30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser).
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Honourable senators will understand that when I use the first person personal pronoun it refers to the Prime Minister.
I wish to inform the Senate that the Government has recommended to His Excellency the Governor-General that the House of Representatives be dissolved on 10 November next and that a general election for the members of the House of Representatives be held on Saturday, 10 December. His Excellency has accepted my recommendation.
The places of one-half of the members of the Senate will become vacant on 30 June next. If their places are to be filled by 1 July 1978, an election to fill them must be held no later than May. Under the second paragraph of section 13 of the Constitution an election to fill vacant Senate places may be held within one year before the places become vacant. Members of the House of Representatives were elected on 13 December 1975; its term expires on 16 February 1979. However, section 28 of the Constitution enables the House of Representatives to be dissolved before then. It was the general practice prior to 1963 to hold elections for the House of Representatives and for half the Senate on the same date. Indeed, in 1955, the GovernorGeneral, Sir William Slim, on the advice of the then Prime Minister, dissolved the House of Representatives much earlier than its three-year term to synchronise the elections for the two Houses. In that case, the election for both Houses was held some 18 months after the previous election for the House of Representatives.
In May this year, the Government put to the people a referendum proposal which was intended to ensure that elections for both Houses would have to be held simultaneously. The proposal was supported by all political parties in the Parliament and the arguments in favour of it were widely canvassed. It was approved by a significant majority- 62 per cent- of all voters and by a majority of voters in three States. It is the view of the Government that at the next election for half the Senate, an election should also be held for the House of Representatives. This clearly accords with the view of the majority of the Australian people, as reflected in the referendum vote. It is a view shared by the Opposition. Indeed, in a Monday Conference interview on 1 November 1976, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) thought it would be entirely appropriate to have a combined half-Senate and House of Representatives election at the end of 1977. 1 quote the words he uttered almost exactly a year ago:
In a year’s time, which I would think would be about the earliest that there could be an election, although quite a likely time for the election, it would be a perfectly reasonable time to have a half-Senate election and one could have the whole of the House of Representatives at the same time to synchronise the elections.
If the elections are not held together it will mean that there must be an election for half the Senate at least by May 1978, an election for the House of Representatives before April 1979, another election for half the Senate before July 1 98 1 and so on- a major Federal election every one or two years. A situation in which a Government is constantly concerned with the holding of elections is not conducive to sound government and hence is not in the public interest.
If the elections for both Houses are to be synchronised, the question arises as to when they should be held. In practical terms, this means: Should they be held in December this year or before the end of May next year? The Government has come to the conclusion that the elections for both Houses should be held in December 1977, and I have recommended accordingly to His Excellency.
It is appropriate that I should tell the Senate what considerations have led the Government to this decision. At the time the Government was elected in December 1975, Australia was in a state of severe depression marked by rapid inflation, rapidly rising unemployment, and declining output.
- Mr President, I seek leave to move that the rest of the statement, which is rubbish, be incorporated in Hansard.
-He cannot interrupt a speaker -
– I am seeking leave.
– The honourable senator is out of order. I call the Minister.
-I am delighted that the Prime Minister’s statement is really getting under the skin of Senator Georges. I should have thought that if he really believed what he has been huffing and puffing about he would be delighted to go out and put himself on the election block.
– He is. He is leading the Senate team in Queensland.
-He was last week. Is he this week? At the time the Government was elected in December 197S, Australia was in a state of severe depression marked by rapid inflation, rapidly rising unemployment, and declining output. Since that election, the Government has pursued policies designed to correct the situation. These policies have required steady and resolute action. There are now encouraging signs that they are succeeding. The economy is strengthening. There is now indisputable evidence that we are winning the war against inflation. Interest rates are falling.
– You said that about Vietnam.
-Don’t they get enraged! The Opposition is enraged that interest rates are falling, investment is rising and confidence is returning. The conditions under which real economic growth can proceed are being restored. The Government takes much satisfaction from these encouraging developments. Nevertheless, there is still much to be done. The reduction in the rate of inflation, the achievement of real economic growth, and the progressive reduction of unemployment which is a vital part of the Government’s goals can only be sustained by the continuance of these policies. A fundamental requirement for their success is an atmosphere of certainty and confidence in the community. We have acted firmly to ensure that confidence continues to return. To have further progress, Australians must be convinced that the current economic recovery will continue, not just for months but for a number of years ahead. While uncertainty as to an election persists, investment is likely to be held back, confidence could be eroded and a significant growth in employment opportunities is unlikely. All this is highly undesirable at a time when school leavers will shortly be seeking to enter the work force. An election in December will provide an early opportunity to end election speculation and the resulting uncertainty.
Opposition senators- Ha, ha!
-It will enable the Government to seek from the people an expression of their will.
– You admit it now.
-I thought Opposition senators would like that. Don’t they want it? I repeat: It will enable the Government to seek from the people an expression of their will.
Let me also make clear that an election in December would be in keeping with the pattern over many years for elections to be held for half the Senate in the latter months of the calendar year. In fact, December would be the usual time for the Senate election to take place. Since 1949, and leaving aside double dissolutions, elections for half the Senate have been held in November or December on seven occasions and in May on one occasion only.
– What an argument.
-That is the truth. The Opposition does not like it. I repeat: Since 1949, and leaving aside double dissolutions, elections for half the Senate have been held in November or December on seven occasions and in May on one occasion only. For the reasons I have stated, there is ample justification for both elections to be held together at this time.
The timetable the Prime Minister has proposed to His Excellency is as follows: Issue of writs, 10 November; nominations close, 18 November; polling day, 10 December; and return of writs on or before 8 February 1978. His Excellency has agreed to communicate this timetable to the State Governors with a view to adopting it for elections for senators in each of the States. When replies have been received from the States I shall inform the Senate.
That concludes the Prime Minister’s statement. I think it is a great statement. We are fully enthused and anxious to get out and get behind the Prime Minister.
– by leave- The Opposition is interested to learn from the statement which has been brought down by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has for the time being ended the economic uncertainty brought about by the speculation which he himself has created. Yesterday the Opposition in this chamber moved an urgency motion criticising the Government for creating economic uncertainty as a result of the speculation that was occurring. When that urgency motion was moved the Government hotly disputed the terms of the motion and said that no economic uncertainty had been caused by speculation because there was no speculation. Today, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, acting on behalf of the Prime Minister, came into, the chamber and said: ‘We are now going to end the speculation and stop the economic uncertainty caused by that speculation by announcing the date of the election as 10 December’.
Since August last when the Prime Minister told the editor of the Australian newspaper that he might spring an election, the Australian economy and political system have been subjected to very great stresses, strains and uncertainties deliberately created by this Government. The same sorts of stresses, strains and uncertainties were created by supporters of the Government when they were in Opposition two years ago. Liberal and National Party senators refused to give the Labor Government Supply to enable it to carry on the economic fight in which it was engaged at that time. In early September, when the Prime Minister was engaged in a pre-election campaign in Queensland, he admitted that speculation on an election date was creating uncertainty and confusion. The Prime Minister has deliberately fuelled the speculation and deepened the uncertainty for the last three months in order specifically to divert attention from the Government’s mismanagement of the nation’s affairs. It is is fair to say that as a result of the Government’s antics there have been as many bets placed on an early election and on the date for an election as have been placed on the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups. It is interesting to learn now from a government which for one year and ten months has been saying that it needs three complete years in office to get Australia on the economic rails again that it has come out and said, after a mere 22 months in office, that it wants another three years, that in fact it wants five years uninterrupted in order to handle the nation ‘s affairs.
– They would not give that to us.
-As my colleague, Senator Gietzelt, has interjected, they gave us in office two periods each of a mere 1 8 months. In that time we suffered the frustrations of not being able to get our legislation passed in this chamber. Now they themselves want another three years on top of the 22 months which they have had. As far as the record of the Government is concerned, that period is far too long. For proof that the Government is acting in great haste I refer to today’s Notice Paper. Today the redistribution proposals for each of the States, other than Tasmania, are to go through the Senate. The redistribution proposals have not been approved by Parliament and yet, before those proposals have been dealt with by Parliament, the Prime Minister is announcing the date for an election. None of the new State boundaries, including the Tasmanian boundaries which have been approved by this Parliament, has yet been proclaimed. Notice was given yesterday of a Bill to be introduced into the House of Representatives to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
Despite all the semantics connected with the statement made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate on behalf of the Prime Minister, the simple and clear fact is that the Government is hoping that by holding an election at this time it might escape the wrath of the Australian community when the number of unemployed persons soars to over 420,000 early in 1978. But it will not escape. The Australian people were distinctly told by this Government that if inflation fell unemployment too would fall. If what the Leader of the Government said about the Government winning the war against inflation is correct, I ask: Why is the Government not winning the war against unemployment? The word unemployment’ will become a grim stark reality for hundreds of thousands of Australians in 1978. The Government is going to the polls 16 months ahead of time before the wrath of the Australian people descends upon its head because of its employment and economic policies. That is the reason.
If the Government believes the economy is recovering, if it believes it is defeating inflation, if it thinks it is overcoming the unemployment problem, the Prime Minister and the Government would have chosen to remain here for the rest of the Government’s term which, as 1 said, if necessary could run for another 16 months. The Government could follow this course, especially bearing in mind the record majority it has in the House of Representatives and the majority it enjoys in the Senate. Because the Prime Minister has been fiddling and hesitating in his typical fashion about an election date, the Labor Party has been preparing to fight and we will challenge the competence of this Government before the people of this country. We will fight the election on the basis of the hesitancy, uncertainty and turmoil that the Government has created. We will fight the election on the issue of the unemployment the Government has already created and will continue to create. We will fight the election on the issue of the Government’s interference with the great Medibank scheme that was introduced by the Labor Party.
So far as simultaneous elections are concerned, senators who are elected in December will not take their places in the Senate until July, 7 months later. If the Prime Minister really wanted to synchronise elections for both Houses, as has been said by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, if things are on the up and up, as has been said by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the time for an election on both counts surely would have been May of next year. This will be the fourth House of Representatives election to be held in 5 years and the public is well and truly fed up with the political uncertainty that the coalition parties have been creating in this country. The election date having been announced, the Labor Party is ready and when the new Parliament is assembled a Labor Government will be installed in office with a majority in the House of Representatives.
– I seek leave to make a statement in relation to this matter.
-Is leave granted?
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I ask: Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the quarterly report of the Utah Development Corporation which says that during the first nine months of 1977 that company has repatriated dividends totalling 1 12 per cent of profits earned during the same period and that in the September quarter alone this dividend rate rose to a massive 187 per cent of profits earned- indicating extensive use by the company of its retained earnings and depreciation balance? Does the Minister agree that this massive repatriation rate indicates that the Utah Development Corporation has decided to move as many of its funds out of Australia as possible and has been a contributor to the recent and ongoing speculation against the Australian dollar? Is such a massive outflow of funds by foreign owned companies in accordance with Government policy? If not, can the Minister state the reason for this massive capital outflow and what action the Government intends taking to prevent this being done in the future?
– That is a very long question. I am asked: Have I seen the Utah Development Corporation’s annual report? The answer is no, I have not. I would like to get a detailed answer for the honourable senator because his question contains a number of conclusions and propositions. All I observe now briefly is that it has not been the policy of Australian governments to stop people who have investments in this country having access to their dividends as and when they are required. That has been the policy of all governments including the Government to which the honourable senator belonged.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has he seen the transcript of This Day Tonight of yesterday in which is recorded a question that was asked of Mr Whitlam by Lindy Jenkins of Elwood, a suburb of Melbourne. In her question Miss Jenkins said that when listening to the Senate broadcast yesterday she had heard a senator say that in Perth two years ago Mr Whitlam had signed a statement saying that he would like to see uranium mined. She asked for some clarification of that from Mr Whitlam. Mr Whitlam ‘s reply was:
No. I have never said anything of the sort. What I have said on uranium has been said in the Parliament, and in recent months I have also spoken to several gatherings outside the Parliament. But I have never signed a statement like that. What 1 have done in the Parliament of course and as Prime Minister, was to persuade Mr Justice Fox to chair an enquiry . . .
And so the answer goes on. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Has Mr Whitlam ever said anything of the sort- that he would like to see uranium mined? Has he ever made any other statements to that effect outside the Parliament? Can he give the Senate details of such statements?
-As honourable senators would know, for some time now Mr Whitlam has been going around this country calling other people in this Parliament liars. I would not call him that but I think honourable senators can draw their own inferences from the facts. I am delighted that Lindy Jenkins of Elwood was listening to the Senate broadcast. She asked Mr Whitlam about the statement and he said: ‘I have never signed a statement like that’. He is saying: ‘I know nothing about it. All I have ever said was said here, there and everywhere’. On 28 October 1975 Press statement No. 583 was issued. It was headed:
The Ranger Uranium Project in the Northern Territory
The Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam . . . Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited . . . and Peko Mines Limited . . . signed this afternoon a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government and the companies for the development and mining of uranium ore deposits in the Ranger area in the Northern Territory and for the production and sale of uranium concentrate from that ore.
– What date was that?
-It was 28 October 1975. It was Press Statement No. 583. The last paragraph of that Press statement states:
The Government believes that the Ranger Project can be a major export earner and it will be working with Peko and EZ to bring this fully Australian mining project to fruition.
Mr Whitlam said to Lindy Jenkins of Elwood yesterday that he had never signed a statement like that. I suppose he never signed it but he issued and authorised it. Is this some tricky legal measure to try to escape from its consequences? The facts of life are that on that day he may not have signed a statement but he certainly signed a memorandum of understanding. It was signed E. G. Whitlam, Prime Minister’.
There is also a three-page attachment to this document headed ‘Northern Territory Uranium’. That is signed ‘E. G. Whitlam, J. F. Cairns, R. F. X. Connor’. I did not see that yesterday. Dr Cairns is so sick and tired of his colleagues that he is leaving the Parliament. I think that is one of the great decisions he has made. He is so sick and tired of Caucus that he opts for a far better life. He is disillusioned with his Labor colleagues in Caucus. I do not blame him for that. This is the man who invented Protest Australia. I did not notice him running protest marches the day after this document was signed.
I think that Mr Whitlam ought to appear on This Day Tonight again and apologise to Lindy Jenkins. He just did not tell her the truth. He slipped and slid around it. The fact is that he signed a memorandum of understanding on 28 October. I hope that Lindy Jenkins is listening. I will attempt to obtain her address and I will send her a copy of the memorandum which Mr Whitlam signed and a copy of the Press statement which was issued.
– Read the front page of the statement. Read the clause on the front page. Read the qualifications.
-Wait a minute. Here we are. Senator Bishop is shouting that I should read the front page.
– May I read it for you?
– Order! Senator Georges, please be seated.
-I certainly will read the front page. I am delighted to help. I hope that Lindy Jenkins is listening. Let me say: Lindy, this is the document signed by Mr Whitlam. It states:
The parties to this memorandum -
– Send her a cheerio call.
– Why not? She is a great girl. What is the record of this man who calls other people liars? This is what the memorandum of understanding states:
The parties to this memorandum desire to procure the development and rnining of uranium ore deposits in the Ranger Project area in the Northern Territory and the production and sale of uranium concentrate from that ore.
This is what is stated on the front page:
To these ends, Ministers and representatives of the companies signed an agreement dated 30 October 1974, a copy of which is attached. It is now desirable to elaborate and supplement the 1974 Agreement and to set out agreed understandings on major issues affecting the development of the Ranger Project to facilitate the early preparation of formal, definitive and binding contracts in relation to it.
Contracts to give effect to this Memorandum of Understanding to which Australia is, or is to be, a party shall not become effective until Australia has affirmed them following consideration of:
the report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry;
a report by the Interim Aboriginal Land Commissioner on any claims by Aboriginals in respect of land within the Ranger Project area.
Opposition senators interjecting-
-Anybody who knows anything about documents knows that that is only the preliminary. Honourable senators opposite are trying to sneak out of it, as Mr Whitlam did with Lindy Jenkins. He said that he never signed anything. Honourable senators opposite now are finding reservations. What enrages them is that Mr Justice Fox has reported and he so accepts the Government’s policy on uranium that he has consented to become our ambassador-at-large.
-Oh, yes. Honourable senators opposite do not like that. They do not like being caught out. Fourteen days before being dismissed from office the Whitlam Government signed an agreement with two companies committing the Australian Government to providing 72 lA per cent of the capital for 50 per cent of the take. Mr Whitlam had the cheek to go on air last night and say that he had never signed anything about uranium. Mr President, the facts speak for themselves.
- Mr President, I direct a supplementary question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It relates to the conditions raised, by way of interjection, by Opposition senators during the answer to my question. I ask: Is it a fact that the conditions raised by them in fact have been satisfied by the present Government?
- Mr President -
-I raise a point of order, Mr President.
- Senator Cavanagh on a point of order.
– If you can control Senator Webster, Mr President, I shall proceed with my point of order. A supplementary question has been permitted in this chamber in special circumstances in order to elicit information which was not supplied in the reply to the original question. This supplementary question was prompted by an interjection made during the Minister’s reply. Obviously it raises a different question. I think it would be very unfair to every other honourable senator if it were possible for an honourable senator to occupy the whole of question time by asking supplementary questions which raise new matter. I ask you, Mr President, to rule that supplementary questions must be related to the original question and to stop Ministers spending time on political propaganda in reply to Dorothy Dix questions.
– The point of order is not upheld.
-The answer to Senator Chaney ‘s question is: Yes, both conditions have now been fulfilled.
– Is the Minister for Social Security aware of the application by the Geelong Mentally Handicapped Childrens Welfare Association for subsidies for equipment at their sheltered workshop at Karingal? Is she aware that for a building, put up at a cost of half a million dollars, her Department will provide only $1,500 of the $21,406 requested for subsidies? Is this an indication that the two to- one subsidy on equipment is no longer a policy of her Department? If it is a policy to continue these subsidies, will the Minister reconsider the application made for Karingal?
– I shall investigate the matters which have been raised by Senator Melzer with regard to the Geelong project for the handicapped. I am unaware of the details at this stage, but I shall investigate them to see whether any assistance can be given. Under the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act subsidies are provided at the rate of $4 for $1 on capital and $4 for $ 1 on recurrent expenditure. Our three year program under that Act already has had most of its funds allocated to approved projects, but I shall investigate the matter which has been raised to see whether any assistance can be given.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Has he seen the editorial in the 12 October edition of Education, the journal of the New South Wales Teachers Federation? Did he see that that editorial referring to the State school system, contained the following words: . . we only cater for 80% of the nation’s educational needs, including the wogs and abbos and all the other ethnic rubbish . . .
Is the Minister aware whether the Commissioner for Community Relations is investigating that statement in the editorial of the journal of the New South Wales Teachers Federation? Is the Commissioner concerned about the fact that such insulting and degrading terms have been used in relation to our indigenous people and our migrants? What can the Minister tell us about that editorial?
– I think this question is properly directed to me as Attorney-General because I have ministerial responsibility for the position of Commissioner for Community Relations. Senator Martin has shown me a copy of an editorial in a journal known as Education, which is published by the New South Wales Teachers Federation. This editorial is concerned with what it calls the ‘erosion’ in regard to the provision of education and contains the following statement in relation to the State school system, which it covers: . . we only cater for 80% of the nation’s educational needs, including the wogs and abbos and all the other ethnic rubbish carefully screened out of the elite system . . .
I hope that that statement was meant to be made with some degree of irony or sarcasm. But I believe that statements of that kind are of such a serious nature and are going to create such ill feeling and concern amongst so many people that it ill behoves anybody to make such a statement, even in an ironical fashion. Certainly, I believe that it is something which the Commissioner for Community Relations ought to consider. I shall draw his attention to this editorial and the statements. As I said, I hope that a suitable explanation can be made by the editors of this journal.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. It follows questions asked yesterday of the Minister for Social Security by Senator Grimes and Senator Cavanagh. Is the copy of the letter tabled by Senator Grimes yesterday authentic? If so, does it reveal that the Minister for Social Security misled the Parliament, inadvertently or otherwise, and that eight days later she had failed to correct that error? What sanctions, if any, are imposed by the Prime Minister and/or the Government on Ministers who mislead the Parliament?
-I have no knowledge of whether the letter tabled by Senator Grimes is authentic. If it is authentic the person who gave it to him is a thief and Senator Grimes is a receiver of stolen goods.
– How did Mr Fraser get his job anyway? He was a thief, too.
– Order! The honourable senator will withdraw the remark ‘He was a thief, too’.
- Mr President, on your ruling -
– In deference to you, Mr President, I withdraw it but Senator Withers ought to withdraw the remark which he made.
– I raise a point of order. Mr President, in view of your ruling in relation to Senator McLaren I suggest with great respect that the same ruling ought to apply to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In reference to a letter tabled by Senator Grimes he also called a person a thief. If a ruling applies to one side of the chamber it should apply to both sides.
– I did not hear the word thief used except in the remark by Senator McLaren.
-I used it, Mr President.
– I did not hear that remark. I would have called for its withdrawal.
-I did not call any honourable senator a thief. I said that the person who stole the letter was a thief. From memory I said that if the letter were authentic the person who obtained that letter was a thief because it was the Minister ‘s letter.
- Senator Withers made no reference to a particular member of Parliament. That is a different matter entirely from the remark by Senator McLaren who charge’d that the Prime Minister was a thief. That is why I called upon Senator McLaren to withdraw the remark. I did not hear the remark by Senator Withers in the context in which I have heard it now. I should think that I did not pick it up because it was not directed to a member of Parliament.
– I raise a point of order which relates to the same statement made by the Leader of the Government. I agree that the Leader of the Government did not call an honourable senator a thief. However, he said that Senator Grimes was a receiver of stolen goods. That imputes a criminal offence by an honourable senator. That remark should be withdrawn as it is offensive.
-I withdraw them as a direct imputation. However, I repeat that if the letter is authentic the person who came by it and gave it to Senator Grimes must have stolen it.
– Is it authentic?
-I do not know. If it is not, the person who gave it to Senator Grimes is a liar. I imagine that the honourable senator would not wish to associate with people of either Uk.
– I ask a supplementary question. Are we to assume from the answer by the Leader of the Government that he strongly disapproves of people who leak documents to members of the Opposition? If so, is he repudiating the view expressed by the Prime Minister in October 1975 that they have a duty to do so?
-As the honourable senator would know, a Western Australian public servant is before the courts in Western Australia at the moment charged with a criminal offence, giving government documents to Opposition members of Parliament. I imagine that under the Crimes Act or the Public Service Act it is an offence to take government property and give it to people who are not entitled to receive it. I am not here to answer questions on the law. I repeat, if the document is authentic it was stolen; if it is not authentic, the person who produced it is a liar.
-Is the Minister for Education aware of allegations made in the House of
Representatives, and again in the Senate on Tuesday night, that the Government has cut funds for migrant education? Will the Minister inform the Senate of the details of expenditure in recent years on both child and adult migrant education? Will he also inform the Senate of the latest increase in expenditure on adult migrant education, so as to allay the fears aroused in the migrant community by the allegations put forward by Opposition members.
-It is a fact that both in another place and in this chamber allegations have been made that funds for adult migrant education have been cut. There is no truth in that statement at all. In fact, the figures that were used from the Budget failed to show the overall picture of the combined expenditure. For the record, I would indicate that over the last four years adult migrant programs have been funded as follows: 1974-75, $6.16m; 1975-76, $8.23m; 1976-77, $8.95m and 1977-78, $9.66m.
For child migrant education the figures are: 1974- 75, $13.11m, followed by an increase in 1975- 76, following a change to funding through the Schools Commission, to $2 1.81m and in 1976- 77, $25.99m. The figure for this year cannot yet be computed. The Schools Commission is calculating it presently, but I can say that it will at least maintain the figure for the previous year. Overall, therefore, there has been a combined expenditure on adult and child migrant education as follows: for 1975-76, $30.04m; and for 1 976-77, $34.95m. That is the trend.
In regard to additional funding, the honourable senator will know that in recent months a growing demand has emerged, for a variety of reasons including the specialised needs of refugee migrants, because of women seeking more education, and becuse of the desirabilitywhich the Government fully supports- of upgrading the ability to speak English of those seeking jobs. In recognition of this I was able to announce in the Senate several days ago that the Government had allocated a further sum of $2.3m, a significant increase, for adult migrant education. That figure is in addition to the $150,000 that was provided at my direction some weeks ago for adult migrant education in New South Wales. The sum of $2.3m will be broken down as follows: $800,000 is to go to expanding existing programs, amounting to $226,000 in New South Wales; $270,200 in Victoria through the adult migrant education service; $159,000 in South Australia, through the Department of Further Education; and $31,400 in Western Australia, through the adult migrant education service. Existing full-time courses at tertiary institutions will absorb some $83,000, and equipment and services some $30,400, for an overall total of $800,000.
In addition, there will be new on-arrival English language programs for refugees, which will involve an expenditure of $820,000 on adult migrants and $ 144,000 on child migrants. That is to say, an additional $964,000 will be provided for on-arrival programs for refugees. English language courses to be conducted during the December- January vacation period in available language laboratories and college facilities, which are a new concept, will receive $290,000. The sum of $45,000 will be provided for the development of further initiatives in relation to English language courses at the work place and for a project to assess the feasibility of English language television programs in high-rise housing developments. The sum of $260,000 will be provided for the upgrading of living allowances. That is of considerable importance to persons engaged in full time courses. They will now receive the equivalent of unemployment benefit.
In summary, rather than there having been cuts, there have been significant increases in the adult and child migrant programs. In addition, there has been highly significant increased funding, which has included not only the expansion of existing programs but also the introduction of significant new initiatives that get right to the heart of the situation. The Government is immensely keen to do all it can to help nonEnglish speaking migrants to overcome their disabilities.
-I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer the Minister to his answer to Senator Walsh’s question. I ask: Does the Minister regard it as being a satisfactory answer in this Parliament to a question about whether a Minister had misled the Parliament to indulge in vituperative comment about somebody else who is not in the Parliament? Has the Minister for Social Security misled the Senate? What are the standards of the Government in relation to Ministers who so mislead the Parliament?
-I have no knowledge of whether the letter is authentic or not.
– Are you not interested in finding out?
-I am certainly not. I am not interested in dealing with something that obviously has been stolen from a government department. I am not interested in getting mixed up with people who indulge in such acts. If the honourable senator likes to associate with such people, that is his business. I have no intention at all of investigating something which I believe has been improperly removed, if it is authentic, by a person who ought to be drummed out of the Public Service as a thief.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development explain to the chamber the safeguards entered into by the Whitlam Labor Government when it organised the mining and export of Australian uranium just two years ago? Can the Minister explain its safeguards, specifically in relation to the disposal of waste, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the mining of the uranium itself?
– It may be desirable that I seek further information on this matter because I would not want to misrepresent the matter. I understand that no new arrangements by way of safeguards were entered into by the Whitlam Government that had not been long established in this regard. In other words, by contrast with what has happened in recent months with the announcements of the Fraser Government’s safeguards for the mining and milling of uranium, the control over exports, the control of the disposal of high radiation wastes and the prevention or limitation of proliferation, particularly with regard to plutonium, my understanding is that no such developments existed during the time of the Whitlam Government. In case I have unwittingly misled the Senate on this matter in any way, I will find out and inform the Senate.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware of a publication of the Australian Bureau of Statistics dated 1 1 October 1977 on job vacancies? Has his attention been drawn to the fact that only 15.9 per cent of the registered job vacancies are available specifically for females whereas 55.5 per cent are available specifically for males? In the light of this serious disadvantage facing women seeking employment, does the Government propose to set up any job creation schemes or employer subsidy schemes designed specifically to improve the employment situation for women?
– I have not seen the actual statistics that Senator Ryan mentioned but I certainly will refer them to the Minister whom I represent. As to her question regarding employment opportunities for women and what action has been taken by the Government in this regard, I simply point out that the various schemes the Government has intitiated in regard to employment, particularly of young peopletraining under the National Employment and Training scheme and the expansion of that scheme which the Government has undertaken, and the many other schemes to which I have referred from time to time- make no discrimination between men and women. Those schemes are directed towards assisting and are intended to assist both men and women, without any discrimination against one sex or the other.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. In the light of the registered disparity between 15.9 per cent of job vacancies for females and 55.5 per cent of job vacancies for males, would the Minister agree that the steps taken by the Government to date, which he has outlined, have been unsuccessful in creating equality of opportunity for women? What new steps does the Government intend to take?
-I do not think that those figures reflect in any way upon the success of the Government’s actual programs but they may indicate some special difficulty in relation to vacancies for women. As I said, I will have that matter brought to the attention of the Minister whom I represent, to see whether any steps can be taken in that regard.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he has considered the detail of the uranium mining agreement entered into between the Whitlam Government and the Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd partners- Peko Mines Ltd and the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd? Is he aware that clause 4 of the memorandum of understanding provides that fundamental policy decisions relating to the project, including whether it should cease, be curtailed or be suspended, can be made only by the Ranger Project Committee, which shall consist of four members? Is the Leader of the Government further aware that this agreement, signed by Mr Whitlam, provides that the Committee shall comprise two representatives from the Atomic Energy Commission, one from Peko and one from EZ? Does the agreement require a unanimous vote of the Committee before decisions can take effect? How does this agreement line up with the Australian Labor Party’s Perth Conference decisions?
– You must be worried about uranium.
– You are worried about the other side.
-I am surprised that I am getting interjections from the other side, or that Senator Young was, because I thought it was part of the Labor Party’s policy that there should be full and meaningful debate. The fact that I am now giving information which will help the electorate at large to engage in that full and meaningful debate seems to surprise the Opposition. I have had my attention drawn to clause 4 of the agreement of 28 October 1975. For the information of honourable senators, it might be easier if I read it. Clause 4 states:
There shall be a Ranger Project Committee consisting of four members. Two members shall be appointed by the Commission-
That is the Atomic Energy Commission- and one member shall be appointed by each of Peko and EZ. This committee shall be responsible for making certain fundamental policy decisions such as cessation, curtailment or suspension of construction or operation of the Project and major expansion of treatment plant capacity. The decision of the committee shall require a unanimous vote.
That means that, in spite of the fact that the Whitlam Government was putting up WA per cent of the capital, not only was it getting only 50 per cent of the profit for that amount of capital but also it had virtually no control at all. The most control it had was a power of veto over the other two partners. It is a fairly unusual arrangement to have four people on a board but to require a unanimous decision. I know that perhaps that may be some explanation. It does not appear from the document, on the face of it, why there ought to have been a unanimous decision. Partnerships between governments and the private sector are not that uncommon. Once upon a time Qantas Airways Ltd was basically structured in this way. I cannot remember whether that required the board of Qantas to be unanimous. I know of no statutory corporation which has been set up in recent times which requires a unanimous decision by the board of directors. I do not think it was done in error. There must have been a reason for that.
In many ways I would have thought that the then Whitlam Government would have been well aware of what it was entering into. It was not something which had been rushed upon the Government. As I have said, there was the 1 974 agreement which was a bit scrappy. It was signed by Mr Whitlam, Dr Cairns and the late Mr Connor on 30 October 1974. So almost a year, less two days, was allowed for the preparation of the longer document. I imagine it was prepared carefully and within the policy laid down not only by Cabinet but also by Caucus.
I know that most of the newspapers in those days- when I used to read them- seemed to be full of Caucus rows about one thing or another. That was during those terrible three years of Labor Party turmoil. I cannot recall rows over this matter. But so many rows were going on for so many weeks that one cannot be expected, without doing some research in the library, to remember particular rows. Some rows are going on even now. I understand that Mr Whitlam said he does not intend to make Mr Hayden Treasurer. I suppose it is fair enough for Mr Whitlam to make that remark because he has no capacity to become Prime Minister.
– My question which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate follows the question asked by Senator Chaney about the memorandum of understanding which was signed by Australian Labor Party Ministers. The date was October 1975. The Minister said he called for a report to make sure that the information he gave on a previous day was correct. I notice from the paper which was tabled that it was provided with the compliments of Senator Kilgariff. I ask: Having made great use of the document yesterday, how was it that he failed to read, as has now been revealed this morning by an interjection, this part of the memorandum:
Contracts to give effect to this Memorandum of Understanding to which Australia is, or is to be, a party shall not become effective until Australia has affirmed them following consideration of:
the report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry-
That is the Fox report-
How is it that the Minister failed to quote a very important qualification in that memorandum of understanding at the time he made great political capital out of it? Is it not a fact that at the time the document was signed the Australian Labor Party Government had just requisitioned the inquiry? Is it also not a fact that the reports of this inquiry were submitted not to the Whitlam Government but to this Government and that those reports were brought down a month later by Senator Withers in this chamber? How is it that the Minister can make great political capital out of. these things but not be clean in his support of the document?
-The honourable senator, in the form of asking a question, is really trying to apologise for the government of which he was a member. This morning I read out all those sorts of things. They are conditions precedent to the balance of the memorandum of understanding coming into force. But subject to those conditions precedent being performed there is no doubt that the Whitlam Government intended with Peko Mines Ltd and the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd to mine and export up to 6,600 tons of uranium. What were the two conditions precedent? One was the report of Mr Justice Fox. Well, that condition has been fulfilled. The other was the report by the Interim Aboriginal Land Commissioner who has been appointed by this Government. Is the Opposition now saying: Fulfil those two conditions precedent, and those two conditions only, and the Opposition will support the mining and export of 6,600 tons? That is what the Opposition is saying. It is saying: Fulfil those two conditions, and those two conditions only.
– The Ranger report did not recommend mining.
– Wait a minute. Senator Gietzelt is trying to be his usual clever self.
– What about you? You are being a slick lawyer.
-Listen very carefully. The memorandum of understanding did not say that the contracts shall not become effective until Australia had affirmed the conditions but only following consideration of them. There was no obligation in the memorandum of understanding for the Whitlam Labor Government to accept and adopt the report of Mr Justice Fox. The only obligation on Mr Whitlam- and this is what Opposition senators do not like- was to give the two reports consideration. There was nothing else.
Senator Bishop is now saying: ‘Fulfil the two conditions precedent and we accept what is in the balance of the document’. The Government has not only just given consideration to the report of Mr Justice Fox but in fact it has also adopted the vast majority of his recommendations, and in a number of areas it has gone further than the recommendations made by Mr Justice Fox.
– I ask a supplementary question. Is it not a fact that those two inquiries were commissioned by the Whitlam Government and that they reported to the Fraser Government? I again put this question to the Leader of the Government: By what form of logic does he argue that the statement ‘shall be given consideration’ implies that the two reports would be accepted in toto by any government? How does the Leader of the Government justify that statement?
-I am sorry if I am not making myself clear. Let me start again. By this document of 28 October 1975 signed by Mr Whitlam, the then Labor Prime Minister, subject to two conditions precedent, the Labor Party committed itself, together with Peko Mines Ltd and the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd, to mine and export up to 6,600 short tons of U30,
– Subject to consideration -
-Subject to two conditions precedent. The two conditions precedent were: Consideration of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry and a report by the Interim Aboriginal Land Commissioner. They were the two conditions precedent. The only thing the Whitlam Labor Government committed itself to do was to give consideration to those two reports. I am not objecting to that because surely no government can bind itself totally and absolutely to the decisions of someone else. That is a proper role of government. If an inquiry is desired it is the duty of the government to accept or to reject the reports or the findings brought in by any outside person. That is what government is all about. I am saying that the honourable senator, and his Government committed themselves, subject to two conditions precedent which were only to give consideration to those reports, to the mining and export of 6,600 tons of uranium.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the firm statements made by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs earlier this year expressing the Government’s strong opposition to apartheid in South Africa and to other denials of liberty in that country. Is the Minister now informed of the banning orders imposed by the South African Government this week against officials of the Christian institute, against newspapers and against respected and moderate white opponents of the government of South Africa? Will the Minister consider making a protest to the South African Government against this further blow to democracy in that country and denials of human rights? Will the Minister take early action to make clear the strong objections of the Australian people to such behaviour?
-I am aware of the statements made by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs on this matter. In fact, those statements do not represent something new on our side of politics. I think as far back as 1960 the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was making statements of equal force and effect. So many people tend to overlook that Sir Robert Menzies was one of the first to really condemn apartheid as an affront to human dignity. I am aware that in recent days the South African Government has been taking measures against certain actions of its citizens in South Africa. I have not the details and would not want to make a judgment but I certainly will pass on the honourable senator’s suggestion to my colleague in another place and ask him to give it earnest consideration.
-My question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate follows the questions that were asked by Senator Walsh and Senator Button concerning a document that had been tabled, I think yesterday, by Senator Grimes which allegedly passed from the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman to the Minister for Social Security but about the authenticity of which the Minister in his reply seems to express some doubts. In order to settle the matter beyond doubt is the Minister prepared to call for the file in the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman on the matter, peruse it and then table it in the Senate? Is he aware that on 5 July 1975 on the television program Four Corners the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Malcolm Fraser, now the Prime Minister, said that there could be circumstances in which a Treasury official could regard his overriding duty to Australia as being greater than his duty to a government and that ultimately our duty lies to Australia first?
-In reply to the first part of the question, I have no intention of calling for a file or of suggesting to any of my colleagues that they should. If the honourable senator claims that the letter is authentic he should prove it. That is where the onus lies. He should call forth his thief and let him authenticate it. Senator Button laughs. He does not believe in the onus of proof lying on those who assert something. If the honourable senator asserts that it is authentic he should prove it. Would a Labor government change the onus of proof? The honourable senator asserts it to be authentic; he should prove it. How does he prove it? By producing his thief.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Recently there have been many reports emanating from the media, the courts and government departments about the prevalence of illegal drugs in the north of Australia. Having in mind the apparent increase in the amount of drugs in the Darwin area, what steps is the Government taking to ensure that adequate surveillance of the coast from the Darwin area to the Kimberleys is being carried out? Is it correct that despite the concern of these many authorities there are insufficient customs officers to oversee this area and that we are paying just lip service to dealing with this rapidly growing problem?
– Some of the drugs used in Darwin are certainly directly imported into the Northern Territory but investigations have shown that the majority of them, particularly heroin, are being distributed in the Northern Territory from southern States. The Department of Business and Consumer Affairs is aware of and certainly is concerned about the degree of importation of such drugs into the Northern Territory, and has increased its activity in the area over the last couple of years. Last year a Customs patrol boat was stationed in Broome and recently a similar vessel was positioned in Darwin. These not only provide the Department with a reliable intercept capacity but also, in conjunction with defence and charter aircraft, are carrying out extensive patrol activity in the area mentioned by Senator Kilgariff. These patrol vessels and similar patrol vessels in Cairns, Customs offices stretching around the coast from Port Hedland to Townsville and all police stations in the Northern Territory are in the final stages of being linked by a special communications network to ensure that a maximum effort is directed against the illegal importation of drugs and other commodities in this area.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. In view of the fact that the recent Government decision to pay unemployment benefit in arrears as from 1 November will cause added hardship and severe financial stress to many thousands of persons who are unable to find employment and that this in turn will force these people to seek assistance from State government welfare services, what action, if any, has the Minister taken to assist State governments and to compensate them for being forced to carry this added burden which is rightfully the responsibility of the Federal Government?
– My State colleagues and I had discussions on emergency funding at a recent State Ministers meeting. We have collected the information that is available on the State government assistance that is given in emergency situations. At present I am having discussions with welfare bodies and also considering closely, through my National Consultative Committee on Social Welfare, the matter of emergency funding. Where there is eligibility for a Commonwealth benefit or pension, I have asked that this be facilitated and that the minimum period of delay be caused to those people who have eligibility. In other circumstances, special benefit is obtainable by people, at the discretion of the Director-General. This is facilitated wherever possible. As far as compensation to State governments is concerned, in many cases they have their own programs of assistance and their own means of assistance. Sometimes this is provided through a family support scheme or whatever term may be used to describe the immediate assistance that is given in cases of hardship. The States equally provide assistance through voluntary agencies and through other programs which for many years have been part of the welfare programs in this country. However, as I said, the matter of emergency funding is receiving consideration through welfare bodies and my Consultative Committee. It has been a matter of discussion with State Ministers. Information has been collected on the matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Will the proposed national rural bank cater for the needs of the fishing industry? Does he agree that there is in Australia a need for finance to enable fishermen to build larger boats with greater catching capacity and generally to upgrade their equipment? Will the national rural bank assist in providing this opportunity to Australian fishermen?
– There is clearly a need for such finance and the national rural bank will set out to provide it.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, suggested that, in retaliation for the Japanese Government’s refusal to increase beef imports into Japan, Australia should toughen its stand on fishing rights within Australian waters? Is it not true that the Deputy Prime Minister has rebuked Mr Sinclair on the issue and has suggested that negotiation is the best way of improving our current beef quota to Japan? Can the Minister indicate what view prevails in the Government? Is it the view of the Deputy Prime Minister or the view of the Minister for Primary Industry?
– The honourable senator, having spent most of his life as a member of the Australian Labor Party, sees conflicts in anything. He can never see that there can be slightly different views both heading along the same path. I see no conflict in what both these Ministers are saying. Of course the proper method of resolving this matter is by negotiation; but in that negotiation what is wrong with toughening up our attitude here and there? I suggest to the honourable senator that he come out of his conspiratorial syndrome of the Labor Caucus and take those statements for what they are worth.
-Certainly the question raised by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack is an important one, not only for the Senate but also for the Territories, particularly in view of the events which are about to take place. I am unable to indicate to the Senate when the High Court decision in this case, dealing with a challenge to the validity of territorial senators, will be given. No doubt the justices of the High Court will be as well aware as we are and everybody else is of the events that are about to take place and of the significance of them to the case before the Court. However, in the circumstances I do believe that, whilst it might not be usual for an AttorneyGeneral to take any direct steps in regard to the giving of judgments by the High Court, I should make sure that the Chief Justice is aware of the situation.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development and stems from a Norwegian Government court of inquiry which examined certain oil blowouts on North Sea oil exploration projects. In view of the strictures which were applied by the commission to oil exploration operators in the North Sea, what assurance can the Minister give us that in Australia any expanded exploration will have effective safety codes?
-I take it that the honourable senator is referring to what is called the Ekofisk problem’ which has emerged. I have been advised by my colleague the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development in another place, that his Department has taken this problem very seriously; that it is in communication with the Norwegian environment ministry and other sources of information in relation to the Ekofisk oil spill in the North Sea; and that his Department is being kept progressively informed. The report of the inquiry commission is being obtained but is not yet available. Of course, it will be a significant document. Preliminary reports have been carefully studied and speeches made by the Norwegian industry and environment Ministers are documented in the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation inquiry into the adequacy of arrangements to prevent or to deal with oil spills in Australian waters. I apologise for the length of that sentence.
A wide range of safety regulations are imposed on Australian offshore petroleum exploration and production activities. Nonetheless, the recent Norwegian experience suggests that further improvements might be practicable. Officers of the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development are currently considering these matters in consultation with other relevant Commonwealth and State authorities. As I said, these matters of oil spills are of serious moment. Wherever they occur they are of world wide significance, both for their effects and for the methods adopted to combat and to deal with them.
– I direct my question either to the Minister for Social Security or to the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. Material put to me by a British born person who has lived in Australia for 30 years indicates that he has for the past two years drawn a British war pension for service in overseas areas and therefore does not receive pension concessions available to his wife, who is drawing an Australian age pension. In view of those circumstances, will the Minister examine this type of disparity with a view to establishing a full availability of such pensioner concessions so that those people receiving British war pensions do not suffer this sort of apparent discrimination?
– I shall be happy to examine the matter which has been raised to see whether there is any discrepancy or whether any further assistance should be available to a person in the category mentioned. If the honourable senator has a specific case in mind he might refer it to me so that I may have it investigated.
– Pursuant to section 37 of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act 1970 I present the annual report of the Australian Industry Development Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
– Pursuant to section 7 of the Tobacco Industry Act 1955 I present the annual report of the Tobacco Industry Trust Account for the year ended 30 June 1977.
-by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue by remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Pig Industry Research Act 1971 I present the annual report of the Pig Industry Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1977.
-by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 76A of the National Health Act 1953 I present the annual report on the operations of the registered medical and hospital benefits organisations for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– Pursuant to section 17 of the Australian Capital Territory Consumer Affairs Ordinance 1973 I present the annual report on the operations of the Consumer Affairs Council and Consumer Affairs Bureau of the Australian Capital Territory for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– I present a report from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on an inquiry into industrial support for defence needs and allied matters, together with the transcript of evidence. This report deals with the electronics industry and is tabled as the remaining chapter of the interim report tabled by me in the Senate on 3 June 1977.I also table with this report a list of proposed amendments to the Committee’s interim report, which the Committee considers necessary before the complete report is printed. These proposed amendments arise from information given to the Committee after the interim report was tabled. Mr President,
I seek leave to make a short statement relating to the amendments to the interim report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I think honourable senators should be informed that the Parliament owes a substantial debt of gratitude to the honourable senator who sits opposite me, Senator Bishop, who sat on the sub-committee which inquired into this matter, and to Mr Hamer, a member of the other place, who I understand is to be translated to another parish at some future time. Only two substantive textual changes have been made. I think it proper that I should quote them. In paragraph 5.73 the first sentence is amended by deleting the words ‘in the remotely piloted vehicle (RPV) field.’ and substituting the following: ‘and experience in the field of unmanned flight.’ The second sentence of that paragraph is amended by deleting the words ‘this experience would be very relevant to the design and development of a cruise type missile’ and substituting the following: ‘this background would have considerable relevance to the design and development of a remotely piloted vehicle (RPV)’. I mention that simply because many people imagine, apparently as a result of watching television programs, that a cruise missile is something carried in a B51 bomber. It is properly defined in this report for the benefit of honourable senators.
The last sentence of paragraph 7.12 is amended by deleting the words ‘ but also some of the armament as well as the engines for the Daring Class ships’ and substituting the following: The boilers and turbines for the main engines in all three Daring destroyers were made at Cockatoo although some forgings and casting for the machinery were imported because at that time suitable capacity to produce these materials did not exist in Australia. The gear-boxes were made at the Ordnance Factory, Bendigo. All of the armament (i.e. guns, torpedo tubes, and antisubmarine mortars) were manufactured in Australia, also at Bendigo. ‘ At the time of tabling the interim report no motion to print was proposed in anticipation of this chapter- the one I have tabled- being presented. I now move:
That the report, together with the interim report presented to the Senate on 3 June 1977, as amended by the amendments thereto tabled this day, be printed.
– In supporting what Senator Sir Magnus Cormack said I want to add a few brief comments. This part of the report accompanies the interim report previously put before the Senate. One part of it, relating to shipbuilding, became the subject of discussion in the Senate. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack will agree that there has been a most comprehensive and intensive investigation by the Committee. This is a valuable report and I hope honourable senators will take the opportunity to read it. It seems to me that one important message which comes from the report is that although we have a reservoir of great professional skills and competence in the defence, scientific and technological services, particularly in the Weapons Research Establishment in my own State, we are becoming more and more dependent on overseas sources. This is a gap which ought to be filled very quickly. Representations have been made to the two Ministers most concerned. Unfortunately, the responses are not as satisfactory as they could be. I hope that the information given to the Senate and the Parliament will be the subject of more intensive research with regard to the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-On behalf of Senator Messner I present a special report from the Joint Committee of Public Accounts arising from the conference of Commonwealth and State public accounts committees in June of this year.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Senator LAJOVIC (New South Wales)-by leave- To the best of our knowledge the Conference of Commonwealth and State Committees was the first occasion since Federation that equivalent committees of all the parliaments of Australia have met with the common purpose of giving greater substance to Paliament’s traditional responsibility of effectively reviewing the financial activities of the executive government to ensure that funds are spent as Parliament intended and that taxpayers receive value for money. It was the firm view of the conference that the proper and efficient expenditure of public funds and the collection of revenue must remain the paramount concern of all public accounts committees.
During the conference the mechanics of financial scrutiny by parliaments was examined.
Although no resolutions were recorded the following general observations are contained in the report: The function of public accounts committees is to exercise parliamentary scrutiny over the executive and administration with the object of stimulating a more effective use of public funds. With the continuing growth of government expenditure in real terms, an increase of almost50 per cent in the past decade, there is a pressing need for more effective scrutiny by paraments, both State and Federal. It was hoped that the increasing emphasis placed by the Auditors-General on efficient auditing rather than merely regulatory auditing would enable public accounts committees to place more emphasis on their value for money inquiries. It was necessary to aim for greater co-ordination between State and Federal public accounts committees to ensure adequate public accountability for expenditure across all spheres of government. It is worth noting that with the continuing use of special purpose grants parliaments should consider the development of new techniques to ensure more effective parliamentary overview, especially in those areas where there is 100 per cent Commonwealth funding, such as tertiary education, in which the legal as well as the financial overlap between Federal and State resonsibilities may require further clarification.
Departmental and ministerial co-operation was essential for the effective operation of public accounts committees. Public accounts committees would benefit by the use of expert guidance by either permanent or seconded staff and the use of expert witnesses. The Public Accounts Committee has had consultations with both the Auditor-General and the Public Service Board in the hope that regular arrangement for the seconding of professional staff on rotation could be established. We believe this would be of advantage to both the Public Service and the Committee. It was considered important that effective guidelines for the selection of priorities for inquiry be developed. The public accounts committees generally accept government policy as a starting point for their investigations and examine the performance and achievement of objectives within the context of that policy. Closer collaboration between public accounts committees and their respective AuditorsGeneral, Treasuries and Public Service boards was essential to ensure more effective scrutiny of expenditure.
Closer co-operation and co-ordination between the public accounts committees and other parliamentary committees concerned with estimates of expenditure was essential for parliamentary control over the public purse. In the Federal Parliament we believe it will be necessary to maintain a close working relationship between the Public Accounts Committee, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure, the Senate Estimates committees and the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. Apart from informal meetings of the chairmen of these committees it would be advisable for staff to have a close working relationship to minimise potential duplication and to increase the impact of specific examinations. The effective functioning of public accounts committees and parliamentary scrutiny depended upon a clear understanding by members of Parliament of the budgetary processes. Committees should be concerned with the nature and comprehensibility of the financial information presented to the Parliament.
The eleventh Committee agreed in principle to an examination of the financial documents presented to Parliament. To assist members of Parliament to appreciate the purpose and substance of budget documents the Treasury was requested to re-issue a parliamentary handbook on Commonwealth and financial affairs. While in theory the budgetary process enables Parliament to review expenditure, despite the massive increase in government activities the public accounts committee mechanism first introduced into the House of Commons in 1861 has not been significantly reformed. It is doubtful whether in its present form it can meet current responsibilities effectively. With the objective of overcoming some of these problems the Committee has recommended to the Government substantial reforms to the Public Accounts Committee Act introduced into the Parliament in 1951. These requirements would permit the Committee to examine more effective expenditure by statutory corporations which currently receive little effective parliamentary review and widening of the terms of reference to include the review of efficiency audits conducted by the AuditorGeneral. This will ensure that the machinery of the Parliament is able to meet the expanded functions recently given to the Auditor-General.
It is unfortunate that the public at large appears to have the impression that Parliament is little more than a venue for gladiatorial contests between political parties, and because of the nature of the system they are unaware of the considerable work done by parliamentarians of all parties behind the scenes in committees such as that of Public Accounts. Provided the Parliament is prepared to take the initiative we are confident that it will be possible to achieve an improvement in the effectiveness of Public Accounts Committees, the members of which have a unique opportunity to gain a deep insight into the workings of the Public Service and to examine actual expenditure of funds by conducting public hearings and publishing, when necessary, critical reports.
I commend the report to honourable senators.
– by leave- I would like to compliment the Public Accounts Committee on its report and on the thought that has been given to a range of important aspects of the Parliament’s role in scrutinising the operations of both the administrative and the parliamentary executive. However, although I agree with virtually everything that was said in the report, it did not take into account certain recent developments in this chamber, whereby the Finance and Government Operations Committee has not only been reconstituted but has also been given the specific reference of the continuing oversight of finance, administration and accountability of statutory authorities, and bodies owned or controlled by the Commonwealth. That function is now being exercised, and I hope that it will be found to be exercised effectively and fully. I did not want to go unnoticed the fact that part of what was said about the need to change the terms of reference of the Public Accounts Committee did not take into account this most recent development in relation to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations.
-I present the Sixteenth Report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
– I seek leave to table additional information received by Estimates Committee A.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I table a written answer to questions asked during Estimates Committee A’s consideration of the particulars of proposed expenditure, received since the report of the Committee was tabled on 13 October 1977.
-I seek leave to table additional information received by Estimates Committee C.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I table written answers to questions asked during Estimates Committee C’s consideration of the particulars of proposed expenditure, received since the Committee’s report was tabled on 13 October 1977.
-I seek leave to table additional information received by Estimates Committee D.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I table written answers to questions asked during Estimates Committee D’s consideration of the particulars of proposed expenditure, received since the report of the Committee was tabled on 13 October 1977.
– I seek leave to table additional information received by Estimates Committee F.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I table written answers to questions asked during Estimates Committee F’s consideration of the particulars of proposed expenditure, received since the report of the Committee was tabled on 1 3 October 1 977.
– I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That the time of meeting of the Senate next Tuesday be 3 p.m., or such later time as the President may take the Chair.
-I might advise honourable senators that next week the Senate will sit on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I regret that I cannot at present give any indication beyond that point.
Sitting suspended from 12.43 to 2.1S p.m.
– I move:
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the States of Victoria into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs L. J. Abbott, J. E. Mitchell and E. L. Richardson, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the Senate on the 25th day of October 1977, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted.
I do not wish to speak at length on this or on any of the other redistribution proposals although I will be formally moving motions in relation to them. I take the opportunity to thank not only the three distribution commissioners for Victoria but also the three distribution commissioners for each of the other four States. They have had a very difficult task. They have done their job expeditiously. The Government believes that they have done it fairly. I have moved a motion in relation to the redistribution proposals for Victoria. I will be moving accordingly that the distribution proposals of the various distribution commissioners for each of the other mainland States be accepted by this House of the Parliament.
-Senator Withers has said that he would be brief in speaking to this motion in respect of the proposed redistribution of the State of Victoria into electoral divisions. So too shall I. The distribution commissioners carried out their responsibilities for Victoria in accordance with the statutory requirements under the Commonwealth Electoral Act. They have published their interim proposals which have een exhibited. The various political parties and others lodged objections to those interim proposals and they were taken into consideration. I think that most of the objections that were lodged by the Australian Labor Party at that time to the original suggestions of the commissioners were viewed and dealt with properly. The Labor Party has looked at the proposals insofar as Victoria is concerned and does not offer opposition to them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Withers) proposed:
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of South Australia into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs A. J. Walsh, G. H. C. Kennedy and H. D. Winterbottom, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the Senate on the 18th day of October 1977, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted.
– The Opposition does not offer any opposition to the proposal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Withers) proposed:
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of Queensland into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs F. J. Coleman, J. M. Serisier and R. M. Seymour, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the Senate on the 18th day of October 1977, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted.
– The Opposition does not present any contra argument to the motion. We support the proposition. We have made an assessment of the effect of the redistribution proposals in relation to Queensland. Naturally we have looked very closely at the figures. We have gone back over a period of years to see what the result is likely to be for the Australian Labor Party. We have seen that if the vote for the Labor Party in 1972 were to be again the vote for it in the forthcoming election the Labor Party would win 10 of the 19 seats, which would not be an unreasonable result in the circumstances. According to the 1974 vote the Labor Party would win six seats. Of course, if the vote at the confused election that occurred in 1975 were repeated in 1977 the Labor Party would win only one seat.
We could go into considerable argument and analysis and say that, even at the best, the redistribution would give the Labor Party 10 of the 1 9 seats and that the Labor Party appears to be at a disadvantage. However, looking at the manner in which the redistribution has been carried out and taking into account the fact that the distribution commissioners have kept to the original pattern of having three large country divisions, including the very large division of Kennedy, it is very difficult to see how the distribution commissioners could have come up with a substantially different result. My Party had proposed that the electorates of Maranoa and Kennedy be combined to give one great western electorate, allowing the coastal and provincial districts to be redistributed in proximity to the settled areas of the coast. We believe that that would have given a much more even distribution of the populations within the electorates. Nevertheless one can accept the Federal redistribution in Queensland as being far more fair than the State redistribution. For that reason, I commend the commissioners. It is up to the parties concerned to convince the future commissioners that there ought to be some variation in and some difference of approach to the large country electorates so that the provincial and coastal electorates are not disadvantaged. With those remarks, I commend the motion.
– While I will not go to the extreme of op- posing this redistribution, I would like to offer a f ew comments on it. Firstly, I do not think that the distribution commissioners have taken completely into consideration the responsibility that was given to them, especially when one takes into account such matters as the community of interest within a division, including economic, social and regional interests, the trend in population changes, the density or sparsity of the population, the area of a division, the physical features of a division and so forth. Australia is undoubtedly a land of particular and peculiar problems when it comes to electoral redistributions. For some unknown reason we seem to be hell-bent on the idea that every electorate or division has to have approximately the same number of voters. That does not happen in any other free country in the world. One should look at the figures for the United States of America, which has backed off from the principle of one vote one value, and for Great Britain and so forth.
I come from the Rockhampton area, which falls within the electorate of Capricornia. It has been said- it is literally true- that if one gets out of an aeroplane on the wrong side there one would be in the electorate of Kennedy; yet the headquarters of the electorate of Kennedy are in Mount Isa. The people who live in the bottom end of the electorate of Kennedy are probably closer to Canberra than they are to the main centre of the electorate of Kennedy- Mount Isa. I think that the people who live in the rural areas of Queensland and outside the metropolitan areas are at a disadvantage. I look for what I call equality of representation. That we do not have. I recall speaking on this matter on 23 February and saying that if we were to have complete equality of voting power with equality of representation we would have to have 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. That we do not have in Australia; nor are we likely to have it for a long time to come.
It is my contention that the commissioners have not paid sufficient attention to the instructions given to them in the Commonwealth Electoral Act to take into consideration the means of transport and communication. We have a parliament elected by the majority, but the fact that it is elected by the majority does not mean that the minority- those people who live in our rural areas- should be disadvantaged. That is what is happening at the present time. If a person cannot see his member of parliament he is disadvantaged. If he cannot ring up his member of parliament he is disadvantaged. If his newspaper is a week old when he gets it he is disadvantaged. I submit to this chamber that when we look at the Commonwealth Electoral Act in the future we will have to give much more consideration to the principle that people who live outside the metropolitan areas should have equality of representation with those who live in the metropolitan areas.
Senator Georges said that this redistribution is much fairer than the Queensland State redistribution. I remind Senator Georges, and the other members of this chamber, that the system under which the Queensland electoral boundaries are decided was introduced by a Labor government and under a Labor Premier. That system has not altered since Premier Ned Hanlon introduced it. I also point out that my party has beaten the Labor Party on that same zonal system. At one stage there was not a State seat in western Queensland that was held by a Liberal or National Country Party member; it was all Labor territory. Yet, operating on the same system, we have beaten the Labor members one by one and now hold all those seats. It is only since the Labor Party found that it was not representing the people adequately, that the people do not want it, that it has started to cry foul about the Queensland redistribution. As I said before, Queensland is using a scheme that was introduced by the Labor Party to give people fair, proper and equal representation. That is what they want; that is what they are entitled to. I must say that in the Federal area also people are entitled to a fair, equal and proper redistribution, and that is what I will be looking for in future amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
– I rise briefly to make one or two comments on the matters mentioned by my friend Senator Collard, who on behalf of the National Country Party has pleaded for the principle of fair and proper representation to be applied in any future amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I point out to Senator Collard that it is the declared and espoused policy of the Labor movement that there be equality of voting values throughout Australia. Whilst we agree with the principle of fair and proper representation, we suggest that that is more a matter for the Remuneration Tribunal than for amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
It is the responsibility of the Remuneration Tribunal to ensure that members of parliament who represent outlying areas, vast geographical areas, are provided with adequate and sufficient services in terms of motor car travel and travelling and accommodation allowances and also in terms of secretarial assistance so that people who live in the outlying areas are given fair and proper representation. The people out there do not want a greater value for their vote over and above that of any other Australian. They want to be provided with fair and proper representation, and that is a matter for the Remuneration Tribunal rather than for future amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Having made those comments, I note that Senator Wood wishes to respond.
– I think the Queensland redistribution is a pretty poor one. If the Parliament were to do the right thing it would throw it out, and that was my recommendation. Senator Collard has expressed very clearly the ridiculous aspects of the Queensland redistribution in relation to the lack of community interest. As he said, one can get out of a plane at Rockhampton and on one side walk into the Kennedy electorate on the other side walk into the Capricornia electorate. To me, that is the height of folly, and I cannot understand how the people who designed the electorates arrived at their decisions. It has always been recognised that there should be an affinity of interest in an electorate and that it should be arranged to make it as compact and as easily workable as possible.
My State of Queensland is a big State, and the way in which the boundaries of some of these electorates wander around seems to indicate that the distribution was worked out in order to get the greatest possible mileage in an electorate. Generally speaking, there has not been a very great deal of satisfaction with the redistributions, and I do not think the redistribution for the State of Queensland is a good one at all. I am a Liberal, but I believe that the country areas require representation on a different basis from the city areas. City people are compacted into a small area. They do not have the difficulties that country people have. I have always believed that there should be a difference between the numbers in country electorates and the numbers in metropolitan electorates. The people who live in the country areas realise the disadvantages they have as against city people. I am disappointed with the Queensland redistribution, and I want it to be known that I oppose it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I wish to have my dissent recorded.
Motion (by Senator Withers) proposed:
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of Western Australia into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs B. S. Nicholls, J. F. Morgan and A. E. Tonks, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the Senate on the 18th day of October 1977, and.that the names of the Divisions suggested in the report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted.
-The Australian Labor Party opposes the proposed redistribution of Western Australia into electoral divisions. Earlier this year, following amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act, Mr B. S. Nicholls, Mr J. F. Morgan and Mr A. E. Tonks were appointed as distribution commissioners for the State of Western Australia. As a result of their appointment, an advertisement was inserted in the Australian Government Gazette on 26 April this year, inviting suggestions and comments to be lodged with the distribution commissioners within 30 days after the date of the advertisement relating to the redistribution of Western Australia into 10 electoral divisions. On 15 August this year the distribution commissioners published a map at post offices in each of the proposed divisions and also published an advertisement in the Australian Government Gazette on 15 August. In that advertisement the distribution commissioners invited comments and suggestions on their interim proposals. All told, ten suggestions or objections relating to the original proposals were lodged with the commissioners, who said that they were the subject of detailed consideration. I understand that very shortly my colleague Senator Walsh will be making some comments in regard to certain shires within the proposed Kalgoorlie electorate.
One of the reasons why the Australian Labor Party opposes these proposals of the distribution commissioners relates to an event that occurred in the Kimberleys in the by-election for the Western Australian Legislative Council held earlier this year, when it was alleged that a large number of Aborigines were deterred from exercising their voting rights. The matter is the subject of determination in Western Australia by a court of disputed returns and therefore I make no statement other than to repeat the allegations which have been put to the court and which are still the subject of determination by that court. A number of accusations and allegations have been made against people in various walks of life, from police officers to polling clerks, and members of the Liberal Party who belong to the legal profession going from Perth to the Kimberleys. Allegedly they dissuaded or deterred members of the Aboriginal community from exercising their right to vote after they had enrolled.
We all know that it is not necessarily the responsibility for Aboriginals, once they attain the age of 1 8 years, to enrol as voters. They are entitled to enrol but it is not compulsory to do so. We suggest that if the allegations made before the Court of Disputed Returns in Western Australia were correct and that, in fact, Aborigines were deterred from exercising their right to vote after they had enrolled, it is axiomatic that a number of Aboriginals also could have been deterred from exercising their entitlement to enrol for voting purposes.
– That is rubbish.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDSenator Withers says rubbish. I make no comment, except that the allegations have been made, that a court of disputed returns has been established and that it has taken a great deal of time to take a lot of evidence on the matter.
– What has this got to do with our redistribution?
– It has a lot to do with redistribution. If those accusations are correct it could well be that evidence could be found throughout Western Australia that large numbers of people who are entitled to enrol- not compulsorily- could in fact enrol. Unfortunately the last census figures which are available are for 1971. The 1976 census figures in this respect have not been processed. According to the 1971 census the total population of Western Australia was 1,027,852. But the number of Aborigines in the population, shown as a result of that census, was 21,889. 1 shall cite the figures for the respective electorates. There were only nine electorates in those days, not ten. There was a redistribution in 1974. In Canning the total population was 122,501 and the number of Aborigines was 2,165. The total population of Curtin was 94,491, but the number of Aborigines was 18 1. In Forrest the total population was 91,041 and the number of Aborigines 821. At Fremantle the total population was 1 17,224 and the number of Aborigines 517. For Kalgoorlie the total population was 135,790 and the number of Aborigines 14,652. The total population of Moore was 107,400 and the number of Aborigines 2,273. For Perth the total population was 115,805 and the number of Aborigines 458. Stirling had a total population of 129,782 and the number of Aborigines was 335. For Swan the total population was 1 13,8 18 and the number of Aborigines 487.
We say that if the large number of Aborigines, based on the 1971 census figures, were encouraged to exercise their right to enrol there would be a substantial shift in the number of electors involved in that area. That could well affect the redistribution proposals. In addition to all those matters, I understand that this week a challenge has been issued in the High Court of Australia concerning amendments which were put through this parliament early in February. The challenge concerns the validity of the proclamation made in relation to Western Australia. I understand that at the time the proclamation was made for the redistribution of seats in Western Australia, one-quarter of the divisions in that State had a number of electors differing from the quota ascertained in accordance with the section of the Act to a greater extent than one-tenth more or one-tenth less. I understand that it is alleged that three of the seats out of the ten are outside that provision.
Another subsection of the Act was inserted by the amendment in February this year. It provided that a proclamation shall not be made in relation to a State by virtue of that previous subsection to which I referred within a period of seven years after the last making of a proclamation in relation to that State. Because the last redistribution took place in 1974 the validity of the proclamation issued in respect of Western Australia is brought into question. The Australian Labor Party has given consideration to the proposals for the redistribution of divisions in Western Australia. In addition to the matters I have raised my colleague Senator Walsh will be commenting on certain shires in the Kalgoorlie area. For the reasons I have enunciated and for the reasons which will be alluded to by my colleague Senator Walsh the Labor Party offers its opposition to the proposed redistribution. We intend dividing the Senate on this motion.
– As a result of the amendments to the Electoral Act passed in 1974 it was mandatory for adjustments to be made to the boundaries of some of the electorates in Western Australia, barring the possible exception which Senator Douglas McClelland has just mentioned. Among the changes required, the electorate of Kalgoorlie had to attract more enrolments in order to meet the 10 per cent permissible deviation from the quota, as did the electorate of Canning. For those familiar with the geography and the previous electoral division history of Western Australia, it was quite rational and logical- there was a precedent-for the expansion of the Kalgoorlie division into the subdivision of Esperance. That was, in fact, done by the commissioners and that then brought the Kalgoorlie division 901 votes above the minimum number of electors required by the 1974 amendments to the Electoral Act. I shall return to Kalgoorlie later.
Forrest also had to be extended in area. It was quite reasonable to incorporate some of the central Great Southern shires around Katanning into the electorate of Forrest. Both these excisions were from the previous division of Canning, so Canning was required to expand somewhere else. The commissioners decided to incorporate most of the industrial area centred on Kwinana. That is a decision which may or may not have been defensible. Up until that stage the adjustments which the commissioners made were quite reasonable and on the whole defensible. The adjustments made thereafter were, however, neither reasonable nor defensible. To the electorate of Kalgoorlie, which already was almost 1,000 votes over the minimum required by the Commonwealth Electoral Act, the Commissioners added a small portion of the shire of Yalgoo and the entire shires of Carnamah and Perenjori and Three Springs, which involved a total of 1,670 votes. There is no historical precedent, at least in recent times, for any of that area being in the Kalgoorlie division.
Moreover- and I suggest this is highly significantthe normal Labor vote in those areas is in the vicinity of 15 per cent. So by the unnecessary inclusion of those three shires in the Federal division of Kalgoorlie the Liberal Party, which currently holds the seat, has gained in net terms in excess of 1,000 votes which could well be enough to enable the Liberal Party to retain the seat at the forthcoming election.
It is interesting to note that the National Country Party of Australia has made no criticism of this unnecessary geographic expansion of the Kalgoorlie electorate. The National Country Party keeps telling us that not only the number of electors should be considered but also the area of a division. The division of Kalgoorlie, even without the three shires I have mentioned, had almost one quarter of this continent in its boundaries. Therefore one quarter of Australia is within this electorate. Although the electorate met the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act the commissioners decided to add three shires, in which coincidentally the Labor vote is about 15 per cent, to a marginal seat. I think that we can judge from that, and from one other matter that I will mention shortly, the sincerity of the National Country Party in putting forward the view that the area of electorates must be given weight equal to or somewhat approaching the number of electors.
Moreover, the Kalgoorlie division happens to have the lowest ratio of enrolled electors to total population of any division in Australia, or at east this was the case after the 197 1 census. This situation arises partly because a large proportion of the work force in the rnining areas is transitory and partly because it contains a very large number of yet unenrolled Aboriginals. As the Liberal Party is well aware, Aboriginals in the far northern section of the Kalgoorlie division have enrolled in very large numbers. I think that something like 1,400 enrolled prior to the last State election. The Aboriginals are becoming more politically conscious and are voting Labor and, of course, the Liberal Party is trying to cheat them of their right to vote. Whether we look at the number of people or potential enrolments or whether we look at the law there is no justification for the extension of the Kalgoorlie division.
Within the metropolitan area other adjustments have been made for which no rational basis can be established. The Bassandean and Bayswater areas were excised from the electorate of Perth, which is another marginal electorate, and put in the division of Swan. Lockridge, which is a State Housing Commission area, was taken from Swan and put into the rural electorate of Moore. As a result of those changes the seat of Perth, which almost certainly would have been returned to the Australian Labor Party at the forthcoming election, has now become a highly marginal seat and could be retained by the Liberal Party. It just so happened that the adjustments that were made to the Perth boundaries cut out all those areas of the electorate which voted 60 per cent to 65 per cent Labor and incorporated suburbs such as Yokine, Nollamara and Menora which vote about 60 per cent or 65 per cent Liberal. Again, especially when one looks at the adjustments in the total context of the Western Australian redistribution, it seems amazing that these boundary changes which have been made- decisions which have neither precedent, law nor logic on their side- all happen to advantage the Liberal Party. One must wonder why this is so.
The National Country Party submitted to the Distribution Commissioners that the rural sections of almost the entire pre-existing divisions of Canning and Moore plus a portion of the preexisting division of Forrest should be incorporated into one rural electorate. This proposition does have some merit. There would be a certain degree of community of interest within such an electorate. Also it probably would give the National Country Party one seat. It could be argued that the National Country Party, which gets about 10 per cent of the vote in Western Australia, is entitled to one seat in a State which has 10 divisions. But whatever the merits of those arguments, they run contrary to the generally expressed philosophy of the National Country Party that electorate areas should be minimised. The National Country Party says it is almost as important to look at the area of an electorate as it is to look at the number of people in it or the number of people who are enrolled.
This attitude is particularly ironical in view of the federal leader of the National Country Party having stated that it was ludicrous to suggest that the division of Riverina should be doubled in area by incorporating half of the pre-existing division of Darling. His rhetorical question was this: ‘Can anyone seriously suggest that one man can represent an area almost twice the size adequately?’ After all, Mr Anthony’s own party in Western Australia put to the commissioners the proposition that they should double the area of the previous division of Moore. In spite of the inconsistencies in the view of the National Country Party and in spite of the contradictions between that alleged view and the statements of its leader, some reasonable case can be made for a rural electorate of that nature which probably would return a National Country Party member. It is just unfortunate that once again the alleged
National Country Party principle of minimising the area of electorates wherever possible evidently can be sacrificed when the more important principle of maximising Country Party seats becomes relevant.
Senator Douglas McClelland has pointed out already that the validity of the redistribution in Western Australia is currently under challenge in the court because it is alleged that the redistribution does not comply with the requirements of the amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act passed, I think, at the end of last year or at the beginning of this year. I understand that the Government is introducing retrospective legislation to validate this redistribution. In view of that challenge and in view of the challenge, which has been heard by the court but upon which judgment has not been delivered, as to the right of the Territories to return members to the House of Representatives or to the Senate, and in view of the fact that redistributions are required, according to an existing judgment of the High Court which precludes any election being held on the old boundaries in at least five States, and presumably would permit an election at large, it is astonishing, to say the least, that the GovernorGeneral should have granted permission for the dissolution of Parliament, particularly when his action blatantly contradicts his own statement in New Delhi in February 1 975. 1 can only assume from that highly inconsistent action on the part of the Governor-General that it was related to the time of the day at which Mr Fraser called on him. He went after dinner which, as is well known, is a time of the day when the GovernorGeneral will sign anything that is put in front of him. In fact he probably would do that any time after breakfast.
– The last speaker made it quite clear that in any consideration of these redistributions members of the Australian Labor Party are guided by the noble principle that if they think a redistribution vaguely favours them they will support it but if they think there are any elements not in their favour they will oppose it. I would have to disagree with that noble sentiment. The points made by Senator Walsh with respect to the Western Australian redistribution are points of detail. He said that what has been done in a couple of cases does not suit the Labor Party. I would suggest that that is not really the test. I believe unless it can be shown that in some sense the redistribution is improper, this Parliament ought to endorse it. The principle of the Electoral Act is to provide independent people with the power to draw up boundaries and to make a redistribution based on certain stated principles. That independence ought not to be interfered with unless there is some evident impropriety, and clearly there is no impropriety in this case.
It is interesting too that the Australian Labor Party should object to a redistribution which followed the redistribution made while it was in power which had the happy effect of returning nine Liberal and one Labor member to the House of Representatives. There were some little oddities in that redistribution, such as the Applecross Peninsula being put into the electorate of Swan rather than into the electorate of Tangney which meant that to get from one end of Swan to another one would have to get into a rowing boat, or perhaps a power boat if one was lucky, because there was no direct connection between the two parts of the electorate of Swan. Despite an inconsistency of that sort, which certainly did not favour the Liberal Party, I seem to recall that the then Liberal-Country Party Opposition did not try to defeat that redistribution.
Senator Walsh made a lot of the position of Kalgoorlie. I thought that the Government and the Opposition had agreed that divisions in the House of Representatives should be drawn on the basis of a maximum 10 per cent differential in place of the former 20 per cent differential. When looking at the redistribution in Western Australia it is clear that electorates such as Moore and Canning which border the metropolitan area of Perth are those which have rapidly growing populations. With the narrow differential of 10 per cent which is now permitted under the Act it is not possible to make much allowance for the growth which will occur in Moore and Canning and it is necessary, therefore, to have more than the quota in a electorate such as Kalgoorlie notwithstanding its area. Its large area is something which does not seem to faze the present member, Mr Cotter, who unlike his predecessor has the vigour and energy to get around the electorate. The fact is that the principle which Senator Walsh has loudly espoused in the Senate in the past, the principle that electorates should be as nearly as possible at the quota, requires that the electorate of Kalgoorlie should be above quota if a balance is to be maintained, and the inclusion of the areas to which the honourable senator has referred can be related to that principle and not to anything sinister as he would have the Senate believe.
When we start imputing doubtful motives to those who have done the redistribution it is worth bearing in mind who they are. The proposal which is at present before the Senate reveals that the first of the commissioners was Mr
– What if the Prime Minister leaned on him which he is well capable of doing, and you know it.
– The honourable senator can make allegations about whomever he likes -
– I do make them. He personally rang up everybody to try to use his weight as Prime Minister. You know he would stoop to anything low and reprehensible.
– That is a most interesting and serious allegation -
– We know how he works. We know how he persecuted John Gorton.
– It fascinates me that such interesting and serious allegations are made only by way of interjection. The public can judge the seriousness with which such allegations are made when they are made only by way of interjection. The second of the distribution commissioners in Western Australia was Mr J. F. Morgan who is the Surveyor-General for the State of Western Australia. He was not appointed by the Labor Government for the last redistribution. As I recall it, the public explanation given by the then responsible Minister was that he was not appointed because he was on leave. Hence, his deputy was appointed a distribution commissioner. Once again do we have an allegation that in some way Mr Morgan is biased in this matter? The third of the commissioners is Mr A. E. Tonks, the Auditor-General in Western Australia who has served both Liberal and Labor governments without complaint, as far as I know. So I take the allegations of Senator Walsh with a grain of salt. What he is suggesting is that these commissioners have brought in shires such as Yalgoo, Carnamah and Perenjori just to benefit the Liberal Party and there is absolutely no basis in fact for such allegations.
I support the redistribution. I must say that I was a little concerned when it was first issued because until the Labor Party endorsed its candidates I thought that it might succeed in winning a seat from the Liberal Party in the coming election. Fortunately its carry-on over Mrs Stokes has made it clear that it has no great confidence that it can win back even the electorate of Swan. It may be, therefore, that this redistribution although fair will result in nine seats going to the Liberal Party once again. If that is the case then the Labor Party will have to bear its share of the blame.
– I thank honourable senators for what they have said. For added gloss I wish to add to what my colleague, the Government Whip, has said. Senator Walsh will recall that the previous redistribution was made under criteria which the Government of which he was a member attacked as unfair. Among those criteria a 20 per cent variation was allowed. One would have thought that as Senator Walsh and those who sit with him were so keen to have that criteria altered- that criteria which the Labor Party always said was unfair to it was altered at the joint sitting in July 1974- they would have wanted a redistribution carried out under the Labor Party’s criteria. They cannot have it both ways. The Government thought that since it decided not to alter the criteria, except insofar as it related to the 5,000 square kilometre parameter, it would only be proper that there be a redistribution in all six States. What happened in a State electoral area has nothing whatever to do with a redistribution under the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
Not only are distribution commissioners men of probity and integrity; they have also done their job very well. Senator Walsh alluded to the fact that since then a writ has been issued out of the High Court by one Mr Lalor who describes himself as a solicitor from Kalgoorlie which is an accurate description. I understand that he is president of the branch of the Australian Labor Party in that town. I take this opportunity of publicly thanking Mr Lalor for drawing to our attention the fact that there may be a defect in the Act which can be cured before the proclamation of these boundaries. Had Mr Lalor not been so kind to us by moving so early instead of waiting for the proclamation and then issuing his writ it may well have been that the redistribution would have been of no force or effect. I publicly thank Mr Lalor for his kindness in issuing his writ far too early.
That the motion (Senator Withers’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr President, before I move the motion that is on the Notice Paper, I ask for leave to amend it by leaving out the words ‘except that the name of Macquarie be substituted for Lawson’, and inserting ‘except that any changes made by the House of Representatives in the names of Divisions be agreed to by the Senate’. Do honourable senators follow what I intend to do?
– You make us a second rate House guided by the House of Representatives. Can’t you reach agreement on that?
-I could do a number of things. I could postpone this matter, but I do not think that would be right. I suppose that the Senate could sit tonight, if honourable senators like, and find out what the House of Representatives wants.
– I am not going home until the morning. I am happy about that..
-I am not going home at all. I am not threatening or doing anything silly. I ask for leave to do this for one simple reason: I understand that a number of our colleaguesboth mine and Senator Douglas McClelland ‘shave certain views on electorates in New South Wales.
– On the names.
– Yes, on the names. I personally and my colleagues who sit behind me do not see this as a House of RepresentativesSenate confrontation. The motion deals with House of Representatives electorates. If a member of the House of Representatives wants to call his seat X instead of Y, I am quite relaxed about it. As all honourable senators would know, in 1969 an all-party House of Representatives select committee, I think it was, agreed upon some unanimous recommendations on certain criteria which ought to be adopted in the naming of House of Representatives electorates. Whilst as a senator I have a duty and a right to look at the electoral boundaries under the Act, I do not carry that so far as to believe that I ought to become involved in the names of the electorates.
– Can ‘t you assist in that?
– You might have a preference for a name; but I am not going to go to the barricades about it.
-No. I am just asking for leave of the Senate to amend my motion. If honourable senators do not like it, they can vote against my motion. But, rather than move an amendment and go through about three motions afterwards, I am seeking leave to amend the motion in that form. We can argue the substance of the motion later.
– Is leave granted?
- Mr President, I wish to speak to this question of granting leave. I do not want to refuse leave, but I take exception to the proposition that the Senate shall do what the House of Representatives does.
-You can argue that later.
– No, I would argue against the whole motion to approve the redistribution if I argued the point at that time. I am not much concerned about the names of electorates, but I think we should make up our minds on the matter. The Senate is a responsible House. I do not think we should be the rubber stamp of the other House. If there is a disagreement, as occurrs during the passage of Bills, I can see no reason why we cannot accept what the House of Representatives says on the basis of sweet reason; but I do not think that the Senate should go along with whatever the House of Representatives says. I do not think we should simply follow the House of Representatives. Therefore, I do not agree to granting leave.
– I put the question again: Is leave granted?
- Mr President, there are some problems involved in this area. I have discussed the matter with my colleagues from New South Wales, Senator Mulvihill and Senator Sibraa. Unfortunately, my colleague Senator Gietzelt is not here at the moment. We personally have no objection to the alteration of the electorate name from Lawson to Macquarie. I emphasise to the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) that we have not had an opportunity to discuss that matter on a collective basis in any manner, shape or form. My colleague, Senator Cavanagh, made some comments on the matter. I understand that certainly on the Labor side in the House of Representatives one honourable member will be putting forward a suggestion for a change of name of an electorate. I understand that he will do so in a private capacity. I do not know what the Government will do about it. I do not know whether it will accede to the request and I do not know whether the honourable member concerned will receive the support of his colleagues. But that matter could well be agreed to by the House of Representatives. If it is agreed to, I can see no reason for us in the Senate, under those circumstances, not agreeing to it.
– If it is agreed to. What they do we follow.
- Mr President, as a matter of interest, is this a debate in the Senate or a dialogue between Senator Cavanagh and Senator Douglas McClelland?
-Order! Senator McClelland, please address your remarks through the Chair.
– I have been doing so, sir. I have been responding to an interjection made by my colleague Senator Cavanagh concerning a particular point and also I have been replying to a point he raised earlier. As I understand the amendment which the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) seeks to make, he wishes to insert the following words: except that any changes made by the House of Representatives in the names of Divisions be agreed to by the Senate.
Frankly, I do not know exactly what name my colleague in another place is going to suggest, but I should think the names of electorates to be represented in the House of Representatives is more a matter to be determined by members of the House of Representatives than by the Senate.
Therefore, I personally have no objection at this stage to the Minister’s proposal.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I thank honourable senators for their courtesy and kindness. I move:
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of New South Wales into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs C. I. White, L. N. Fletcher and C. W. Prince, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the «enate on the 25th day of October 1977, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted except that any changes made by the House of Representatives in the names of Divisions be agreed to by the Senate.
-The Australian Labor Party opposes the report presented by the distribution commissioners for the State of New South Wales and therefore opposes the motion which has been moved by the Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers, which is in part that the Senate approves of the redistribution proposals of the distribution commissioners for New South Wales. The distribution commissioners for New South Wales were the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for New South Wales, Mr C. I. White, the Surveyor-General for New South Wales, Mr L. N. Fletcher, and a former electoral officer for New South Wales, Mr C. W. Prince. The final report which was presented by the distribution commissioners who were appointed for the purpose of distributing New South Wales into electoral divisions was tabled in the Senate last Tuesday. That report, as tabled in the Parliament, was the end result of months of deliberation by the distribution commissioners whose appointments were proclaimed on 20 April this year.
We all know that the High Court decided that so far as New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland were concerned, a redistribution should take place because of population variations which had occurred since the last redistribution in 1968 and as a result of judgments handed down by the High Court in December 1975 and again earlier this year in the McKinlay and McKellar cases, after which amendments were made to the Electoral Act in February this year. But taking into account the population changes and the formula laid down in section 24 of the Constitution, the Chief Australian Electoral Officer, Mr Pearson, determined that there would be two fewer divisions in New South Wales, reducing the number from 45 to 43. It was on the basis of distributing the State on an electoral basis into 43 seats that the distribution which is now proposed was formulated.
Under section 18 of the Act the distribution commissioners are required to invite suggestions on the redistribution from interested parties. Those suggestions were called for and, after the expiration of the statutory period of 30 days, comments on these suggestions were called for by the commissioners. The commissioners then considered the suggestions and comments and proposed a redistribution. In doing so they gave consideration to the matters set out in section 19 (2) of the Act. The commissioners’ proposals were published and the commissioners then invited suggestions concerning their proposed redistribution. Those suggestions had to be submitted statutorily within 30 days. The commissioners considered these suggestions before lodging their final report with the Ministers.
Just recently I raised this matter in the Senate by way of a question in which I drew the attention of the Minister to certain events which had taken place in New South Wales. Frankly, the Labor Party is concerned about the circumstances as they have unravelled themselves. I bear in mind that the report of the distribution commissioners was tabled in this Parliament for the first time on 25 October- last Tuesday. On 1 8 October, seven days before the report was tabled, I asked the Minister-this is recorded on page 1415 of Senate Hansard- the following question.
Does the Minister Tor Administrative Services recall my raising with him in the Parliament the question of statements by members of the New South Wales Branch of the Liberal Party accusing the distribution commissioners of making outrageous proposals for that State, and claiming that the rules had been neglected or thrown overboard? Has the Minister seen reports that the objections that were lodged by the New South Wales Division of the Liberal Party with the distribution commissioners against their published proposed distribution have been upheld, especially in respect of the Federal electorate of Lowe?
I remind honourable senators that I asked this question seven days before the report was tabled in the Senate. My question continued:
Is there any significance in the fact that according to a report of 8 October- 10 days ago -
That was 10 days from 1 8 October- the Liberal Party in New South Wales called for nominations for all Federal seats to be contested by it, with the exception of the seats of Lowe, Grayndler and Sydney, all of whose boundaries would be greatly affected if the Liberal Party’s objections were upheld? Is it fair to assume that members of the Liberal Party have been told in advance what are the redistribution arrangements of the distribution commissioners?
They were the allegations which I made by way of question to the Minister. I note that the Minister replied that he never thought that he would hear me cast doubts in this place upon the integrity of the three commissioners for New South Wales. He went on and indicated who the commissioners were. Then he said that he knew of no reason that the report should be either valid or false. I point out to the Minister that when the reports were tabled here on 25 October we had a look at them and the reports which were published in the newspapers before 18 October were all spot-on in respect of every accusation which was made. Therefore, I say on behalf of the Labor Party that there has been a rort. I regret that I have to say it, but I say frankly that I believe there has been a rort so far as the boundaries are concerned, after publication of the reports- after the exhibition of the distribution commissioners’ proposals.
– A rort by whom, Senator?
-My colleague, Senator Mulvihill, said earlier that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was standing over people. I do not know whether the Prime Minister was responsible, but all the evidence seems to point to the fact that pressure of some kind was brought to bear on the distribution commissioners. Let me outline the circumstances. On 26 May the Liberal Party in New South Wales submitted proposals to the distribution commissioners. I wish I could have this map recorded in Hansard, but I invite honourable senators to look at the electoral proposal contained in map No. 5, which is attached to the distribution commissioners’ report, in relation to the proposed seat of Evans/Lowe. That proposal was submitted on 26 May. The commissioners published their initial proposals, I think on 22 or 23 August- three months after the Liberal Party submitted its proposals. The commissioners practically completely rejected the Liberal Party proposals. I am speaking in respect of the proposed Evans/Lowe seat set out in map No. 5.
After those proposals were made public certain statements were made by officials of the Liberal Party. The President of the New South Wales branch of the Liberal Party, Sir Kenneth Anderson, who, of course, is a former member of this chamber, went on record as saying that the plan as exhibited by the distribution commissioners was unacceptable and unfair to the Liberal and National Country Parties. That was reported on 24 August 1977, the day after the exhibition of the original proposals of the distribution commissioners. The State Secretary of the New South Wales Liberal Party described the proposed changes as outrageous. He said they eft the dice very heavily loaded against the Liberal Party. Naturally, as he was entitled to do, the present honourable member for Lowe, the Right Honourable Sir William McMahon, lodged an objection. But he also went on record publicly, not only in the newspapers but also on radio stations, particularly on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s program AM, as saying that the commissioners had not taken section 19 of the Act into consideration and that he would lodge his strong objections to the proposal.
Liberal Party members lodged their objections. While they were running, a report leaked out that certain things would happen to the redistribution. This report by a journalist, Mr Ian Frykberg, appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 14 October, 10 days before the distribution commissioners’ report was tabled in the Parliament. It stated:
The prospects of the Liberal Party retaining the Sydney Federal seat of Lowe, held by the former Prime Minister, Sir William McMahon, have improved after the revised New South Wales electoral boundary redistributions.
Under the redistribution proposals announced in August, Lowe would have been a near-certain Labor seat, but the Australian Labor Party was not confident last night of winning it.
The revision of the Lowe boundaries is the major change in the final New South Wales federal electoral boundary redistribution which is expected to be tabled in Parliament next week.
In other seats, the distribution commissioners have made only cosmetic changes but the Liberal Party has made gains from these.
It is co-incidental perhaps that on 8 October, 16 days before the report was tabled in this Parliament, it was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that the Liberal Party had decided to call nominations for federal parliamentary seats. The report stated:
The electorates for which the Liberal Party called for nominations are all those held by the Liberal Party, with the exception of Lowe and Evans . . .
Because of major objections lodged by the party to the proposed new boundaries in the Evans/ Lowe area, we have excluded these seats for the time being, ‘ Sir Kenneth said.
On Tuesday 11 October, 13 days before the report was tabled in the Parliament, an advertisement was inserted in the Press by the Liberal Party of Australia calling for nominations for seats in New South Wales in the House of Representatives. The seats excluded from the advertisement were Evans, Lowe, Grayndler and Sydney, all of which were affected by the Liberal Party’s objections. Suddenly, on 18 October, again before the report was tabled in this Parliament, the Liberal Party rescinded its previous decision not to call nominations for Evans, Lowe, Grayndler and Sydney. It decided to open nominations for those seats. What happened? After the Liberal Party’s proposals had been submitted initially on 26 May, after the commissioners had three months to consider them, and after having considered and rejected them, in a revision a month later the commissioners accepted the proposals of the Liberal Party practically to a sub-division. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a document drawn by my office which shows a comparison between the Liberal Party’s proposals put to the distribution commissioners and the new change to the distribution commissioners’ statement in respect of the electorate of Lowe.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
-That document shows that the final proposals of the distribution commissioners for the seat of Lowe are identical with the proposals of the Liberal Party except for one part of a sub-division in Ashfield, containing 2,800 voters, the subdivision of Hudson Park in the electorate of Reid, containing 4,585 voters, and a portion of Haberfield containing 829 voters. But for those three small areas the original proposals of the
Liberal Party as put to the commissioners in May and rejected by them in August were upheld by the commissioners when they presented their final report on 24 October, last Tuesday.
That is not the only matter of concern. Proposals relating to the electorate of Phillip were put forward by the Liberal Party in the first instance in respect of the sub-divisions of Bondi North, Queens Park, Waverley and Kensington. When we compare the original proposals of the distribution commissioners with their final proposals we see that the final proposals are much more in accord with the initial proposals of the Liberal Party submitted to the distribution commissioners three months before they brought out their initial proposals. The southern portion of the sub-division of Kensington, which tends to be a Labor area, has been split from the northern portion and put into the Liberal-held electorate of Wentworth. The northern portion of Kensington, which tends to vote Liberal, has been excised and put into the electorate of Phillip, thus adding to the strength of the present Liberal encumbent. It is obvious from the facts I have indicated that these matters were leaked to members of the Liberal Party long before they became known in the Parliament.
After the initial proposals of the Liberal Party had been put to the commissioners and rejected, surely it would have been axiomatic for the distribution commissioners to say: ‘We will have another look at the objections which have been put forward by the Liberal Party. What have you got to say about them?’ But we were not given that opportunity. The distribution commissioners said: “There are our proposals. Have a look at them’. They then came back a month later and said: ‘That is the final comment. The proposals are now in line with the initial Liberal Party pro- posals’. I regret to say that the Labor Party beeves that the boundaries have been rorted since the initial proposals were published. To say the least, the distribution commissioners have taken cognisance of the public criticisms against them by executive officers of the Liberal Party. For those reasons we believe that the redistribution proposals as submitted by the Government for approval of the Senate should now be rejected.
– I have listened carefully to the objections that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Douglas McClelland) has offered concerning the redistribution proposals for New South Wales. It is important to direct attention to his statement that we are looking at a new situation in New South Wales, at new provisions which have led to a redistribution in which two seats will be lost by abolition, with a reduction in the total number from 45 to 43.
Senator Douglas McClelland would, I think, acknowledge that this has created a very different situation in New South Wales. Not only have the electorates had to be redistributed to take account of population movements, but also this has had to be done in such a way as to diminish the net total by two. As I have said, this has caused considerable difficulty. One of the areas in which a seat has been lost by abolition is that comprising the inner western suburbs of Sydney, an area to which the honourable senator advertedthat presently embraced by the Lowe, Evans, Grayndler trio. A seat had to be abolished, and that proved to be the seat of Evans. The question of how the reconstitution should take place has presented genuine difficulties.
Senator McClelland states that the Australian Labor Party objects to the redistribution, but what grounds for so doing does he offer? First, he finds is sinister that the Liberal Party should have been outraged by the original proposals. There was nothing sinister in that. Those proposals came as a body blow to the Liberal Party, which seeks to obtain in Parliament representation commensurate with the vote it receives in the community. There was genuine outrage that the proposals, as they emerged, would seriously disadvantage the Party in its task of achieving proper representation for those electors who cared to vote for Liberal Party candidates. Surely there is nothing wrong with our officials or our president expressing such outrage. I ask Senator Douglas McClelland, who for many years has known Sir Kenneth Anderson: Does he suggest that Sir Kenneth would express outrage other than on the basis of a deeply-held belief? He knows the man. There was genuine distress in New South Wales at what the redistribution might mean for us.
Secondly, Senator Douglas McClelland directs attention to the personal view, expressed publicly, of the Right Honourable Sir William McMahon, that the provisions of section 19 of the Electoral Act had not been properly applied in reconstructing the electorates. Surely the honourable senator would not claim that there was anything improper in that. If he does, perhaps he would so indicate by interjection. Sir William has the right to make public comments on this matter, as on others.
I must make the point that the propositions put originally to the electoral commissioners had been submitted by the New South Wales Division of the Liberal Party. Sir William exercised subsequently his right as a private individual to submit his own proposals for further consideration. Was there anything improper or irregular in that? Of course not. That is what the Electoral Act is designed to encourage. He submitted his objections m proper form, with the reasons upon which he based them. It is perhaps a tribute to Sir William’s forceful argument that his objections apparently found some favour and had some effect on the drafting of the final maps.
Lastly, the honourable senator directs attention to certain leaks that he believes must have occurred, because a Mr Ian Frykberg was the author of a report, published on 14 October, in which the final boundaries were anticipated. The honourable senator goes further and implies that this has a sinister connotation which points to government involvement. I do not know who is involved, or how anyone could anticipate what the final maps would show. Most people were impressed by Sir William’s argument that a genuine community of interest existed between the suburbs running along the southern half of the area in question, just south of the water, and that they should together form one seat. I do not know where the leaks, if any, came from. I am certain that they did not come from the Minister or from this Government. If the honourable senator studies the maps he will find that the Government did not publish them. If one looks at the inscription on the proposal before the Senate one finds that it was published by D. West, Government Printer, New South Wales. One is amazed. Does Senator Douglas McClelland suggest that there could have been a leak from that source? I certainly would not do so.
– There was a leak from somewhere.
-We know that Senator Withers has answered questions on the redistribution proposals, but I believe that the details thereof were unknown to the Minister before about 6 p.m. on Monday night last. If I recall correctly, the Minister assured the Senate, in answer to a question, that he had not previously known the details. He is the responsible Minister and any information would come to the Government through him and his Department. I reject absolutely the suggestion that anyone in the Government has had available, or has made known, the details of these redistribution proposals.
What is the redistribution going to mean for New South Wales? What it is going to mean for my Party is considerable electoral difficulty. Let us not forget that the new maps and boundaries will create a considerable problem for many good Liberal Party members in the other House, members who now have electorates that they must try to hold with boundaries that are much more exacting than they were.
The proposed redistribution is of great assistance to the Australian Labor Party, which has p roved to be the winner insofar as the new b oundaries in New South Wales are concerned. Perhaps its supporters are annoyed that they did not get everything they wanted; that the apparently valid, well-argued, objections of Sir William McMahon were needed. One suspects that the comments of Senator Douglas McClelland and his colleagues are inspired by sour grapes and nothing more. The Liberal Party will fight for all the electorates, but it has no illusions about these boundaries. The city of Maitland is to be divided amongst two electorates, which I consider will be difficult for us. The electorate of Riverina is to be carried right across the western half of New South Wales. It will extend from the south right through to the Queensland border. That will create considerable difficulties for whoever is elected to represent that division.
I simply say that I can see no substance and I can see no argument of merit in anything that . has been offered by Senator Douglas McClelland to the Senate on this matter. He has given almost no facts in his argument relating to the redistribution itself. He has offered almost no argument about the boundaries that were finally decided upon. He has merely offered the Senate a mixture of half truth and innuendo. There is no basis in what he has presented to the Senate to provide any grounds for doing other than accepting this redistribution as it has been offered.
– I hope that the co-operation that was manifest in New South Wales senators towards Senator Withers’ request, which I do not cavil at, will not negate at any time the right of an honourable senator to play a role in changing the names of electorates. I say that because of the precedent that was set during the last redistribution when a very illustrious Australian Labor Party senator from Victoria- Senator Pat Kennelly- was instrumental in having a seat in the outer western suburbs of Sydney called Chifley. His suggestion was accepted in this place and in the other place. That set a precedent.
I turn now to the prime objections that my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland so ably expounded. I think that he sees the matter as I see it. Normally in the industrial field the employer and the employee put their respective cases to a conciliation commissioner and he makes a decision on their submissions, and if either party appeals to somewhere else * is a new ball game. As Senator Douglas McClelland has pointed out, each side put forward its views in relation to this matter, but when the Liberal Party came forward with a counter argument, about which there is evidence to the contrary and which I will deal with that in a minute, the Labor Party had no opportunity to counter its objections.
I think that Senator Douglas McClelland did as I did and scoffed at the newspaper reports and said that it was just Press speculation. Senator Baume referred to Sir Kenneth Anderson, whom we all admire. Nobody is making any reference to Sir Kenneth Anderson’s integrity. I remind Senator Baume and other Government senators that there is a very good book in the Parliamentary Library on the life of Lyndon Baines Johnson, a former American President. There has been controversy surrounding that book. The story, which has been documented in Texas newspapers, goes that Johnson had a difficult electoral problem. Nobody questioned the county electoral commissioners about it. A former senator from Missouri who was the President- Harry Truman- was accosted on a train by a few people about how tough it was for Johnson and the President got to work on the telephone. I think that analogy could apply here in relation to the interjection that I made earlier. None of us here is a simpleton. The name of the game is power. The Prime Minister is a powerful man. I leave honourable senators opposite with that thought. I do not retract from it for one minute.
I wish to deal now with the change in the electoral boundaries. As a resident of the Lowe electorate for all of my voting life, I thought that the distribution commissioners deserved to be commended for the boundaries that they originally suggested for that electorate. They used the waterways of the Parramatta River as an effective boundary. It should be noted that the original idea in relation to the electorate of Sydney was to follow the Parramatta River right up and to encompass the subdivisions of Abbotsford, Drummoyne and Five Dock. I thought that was an excellent idea because it provided for cross fertilisation of the Federal member’s dealings with government departments. The Maritime Services Board has some links with the Commonwealth Department of Transport, which in turn is interlocked with shipping. That is just a rapid analogy on the run, as it were. That is the sort of thing that we looked at.
Let us take the matter a little further. The distribution commissioners introduced a corridor concept by which they incorporated a sizeable segment of the electorate of Lang. Anybody who is interested in bus services, the trend of municipal controversies or even sporting associations, whether they be cricket, football or tennis, would know that, for example, areas like Canterbury, Hurlstone Park, Enfield and Lakemba are areas that have an affinity with the section of the electorate of Lowe which embraces Burwood, Burwood East, Croydon, Concord, Strathfield and Yaralla. That marriage of subdivisions looked excellent. The matter that Senator Douglas McClelland and I are concerned about is that we have found this concept of waterway boundaries being disturbed and these three sections of the former Evans electorate being suddenly transferred to the new Lowe electorate. The waterway boundaries of Abbotsford, Five Dock and Haberfield all presented ideal perimeters. Those are the things that have worried us considerably.
The next change to which I wish to refer relates to what I would call subtle adjustments. Let us look at the situation concerning the electorate of Lawson. Mulgoa, which has a population of about 900 people, suddenly has been switched from the electorate of Prospect to the electorate of Lawson. I can understand the transfer of a major subdivision, but some of these things have convinced me very much of the testimony of Senator Baume about having a look at the matter in the context of the 1969 election. I say to Senator Withers and the other Government senators that we are looking at this matter in an offensive spirit. We know that even in 1969 when we nearly won office there had been some subtle touches in relation to New South Wales that denied office to us. History has a habit of repeating itself. I will be one of those who will have contempt for the Constitution if we face the situation where we are denied the electorate of Lawson because of the sudden switch to it of the 900 people in Mulgoa.
I drive through that area consistently. I am a member of the Glenmore Golf and Country Club where I play very irregularly. I said that because I saw a gleam in the eye of Senator Withers. I go through the area regularly and I have an idea of the association of interest. It is beyond my comprehension why that area has been suddenly hijacked from the electorate of Prospect and put into the electorate of Lawson. That is just another of the things worrying us considerably. Senator Baume referred to the fact that there had to be changes in the electorates. I am not going to weary the Senate with it now, but I have read, and heard, what Senator Withers had to say about electoral matters in the memorable Joint Sitting. He is a different Senator Withers now in his approach to the whole dimension of redistribution and the limitation to a 10 per cent tolerance from what he was in his utterances of those days. I suppose that we have to be thankful for small conversions; we have not yet converted him all the way.
Senator Baume said that the New South Wales redistribution was complex. I have heard my Victorian colleagues talk about the political complexion of people in a particular area. It may be that there is a heavy ethnic and proletariat content in the area that is bounded by the Parramatta River and the Georges River and coming around to Auburn. In fact, I was looking for Senator Lajovic, who is also a resident of the electorate of Lowe. I thought that I would get a nod of his head, but that is by the way. The way I looked at that area, I thought that there was very little way in which one could get what the Liberal Party is entitled to argue for, that is, a reasonable ratio of electors. I echo all that my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland has said about the redistribution proposals as they concern the electorate of Lowe. We know that one can anticipate what decisions conciliation commissioners will make, but the report about the adjustment to the boundaries for the electorate of Lowe was so accurate that I do not think that even the most talented member of the Fourth Estate would have been able to anticipate it.
I apply this test: Like Senator Withers, I read Time, Newsweek and the London Economist every week. Newsweek has a section entitled Washington Periscope’, which talks about what Senator Hubert Humphrey and Senator Muskie are going to do. Nine times out of 10 it is wrong. In fact, I think it would be wrong 19 times out of 20. But on the matter of the Lowe electorate, although I exonerate Sir Kenneth Anderson who is an honourable man, I would say that at the very least there was some laxity and that somebody got the drum on what was going to happen.
– Where from?
-How did the Press get it? That may relate to my opening remarks, when I drew an analogy with the United States senator from Missouri and how he saved LBJ. One often can hint. When a Prime Minister coughs, people jump, I suppose because of the presidential style of government that we have. I thought that the first report that was issued was a pretty fair blending of the elements that make up a good electorate because it provided for the maintenance of the waterway boundaries. In that respect I refer to the State of New Jersey and the State of New York and all the congressional districts.
Another point I should like to make is that I was brought up on the idea that subdivisions should never be tampered with, that we have to deal in multiples of subdivisions. One learns in this game; something new is always coming forward. I simply say that there are peculiarities in the fact that the Sydney Morning Herald was able to anticipate in its page 1 story the wishes of my present local member, Sir William McMahon, and how he had his way. I suppose that it is like a log of claims. Sir William McMahon went for the best he could get. The Latrobe Valley strikers are asking for $40, although I do not think they will get it. But Sir William McMahon got the equivalent of a $40 rise. He might be asked to stand for the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union. The other point I make relates to the subtle touch in the switch of Mulgoa from the electorate of Prospect to the electorate of Lawson. To me, it was one of those precision jobs.
As I said unreservedly in 1968 and 1969, the three distribution commissioners had a charter. They had to work to a 10 per cent tolerance, and everybody should have accepted the umpire’s decision. As to accepting the umpire’s decision and abiding by the rule of law, I believe that the distribution commissioners should have said: We stand by our decision’. There were some amazing Press releases on this matter. The Daily Telegraph said that the Liberal Party was protesting, but the distribution commissioners made an in depth study and they were standing firm. Of course, the distribution commissioners did not stand firm. I might be wrong about the Latrobe Valley workers. The work study might give them their $40, and I would not object to that; but I do not want to stray from the topic. To summarise, I thought that the first redistribution met all the essential elements. Leaving aside the attitude of my own party, once we get away from the waterways in regard to electoral boundaries we get into difficulty and a sour taste is left in people’s mouths. That is what prompted Senator Douglas McClelland and me to feel that it was not good enough. When the umpire gives you out, you should not be recalled to play your innings again.
– I rise to make a few brief comments on the proposed redistribution in New South Wales. I do not intend to make any allegations, but I do feel that there is a need for me to express a measure of concern, particularly in relation to one or two electorates. As a member of the coalition Government parties, I do not seek, as the Opposition has done, to oppose the redistribution in New South Wales; but I believe that certain things must be considered more closely in the future. The relevance of the guidelines that are used in drawing up electorates in this country has to be considered, as well as the way in which those guidelines are applied when a redistribution takes place. I believe that in regard to two electorates in western New South Wales there have been some strange- I leave it at that- interpretations of the provisions relating to size, community of interest and communications. It is certainly my hope that that sort of thing will not occur again.
In the electorate of Riverina, there has been a constant complaint over the years from all parties who have represented that seat about its massive size. I believe and will continue to believe that equality of representation is not purely and simply a statistic in which one equals one and that is the only answer. Equality of representation must be related to the capacity of people to represent the electorate, and with that in view the statistical concept of one vote one value certainly has to be adjusted. The proposed Riverina electorate in New South Wales is quite enormous. It covers one-third of the State of New South Wales and extends from east of the Murrumbidgee River to the Victorian, South Australian and Queensland borders. Incidentally, it is an area which has very poor lines of communication from east to west and in which there now seems to be almost no community of interest. The original seat of Riverina produces 95 per cent of Australia’s rice. It has a very intensive irrigation area and large scale, extensive agricultural and pastoral pursuits. Into that relatively consolidated electorate has now been introduced the quite massive and very fine city of Broken Hill- a city of some 30,000 people, a mining and industrial centre whose community of interest with the rest of the Riverina is very difficult to identify. I do not think that situation leads to better and more effective representation.
As far as communications are concerned, it is interesting to note that mail sent from Deniliquin, which is one of the heart towns of the Riverina, to Broken Hill travels from Deniliquin to Sydney and then to Broken Hill. That seems to be an extraordinary situation. The distance from Griffith to Broken Hill or from Deniliquin to Broken Hill is in the vicinity of 700 kilometres and the distance from Sydney to Hay or Sydney to Griffith is also about 700 kilometres. Theoretically at least, it would be just as logical for the representative of the Riverina to live in the heart of Sydney as it would be for him to live in Griffith, Deniliquin or one of the other Riverina towns, in terms of his representation of Broken Hill.
I do not want to take up more of the Senate’s time in discussing the electorate of Riverina, but I do want to refer very briefly to another most important and quite famous rural seat in western New South Wales, the seat of Calare. The Commissioners’ redistribution of that seat indicates that once again community of interest has been ignored totally. Calare was an electorate which had four major towns. It was an area of light industry and commercial enterprise, backed by varied and significant agricultural and pastoral pursuits, as well as all the service industries that are dependent on that sort of operation. But some extraordinary things have happened in this redistribution. For instance, the twin towns- I believe that the people there like to call them the twin cities- of Parkes and Forbes, which are only 20 miles apart, are now in different electorates. Surely, in considering community of interest, some account has to be taken of political affiliation or political representation. It seems quite crazy that towns of 9,000 and 10,000 people should be divided. Both towns use the same facilities in the form of an abattoir, the Twin City Drive-in and the various other facilities which apply to both towns. The airport at Parkes serves the people of Forbes and its district just as much as it serves the people of Parkes and its district. In this area it is quite crazy and hard to understand why this decision has been made.
Similarly, Orange and Bathurst have a community of interest ranging over a wide field, including education and research. On the other hand, in the north, the Mudgee- Wellington areas are divided. They have a community of interest and now find themselves in different electorates. To the east, separated significantly by the Blue Mountains, Lithgow, Wallerawang and Portland find themselves part of an electorate complex which includes Orange, Bathurst, Parkes, Lithgow and other towns which are highly industrialised rnining centres with all the facilities necessary in that sort of area. They face the peculiar problem of that sort of area. It is totally difficult to understand how it could be conceived that the joining of that area to the traditional western commercial and agricultural area in any way relates to community of interest.
Having made those few remarks referable to those two electorates in western New South
Wales I confine my expression of concern to the fact that I believe that in future guidelines will have to be looked at time and again. We will have to look at the question of whether the original 20 per cent tolerance which operated in this country for some 70 years does not, in fact, give the rest of Australia a better opportunity for equality of representation than the present circumstance. With those few remarks I advise that I too support the redistribution.
– in reply- I thank honourable senators for their contributions to the debate. I have a couple of comments in relation to the concluding remarks of Senator Scott about the 20 per cent tolerance. The Electoral Office has a first-class research section headed by some very able people. I have been assured for months and I am still assured- I accept their advice- that whether we have a 10 per cent tolerance or a 20 per cent tolerance, the boundaries will come out the same. One of the tragedies when talking about matters within the Commonwealth Electoral Act is that there is deeply embedded folklore. I say, as gently as I can, that the 10 per cent-20 per cent argument is a piece of folklore. That was one of the major reasons, I suppose the real reason- not Press speculation- why things happened and why they did not.
The simple fact is that the Australian Labor Party went berserk over the tolerance being 20 per cent. There was even a joint sitting over the 20 per cent or 10 per cent tolerance. I must admit that in opposition we did some odd things in relation to the situation also. But I am assurednobody has ever been able to give me any evidence to the contrary- that whether we have a 20 per cent or 10 per cent tolerance, it makes not one iota of difference to the boundaries. There may be margins of a thousand here or a thousand there but in the ultimate it makes no difference. I hope that the arguments will be put to rest forever, be they for 20 per cent or 10 per cent. Both figures are irrelevant. All parties of the Parliament have been arguing about a nonsense for far too long.
I understand that the Opposition intends to vote against the motion. I can understand the Opposition voting against the Western Australia proposal because if it fails the current boundaries will operate. But I put it to the Opposition that, should this motion fail, on 10 December there will be an election at large in New South Wales. I put that quite calmly and clearly. There would be no opportunity to have a fresh redistribution before the House of Representatives is dissolved on, I think, 10 November. I also put this to honourable senators: There is no law in force at the moment which would govern the conduct of an election at large. Senator Douglas McClelland will recall that when the Commonwealth Electoral Act was being amended earlier this year I said that the Government was looking at this matter. I think that at that time I gave the honourable senator some answers relating to my capacity under, I think, section 24 of the Act to issue regulations to conduct an election at large. I think I advised at that time- again, I am calling on memory- that the advice we had from the Attorney-General was that it was very doubtful whether that power existed. One could be put in a fascinating situation.
How does one conduct an election at large when we have no laws in relation to that contingency? I have had it put to me that if that happened the election would be conducted under the rules which existed in New South Wales some time in March 1901. 1 do not know whether that was a first past the post system with a vote registered by a cross. Does anybody recall what system it would be? Does it mean that one party would win 43 seats and the other party would win no seats? It is a rather interesting proposition. The Opposition has not suggested or even moved an amendment suggesting that the proposal be sent back to the present commissioners for another look. But I put this proposition quite calmly in this place. If some hurried legislation were passed through the Parliamentthat is the only alternative to accepting this redistributionI think there would be general agreement that should there be an election at large it would be basically along the same lines as the Senate election, that is, proportional representation. There are 43 seats. If every political party nominated 43 candidates we would have a ballot paper as big as the back wall of the chamber.
– You are justifying 43 Senate candidates too?
– I am saying that one would need to get to the polling booth at 8 o’clock in the morning because it would take one 12 hours to fill in a ballot paper. The informal votes would most probably run at 95 per cent. I do not know how we would physically handle the paper which could have 400 or 500 names on it. We have had a look at this matter. How would we count the votes? I think we would be here until the Christmas after this one attempting to find out who had been elected. I am attempting to put the situation as gently as I can. I suppose it is fair enough for the Opposition to register its protest by dividing and voting against the motion. I accept that. But I put to the Opposition that the only logical conclusion I can come to is that the alternative is a Senate type election for the 43 New South Wales seats. We had 10 vacancies at the last double dissolution and I think there were 80-odd candidates in New South Wales.
– It was 74.
-Seventy-four? I think it is fair to say that we would have four times that many for a House of Representatives election. If there were 43 vacancies the quota would be about l.S per cent. Aussie-Stone would be here. We would have communists and nazis. They would be entitled to stand.
– They would not be here. They would be in the House of Representatives.
-I suppose that is the only consolation I can get out of that. But we would be delivering the Government of this country into the hands of a number of people who would obtain 3 per cent or 4 per cent of the national vote. While the major parties in this place- that is the Government parties and the Opposition party- may dislike each other to some extent I think we have some responsibility among ourselves and we believe that governments ought to have a sufficient majority to govern. They should not rely on these odd moving groups in the Westminster system.
– Who would determine which members representing country areas qualified for the higher electoral allowance?
-They would all have to get the same as senators, I suppose. I think they would all qualify because they would have New South Wales as their electorate. I ask Senator Douglas McClelland not to tempt his colleagues in the other place because even Liberal and National Country Party members might go over for that reason.
Concern was expressed about how a journalist was able to write such an accurate article. I would like to say something in defence of the three New South Wales distribution commissioners. It is true that Mr White, the chairman of the group, was in Western Australia as the Western Australian Electoral Officer. I think it is fair to say that all political parties in that State had a very high regard for him when he was there. He came to Canberra, I think from Perth, and was the deputy to Mr Frank Ley. I think it is fair to say that he had the confidence of all the political parties in this place. I am quite sure that if Senator Douglas McClelland or Senator Mulvihill asked my predecessor, Fred Daly, he would give a clean bill of health in respect of Jack White. He is a man of great integrity. Even if one wanted to lean on him one would not be able to do so because of that man’s character. I would also say to the Senate that he is an independent statutory officer and has been appointed for a term of seven years. He is totally free from any pressure which could be put upon him by government. I would not be game enough to attempt to exert pressure, knowing the reaction I would get from Jack White. He is that sort of man.
Of the other two distribution commissioners, one is the Surveyor-General of New South Wales. He is an officer in a State government which is not of our political persuasion. I do not know the gentleman. I have never seen him in my life. I do not know anything about him. Therefore, I fail to see any possible way in which any influence could be brought to bear on him by anybody from the Commonwealth Government. I just could not see that he would ever be subject to pressure. The third distribution commissioner is Mr Prince, a retired New South Wales public servant. I just pose the question: How could he be subject to Commonwealth pressure? I think it is proper to say in defence of the three distribution commissioners that whilst some people here may disagree with their judgments I do not think they ought to have improper motives imputed to them in coming to those judgments.
A total of 18 electoral commissioners have worked tremendously hard over a number of months. It is true that some parties and some members are disappointed with the results but it is impossible to draw new boundaries which please everybody. In conclusion, I would like to offer my thanks to those 18 gentlemen who worked enormously hard. I would like to say to them that, in spite of the occasional person who may have expressed some criticism of them, I think I can assure them of not only our thanks but this Parliament’s total belief in their integrity. Our belief in their integrity is demonstrated by the fact that their six propositions will be accepted by the Parliament.
That the motion (Senator Withers’s) as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 20 October on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This Bill extends the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy scheme at the present rate of $60 per tonne of nitrogen content for a further 12 months. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill. In fact, it approves this decision by the Government to extend this form of assistance to those sectors of primary industry which are in need of such assistance, particularly the sugar industry. We wish only that the Government would be as helpful on other matters affecting the rural community. The recent report of the Woolgrowers and Graziers Council stated that rural industry in Australia is facing a crisis of confidence on a scale not previously encountered. Real rural incomes per farm are predicted by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to fall by 16 per cent in 1977-78. In view of this crisis situation we believe that the extension of the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy, the matter under discussion, is a useful but insufficient action by the Government to assist rural industry. If the Government is sincere in its efforts to assist the rural sector it should be acting more quickly on such matters as its proposed national rural bank and on matters which it promised to consider in its recent package of assistance to the beef industry.
The decision by the Government to extend this nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy scheme goes against the recommendation in the Industries Assistance Commission report which was presented in 1975. That report which, of course, was purely advisory and of a recommendatory nature and carried no authority in its own right, was based on the Industries Assistance Commission’s assessment of the longer term structural factors associated with those sectors of primary industry and the manufacturing industry that was involved. As such it carried a valuable amount of information which will be useful in future government decisions affecting these industries. However, given the economic difficulties currently being faced by industries which this subsidy benefits- the tobacco, sugar, cotton, fruit and citrus industries- the Government’s decision not to take the immediate advice of the IAC is understandable.
The Government has felt free in this case to take actions contrary to the recommendations of the IAC and I suggest that this reflects, the true nature of the relationship between the IAC and the Government. Such a relationship, with the IAC being an advisory body or a body which makes recommendations but which is not the final arbiter, has always existed and we can only stand in amazement at the Government’s decision to make political points out of a recent IAC report on certain labour intensive industries. The Government obviously knows full well that IAC reports are advisory only, yet it recently attacked the IAC with a degree of viciousness over the contents of its report on the textile industry. I, on behalf of the Opposition, urge the Government to take other actions to aid farmers and small businessmen who are currently leaving the land or closing down their businesses at a rapid rate. The August Budget did nothing to aid either of these groups but acted to seriously disadvantage them. Only intensive criticism of the Government in the post-Budget period has forced the Government to make efforts to overcome the effects of the Budget. However, those concessions have been notoriously lightweight in terms of real aid that will flow to the producers and businessmen involved. We support the extension of the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy scheme as a small step towards relieving the plight of those industries which will benefit from it.
When the Minister moved that the Bill be taken through all its stages without delay there was a debate of some moment on that procedural motion. That debate lasted some time and one of the National Country Party senators from Queensland, Senator Collard, accused one my of colleagues, Senator Georges, of delaying the passage of the Bill and withholding temporarily some support for the sugar industry in Queensland by choosing to speak at that stage. It is because of those comments that I want to say something about the sugar industry. AH of us in this chamber know that what Senator Collard said of Senator Georges was not true. It was a procedural motion on which any honourable senator at any time can speak.
The sugar industry has been suffering a considerable degree of uncertainty in a number of areas. I refer to the long drawn out dispute over the long term sugar contract between Australia and Japan which, I note, now appears to have reached a stage of resolution basically favourable to Australia. The present settlement has followed almost two years of disagreement between the two parties and has imposed a considerable degree of uncertainty, worry and income shortfall on Australia’s sugar producers. I also refer to the sugar industry on the north coast of New South Wales, the State that I have the honour to represent in this Parliament. A difficult position for the sugar industry has arisen because the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Ltd is currently the sole miller, marketer and refiner of sugar in New South Wales. Apparently CSR has decided that its role as sugar miller does not suit its corporate structure and is pushing for the New South Wales cane growers to purchase the CSR mills from the company. In the event that this does not occur, it seems highly likely that the mills will be closed down and the effect of this on New South Wales cane growers must be dramatic.
The problem is that the cane growers simply are not in a financial position to purchase the CSR mills. I am given to understand that approaches have been made to both the Federal Government and the New South Wales Government to help resolve the situation but in the interim the industry is in a state of great uncertainty over its future. This matter was the subject of discussion at the last annual conference of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party and a resolution was carried at that conference, which was attended by about 1,200 New South Wales members of the Australian Labor Party urging that there be established an inquiry into the sugar industry, particularly as it relates to New South Wales, because CSR has suggested that its role as sugar miller does not suit its corporate structure and has suggested that the mills be taken over or purchased by the cane growers. However, because the cane growers have not that son of finance available to them they are being placed in a very difficult and precarious position. There is great uncertainty and hesitancy about the future of the sugar industry in the northern part of New South Wales which in terms of administration is very much related to the sugar industry in Queensland. I have taken advantage of this Bill to raise this matter because the production of sugar is affected by a Bill relating to nitrogenous fertilisers. Having made those comments, I repeat that the Opposition does not oppose the passage of this legislation although we urge the Government to take further action to ease the plight of the beleaguered primary industries of this nation.
– I rise to speak briefly in support of the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Amendment Bill which, as Senator Douglas McClelland has explained, seeks to maintain the nitrogenous fertilisers subsidy which amounts to some $ 12m for another 1 2 months to 3 1 December 1 978. At that stage it will be reviewed, and that seems to be a responsible attitude to take, in view of the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission. The application of nitrogen in Australian agricultural industry is immensely important. It is necessary in order to provide the fertility that is needed both for germination and for the growth of the plant life itself over a quite wide range of crops. Perhaps the most significant crop in this respect is sugar. Nitrogen has the capacity to improve the soil considerably when the soil structure and type are incapable of producing the legumes which themselves take in nitrogen from the air and provide nitrogen in the soil. In that circumstance, unless one is able to apply nitrogen directly the plant growth is seriously hampered and in many cases made quite impossible.
The nitrogen industry itself is of significance and the subsidy is of importance in maintaining a level of activity both in the manufacture of nitrogen and amongst the people who are involved in applying it to the soil. In general terms, the application of nitrogen increases the immense potential for crops and pastures and consequently for stock in the Australian agricultural scene. Without nitrogen our production capacity would be lowered significantly. It is essential that this form of aid be available to producers in agricultural Australia. It is important because we have a great capacity in primary industry, yet all the traditional primary industries of this country are faced with a cost structure over which we have little control. It is an internal structure based on a land which fortunately has a high standard of living. However, it is a problem in the total context of agriculture because the vast mass of agriculture production, to an extent ranging from 60 per cent up to 95 per cent and more, must find markets outside Australia. The prices that prevail in these markets take no cognisance of the cost of production of Australian primary industry. Therefore, this sort of subsidy or this sort of aid to production is an essential part of the development of that industry in Australia.
There is another point which I believe should be made. Expenditure by way of subsidy, as is the case in this Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Amendment Bill, represents a successful, reasonable and responsible investment. The added return from agriculture and from the products which are produced will bring back to the Australian economy, in the form of overseas exchange and in the form of revenue through taxation on greater production, moneys which probably far exceed the cost of the subsidy itself. I make this comment in closing my remarks: It is appropriate that we should apply this nitrogenous fertilisers subsidy for another 12 months. It is totally in line with the attitude of this Government to primary industry across the board. In the relatively short time that the Liberal and National Country Parties have been in government on this occasion we have aided significantly that important area of the Australian economy by the reintroduction of the superphosphate bounty, by increasing the first advance payment on the Australian wheat crop by some 20 per cent, by increasing and maintaining over a prolonged period the base price of wool, by introducing income equalisation deposits and by a considerable number of other significant measures. It is with pleasure that I support this piece of legislation for the maintenance of the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers.
– The Senate is debating a motion for the second reading of the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Amendment Bill 1977. As the Acting Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Douglas McClelland, has pointed out, the Opposition is not opposing the Bill. Senator Douglas
McClelland referred to the introduction of the Bill in the Senate on 20 October. I want to say something about what took place on that day. I made some remarks on that day when I spoke to the motion ‘That the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay’. I pointed out to the Senate that many people who would benefit from this legislation were misled by Senator Collard and Senator Hall. Of course, as we Australian Labor Party Senators know, this is nothing new. Members of the coalition parties do everything they possibly can to try to install some fear into the members of the farming community. They say that the Australian Labor Party has no interest in their welfare and, in fact, is opposed to their very well being. So it is no surprise to us when we find honourable senators opposite deliberately misleading both the Parliament and the people outside the Parliament on issues which affect primary producers.
I refer now to the debate that took place when the Bill was introduced into the Senate on 20 October. Senator Withers proposed ‘That the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay’. As Senator Douglas McClelland pointed out, some debate ensued on that motion. He pointed out also that honourable senators on this side of the chamber and honourable senators on the other side of the chamber were quite within their rights, under the Standing Orders, in speaking to that motion. Senator Hall said this:
One wonders why the Opposition, if it disclaims any interest in something else which is to come before the Senate, wishes to hold up the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Amendment Bill which affects growers in Queensland and New South Wales.
He then went on to say:
It is difficult, therefore, to answer their irrelevancies except to say that the people of Australia will be interested to know that the people who are to get the subsidy will have the subsidy delayed in some way . . .
That was completely untrue. Senator Collard was the next Government speaker in the debate. He said:
Yet here this afternoon Senator Georges, a senator from Queensland who is supposedly here to represent that State, is trying to hold up this Bill.
He went on to say:
Now, this afternoon, Senator Georges is holding up a Bill which will be of great assistance to the sugar producers in Queensland.
It is quite obvious that, had the people who made those remarks been genuine, they would have endeavoured to do some homework on the origin of this Bill and to ascertain how long the present legislation would be in force. I wish to refer back to the Senate Hansard of 9 November 1976 when Senator Durack, who is in charge of the
Bill here this afternoon, introduced the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Amendment Bill (No. 2). He said this, in his opening remarks when making his second reading speech on the Bill:
The purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to extend the operation of the nitrogenous fertilisers subsidy scheme fora further year until 31 December 1977, . . .
It is quite obvious that Senator Collard and Senator Hall had no idea that the legislation does not expire until 31 December 1977, as Senator Durack pointed out at that time. So I am quite correct in saying that the Government deliberately misled the Senate for party political reasons in trying falsely to say to people outside the Parliament that we were endeavouring to hold up the payment of the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy. That claim was completely wrong.
-Senator Baume interjects. Had he read that legislation he would have known too that the Government was misleading the Senate and that it was doing so for party political reasons. As it is always trying to do, it was trying to hoodwink the people outside, particularly people in country areas, into believing that the Labor Party has no interest in their welfare.
– You have not, either.
– Here comes Senator Webster with an interjection that we have not, either. Of course we have. I refer now to the remarks made by Senator Scott when he made claims about what his Government has done. When talking about the increased first payments on wheat, which depends on superphosphate and to some extent on light ground nitrogenous fertiliser, he claimed that his Government had increased the first payment. Of course, we were the first Government to bring about an increase for many, many years. Senator Scott’s Government has only followed suit in what a Labor Government did. He talked about the floor price for wool and claimed that his Government had increased it. But who brought in a floor price for wool? The previous coalition Government argued for years that they would not agree to bring in a floor price for wool. It took a Whitlam Labor Government to bring it in. Of course, this Government has had to follow suit because it would not be game to disallow the floor price for wool.
When Senator Scott talked about the superphosphate bounty he did not tell us that it was Mr McEwen, who was a Country Party Minister for Primary Industry, who removed the bounty with no warning to primary producers. He did that years ago when they were in government.
The primary producers thought that when they ordered their superphosphate and bought it they would be in receipt of a bounty, but what happened? When the Budget came out it was seen that Mr McEwen had just wiped it out. There were people who had overspent on super and were expecting to receive a bounty, but they lost the bounty overnight because the Country Party Minister took it away from them. Yet we find honourable senators opposite coming in here and making these statements time after time. No doubt they will do the same in the next month or five weeks out on the hustings and will claim that the Labor Party has no interest in primary producers. I give the lie to that statement here and now. What they say cannot stand up; the record completely disproves it.
As I said when I commenced my remarks, the Opposition supports this legislation, as it did before when similar legislation came before the House and as we did when we were in Government. I hope that the people who are going to be in receipt of the bounty will derive some benefit from it. I hope that the Government will take some notice of the Industries Assistance Commission report. It is quite happy to take notice of reports from the Commission as they affect other spheres and prate about how it is doing what the IAC recommends. As my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland pointed out, in this particular respect the IAC has recommended that this bounty be phased out. It remains to be seen whether this Government will phase it out. I very much doubt whether this Government will be in a position to introduce legislation in respect of any matters which affect primary producers at this time next year because after the general election is held on 10 December its supporters will be sitting on the other side of the chamber. The Opposition supports the Bill.
– I thank the Senate for its support of this measure. I have noted the remarks of Senator Douglas McClelland in regard to some problems with the sugar mills and the industry in northern New South Wales. I shall refer his comments to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), who I think is the appropriate person to receive them. I hope that this Bill will now have a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Senator WEBSTER (Victoria-Minister for
Science)- For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table an Exchange of Notes between the Australian Government and the Government of the United States of America, constituting an agreement regarding the establishment, maintenance and operation of a solar observatory at Learmonth in Western Australia. I have a short statement on this agreement, Mr President. It might suit the convenience of the Senate if it were to be incorporated in Hansard. I seek leave to do so.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The statement read as follows-
The Observatory will be equipped with a 25 centimetre optical telescope and a series of radio telescopes ranging in size from 1 to 9 metres in diameter. The United States requires an Observatory in this location to complete a global network of such Observatories established in the United States and other countries to allow continuous solar observations on a 24 hour per day basis.
Radiation and charged particles emitted by the sun generate ionised layers- the ionosphere- above the earth. The ionosphere affects the passage of radio-type waves; high frequency waves are reflected, enabling worldwide communication by radio. Variations on the sun- for example solar flares- disturb the ionosphere and hence change its radio wave effects. Communications can be affected severely and other effects- for example bending of radio paths to satellites- can be serious. Data collected by this Observatory and the others in the network will be used for predictions and evaluation of such ionospheric disturbances which will in turn be available for practical application to research projects and operating systems affected by the state of the ionosphere.
Under the agreement, the Australian Department of Science and the United States Air Force are the designated cooperating agencies of the Australian Government and the United States Government respectively, and the Observatory will be operated under the joint management of the cooperating agencies. It will be manned by officers of the Air Weather Service of the United States Air Force, civilian personnel from the United States National Oceanographic and
Atmospheric Administration and officers of the Ionospheric Prediction Service (IPS) Branch of the Australian Department of Science.
At present Australian forecasts of solar disturbances are based mainly on data obtained from facilities at Culgoora near Narrabri in New South Wales. This Western Australian Observatory will enable the Ionospheric Prediction Service to maintain its solar observations when Culgoora is covered by cloud and also add a further two hours observing time due to its location on the west coast. It will be equipped with state of the art computer aided observing systems. This will provide IPS researchers with additional information which will assist them in estimating the affects of solar disturbances on the ionosphere.
The agreement provides for the maximum practicable use of Australian resources and it has been decided that the Australian Department of Construction will be the Construction Authority for the project.
All data collected by the Observatory will be available to the national and international scientific communities and Australian scientists will be able to visit the Observatory and have access to the data collected provided that this does not interfere with operational requirements of the Observatory.
The major costs of the Observatory will be met by the United States Government for the duration of the Agreement. Recognising the joint benefits to be derived, the Australian Government will meet the costs of maintaining two of its own personnel at the observatory to perform management and observing duties and the costs of any operation of the Observatory that is exclusively for its own purposes.
The term of the agreement is ten years and thereafter will continue until terminated by either Government with twelve months’ notice. It is planned that the Solar Observatory will be fully operational by January 1979 in time for the next expected maximum in solar activity.
The Australian Government welcomes the establishment of the new Observatory and looks forward to close cooperation with the United States on this project which will provide improved data on solar activity for the benefit of radio communicators and the scientific community.
Motion ( by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– The Senate stands adjourned until Tuesday next at 3 p.m. or such later time as the President takes the Chair.
Senate adjourned at 4.52 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 5 May 1977:
Did the Minister in opening the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Conference in Melbourne on 2 May 1977, state ‘The Government is looking to ensure that energy is used to the greatest effectiveness by our transport systems’; if so, how does the Minister reconcile this statement with the answer he gave Mr Jacobi to House of Representatives question No. 168, where he stated that the use of liquid petroleum gas as an alternative motor fuel has no cost advantage over the use of petrol.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Minister for Transport made the statement of 2 May 1977 attributed to him but the quotation from the answer to question No. 168 is incorrect. In his reply to that question the acting Minister for National Resources was referring to Commonwealth vehicles converting from petrol to LPG.
Since the matters raised by the question are primarily the responsibility of the Minister for National Resources, Mr Anthony has provided the Minister for Transport with the following answer:
The statement of 2 May 1977 is quite compatible with the complete text of the answer to House of Representatives question No. 168 in which Mr Nixon, acting as Minister for National Resources, stated, inter-alia, that:
The Government is studying the Sixth Report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum which canvasses, inter-alia, matters concerning the use of liquefied petroleum (LPG) gas a motor fuel.
b ) The National Energy Advisory Committee and the
Australian Minerals and Energy Council are both directing their attention to the balanced use of Australia’s energy resources, and
It is Government policy to encourage the use of LPG in motor vehicles.
In recognition of point (c) above, the Government has continued the arrangement introduced in the 1974 Budget whereby the rate of tax on LPG for road vehicles use was set at 40.7 per cent of the rate of duty on motor spirit. It was announced in that Budget that the tax on LPG would, for at least the next five years, be increased by an amount equivalent to one half of any increase in the rate of duty on motor spirit.
Statutory Authorities responsible to Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Question No. 894)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 24 May 1977:
Are there any statutory authorities responsible to the Minister; if so, (a) what are they, (b) who are the bankers for each authority and (c) which, if any, of the authorities may be termed ‘statutory authorities of a business nature’.
– The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Repatriation Commission
Seamen’s Pensions and Allowances Committees
War Pensions Entitlement Appeals Tribunals
War Pensions Assessment Appeals Tribunals
The Defence Service Homes Corporation
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 24 May 1977:
What are the anticipated savings to Consolidated Revenue as a result of fringe benefits being denied war pensioners over seventy years of age, because of recent increases that have occurred in their pensions, consequent upon increases having taken place in the Consumer Price Index.
– The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Information is not kept in the form requested by the honourable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 19 August 1977:
-The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australian National Line: Services between Queensland Ports (Question No. 1267)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 25 August 1977:
Has agreement been reached between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government on the provision of full trading rights in Queensland waters to the Australian National Line, following the announcement by the Queensland Premier on 25 April 1977 that the Queensland Cabinet had lifted restrictions on the operation of the Australian National Line in Queensland; if not, why not.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following supplementary answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes. The Queensland Parliament recently passed legislation authorising the Australian National Line to operate shipping services between ports in Queensland. It is proposed to introduce a Bill as soon as possible to amend the Australian Shipping Commission Act to provide, among other things, power for ANL to engage in Queensland intrastate trading.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 25 August 1977:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) See answer to question No. 1272 (Hansard, 1 1 October 1977, Pages 1276-7).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 25 August 1 977:
– The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the Acting Treasurer’s reply to Senate question No. 1272 (Senate Hansard, 11 October 1977, pages 1276-7)
Total and Permanent Incapacity: Pensioners in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay Areas (Question No. 1301)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 6 September 1977:
How many citizens of (i) Bundaberg and (ii) Hervey Bay are currently in receipt of a totally and permanently incapacitated pension.
This information is not kept in the form requested by the honourable senator. However, it is possible to make an estimate based on the total number of pensioners in each area and the proportion who might be expected to be in receipt of a pension for total and permanent incapacity.
The number of persons in receipt of a pension for total and permanent incapacity in each of these areas estimated on the above basis is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 12 October 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
and (2) An Aboriginal Welfare Unit has been established within the Community and Professional Services Branch of the Social Welfare Division of the Department and its role, particular responsibilities and functions are as follows:
Officers of the Department are currently negotiating a formal working arrangement with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs for submission to both Ministers for their approval.
The establishment of the unit comprises one Clerk (Class 9) officer and one Clerk (Class 6 ) officer.
The functions and powers of this Unit differ from those of the Aboriginal Health Branch within the Department of
Health, and of the Aboriginal Education Branch within the Department of Education, principally in terms of their staffing and focus, and in the range of activities and services covered.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 20 October 1977:
When may a final reply be expected to question without notice concerning Mr Dennis Williams asked by Senator Colston on 4 October 1977 (Hansard, page 1008).
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I have examined the relevant part of the transcript of the ABC radio current affairs program ‘PM’ of 28 September 1977. It concerned a former employee of an unnamed credit company who alleged that employees of the company threatened pensioners that unless debts were met, they would be forced to hand over their pension cheques in payment to the company.
The transcript refers to one specific instance concerning widows pensions which were paid to two elderly ladies. The employee is alleged to have advised one of the ladies not to cash her pension cheque ‘on Monday’. From a reference to the cheque being cashed ‘on Monday’ it is thought that the incident could have occurred some two years ago before the paydays for age and widows pensions were synchronised to each alternate Thursday.
There is no evidence of threats of this nature being widespread. In the event of actual details of any current cases being provided, then, depending on the circumstances, use could be made of Section 1 44 ( 1 ) of the Social Services Act which states- subject to this Act, a pension . . . shall be absolutely inalienable, whether by way, or in consequence of, sale, assignment, charge, execution, bankruptcy or otherwise’.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 October 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19771027_senate_30_s75/>.