in the 1980s will fall to the ground if we do not do something more about finding more oil and natural gas in this country.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Has the Minister seen quite large advertisements placed recently in Sydney newspapers, featuring a picture of the Premier of New South Wales and authorised by a statutory authority of that State, which claim that good jobs are available in New South Wales? Is it a fact that there are good jobs available in New South Wales which employers are finding it difficult to fill? If so, why is it difficult for employers, including the Labor Premier of New South Wales, to fill jobs in that State? Finally, can the Minister explain why there is such a discrepancy between the figures showing the number seeking employment and the larger number receiving the dole?
-My attention has been drawn by Senator Lajovic to the advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald from which it is clear that no less an authority than the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Wran, says that there are good jobs, good benefits and good money available with the New South Wales Government. He is referring to positions in the Public Transport Commission of that State. The advertisement states that there are jobs which require skills and also jobs which do not. It reads:
Or if you ‘ve had no experience.
Jobs in track maintenance. If you’ve had experience that’s fine, but if not, you 11 get on-job training and there’s every chance for promotion.
So it is clear from the advertisement that there are a number of jobs available with the Commission and from the size of the advertisement and its general presentation it is fairly clear that not all the jobs are being filled. I am informed that there are some basic requirements for the unskilled jobs. The Commission requires a good standard of applicant. Applicants are required to provide references, to pass a basic educational test and to undergo a strict medical test. Nevertheless, it would be true to say that there is no requirement of any high order apart from those relating to basic education and health and the provision of suitable references from previous employers. In the light of unemployment figures and complaints we have heard from New South Wales it is rather surprising that there should be this continual demand for fairly low skilled labour, as is revealed by the Public Transport Commissior advertisement.
– What is unusual about that? What is the significance of it? Is this what we are wasting question time on?
-Obviously Senator Wriedt and the Australian Labor Party do not like it because they are making a great song and dance about unemployment. However, there is the Premier of the largest State, a Labor Premier, having to advertise extensively relatively unskilled jobs because he cannot get people of sufficient capacity to fill them. I understand that a number of people have sought these jobs but that there remains a number of vacancies. The Commonwealth Employment Service officers have made some efforts to provide sufficient applicants but I am advised that they have not really come to any satisfactory arrangement with the Public Transport Commission. Negotiations are under way between the Commonwealth Employment Service and the Commission to set up a more efficient liaison, but no satisfactory arrangement has been established between the 2 bodies. I think that this is yet another example of where the inquiry being undertaken by Mr Norgard into the role of the Commonwealth Employment Service and its ability to perform and to satisfy the requirements of industry will be of value to the Government and to employers generally. As I said earlier, the Government is certainly looking forward to the results of that investigation.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Does the 16 per cent increase in the clothing group prices for the year ended December 1976, which is well above the level of wage increases and 50 per cent above what the Treasurer claims to be the underlying rate of inflation, indicate a linkage between high protection and above normal price increases? Will the decisions announced last, week- the continuation of tariff quota levels and the introduction of additional special duty arrangements- further aggravate the problem? How does the Government reconcile its support of increasing tariff protection with controlling inflation?
-This may take a little time, Mr President, but it is useful to have a question such as this. There is a great world of belief that massive increased imports of clothing and textiles will both benefit the Australian workforce and lower the cost to the Australian community. Nothing could be further from the truth. Massive increases in clothing and textile imports have resulted in a total of 45 000 fewer people now working in the textile manufacturing industry. Let us look at some of those situations. As a nation, we are in a very good position as far as imports of clothing and textiles are concerned. We have been very fair. Over the last 5 years the volume or imports has risen by 250 per cent. During the same period employment in the local clothing industry fell by 20 000 people. In the case of textiles, there was a 40 per cent increase in volume but employment fell by 13 000 people. Footwear imports doubled but employment in that industry declined by 6000 people. This all took place under a Labor government, by the way, and I am trying to recover the position. In regard to statistical situations, we are one of the largest importers in the world of clothing, textiles and footwear. Nothing could be more misleading than to construe that because of some protection policy of this Government we are shutting out imports. Nothing could be further from the truth, but what is true is that the highest factor in price increases in Australia is in the clothing, textile and footwear areas where the most imports lie.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs follows that asked earlier today by Senator Mulvihill about Vincent Teresa. Can the Minister tell the Senate what action the Government will take if it discovers the whereabouts of Mr Teresa?
– I made it clear in my answer to Senator Mulvihill that it was felt that the visa issued to Mr Teresa was not one that the Government would uphold. I have received information that at 2.45 p.m. Mr Teresa was being interviewed in Sydney by officers of the Commonwealth Police and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I understand that he was accompanied by his legal adviser. It is expected that when the interview is completed Mr Teresa will be accompanied to his place of residence and later to the airport, when he will depart from Australia.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations by reminding him that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, gave an assurance to Parliament on 1 June 1976 that registered industrial organisations need not amend their rules to conform with the 1973 amendments to section 133 (1) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act because they had until 13 November 1976 to do so and by that time the
Government intended to amend the Act. Such assurances were also given to this Senate by Senator Carrick on behalf of the Minister. Is the Minister aware that the decision of the Australian Industrial Court in B. No. 55 of 1976 reveals such assurances to have been absolutely worthless and contrary to fact, and that registered industrial organisations which amended their rules after 13 November 1974, in accordance with the understanding of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, or which placed their faith in the assurances he gave to them and to this Parliament, could now find themselves in an impossible position with invalid rules affecting over 1 000 000 trade unionists? In view of this very grave situation will the Minister advise the Parliament why the Parliament was so misled and, more importantly, what urgent steps are being taken to enable the Parliament to remedy the situation resulting from the Court’s interpretation of seciton 133(1) (a) before its repeal and the ineffectiveness of the 12 November 1976 amendments to sections 4 and 1 33 as a consequence?
– I am aware of the statements that were made in regard to the need to comply with the amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to which Senator Harradine refers. I am not personally aware of the decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to which he refers. I am concerned to learn the facts that he indicates to the Senate. I think it is highly likely that the Minister whom I represent is aware of these matters. I shall refer the question to the Minister and endeavour to obtain an early answer for the Senate.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources. The question relates to the quality of River Murray water, which is of great interest to South Australia. Is the Minister aware of a proposal by Australian Newsprint Mills Pty Ltd to establish a paper pulp mill in the vicinity of Albury, New South Wales? Can the Minister ascertain whether the River Murray Commission is satisfied that no harm will result to water quality if the project proceeds? Can the Minister say whether the River Murray Commission has been asked for advice in the preparation of an environmental impact statement by that company?
-My colleague the Minister for National Resources is aware from Press reports that negotiations are taking place between the New South Wales Government and
Australian Newsprint Mills Pty Ltd on the establishment of a paper pulp mill m the Albury area. The President of the River Murray Commission has written to the Premiers of the 3 States party to the River Murray Waters Agreement namely, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, drawing attention to the recently expanded role of the Commission in relation to water quality and seeking advice on measures which should be taken to protect the water quality of the River Murray should the mill be established. He has indicated that the Commission should seek to make representations to ensure that conditions controlling the discharge of effluent are imposed which would adequately protect the water quality of the River Murray. At this stage the advice of the River Murray Commission has not been sought but, as indicated above, the Commission has made appropriate representations to the 3 State governments on this matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. It follows the Minister’s answers regarding the Norgard inquiry and about the Commonwealth Employment Service. I put it to the Minister that now that the Government recognises that the Commonwealth Employment Service and its related facilities, including services for training, retraining and related activities, cannot cope with the general chronic unemployment situation on the present staffing policies, will the Minister again put to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations the frequent representations from me and other people about staff ceiling policies which in fact present one of the greatest obstacles to the satisfactory performance of the services in this climate?
– I suppose the short answer to the question is yes. I certainly shall pass on the concern. I know that Senator Bishop has raised this matter on a number of occasions and I have certainly given a good deal of attention to the questions he has asked and so has the Minister whom I represent. However, I think that the 2 questions now asked really deal with rather different problems. One of the basic problems that is being faced in this sphere is the need for training in skills- I have already answered a question today about that- and what is the best way of dealing with the situation in which large numbers of people, particularly young people, in the work force do not have such skills. I think that Senator Bishop’s main concern and reason for the question is the availability of employment in the Public Service for people, most of whom have some skills of one type or another. Certainly, the 2 questions are important and I will reconsider the matter that Senator Bishop has raised.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health or alternatively to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. I refer to the report headed Privacy and the Therapeutic State’ in the Legal Services Bulletin of October 1976 which claims that the Queensland Mental Health Act 1974 contains 20 provisions which violate the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Is the Minister aware of the report ‘s specific allegations that mental health patients’ privacy is violated by the explicit and implicit use of coercion to apply treatment procedures of dubious value and effectiveness and that Queensland subjects its citizens to more therapeutic invasions of privacy than any other Australian State? Has the Commonwealth Government, in view of its international obligations, made any inquiries into these allegations? If so, with what results? What action is the Commonwealth Government taking to protect human rights in such situations?
– I have no information with regard to the article or the practices which were referred to by the honourable senator in his question. I will refer the question to the Minister for Health to obtain information from him on the Commonwealth attitude with regard to the international implications which he mentioned. Perhaps my colleague representing the Attorney-General may have some further comment.
- Senator Durack, do you, as the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral in the Senate, wish to add anything to the reply that Senator Giulfoyle has given?
– I think that there may have been some confusion in this matter. Senator Missen ‘s question probably more correctly should have been addressed to me as Minister representing the Attorney-General in the Senate. I have some information for the Senate in regard to the matter. However, I have not seen the article to which the honourable senator referred. Of course, the allegations contained in it refer to laws of Queensland, its Mental Health Act and the administration of that Act. It would not be a matter that comes within the area of either the Minister who represents the Minister for Health in this place or my area as Minister representing the Attorney-General. However, speaking generally I can say that the Commonwealth is concerned about invasions of privacy and, as the Senate would know, has referred the question to the Law Reform Commission to report on measures that should be introduced to deal with invasions of privacy so far as they relate to areas of responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. That inquiry would not extend- I do not think that it could extend- beyond the powers of this Parliament nor deal with matters that come with the responsibility of the Queensland Parliament. However I state again- I am only reiterating what I have already stated recently in the Senate- that the Commonwealth Government has proposed to establish a Human Rights Commission which would deal not only with possible infringements of human rights by Commonwealth laws but also would investigate State laws as well. Of course, this proposal has to be developed in consultation with the States. It is proposed that in any case upon which the Commission reports that a law or practice of a Commonwealth or a State is in consistent with the principles contained in any international agreement relating to human rights to which Australia is a party, action to rectify such a deficiency would be referred to the government responsible and it would be invited to have regard to the conflict that may exist. However, I am dealing with the matter only in general terms. The specific matter raised in Senator Missen ‘s question would seem to be one within the sole competence of the Queensland Parliament and Queensland Government.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I have been informed by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations that the Australian Bureau of Statistics does not keep unemployment statistics by work category or industry. If that is the case- and I find it very hard to believe- will the Minister explain by what means the Government informs itself of the extent of unemployment in particular occupations and industries? What steps does the Government take to measure the unemployment caused directly by government decisions? For example, what steps has the Government taken to measure the extent of the unemployment caused directly in the building and construction industry in the Australian Capital Territory as a result of the Government’s cuts in the public building program?
-Information is not available to me at the moment to enable me to answer in detail this question asked by Senator Ryan. I shall pass on the question to the Minister whom I represent.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs would no doubt be aware that at least 2 Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory are experiencing considerable problems within their communities with young people stealing petrol for petrol sniffing. Many lads under 14 years of age have acquired extensive criminal records for their crimes connected with petrol sniffing. These lads are also deliberately confronting authority. Monthly court sittings cannot cope with the backlog of charges. Unfortunately the court is beaming a costly farce as there are no corrective institutions, except gaol, to take over responsibility for these lads. In view of this alarming situation that continues to develop and is somewhat out of control, will the Government take action to bring about special training of these boys in their own communities? Will the Minister take urgent action requesting funds to provide a facility, particularly in the southern part of the Territory, to which these lads can be committed rather than their being committed to gaol where they will mix with hardened criminals and so become heroes to other lads in these areas?
– I recall answering a question on this matter last year. I said at that time that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs was aware of and concerned about the problem of petrol sniffing which is not a new one, but which seems to have some additional impact at present. It does appear to be associated with traditional authority breakdown and the lack of activities for young people. The Government and bodies such as the Young Men’s Christian Association have been active in introducing sporting and recreational programs to Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. These programs make a worthwhile contribution towards containing the situation. As I understand it, elders in a number of communities impose their own punishment on youths found to be sniffing petrol. These offenders are sent to outlying areas and placed under the guidance of an older relative.
The question of rehabilitation and educative services is actively under examination by the Departments of Aboriginal Affairs and Health. I shall raise with the Minister the matter of special training in their own communities with regard to this problem and also the other question which refers to some sort of place to which these people could be sent in the southern part of the Territory so that they may be able to undertake rehabilitation. I agree that it is a problem which urgently needs some attention. I assure the honourable senator that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Minister for Health are actively examining it.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware that the ratio of officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service to registered unemployed persons now stands at 1 : 177? Is the Minister further aware that due to this extraordinary work load on staff the CES can in no way give unemployed persons the attention they deserve? Will the Government take steps to alleviate this situation by lifting the CES staff ceiling and by permitting the service to use its funds as it determines, in a flexible manner?
-The Government certainly is aware of the problem to which Senator Sibraa refers. I am not sure whether a decision has been made at the moment with regard to the need to maintain or, if necessary, increase the number of officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service to cope with any increase in the number of unemployed which may occur from time to time. I know that it is under consideration. I will refer it to the Minister I represent and endeavour to obtain an answer from him as early as I can.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport a question. Following suggestions by some trade unions that Australian ships built overseas and not in Australian shipyards will be black banned, can the Minister state whether this proposed black ban will apply also to those Australian ships built in overseas shipyards and ordered by the previous Australian Labor Government?
-I am unable to say what will be the attitude of the unions or the Labor Party but I am able to expose the appalling track record on this matter of the Whitlam Government when in office. These things need to be said. Within one year of coming to office the Whitlam Government set out to dismantle shipbuilding in Australia by reducing the subsidy on shipbuilding from 45 per cent to 25 per cent. It then instructed would be purchasers of ships that if the price of an Australian ship, including the subsidy, were greater than the price of a ship built abroad the purchasers should go abroad. In the 3 years it was in office it also had 3 Australian shipyards closed down. It then placed orders in Japanese yards for 6 ships for the Austraiian National Line. Those ships were the Australian Pioneer, the Australian Purpose, the Australian Prospector, the Australian Progress, the Australian Emblem and the Australian Venture. It also ordered the conversion of the Tambo River.
– Tell us what you are going to do.
-Supporters of the Labor Party are now saying that there ought to be a black ban on ships built in Japanese shipyards. When the Labor Party was in government it laid down the foundations for the destruction of shipbuilding in Newcastle and Whyalla.
– What is your Government going to do?
– What Labor supporters are saying now is humbug, including the interjections of Senator Bishop. When his Government was in office it set about the destruction of Whyalla as well as Newcastle.
-I ask Senator Carrick: Is it not a fact that when the Australian Labor Party was in power at least there was a shipbuilding industry in Australia? Is it not a fact that now this Government is determined to destroy the shipbuilding industry? Will he state to the Senate not the history of the shipbuilding industry but its future under this Government? What guarantees can he give the Senate that the Australian shipbuilding industry will continue?
– I am happy to reiterate the record of the Whitlam Government: The halving of the subsidy, the closure of 3 shipyards and the order of 7 ships overseas. I am happy to reiterate that the disaster for shipbuilding in Newcastle is due to the direct decision of a Labor Premier, Mr Wran, who is responsible for the Newcastle shipyard. He has ordered a dry dock overseas instead of having it built in Australia. He has refused to negotiate an industrial contract which would enable shipbuilding in Australia of a substantial nature to survive. The honourable senator asked me to enumerate the current prospects for shipbuilding in Australia. They are dismal because of the action of the Labor Premier of New South Wales, Mr Wran.
-As Senator Carrick is obviously so conversant with this subject will he tell the Senate how much the Government proposes to pay out in shipbuilding subsidies in the current financial year?
-I shall be happy to get the figure for the honourable senator and let him know.
– I direct a question to Senator Carrick. In 1974 when the Labor Government made the decisions which have had such an adverse effect upon Newcastle, who was the Minister for Transport and from what electorate did he come?
-I had forgotten that nice nuance.
– Let us be honest. Those 6 ships were too large to be built in Australian shipyards and you know it.
– In answer to Senator Baume ‘s question, I believe that the Minister for Transport in the Whitlam Government was the honourable member for Newcastle, Mr Charles Jones, in whose electorate the Newcastle dockyard is situated. I also say that the story that the 4 bulk carriers which were amongst the order for the 6 ships placed in Japan and the seventh that was to be converted were too large to build in Australia is not true. It would have been possible for the Whitlam Government, had it so desired, to have enabled them to have been built in Australia. That is a red herring that ought to be set aside now.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. The Minister will recall that on 16 February I asked her about claims made by the Federal member for Griffith, Mr Donald Cameron, that a group of Aborigines in Brisbane had formed a co-operative to steal pensioner and other social security cheques from letter boxes. In answering the question the Minister said, amongst other things, that she would ask Mr Donald Cameron whether he had any more specific information which would enable the necessary investigations to be undertaken. Will the Minister advise whether she has yet asked Mr Donald Cameron for more specific information? If she has, what was his reply? On the other hand, if the Minister has not yet contacted Mr Donald Cameron, when does she intend to do so?
-I have put into train some investigations with regard to the allegations in the Press article. I expect to be discussing the matter with the Director-General later today. If I have further information I will immediately give it to the honourable senator.
– Pursuant to section 39 of the Australian Film Commission Act 1975, 1 present the final annual report of the Australian Film Development Corporation covering the period from 1 July 1974 to 7 July 1975.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the following documents relating to defence arrangements between Australia and Papua New Guinea:
A joint statement by the Australian Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea;
A status of forces agreement which will be registered with the United Nations; and
Two separate exchanges of letters between the Australian Minister for Defence and the Papua New Guinea Minister for Defence, Foreign Relations and Trade, concerning consultations regarding the use of Australian loan personnel in politically sensitive situations and an arrangement for the supply support of the Papua New Guinea Department of Defence by the Department of Defence, Australia.
Mr President, I seek leave to have the text of a statement relating to these documents incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The statement read as follows-
Honourable senators will recall that the Right Honourable the Prime Minister of Australia and the Right Honourable Michael Somare issued a joint statement in Port Moresby on 1 1 February which made mention of defence arrangements formally negotiated and agreed between Sir Maori Kiki and the Minister for Defence of the governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia respectively. The agreements then reached fulfil the Government’s intention, as set out in the White Paper on Australian Defence that I presented to the Senate in November last year, to formalise defence arrangements with Papua New Guinea in the near future.
I am pleased today, on behalf of the Government, to table for the information of honourable senators full details of these arrangements. Honourable senators will note that they closely follow the arrangements in force during the interim period since Papua New Guinea independence, as set out in documents tabled by my predecessor in the previous Government on 9 October 1975. 1 should say that the Government is very satisfied with the arrangements. They demonstrate, in a practical way, the importance Australia and Papua New Guinea attach to a continuing and close relationship in the defence field.
The agreement between the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments to sustain their close co-operation in defence matters and the joint affirmation of their intention to consult at the request of either about matters affecting their common security is not the less historic because so readily agreed, nor the less significant- for each and for others- because their friendship is already so firmly and so openly established. This Senate may look with pleasure and with no little pride upon the fact that in this new era of Papua New Guinea’s independence and national sovereignty, it has joined with Australia to re-affirm a clear and mutual interest in close co-operation and consultation in defence matters.
In a statement on 1 1 January, Sir Maori Kiki identified his Government’s view of the defence relationship. He said:
The Papua New Guinea Government continues to seek by direct negotiation between the 2 countries continuing support and co-operation in defence matters with Australia, not by any formal defence treaty but by mutually acceptable arrangements between the 2 governments and by frequent consultations.
This is a view which, as these documents demonstrate, the Australian Government can warmly endorse.
Honourable senators will note that under the arrangements, Australia will continue to assist in the development of the Papua New Guinea defence force through the defence co-operation program. This program, to which the Government has allocated some $12m this financial year, will be planned in close consultation with the Papua New Guinea Government and will be responsive to Papua New Guinea priorities. I commend the Australia-Papua New Guinea defence arrangements to the Senate.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the text of a statement by the Minister for Construction entitled ‘Withdrawal from Papua New Guinea of Australian Government Construction Agency’.
-by leaveIn another place yesterday the Minister for the Northern Territory, the Hon. Evan Adermann, made a short statement following the presentation of the monthly report of the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund. The statement which was made was highly controversial. I had hoped to see the report presented in this chamber this afternoon. I seek information from you, Mr President, or the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) as to what has happened to the report. Is it intended that it not be presented to this chamber or will it be presented to this chamber tomorrow?
– I have no information on that matter, Mr President. Either Senator Webster or I will get the facts for Senator Keeffe.
-Mr President, I rise on a point of explanation concerning a misrepresentation, if it is in order to do so. Page 247 of the Hansard record of last night’s debate has me saying ‘the then Leader of the National Country Party, Senator DrakeBrockman, said things similar’. The ‘things similar’ to which I was referring were the similar things said by Senator Withers in 1974, when he was in Opposition, about the suspension of Standing Orders- that is the suspension of the call of the Senate. I am informed that it was not Senator Drake-Brockman who said those things on that occasion. I give Senator DrakeBrockman credit; he would maintain consistency. It was Senator Webster, in fact the current Leader of the National Country Party in this chamber, who said those things.
Debate resumed from 17 February, on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr President, the Senate will recall that there was only one second reading speech made in respect of Orders of the Day, Nos 1, 2 and 3 because those 3 Bills are linked. With the concurrence of the Senate, and I assume with the concurrence of Senator Douglas McClelland, I suggest that there be a cognate debate on the 3 Bills as they are related measures.
– The Opposition does not object to the proposal put by Senator Withers, the Leader of the Government. Whilst agreeing to a cognate debate, nonetheless, when the votes are taken, because of a certain attitude the Opposition will be adopting towards one of those Bills, I suggest that the question be put at different times.
– Yes, the questions may be put separately.
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
-The Senate is debating Bills brought down by the Government last Thursday to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act, the Census and Statistics Act and the Representation Act. They arise principally out of decisions brought down by the High Court in the McKinlay judgment of December 1975 and the McKellar judgment which was handed down by the High Court this month. The linchpin of democracy is electoral justice and without a delicately and fairly balanced electoral system there cannot be real democracy. Governments that win office on gerrymandered boundaries cannot be said to be really democratically elected governments.
The Labor Party constantly has advocated reform of Australian electoral laws in order to bring about real democracy in Australia in the strict literal sense. For instance, as a political party we have asserted always that the allowable 20 per cent electoral quota variance that existed in our electoral laws from 1902 to 1974 was unreal, far too elastic in effect and therefore unjust and undemocratic. When in government, in 1974, we were able to change it from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. We did it at the first historic joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament in August 1974 in spite of the opposition of the Liberal and National Country Parties, particularly that of the National Country Party. Subsequently we brought to Parliament for Parliament’s approval 2 redistribution proposals based on the 10 per cent variation. Those proposals were rejected by the Liberal and National Country Parties in this Senate. So in fact the electoral boundaries that were in existence for the last election, the 1975 double dissolution election, were those that were last drawn up and approved by Parliament in 1968. Naturally they were based on the old 20 per cent tolerance. Therefore, if Parliament approves the boundary proposals to be put to it subsequently by the distribution commissioners after the passage of this legislation the next Federal election will be the first one fought on boundaries approved on the 10 per cent principle.
I appreciate that the Government has had an obvious change of thought on this subject because in 1974 the Electoral Act embracing the 10 per cent maximum variant became one of the double dissolution Bills after its rejection by Liberal and National Country Party members in the Senate. The present Government members in the Senate opposed and rejected the redistribution proposals presented by the Labor Government in 1975. The boundaries, of course, were based on the 10 per cent notion. Now the Liberal and National Country Parties have done an aboutturn. Senator Withers confirmed this last Thursday at question time when, in response to a question from Senator Georges, he stated:
I tell the honourable senator that I am bringing in legislation this afternoon which has total acceptance within the Government party room. He will see that all my colleagues will vote for my legislation in this place and in the other place.
I cannot help but think that perhaps the fact that this is the first time for at least 2 decades that electoral laws are the responsibility of a Liberal Party Minister and not a National Country Party Minister in a coalition government is the real reason for this change of attitude on the part of the Government. I hate to appear cynical but my suspicions are aroused. I wonder what the legislation would have been had the responsible Minister been a member of the National Country Party. While I suppose that in one respect this legislation can be regarded as a breakthrough in that the Liberal and National Country Parties have now come to accept the notion of 10 per cent, the great pity is that in confirming that principle in this legislation the Government is also watering down the principle because the quite unnecessary condition is written in that in drawing up boundaries for consideration by Parliament the distribution commissioners shall ensure that at the time of redistribution any electorate larger than 5000 square kilometers shall not have more voters than the division in the State which is allotted by the commissioners the smallest number of electors. The Labor Party opposes that principle.
That is not a condition or amendment which arises from the High Court judgments in the McKinlay and McKellar cases. It is perhaps a whim, an afterthought. Perhaps it is a save face clause for the National Country Party members within the coalition. It really is a sop to a few members of the National Country Party but electorally it is a penalty- a weighting- against those who live in, or who between redistributions will move to, the expanding, developing outer urban areas of the metropolitan cities. Today such places are further out than they were in former years. Today these are places where the cities join the country. It is an electoral loading against those who live in the marginal seats who generally, in fact, determine government. They are the people who should be really offended by this clause in the Bill. This restrictive provision obviously will impede distribution commissioners in drafting their recommendations from taking into account future population expansion of areas, based on existing development and on probable future development. It is not, in fact, a sop to people who live in country areas. It is merely a sop to a few National Country Party members.
The argument used to be that, because a person lived in the bush where the means of communication were difficult and consequently the greater was the hardship, the vote of that person should be more valuable. But as circumstances have changed in our society, that argument today must be rejected. Today in country areas there is a drift away from the small holding. Indeed, there is a drift from the country to the city. While, at all times, the Labor Party adopts the principle of equal value for votes, the problem is that those who, through economic circumstances, have moved to outer urban areas now lack many essential services such as sewerage, adequate roads, safe and efficient public transport services, reasonable rates and suitable houses. These factors should be taken into account when a government chooses to write any weighting or loading principle into electoral legislation. They are the people whose problems are being ignored by this Government with this sop to a handful of sitting National Country Party members being written into the legislation. It is an unnecessary, restrictive, unfair and awkward bind on the distribution commissioners who will be appointed and we will be opposing that clause in the Committee stage of the debate.
Under this legislation no large division having an area of 5000 square kilometres or more can contain a greater number of electors than the smallest division. A small division is denned in the Bill as being under 5000 square kilometres. As I think Senator Withers conceded in the Senate last Thursday in reply to Senator Georges, there is nothing to stop the larger electorates in area having about the same number of electors as the smallest electorate in area provided that the first prerequisite is taken into account, that is, that they do not contain a greater number of electors than the smallest division. I suggest that because the Labor Party originally wrote in the 10 per cent principle on a general basis in line with its platform of equality in voting values, and because the Liberal and National Country Parties are now generally adopting the principle of 10 per cent, the distribution commissioners should do all that can be done within their existing guidelines to ensure electoral justice in Australia.
The commissioners to be appointed will have a tremendous responsibility because it will be up to them to make recommendations which will ensure that when the election is held the party which gets the greatest number of votes or the greatest percentage of votes also gets the greatest number of seats. For too long there has been a great imbalance in Australian electoral boundaries. They have been weighted against the Labor Party. Invariably we have had to get 52 per cent or 53 per cent of the vote before we could form a government. The principal job to be carried out in this redistribution so far as the Labor Party is concerned is to ensure real democracy by the provision of just, reasonable and sensible electoral boundaries. That principle should be an essential ingredient in any restoration of confidence in the system of parliamentary democracy and parliamentary government.
Perhaps I should point out that if the redistribution proposals which are eventually submitted to Parliament for endorsement are not approved by either House the timetabling for another redistribution before the next House of Representatives election is due could be very acute. As I understand the Minister’s remarks in the Senate last week, the Government needs to get this legislation through the Parliament this week in order to ensure getting a redistribution of electorates this year. However, the advice given to me is that even without this legislation there still could be a redistribution under section 25 of the existing Act. It might not take into account the 5000 square kilometre provision but I understand there could be a redistribution under the existing legislation.
That brings me to what we consider to be a great weakness in this Bill. Whilst the legislation provides for the holding of elections at large in certain circumstances, the Bill does not set out the ground rules on how an election at large shall be conducted. For example, at an election at large will the names of all the candidates for the whole State- the borders of the State will become the boundaries of the electorate under an election at large- appear on the one ballot paper? Voters could have as many as 300 or 400 candidates or even more from whom to choose. Would a voter have to number every square on the ballot paper in order to record a formal vote? Is an election at large to be conducted on the system of proportional representation, or is it be be the multiple preferential voting system? I do not know what it will be and nor does anyone else, I suggest, because no rules have been laid down, but whatever it is, it will become a counting nightmare for officials. I personally could not think of a more frustrating, more difficult and indeed more hopeless task.
– It would make the Senate ballot look easy by comparison, would it not?
– It would make it look like a Sunday school picnic by comparison.
– One would want to be in the first twenty on the ticket.
-The Minister is smiling. Perhaps that is because he is a member of the Senate and will not be a candidate for the House of Representatives under an election at large. Unless a specific system is laid down to provide for the conduct of an election at large, the nation could be without a government and a parliament for months on end after an election. Incidentally, when the results were announced and the members were elected for that State, I presume that all of them would receive the higher electorate allowance because their electorate- the whole State- would be more than 5000 square kilometres. Even though senators do not receive that allowance at this stage, I assume it would happen under an election at large when the members of the House of Representatives would all be elected for an electorate larger than 5000 square kilometres. I mention that matter only to show the great administrative headaches which could or would occur if an election at large is held without ground rules being laid down for the conduct of that election. The Opposition believes that in this legislation the Government should have spelled out the rules for the conduct of an election at large. Because that weakness exists in the legislation we oppose the motion for the second reading of the
Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill and will oppose that clause in the Committee stage.
One matter to which I should draw the Senate’s attention is what I might call conveniently the 7-year provision. It is referred to in the Bill but not in the Minister’s second reading speech. The Opposition is suspicious of the provision and is opposed to it. Section 25 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act already provides that the Governor-General may proclaim a redistribution at any time, or whenever 25 per cent of the electoral divisions within a State move outside the statutory allowable variant of 10 per cent. But in this legislation the Government is providing that once a redistribution is carried out for that second reason, a proclamation for another redistribution shall not be issued within 7 years, unless the representation entitlement of a State is altered by reason of the determination that will be made by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer under section 10 of the Representation Act. Again, we say that the 7-year provision is not a measure flowing from either of the High Court judgments but is one which the Government itself has chosen to incorporate in the legislation. We believe it is unnecessary and an unwarranted bind on the distribution commissioners and we will be opposing that clause too in the Committee stage.
What are the results of all the provisions in these 3 pieces of legislation? As the Opposition sees it, apart from the rule relating to electorates of 5000 square kilometres or more and apart from the 7-year provision to which I have alluded, the main parts of this long awaited amending legislation now from the December 1975 High Court judgment in the McKinlay case and the February 1977 judgment in the McKellar case. In short, when these 3 pieces of legislation are approved by Parliament a census will have to be taken every 5 years. As I understand the position at the moment, there is no provision for the regularity with which a census shall be taken. In addition to having to take a census every 5 years, under this legislation the Statistician is also obliged to keep quarterly statistics concerning the population of each State. A census was taken last year. The one before that was taken in 1971, and when Labor was in government we tried to bring about certain redistribution proposals based on that 1971 census. Unfortunately, we were not able to do so and there has therefore been no redistribution of electoral boundaries in Australia since 1968.
In addition to the matters I have already mentioned which flow from the provisions in these Bills, an enumeration day for determining each
State’s entitlement to representation in the House of Representatives is established as being 1 1 months after the first meeting of each new House of Representatives, and within 30 days thereafter the Chief Australian Electoral Officer is obliged to ascertain, on the latest statistics available to him, the numerical entitlement of each State’s representation in the House of Representatives. When that assessment is made, a State will get the benefit of an additional seat so far as any remainder is concerned only when the fractional remainder is in excess of .5 per cent. If as a result of that determination by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer there is an alteration in the representation entitlement of a State in the House of Representatives, then a redistribution for that State shall be carried out. But if at the time of the next ordinary House of Representatives election the redistribution has not been carried out and implemented in order to comply with the State’s determined representation entitlement then, as I said earlier, the border of the State will be the boundary of the electorate for all those entitled to represent the State in the House of Representatives.
Under the legislation all redistributions are still subject to disallowance by either House of the Australian Parliament. Additionally, under the existing Act a redistribution may be proclaimed at any time by the GovernorGeneral or when one-quarter of the electorates in a State get outside the quota provisions of the Act. Under this legislation a redistribution carried out because of the last mentioned circumstance shall remain in existence for at least 7 years, except when there is an alteration in the numerical entitlement of a State, when there shall be a redistribution. That provision, of course, does not flow from the High Court’s judgment and indeed was not referred to in the Minister’s second reading speech. An additional guideline has also been written into the legislation for the distribution commissioners to take into account. Clause 7 of the Bill provides that electorates of 5000 square kilometres or more in size shall not be larger in voting population than the smallest division within the State.
To summarise our position, the Labor Party does not oppose the motions for the second readings of the Representation Amendment Bill or the Census and Statistics Amendment Bill. All of the proposals in those Bills are claimed to be directly consequential upon or to flow from the High Court’s judgment in the McKinlay and McKellar cases. However, so far as the proposed amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act are concerned, the Opposition indicates now that for the reasons I have mentioned- because of the watering down of the 10 per cent principle in clause 7; because of the addition of the 7-year proviso- something that does not flow from the High Court’s determination; and also because the legislation in clause 1 1 does not lay down rules for the way in which elections at large shall be conducted- the Opposition will be opposing the second reading of the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill. We will be opposing the passage of clauses 7, 10 and 1 1 in the Committee stage of the Bill and then, assuming that the Government is able to secure passage of the legislation at the second reading and Committee stages, we shall oppose the third reading. For the reasons which I have mentioned, I commend the Labor Party’s opposition to the amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
– We are dealing with 3 Bills, the Representation Amendment Bill, the Census and Statistics Amendment Bill and the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill. These Bills propose a number of amendments to various Acts of previous years, two of which go back to the year 1905. The Bills have been introduced as a result of 2 High Court decisions. For the record I shall quote part of the second reading speech of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) in relation to the 3 Bills:
The High Court has now made a number of very important rulings which have changed this scheme of things and which require new procedures to be introduced as a matter of urgency. In the first place, the Court looked at the constitutional provision in section 24, namely, that the number of members to be chosen in the several States shall be determined ‘whenever necessary’. The Court’s view was that this means that the number of members to be chosen in the several States must be determined in time for each ordinary general election and that such elections must be held in accordance with the entitlements so determined. However, the Court recognised that this mandatory principle would not apply in the case of elections other than ordinary general elections.
The Minister went on to say:
The Bills contain provisions designed to ensure that the High Court’s decision is given effect to and to ensure that a determination of the representation entitlement of the several States will be made in the twelfth month of the life of a House of Representatives.
The Minister stated further:
The High Court held invalid and of no effect the 1964 amendment which introduced the ‘any remainder’ formula as it did not comply with the requirements of section 24 of the Constitution relating to the nexus between the House of Representatives and the Senate and the proportional representation of the several States in the House of Representatives.
I refer to that part of the Minister’s second reading speech because it deals with the position where we now see that there will be a reduction in the number of members of the House of Representatives. This is due, of course, to the fact that in working out the quotas for the various States, whereas in the past this remainder aspect allowed a proportion of people over a quota to be taken into consideration for the provision of an extra seat within a State, the High Court has ruled that unless this proportion in the remainder is over 50 per cent there can be no extra seat for that State. This means a reduction in the number of members of the House of Representatives for the next elections, whenever they may be. Unfortunately this ruling affects my own State of South Australia. Where previously we have had 12 members of the House of Representatives, now the number will be reduced to eleven.
I think it is worth while to get on the record that section 24 of the Constitution states:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of senators.
The Constitution lays down the formula for deciding how many members of the House of Representatives there shall be from each State. This formula generally works as follows: Firstly, an ascertainment is made of the total population of Australia. This number is then divided by the number of senators twice. This produces a quota to be used to determine the number of House of Representatives seats to which each State is entitled. The population of each State is divided by this quota. Hence there is a situation where the largest States naturally come out with a larger number of representatives in the House of Representatives than do the smaller States. But I should point out that this quota is not the one that is used for the division to break up the States into electorates to come to an allocation of what the quota will be for each of those electorates.
Over the years- the last redistribution was in 1 968- there have been big changes in many electorates. Many of them have got completely out of balance. It is interesting to see that some electorates, which I shall not mention by name, have increased in electoral roll membership from 49 000 to 90 000. So some electorates have expanded considerably. In fact, some have nearly doubled in population. Others, of course, have reduced in population. This shows the need for redistributions. Electorates get terrifically out of balance. But one can look at the question from another angle and see that whilst there have been changes since 1968 today there are wide differences within electorates. One will find electorates with a little over 50 000 people and other electorates within that same State will have 90 000 people. So one can clearly see that there is need to give consideration to a redistribution.
Much was said by Senator Douglas McClelland about the 10 per cent variation. The Government has looked at this closely and we can see that in the past the distribution commissioners mainly have worked within the area of 10 per cent plus or 10 per cent minus to allow for the movements in population in an electorate between redistributions. Nevertheless, one can still give many examples of some electorates where the commissioners have gone well above the 10 per cent level to reach, as they see it, fair redistribution within the States. Nevertheless, the Government has agreed that it will support the 10 per cent margin and leave it as is. I am happy to see this, but whilst the proposals put forward by the Government are similar to the Australian Labor Party’s previous proposals which were mentioned by Senator Douglas McClelland, there is one difference; this is the provision dealing with the 5000 square kilometre area. I wish to say a little more on that at the end of my speech. Before dealing with that one should look at the guidelines as set down by the commissioners. These are the points that are taken into consideration by commissioners when agreeing on the number of people to be within various electorates: the community of interest within the division, including economic, social and regional interests; the means of communication and travel within the division; the trend of population changes within the State; the physical features of the division; and the existing boundaries of divisions and sub-divisions.
Of course we have taken another feature into consideration. I refer to this 5000 square kilometres provision to which the Australian Labor Party takes exception. Let us look at some of the figures. As at 3 1 December 1 976 the electorate of Grayndler in Sydney had an enrolment of some 59 900 people and was approximately 22 square kilometres in area. I ask honourable senators to remember what I said. The electorate contains nearly 60 000 people and is 22 square kilometres in area. Another electorate in New South Wales, that of Richmond, has nearly 64 000 electorsthat is more than the electorate of Grayndlerand an area of some 6698 square kilometres. Why should not consideration be given to this variation on 2 bases, namely, that firstly there is a larger number of electors and, secondly, a far greater area which that member of Parliament has to service?
I turn to the position in my State of South Australia and refer to 2 electorates. One is the seat of Port Adelaide which contains 6 1 600 electors and is 93 square kilometres in area. However, the electorate of Barker which is in the south-east of South Australia contains 67 500 electors- that is 6000 more electors- and an area of 42 108 square kilometres. When we are dealing with non-metropolitan areas such as this, I think there is every justification to give consideration to what has been spelt out very clearly. It is that electorates such as this shall not have a greater number of electors than the smallest electorate within the metropolitan electorates of that State. It is all very well for Senator Douglas McClelland and no doubt some of his colleagues who will speak later in the debate, to rise in the Senate and say -
– Are you trying to anticipate our remarks, Senator?
– No. However, honourable senators might say, for example, that no consideration should be given to these nonmetropolitan seats. But I ask them this question quite sincerely: What consideration have they given to the servicing of those vast areas which also can contain a greater number of people. I have heard it said, although I do not entirely agree, that a member of Parliament with a small electorate can ride around his electorate on a push bike before breakfast. While I do not think that many members of Parliament could do that and service their electorates effectively, nevertheless there is a difference when a member of Parliament has an electorate which is compact in size. It is far easier to service that electorate than to service an electorate which covers a big expanse of country and which contains pretty well the same number of people who also expect to be serviced by that member. I think that that is a very valid point.
We can talk about expansions and developments within some electorates. It is true that we have a 10 per cent plus or 10 per cent minus tolerance as between electorates to take into consideration those factors which I mentioned before. But let us take into consideration also the rights of people living in these bigger electorates. Let us take into consideration the doctrines that are put down by all parties concerning giving encouragement to decentralisation. Decentralisation means moving out into these other areas. Decentralisation also means responsibility of governments and parliaments to make sure that not only do they give encouragement to people to move out into these areas but also that they give service to people who are prepared to move out into these areas. There are big towns and municipalities in many of these nonmetropolitan electorates and these people are as justly entitled as anybody else to recognition and service from their representatives in the Parliament. So I fully support the 5000 square kilometre aspect in the Commonwealth Electoral Bill to which we are giving consideration. I would hope that the members of the Opposition may reconsider their position on this aspect. I feel that this is something of great importance and something to which we should give a lot of weight.
If it is necessary to take the matter further and go to extremes, I can cite the position that arose in my State of South Australia in the old State electorate of Eyre. Senator Don Jessop used to represent a large part of this area when he represented the electorate of Grey in another place before coming to the Senate. The old electorate contained an area of some 5 388 000 square kilometres. This amounted to some 5 1 per cent of the total land mass of my State of South Australia. It had in the vicinity of 10 000 electors. However, under the proposed redistribution in South Australia a situation has arisen in which the electoral division of Eyre will be expanded in size by 500 000 square kilometres to some 850 1 19 000 square kilometres or 86 per cent of the total land mass of South Australia with 15 303 electors. In one of the metropolitan seats in Adelaide there are 16 000 electors in an area marginally over 9 square kilometres. It is all very well for honourable senators to start justifying the criticism put forward by Senator Douglas McClelland this afternoon. But I suggest to some of the people who talk like that that they should try living in the outlying areas or try to be the member representing the people living out there. They should try to service such an electorate as effectively as a metropolitan electorate. Quite frankly, I do not think it is possible to service an electorate like that as effectively as somebody who has a much smaller electorate or more compact electorate. I go further to say that even the State Australian Labor Party Government in South Australia evidently agrees with my sentiments. It recognises that this area is so jolly big it is even standing 2 candidates for the next State election for the one area. I think that this backs up the point I am making.
I again state that I support fully the 5000 square kilometres aspect of the legislation as is proposed by the Government. I support the legislation and the amendments put forward by the Government. I can only say that when this legislation is passed it is then up to the commissioners. I hope that the commissioners, in accepting their responsibilities, will make sure that the redistribution is done on such a basis that when an election is held in the future the party or parties that wins by the greatest majority of voters will also win by the greatest majority of seats in the Houses of Parliament. This is democracy. We are doing our best with this legislation to make sure that democracy works. I hope we will have the full support of the Senate for the proposals put forward by the Government.
– I could not but respond to Senator Young’s concluding remarks. I do so by citing to him the position that prevailed at the last national election. My Party, the Australian Labor Party, received 42.8 per cent of the vote but got only 36 members in the House of Representatives. Each candidate elected needed nearly 92 000 primary votes. The Liberal Party of Australia got approximately 42 per cent of the vote and sixty-eight of its members were elected to the House of Representatives on a basis of 47 000 votes per member elected. The National Country Party, with a little over 1 1 per cent of the votes, had 23 members elected to the House of Representatives on an average of 37 000 votes for each candidate. I know that we will not go over the past. But I cannot help recalling what happened in relation to this breakthrough involving the 10 per cent tolerance in electorates and some of the early obstacles that we faced. I am not talking merely about what happened in 1973. It will be necessary for me to quote a judge of the High Court of Australia. I refer to the former Attorney-General of Australia, the very illustrious ex-senator Lionel Murphy. I commend to all honourable senators an edition of the Current Affairs Bulletin which dealt with the Australian electoral system. It was published in April 1969. Even during the 1968 period with which it deals Senator Murphy had written to the New South Wales electoral commissioners. Amongst other things he said:
In my view the principle applies to the Australian Constitution and it is the duty of the Commissioners to give effect to the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
He was making a case concerning the difference between section 24 of the Australian Constitution and Article 1 of the United States of America Constitution. Without going into the details of that argument, the remarkable thing was that some tentativeness existed in the Labor Party at this stage about whether the High Court would remain aloof on the issue. On behalf of my Party I think I can pay tribute to the High Court for in many ways its attitudes and decisions find a parallel in the United States Supreme Court under Chief Justice Warren in the time of the Republican era of President Eisenhower. I suppose that in American politics it was a time of conservatism. Without being nasty to the present Government, I think that what we lose perhaps on the swings through the timidity of the Fraser Government we seem to pick up on the roundabout through the progressiveness of the High Court.
There is no doubt in my mind that recent decisions of the High Court obviously caused the Government to speed up changes in its attitude. I remember that when we returned to this Parliament after the last general election, I engaged in a dialogue with Senator Withers and referred to the need to improve and to simplify Senate voting procedures. Senator Withers laughed off my remarks and said: ‘Yes, we will give the matter consideration’. Senator Douglas McClelland has questioned him on this aspect over succeeding months. We might not have reached the millennium but we find today that the 10 per cent variation has been accepted.
Senator Young talked about a fair crack of the whip, whether one wins or loses. Most honourable senators here have had the opportunity of being in Government and in Opposition. Honourable senators opposite know in their hearts that, if the difference in electoral support among the Parties at the last election had been reversed and a Labor Government had won on the present boundaries, the present Government Parties would not have lost the number of seats that Labor did at the last general election. A similar situation exists in relation to sport or any other activity. We may take our defeats but we like to believe that some principles are involved. I do not wish to harp on the point, but the fact is that this 10 per cent variation results in a big improvement.
Senator Douglas McClelland has referred to the provision that the Government seeks to add on an area basis with respect to smaller electorates. First and foremost, let me say that most inner capital city electorate boundaries are created not merely to provide a parliamentarian to service electors. They are drawn to enable service to be provided to all people. We sit here in an ivory tower situation. But we know that in all cities there are people who face the unfortunate experiences of life including the deserted wife and the girl who has gone inter-State to get away from a difficult domestic situation. Large migrant families face problems. I refer to those in ethnic groups who are not wealthy and who are made up of some of the latter day arrivals. Anybody, worth his salt, irrespective of his Party, knows that a lot of hard work is entailed in representing these people. That is one side of the coin. Let me take the matter a little bit further. We have never objected to the modernisation of amenities for those in rural seats. Some committees of which I am a member have been able to use chartered flights and even helicopters. There is no doubt that such assistance can revolutionise our work. The fact is that today people in rural areas expect their representatives to have available to them better methods of transport, better facilities and better secretarial staff. There is less hostility to any proposed improvements in this respect. I do not wish to harp on this point incessantly, but I remind honourable senators how long it took for the need for this reform to be recognised.
The other matter about which Senator Douglas McClelland had some reservationsand I share them- concerns what the position would be following a parliamentary impasse if a State were one electorate at large rather than divided into electorates as we know them. Our thoughts must stray overseas to see the result of such a situation. Without transgressing by reviving the debates of yesterday, I know that a theme song of Senator Harradine and the departed Democratic Labor Party concerns how they are able to adopt a Solomon type approach to the affairs of a State and how their far-ranging thought is able to save each government from making major errors.
Let us take that argument a little further. Let us look at pre-war France and, in particular, prewar Germany before the time of Hitler. The fragmentation of parties under the voting systems of those countries grossly weakened democracy. It is significant that, when the new Germany emerged after World War II, certainly rivetted into its constitution was the principle that these minority groups were not going to call the tune. They have to poll a certain percentage to get recognition. If one has a choice from three, four or sometimes five parties, I think that is enough.
Anybody who has any idea of democracy would be horribly frightened of what the consequences might be if, as the result of procrastination, people in a State voted for their representatives in that State at large. If this meant, for example, an infinitesimal quota for election being set in New South Wales some odd people who might mean well in support of a particular cause might be elected. But if we consider the wide gamut of legislation introduced in this Senate I think we would get some very peculiar decisions if this chamber contained people who were extremely narrow in their outlook.
A by-product of that situation would be that people would have a much lower appreciation of Parliament and would ask: Is the concept of parliamentary democracy worthwhile? I think that all of us here at times have been frustrated by our attempts to get a decision on some matter. I raised a matter in the course of Estimates Committee hearings last year. I was told this afternoon that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, would be signing a letter to me this afternoon on that matter. So, I think I can speak with feeling on that very small matter by pointing out how long it takes to get a decision.
Overall, I think the reform proposed is belated. Much depends on the distribution commissioners. Leaving aside the role or the attitude of parliamentarians, I point out that the third arm of government- local government and shire associations- will be inundating the commissioners with their views. I know the timetable in connection with this matter. Senator Withers gave us a document earlier which indicated about 17 steps in regard to the mechanics of redistribution. Redistribution is a very difficult job.
What is the situation facing an elector in metropolitan Sydney today who seeks assistance and service? He or she can go in one direction to Campbelltown, which is in the heart of the Macarthur electorate, to Blacktown which is the pivot point of the Chifley electorate, even beyond those places to Lithgow and Katoomba in the Macquarie electorate or Gosford in the Robertson electorate. These are the electorates that are above their quota. But the electorates on the sea board- Phillip and Wentworth- are mostly well below their quota. It will certainly be a very difficult job to get a reasonable approximation of what is needed.
If honourable senators were to ask me: ‘Well, what do we need?’ I could do no better than to quote a speech by the then Senator Murphy on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) on 10 April 1973. As the then Attorney-General, he was talking about a 10 per cent tolerance rather than a 20 per cent tolerance. He said:
Exact equality in the number of electors per division cannot be achieved, nor is it desirable. Some degree of variation from the quota or average must be allowed. At the same time, equality of political rights is inherent in a truly democratic State . . .
I think we all subscribe to that view. The fact that Australia has large arid areas means that we cannot break electorates up into lovely standard compartments as one probably can do in small countries like Switzerland or Austria. This is the dilemma that we face. We have a particularly tight schedule in our consideration of this matter. I know it is essential that reasonably speedy passage be given to this legislation.
Another matter that must be considered is the degree to which one can anticipate population trends. For example, the Borrie report shows that the birthrate has more or less levelled out. The intake of migrants has also to a large degree even considering the bipartisan approach to political refugees. It is a different situation now from what it was in the era when we had big projects such as the Snowy Mountains scheme. The point I am getting at is that if we try to create electorates within a set quota- I am speaking of the New South Wales example- of about 70 000, we must try to anticipate where any fairly large scale exodus from a city will occur. I suppose that, in the New South Wales context, the electorate of Robertson in many ways has become like Miami, Florida, in the United States with a high percentage of its residents being people who have reached retirement age. Conversely, in the electorate of Macquarie, in the lower Blue Mountains, there has been a tremendous upsurge in housing for young couples.
I think there is another point we should take note of. Whatever we say about redistribution- I make no apologies for the imbalance between the percentage of votes gained and the number of seats that the major parties obtain in the House of Representatives- there is another leveller. That is the mobility of our work force. It is argued and I think it is generally accepted that most people between the ages of 20 and 60 or 65 will have 3 completely different occupations. When trade unions are trying to trace people whom they have not seen for 5 years it is amazing to discover the number of residences they have had. But even with this levelling effect I think that the Electoral Commissioners will have to resist a lot of pressures. They will have to allow a breathing space in some areas. I know that other States will have their counterparts to the Chifley, Macquarie and Macarthur electorates in New South Wales to allow for the undoubted expansion that will take place. In our inner city seats we do not have the problems of the big United States cities where racial tensions are manifest. We know how cities can die with the exodus of votes to the suburbs. Similar problems exist even in Britain in the inner London area. They do not exist to the same extent in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane or the other capital cities. In Sydney there was a bonanza with some prestige office blocks. People would have been much better off if those building sites had been used for high density housing or flats. However, that sort of construction is left to State governments rather than to private enterprise.
The corollary to the reduction in tolerance or variables between electorates makes it clear to Senator Withers and the Government that this is, I hope, only the first instalment in electoral reform. I know that technically we are not discussing other innovations. I think the word innovation’ is a misnomer. State governments have gone ahead of the Commonwealth Government in compressing voting hours. I feel, quite candidly at times, that people’s religious beliefs, together with daylight saving, may make voting a little harder, still many favour shorter polling hours. I hope that Senator Withers in his reply to this debate will give us an assurance on some of the other things we have been advocating. Honourable senators will know that I argued for the right of anybody to nominate for the Senate but I believe that a person should have at least 20 sponsors in every electorate before bis nomination is valid. He should have a following; otherwise there will be a maximising of informal votes. That will apply also in relation to the House of Representatives.
I shall end where I began. I commend as compulsory reading to every government senator the Current Affairs Bulletin of April 1969 which shows how long it takes for these evolutionary processes to come about. I think it is fitting that Senator Missen will follow me in this debate. It may be that social democrats like myself will have greater faith in the judiciary now that the High Court of Australia has people of the calibre of the former Attorney-General, Senator Murphy. It will emulate the Warren Court in the United States. In the period to which I referred, 1968-69, it was futile for the then Senator Murphy to refer to certain cases in the United States because he might have had cold comfort from the judiciary. Today we are in a new era. I feel that when we are unable sometimes to convince the conservative thought in the Parliament we will achieve our victories through the Judges in the High Court. I stand four square on the Opposition’s amendments. We believe that they will remove some of the inner fears which we still hold.
– I rise to support the second reading of the 3 Bills before us, the Representation Amendment Bill, the Census and Statistics Amendment Bill and the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill. All three are necessary to bring into effect the various amendments to the electoral system which are required by reason of High Court decisions of recent times and which also pick up other necessary changes which the Government desires to bring into operation straight away.
I am invited to say something in respect of what Senator Mulvihill said. It is a strange thing that I always seem to follow Senator Mulvihill in debates in the Parliament. I suppose that if there is ever a change of government, perhaps in the next 15 or 20 years, he will have the pleasure of following me instead. For the moment I have the advantage.
Before I come to the major part of my argument I wish to say something about the comments that have been made by the first 2 speakers for the Opposition. I shall pick up some of the matters raised by Senator Douglas McClelland in the body of my speech but one curious, almost unfair, thing I must refer to is his complaint that the Minister for Administative Services (Senator Withers) did not set out in detail in these Bills how the elections at large should be conducted. I am delighted that Senator Withers and his team have not bothered to waste their time at this stage in trying to translate the monster of the election at large into something which will probably be even more monstrous if we have to see it in all its horror. Because of the High Court’s decision, if we did not carry out a proper redistribution when a State has a change in the number of members it is entitled to there would have to be an election at large- an election whereby all the members for that State would be elected in one large ballot- which would be a sort of monstrous three times over Senate-type poll. I suppose this would send the Australian people into some sort of tizzy. It would just about end democracy in this country if we had to try to persuade people to vote for- I use New South Wales as an example- about 45 members from 300 candidates.
These Bills provide the methods whereby regular determinations will be made at a certain stage after each election in accordance with the High Court’s decision. We will know the number of seats to which a State is entitled and the preselections that are required by reason of any change in numbers can go ahead in a proper manner and will apply for the next ordinary general election. Senator Douglas McClelland ‘s criticism seemed to me to be unnecessary. I am glad that the Minister and his Department have been concentrating on the major matter and not on a horror which I hope will never be seen by the people of this country, that is, that they should have to elect perhaps 45 candidates at one time.
Senator Mulvihill said two or three very interesting things about these Bills. I regret that he trotted out again the old chestnut that his Party gained 42 per cent of the votes in the last election and only gained 36 per cent of the seats. I think Senator Douglas McClelland also had some worries about the fact that the Labor Party obtained a certain percentage of votes but did not get the same percentage of seats. Senator Mulvihill knows as well as I do and any other honourable senator in this chamber does that there are such things as 2-party preferred votes and preference votes. Fifty-eight per cent of people who vote want a member of the Liberal Party or a member of the National Country Party to be elected. They are entitled to have their preferences. That is why such a big proportion of the seats went to those parties in the last election. It is no good trotting out this old chestnut about not getting as many seats. The large majority of people exchange preferences and elect the government of their choice.
On 2 occasions in his speech Senator Mulvihill praised the High Court enthusiastically. He said that what is lost on the swings- he finds the Government a loss- is picked up by the progressive attitude of the High Court. In recording those words I hope he will always be as enthusiastic about the decisions that the High Court will make over the years.
– The former Senator Murphy has another quotation about this matter.
-With due respect, the former Senator Murphy is but one member of the High Court and, magical though he may be, I do not think that he could necessarily bewitch all the other members of the Bench. Senator Mulvihill must recognise that he is inviting here an attitude towards the High Court which I trust will be consistently followed. Even if the High Court does not always please Senator Mulvihill as much as it does now, I trust that he will always accept it in the same ready way as he has accepted it in relation to that decision. In addition, he says we have reached the millennium of a 10 per cent variation. I am not prepared to go to the extent of expressing quite the same exciting words as Senator Mulvihill expressed on this aspect, but I am prepared to say that I am very happy that a 10 per cent variation is the prevailing figure.
– The walls of Jericho have fallen down.
-That is so. Neither this country nor any other country can provide for an absolute or 100 per cent quota. One has to allow a margin for changes that take place in electorates. One has to make some provision for covering the electorates that are going to grow later and the others that are going to dwindle later. One has to take into account the various factors that make some electorates rather more difficult to service than others. I agree that the 10 per cent variation is a good margin. Although there were representations about it, I am very pleased that the Government does not propose to reintroduce the previous 20 per cent variation.
One has to take into account the fact that with a margin like that there is provision for a variation of 40 per cent, not just 20 per cent. Some seats may be 20 per cent above the quota and others may be 20 per cent below the quota. I have always felt that that is excessive. I have always felt that there are other ways of meeting the problems that are experienced in the electorates that are difficult to service, such as those that cover very sparse areas. Extra allowances are provided under the Electoral Act to members representing those electorates. Extra staff can be allocated to those members whose electorates cover vast areas. I think that more could probably be done to assist members in this area. I strongly support the contention that more be done in that way rather than there be a change in the value of the vote of a person who lives in one part of Australia and a person who lives in another part of Australia. We remain committed to a 10 per cent margin- that is 10 per cent up and 10 per cent down. That will enable seats to bear some allowance for the difficulties involved in a large electorate.
The second matter which the Opposition is opposing and which is contained in this Bill is, of course, the provision that does not alter the criteria that apply under the Electoral Act, but adds the extra criterion in regard to the large electorates of 5000 square kilometres. This, of course, is the same criterion that has been taken into consideration by the Remuneration Tribunal in providing for differences in the various electoral allowances of members representing smaller and larger electorates. It is therefore a logical application to apply this figure. It is well to bear in mind that under the Act as it now stands there are the various criteria to be taken into account that Senator Young mentioned earlier in his speech. These criteria are to remain there. They include the community of interest within a division, including economic, social and regional interests; the means of communication and travel within a division; the trend of population changes within a State; the physical features of a division, and the existing boundaries of divisions and sub-divisions. To be added to those considerations to be taken into account is the fact that the larger electorates of 5000 square kilometres are not to have more people in them than those that are, in effect, city electorates. Therefore there will not be the disparity that has been criticised.
I think that there are some difficulties in this proposal in the sense that there is to be a restriction as to how widely one can take into account a city electorate which is fast growing. I think that there will be some difficulty in giving very much credence to that because, taking such a city electorate of, say, 60 000 electors in Victoria, where 10 of the 33 electorates are what are called larger electorates, it would mean that those larger electorates must be lower in number or of the same number as that city electorate. Therefore, of course, one could not make the city electorate that is growing, a very small electorate because one would be thereby effectively lowering the number of voters in those 10 electorates in the country.
I know that it is a fact that when the distribution commissioners come to consider these matters they take into account the various criteria that are before them and that no single criterion is absolutely applicable. I know that they must weigh them up together and that they must take all of them into account. Of course, there is the provision that there can be not more than a 10 per cent variation from the quota between electorates. Although I think that this will limit somewhat the ability of the commissioners to reduce very much a city electorate that has potentiality for quick growth, one must bear in mind that there are provisions for redistribution and that there is now some certainty laid down in the Act as to when those redistributions will take place. There must be a test in every Parliament as to whether a State is entitled to more or fewer seats. If it happens that a State is so entitled there has to be a redistribution in that State.
There is provision for a redistribution when one quarter of the seats get out of alignment with the 10 per cent variation. There is also the provision which has been criticised and which, I think, has some merit that there will not be redistributions on that ground alone before a period of 7 years has elapsed. Under the High Court’s decision and without those provisions there could be a redistribution taking place every Parliament. I think that this would be very disturbing for the electors of the Commonwealth.
– It works very much like that in New South Wales. New South Wales has them much more frequently than we do and there are no problems.
-New South Wales may have them much more frequently, but it seems to me that it will cause difficulties if there is a change every election and people are moved from one electorate to another. They will not know where they are and who is their member. The various branches of the Party organisations would have to change from electorate to electorate. An enormous amount of disturbance would take place.
There is one factor with regard to the provision that has been made concerning the electorates of 5000 square kilometres that I think I ought to raise before the Senate. It is a matter that was brought to my attention by my colleague Senator Austin Lewis, who has not made his maiden speech but who is quite a respected expert insofar as regional organisation is concerned and who has been concerned for many years with elections affecting large electorates of this nature. He has pointed out to me matters that go beyond the matters set out in the Bill, including the community of interest aspect. A factor that he has pointed out to me which does not come into consideration under the various criteria at the moment in relation to the large electorates is that in those electorates there is a large number of municipalities and organisations that are constantly requiring the attention of their members, lt does not matter that there is not a great number of people in a particular district. It is not just a matter of the size and area of such electorates. There is also the fact that in these electorates there happen to be many local organisations that require personal attention. They ask for it and need it much more than do most city electorates. There is some commonalty of interest among the people throughout the cities and those people are not so tied to their local organisations and interests.
As Senator Lewis knows and, no doubt, as members in the House of Representatives know very well, members are constantly in demand and they therefore need to give a great deal of personal attention to representations made to them. In the larger electorates there are many organisations and local newspapers, whereas the city electorates have perhaps one municipality and only one or two local newspapers. This factor that he has picked up about the qualification concerning electorates of 5000 square kilometres is a factor which I do not think has been referred to very much in the discussions previously on this proposal. I thank Senator Lewis for pointing out that aspect to me.
One other matter I want to say something about concerns clause 10 of the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill. I think I have mentioned already that this provides that there shall be a determination of the results in any alteration of the number of members. This will be done as set out in the Representation Amendment Bill and put into effect early in the new Parliament. Therefore the matter will then go through to a redistribution which takes some dme but it will all be completed in time for the next election.
I commend the Bills that are before the Senate. The Representation Amendment Bill sets out other significant matters and the Census and Statistics Amendment Bill necessarily follows from the McKinlay judgment of the High Court. Therefore I think these Bills are very necessary in the interests of this Parliament and the people knowing where they are going, knowing that there will be a redistribution in the life of this Parliament under the terms of these Bills. The people will be able to get to know this and each party will be able to select its candidates well in advance of an election. I commend the spirit of the Bills and the way in which they have complied with the requirements of the High Court. I think the general provisions show that the Government has carefully considered the representations before it.
– I am somewhat confused by Senator Missen ‘s remarks. Usually he has a logical and coherent mind and displays it when he speaks in this Parliament. There were a number of logical inconsistencies in the remarks he made. However I guess that that is a function of the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill which has been thrust on him and which he is obliged to support. I would like to draw attention to two of those inconsistencies. Firstly he commends the Bill because it provides machinery to make redistributions compulsory under certain conditions. That is a provision which has been imposed on this Government by a decision of the High Court of Australia. He then went on to commend clause 10 of the Bill which precludes a redistribution being held less than 7 years after the previous redistribution no matter how great may be the need for it. I find more than a small element of contradiction in Senator Missen ‘s attitude to that clause.
More important is his attitude towards clause 7. He pointed out the fact that the existing Commonwealth Electoral Act provides for the commissioners to take into account factors like population, growth patterns, community of interest, transport and so on. That is true and this Bill will continue that practice. That will continue even after this Bill is passed and I presume it will be passed. But he then commended clause 7 which superimposes by arbitrary decree, over and above and irrespective of those factors, a provision that no so-called large electorate may contain a greater number of electors than any socalled small electorate. That arbitrary decree effectively wipes out all the other factors which the commissioners are to consider and which exist in the existing Act in which Senator Missen sees some merit. In attempting to justify this provision in clause 7- this arbitrary decree that regardless of all other factors no electorate with more than 5000 square kilometres will contain more electors than any electorate with less than 5000 square kilometres- he mentioned that there were 10 electorates in Victoria larger than 5000 square kilometres. I am grateful to him for that information because it points out the absurdity of this clause even if we accept the specious rationale for it that the Government has offered. In the smallest mainland State, the most thickly populated mainland State, there are no fewer than 10 so-called large electorates. Obviously that proposition must be seen to be absurd when one remembers that the electorate of Kalgoorlie, which has about 16 times as large an area as the entire State of Victoria, will be treated for the purposes of this Bill, under clause 7, precisely the same as any of those 10 so-called large electorates in one State, the smallest mainland State and the most heavily populated mainland State.
I regard this piece of legislation as outrageous. It provides more scope for greater abuse of fundamental democratic principles than even the pre- 1973 Act provided. The redistributions have been forced upon this Government by High Court decisions. It has shirked a confrontation over the restoration of the previous 20 per cent deviation from the mean quota for a State which was amended at the joint sitting in 1974 to a deviation of 10 per cent. The Government instead chose a devious back-door restoration of the same malapportionment which was practised under the Act prior to 1974. 1 guess it is typical. In fact it is almost predictable, given the record of this Government. It has a record of deviousness and broken promises on Medibank and on indexation. It gave assurances that it could cure inflation and unemployment. It has just presided over the biggest quarterly increase in the consumer price index that we have seen since Sir Robert Menzies presided over the all-time record increase in 1951. It is presiding over the highest level of unemployment that we have seen since 1930. It said that there would be no more jobs for the boys but it has just appointed another ex-Liberal Cabinet Minister as the High Commissioner to London. We have a Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who said that he would not reject a Budget and who said that he would not challenge the previous Leader of the Liberal Party for leadership of that Party. It is almost predictable that a government with that record and led by the present Prime Minister would seek to restore electoral malapportionment by this devious back-door method which it has chosen.
Senator Young attempted to justify the malapportionment in the numbers of electors on the ground, and we have heard all this before, that there are certain sprawling country electorates around which the diligent local member incessantly trudges, when he is not tied up with his parliamentary duties, attempting to provide a service for his electors. I have 2 comments to make. Until 1974 1 lived for all my life in such an electorate. It was represented at both State and Federal levels usually by the Country Party but occasionally by the Liberal Party. I can assure Senator Young that those members always lived in Perth and were rarely seen in their electorates. More importantly, I wonder if Senator Young, as a South Australian, has ever stood outside the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices in Adelaide and watched the queue of people outside the electoral office of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) sitting in splendid isolation in his office far removed from his electors. There are more problems than just area in representing a particular electorate. I suggest, with all due respect to Senator Young and the honourable member for Wakefield, that the problems of the electors of the honourable member for Adelaide, and more importantly the problems of the people who live within the boundaries of the Adelaide electorate, provide more work for the local member than is the case in the electorate of Wakefield.
Firstly, there is a far higher proportion of nonnaturalised Australian residents living in these inner city electorates who still see their local member of Parliament, and correctly so, as the person who should make representations to government and government departments on their behalf. Secondly, many of these people are severely disadvantaged in other ways. Although the rural member may have certain problems associated with distance there are other problems frequently associated with inner city electorates, the magnitude of which more than offsets the problems of distance in rural electorates. It is a specious argument.
Clause 7, by imposing this arbitrary division into 2 classes of electorates above and below 5000 square kilometres, contradicts the rationale put forward today and, more importantly, put forward more strenuously in the past, by members of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party in their attempt to justify the previous 20 per cent deviation from the mean quota of a State. Their previous rationale was that it was absurd to attempt to draw boundaries which would provide for electorates with equal numbers of electors. In those days it was said by members of the Liberal and National Country Parties that the electoral commissioners had to have much more discretion than that and, in particular, that they had to have more discretionary power so that they could adjust the enrolment in an electorate at the time of a redistribution in accordance with the foreseeable population growth patterns in that and other electorates. In other words, an electorate usually on the fringe of a city- not necessarily a major or capital citymight clearly show that the population would rapidly increase in that electorate because of the growth patterns of the city.
Therefore, it was argued by members of the Liberal and National Country Parties- with more logic than they normally display in these matters- that it was desirable that the electoral commissioners be given a certain amount of discretionary power to provide for a relatively low number of electors m those electorates at the time the redistribution was ordered. This was done so that, by the time an election was actually held or when a subsequent election was held, the number of electors in that division would be appropriate. Whatever merit that argument had- it had some merit- it has been wiped off the books by clause 7. This is terribly important. It provides that no electorate of more than 5000 square kilometres may have more electors within it than any electorate with less than 5000 kilometres. So, the discretionary power previously available to electoral commissioners to forecast anticipated changes in population growth within divisions has now been effectively removed. Yet Senator Missen somehow manages to rationalise the position. Although he supports that discretionary power for the electoral commissioners, I gather from his remarks that he also supports clause 7 of this Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill.
But even worse is to come. Let us take clause 7 in combination with clause 10. Clause 10 precludes a redistribution at intervals more frequent than 7 years unless the entire State quota via a vis the national quota has got out of kilter. The clause precludes a redistribution within a State, unless more than 25 per cent of electorates are out of quotas in that State, more frequently than 7 years. When one puts these 2 clauses together the scenario which emerges is this: At the time of a redistribution outer city electorates which are usually rapidly growing in terms of population will be compelled to have a relatively high number of electors. Such electorates will grow rapidly thereby further distorting the initial imbalance in equity of numbers. This Act will prevent a redistribution being held for at least 7 years. It explicitly prevents a redistribution being held in less than 7 years which is probably, effectively, for 3 House of Representatives elections.
– The honourable senator has forgotten about the change in the State representation.
– I mentioned that. I excluded the possibility that the whole State quota became out of kilter vis a vis the national entitlement. If that happens there will have to be a redistribution. But there cannot be a redistribution at intervals more frequent than 7 years no matter what happens to the relative population levels in divisions within a State. So, those 2 factors compound each other. This Bill provides scope for even greater distortions in the number of people in electorates than the previous pre- 1974 legislation which provided a 20 per cent deviation from the quota mean provided. But I fear even worse might be to come. Clause 1 1 of the Bill provides for an election at large if a redistribution has not been conducted in a State in time for an election. No conditions are laid down under which an election at large will be conducted.
I put this question to the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) and I hope he will answer. Is it envisaged that an election at large will be held under the regulation making powers in section 219 of the existing Commonwealth Electoral Act? Even if it is not envisaged that an election at large be held under regulations issued in accordance with section 219, is it possible that an election at large could be held under regulations issued in accordance with that section? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, anyone who witnessed the events of late 1975 does not need too much imagination to visualise a situation in which a redistribution proposal for one or more States put by the commissioners could be rejected in this Parliament and then, if an election is due, an election at large could be held in that one or more States.
If the election is held under conditions laid down by regulation, what is to prevent a government or a political party deciding in a State where it believes it can get more than 50 per cent of the votes that it will issue regulations providing for what is usually known as an exhaustive preferential ballot? In other words it is a winnertakeall system where any group which gets more than 50 per cent of the vote takes all the seats. Simultaneously in a different State regulations could be issued which would provide that an election be held according to proportional representation. Could any of the State governments issue such regulations? Is it possible that Queensland- if recent voting performance is to be taken as an indication of future voting performance the Liberal and National Country Parties could confidentally expect more than 50 per cent of the vote- could issue regulations for an exhaustive preferential ballot in an election at large? This would give the Liberal-National Country Parties all the seats.
In a State like New South Wales where normally more than 50 per cent of the people vote for the Australian Labor Party a government could issue regulations requiring proportional representation. Under that system the LiberalNational Country Parties might get 45 per cent of the seats and the Labor Party 50 per cent of the seats. Is there anything to prevent any of these possibilities which I have outlined? I believe there is not. Of course, once it would have been inconceivable that any Australian government would ever resort to that sort of electoral chicanery. But I suggest that after the events of late 1975 nothing is inconceivable unless it is expressly prevented by law. Indeed, I am not absolutely confident that it still would not be inconceivable. Those people who populate the Liberal and Country Party benches in the Senate, who rant and rave about the power of executive government and the necessity for the Senate, who proclaim that the Senate is the last bastion of the people’s rights against the arbitrary exercise of power by executive government, and who pontificate along these lines, ought to be terribly concerned about the possibilities for abuse which are opened up by this Bill. So far those honourable senators have been conspicuously silent. I suspect that notwithstanding their normal cant and humbug they will remain conspicuously silent.
The plain fact is that the Liberal and Country Parties proved in 1975 that they are not to be trusted with any discretionary exercise of power or with any sort of loosely, ill-defined power in any electoral Act or in the Constitution. Since those events nothing is inconceivable if they can get away with it. This Bill provides enormous scope for the Government to get away with a great deal of electoral malpractice. The Opposition will oppose both the second and third readings of this Bill and will seek to amend the most obnoxious clauses, clauses 7, 10 and 11. 1 hope the Minister will provide some assurance that the horrendous possibilities which we have outlined and for which this BUI seems to pave the way will not be able to be put into practice. However, I suspect that he will not.
– I support generally the provisions of this Bill. It has become necessary for a redistribution before the next election because of the variation that has occurred in the number of voters within the present electorates. There are electorates which are now well over the quota and there are others which are under. However, I am disappointed and have reservations about not returning to the 20 per cent variation. After all, since Federation every redistribution has been carried out on a 20 per cent tolerance. The provision in this legislation for a redistribution every 7 years will avoid a redistribution every time there is an election, although we will find still that very soon after a redistribution another redistribution is required. On the other hand, if representatives are to understand their electorate and really represent their people they should represent the same electorate for some period of time and not have a different electorate to represent every 3 years.
Turning to my reservations about the abolition of the 20 per cent tolerance, I believe that very large electorates and the people who live in remote areas should be given special consideration. In a democracy the people who suffer most are the minorities and we can reach a situation where they have no say whatsoever. However, there has always been the proposition that in a democracy we cater for minorities. This has happened everywhere else in the world and people who live in remote areas are given special consideration. It is not the members who represent them that I am interested in. Certainly we should give them special, opportunities in respect of things such as travel allowances so that they can get around those electorates and find out what the problems are.
– They should live in the electorate too- not in the capital cities as so many of them do.
– It is the people themselves with whom we should be concerned. I do not know whether Senator McLaren goes into the remote areas of South Australia but he will find that the people who live in remote areas have problems which are not faced by people in the cities. Just recently I was in an area with a small population which did not have television, but I find that when arguments are presented in this place, the media and elsewhere about whether there should be television licence fees or whether the money raised in that way should come out of general revenue instead, the interests of people in remote areas are never considered. They as taxpayers are contributing towards the upkeep of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s television network yet do not receive any of the benefits from it. People in Sydney, Melbourne and other capital dues can have a choice of 4 television stations and can have 4 or 5 television sets in their homes. They can enjoy television. However, the people in remote areas as taxpayers are paying the same amount towards the running of the ABC as do the people in Sydney but do not have any television reception at all. It is representation of remote areas in this type of issue which is needed. Otherwise before long we will not have people in the outback at all.
To a large extent the standard of living that is enjoyed in this country has been made possible by the overseas income earned by people who operate under adverse conditions. These are people in the wool, meat and mining industriesour export industries- who operate under harsh conditions with few amenities.
– Do not forget the miners and the shearers. They play an important part. It is not only the owners.
– I am talking about people. Honourable senators opposite are the ones who are always talking about sheep. They are great advocates of the one vote one value system, but it is interesting that when it comes to the crunch they do not apply that principle to their Party’s operation. I wonder whether Senator Walsh would like to go back to Western Australia and say that because New South Wales has 4Vi times the population of Western Australia the Federal Executive of the Labor Party, which is the over-riding body, should have 4V4 times as many delegates from New South Wales as from Western Australia or South Australia. I wonder whether he would go back and advocate that, or suggest that there should be on the Federal Executive 10 times the representation from New South Wales as from Tasmania. He knows very well that if he advocated that one vote one value philosophy within his Party there would be no Labor Party in Western Australia or Tasmania. There would be some other party because the people in those States would know that they did not have a voice in the overall running of the party. We have to make sure that the people in remote Australia have a reasonable voice in the Parliament.
– They have it now.
-Senator Georges should appreciate that when money is expended on the Opera House in Sydney or on a water supply for Brisbane the whole population in that area benefits from it. That can be said by those members from Brisbane and the 30-odd members who live in the Sydney environs, and they have the numbers to ensure an allocation of funds for such purposes. In a democracy you will be all right if you are in the majority but you will not be if you are in the minority. Let us look at the situation of the people in the Kennedy electorate in far western Queensland. Something which would benefit the people in, say, Blackall, would be of no benefit to the people of Mount Isa. Therefore the one member who represents them all has to put forward different propositions in respect of each town to satisfy the whole of his electorate whereas 10 members for Brisbane can put forward one proposition which will satisfy the people in each of those electorates.
This is about the only nation which does not have loadings for people in remote areas. The figures of voters in Great Britain, Canada, the United States of America and elsewhere show such loadings but in this nation, which is probably the most centralised on earth, we go the opposite way when the principle of loadings should apply more here than in other countries. I hope it will be realised by honourable senators before the next redistribution that the 20 per cent variation is something which is necessary in a nation like ours.
– Are you supporting the legislation, Senator?
– I am supporting it but I said at the start of my speech that I have reservations about it and am disappointed that the 20 per cent variation has not been adopted, particuarly for the bigger electorates. Do not think I am saying this merely to look after the National Country Party.
– Of course you are looking after the Country Party.
– It is interesting to look at the 7 electorates covering more than 200 000 square kilometres and consider their traditional history. For example, the electorate of Kalgoorlie. Has it been a Country Party electorate? And the electorate of Grey, has it been a Country Party electorate? Is the electorate of Wakefield a Country Party electorate? What about Darling? Is that Country Party territory? I have mentioned four of the seven electorates and we do not own even one of them. If one considers the 3 electorates in Queensland, although we happen to own them at the moment -
– You happen to what?
-We own them at the moment. They happen to be ours.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bonner)- Order! The honourable senator will be kind enough to address his remarks to the Chair and not indulge in bandying comments across the chamber.
– I will do that, Mr Acting Deputy President, although I had to reply to the people who were urging me on. What I am saying is that the 3 Country Party seats in Queensland which we presently hold -
– Hold; that is better.
-Of the 3 seats which have Country Party members, if that satisfies Senator Georges, who cannot understand the rest or does not appreciate what the rest is, two have been traditional Labor seats. If one considers the history, an average of five out of the seven have been traditional Labor seats. So we are not looking after our own Party, we are looking after the people in remote areas. We are not even worrying about our own members. They will get around and do a job. No matter how large their electorates are, they will still do the job. We believe that people who live in remote areas have a need for specialised representation and, if necessary, for more members.
– They need a resident member.
-No, they should have more representatives in the House of government, just as in this House the smaller States have equal representation with the larger States. That is my argument. One of these days we will reach a situation where people will not live in the remote areas because they are treated like second class citizens and do not have adequate representation. A lot of people outside the greater metropolitan area of Brisbane, and no doubt Senator Georges is aware of this, are so disappointed with the centralisation of government and with their representation both in Queensland and in the federal sphere that a new
State is being talked about. There is even talk of secession, the idea being that at least we would be able to look after ourselves and not have every problem dragged to the southern areas. As Senator Georges would know from his travels around Queensland, that feeling does exist. We have to ensure that the minority of people who live in remote areas and who do not have the numbers to be able to put their case are given special consideration. Otherwise, decentralisation will be just another talking point and will never be implemented.
It is interesting to note that although reference has been made to the principle of one vote one value, under the provisions of this Bill there will be differences of quotas between States. Some States will have an average of 69 000 electors in an electorate and others will go back to 67 000 electors. While I support and will defend the proposition that those seats over 5000 square kilometres in area should not have any fewer voters than the urban seats, I still think that the proposition does not go far enough. I hope that at the next redistribution common sense will prevail and people who live in the remote areas of this nation will receive electoral justice.
– At the moment the Senate is debating 3 Bills cognately- the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill, the Census and Statistics Amendment Bill, and the Representation Amendment Bill. We on this side of the chamber are opposing the motions for the second and third readings of the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill and will be opposing clauses 7, 10 and 1 1 of that Bill in the Committee stage. I was interested to hear Senator Maunsell say that he would like the 20 per cent tolerance still to apply. I am concerned, and I hope the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) will give me an answer later on, that this Bill allows for a greater scope and a greater imbalance than the 20 per cent tolerance which used to apply. Senator Maunsell also said that we on this side of the chamber believe in one vote one value when it suits us. We support the principle of one vote one value because we believe in it.
I want to deal now with clauses 7, 10 and 1 1 of the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill. Clause 7 provides for the insertion in section 19 of 2 new sub-sections to the effect that the distribution commissioners shall ensure that no division having an area of 5000 square kilometres or more shall have a number of electors greater than the number of electors of any division of less than 5000 square kilometres. As has already been said today by Senator Walsh, I believe that is a sop to the Country Party and that distance and size alone should not be the only criteria. I believe that we should be looking at socioeconomic factors when we look at boundaries and tolerances in electorates, and that those sorts of things should be taken into consideration. In referring to social tolerance, I think there are special circumstances, and I use the example of an electorate which might have a large migrant population and therefore a smaller than normal enrolment. I was very pleased to hear Senator Young speak about the electorate of Grayndler because I believe that is a classic example of an electorate which has a small enrolment but in fact has a very large population and, because of its large migrant population, has a lot of problems. It could also be said that an electorate with a large number of Aborigines would come into this category. Further, the small rural electorates might need more attention than some of the large rural electorates about which Senator Maunsell spoke, and I use the electorate of Richmond as an example. In area it is a small rural electorate but it has a particular problem at the moment in that its dairy industry has reached the disaster stage.
I believe that to talk about distance alone is completely irrelevant. We have seen the results of poor boundaries. House of Representatives elections held in 1954, 1961, and again in 1969 showed that the party getting the majority of the votes did not get the majority of the seats. I hope we will be able to do away with that situation through this legislation but I do not think we will be able so to do. On my reading of the Bill, clause 10 provides for a redistribution only every 7 years, and I think that could be used as a moratorium for the Country Party. Over a period of 7 years there will be a tremendous shift in population. That shift will be to the outer suburbs of the main cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, and will mean a great disadvantage to the party which happened to hold those seats. It could also affect rural electorates, as well as those on the outskirts of a large city. If the growth centre program is successful, more and more people will go to those rural areas and there will be increases in certain rural electorates and not in others. In my State of New South Wales there is a continuing shift of population to the North Coast and particularly to such electorates as Lyne and Cowper, which would therefore get out of balance with some of the other rural electorates. I believe that such changes could lead to a rural rotten borough system, but at the same time other seats in rural areas could go over the quota. I hope that when the Minister replies he will answer some of our queries about clause 10.
It is clause 1 1 which causes me the greatest concern because it provides for elections at large, yet there do not seem to be any rules. The clause poses a number of questions, and it seems to me that it contains a number of inconsistencies. For example, could the 6 States and the Territories all have different methods of election? That is something I have not been able to work out from reading the legislation. What voting system would be used? Would it be first past the post, multi-preferential or the proportional representation system? If we used that system, would a limited percentage of the vote be required for election- for instance, the 5 per cent which exists in West Germany or in the State of New South Wales, say, would candidates getting less than 3 per cent of the vote win seats in the House of Representatives? I think if this could happen we would be in a disaster situation. Of course this could lead to a completely unrepresentative government in Australia.
A further question I pose is: What would happen in a by-election? I notice that some information we were given today by the Commonwealth Electoral Office contained statistics going back to the year 1900. In 1902 in Tasmania there was a by-election for the House of Representatives. It was held at large with everybody in Tasmania voting. That would not have been too much of a problem in 1902 but let us consider what it would be like today if there were a by-election in New South Wales and it were held at large. It would be a ludicrous situation. It would be unworkable and of course would cost a fortune.
One of the things that concerns me is that we are debating an amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act here this afternoon and we are not talking about any attempt to reform the Act other than in the ways provided. We are not talking about reforming the system of election to this chamber. Any system similar to the one which operated in New South Wales at the last Senate election, when a ballot was held on 13 December and we got a result on 6 February, I believe needs an overhaul. Senator Mulvihill this afternoon spoke about the need for increasing the deposit by Senate candidates. I think it is a pity we are not discussing such things when we are debating an amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. In New South Wales in 1974 we had 73 candidates for the Senate elections and in 1975, 53 candidates. This just confuses the voter. I agree with what Senator Mulvihill said. The deposit must be raised. Our informal vote was 12.31 per cent in 1974. The figure went down slightly but it was still nearly 10 per cent in 1975. Of course this leads to an election lottery system. That is exactly what it was last time when a candidate could gain an additional 25 000 votes if his name was near the top of the ballot paper.
– You want to keep it the preserve of wealthy individuals or parties.
– No, I do not. But when we have a system under which someone who draws the No. 1 position on a ballot paper- he may be completely unrepresentative of any electors in a State in Australia- thereby gets 25 000 votes or more, that system needs an overhaul. The number of informal votes indicates that the situation at the moment certainly discriminates against migrants and poorly educated people. If members of the National Country Party looked at the percentage of informal votes in rural electorates in New South Wales they would certainly be worried about the system and they would be trying to change it.
In a debate concerning the Commonwealth Electoral Act it is a pity we are not discussing the inclusion of party affiliation on ballot papers, mobile voting booths and earlier closing times. A Liberal-Country Party Premier of New South Wales, Mr Lewis, introduced earlier closing times in State elections; the. voting stops at 6 o’clock. Therefore the people are able to know the result much earlier. This is something that we should do. We should also be looking at political advertising and the financing of political parties.
Senator Maunsell referred to the Australian Labor Party National Executive and our conference. I believe that like all other parties in Australia we should be moving towards a national party. I do not believe any of the major parties in Australia at the moment could be described as being a truly national party in that sense. What we ought to be considering in the Senate is the setting up of a committee like the Houghton committee in Britain which recommended government funding for election campaigning. That takes a large amount of the cost off political parties. In Australia it would allow them to move towards being national parties.
– Would you refuse to accept any trade union funds for campaigning?
-No, Senator Young, I would not. But by the same token I do not think you would be refusing funds that came from any large manufacturing interests or rural interests in the community. I raise these questions because I feel that the present system of election to this chamber has become so complicated that it is not understood by the vast majority of voters and for the reasons I have stated it has become something of a lottery, especially in a close contest. Because of this not only does the system come into disrepute but also when we have the sort of election that we had in New South Wales in 1 974 and 1975 I believe that the reputation of this Senate suffers.
– I rise to support the Bill although, as my colleague Senator Maunsell has done, with some reluctance as I notice that the 20 per cent tolerance has not been restored. As was well publicised through the news media, it was suggested that the 7 largest electorates, those of more than 250 000 square kilometres, should be still allowed the 20 per cent tolerance. Those electorates are: Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, Grey and Wakefield in South Australia, Darling in New South Wales, and Kennedy, Maranoa and Leichhardt in Queensland. They are very large electorates and they have peculiar problems. I personally thought it was fair that there should be a 20 per cent tolerance allowed in their cases. However, I support the provision for a 10 per cent tolerance and the provision that no electorate of over 5000 square kilometres should have any more electors than any electorate of under 5000 square kilometres.
Senator Douglas McClelland talked about the disadvantages of urban Australia, especially in the newly developing areas. He would have to be joking. In this debate on these Bills we are looking at the difficulties of urban Australia as compared with rural areas. He mentioned lack of sewerage and so forth. Good heavens above, when one gets out into the far flung areas of our nation- the productive areas- there are no televisions, telephone services or reticulated power, and the only water is what people have in their dam supplies. There is no sewerage. Yet honourable senators have the hide to stand up in this chamber in this debate on electoral matters and talk about the difficulties in the developing urban areas of Australia. Senator Douglas McClelland is a little like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). It is reported that on one occasion in Sydney Mr Whitlam said: ‘By derivation civilised men are those who live in cities; pagans are those who live in the country’. This seems to be indicative of the attitude of honourable senators opposite. If we ignore the country people we do it at our peril. They are the income earners of Australia. They might live in remote areas but I believe they are entitled to consideration.
The 20 per cent variation has been in existence literally since federation. It has existed during the lives of various governments under all parties. It was not until August 1974 that the Australian Labor Party saw fit to remove that provision. The ironic part is that at present there are fewer people living in the western areas than there were a few years ago and because of the fewer people living in the areas -
– Whose fault is that?
– I could mention the inflation that was brought on by Senator Georges’ Government which affected rural areas, the wool industry and the beef industry. Because of the lack of population it is no longer : viable to run daily mail services and we are down to weekly mail services. It is hardly viable to put in telephone lines, but it must be done at great expense to the landholder or to the Government at some time in the future. The previous Government withdrew the air subsidies that provided an air service for mail and fruit and vegetables, etc. There is hardly a decent air mail service in western Queensland now.
– Have you restored them? You have had 15 months and you have not moved.
– Indeed, we did move, Senator McLaren. We stopped the rot and at least maintained one subsidy until we can look at the situation in the future. We are confronted with the situation that the isolation in the western areas of my State- indeed, I would say, probably in most of Australia- is worse now than it was previously. Yet the Labor Party saw fit to remove the 20 per cent tolerance and unfortunately we as a government have gone along with that. To my knowledge there is not a country in the world that does not take into consideration weightage because of problems associated with rural areas. Much has been said about the 1969 Supreme Court ruling in the United States of America which gave credence to the one vote, one value principle. But it was quite noticeable that in 1973 the Americans backed off from that decision. In New Zealand, there is a disparity of at least 5000 people in the size of electorates. I believe that when Mr Daly was Minister for Administrative Services he went to Canada to study the voting situation in that country. The disparity in the size of electorates in Canada runs to the tune of about 70 000 voters. In Great Britain, the mother of parliaments and our democratic system, I believe that a similar disparity of about 70 000 electors exists. I repeat that there is hardly a democratic country in the world which does not allow for the problems associated with remoteness.
The dictionary meaning of the word ‘democracy’ usually mentions in part that it is based on the equality of man. I suppose that it is fair enough for us to talk in a parliamentary democracy of the equality of representation rather than the equality of voting power. Any electoral Act should be based on equality of representation, and thus the problems of serving an electorate. The more we reduce the weightage that is there to protect the rural electorates, the higher the standard of representation we give to the city people in comparison. Much has been said for a long time about the principle of one vote, one value. I am at a loss to know how one puts a value on a vote.
– One person, one vote: It is as simple as that but you will never see it.
– I have tried to define the term ‘one vote, one value’ and it may help Senator Georges if I give that definition. It is a theoretical, mathematical, simplistic and rather nebulous concept of voting power that is easy to conceive, quite difficult to deliver and impossible to give credence to. To have complete -
– Who is the authority?
– I am the authority. I wrote that while I was waiting to speak. To have complete equality of voting power with equality of representation one would want electorates of the same size, the same population, the same population growth patterns, the same geographical features, the same problems, the same industries, the same needs and the same methods of communication and transport. I submit that the concept is ridiculous to contemplate.
Much has been said also by honourable senators to show that they appreciate the problems of the rural areas of Australia. They say that they will give those electorates better facilities. Let us take as an example an electoral division the size of the electorate of Kennedy. At one stage before coming into the Senate when I had a little more time I estimated that in excess of 100 countries are smaller in size than the division of Kennedy. Those countries have their own parliaments, their own leaders and their own public services. Yet in Australia we expect one man to look after such a large area. We have talked about giving members of Parliament who represent these large areas more facilities. What sort of facilities would we need for an area the size of the electorates of Grey, Darling and Maranoa to allow representation equal to that expected by city people? I say that such a member would need to have on call at least 6 vehicles scattered at strategic points. He would probably need a twinengined aircraft with instrument flight rules capability and an IFR qualified pilot. He would probably need to have an IFR helicopter available also. He would probably need staff in any one of half a dozen places and offices also. It is ridiculous for us even to contemplate the argument that by the mere giving of facilities we can provide representation to people in rural areas which is equal to that given to people in the city areas. Some time ago I canvassed many of the people in my area about the problems of isolation. I will read two or three extracts from the letters I received so that the problems faced by these people are on the record. These problems must be considered when we are looking at equality of representation. The letter I have before me is from the Croydon Shire Council in northern Queensland. I will read extracts from the letter:
TV does not exist- some of the people have never seen TV . . . The radio service is poor. It is impossible to hear the coastal radio station and most of the time we can only get 4JK Julia Creek and 4MI Mount Isa. Sometimes at night we are able to hear some of the stronger southern radio stations. We have one overland mail service per week from Cairns, arriving here on Wednesdays, and one per week from Normanton, also arriving on Wednesdays. The only airmail service arrives on Friday mornings . . . The telephone service for incoming calls operates only from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m on Mondays to Fridays and from 9 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturdays. A street telephone box was installed on 31 May 1976, which may be used for outgoing calls at all times. Most of the business in this area is done through Cairns -
I must also say that the member of Parliament who represents these people lives in Cairns-
That is the position in one place in northern Queensland. The Diamantina Shire Council based at Bedourie sent me a letter which states:
Firstly our weekly road mail service from Boulia to Bedoune has been abandoned.
Secondly our weekly air mail service from Mt Isa has been abandoned and replaced by a supposedly fortnightly service . . . which happens along at very infrequent intervals.
Thirdly we have accepted the fact that television communication in this area will never be a reality and its associated social and educational benefits will never be felt by the people of this region.
Fourthly and lastly one must acknowledge that party line telephones have been installed in the past twelve months in Bedourie. Needless to say every out going call is a trunk call and the costs of using this form of communication are not reducing -
I received this letter from the wife of a station owner living up on the Cape. I hope that honourable senators will take note of some of the despair that is evident in this letter. She states:
Today there is no future and no living left. All costs have trebled and all government subsidies cut off. The meat prices are below a paying margin from up here . . .Transporting cattle from this area has always been a major problem and big expense. At least in 1972 we did have the ‘Ida Clausin ‘ cattle boat then subsidised by the Government.
Our cattle were droved overland for three weeks to Marina Plains, where they were loaded onto the cattle boat which delivered them to Queerah Meatworks. Total cost being $14.00 a head. Today we have no boat and no Government subsidy. So cattle sent from here to Queerah meatworks costs $33.00 a head- a big increase.
The road is so bad that semitrailers are unable to come to Coen or on to Meripah.
Meripah is the name of the station. She continues:
So we have to carry the cattle on our own body truck (experiencing many difficult river crossings) to transport our stock to market- a distance of 440 miles.
Further on in the letter she states:
The radio service has always been very poor. I guess we are lucky to have reception from 6.30 p.m. to 6.15 in the morning. Usually we can hear the Country Session at 6.15 and after this the wireless is U.S. for the rest of the day.
To have the television would be marvellous- both for company and for the news. It would be appreciated by everybody as we are cut off by road for 6 months of the year and some wet years 8 months. During the wet season when the men are camped out mustering. I am often home alone from 4 to 6 weeks. These are times when television would pass the lonely hours of darkness. We live in hopes that one day we will be given this luxury … Up until early 1973 we were serviced by a weekly mail plane. This was beaut! as we received fresh food, urgent pans for vehicles and engines as well as mail and papers. Also our childrens’ correspondence schooling . . . Just over two years ago we were placed on a fortnightly mail service operating from Cooktown. This is not at all satisfactory but I guess it was better than none. It now takes a month to receive goods ordered from Cairns also its slow for letters and business papers forwarded for signatures. Should the Ansett plane to Coen be overloaded on Tuesday, our goods are often left behind in Cairns. Thus making it 6 weeks before we receive the goods.
The Government subsidy was taken off that air service. I read those extracts just to show honourable senators the difficulties when we talk about equality of representation for people in country areas. Yet we have heard the argument advanced from honourable senators opposite that even having a 10 per cent tolerance in the size of electorates represents a sop to the members of the National Country Party. I believe it is a very necessity if we are to look after the people who depend on us. Rural people provide a disproportionately large contribution to our export efforts. This in itself is not a sufficient reason for a weightage allowance. However, it is quite wrong that the political view of these people should be swamped by the political views of the people in the cities. Representation means far more than just marking a ballot paper. It means the right to be fully and properly served by one ‘s member, to converse and consult, to offer and to be receptive to ideas and to see first hand community and industry problems. In short, it means the principle of the visibility of the legislator.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I mentioned the principle of the visibility of the legislator. It is a necessary and indeed a vital ingredient in obtaining equal representation in Parliament and, therefore, equal value for one’s vote. The right of the representative to see and to be seen by and have proper communications with those whom he represents should be paramount in the provisions of any electoral Act. Given the best will in the world, all the facilities and all the staff, proper representation would be largely denied to many Australians because of the sheer vastness, isolation and lack of communication and transport in our rural areas. I pose the question: How do we value a vote? If we have not a constant, reliable telephone service, the value of our vote is less than that of somebody who has. If our mail service is irregular and unreliable, that also lessens the value of our vote. If we do not have television, our radio reception is bad and newspaper deliveries are few and far between, the value of our vote is diminished. If we cannot see our member personally and he cannot see us and our problems, how can any real value be placed on our vote?
As I said, I regret that the Government has seen fit to remove the 20 per cent tolerance. I believe that it is a retrograde step. It represents a lessening in the equality of representation and a diminution in the value of the vote of many Australians. However, I commend the Government for standing fast against a one vote one value principle that has been espoused by so many members of this chamber over a long period, for providing at least a 10 per cent tolerance and for giving general recognition to the problems of the people in rural Australia.
– in reply- I thank honourable senators for the contribution they have made to this debate. I regret that the Opposition will vote against the second reading of the Bill. As I understand it, the Opposition’s reason for proposing to vote against the Bill at the second reading stage is not only because it is opposed to the clause concerning the 5000 square KIL-o-metre or kil-o-METRE parameter.
– We accept KIL-o-metre.
-I call them Ks. It is much easier and then I do not get into a disputation and have to take sides between your Leader and one of his distinguished colleagues in an argument on semantics.
I think one of the arguments put by my friend, if not colleague, Senator Douglas McClelland was that it was not really necessary to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act in order to carry out a redistribution. My advisers tell me that there may be an argument in support of that proposition. But against that there is a body of legal opinion which believes that, to be on the safe side, the Act ought to be amended to comply, as far as is humanly possible, with the recent decisions of the High Court. Perhaps we are erring on the cautious side but the law officers to the Government have advised that, whilst we may get away with it, should a redistribution take place and an election be held and we did not really take this extra step, such action could be subject to a challenge which might succeed. We are basically taking extra insurance cover by erring on the side of caution. As against that, of course, there is also the Government’s desire to amend section 1 9 of the Act.
A number of things were said here today to which I was rather fascinated to listen. This sort of electoral folklore which has been embedded in all parties in this Parliament came out in the debate. Somebody said- I think it was Senator Douglas McClelland- that to get electoral justice the party that gets the greatest percentage of the votes ought to get the greatest number of seats. That is quite true in a theoretical sense but the problem is that it does not work out that way.
-It just does not do so. I cite to the Senate a few simple figures which I shall seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard later. If one looks at the anticipated number of seats a State as a result of the census figures if nothing else and then at the total enrolment as at December 1976, one finds that the quota of electors in South Australia is 7 1 841 yet the quota of electors for the Northern Territory is 40 129. There is a disparity of votes of 3 1 7 12 in a quota sense between the size of the seats in South Australia and the Northern Territory. How then does one achieve one vote one value? Again taking the highest figure-that is, that of South Australia with 71 841 electors-the disparity between its quota and the Tasmanian quota which is 52 103 electors is 19 738. The disparity between South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory which has a quota of 59 687 electors is about 12 154 electors. The disparity between South Australia and my own State of Western Australia with 67 083 electors is about 4758.
I suggest to the Senate that, whether one uses a 10 per cent variation or a 20 per cent variation, one is likely to get a greater variation in the quota between States than one would ever get intrastate. For senators to talk about this always rather amuses me. I have just had a quick look through the total enrolment figures again and I find that Senator Douglas McClelland who comes from New South Wales and is one of 10 New South Wales senators, represents over 300 000 electors. Our colleagues from the Northern Territory represent about 20 000 electors, yet they have an equal vote in this place. Victorian senators represent some 245 000 electors, Queensland senators over 122 000, South Australian senators over 79 000, Western Australian senators over 67 000 and Tasmanian senators over 26 000. Our colleagues from the Australian Capital Territory represent over 59 000 electors. How then can there be one man one vote in this place? That is not to say that a goal of elections is that as far as is humanly possible the will of the electorate ought to be represented in the Parliament. I know that one should not necessarily use those figures because this is a House arising out of peculiarities of a Federation.
Let us look at the House of Representatives seats. Relying on the High Court judgment and staying with the 10 per cent variation, we find that the quota of electors, theoretically- because we know it will vary intra-State- will vary from 7 1 841 in South Australia to 40 129 in the Northern Territory. I do not think that anybody would say that the Northern Territory ought not to be represented in this place. But this just points up the difficulties of trying to arrive at what is popularly called ‘electoral justice’, especially in single member constituencies. Apart from when the Democratic Labor Party was represented in this chamber, I have never heard anybody in this Parliament argue that the House of Representatives ought to be elected on other than single member electorates. We know that the Democratic Labor Party used to argue for proportional representation in the other place. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table showing the total enrolment in all States and Territories as at 31 December, the number of anticipated seats and the quota of electors.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted?
The table read as follows-
Another argument that has been bruited is whether the tolerance should be 10 per cent or 20 per cent. I was interested to read in The West Australian- -I read newspapers on Saturdays- of Thursday 17 February an article by a journalist called Tony Warton. He said some surprising things. I shall quote from that article. He said:
The old tolerance was halved by the former Labor Government. It enabled the number of electors in two seats in the same State to vary by up to 40 per cent.
That is one of the myths that has been kicked around for I do not know how long. Everybody has got into the act. I should have thought that a journalist representing a serious and responsible newspaper would have a least checked his facts as to how the Act operates.
I have some information from the Chief Electoral officer. I take it to be accurate. I think all honourable senators would. It relates to the redistributions of 1948, 1955 and 1962. A 20 per cent tolerance applied under the old criteria. The information shows that in New South Wales all the seats except one were always within the 10 per cent tolerance. In Victoria 3 seats did not come within that tolerance in 1948. All the seats did after the other redistributions. I shall not continue to read through this table but to show honourable senators how important the 20 per cent tolerance per se was I seek leave to have the table prepared by the Chief Electoral Officer incorporated in Hansard.
THE PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Re: Deviation from the Quota at the time of Re-distribution 1948-1975
I refer to your request, telephoned by your Private Secretary, Mr Robert Maher, on 13 February, 1976, for information relation to deviations from the quota in respect of Divisions as proposed in re-distributions 1 948- 1 975.
Chief Australian Electoral Officer 13 February 1975
– What appears to be important from the evidence I have been able to gather is not so much the 10 per cent or 20 per cent variation but the criteria to which the Distribution Commissioners direct their attention. I have a table showing the criteria which operated under section 19 of the Electoral Act or its equivalent sections between 1902 and 1974. Basically, for the first 65 years of the Parliament the criteria remained unchanged. The great changes were made in 1965 and that had an effect on the variations. The criteria were again changed by legislation in 1974. One of the interesting things which appears as one casts one’s mind back to this legislation is that if the Labor Party was so interested in electoral justice why did it not go back totally to the criteria existing prior to 1965? It did not do that. It left one aspect unchanged which advantaged the metropolitan as against the non-metropolitan seats.
This is contained in sub-section (c) of section 19, namely, the trend of population changes within the State.
I put it to honourable senators that one cannot pick out from section 1 9 the aspects that one likes and ignore the others. I imagine that the Distribution Commissioners read the section as a whole. The idea of the criteria set out in section 19 is, amongst a number of things, to give a balancing effect. To save honourable senators looking up 4 district Acts of Parliament I seek leave to incorporate some information prepared by the Electoral Office as to the redistribution guidelines for the period between 1902 and 1974.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted?
The document read as follows-
-It appears that those who made extravagant statements about a variation of 20 per cent up or down or 40 per cent up or down have never really studied what the Distribution Commissioners have done. I received yesterday a new book prepared by the Electoral Office on all electoral statistics since 1 90 1 to date.
I hope it will be distributed to all honourable senators and honourable members shortly.
– I will buy 100 copies.
-I will sell them to the honourable senator. They are $1.65. They are going cheap. I might even give him a discount for 1000.I flipped through this book about 10 minutes before I came into the Parliament. I was fascinated to see that in a Senate election in 1901 when voting was voluntary and the first passed the post system applied only 54 per cent of the people voted and there was an informal vote of 11 per cent. In the last election when some 95 per cent of the people voted under the proportional representation system with those huge ballot papers, the informal vote had fallen to 9.1 per cent. One of the great myths has been that the great number of candidates in a proportional representation system has led to more and more informal votes. Over 75 years the variations rose and fell from 1 1 per cent to 4 per cent. They rose and fell with different electoral systems. The book contains some fascinating information. I commend its reading to everybody.
– I suppose people are disillusioned with the Parliament?
-No. We used to win most elections in those days. They were never disillusioned. I have a table entitled ‘The Mean Deviation from the Quota in Metropolitan and Non-Metropolitan Divisions as proposed by the Distribution Commissioners in 1955, 1962, 1968 and 1974-5.’ We are talking about the broad area of the deviations from quota in metropolitan and non-metropolitan divisions and the wicked 20 per cent up or down variation. It is an irrelevance whether the variation is 20 per cent or 10 per cent. The variation in New South Wales for the metropolitan divisions in 1962 was to 2.96 per cent above and for non-metropolitan divisions it was to 4.06 per cent below. That is a long way from 40 per cent up or 40 per cent down. In 1968 in South Australia the variation was from 3.59 per cent above in the metropolitan divisions to 7.18 per cent below in the nonmetropolitan divisions. I put it to honourable senators that whilst it might be possible to pick variations from the lowest metropolitan division to the highest metropolitan division in a State, that is not a fair test of how the Distribution Commissioners have operated. Other tests are put upon them as to how to operate and make their redistribution. I do not know whether this table has been made public before. I think it will be of great interest. It is in the public record for those who like to scramble through all the redistributions of those years. I seek leave to have this table incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted. There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
-In spite of what the media says and in spite of what people may be saying on the other side of the chamber as to the intention of Government Parties, I assure them that they are all wrong. I draw everybody’s attention to these tables. It will be seen that whether the variation is 10 per cent or 20 per cent is not of great relevance as are the guidelines as set down in section 19 of the Act. I invite honourable senators to look at the figures and see for themselves. For goodness sake, if we are to discuss electoral matters intelligently and sanely in this Parliament can we please speak from facts and not from folklore of the past. It is very good stuff for political point scoring outside but I do not think it advances the Parliamentary institution. I have just realised that I did not intend to make that speech.
– Do it on the referendum Bills.
– I do not get the point of that rather irrelevant interjection. That is the reason that the Government came to the conclusion that whether the variation is 10 per cent or 20 per cent, if one looks at the historical information it does not matter over much.
The other matter adverted to by Senator Douglas McClelland was the clause about the period of 7 years. There is certainly an argument, for the electors even more than for the member, that there should be some certainty as to who the member is. As I remember the Bill before the
Senate, all we are saying in relation to this clause is that the 7-year proposition will apply only when more than 25 per cent of the electorates are out of tolerance. There is still to be reserved to the Governor-General the option of having a redistribution at any time he thinks fit. We take it that the Governor-General would be acting there on the advice of the executive government. So there is still to be embodied in the Act provision for a government, if that government so desires, to have a redistribution at any time it likes.
What the Bill is saying is that there shall be a redistribution if 25 per cent of the electorates are more than 10 per cent out of tolerance, but there shall not be redistributions at intervals of less than 7 years. In my opinion that has not been put there for the benefit of members of Parliament; it has been put there basically for the benefit of electors. I was interested to hear Senator Mulvihill say that New South Wales always has a redistribution just before an election. I am wondering whether that is for the benefit of the members of Parliament in that State or the electors. But, after all, we are dealing with smaller electorates in that regard. In the future a member of the House of Representatives from the mainland States will have to service an electorate that runs between 67 000 and 7 1 000 electors. That is electors and not people because, as honourable senators would know, in a large number of electorates there are unnaturalised migrants and people who have not yet attained the voting age. A member of the House of Representatives is called upon to look after a far greater number of people than any of his State colleagues. I think we all recognise that. The only people who do not seem to recognise it are the members of the Remuneration Tribunal that was set up by an Act of this Parliament. But I think it would be recognised all round the Parliament and basically by the electorate at large.
I think that covers most of the comments that were raised during the course of the debate today. There is nothing that we can do about the disparity between electorates between States. The High Court has said that there is a certain method of determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to which each State will be entitled. That in itself will bring about a distortion between the States as to the number of electors who will send members to this Parliament. Intra-state there cannot be a deviation from the quota of more than 10 per cent. The fact that we have added the provision that no electorate exceeding S000 square kilometres in area shall contain more electors than those under that area is but justice. As the Bill is framed, there is nothing to prevent the distribution commissioners giving them all exactly the same number of electors- it is only that the large electorates cannot have more electors. They may have the same number.
I have no intention of directing- attempting to direct, would be a more proper way of putting it- the distribution commissioners as to what they will bring in. It may well be that the distribution commissioners will bring in electorates almost of equal size. They have this capacity under the Act. They could bring in electorates of over 5000 square kilometres in area containing just one less elector than those under 5000 square kilometres in area. I think the proposition is reasonable. It is workable. It is a proposition which is recognised by the Remuneration Tribunal. It has recognised that members of the House of Representatives whose electorates are over that size suffer certain disabilities and experience certain problems in looking after their electorates. For that very reason the members of the House of Representatives who represent those electorates get certain extra benefits by way of electoral allowances, overnight stays, access to charter aircraft and a variety of subjects going right up to the entitlements of the members representing the enormous electorates. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie, whose electorate Senator Walsh said is, I think, 1 6 times the size of Victoria, is entitled to 2 electorate officers and various other methods of servicing his large electorate. It is not an unreasonable proposition.
I am delighted to see that the honourable member for Kalgoorlie has just arrived in the chamber. There is a disability allowance for honourable members who have to look after large electorates. But every electorate in Australia has its own problems. Some electorates are close to Canberra; others are very far distant. Some electorates are small in area; others are large in area. Some have in the main only electors; others have not only electors but also a large population of unnaturalised migrants. It is really not a sensible proposition to try to compare electorate with electorate on that basis.
Whilst I think there is general acceptance in the Parliament of what might be called the theoretical proposition of one vote one value, there must be a recognition that in the Australian Federation, with the Tasmanian constitutional entitlement to 5 seats and with the Territorial representation, the proposition of one man one vote in this community is mathematically impossible to achieve. I put that in the gentlest of ways -not in a party political sense but as a matter of record and as a matter of fact. What I do put to the Senate is that I believe, and I am sure most of us believe, that those who are elected to the House of Representatives should, as far as is humanly possible, represent the will of the electorate. The Government’s amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act will bring that into being. I thank my colleagues for their support of the Bill. I am sorry that honourable senators opposite have misunderstood the purpose of it.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 7 (Matters to be considered in distribution of a State.)
– Clause 7 was the subject of much discussion during the second reading debate. It contains the provision now being inserted into the Commonwealth Electoral Act by the Government to provide that electorates with an area of S000 square kilometres or more shall not have an electoral voting population which is greater than that of the smallest division within that State. As we mentioned earlier this afternoon, we believe that that provision will be a bind on the task that will be given to the electoral commissioners in drawing up reasonable and sensible boundaries based on the principle of ensuring that the party with the greatest majority of votes on a percentage basis has the majority of seats in the Parliament.
– You just hate rural people, don’t you.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDSenator Webster has just said that I and the Labor Party hate rural people. Nothing can be further from the truth. My affinity and affiliation with rural people would be equally as good, I suggest, as those of Senator Webster. If anyone is concerned about the Labor Party being opposed to people in rural areas, if what the Leader of the Government (Senator Withers) has said is correct I have not had the opportunity of checking or looking at the tables that he had incorporated in Hansard- I suggest, with great respect to Senator Webster, that the Minister has very gently given an admonition to members of the
National Country Party. I thought the Minister made that quite clear when he said that if one looks at the tables he produced there is very little difference, so far as the electoral position is concerned, between the 20 per cent variant and the 10 per cent variant. Yet all afternoon we have heard our friends from the National Country Party saying that it was a terrible thing, even though they had to go along with it, that the Government had acceded to preserving the 10 per cent variant in the Commonwealth Electoral Act that was introduced by the Labor Government at the joint sitting of the Parliament.
I am not going to be diverted to those things. Suffice for me to say that all the matters raised by my friends from the National Country Party this afternoon about service to an electorate and the provision of electoral amenities can be protected by the determinations made by the Remuneration Tribunal and accepted or otherwise by this Parliament.
– Let us face it; I am talking about the people in country areas, not the members in this Parliament. Because of the problems that members in this Parliament have in serving country areas the Remuneration Tribunal has recommended, and this Parliament has determined by vote, that people who represent country electorates, be they Liberal Party members, National Country Party members or Labor Party members, are entitled to additional services, and emolument by way of allowance if you like, over and above those enjoyed by members who represent city or smaller electorates.
For instance, the electorate allowance of those who represent electorates of 5000 square kilometres or more is larger than the electorate allowance awarded by the Parliament to those who represent city electorates or electorates of less than 5000 square kilometres. Those who represent electorates of 30 000 square kilometres are entitled to the use of private aircraft or charter aircraft. Frankly, if the National Country Party wants to make a submission to the Remuneration Tribunal that there be additional electoral assistance to enable members who serve country electorates to do so more effectively, be they members of the National Country Party, the Liberal Party or the Labor Party, we would support it. Honourable senators from the National Country Party of Australia argued today that, because some area did not have a television station, because someone could not listen to radio, or because there was an inadequate road in an area, those people so affected were entitled to have a higher quality vote in Federal elections. We do not accept that argument.
We believe that the Remuneration Tribunal is charged with the responsibility of making determinations. Those determinations, which are subject to the approval or otherwise of this Parliament, enable members to service their electorate and the electors they represent effectively. As far as we are concerned, if honourable senators on the Government side want to give television services to the people of Croydon, as was mentioned by our friend Senator Collard from Queensland earlier this evening, we will support that proposal. But honourable senators should not come here and say that, because there is no television station in Croydon, people there are entitled to a greater representation in the Parliament than are people who live in the outer metropolitan areas of any of the capital cities who depend on expanding services and requirements.
-They are entitled to the use of a charter aircraft.
– As my colleague, Senator McAuliffe, has said, members who represent those electorates are entitled to the use of a charter aircraft under the existing determination of the Remuneration Tribunal. Having made that point, I get back to the gravamen of the provision which is now being inserted by clause 7 of the Bill. Certainly within the existing Act and within the terms of this Bill there can be at the maximum only a 10 per cent variation from the quota. Let me refer to the State which I represent, New South Wales, in which to all intents and purposes it may be assumed some 43 divisions will be created under a determination to be made by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer on the latest statistical figures available to him. There will be a quota in each electorate of some 70 000 electors. That means that with a 10 per cent variant the determination for an electorate can vary from 63 000 electors at the bottom to 77 000 electors at the top.
I suggest to the Minister for Administrative Services- he can correct me if I am wrong- that we could have a situation under the clause as it is framed now where an electorate smaller than 5000 square kilometres could have an electorate voting population of, we will say, 65 000 electors. Every other seat of 5000 square kilometres or more within that State must have a population of below 65 000 electors but above 63 000 electors. If that position arises that, in fact, is a heavily weighted situation for country electorates or for wider flung electorates. We believe that that situation destroys the principle of one vote, one value. I suggest that because that situation could well arise the Government is virtually destroying the principle it was intended to embody within the 10 per cent variant, that is, the general overall principle of one vote, one value.
I agree with what the Minister said in reply to Senator Georges last week. It is possible under these arrangements for electoral commissioners to make a distribution, inasmuch as is humanly possible, with the same number of people in an equal number of divisions within a State. Likewise, we could have a situation where a small electorate, such as an inner city electorate, is determined with an electoral quota of 70 000 electors to have a voting population of 65 000 electors. I see the Minister shaking his head. I will be interested to hear his point. But it appears to me that that provision could well apply.
If one turns to the last determination of the Remuneration Tribunal, one will see that some 47 electorates within the Commonwealth were of 5000 square kilometres or more. Of these, 14 were in New South Wales, 10 in Queensland, and, as my colleague Senator Walsh said earlier this afternoon, 10 were in Victoria, which geographically is one of the smallest States in Australia, 4 were in South Australia, 4 in Western Australia, 4 in Tasmania and, of course, the Northern Territory was one. This makes a total of 47 electorates. We of the Australian Labor Party believe that this concept which is now being written into the Act by this clause waters down the 10 per cent variant which was written into the Act by the Labor Government at the Joint Sitting in August 1974. We do not believe that we can allow a watering down of that general, overall principle which more than ever effectively introduced for the first time as near as was humanly possible the principle of one vote, one value. We oppose the clause which is introduced by the Bill.
- Mr Chairman, could I say something which may save a lot of people from labouring under misconceptions. Senator Douglas McClelland said that I was shaking my head. I was shaking my head for a very simple mathematical reason. The honourable senator put the proposition that we could take a seat in the inner area of Sydney which was put at 10 per cent below quota and all the other seats exceeding 5000 square kilometres would have to be below quota. That is a very interesting theory except there is one problem in the way. It appears that, if New South Wales is to have 43 seats, it will end up with 29 seats of less than 5000 square kilometres and with 14 seats of more than 5000 square kilometres. It is mathematically impossible to have one of the 29 seats 10 per cent below quota and then have 14 other seats below that. That just will not work. That is part of the electoral folklore. I really wish people would not start to put those sort of propositions which are a total mathematical impossibility.
– What do you say is the maximum variant?
– We can work off the tables which have been used in the past. I will quickly run through the variations for New South Wales in 4 distributions, namely, in 1955, 1962, 1968 and 1974. Of those, three had a 20 per cent variation and one a 10 per cent variation. In 1955 the metropolitan seats were plus 2.4 per cent and minus 3.5 per cent- that is above and below. In 1962 the figures were plus 2.9 per cent and minus 4 per cent. In 1968 they were plus 4.9 per cent and minus 7.4 per cent. In 1974 the 10 per cent variant started to bite and the figures were minus 0.66 per cent and plus 1.09 per cent. So 10 per cent is the limiting factor. Where we are dividing seats, and 14 are more than 5000 square kilometres and 29 are less than 5000 square kilometres, there is, in a mathematical sense, just no way we can put one of 29 seats 10 per cent below and then put the other 14 seats below that again. It is a mathematical impossibility. I do not know what the Commissioners will do. I suppose if we had a computer most likely we could work it out, but the sort of general expectation I have is that if we depart from the average, which has happened in the past, the metropolitan seats in, say, New South Wales will most likely be 3 per cent above the quota and with the big electorates over 5000 square kilometres 4 per cent below it. That is about the variation-plus 3 per cent, minus 4 per cent- because with the 10 per cent tolerance the ratio of one-third to two-thirds controls it. That is why I become a little cross when people use what are in fact mathematical impossibilities.
Victoria looks like having 33 seats. There will be nine seats of more than 5000 square kilometres and 24 seats of less than 5000 square kilometres. So there is the one-third to two-thirds ratio again and we would run into the same problems as we would have in New South Wales. We cannot have one seat out of twentyfour 10 per cent below the average and still achieve equality between the others. In Victoria over the same period there were variations from plus 1.4 per cent to minus 2.8 per cent, plus 1 per cent to minus 1.9 per cent, plus 3 per cent to minus 6 per cent, and plus 0.3 per cent to minus 0.7 per cent. So again it is within that range.
– Terrific, Senator.
-I think it is important that we do not rush away with folklore. I know that in the end we may get a number of electors in the largest seat of less than 5000 square kilometres greater than the smallest number of electors in a seat exceeding that area but, as I understand how the Distribution Commissioners work, they have to strike a mean variation from the quota. That is one of the reasons I incorporated the tables. In the 6 States over the 4 redistributions we were hemmed in and the previous Government in the redistribution which was proposed by it was hemmed in even more because the 10 per cent variation started to bite. Whereas there could be plus twos and minus fours with the 20 per cent variation, with a 10 per cent variation we will have plus twos and minus threes. We would really be hemmed in on that mathematical equation.
– I enter this debate to support Senator Douglas McClelland. From the reply of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) and what was said in the second reading debate I doubt whether what is sought to be achieved by the Opposition’s attitude to this legislation is understood. When I hear interjections such as ‘you hate rural people’, which I heard tonight, it shows that there is a complete misunderstanding of our position. The Opposition believes in democracy and we want the most democratic system to apply to elections for the Federal House. ‘Democracy’ comes from 2 Greek words which mean the power of the people and, therefore, if we believe in democracy we will elect a government which truly represents the people, and as near as we can we will elect representatives to represent an equal number of people. Therefore, in determining a division, while we allow a variation of 10 per cent -
– Why did you not do that if you believe in the theory you have j lust stated?
-I will go to more elementary things for the backward minds.
– I think you are displaying the backward mind. There is no equality of votes between the States and you ought to know it.
– What about the Federal Executive of the Labor Party?
-They are the laws of an organisation, not the laws which relate to the election of representatives to Parliament in a democracy. We are past the stage when on a Sunday morning we could have a meeting on the village green of all the residents of the area. That was pure democracy. However, we try to come as close as we can in electing representation and if there were any way of having no variation at all we would adopt it, but we believe that there is no such way and that because of the shifting of populations and for other reasons there must be some variation between electorates. However, the variation must be kept to a minimum. This will bring about a position where because of the concentration of population in metropolitan areas hardship will be created for certain members. I heard it argued today whether the hardship faced by the member for Adelaide was greater than the hardship faced by the member for Wakefield. I do not know the answer but I think the Parliament has a responsibility to make allowances for the hardship faced by a member by providing perhaps extra assistance or extra allowances.
If we depart from the system to avoid the creation of hardship we will depart from the principle of true representation of the people and will destroy democracy. That is the whole question. It is not a matter of non-recognition of the hardship faced by the people of the outback about whom Senator Collard spoke. Those people should have equality with people in other areas who do not suffer those hardships. In this Parliament we have a responsibility to try to relieve the hardship rather than to give greater representation to those facing it, thus creating a minority which has a bigger say than the majority. There are many difficulties in this legislation, not only because it permits bigger electorates that will not have a number of electors greater than the number in small city seats but also because it involves a direction to the Distribution Commissioners which will inhibit them doing what they did previously, that is, anticipate the movements of people from area to area. Whether there was a 10 per cent or a 20 per cent variation, the Distribution Commissioners previously could load an electorate from which history showed there was a drift of population to another area and could reduce the loading on the area which was developing so that it would reach the quota within a short time.
As Senator Withers said in his reply, whilst there are metropolitan areas in New South Wales which are 2.4 per cent over the quota, there are also areas which are 2.5 per cent under the quota. This is the sort of movement of population which could be anticipated in a developing area. With the provision that 7 years can elapse before the next redistribution, meaning that there will be no alteration to the number of representatives in a State, the population of developing areas could double in that time. We are restricting the Commissioners from creating an electorate with less than a quota in cases where it can see the possibility of the progressive growth of electors, an action which would reduce the percentage variation in a State because the Commission had made provision for the progress of an area. The Commission cannot make that provision under this legislation because there would be so many large areas which it would have to reduce to conform with the quota and this could never be justified. The whole proposal is out of proportion. With the drift of people in some States from the country to metropolitan areas, in 7 years there would be a horrible disproportion and the 10 per cent variation principle would be destroyed.
– Does not the evidence of Professor Borrie show that that movement is slowing?
-I think that in some States it is slowing, but surely that is one of the questions the commissioners must take into consideration if they accept Professor Borrie ‘s report. Whether there is a drift from the city to the country or from the country to the city, there are areas in the city which, as every honourable senator knows, will expand greatly within 7 years and the number of electors on the roll will increase. Although provision was made previously for that through the below-quota system, it cannot be made under this legislation because so many large electorates have to be reduced in size. I have in mind one city electorate which was below the quota because of the progress that had occurred in the area. Labor opposes this provision because it represents a destruction of the true meaning of democracy- the representation of equal numbers of people.
– I enter the debate to amplify further the arguments of Senator Douglas McClelland. We cannot get away from the fact that this legislation is an addendum to, or perhaps a dilution, of the original intention of the High Court decision. Taking the matter to the next stage and dealing with the comments by the Country Party senators about the pressures experienced by them, I think that the Country Party senators are selling themselves short. I have always had a wholesome respect for the way in which they utilise their political resources. In New South Wales the Country Party always uses its senators very effectively, and its integration of activities is borne out by the fact that in New South Wales it is fighting strongly to retain the Legislative Council. The Country Party has what I would call State senators in strategic places in New South Wales, and the Party members all mesh together. The Country Party senators from Queensland and New South Wales, and Senator Scott in particular, will appreciate this analogy although the senators from the other States will not. The Country Party uses its people like lock forwards in rugby or centre-halves in soccer. It moves them into attack or defence. I do not like speaking disrespectfully of any member who is no longer in the national Parliament, but when I came here we had a very redoubtable Country Party senator, Senator Bull -
-(Senator DrakeBrockman) - I think the honourable senator should come back to the clause.
-I am talking about this clause and I am rebutting the argument that, in effect, our opposition means that we are denying services to the big country electorates. I make the point that during the time in office of the predecessor to the honourable member for Gwydir, Mr Ralph Hunt, members were able to spend a lot of time in Europe on Commonwealth Parliamentary Association duties and Senator Bull did all the electoral work. I emphasise again that the Country Party has a percentage of senators and they work very effectively filling in the gaps for their colleagues in the House of Representatives. In New South Wales it has a network of Legislative Councillors. With respect, I think that the Country Party senators overrate their workload when they say that it falls on a few shoulders. They overstate the position when they say that their senators and members of the Legislative Council carry the load, particularly when many other amenities are available to assist them, as my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland pointed out. Who knows, it is possible that they might even have a helicopter service in the not too distant future which would revolutionise their travelling arrangements. As Senator McAuliffe would know, the Queensland House of Representatives man, Mr Katter, is always talking about mileages, but with the introduction of helicopters there would be a new ball game.
– I was surprised, when listening to the Country Party senators during the debate, to learn that the only criteria they want to talk about in relation to setting tolerances for seats are distance and size. They say that those factors should be the only criteria. I recommend particularly to the Country Party senators that they look at the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1973. In Part III, Electoral Divisions, section 19 (2) states:
For the purposes of the last preceding sub-section, the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration, in relation to each Proposed Division, to-
community of interests within the Division, including economic, social and regional interests.
I raised that matter this afternoon, and I point out that there are inner city seats which people on the other side seem automatically to assume should have a very large number of enrolments and electors. In fact if one looks at electorates such as Grayndler and Sydney, and at the socioeconomic problems of those areas, one sees that they have large groups of migrants and large groups of people who are not voters who have to be looked after. If it is understood that that in itself is a very great difficulty in those sorts of electorates, then perhaps the Country Party senators might not make those comments. They would realise that in some inner city areas there is a lot of room for improvement when the boundaries are being redrawn.
– I rise to make some comments on clause 7 of the Bill. I support the argument put forward by Senator Douglas McClelland and I want to expand it a little further. I was most annoyed to hear the interjection from Senator Webster that Labor Party members on this side of the chamber hate rural people. That is not so, and it ill behoved Senator Webster to say so, although it is typical of the remarks he makes because he hates the Labor Party.
-(Senator DrakeBrockman) - Order! Having made that point, Senator McLaren, could you come back to the clause?
– I am dealing with clause 7. We have heard today lengthy speeches from Senator Maunsell and Senator Collard putting forward their views on why there should be very large electorates in country areas where very few people live. They claimed that the right sort of service cannot be given to those people unless they have that type of electorate and that those people are entitled to representation. In my own State of South Australia, which has 3 country Liberal members of Parliament- and this comes within the ambit of the clause- none of them live in their electorate. They all live in Adelaide and service their electorates, if they do service them properly, from King William Street. It was argued today by Senator Maunsell and Senator Collard when they spoke to this clause that the people who live in remote electorates ought to have access to the members who represent them. In South Australia they have no access to those members unless they take a costly rail, train or plane journey to Adelaide from the remote parts of the State. In the electorate of Wakefield, for instance, they would have to travel from the Queensland, Northern Territory or New South Wales borders to come to Adelaide to see the honourable member for Wakefield. All those members live in Adelaide.
As a matter of fact, in rebutting the argument put forward by Senator Webster that the Labor Party hates country people, I should say that the only 2 members of the Federal Parliament from South Australia who both live and have offices in the country are Labor members of Parliament. One is Mr Laurie Wallis, the honourable member for Grey, and the other is myself. I live and have my office at Murray Bridge and Mr Wallis has his office at Port Augusta. So much for the argument put forward by the coalition senators opposite that they have to have an electorate where the electors have access to them. They do not believe in that principle in South Australia. As I have pointed out, the people have to come to King William Street to see their elected representatives. As soon as those representatives are elected they domicile themselves in Adelaide. The same thing applies to some of the South Australian Liberal senators, who were living in the country when they were elected. In one particular case, when one man obtained bis endorsement he was living at Port Augusta but even before he was elected he moved to Adelaide to conduct his business. They are not concerned about those who live in the country. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The members of the Labor Party are concerned about country people, and I think that knocks the argument on the head.
It should be borne in mind also that, in rising to rebut what Senator Douglas McClelland said, the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) said that people on this side of the chamber were labouring under a misapprehension. People listening to this debate today would certainly be labouring under a misapprehension if the arguments put forward by Senator Maunsell and Senator Collard were not rebutted, and that is the reason I rose tonight. They have put forward a fallacious argument. They do not put into operation what they preach. We know that in some large areas represented by Country Party members telegrams have been sent on their FMA cards from country telephones which are claimed to be in Cloncurry or other outback areas in Queensland when we know that they have been resting on the Gold Coast in Queensland. The postmark appears on the telegram. I have also been told that at some country airports in electorates represented by Country Party members an announcement will be made over the paging system calling for Mr so and so. That person telephones from thousands of miles away and gets himself paged and the people in the area think that he is in that particular district.
– That is an old hotel trick.
– Of course it is hoax. But this is the way the National Country Party members in this Parliament try to fool the electors. It is time that the record was put straight.
– I should like to say just a few words in this debate. The National Country Party’s argument based on the size of electorates does not carry any weight with me. What does cany weight with me is that the people in more sparsely populated areas engaged in certain industries should have a strong representative voice in this Parliament. The industries which exist in those areas are very important in the production of food and income for the nation and especially in the earning of overseas currency, which is a vital matter. The essential feature, to me, is that country areas should have a stronger representation to counterbalance the fact that they have not the population of the city areas.
– This is a democracy, senator.
– That is the famous Senator Missen talking about democracy now. The people of those industries are entitled to a reasonably strong voice in this Australian Parliament. That is something which was thought about when these Houses were created. We should remember that an Australian parliament could not be formed until it was agreed to have a Senate based on equal representation for the less populated States and the more heavily populated States. This is exactly the same basis. The less populated States of Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia were given equal representation in this chamber to counterbalance the heavy industrial populations of New South Wales and Victoria which have so many members in the House of Representatives. This chamber was established to try to give various industries and people throughout Australia a reasonably equal voice. People in sparsely populated areas who are developing important industries should get sufficient representation to enable their voices to be heard with some strength in the Australian Parliament.
– I should not like it to be thought that I was a person who supported what Senator Wood has just said. I do not believe that a property franchise is what this Bill is seeking to achieve. I believe Senator Withers has stated the case fairly. We believe that areas of Australia should return people to the Parliament in proportion to the number of electors contained therein. The arguments that have been going backwards and forwards across the chamber have had to do with the kind of formula which will achieve that by the most appropriate method. I should just like to make it clear that I reject any argument that would have the kind of industry or wealth production in an area as a relevant factor in how many representatives that area should have.
That the clause stand as printed. The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Senator the Hon. T. C. Drake-Brockman
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 8 and 9- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 10 (Redistribution).
The Opposition opposes the provisions that are being written into the Commonwealth Electoral Act by clause 10 of the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill which relates to redistribution. It particularly objects to proposed sub-section (4) of section 25 of the principal Act which states:
A Proclamation shall not be made in relation to a State by virtue of sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (b) of sub-section (2) within a period of 7 years after the last making of a Proclamation in relation to that State under sub-section (1) of section 24.
Clause 10, in the first instance, refers to section 25 of the principal Act being amended by omitting existing sub-section (2). Section 25 (2) of the existing Act, which relates to redistribution, states:
A Proclamation -
That is a proclamation whenever directed by the
Governor-General- may be made-
By clause 10 of the Bill, section 25 (2) of the Act- the one I have just read- is being amended to provide the following:
A Proclamation for the purposes of sub-section ( 1 )-
shall be made forthwith after the making of a determination that results in an alteration in the number of Members of the House of Representatives to be chosen for the State;
I interpolate here to say that that section is in accordance with the determination of the High Court of Australia. The Opposition does not object to that proposed new sub-section. It goes on:
Not ‘shall be made’-
whenever in one-fourth of the Divisions of the State the number of electors differs from a quota ascertained in accordance with this Part to a greater extent that one-tenth more or one- tenth less; and
I will not worry about proposed sub-section (3), but then proposed sub-section (4), which is the provision which offends the Opposition, states:
A Proclamation shall not be made in relation to a State by virtue of sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (b) of sub-section (2)-
That is the sub-section which relates to whenever in one-fourth of the divisions of the State the number of electors differs from the variant laid down by the Act- that is, 10 per cent upwards or 10 per cent downwards. The sub-section continues: within a period of 7 years after the last making of a Proclamation in relation to that State under sub-section (1) of section 24.
We have 3 situations as I see it. Firstly, after the Chief Australian Electoral Officer has made a determination in accordance with the provisions of the Representation Act as to the entitlement of each State for representation in the House of Representatives, and if as a result of that determination or assessment there is an alteration in the entitlement of representation of each State in the House of Representatives, then mandatorily there must be and there shall be a redistribution in that State. Also, under proposed sub-section (2) (b) a proclamation may be made at such other times as the Governor-General thinks fit. But when electorates within a State vary 10 per cent over or 10 per cent under the tolerance and that variation is at least 2-5 per cent affected in the divisions in those States, a proclamation for a redistribution may be made. In that circumstance, once that is done there shall not be another redistribution on that basis for a period of 7 years.
– Unless the GovernorGeneral thinks fit.
-Yes, unless the Governor-General thinks fit. I agree with Senator Missen that that is written into the legislation. I tried to indicate that that is written into it. But if such a provision is written into the legislation on this basis, I think it is virtually being said that there would have to be very extreme circumstances, if there were more than a quarter of the divisions in a State out of kilter so far as the quota was concerned, before the Governor-General would order a redistribution within a period of 7 years.
Within 7 years a vast shift in population could occur. Let us face it, the last redistribution in Australia took place in 1968. A period of 9 years has elapsed since then. It is just 2 years over the period set down in this provision. On the latest figures that I have available to me- they are the figures of enrolment as at 27 August 1976- there have been amazing shifts in population since 1968. Let me give one or two examples: The seat of Darling in New South Wales which is held by one of my colleagues in another place now has an electoral population in round figures of 49 000 people. The electorate of Mitchell, an outer suburban seat in Sydney, has a voting population of 90 000 people. There are nearly twice as many voters in the outer metropolitan seat of Mitchell as there are in Darling. I emphasise that these are figures taken as at August 1976. In the Queensland electorate of Mcpherson, which is in what is commonly called the Gold Coast area about which you would have some knowledge, Mr Temporary Chairman, there is a voting population of 105 000 people. In the seat of Maranoa there are 47 000 voters. To satisfy Senator Missen who comes from Victoria, I cite the voting population in the electorate of Diamond Valley. As at 27 August 1976 it was approximately 93 000 people compared with the electorate of Mallee- I pick it out merely because it is the handiest one I can see- which had some 5 1 000 electors. In the period of 9 years since that last redistribution was carried out, there has been an enormous shift in population.
– It was a busy migration period.
– It was a very busy migration period. While the migration may not take place to the same extent in the future as it has in the past, nonetheless it will occur. I know that my colleague, Senator McAuliffe, the present Temporary Chairman, will be able to tell the Committee of the greatly expanding area of the Gold Coast in southern Queensland. I can tell the Committee of the greatly expanding electorate of Robertson, north of Sydney, in what is called the mid-north coast. My colleague, Senator Mulvihill, will be able to tell the Committee of the expansion going on in the far north coast of New South Wales. My colleague, Senator Sibraa, can tell the Committee of the great expansion that is going on in the western suburbs of Sydney.
I suggest to honourable senators that, whilst the Governor-General certainly can exercise his discretion- and he would exercise it, of course, on the advice of his Government- to have a redistribution at such times as he thinks fit, the circumstances would be that if this Parliament writes into this legislation a requirement that in the event of a redistribution taking place as a result of a shift in population within a State and that no other proclamation shall be issued for another redistribution within a period of 7 years, it would be very unlikely indeed that the Governor-General acting on the advice of his Government, would see fit to make a proclamation in the interim period. Therefore I suggest, especially bearing in mind the Senate’s ratification earlier of clause 7, that the writing in of this provision, coupled with clause 7, is merely encouraging, after a redistribution has taken place, the development of an imbalance in the electoral quotas that exist within Australia. There is no requirement after the redistribution that all electorates shall remain within the 10 per cent quota. After the redistribution a number of electorates may move outside that quota and may remain outside that quota. Until such time as one-fourth of those divisions get outside the quota and a proclamation is made for a redistribution on that basis, another redistribution cannot take place for a period of 7 years. I suggest that that is wrong. We think that it should not be written into the Act. It is another bind- an awkward bind- against ensuring a fair balance of representation of the Parliament. It is for those reasons that we oppose the provisions now sought to be written into the Act by the Government.
That the clause stand as printed. The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator the Hon. T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 1 1 (Elections at large.)
-The Opposition opposes clause 1 1 which relates to the holding of elections at large. In short, that which I put during the course of my speech on this subject in the second reading debate still holds so far as the Committee stage of the Bill is concerned. In the McKinlay case the High Court held that, if as a result of a reassessment by the Chief Electoral Officer, there is an alteration in the entitlement of a State to numerical representation in the House of Representatives, a redistribution should be ordered. If that redistribution is ordered but in fact does not take place before the next ordinary House of Representatives election, either because it has not been completed or because it has not been approved by either House of the Parliament, there shall be an election at large. Whilst clause 1 1 of the Bill provides for the holding of an election at large, it does not spell out, nor are there spelt out in any other clause of the Bill, the rules under which an election at large shall be held. During his speech this afternoon, my colleague Senator Walsh suggested that this might be written in by way of regulation.
– It is doubtful.
– The Minister shakes his head and says it is doubtful. Because there is that element of doubt we believe it should be resolved beyond all doubt. The Minister has urged that these Bills be put through. Whilst there is doubt as to whether a redistribution can take place under the existing Act, the Minister now acknowledges that there is doubt as to whether regulations can be made to provide for the rules under which an election at large can be held. For those reasons we believe that the way in which an election at large shall be held should be written into the Bill or into the rules.
We have already agreed- I think it is commonly conceded- that if there is an election at large the possibilities are unimaginable. We do not know the number of candidates, the number of voters, how the voters will vote or how long it will take for the count to be carried out. We do not know, in fact, whether the count will be able to be carried out before the date for the return of the writs. If that does not happen, goodness knows what the circumstances will be. We believe that for a government to bring in legislation of this nature, to provide for elections at large, without writing into the legislation the rules under which an election at large shall be conducted, is wrong. Therefore, because it has not provided for those rules we oppose clause 1 1 of the Bill. ;
– I rise to support Senator Douglas McClelland. Whilst he has indicated some of the difficulties, I think there are more. Senator Douglas McClelland said this afternoon that there are no details as to how the votes cast at an election can be counted and how the election can operate. Senator Missen suggested that the details have to be finalised. In order to get these redistribution Bills through the Senate the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) spoke about the essential requirements to set up a redistribution and said that the question of how an election at large will be held will be decided in some further detail. The Minister has just shaken his head and suggested that this cannot be done under regulations.
– It is doubtful.
– It is doubtful. Therefore we would expect some future amendments to be made for the purpose of working out the details.
I submit that to hold an election taking a whole State as one electorate or multiplicity of candidates would be impossible no matter what the details were. I did not read the McKinlay case and cannot say whether it is an alternative. It was an unfair election as the principle of one vote, one value, did not apply. The judgment was that within each ordinary election there must be a decision as to the representation of the States. But there is nothing in the Constitution to say how the States shall elect their members. If of necessity it was thought wise that there should be 2 electorates, one electing one member and the other electing 6 members, that would be a matter for decision by the Parliament. The alternative to having no redistribution need not be to hold an election with the whole State as one electorate. I cannot see that there would ever be a necessity for an election of the whole State if we took away from the Parliament the power to endorse or reject the Commissioners’ recommendations on electoral boundaries.
It seems farcical to me that we should set up an independent commission to decide boundaries and then for political reasons say that we will not accept them because they are detrimental to one party and favour another. When there is no alteration in the State representation between ordinary elections there is no reason why a complete redistribution could not be made by ascertaining the number of entitlements for the State in the first year of the Parliament, before its 3-year term was up, if the Parliament did not have the power of endorsement or rejection. I can see that on many occasions when the Senate has a majority with differing political affiliations from the majority in the House of Representatives the redistribution will not be made before the next election. Therefore, there will be reasons for having an election taking the whole State as a boundary.
I am informed that in the first national Parliament South Australia and Tasmania elected their members under the system of using the whole State. However, only 5 members from each State were to be elected. In South Australia the first past the post system operated in which one put 5 crosses on the ballot paper. In New South Wales, the biggest State, there will be 44 or 45 seats. One would expect at least 3 candidates for each seat. Senator Douglas McClelland said that there could be 300 or 400 candidates. One would expect that at least 150 candidates would be standing for election in New South Wales from which 44 or 45 would be elected to Parliament. I ask honourable senators to imagine the mass population selecting 45 out of 150 candidates. The situation would be impossible. If the first past the post system was in operation, after a person had voted for the first half dozen candidates of his choice the tendency would be to fill in the ballot paper for the remainder by starting from the top of the paper. The Parliament would then be full of Abbots, Browns and Camerons but there would be no Withers, Whitlams or Stewarts. It is not an intelligent voting system. If the preferential system in operation today were used this would necessitate people voting for candidates numbered from one to 150. One can imagine the possibility of obtaining a large formal vote in those circumstances.
– They do that in the United States of America.
– They have a button system of voting for parties. If the system of preferential voting operated at an election at a time when one party was in favour with the electors of a State, if those electors followed the party ticket that party would win all the seats in that State.
This used to happen in the Senate until we changed to the proportional representation system. If the solution were the proportional representation system of voting, it would mean that less than 3 per cent of the vote would be the quota in New South Wales, and that would mean that there could be someone in this Parliament who had the support of only 3 per cent of the voters in New South Wales. The situation would then arise whereby the Festival of Light, other church interests or any other group would have representation because they would be able to command the support of 3 per cent of the vote.
How could we ever operate under a system whereby 45 members are elected by using a State as one electorate? The Government knows that the whole thing is an impossibility, but it has provided for this sort of thing in this legislation and there is a great possibility that this provision will be operative at some time. Despite the fact that there will be an inability to count the votes by the time the writs are returnable, the provision has been included in this legislation. It is not a question of working out details afterwards. It is a system that cannot operate effectively. The only thing that we can hope for is that the Minister, in considering the details in the future, will be able to find some provision that he can insert into the Act that will ensure that this system never has to operate. The only suggestion I can make is that the right of Parliament to veto the reports of the distribution commissioners be taken away.
– During the course of the debate this afternoon I posed a number of questions dealing with clause 1 1 of this Bill. I hope that the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) will be able to answer some of them tonight. I asked whether the 6 States and the Territories could have different methods of conducting an election, and I asked what voting system would be used. I come now to the point that Senator Cavanagh just raised, that is, that if the same sort of system were used as the one that is used to elect senators to this chamber there would be a system in New South Wales under which somebody could be elected to the House of Representatives with under 3 per cent of the vote. But even if there were to be a proviso in the Commonwealth Electoral Act like the one that operates in West Germany, whereby a candidate has to get 5 per cent of the vote before he is recognised as having won a seat, the situation would still arise in New South Wales where, whether it be for 43, 44 or 45 seats, it would be completely impossible to count the ballot. One has only to go back to the last Senate election and take into account that there were only 53 candidates-not 153 or 300, as has been mentioned, but only 53- and that the result of that election, which was held on 13 December, was not available until 6 February to appreciate that the counting under such a system of voting could not be completed before the date for the return of the writs. I hope that we will get an answer to some of those questions tonight.
– I think that it ought to be appreciated that the decision of the High Court of Australia in McKellar’s case did not come down until 1 February. I think honourable senators will appreciate that it was not that easy to get legislation into this chamber by, I think, 16 or 17 February following that decision. That decision had to be studied not only by the Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General’s Department but also by officers of my Department. I think that the officers concerned are to be congratulated on having a Bill ready in the form that they did within 14 days.
– Was not the election at large provision the subject of McKinlay ‘s case in December 1 975?
– Some work was done on that last year, but the moment McKellar’s case started I gave instructions that all work should be finished so that we could do the whole thing in one hit because we could have been in the situation in which we introduced legislation late last year and had to amend it again this year.
Why is the election at large proposition contained in this Bill? It is contained in this Bill for a very simple reason, namely, because of what the High Court has said. In fact, clause 1 1 says basically what the High Court found. It said as to proportionality between States that if a redistribution is not carried out there shall be an election at large. That is why it is there. It is there because the High Court said so.
How do we carry out an election at large? I think it was Senator Walsh or Senator Sibraa who said this afternoon that one could probably do it by regulation. My advisers have informed me that it is doubtful whether one could, and that even if one did do so it most certainly would be open to challenge. It would be a very risky operation for any government to attempt to run an election at large under regulations without putting the matter into a statutory form.
I know the horrendous situation that would face us in an election at large. It would be easier to run an election at large in Tasmania than it is to run a double dissolution- five members of the House of Representatives as against 10 senators. There would be no problem in the Australian Capital Territory. The Northern Territory already has elections at large. But really those Territories do not matter because they do not come within the parameters of the judgment. It would not be all that difficult in Western Australia which has 10 House of Representatives seats, or in South Australia which has 1 1 House of Representatives seats. But, as Senator Cavanagh has quite rightly said, it would be a quite horrendous operation in New South Wales and Victoria.
All I can assure the Senate is that we are working on the matter. There are various methods of handling such a situation. I do not think anybody would agree with the proposition of first past the post voting and that one Party should win 43 seats or 33 seats, depending upon the State. I also appreciate the problems that Senator Cavanagh has quite rightly pointed out of a Senate-type proportional vote for the House of Representatives. The quota in New South Wales would be less than 3 per cent. The government in the other place, no matter who got the bulk of the votes, would be at the mercy of all sorts of interesting people. Governments most probably would rise and fall as happened in the French Third Republic, having a life of an average of 6 weeks or whatever it was. I do not think any of us would want to see that situation arise.
There are other means of carrying out proportional voting. I think honourable senators know of the systems used in both Germany and Sweden. There are means whereby one can have proportional voting by a list system. There are simplified systems of carrying it out. All of these matters are under study at the moment. As soon as I have come to some conclusions on them I will take them as a submission to the Government and then come back to the Parliament.
The clause has another interesting effect. I think it was Senator Cavanagh who asked why Parliament should be able to pass judgment on a redistribution. That is a reasonable argument. I know that in my State of Western Australia- I cannot speak for the other States- once the distribution commissioners have made their final decision that is that.
– So it is in South Australia. There is a right of appeal to the Supreme Court.
– We do not even have that in my State. Once the commissioners put down preliminary maps they are open for objection. They look at the objections, make a determination and that is the finish. There is no right of appeal, as I understand there is in South Australia. That may be a proposition that we can look at in government and I am prepared to look at it. Clause 1 1 acts as somewhat of a deterrent against either House of the Parliament acting capriciously about a redistribution. An argument has been raised as to why the Parliament should continue to give its judgments on such matters. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that we were sent here to make decisions and not to give the decision-making process away to commissions, boards, statutory authorities, distribution commissioners and everybody else.
– You have had a change of heart.
-No. I have always believed in making decisions.
– Yes, you have. I remember that.
-Do not let any more of my speeches come back to haunt me. It has been said that both Houses of this Parliament have had this right to look at redistribution proposals for 77 years and it has been asked: Why change the situation? I agree that a very respectable argument has been put forward by Senator Cavanagh that the Parliament ought to bow out and leave the matter to independent commissioners. These are matters that I have under consideration as to which side to come down on. But there is the deterrent there that if either House of the Parliament acts capriciously it is going to be faced with an election at large. Before it makes that decision I think it has to know the rules. If we look at the fate of redistributions previously before this Parliament, I think we will find that the interests of political parties tend to dominate this situation. That applied to the Labor Party in relation to the proposition which lapsed in 1972 and to us when the 1974 one was defeated. The political parties will have to make up their minds. It is going to put them to a bit of a test. They will either have to accept the proposition of the distribution commissioners or have an election at large under known rules. I do not know that that is such a terrible decision to put upon political parties if one has the numbers in one place as opposed to the Government in the other place. I think we are all aware of these propositions. They are propositions I have under active study. As soon as we have come to conclusions I shall take them to Cabinet and as a result thereof I hope would come before the Parliament.
Briefly, those are the rules and they are the reasons. I hope I have satisfied everybody as to the doubts that my advisers have on the proposition of using regulations to run an election at large. They strongly advise me and urge me that that would be a most risky thing to do because there would be the risk of having the whole election declared invalid. I do not think any government would want to gallop along that course.
– I appreciate what the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) has said. I think he has helped a lot in explaining the position. However, I want to say this: If the gallup polls were showing that the Labor Party had 52 per cent of the popular vote in New South Wales I would oppose accepting any redistribution. I would rather lose on the divisions than on the whole of New South Wales.
– It was rather amazing to see the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers), the Minister in charge of this Bill, stand here and say that he cannot tell the people at large in Australia what rules are to govern the conduct of an election if it is to be held in the form of an election at large. He then went on to say that clause 1 1, the clause we are debating now, would not be in this Bill- that is what I understood him to say- if it had not been for the direction of the High Court in the judgment that it handed down. It may well be that the High Court considered that the only way there could be a redistribution under this Government would be by giving some direction. We know that the Government failed to carry out a redistribution during its last term of office and it would not allow a redistribution to be carried out when the Labor Government was in office. The High Court, in its wisdom, has hit on this method of forcing this Government to carry out a redistribution. Senator Withers has said that clause 11 would not be in this Bill except for the direction of the High Court.
I am concerned when I look at section 65 of the parent Act, relating to the date of the return of the writ, because it states:
The date fixed for the return of the writ shall not be more than ninety days after the issue of the writ.
If an election at large is held, let us consider what would happen in the State of New South Wales as an example. If we consider the length of time it took the Commonwealth Electoral Office to determine who the senators were for New South Wales after the last double dissolution we see that it is not possible for the Electoral Office to determine within 60 days who the elected members for New South Wales are to be. One could safely say that it will be 30 days from the issue of the writ until the election is held and then another 60 days for the return of the writ. Look at the length of time it took to count the Senate vote. Within 60 days it is not humanly possible to determine who the elected representatives for New South Wales are to be. As Senator Cavanagh pointed out, there could be anything up to 300 candidates. Under the Constitution and the Commonwealth Electoral Act the writ has to be returned within 90 days. The residents of New South Wales could find themselves with no representation in this Parliament. I have used New South Wales as an example but it could be any State. When the Parliament met we would find that there were up to 45 members short because the electoral officers would have found it humanly impossible to determine who was to represent New South Wales.
The Minister has not answered the questions
PUt to him during the second reading debate and e has not answered the questions put to him about clause 1 1. 1 think the people of Australia should know these things. The Minister has gone to great pains since he came to office to tell the people what a very thorough government they are under and what a thorough government has charge of the affairs of this country, yet we find that he cannot come into this place and tell us what method is to be adopted for the conduct of an election at large. Surely, before this legislation goes through, the people of Australia are entitled to know what method is to be used to elect this Parliament which is so vital to Australia. I hope that the Minister can give us some guide as to what he intends to do. He is not prepared to tell us but surely he must know what his Party has in mind if an election at large is to be held. How is the Government going to conduct that election? Is the Minister going to come in here with a hasty piece of legislation- he has admitted that this is hasty legislation- and railroad it through the Parliament? Is he going to say that that is the way it is going to be, whether it is a fair method or a foul method?
The Government also has to consider what some of the State Premiers might do and whether they will try to upset the Government if it tries to hold an election at large. We do not know what Mr Bjelke-Petersen might do. He is on record as saying that he is very suspicious of what the present Federal Government is doing. He will leave no stone unturned to upset the Government. I hope the Minister can give us some further explanation of how an election at large is to be conducted.
– I do not wish to unnecessarily prolong debate on this clause. As I understand what the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) has said, when the McKinlay judgment was handed down in December 1975, some 15 months ago, the officers of his Department and the Commonwealth Electoral Office, which is a statutory office, started working on proposed amendments to the legislation to provide for the contingency that the High Court suggested might exist if a redistribution had not been carried out where one should have been carried out and that was for the holding of an election at large. Then, when proceedings were instituted in the High Court by Mr McKellar, or those who supported him, all other work ceased. Therefore whilst this Bill now provides for the holding of an election at large, no other work was done in the meantime to provide for rules as to how the election at large should be conducted.
I am subject to correction but I infer from what the Minister said that if a redistribution drawn up as a result of the passage of this legislation is not approved by this Parliament when presented to it, the Government might look at the way in which an election at large shall be conducted. On this occasion the Minister shakes his head in disapproval. That was the inference I gleaned from the Minister’s remarks.
An election at large may not be held at the next election, or the election after, but one may be held at some distant point in the future and surely the Parliament and the political parties we all represent in this Parliament are entitled to know the ground rules which will apply when we run on to the field. In our time we have all played sport. If we play a game of football we all want to know who the referee is and we all want to know whether we will get a free kick if someone is offside. That is all we are asking. It is for those reasons and because the rules have not been written down that we oppose this clause.
That the clause stand as printed.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Senator the Hon. T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Withers) proposed: That the Bill be now read a third time.
– The question is that the Bill be now read a third time. Those in favour say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it. Is a division required?
– Yes. The bells being rungSenator Sir Magnus Cormack- Mr President, may I inquire whether the bells will be rung for 1 1/2 minutes or for 3 minutes?
– Three minutes is the time limit.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second dme.
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 17 February, on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time. Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 17 February, on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I refer to clause 3 of the Bill, the definition or interpretation clause, and the definition of ‘ordinary general election*. The clause states: ordinary general election’ means a general election of members of the House of Representatives next following a House of Representatives that expired or was dissolved at or towards the end of the period of 3 years from the first meeting of that House;
There is no explanation in the Bill of what is meant by ‘towards the end of the period of 3 years’. I am given to understand, having read the judgment of the High Court, that that was an expression used by one of the learned judges in the judgment. I would like the Government or the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) to indicate the Government’s interpretation of the phrase ‘towards the end of the period of 3 years’. Does it mean in the second half of a 3-year period, the last 12 months of a 3-year period or the 6 months before the normal expiration of the House of Representatives?
– They are almost the words from the High Court judgment. The Bill was expressed in this form really because that is the only form which one can get out of the judgment. Honourable senators can take their pick as to what it means. We do not know whether the High Court will one of these days define what it meant when it said ‘a general election held at or towards the effluxion of the 3 years spoken of. That wording is not a great guide to the Parliament or a parliamentary draftsman when putting them in legislative form. I suppose that one of these days it will be resolved as a result of further challenge, but please do not ask me to guess. One would imagine that it would be when the Parliament was coming to the end of its normal life. I think there has been only one parliament since Federation that has run its full term. Most of them run for 2 years 10 months or 2 years 1 1 months. I presume that that is what the High Court had in mind, that it would be about the time an election normally would be due within the expectations of a parliament. How far back it relates in terms of a snap or early election will have to be determined. I am afraid that that is the best advice I can get from my advisers and the best which parliamentary counsel could do with the judgment of the High Court.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Withers) read a third time.
Suspension of Standing Orders Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That standing order 68 be suspended to enable new business to be commenced after half past ten p.m. this night.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Withers) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to increase pension benefits payable under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948 and the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973. Honourable senators will recall that the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) made brief reference in another place on 9 December last to the proposed introduction of the necessary legislation in the autumn session of the Parliament to give effect to the Government’s pension increases undertakings.
The Bill provides for pension increases payable in respect of the year 1976-77 to apply retrospectively to the first pension pay day in July 1976. Additionally, provision is made for the automatic annual adjustment of pensions in future years to operate also from the first pension pay day in July of each year. The need for separate Acts of Parliament which has characterised the annual pension increases granted since 1973 will, I am pleased to announce, no longer be necessary. The increases in Defence Force Retirement Benefits and Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits pensions for the year 1976-77 and in the future will be related to the percentage increase in the consumer price index during the period of 12 months ending 31 March immediately preceding the date of effect of each annual adjustment. The pension adjustment factor for 1976-77 which derives from the movements in the consumer price index during the year ended 31 March 1976 is 13.4 per cent.
The adjustment provisions incorporated in the Bill are detailed and complex. I propose therefore to explain in broad terms only how they are to operate. A more detailed explanation of their practical effects will be made available to beneficiaries by the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Authority when the increased rates of pensions become payable. For DFRB pensioners, that is those who retired prior to 1 October 1972, the amount of the increase will be determined by applying the relevant pension adjustment factor to the total pension payable as at 30 June of each year. Pensions payable to widows and the additional pension payable in respect of eligible children will be adjusted on the same basis. DFRDB pensioners- those retired since 30 September 1972- who are in receipt of retirement pay, are to receive increases by applying the same pension adjustment factor to an amount that represents the amount of retirement pay remaining as if the member had commuted to the fullest possible extent following his retirement.
Pensions payable to the widows of DFRDB retirement pensioners will be adjusted by applying the pension adjustment factor to that proportion of the widow’s pension that bears the same ratio as the member’s residual pension, or notional residual pension as the case may be, to his total retirement pay at retirement. DFRDB invalidity pensions, and the pensions payable to the widows of deceased contributors and of invalidity pensioners, are to be adjusted in full. Appropriate adjustments will also be made to the additional component of pensions payable to children.
In essence, therefore, the pension updating arrangements encompassed by this Bill achieve the earlier stated aim of consistency with those currently applying to comparable classes of pensioners under the Commonwealth Public Service superannuation schemes.
It was intended also to provide in this Bill beneficial amendments to section 25 of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act designed to remove an anomaly affecting certain officers who were detrimentally affected by their transfer to the DFRDB scheme in October 1 972. Drafting of the necessary amendments has raised a number of complex technical drafting difficulties. The pension updating provisions are therefore being introduced now and drafting of. the amendments to section 25 of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act is proceeding for introduction as quickly as possible in to the Parliament. I take the opportunity of mentioning that the Government is currently considering a number of beneficial variations to the existing legislation arising from a general review of the reversionary benefits structures of the DFRB and DFRDB schemes. I can assure the Senate that when the Government has made its decisions, proposed amendments will be introduced as soon as possible. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
– I seek leave to make a statement on behalf of the Prime Minister relating to the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Year.
-Is leave granted?
– No. Get on with the referendum Bills.
– Leave is not granted.
Debate resumed from 22 February on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I am sorry that I am resuming my speech quite as quickly as I am because of the incident which has just occurred, but I am glad of the opportunity to be able to speak on the Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill. It is a referendum proposal being put forward by the Government, along with 3 other proposals, and one which I support along with those proposals. I had already commenced my speech and spoken briefly in respect of the remarks made last evening by Senator Button. I had expressed my good luck to Senator Button because he was able to feel such happiness in his consistency of approach on this subject, and I assured him that I felt the same consistency of approach. For many years I have felt that this amendment to the Constitution was highly desirable. I want to speak, firstly, about the general proposition. There are arguments that apply to all four of the referenda proposals and I apply my views to those four proposals, but I will deal with them particularly in relation to this Bill. The first thing to remember about the referenda proposals is that what we are doing is voting for a proposition that certain proposals should be put before the people. We are not determining, and we have no right to determine, what shall be the changes in the Constitution. What we are doing is simply saying that these are important proposals which have been discussed for many years in the community. In fact they have had the endorsement in all essence of a Constitutional Convention and were considered there in recent times. Therefore it is our duty, both with respect to that Convention and with respect to our desire that the public should have these opportunities, that they now be put before the people.
There are, of course, both long term and short term benefits in this proposal, and this matter was raised to a certain extent in Senator Button’s speech. One does not walk away from that fact, but indeed there are some short term benefits which the Government will note and will enjoy. Sometimes proposals are put forward which have short term disadvantages and long term benefits, but in the case of all these propositions I believe that they have both short term and long term benefits. For example, they do extend the period of the sittings of the members of this Parliament, although that is perhaps not the major benefit. To take Senator Wright as an example, he will not be resuming his seat in the Senate after this Parliament but one of the short term benefits of this legislation is that we will have six further months of Senator Wright’s advice to this Senate. I am sure that is something for which we will all be grateful.
– We can all appreciate your satire.
-I assure Senator Wright that I meant that sincerely. As I have said, it is one of the short term benefits. So far as this Parliament is concerned, in order to bring together the 2 Houses of the Parliament, these Bills will provide the opportunity for a longer period and we will not have to reduce the periods for which members of the House of Representatives sit in order to bring the 2 Houses into alignment. To shorten the Parliament would not be politically desirable nor acceptable and it would be generally agreed that it would not occur. In speaking of the benefits, let me refer to an article written by Mr Peter Cole-Adams which appeared in the Age newspaper on 19 February. After a very good analysis of these 4 propositions he concluded in the following way:
The four questions being put to us in May were endorsed by the majority of delegates at the Hobart Constitutional Convention. They are being supported, at least in principle, not only by the Federal Government but also by the Federal Opposition and a majority of State Governments.
If in these circumstances we as a nation again prove ourselves incapable of saying ‘yes’, the prospect of our ever removing other, graver anomalies from our Constitution must be meagre indeed.
Cynicism about Mr Fraser’s motives is understandable, but those who allow it to dictate their votes on May 2 1 really will be indulging in a classic exercise in cutting off their noses to spite their faces.
I at least congratulate members of the Opposition for deciding not to do that. They have expressed their cynicism, it is true, but they are not going to take away the long term advantages to this country which are involved in agreement to these propositions.
Another fundamental reason why these referenda propositions, now contained in this Bill in particular, should be accepted is that, as I have already said, they have had the substantial endorsement of, and have been discussed at length by, the Constitutional Convention, which has been meeting off and on over the last few years. One must remember, and we on this side of the chamber ought to remember, that that Convention was set up under the McMahon
Government. It was set up under the Government of the Parties which are again in government. I think it was at the suggestion of Mr Henry Bolte and the Victorian Parliament that the initiative first came about, and since that time we have had the opportunity for the Convention to continue. It has had its ups and downs. It has not always looked like surviving, but it has survived and has had the opportunity to discuss these matters. Of course, if we in this Parliament should be so foolish as to reject these Bills, and if the people do not accept the propositions which have come through the Convention, then I think we face the fact that that Convention probably has failed. Then the chances of doing a reasonable and rational amendment of the Constitution in this century may have failed.
I feel therefore that it is terribly important that these proposals, which received the overwhelming endorsement of the Constitutional Convention last November, should succeed and show that we in Australia can go through a rational process of discussing constitutional reform. I make the forecast that the result of these propositions will be that we will get a new approach to constitutional reform.
I know that attempts will be made to obscure the situation, not to discuss items altogether by their merits but to suggest fears, doubts and obscurities. Unfortunately this has been the process of constitutional reform in this century. One hears from some who do not support the proposals that they place some reliance and credence on their success in the 1967 nexus referendum when there was a proposal that the requirement that there be twice as many House of Representatives seats as the number of senators should be broken. Of course, attached to that referendum was a provision as to the number of members of Parliament that there would be and the number of voters- I think it was 80 000- per seat. There was glorious pay-dirt for objectors. There was a glorious argument which appealed to many people, namely, that we do not want more members of Parliament. That argument will not be available to the opponents of this referendum because this referendum, in fact, proposes fewer elections in Australia -
– That is debatable.
– I suggest that it is not debatable at all; that is the obvious effect of this referendum proposal. Far from this being something which can be turned against politicians by saying that we do not want more of them so we should vote against the proposal, I think the Australian people will be ready to say that we have had over the years too many elections and too often and that situation will be solved by the proposed constitutional amendment. I believe that the sorry history of reform which we have had over the years could well be changed by this series of constitutional amendments. The proposals have had overwhelming support by rational men from all Australian parliaments and from all parties who met in November and therefore will have the type of endorsement which calls for support by the people of Australia. This support ensures that they will not have the fears which they found so easily engendered in the past.
What is terribly important to us is that these referendum proposals are the first that emerged from the Constitutional Convention. One should say that one of the proposals goes further, because the Federal Government has logically taken it further than the Convention did. But all the proposals were discussed and dealt with in that Convention and they are therefore the products of a rational consideration of constitutional reform.
Leaving that major argument which applies to every one of the constitutional amendments I turn to the matter of simultaneous elections. We know that elections have been out of alignment in Australia at least since 1963, and on one occasion before then. We know also that if we proceed without the acceptance of this constitutional amendment we will have about 14 national elections between 1961 and 1981. In 20 years there will be 14 national elections when a lot of the business of government stops, when we must approach the people and when we have therefore a great loss of opportunity -
– A lot of boloney.
- Senator, you would be a past master in the lot of boloney that you talk about. I bow to you in respect; you would know more about that than I would. A constitutional amendment in relation to simultaneous elections will ensure that elections for the 2 Houses are brought together, and we can have at such elections a full national debate on issues. Half the Senate will go out with the House of Representatives at each election every 3 years.
In addition to that there is a provision in this referendum proposal that the Federal Parliament will make laws as to the times and places of elections, and not the States as in the past. We discovered last year what could happen under the present provisions of the Constitution. From one State to another there could be a different time and a different place for elections. There could be a series of elections running over a period of months suiting one State Parliament or another. One of the useful effects of this referendum proposal is to bring that into the Federal sphere so that the Federal Parliament can make laws in respect of such electoral matters.
I know that in 1974 this same proposal came before the people in a different situation and was somewhat narrowly defeated. We must remind ourselves- I think we could have reminded Senator Rae last night when he was reading from a 1 974 No case- that on that occasion there were 4 proposals, most of them bitterly opposed by the members of the parties that I belong to and support. The proposals were held to constitute great danger by the Opposition as we were at that time. It was argued, particularly in my State of Victoria- I took a different view- that one could not recommend voting yes for one question and then no, no, no, and expect the people to understand and to vote in that way.
I think the people of Australia are becoming more accustomed to constitutional debate. We are getting a better educated community every day. I believe, however, that there was a sound psychological argument behind the idea that if we advocated a yes vote for one proposal and then 3 no votes we would confuse the public and lose the referendum. That was a convincing argument, as I know to my sorrow, in Victoria.
But the situation has changed. Different proposals will now accompany the simultaneous elections referendum proposal and I believe that we can face these without being tied down to arguments that were put forward on an earlier occasion. Perhaps they were not as well expressed as one would hope. I think we will find that in this referendum basically the people will look at the facts as they are and will not be so worried as to whether A said this and A says this now. They will not be concerned with this but they will be concerned with what is the correct and sensible argument to be advanced for or against the proposition.
This matter has been considered for a long time. I want to detail now what to me seem to be the benefits which the people of Australia will gain by passing this referendum proposal. In the first place, in the short term there will be some security of government, some security in the effort which is being made to restore the Australian economy. The further period of government without an election which comes as an optional extra from this referendum will be an additional help to the improvement in the economy which we can expect. There will not be an earlier poll.
Otherwise, if we wanted to bring the elections for both Houses together we would have to have a premature poll. I think that would not be desirable for the people. In future we will have contemporaneous polls for both the Senate and the House of Representatives not, as in the past on many occasions a separate Senate election and then a separate election for the House of Representatives, with people saying that the Senate was not contemporaneous, that it was out of date, that its senators did not represent the opinion of the people now. Half the Senate will have gone to the poll at that time on similar issues, and senators will be taking part in a full debate on these matters.
We will get rid of the spectre of separate polls which we have had for years. We know what separate polls for the Senate have been like. We know the effect of them. We know that in a way they are a sort of shadow of the national debate. The election campaigns have not been debates on Senate issues. The polls turn out to be gallup polls or some sort of national opinion polls which do not defeat the government or destroy the government. It is claimed at such polls that people can vote against a government in a Senate election and the result will not destroy the government; that it will show the displeasure of the community if people vote for an independent or some small party. We know what happened in 1970 when, at a loss to the major parties of both sides of this Parliament, small parties and independents and people with rather exotic eccentric ideas on one particular subject- abolition of death duties was the feature of one platformwere elected. Of course, that will always happen when the government is not in any way at stake and when a poll is held that allows the people to vote at random believing that they are doing nothing to change the government of this country but, in fact, perhaps are making it unworkable.
– But the death duties senator was entitled to election. He got the votes, the same as Senator Hall.
- Senator Cavanagh, you know that in an ordinary election candidates are not elected on the basis of one issue. I put it to you that, in fact, it is curious, when members are elected to this place to deal with all the matters involved such as the economy and the state of the nation, to find a candidate elected who has committed himself on only one issue. I believe that leads to a great deal of obscurity and a great deal of doubt in the soundness of government in this country.
In addition to this, one also has this situation: Under the existing polls we have what might be called lame duck senators. They are senators who will go to the poll in November of a year, as is the case at present. If the election is held well ahead of the mandatory date their term will not expire until 1 July or 30 June of the next year. They are defeated. They will no longer be in the Parliament. But they will stay in the Parliament for the next 6, 7 or 8 months. Their successors will languish in the wings during that period. That situation will cease if the amendment is carried. The people who are elected will go straight into the Parliament. I suggest that that altogether is an advantage. It is an unsatisfactory situation for a member of Parliament to know that he has been defeated. Therefore, he cannot be expected to take the same interest in the continuity of parliamentary government. In addition to this- this point was made even by Sir George Turner, the Premier of Victoria, in 1897 at the conventionthe cost of separate polls would be saved. He then expressed the view that in most places surely polls would be held together thereby leading to great savings. We know that now that saving would represent millions of dollars a year if, in fact -
– How many millions?
-The latest figures which the research officers of the Liberal Party of Australia provided in a document today show that the figure would be about $Sm to $5. 5m. That is their estimate of what it would cost to have separate a poll.
– I am sorry, that is not right.
– I suggest that that is a very great saving for the country.
– It is less than $5m.
- Senator, you will have your say.
-Yes, Senator Townley, you will have your say; do not worry about that. Another factor is involved. I advance this argument as representing a further benefit to the people: As we all know, when a separate Senate poll is held government ceases to some extent. Ministers are expected to travel around the country and take part in that poll, even if it is a separate Senate poll. Therefore, we find that separate polls like that cause some running down of government for some period. We have only 3 years between House of Representatives polls, anyway. If we have during that period another poll and concentration must be directed towards the necessity of winning a Senate election, I do not think that makes for a good government. The workings of committees of the Parliament, including joint committees, tend to stop. Much of the work of the Parliament grinds to a halt during this period.
I move from that question of the benefits involved to point out that the argument of constructive government which I present under this oil arrangement is one which has been debated before particularly by the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review in 1959. The argument which was made there, among other things, was that in the past, even when the polls for the Houses were held together, they were often brought together by a premature dissolution of the House of Representatives. There was a shorter period of government in order to bring them together. That happened on a number of occasions. I quote extracts from the 1959 report of the Constitutional Review Committee. It was composed of distinguished members of this Parliament. They sat for a long period and considered the matter. This is what they stated in paragraph 243 of their report:
The Committee concludes from Parliamentary experience since Federation, firstly that the existence of fixed senatorial terms has increased the number of elections and secondly, that the number of occasions on which there would have been separate elections for senators and members of the House of Representatives would have been greater unless the House of Representatives had been dissolved before the expiration of its full term.
That was the point that I was making a moment ago. They go on to state further in paragraphs 246 and 247:
The Committee concluded, in paragraph 243 above, that an increased number of Senate elections has been avoided by obtaining the dissolution of the House of Representatives before the expiration of its normal life of three years. But the cost of this course of action can be heavy in terms of constructive government. A premature election brought about by the need to synchronise general elections with elections for senators makes it difficult to obtain constructive government. If separate elections for senators are held, work of the Parliament is completely disrupted. Members of the House of Representatives, as well as senators, must devote their energies to the task of obtaining the best possible results for their respective parties at the elections.
The disadvantages caused by the allotment of fixed terms for senators, to which the Committee has referred, would be overcome if one-half of the number of senators were required to retire at every dissolution of the House of Representatives.
The report goes on to deal with the benefits of this for another page. I recommend it as reading to all honorable senators. I know that it will be argued- I have heard this argument alreadythat somehow the Senate’s security and the Senate’s power will be diminished by the carriage of this referendum proposal.
– That is the Liberal Party’s idea.
-No, it is not the Liberal Party’s argument at all. I do not think that that argument will hold water with the Liberal Party, the National Country Party or the people. I believe that the Senate’s influence in this country has grown by its own making. The Senate has faced separate elections before. It has faced joint elections. But it has grown to a zenith of power in recent years not because of separate elections. Honourable senators may recall that the last 2 elections- the one in 1974 and the one in 1975- were not separate elections. They were double dissolutions. Yet in 1974 there was left in the Senate after the election a majority hostile to the then government. I do not believe that in any way the Senate’s real significance to this country is dependent upon the fortuitous fact that there have been some separate elections in recent years. We should not be dependent upon that.
We should realise that the actions of the Senate are to be found in its rightful power of review, its committee system and in the integrity of its members and their ability sometimes to stand up to governments and to say: ‘We will not accept this even if we belong to the same Party’. At times there are reasons why senators must in the discussion of these matters in the Party rooms and elsewhere, stand up to the Government. The Senate is not dependent upon the fortuitous accident of having separate elections- those ghastly elections that we have seen in the past. That is not the responsible way to power.
I do not believe in the arguments which we have heard, which we will hear and which I have heard around the Senate already that somehow a government, under this constitutional proposal, will rush to another election immediately after an election in order to bring out a hostile Senate. In this country, the people are concerned about premature elections. They are not very pleased at being called to vote at elections. Any government that came into power and then sought to hold a quick election again to get rid of the other half of the Senate would risk all. It would risk the loss of the whole of its power. Mr Whitlam in 1973 at the height of his powers threatened this action on occasions when he seemed to have a great deal of support. I think that he had the double dissolution Bills available but he did not do it. Therefore, I do not believe that the irrational fears that somehow we as the Senate will lose rights or powers will result.
I believe that what we must do in this country now is let the people vote on these issues. I believe that the people will not be confused. I believe that they will see in the whole 4 issues that are before them excellent provisions of justice for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, proper provisions in regard to judges, proper provisions for Senate vacancies and above all, in this proposal, provision for fewer elections for the people- probably better and more responsible elections. For these reasons and trusting that the ideas of the constitutional conventions will meet with the favour of the Senate and the people, I support the Bill with all my heart.
– 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 do not wish to take up a great deal of the Senate’s time this evening. But the matter that I wish to bring to the notice of the Senate, and perhaps to the Australian people, is of great importance to me. I am saddened that I should have to bring this matter to the attention of the Senate and of the Australian people. I am saddened because of the lack of thought that has been given to this matter by the Australian people. I say that of the Australian people; but, fortunately, at this moment I am able to congratulate the media of this country for highlighting the matter that I wish to bring to the attention of the Austraiian people and the Senate this evening.
Mr President, I am sure that you, like myself, read the newspapers and would be aware of the atrocities that have been perpetrated in a nation in Africa called Uganda. I wish to speak about that matter tonight. The Courier-Mail of today’s date reports:
Ugandan President Idi Amin shot and killed Anglican Archbishop Janani Luwum, the Government-owned Tanzanian newspaper, the Dally News, said yesterday.
That is the matter I wish to talk about this evening- the atrocities that have been perpetrated against the Ugandan people. I speak of the Christian people in Uganda, the people who follow the teachings of Christ as many of us in this country do. As a black man, as an Australian and as a Christian- although I might be accused by some people of not being a very good practising Christian, I believe that I am a Christian and that I follow the teachings of Christ- tonight, I wish to stand for Christ in what I have to say to this Senate and to the Australian people. I make a plea to all black leaders of the black countries of the world to stand up and to be counted on this matter. I quote from page 4 of one of our Australian newspapers dated Tuesday, 22 February:
Since coming to power in a coup six years ago, Amin has instituted one of the most brutal regimes ever witnessed on a continent already noted for its savagery.
Uganda’s economy is in ruins, with such staples as salt, sugar and bread hoarded like gold. The River Nile is filled with the bodies of Ugandans who dared to even question Amin ‘s rule.
Amnesty International estimates that between 30 000 and 300 000 people have been killed or have simply disappeared in the last six years.
Early in Amin’s reign, his own chief justice was dragged in his robes from his downtown chambers by troops and killed A former foreign minister for Amin disappeared and his body was later found floating in the Nile.
The Nile and Lake Victoria at one point became so clogged with bodies they were clearly visible at the giant Owen Falls power station and several Italian engineers there quit in disgust in 1973.
The rule of the gun has become so prevalent in Uganda that many killings are not the result of Amin’s directives, but are simply troops settling old scores. Soldiers commandeer everything from cars to girl friends at gunpoint.
Amin’s reign has been as bizarre as it has been deadly. He once dragged a disgraced cabinet minister handcuffed and stripped to the waist into a state reception and beat him in front of guests.
I have noted protests in this country against many things that have happened in other parts of the world. There were protests in the streets by many people concerning the conquest of Vietnam. There have been protests in the streets against apartheid in South Africa. There have been protests of many kinds- and I have been part of them- at the atrocities that have occurred in a little island just off Australia. I ask tonight: Where are the protests against the reign of terror by this tyrant, Idi Amin of Uganda?
Unfortunately and sadly, Australia seems to be silent except for the media which has written up the things that have happened in Uganda at the hands of this person who has put himself above God. He has caused such atrocities as the slaying of an Anglican Archbishop because that man dared to speak against him. It seems strange to me that in this world and in this country there are protests when there is oppression of blacks by whites, but unfortunately there is little protest when there are atrocities and oppression of blacks by blacks.
I think that we fall short in our duty if we do not protest at the highest level against what has happened in Uganda because of the actions of this tyrant. Because of what he has done to the people in Uganda, I cannot find words to describe this man. There are some 3 million black people in Uganda who claim to be and, I believe, are Christians. They follow the teachings of Christ. But their fate is unknown to the world because of the actions of this man whom I can only describe as a beast. I hope that, as a black man of this country, my words will go throughout the world and reach out to those leaders of black countries so that they will protest and join the leaders of the churches throughout the world whose voices have been raised against what has happened and what is likely to happen in Uganda.
I hope that in this chamber tonight the consciences of people who have protested so vehemently against other things that have happened throughout the world will be pricked. Perhaps I am taking something on myself which I have no right to do. Perhaps some people will level criticism at me because this evening I take on the role of leader of the black people of this country. But I do so with great humility and I do so as a Christian following his Christian principles. I raise my voice and hope that the black people of this nation will join me in my condemnation in the strongest terms of Idi Amin of Uganda who has perpetrated these atrocities against his own people who profess the Christian faith. I can only hope and pray for the safety of those millions of people in Uganda. As I understand from Press reports, their lives could be forfeited because they profess to follow the Christian faith.
Again I say that I am saddened at the lack of voices raised in this country at what is happening in Uganda. I hope that after I have spoken tonight Australians and their Government will raise their voices in stronger terms than they have up to now. We can rest assured because we live in a democratic country in which every man has the right to speak and do those things which are possible under a democratic system. But let us have some feeling for those who are suffering in other parts of the world. I hope that those who have demonstrated in the past will now be counted and that they will demonstrate against this person for whom it is difficult to find words to describe.
– I wish to raise a matter this evening which is of vital importance to local government bodies in South Australia. I refer to the funding for some of the road making programs which the local government bodies are obliged to put into operation. Local government bodies in South Australia are expressing deep concern at the fast diminishing purchasing value of the money allocated by the Federal Government to that State for the construction of local urban and rural roads. I understand that the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, has not as yet given any indication to South Australia as to what his intentions are with respect to funding for these roads in the future. We are all aware of the important role of the third arm of government in Australia. These bodies have to plan well ahead in their road construction programs and should not be placed in the situation of not knowing what funds are to be made available to them.
I have received letters from some local government bodies in South Australia. One of these is from the Corporation of the City of Mount Gambier. Mr President, I gave you a copy of that letter tonight because I was requested to do so by the Clerk of the Corporation of the City of Mount Gambier. I wish to read that letter in order to place it on the record. It is dated 1 1 February 1977. It is addressed to me at 1 King William Street, Adelaide. Of course, that is not my office. As I have pointed out in this chamber on numerous occasions, my office is at Murray Bridge in the country. The letter reads:
Dear Mr McLaren,
Council is concerned at the level of Federal expenditure on both local urban and rural roads in South Australia. As you are aware, Council has received district road grants $29,000 for 1976-77, $30,000 1975-76 and $20,000 1974-75. Whilst these grants assist Council in the constructing of roads, and for the reconstruction of existing roads, it is of necessity that Council is forced to seek other means to obtain funds for construction of roads, etc.
I respectfully request that you present this letter to the President and Members of the Senate (Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives) in an endeavour to obtain additional funds for road grants in South Australia.
Yours faithfully, J.J.JOHNSON Town Clerk
As I have said, I have given a copy of that letter to you, Mr President. It is my intention to send a copy of that letter tomorrow to the Speaker of the other place so that he will be acquainted with the problems being faced by the Corporation of the City of Mount Gambier. I have also received a letter from the Corporation of the City of Prospect. Its address is 128 Prospect Road, Prospect, South Australia. The letter is dated 15 February 1977. It is addressed to Senator G. T. McLaren, Parliament House, Canberra. It reads:
I am directed to advise that this Council is concerned about the level of Federal expenditure on local urban and rural roads.
The Council believes that the Commonwealth Government’s long term policy should be to provide SO per cent of all funding for Australia’s roads. The Council strongly endorses the recommendations made 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.
The Council seeks your support in this matter.
Yours faithfully, R.L.PASH, Town Clerk
The 41 per cent referred to as being recommended is in the report on roads in Australia of 1975. 1 wish to make this plea tonight to the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, to give some indication to the Minister for Roads and Transport in South Australia and also the Minister for Local Government, Mr Virgo, as to what money he will make available to that State to enable it to carry out the funding of the construction of local roads by the councils I have mentioned. It cannot be too soon before that announcement is made. I have had verbal conversations with these councils. As I said, they have to carry out a long term planning program. Not only are their programs in jeopardy but also the employment of their workers is in jeopardy if they are not able to allocate funds for the programs which they want to carry out. It is for that reason that I rose tonight to make a plea to Mr Nixon to hurry up and make his intentions known to the State Minister. I spoke to the Minister by telephone today. He is unable to get any indication from Mr Nixon as to what amount of money he will make available, if any. Mr Nixon will not tell him. This is no way to run a government If the Government is to pare the funds to a large extent at least it ought to be prepared to tell the Minister in South Australia so that he in turn can advise these local government bodies what is in store for them in the future. I have no doubt that other members of this chamber have received similar letters to those I have received. I have no doubt that we will receive many more in future.
– I do not wish to delay the Senate for long but I wish to raise the matter of dress regulations and working conditions for Commonwealth car drivers. In this chamber recently there has been a quiet revolution in relation to dress regulations led by my colleague Senator McLaren. It seems to have passed without too many problems. Honourable senators will be aware that on two occasions in Sydney recently the temperature reached over 40 degrees Celsius. I was amazed on one of those days when travelling in a Commonwealth vehicle to find that the driver was wearing a tie and a long sleeved shirt that was buttoned at the wrists. When I inquired I was told that this was a regulation and that the reason for this regulation was that some of the drivers had tattoos on their forearms and these tattoos might be regarded by the passengers as offensive. I would certainly hope that all honourable senators are broad minded enough not to be shocked by a tattoo and that a more sensible style of dress could be adopted in these circumstances.
While I am on this subject, I noticed also that a large number of cars in the Sydney pool are being replaced by new Chryslers and that these are not airconditioned. Surely air conditioning would increase the resale value of the vehicles as well as providing more comfort for the passengers and, more importantly, more safety for both the drivers and the passengers. I think if any person here were asked to drive a nonairconditioned vehicle for a full shift in temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius wearing a tie and a long sleeved buttoned shirt there would quickly be industrial action. That is the way I feel about the issue. I hope that the Minister concerned will investigate the two matters that I have raised tonight.
– I wish to join with Senator Bonner in expressing concern at the events in Uganda in recent years and, in particular, the matter that he dealt with in his contribution to the adjournment debate this evening. I do not think there is any doubt that most people in the world who are aware of the tragic events in Uganda deplore them and would like to see actions taken by the people of Uganda to topple the cruel tyrant which Idi Amin is. The honourable senator was correct in drawing this matter to the attention of the Senate and suggesting that there ought to be a lot of indignation and protest about those events.
I am sure that I am speaking on behalf of my colleagues on this side of the House when I say that I join with him in deploring the turn of events and the brutal, cold blooded murder of those whose only crime seems to have been that they have simply questioned the regime of Idi Amin or suggested the establishment of a more democratic government than that which prevails in that country. Be that as it may, it is the democratic right of the citizens of any country to determine their own affairs, and if they are guilty of any crime there are processes which may be brought to bear. But we know that the dictatorship that exists in that country is a very brutal one and that since that government came to power 6 years ago many people have suffered at the hands of the tyrant who heads it.
One is becoming used to this sort of thing. I suppose that to some extent that is the reason the protesters are perhaps not as vocal about this matter as one might normally have expected. There is an increasing tendency in certain parts of the world towards terrorism, brutality, the committing of atrocities, murder and assassination. People have come to expect this sort of thing as part of the process, instead of raising their voices against it every time it takes place. I believe that Senator Bonner acted properly and correctly in drawing attention to the failure of people to be more vocal on this matter. After all, the Government of this country has spoken out on it and the newspapers also have been very vocal on it. I do not think it can be said that public opinion has not been very critical of the turn of events there, where highly placed people have been brutally murdered.
However, the principal reason I have risen to my feet in the adjournment debate tonight is to mention a matter that was raised this morning by Senator Knight, that is, alleged atrocities relating to tragic events in our part of the world- East Timor. This morning Senator Knight directed a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs in which he spoke about allegations of atrocities in East Timor and asked the Minister whether he was aware of such reports and whether he had any information concerning allegations of atrocities by Fretilin forces in East Timor. It was clearly a prepared question because the Minister was able to quote in his reply from documents that were available to him. I can only say that I deplore the attempt to suggest that any activities by the forces of the people of Timor- the forces that were endeavouring to establish the democratic rights of their own form of government- can be equated in any way with the terrible atrocities that have been committed by the Indonesian authorities. I wonder how much the murky finger of the Department of Foreign Affairs was involved in the preparation of that question and the answer to it. The Minister referred in his reply to 2 documents. One related to the massacre in East Timor that I dealt with in this place almost a year ago. At that time I drew attention to the deficiencies, inaccuracies, distortions and exaggerations which appeared on that document and which have been confirmed subsequently in several ways.
Firstly, honourable senators will be aware that the former Australian consul in Dili, Mr Dunn- a person who represented this country there for some years, who has a love for the people and the country, and who is now employed in this Parliament- recently travelled to Portugal and that he has been able to show in a confidential report which I have been privileged to see and which has been made available to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, that persons who are listed as having been massacred by Fretilin forces in Timor are in fact officials of the UDT movement and the Apodeti movement, the 2 other independence movements in East Timor which, with the Fretilin movement, form the three main political groupings in that country. They now find themselves as political refugees in Portugal, which is their sovereign country. He was able to speak to those people and to establish clearly and without any equivocation that they were all alive, and to indicate that the document which was put out by the Indonesian authorities and which was circulated amongst the members of this Parliament was a fraudulent document.
It is interesting to note that on the very day on which Mr Dunn made his statements from Portugal they were reported by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in its 7 o’clock news program. That very evening in the 9 p.m. news program there was a report- I suggest to honourable senators that it was again from unimpeachable sources- from an official of the Captive Nations Organisation in Taiwan who said that he had spoken to Chinese who were present in Dili the day of the Indonesian invasion, and had confirmed that Indonesian regular troops and parachutists had landed in Dili and had in fact carried out a considerable degree of atrocities and massacres in that part. As I have pointed out to the Senate on several occasion, the members of the Chinese community in Timor had direct affiliations with and the support of the families of the Taiwanese sections of China. That has been confirmed now by an official of the Captive Nations Organisation.
Today the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs had the temerity to quote from this document. The United Nations, Mr Peacock himself and those members of this Parliament who were at the United Nations when this matter was being discussed last year know that the whole of the civilised world regards that document as a fraudulent and exaggerated document. Of course, the other document which was referred to by the Minister in his reply- he said that it was a document entitled ‘The Process of Decolonisation in East Timor’- is a document which the Minister himself said is a publication issued by the Indonesian Department of Information. So the documents to which the Minister referred in his reply as having been given to him by the Department of Foreign Affairs are, as I have indicated, documents that were supplied by the Indonesian authorities.
I am not able to make any comment about the second document because it is clearly not a document that is available to members of this Parliament and I am not able to comment in any way upon its veracity or otherwise. Suffice it to say that we recall that Senator Withers, when replying to a question from me in this House last year when the Melbourne Herald carried an article in which Mr Malik, the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister, claimed in an interview with a Melbourne Herald correspondent that the Australian Government had given certain assurances in respect of East Timor, claimed that Mr Peacock had denied that any such assurance had been given. I think there is sufficient evidence to show that the views of Indonesia cannot be accepted with any credence. The Government of Indonesia must stand condemned on the basis of the mounting evidence available to us in this country and in the United Nations organisation.
A copy of that second confidential report has been made available to Mr Peacock and it is one of the most damning documents that one could ever see. That document would turn the stomach of any civilised person. It contains accounts of what happened in Timor. Those accounts were given by people now in Portugal who were supporters of Apodeti and the UDT movement- the Timorese Democratic Union- the 2 movements opposed to the Fretilin movement. I suggest that all honourable senators, on both the Government side and the Opposition side, read that document. It is in the hands of the Government. It was written by a person who represented this country in Dili. At his own expense and in a somewhat courageous way he sought to indicate the real position in that country. When I raised these matters in this House on previous occasions I was chided and even derided by Government supporters because I wanted the Government to investigate some of them.
– That is not completely so.
– I accept that there are Government supporters who share my view about East Timor, just as I share the view of Senator Bonner about the tragic events in Uganda. But the fact is that Australia has done nothing about the atrocities that have taken lace in East Timor. Even a respectable journal ke the Melbourne Herald referred to this in its editorial today which was headed ‘Uganda murder’. It stated:
Australia finds it politically easier to be strongly critical of deaths in Uganda, 12 000 kilometres away, than it does to question alleged atrocities in East Timor 600 kilometres off our coast . . . Thus the Australian Foreign Minister, Mr Peacock, has remained silent so far on the latest allegations of atrocities by Indonesian troops in East Timor, while speaking out with justifiable concern over the latest murderous antics of the bizarre Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin.
Even our newspapers which normally do not take a critical position on this Government’s policies in foreign affairs- newspapers which normally take a fairly benevolent attitude to them- have seen fit to draw comparisons. I share the comparisons of the action this Government has taken at a government level about Uganda and the silence that has existed about East Timor. If I look at these matters properly and compassionately I view the loss of the lives of 3 villagers in East Timor with the same concern as I have about the 3 people who were murdered in Uganda. I do not think we can say that the lives of the 2 Cabinet Ministers and a Bishop which were lost in Uganda were of any more importance than those of 3 ordinary villagers in East Timor or 3 young girls living in the town of Dili.
– Or the lives of 5 Australians.
– Or the lives of the half dozen Australians who were killed. The latest report by Mr Dunn clearly establishes further evidence which confirms what Jose Martins said when he was brought here by the Australian Journalists Association in the middle of last year. Abundant evidence is available. I do not think we can put ourselves in the position of according a greater degree of importance in the scheme of things to the lives of a group of people in one country as against another. I think we all ought to deplore the turn of events throughout the world where terrorism, murder and assassination are becoming the order of the day; where political dissidents are being persecuted, tortured and murdered because they hold different point of view. Such people have been gaoled because they disagree with policies pursued by particular countries or particular parties which might be ruling in those countries.
When I last spoke on this matter, on 17 November 1976, I said that we were receiving private documents and eye witness accounts of the situation in East Timor. I said that they came from courageous people whose liberty, as well as that of their friends, could be jeopardised if we were to reveal to the Senate and the Australian people the source of that information. I would be somewhat concerned about making that sort of information available to the Department of Foreign Affairs unless I had an assurance that in no way would it be conveyed to the Indonesian authorities. I agree with the comment by the Melbourne Herald that there is a need for us to concern ourselves about loss of life, brutality and atrocities wherever they take place in the world, but particularly in countries closest to us.
I urge members of the Government parties who have a genuine concern about East Timor to read the confidential report which is available to their Government. I hope in the weeks to come after the next break in the parliamentary sittings that the Senate will be prepared to do something about the turn of events that now have been more clearly revealed than they were when weboth Government supporters and members of the Opposition- first raised these matters in the Senate a year or two ago. I hope that the Government, particularly its spokesmen in this place, will re-examine the answer given to that question and re-examine the motivation of the questioner who sought to suggest that the Fretilin sources were using people in the villages to protect the lives of the Fretilin soldiers. The situation is that a country of the size of Indonesia, with 130 million people, has occupied a country of 600 000 people and in doing so has used modern weapons and sophisticated means of warfare. It is ridiculous to suggest that about 16 months afterwards Fretilin could survive only by adopting that sort of behaviour. On the contrary, anybody who is aware of movements that have grown up in the world in recent times involving people who have struggled for liberty and the right to determine their own affairs, must realise that such movements cannot be sustained unless they enjoy the overwhelming support of the indigenous people. That is the position in East Timor. I suggest the Government ought to reexamine that question and put the record straight in respect of the tragic events that have taken place and are continuing to take place in East T imor.
– I do not want to minimise the importance of what Senator Gietzelt said by returning to one of the earlier speeches we heard in this adjournment debate tonight. I refer to a speech which I believe we were privileged to hear, a speech about the Ugandan reign of terror made by Senator
Neville Bonner, the first Aboriginal in the Australian Parliament. I believe that in making that speech he struck a blow which should be remembered by those of us who were privileged to hear it. I do not think there is a person in this Parliament who would not regard Neville Bonner as a man of great principle. But I think his was a voice crying out that should be listened to by both blacks and whites not only in Australia but also in other parts of the world. For too long there has been a division. For too long there has been an attempt by some to drive those divisions home, particularly in relation to Africa and especially to the black-white situation in Africa and to pretend that the siutation can be painted in black and white terms. That cannot be done.
I believe that it is important for us to remember that Senator Bonner, who spoke as he did, so eloquently, so feelingly and so significantly, is the man who has spearheaded many of the developments in the recognition of Aboriginal rights in Australia. He has done this in a balanced way, using the democratic process. By doing so he has proved its value. He has done so as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. I was proud to be a member of that Committee which produced a report that was something of a hallmark in the development of the recognition of Aboriginal rights and of the situation of Aborigines in Australia. He is the man who obtained the vote of the Senate in relation to the question of compensation. I do not want to spend any time on the matter. I simply remind honourable senators of the vote in which they joined. He is the man who, to a large extent, was responsible for developing the enlightened attitude of the Government Parties in relation to the land rights question, legislation on which was passed late last year. He is the man who has on the notice paper a private members Bill in relation to police procedures and confessions by Aborigines. I think we should be encouraging moves for that Bill to be brought on, and debated and supported in this chamber.
I have mentioned some of these points to bring together for people who may not recall as readily as we do the role which Senator Bonner played in these matters so that they may see the light in relation to the remarks he made about Africa, about the black, vicious, dictatorial government of a man who is either mad as some suggest, or one of the most vicious people who has ever lived.
– But you are a Tasmanian senator.
– I would be far more ashamed to be a Queensland senator.
– And treat the Aborigines as Tasmania did?
- Senator McAuliffe displays his lack of knowledge of Australian history. He supports what is a total state of ignorance brought about as a result of some history books which have been written, as have many history books, to create and develop a myth and to distort the truth. There are more people of Aboriginal descent in Tasmania as a percentage of the population than there are in Victoria and probably in several of the other States. I ask Senator McAuliffe not to interrupt what is a serious speech about a matter of world concern. I do not propose to respond to any further interjections from Senator McAuliffe. I continue by putting this view: I believe that the speech which we heard, from the first black member of this Parliament, about a matter involving a black government in Africa, ought to be seen in the light of the character and record of the man who gave the speech.
I wanted to refer to the history of that man and to some of his achievements, not only for the purposes of this debate but also for those who at later stages may be interested in looking back and learning some lessons. I believe there are lessons to be learned from the point of view of the democratic process in relation to the achievement of the rights which people who have been underprivileged and who have at times lost rights would seek to regain by the use of that process. I believe that the lead which has been given by Senator Bonner is one to which we should advert. I simply say in summary about his remarks in relation to Uganda that we must strengthen our voice and strengthen Australia’s voice of protest in an endeavour to develop a worldwide voice of protest about what has been happening under the regime of the person whom must be regarded as the most vicious of all the African dictators.
– I also associate myself with the remarks made by Senator Bonner. With Senator Rae, I congratulate Senator Bonner for taking the lead in this very important matter. On the radio today I heard an interview with an Anglican prelate. He was asked what could be done. Of course, people can pray. He said that governments should take action. I appreciate that the Australian Government has vigorously protested about the events in Uganda. I wonder what more the Government can do. I know it is very difficult for the Government to do anything diplomatically because, as I understand the situation- the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) who is at the table will correct me if I am wrong- I do not think we have any diplomatic relations with Uganda. If we did we could express our protest diplomatically by breaking off diplomatic relations. But there are other measures which can be adopted. I know that the Minister for Administrative Services has a very keen sense as far as foreign affairs are concerned and that he will take abroad what has been said in the Senate tonight and refer the matter to the Government. I hope that he will do so. I associate myself with the remarks made by Senator Bonner.
-Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement of explanation.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Just in case there is any misconception or misunderstanding of my stance, I point out that I am not more concerned with what has happened in Uganda than I am with what has happened in East Timor. I make that quite clear. I do not think distance makes any difference. Where there are atrocities such as have happened in Uganda, and such as have happened to my knowledge in East Timor, I am just as concerned for both areas and for both people. I took my stand tonight on a particular issue, namely, in relation to what has happened in Uganda. I stand by what I have said. That does not lessen my concern for what has happened in East Timor. I make that explanation in case there is some misunderstanding as a result of what my colleague, Senator Gietzelt, on the Opposition side said this evening.
– I deal firstly very quickly with the matter raised by Senator Sibraa which concerns my Department of Administrative Services directly. The honourable senator asked me to have some investigation made about the conditions affecting some of the car drivers in Sydney. I shall have that investigation made. I shall advice the honourable senator of the results of my investigations at the earliest possible time.
The other matters which fall within my jurisdiction as representing my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) were raised by Senator Bonner and supported by Senator Gietzelt, Senator Rae and Senator Harradine. The factual answer to Senator Harradine is that
Australia does have diplomatic relations with Uganda. We do not have an Australian representative there directly. The Australian Ambassador in Kenya is accredited to Uganda. I am calling on memory, but I think the French Embassy in Uganda tends to look after our day to day affairs. I shall pass on to the Minister for Foreign Affairs the remarks which Senator Harradine made about our representation there.
I think it is fair to say that nobody is at all surprised that Senator Bonner made the remarks that he did tonight. When he spoke a second time he put his attitude quite clearly on the line.
Those of us who have sat with Senator Bonner since he first entered the Senate know that he has always campaigned for human rights and human dignity. I know that Senator Bonner will not take offence when I say that he has not done it because he is of Aboriginal descent or because of the colour of his skin. He has done it because of his innate humanity. He says modestly that he may not be a very good Christian but he tries to practise being one. Those of us who have seen him in action have seen a very great and kind Christian gentleman. So one is not surprised that Senator Bonner has quite properly raised this matter tonight. I will certainly pass on the remarks he has made about Idi Amin, a man who is, I suppose, a prime example of a man with too much power going to his head. It is not an unusual thing for people with some power or a lot of power, or even for those who seek power, to indulge in strange actions such as Idi Amin has. He has indulged in brutality and treachery to those who have been closest about him, again tragically not an uncommon trait in the world. I know that Senator Bonner touched something within the Senate tonight when he spoke about these matters. I really understand what he is saying and I will make certain that the Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) gets his message.
As to the matter raised by Senator Gietzelt, I know of his continuing concern for the situation in East Timor, a concern shared by a number of senators including Senator Bonner who sits behind me, Senator Primmer and Senator Georges. I do not wish to single out individuals. Again I will pass on Senator Gietzelt ‘s remarks. As for the matters raised by Senator Rae and Senator Harradine, I have answered the only factual matter I can answer. I too join with Senator Rae in supporting the remarks of Senator Bonner.
– Briefly I rise to comment on the remarks of Senator McLaren. I draw the attention of the Senate to a reply by the Minister for Transport in another place, Mr Nixon, to a question today on a similar matter. I will bring to the attention of the Minister the remarks of Senator McLaren.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Senate adjourned at 11.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circula
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:
The information set out below relates to plutonium brought into Australia for purposes for which I have direct ministerial responsibility. In relation to other aspects, the honourable senator will of course be aware of the matters covered by my colleague, the Minister for Defence, in response to various questions.
Plutonium is a prohibited import under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission, for which I have ministerial responsibility, has not imported any plutonium outside these Regulations.
Between 1958 and 1968 the AAEC leased from the United States of America 4 kilograms of plutonium-aluminium alloy plates which have since been returned.
The AAEC also purchased approximately 1.5 kilograms of plutonium from the United States of Amenca for fundamental research into the feasibility of a high temperature gas cooled reactor using beryllia as a moderator. The research was entirely scientific and results were published in open literature over the period 1960-1971, at which time analysis of earlier results was completed. The work is outlined in various annual reports of the AAEC and references to published work are given in appendices to those reports.
A further 778.98 grams of plutonium has been imported from the United States of America in the form of 14 plutonium-beryllium sealed neutron sources for use in standardising equipment and providing neutrons for scientific experiments. Thirteen of these sources are presently located at the AAEC’s Research Establishment and one is held by CSIRO. The AAEC has also imported from the United Kingdom milligram quantities of plutonium contained in sealed instruments for use in scientific research, and several plutonium samples for experiments in nuclear physics.
In addition, I am informed that two cardiac pacemakers, each powered by 160 milligrams of plutonium 238, were imported in 1974 by Medtronics/Biomedical Pty Ltd for implantation in cardiac patients at the Royal Perth Hospital and St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney. The pacemakers, which were imported from the Netherlands, were powered by plutonium produced in France.
The activities outlined above have involved personnel at the AAEC, CSIRO and medical officers at the Royal Perth Hospital and St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney.
In relation to plutonium brought into Australia for the purposes set out in ( 1 ) above, I am advised that a total of approximately 2.89 kilograms of plutonium in various forms is held in Australia and is subject to Australia’s obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in relation to safeguards. Of this approximately 2.28 kilograms came from the United States of America, 6 1 1 grams were generated in Australia in fuel elements in the AAEC’s reactor HIFAR, 690 milligrams originated in the United Kingdom and 320 milligrams were obtained from France.
All research by the AAEC has been for peaceful purposes as outlined in ( 1 ) above.
5 ) Purchases by the AAEC have been made as part of its approved scientific program and in accordance with established purchasing procedures.
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:
In the Northern Territory royalties on minerals won in reserves have been paid to the Aborigines Benefits Trust Fund for use as directed by the Minister, on the advice of an all-Aboriginal committee. The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act replaces this Fund with the Aboriginals Benefit Trust Account and provides for the disbursement of royalties on minerals won in Aboriginal land. Agreed payments in the nature of royalties are made direct to the Groote Eylandt Trust by the mining company operating at Groote Eylandt.
In Western Australia the State Treasury is responsible for the disbursement of royalties and royalties payable to Aboriginals for minerals won on Aboriginal reserves are paid to the Aboriginal Lands Trust.
In South Australia royalties won on lands vested in the Aboriginal Lands Trust may be appropriated and paid to the Trust.
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable senator’s questions are as follows:
Other witnesses took a less optimistic view of the technical prospects for solar energy. They described the large scale utilisation of solar energy for the generation of electricity as an enormous technological undertaking and stressed possible adverse environmental effects.’
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The CSIRO Division of Forest Research is neither conducting nor planning to conduct an experiment on the impact of forestry practices in the Cotter River Valley between the Corin and Bendora dams.
However, the Division is conducting research into watershed management in an area between Bendora and Cotter dams. The experiments were commenced in 1963 by the then Forest Research Institute and are continuing under the control of CSIRO. The most recent account of this research appeared in the Forestry and Timber Bureau Annual Report for 1974-75.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
With respect of part (2) of the Minister’s reply to Senate Question No. 1356 (Hansard, page 2871, 8 December 1976) are funds accrued from rental of Aboriginal housing, the capital cost of which is borne by the Commonwealth Government, repaid to the Commonwealth, or are they retained by the Queensland Government.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
By agreement funds accrued from the rental of Aboriginal housing are retained by the Queensland Government for use in meeting costs of repairs and maintenance with any balance being used to provide additional housing.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Will free dental treatment be provided for primary school children by 1982. If so, what program has been initiated to bring this about.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian School Dental Scheme already covers a significant number of primary school children throughout the country.
The scheme is currently under review, and until this review is completed no date for complete coverage of primary school children can be given.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 February 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770223_senate_30_s71/>.