18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. ^Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read: prayers.
– I desire to ask theMinister’ for Commerce and Agriculturea question without notice relating to the-
International Wheat Agreement. I have received a letter from the Henty and District Branch of the Tanners and Settlers Association suggesting that Australia should not ratify the International Wheat Agreement, because two of the world’s largest wheat producing countries are not parties to it. It is also suggested that those countries might take advantage of the present high world price, and later undersell countries which are parties to the contract. Oan the Minister say whether these aspects of the matter were considered at the Washington Conference and, if so, did delegates express opinions similar to those put forward in the letter to which I have referred ?
– The fact that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Argentina were not prepared to sign the International Wheat Agreement as arranged, at Washington was the subject of much discussion among delegates to the conference. However, two of the largest wheat exporting countries, Canada and the United States of America, besides Australia, have seen fit to become parties to the agreement, even though Argentina and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have chosen to remain out of it. It must not be forgotten, either, that the world’s biggest importer of wheat, Great Britain, has also decided to be a party to the agreement. It is hard Jo foresee what will be the result of Argentina and the ‘Union of Soviet Socialist Republics refraining from signing the agreement, and it would be idle for me to speculate on the subject.
– In view of the dissatisfaction existing in country districts over the present system of allocating permits for the purchase of tractors, trucks and motor cars, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture confer with his colleague, the Minister for Transport, with a view to setting up a system of local advisory committees to consider applications for permits, similar to the District War Agricultural Committees which operated so successfully during the war? Local committees of this Kind would understand local needs. During the war they operated very satisfactorily, and with very little criticism.
– I shall be glad to refer the honorable member’s proposal to my colleague, the Minister for Transport, who will consider whether the method suggested can be brought into operation. I point out, however, that as long as there is a shortage of tractors and motor vehicles to meet the overall requirement of Australia, there will be dissatisfied Australians, no matter what system of control is operating.
– I have received the following letter on the subject of the granting of a permit for the purchase of motor vehicles : -
We are wondering if yon could ask the Minister for Transport if he could inquire into the release of this car and ascertain why one Douglas, a discharged serviceman, was overlooked when it is understood that the policy of the Government is to give .preference to returned soldiers, particularly those who are establishing themselves in business.
Will the Minister for Transport institute inquiries into the release of a Dodge car to a man named Hedges, a newspaper proprietor, of Maryborough, Victoria ? Will the Minister inquire whether Hedges already owned a car? Will he ascertain why a discharged serviceman named Douglas, a partner in a carrying firm which handles large quantities of perish- able goods, was overlooked although he does not own a car, and seeing that the policy of the Government is stated to be preference to servicemen, particularly to those establishing themselves in business ?
– Until recently, the allocation of permits for the purchase of new motor vehicles in Victoria was under the control of the State authorities. Only since the 5th of this month has the work been taken over by the Commonwealth in that State, and a committee of three has been appointed to consider the allocation of permits. I do .not know the date of the transaction to which the honorable member referred, but the case was probably handled by the State authorities. I remind the honorable member that it is unnecessary to mention individual cases of this kind in the House. If he submits particulars to my department, they will be attended to promptly.
– Yesterday I handed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a cutting from the Times of Ceylon Sunday Illustrated of the 7th March, containing an advertisement by Irvins and Company, of “West Maitland, New South “Wales, offering, for certain sums, to despatch food parcels to Great Britain. Has the Minister yet had an opportunity to obtain a valuation of the contents of the parcels referred to in the advertisement?
– I have had a rough check made of the values of the goods covered by the advertisement referred to by the honorable member. The parcel of groceries advertised for seventeen and a half rupees, which is approximately 32s. l0d. Australian currency, contains 2 lb. beef dripping, 1 lb. tinned eggs, 12 oz. luncheon beef, 24 oz. jam, 12 oz. milk powder and 8 oz. of cheese. The whole of these goods could be purchased retail - I emphasize the word “ retail “ - in Canberra, and packed and posted to Great Britain for less than 20s. The advertised price, as I have said, was equal to approximately 32s. l0d. The advertiser also offers to substitute a pound of sugar for any article in the list. At the cost of 41/2d. he would thus save from1s. to 7s. in respect of each such substitution. A 10-lb. parcel of bacon was also offered for 27 rupees, or approximately 50s. Australian currency. That quantity of bacon could be purchased retail and packed and posted to Great Britain for approximately 25s. The whole circumstances show a clear case of profiteering and exploitation of the food shortage in Great Britain. Further inquiries are being made and when they are completed I propose to discuss the matter with the Attorney-General.
Ban on Dutch Ships - Relations with Australia.
– I direct the attention of the Attorney-General to a report published in this morning’s Sydney press to the effect that the New South “Wales Fruit-growers Council yesterday protested strongly against the ban imposed by Australian wharf labourers on the handling of cargoes on Dutch ships trading in the Far East. The report states that Mr. J. W. Blick, secretary of the council, said that growers were losing all the trade they had with Java. Does the Government support the policy of the Waterside “Workers Federation in placing an embargo on cargoes carried on Dutch ships for the Netherlands East Indies? If not, will the right honorable gentleman, through the Government representative on the Stevedoring Industry Commission, bring this protest before the commission with a view to obtaining from the representatives of the federation undertakings that the embargo will be immediately withdrawn and that an instruction will be issued to its members to work Dutch ships? In the event of such an instruction not being issued, will the Government take the necessary steps in the Arbitration Court to seek the deregistration of the federation.
– The answer to the first question is, “ No, the Government does not support or approve of such a ban “. The Prime Minister has made that very clear. I shall discuss the second and third questions with the Minister for Shipping and Fuel.
– What steps, if any, is the Minister for External Affairs taking or proposing to take to solve the longsustained differences between the Australian Government and the Dutch and Indonesians in the Netherlands East Indies? Is the Minister satisfied that everything possible is being done to stop the continuing drift in relations between Australia and the Dutch and Indonesians? Is it not a fact that our relationswith these people have been allowed to drift so far that we now have not a warm friend in either camp? Does not the Minister believe that the strained relations between us and our nearest neighbours are a threat to security, and a cause of serious loss of trade between the two countries? Does he not consider that the Australian Government should take some action to ensure more goodwill with our near neighbours?
– The honorable member has asked a very important question. I remind him that when fighting broke out in Indonesia between the Dutch and the
Indonesians, the Australian Government brought the matter to the attention of the United Nations. After months of activity it was finally agreed to set up a special committee of good offices to help in the settlement of the dispute. An Australian, in the person of Mr. Justice Kirby, was appointed to the committee. An agreement has now been reached between the two parties, although it is true” that, in the detailed working out of the agreement, some difficulties have occurred. Australia is contributing towards the solution of the fresh problems which have arisen. I emphatically deny the implication contained in the honorable member’s question. The Australian Government was thanked by the Dutch Government for its services, and I think, also, by the Indonesian authorities. No mediator or peace-maker can hope to satisfy both sides, and if he be imbued with a sense of justice, he may satisfy neither. However, I repudiate the honorable member’s suggestion regarding relations between Australia and the Dutch and Indonesian authorities.
Purchase of Aircraft Carriers
– When it was announced that a five-year defence plan to cost £250,000,000 had been authorized by Cabinet it was stated that the Australian Government intended to purchase two aircraft carriers. Will the Minister for the Navy indicate whether any steps have been taken to obtain the aircraft carriers? If such steps have been taken, when is it expected that the vessels will be in commission? Has the Department of the Navy considered the purchase of any rocket ships, and has it developed any organization to ensure that such naval vessels as Australia obtains will not be obsolete and, in the event of any conflict, will not endanger the lives of the men who operate them?
– As the honorable member has indicated in his question, the overall plan which the Minister for Defence explained to the House last year envisaged the purchase by Australia of two aircraft carriers. The first of these ships will be commissioned next October, and will arrive in Australia early next year. The captain and some of the senior officers have already left Australia for England, where they are doing certain instructional courses. The remainder of the crew of 600 - the lower deck - will leave Australia in the middle of May on Kanimbla, and will also undergo certain training before the ship is commissioned next October. The Government still intends to purchase a second aircraft carrier, which should be commissioned towards the end of 1949 or in 1950. The reason why I cannot give any definite date at the moment is that the Government is endeavouring to have these aircraft carriers so constructed that they will be modern at the moment when they are commissioned. That is one of the reasons why the first aircraft carrier will not be commissioned on the 24th June, as was first thought possible. I am not able to give the date or even the month when the second aircraft carrier will be commissioned, because modern improvements are being effected while .the ship is being constructed. It was only recently that an order was placed for the purchase of aircraft. The reason for the delay was that the Government wanted to be certain that these ships would he equipped with the most efficient and up-to-date aircraft available for service on a carrier. Jet-propelled aircraft may be issued to the American navy some time this year. That matter has been agitating the mind of the Department of the Navy for a considerable time, and that is the reason for delay in this matter. We are now inquiring whether it is possible, even by a delay of a few months, to secure jet-propelled aircraft for the two ships.
– My question to the Minister for External Affairs is prompted by the grave nature of developments in Palestine. Will the right honorable gentleman make a statement to the House covering conditions in that country, and dealing in particular with these points: Is it still the policy of the Australian Government to support the partition plan for Palestine? Will he advise the House by what means it is proposed to enforce this policy? Will he give to the House an estimate, if one has been mai’e, of the nature and scale of the Australian contribution to the enforcement of such a policy? Can he tell the House nether there is a co-ordinated policy among the countries forming the British Commonwealth of Nations, and whether they are agreed upon what joint action should be followed in this matter?
– I can answer the honorable member’s questions immediately, because most of the matters to which he referred have been dealt with in one form or another in the last few weeks. The policy of the Australian Government was stated during the recent debate on international affairs, and at the meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations last November. The question which was remitted to the Assembly arose in this way: The United Kingdom Government, which had been the mandatory power for more than twenty years, had finally and irrevocably decided to surrender the mandate. It endeavoured to obtain agreement between the Arabs and the Jews, but found that to be impossible. Finally, it submitted to the Assembly the question of what was a just solution of the problem of the future government of Palestine. The Assembly is only a recommending body. It cannot order anything and it has no enforcement power of its own. By an overwhelming majority, the Assembly recommended the scheme known as partition. Although that scheme involved political and territorial partition, it provided also for the economic union of the whole of Palestine. Special provision was made for the holy cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem under the trusteeship system. I do not wish to re-open the debate on this matter. The Assembly dealt with the matter of enforcement by recommending that the new Jewish and Arab States should be entitled to establish their own militia for the purpose of protecting their territories. It was never contemplated by the Assembly that the United Nations should establish any special police or military force to enforce the settlement. That answers the third question, dealing with the scale of Australia’s contribution. A contribution was never requested. I have pre- viously pointed out to the House that the only obligation upon Australia is an obligation to the Security Council to make a contribution in accordance with plans laid down by that body for all nations if there is a threat to world peace. That cannot be implemented in Australia except with the consent of the Parliament. With regard to the last question, at Lake Success the United Kingdom Government offered no solution of the problem of the future government of Palestine. It took the view that, as the mandatory power, it was completely detached from that matter. Australia’s attitude in relation to partition was based simply upon a desire to find a just solution of a difficult problem. The decision of the Assembly was taken after an impartial investigation extending over twelve months. A commission was sent to Palestine to examine the facts. A sum of 1,000,000 dollars was expended in collecting the information necessary for the making of a proper decision, and that decision was agreed to by Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Recent developments have to some extent called for a review of certain aspects of the matter, and I shall be pleased to inform honorable members of the position from time to time.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs say whether, before Australia was committed at the United Nations to advocacy of the policy of partition of Palestine which emerged from the deliberations of the committee of which he was chairman, he drew the attention of the Australian Cabinet to the announced intention of the Arab armies to commence war in such circumstances and of the concurrently announced intention of the Jewish armies also to fight? Did the right honorable gentleman draw the attention of the Australian Cabinet to the fact that in the event of organized warfare either the im potency of the United Nations would be revealed or the member states of the United Nations, including Australia, would be called upon to furnish armed forces to suppress by force the conflict that, as has clearly been shown, will begin if partition is imposed? Has he acquainted the Australian Cabinet with all the implications involving our relationship with Great Britain, the United States of America, and the Arab countries in such circumstances? ‘
– Throughout the proceedings at Lake Success, I was in the closest touch with the Prime Minister and the Government. I take a view of the threats of a breach of the peace entirely different from that taken by the honorable member. It is perfectly true that when the United Nations was actually considering the problem of Palestine, the representative of what was called the Arab Higher Committee, that is the Palestinian Arabs, did publicly threaten the United Nations that if any solution was offered of which that Committee did not approve, it would attempt to overthrow it’s opponents by force. In the opinion of those who believe in a world organization, it would be better for the United Nations to liquidate itself than yield to threats like that.
– Or match force with force. That is the alternative.
– Order !
– The partition scheme, to which I referred in an answer to a previous question, was agreed to with the support of all the British countries I have mentioned. The United Kingdom Government’s representative abstained from voting for the reasons I have given. What has happened since is simply that the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab States surrounding Palestine have threatened to defeat the settlement plan by force. The method of enforcement that the United Nations General Assembly recommended to the Security Council was that the Jewish State within Palestine should be entitled to form its own militia and its own force. The Security Council has also dealt with that matter. Our relationship with the United Kingdom, is not affected in any way. I have covered that ground. The honorable member’s reference to the United States causes me to say that Australia, in the affairs of the United Nations endeavours to support a solution based solely on considerations of justice an not expediency or power politics. This country, while closely co-operative with the Mother
Country, is not a satellite of any country, and no one knows that better than does the Government of the United Kingdom, with which our relations are the most co-operative and harmonious in every respect. The final matter referred to by the honorable member was the vise of force. That is now before the Assembly. My own view, which I have expressed and which, I .am sure, is the view that’ will prevail, is that if the United Nations yielded to the threat of force by the Arab States or groups of that kind it could not possibly succeed. Any contribution that Australia may bbe called upon to make is a matter entirely for the Government, and, finally, the Parliament to approve. I cannot conclude my answer to the honorable gentleman’s question without pointing out the vital difference between his approach and the approach that I think is the right one. He takes the timehonoured view of playing the game according to power politics. We take the view, as we have always done, that we shall never have peace in the world unless particular cases are treated on the basis of justice and fair dealing.
– I ask for leave to make a statement.
– I have noticed that the honorable member put a considerable amount of feeling into his question, and I have heard nothing in the reply of the Attorney-General at which he could take offence, except that the Attorney-General hit back. If honorable members ask sharp questions, they must expect sharp answers.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether a report has been prepared showing the decisions of the all-party committee that met recently to discuss the conditions governing the payment of war gratuity? If a report has been prepared, when will it be made available to honorable members?
– The committee has met and its preliminary report is now being studied. If any member of thecommittee considers that it is not a “correct record of the decisions made, the committee will meet again. If it is intimated to me, as chairman of the committee, that the report as circulated is correct in form and substance, I shall arrange immediately for it to be tabled in the House. If some revision is necessary, it will be tabled immediately following the meeting of the committee. I hope to make it available either this week or early next week.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a statement by the Australian High Commissioner in Canada, Mr. P. M. Forde, that £50,000,000 of new capital had been invested by the United States, Britain and Canada in Australia since the end of the war? Will the right honorable gentleman call for a report from Mr. Forde setting out where the capital has been invested in Australia?
– I either read or heard of a statement on this subject which was attributed to the Australian High Commissioner in Canada. I do not know whether he was referring to capital that has already been invested in Australia, or to capital that would be invested in the future in various enterprises. Perhaps he was misreported to the degree that this point was not made clear. I should say that, if we add the capital that has been invested in Australia since the end of the war, and the capital which it is proposed to transfer here in connexion with the expansion of industries, the figure which Mr. Forde is stated to have given may be right. I have not taken out figures on the matter, but I shall make inquiries. I could give a rough approximation of the amount of capital involved, but I shall try to obtain accurate figures regarding what has been done, and of what we have reason to believe will be done.
– Is the Minister for Works and Housing aware of the tragic situation of many employees of the Burlington Mills in the Maitland district because of their inability to get houses to live in? Seeing that the land on which the mills are situated is the property of the Australian Government, having been originally the site of a munitions factory, can the Minister say whether anything has been done to build additional houses in the Homeville area? If nothing can be done there, will the Minister arrange to have houses erected on land near the Burlington Mills?
– If the State Government thinks fit, it may build houses in conformity with the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, under which the Commonwealth provides all the money, and accepts a percentage of losses, if any, as well as meeting three-fifths of -the cost of rental rebates. Housing programmes are matters for the State authorities to determine.- However, I shall bring the honorable member’s proposal to the notice of the New South Wales Government with a view to overcoming the difficulty.
Mi-. HARRISON.- It is reported in the press to-day that there is a possibility of a major rift between the United States of America and the United Kingdom over the peace settlement with Japan. The press report is to the effect that the United States of America is trying to make a bastion and workshop of Japan to offset the possibility of Russian interference, but that Australia has objected, and is likely to be supported by the United Kingdom. Will the Minister for External Affairs state what objection has been lodged by Australia regarding the activities of the United States of America in Japan? What effect is such objection likely to have upon the peace settlement, and is it calculated to cause delays? What will be the effect upon the position of Russia which, in the terms of the Yalta Agreement, was given a territorial position in close proximity to Japan ?
– The basis of the peace settlement with Japan was laid down in the Potsdam Agreement, and in the armistice terms. For that reason, the British Commonwealth Conference held in Canberra last year expressed the opinion, strongly and unanimously, that a peace settlement could be negotiated and that there were not in connexion with such a settlement the special territorial and other difficulties which had interfered with a peace settlement in Europe. That view has been .firmly adhered to by all the British countries represented, including the United Kingdom and Australia. At about the same time, the United States suggested the calling of a peace conference. There have been differences between the United States and Soviet Russia over procedural matters in relation to the peace settlement, but I do not think that any obstacle, such as that mentioned by the honorable member, should preclude the making of a peace settlement with Japan. The only real difficulty now remaining - and I admit that it is a difficulty - stems from the general relations now existing between the United States and Soviet Russia which may delay the making of a peace settlement. The honorable member is fully aware of some of the difficulties, because he is a member of the Advisory Committee on the Japanese Peace Treaty. I do not think there is any more I can add to the information I have already given.
Statement by Mk. R. G. Pollard, M.P.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a press report of a statement said to have been made at Ballarat on Saturday last by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture as follows: -
The Minister was referring to the Government - will go on and on until eventually, in Australia, you will have a great co-operative Commonwealth. Its wealth will he owned by the people and will be operated in a socialistic manner for our people as a whole.
Will the Prime Minister either confirm or deny that what his colleague stated is the planned objective of the Government and that the coming referendum is an integral part of that objective?
– I have not read any statement of the kind reported to have been made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, though a scrap of information was conveyed to me about something he is reported to have said at Ballarat. My confidence in such a capable Minister is so complete that I do not make a point of checking any statements he makes in relation either to political matters or to the administration of his department. I have not questioned the honorable gentleman in regard to any statements he may have made, and accordingly I am unable to say whether the press report of his statements at Ballarat correctly reflects the views expressed by him. I shall discuss the matter with the Minister at a suitable opportunity.
– .Will the Treasurer indicate whether any recent request from the Western Australian Government, that its reimbursement under the uniform income tax plan should be increased to meet expanded State social services, has been refused by the Australian Government? Has any claim presented by the Western Australian Government to the Commonwealth Grants Commission been rejected or reduced? Has the Western Australian Government at any time made an application to the Australian Government to meet a deficit and encountered a refusal?
– It is the general practice for the governments of the claimant -States to submit requests to the Australian Government for special grants. Applications for such grants are referred to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which was established by this Parliament especially to deal with such matters. The Australian Government places before the commission its views as to whether such grants should or should not be made. State governments have in the past, however, submitted applications of various kinds for special grants. For instance, a request was made by the Western Australian Government for assistance in the building of a medical school at the University of Western Australia, and the Australian Government agreed to provide £125,000 for that purpose. Some time ago an application was made by the Western Australian Government - it may have been the Government led by Mr. Wise, or a government which preceded it - for assistance in meeting the cost of changing the frequencies of the electrical system in Western Australia and the Australian Government provided £300,000 for that purpose. Discussions have also taken place on another plane between the Minister for Transport and representatives of the States in regard to the making of grants towards the cost of the standardization of railway gauges. Apart from these matters, I know of no other direct request having been submitted to the Australian Government by the Western Australian Government for special grants. I understand that on Monday last the Commonwealth Grants Commission met in Canberra and that the representatives of the claimant States, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, applied to the commission for special grants, which I understand covered their anticipated deficits for the present financial year. I believe that the Western Australian prospective deficit is associated with social services and losses on its railway system. I have not yet had an opportunity to peruse the transcript of the proceedings ‘before the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Such information as I have has come from conversations I have had with those who were present at the meeting of the commission. Although the Australian Government is represented at all meetings of the commission at which applications for grants are considered, the final decision as to whether a grant should or should not be recommended rests with the commission. The Australian Government, in the first instance, and this Parliament finally, decide whether the recommendations of the commission should be given effect. As far as I am aware, it has been the invariable practice of all Australian governments to accept the commission’s recommendations.
Australians in Japan.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is true that the Australian Government wishes to discontinue participation in the allied occupation of Japan, and that it has decided upon a substantial curtailment of our present commitments in this regard, with a view to a complete withdrawal at an early date? If so, will the Minister make a statement to the House explaining the reasons prompting the Government’s policy towards the occupation of Japan ?
– The occupation of Japan ‘by Empire forces is an undertaking: on the part not only of the Australian Government but also of the governmentsof the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, with the exception of India, which recently withdrew its troops. As the undertaking to provide such a force was entered into with the Government of the United States of America, I am not prepared to make any statement upon it until such time as the Government has further reviewed the subject and has discussed it with the American Government.
– Has the Minister for the Army received a report from the three Australian chaplains-general on allegations of immorality against a section of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan? If so, will he inform the House of the general nature of their findings on these charges ?
– I have received a report from the three chaplains-general, but two other members of the committee who went to Japan have not yet returned to Australia. When the whole of the reports are completed, I shall consider whether I shall submit them to the House.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether there is any truth in rumours, which are freely circulating in Melbourne, to the effect that negotiations are taking place on the highest level for an amalgamation between the two major airline operators in Australia - Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and TransAustralia Airlines? Is there any truth 121 the rumour that the right honorable gentleman himself has participated in the discussions?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation and I have had discussions with the representatives of various aviation companies regarding the availability of aircraft, and the curtailment, as far as reasonably possible having regard to the requirements of the general public, of the use of petrol. This matter has given the Minister for Civil Aviation and myself, as Treasurer, cause for considerable thought. Our discussions with prominent representatives of certain airline companies covered a wide range of matters associated with aviation, but as they were of a purely personal character between the individuals who came to see the Minister for Aviation and myself about their particular businesses, I think that I should be guilty of a complete breach of confidence if I were to reveal the conversations to the House.
– Will the Treasurer inform me of the progress of subscriptions to the present Commonwealth Loan? Is it correct, as reported in financial circles in Melbourne, that the loan is already fully subscribed? ‘If so, does the Government intend to close the loan at once, or does it propose to withdraw from other forms of investment more money than is provided in the loan prospectus ?
– Although I have not seen the latest figures, I am able to inform the honorable member that subscriptions to the loan have been substantial, and that the response of investors in this country to the Government’s appeal has been very warm indeed. The Parliament and the people might derive some comfort from the fact that an appeal for the loan, made by the Australian Government on behalf of the Commonwealth and the States, has met with such an excellent response. At the moment, I am not able to state the exact amount of the subscriptions received, but I inform the honorable member that the Government does not propose to close the loan until the due date - the 5th May.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Government is resuming vacant land for governmental purposes at the valuation placed upon the property .by the Valuer-General? Is it a fact that from an economic standpoint, the present value of the land is far in excess of these valuations to many small land-holders who have retained land for a considerable time and who are awaiting an opportunity to utilize it for purposes of production, building or manufacturing? Is the Government obtaining land at a price much below its real value?
– The Minister for the Interior will answer the question.
– The Government acquires land under the Lands Acquisition Act, and the price paid is computed on the basis of the value for taxation purposes, and on the valuations of a private sworn valuator and a departmental valuator, who acts for the Government. If there is a disparity between the three valuations, a conference is held between the three valuators. Failing an agreement, the owner of the land has the right to appeal to a court. The fact that a settlement is reached in nearly every instance without resort to legal proceedings proves that, in most cases, a satisfactory agreement is reached between the Government and the owner of the land.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration a question concerning his administration of the White Australia Policy with particular reference to a recent order to a Tongan woman, who is married to an Australian, to leave this country. I have received a letter from an Australian woman who has married a New Zealand ex-serviceman. He is a Maori, and she desires to come to Australia with her husband. Will the Minister inform me whether this woman and her husband are entitled to settle in Australia, or will they be prohibited from doing so in the same way as is the Tongan woman who is married to an Australian ?
– I believe that the honorable member knows the answer to the question as well as I do. The same rule applies generally-
– To the same people?
– Within the meaning of the Immigration Act, they are regarded as the same people, and under existing law and practice, such people will not be permitted to settle permanently in Australia.
– What about the Anzac pact?
– At the moment, 1 am not concerned with the Anzac pact or any other sort of pact. If the honorable, member for Henty will supply the details of the case instead of asking me a question relating to a hypothetical case, I shall give him a reply, but, by and large, the rule is the same for Tongans as for all other Polynesians.
– Will the Minister for Immigration say whether it is true, as reported in the press, that hundreds of Bait migrants are to be conscripted for work in the cane-fields of Queensland ? Is it a fact that there are included in that number many men with professional and trade qualifications more suited for work in other parts of the country where there is a shortage of labour? Will the Minister lay on the table of the House the text of the indenture document under which these people were brought to this country ?
– It is hard to make some people understand a plain statement of fact. I have told the honorable member repeatedly that Baits and other persons brought to Australia from displaced persons camps in Europe come under an agreement which this country has made with the International Refugee Organization, that those persons come voluntarily, that they agree to accept the positions that are offered to them in the camps before they leave for Australia, and that they undertake to remain in the localities and in the occupations to which they are sent for a period of at least one year. Upon arrival in Australia they are put into the camp at Bonegilla - later we hope to have another camp at Bathurst - where they are given a course of instruction in the English language and then allotted to employers who can provide them with accommodation. We. ensure that they receive award rates of pay and guarantee that they will receive all the benefits of those awards.
– Do they have any choice of occupation ?
– They have a choice in the displaced persons camps in Germany. The honorable gentleman is basing his question upon a report that appeared in the Murdoch press this morning. It is significant that the Melbourne SunNews Pictorial is the only one of the three Melbourne morning daily newspapers which has “ run “ this story. That newspaper alleges that newspaper reporters met many people, who said that they were trained men and that they thought they should not be sent to the cane-fields. If they are not sent to the cane-fields, who is going to provide them with accommodation so that they will not compete with Australians who want accommodation? These people were brought to this country at no expense to themselves and are being given the privilege of living in one of the best democracies in the world. It is not too much to ask them, whether or not they are professional men, to give this country something in return for the benefits it is conferring upon them. They cannot expect to walk in here and pick and choose the jobs that they like. They will be very foolish if they allow certain newspapers, particularly the Murdoch press, the representatives of which go round trying to create trouble, to mislead them into believing that their conditions can be altered. Some 1,500 Baltic men and women have been placed in employment throughout Australia. No complaint has been received from any one of them, and no complaints have been received from their employers or their trade unions. If this party and succeeding parties behave as well as the first two parties have done everybody will be happy.
– What about the indenture document ?
– There is no indenture document.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for External Affairs to the following statement in a recent issue of the New York Times: -
One of the most significant and even alarming developments of the Tojo trial is the fact,
Suppressed by allied censorship, that a huge majority of the Japanese people still accept his views ?
I ask the Minister whether the views of Tojo include a belief that making war is a fundamental right of a sovereign nation ? Is allied censorship in operation, and, if so, has it suppressed this alarming fact?
– I have not seen the particular report to which the honorable member has referred, but I have read the statements of Tojo, and what the honorable member said by way of comment is substantially correct. Censorship within Japan, under the control of the military authorities, was relaxed, at any rate to a degree sufficient to permit the circulation throughout Japan of the substance of what Tojo said, and in all the Japanese newspapers special attention was given to his statement. I commented on this matter in the debate on international affairs, and I do not wish to add to my statement on that occasion.
Land Settlement or ex-Servicemen.
– While travelling through my electorate last week-end, I met several ex-servicemen who desired to settle on the land under the scheme promulgated by the Government of New South Wales, whereby single farm units may be purchased. I understand that the cost is borne by the State with Commonwealth assistance. The ex-servicemen complained that when they proposed to purchase a farm they found that, because the Treasury would not consent to the sale unless it was at the 1942 valuation, they could purchase very little land and then only of an inferior quality. My question is directed to the Prime Minister, who is responsible for the control of land sales. Will the right honorable gentleman say for how long the Australian Government proposes to retain this control which, in effect, prevents ex-servicemen from buying farms under the land settlement scheme ?
– It is proposed to retain control of the selling prices of land and property until a reasonable degree of stability of the economy has been achieved. In a particular case, because of some special circumstances, a man might be justified in paying a higher price for land or property than would otherwise be approved. There is no doubt that if the Government had not taken action to control the prices of land and property, the ex-servicemen of this country would have been robbed.
– They cannot get on the land at all now.
– I do not think that i9 true. Many ex-servicemen have been settled on the land. I myself have dealt with hundreds of cases in which exservicemen were the purchasers of property. I do not know the details of the case referred to by the honorable member, but if he will supply me with the facts I shall examine the matter. The Government proposes to retain this power of control for so long as it is necessary to the maintenance of the stability of the Australian economy and for the protection of producers and purchasers of property.
– I have received the following telegram : -
Meeting Lae sub-branch returned soldiers held 21st strenuously oppose closing down Overseas Telecommunication Commission’s radio station Lae which proposed near future. Appreciate you contact Communications Commission or Minister concerned pointing out this seaport being deprived of direct radio communication with mainland. Lae is port of entry for gold-fields and highlands area also important airport and business centre. Proposed alternative service is administration radio telephone centre which necessitates double handling and consequent delays all southern radiograms.
Is the Minister for External Territories aware that it is proposed to close down this station ? In any case, will he investigate the position and consider its retention ?
– The whole question of telecommunications has been under consideration. I do not know whether a decision has been made in this matter. I shall ascertain the exact position and inform the honorable member accordingly.
– Approximately two years ago, in consequence of a report of the War Expenditure Committee, action was taken against a Mr.Fitzpatrick, who was connected with Bankstown Aerodrome. The Attorney-General assured me seven or eight months ago that he would make inquiries and inform me of what was happening in this case, but since then I have received no further information. Can the right honorable gentleman say what is the present position of this matter?
– I know that a decision has been given by the High Court in relation to one aspect of the matter. I shall cause inquiries to be made immediately so that the honorable member may be supplied with the information for which he asks.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Customs Tariff Bill 1948.
Customs Tariff (SouthernRhodesian
Preference) Bill 1948.
Excise Tariff Bill 1948.
Excise Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1948.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1948.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill 1948.
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Bill 1948.
Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Act Repeal Bill 1948.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1948.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1948.
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1948.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 4) 1948.
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Bill (No. 3) 1948.
Excise Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1948.
Debate resumed from the 23rd April (vide page 1112), on motion by Dr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a half-baked measure. It is not in accordance with either Labour thought or the Labour platform. Its aim is to save the political skins of certain members. It will not save the Government. It will not make democracy work more smoothly in Australia. It does not tackle the major constitutional problems. The crux of the problem of parliamentary government in Australia is, what should be done with the Senate? The Labour platform says it should be abolished. The bill, however, provides for an increase of Senate membership from 36 to 60 ! By that means, and through the introduction of proportional representation, some of the sitting senators hope to save their membership of a very exclusive club. The Senate has become a constitutional anachronism. It has outlived its purpose.. There is no visible reason why it should! survive. Its history has been one of progressive futility. Its membership has become a form of luxury pension. Under the bill that will become more noticeable. Any major political organization that desires to pension off any of its officers will only have to endorse him as a Senate candidate and secure his election to qualify him for a pension of £1,500 a year for six years, with the guarantee of a minimum of personal exertion. The Senate’s history can be divided into three distinct stages. The first phase was in its very early days, while it was still a State house. The second stage was when it became an instrument of political obstruction. The third, and present, stage is that of a legislative rubber stamp, mechanically endorsing the actions of this House. The Senate was primarily intended to safeguard State rights. It was the house of compromise. It was to prevent the larger States squeezing the smaller States. It was to balance representation in the legislative machinery. It was to reconcile the differences between States on such problems as protection and free trade. As such, it served a very useful purpose in the early days of federation. But that purpose passed rapidly. Once federation became an established reality, it became apparent that State governments had separate functions, but that in both legislation and administration the Commonwealth had to proceed on Commonwealth lines, and not on State lines. The Senate thereafter rapidly became a party chamber. In that way, it differed in no way from this House. When did its members ever vote on State allegiance, and not in accordance with party allegiance? When have the four smaller or less populous States ever found it necessary to combine against the two larger States? Party politics became the prevailing factor right from the inception of federation. That meant that the tendency was for the Senate to become a replica of the House of Representatives. So it does not matter how big or how small we make the State representation in the Senate ; the interests of the particular States will be served no better or no worse. Where the interests of the Commonwealth have clashed with the interests of the States, the Senate has, without exception, sided with the Common wealth.
On uniform taxation, the State governments are unanimously against the present Commonwealth dictatorship of government finance. But the Senate is not fighting for the States. It is fighting for the Commonwealth. Government senators side with the Government, Opposition senators with the Opposition. Tasmanian senators are not worried about the financial plight of the Tasmanian Government. Queensland senators will not fight for the Hanlon Government. On the ground that it is not carrying out its constitutional functions, there is every reason why the Senate should be abolished, instead of being increased in size.
The next phase of the Senate’s progress was that of legislative obstruction. If Parliament is to be the reflexion of the will of the people, it should be in a position to carry out the people’s decisions. Unfortunately, the framers of the Constitution imported into that document a reactionary principle. They attempted to copy the American constitution. But American politics are not Australian politics. The Australian Constitution provides that half of the Senate retires at a time. In practice, that has meant that the Senate can act as an instrument of obstruction against the people’s will. The Senate can be hostile, even though the people have spoken. A government could be annihilated at the polls, but its party could still retain control of the Senate, and obstruct the decision of the voters. That is not democracy. Such a system would frustrate the people, and is entirely opposed to Labour principles. Neither by increasing the size of the Senate nor by the introducing proportional representation can the problem be solved. If the sole purpose of the measure now before the Parliament is to make certain that the Government shall retain control of the Senate whatever the decision of the people is then this is plainly and simply a gerrymandering bill. The bill is founded on a vicious principle, and will be an open invitation to other governments to apply the same bad precedent. In order to be consistent, the Government should ask for a dissolution of the Parliament. By so doing, it could at least protect itself against the charge that it was attempting to defeat majority opinion. If there were a double dissolution, there would be no need for the fanciful formula provided in the second of the measures introduced by the Government, and there would be no anomaly in the operation of proportional representation. The aim of the Parliament should be to make the will of the electorate prevail, but this bill is directly opposed to that principle, as the Senate will remain a chamber of obstruction. The only way to deal with that problem is to give effect to Labour’s platform. The people should be given an opportunity to amend the Constitution in the light of experience.
The third phase in the history of the Sena.te has been its retrogression into a legislative rubber stamp. It can hardly be described as a chamber of deliberation. It no longer originates important legislation; it does not even subject measures, which it receives from this chamber, to a process of serious discussion. As a chamber of review, it should be able to put forward carefully considered amendment, but its present function appears to be simply to apply the rubber stamp to measures originally introduced and passed by the House of Representatives. If the Senate were abolished to-morrow, subsequent legislation would be no different because of that fact. Time after time, speeches made by Ministers introducing measures in this House have been repeated word for word by the Ministers who introduced them in the Senate. Proceedings in the Senate have become redundant. At various times, legislation is run through the Senate at break-neck speed. Of the senators themselves, it can be said, at least in a majority .of instances, that, in a legislative sense, they toil not, neither do they spin the fabric of government. Senators have no constituents in the sense that members of this House have constituents. They are remote from their electors. What sound argument can be put forward, then, to justify a larger Senate? Why should the taxpayers be called upon to maintain an additional 24 senators, who will receive the same pay, enjoy the same privileges and be entitled to the same pensions as members of this House seeing that they will obtain no better representation, and no better service than at present? Unless it can be shown that a larger Senate will serve some useful purpose, this measure is unjustifiable, even as a political expedient. Indeed, political expediency is the only reason for its introduction.
Proportional representation is sound in theory, but vulnerable in practice. The Government has devised its own form of proportional representation, and it is one which possesses even greater weaknesses than the orthodox system. Under this bill, each State will elect at the next election two senators for three and a half years, two senators for six and a half years, and three senators for six years. How can the principle of proportional representation be applied to such a mixed grill on the basis of equity and the recognition of minorities? How are the proportions to be allocated so that a proper balance is not destroyed? How can the Government ignore the present disparity of representation among the parties, or the position of those members who still have the second half of their term to complete after the next election? The system of counting which it is proposed to introduce is something right from the bottom of the pack of political cards. I defy any one to reconcile it with any recognized voting principle. It will probably be known as the Chifley-Evatt system. The Government might consider inviting Professor Einstein to come to Australia to explain the system to the electors. Then it might have another look at the system endorsed by a well-known political figure in the closing years of the last century - Boss Tweed, of Tammany. He advised all those who thought of attempting to gerrymander votes that there was only one safe system : “ You poll them, and I will count them “. The people of Australia will poll the votes, but the method of counting them is to be determined by the provisions of one of the two bills now before the House. For the electors the method will remain a close secret. It is shrouded in mystery. The people can have no confidence in an electoral system unless they can understand not only its method of voting, hut also its method of counting. For that reason there can be no confidence in the Government’s present proposals.
The other important aspect of this legislation is the proposal to increase the membership of the House of Representatives by reducing the quota for electorates. That, I believe, is fundamentally sound in principle. Tackled properly the task of representation is more than a full-time job. Members of the Parliament have now become the interpreters of innumerable regulations, the special pleaders to a multitude of government tribunals, and the personal advisers of their constituents. Unless members are careful, all that specialized work will interfere with their proper functions as legislators. ‘So, on that basis an enlarged membership of this House should provide more effective representation. An increase of the number of members is also justified on a population basis as compared with the original basis at federation. The task of making this Parliament work effectively, however, is not solely a matter of the size of the Parliament; it is much more a question of the work to be performed. If we are to preserve democracy in Australia, we must revise our present conception of the work performed respectively by the legislature and by the executive branches of government. Lord MacMillan, of the British Court of Appeal, recently addressed an urgent warning to the people of Great Britain when he said that the common law of England is disappearing. Its place, he said, is being taken by regulations. That is happening here, too. The law of this country is no longer the will of the Parliament. The legislator is being by-passed by the bureaucrat. A Minister signs a regulation and it is in operation long before it comes to this
Parliament for consideration. Instead of delegating authority to boards and other government agencies and setting up public servants as petty dictators, the Government should restore to the Parliament its proper function.
In the American Congress, much of the work of government is carried out by congressional committees which have their own appropriations, are independent of other branches of administration and act as watchdogs of the public purse and of civil liberties. In the British Parliament, Cabinet is composed of a very small group; but outside Cabinet there is a system by which members and parliamentary under-secretaries drawn from the membership of the Parliament assist in the actual “work of government. Both systems are worthy of consideration and have much to commend them. In this Parliament we have reached the stage of junta control. During the war, we had the “ Big Four “. To-day all authority on financial and monetary matters is concentrated in the hands of one man. Caucus is not consulted prior to the making of major decisions. It is only when the Government is committed that members of the Parliament are made parties to the contemplated action. Unless members of the Parliament are given some individual responsibility in the work of government, an increase in the membership of this House will not benefit the nation. This, then, is the opportunity to overhaul the actual machinery of government. Instead of having a “ Minister for the gag “ this Parliament should be a continuous public forum. Instead of sittings being spasmodic, with exhausting “ all-nighters “ (thrown in, and with little opportunity to debate contentious measures, sittings -should be the rule rather than the exception. “ All-nighters “ should be eliminated and contentious measures should be debated clause by clause. This Parliament should be restored to its deliberative status. Members should be given a /greater share in the actual work of government. Parliament should again become the paramount instrument of government. That should be our common approach to the problems raised by this measure. Because I believe that an en- larged membership of the House of Representatives is a basic first step towards the solution of. the problem of electoral reform, I propose to support the second reading of the bill. I also support the proposal to give Canberra electoral status. If the Government’s developmental policy for the National Capital be continued, it will not be long before Canberra will have more than enough residents to fulfil its quota requirements.
It is to be regretted that the Government did not take this opportunity to examine the electoral position of Mr. Speaker. That position should be raised above party politics. The occupant of the Speaker’s chair should he as independent as a justice of the High Court. His judicial status is no less. He should be immune from opposition. That might well be achieved through the creation of a special constituency, without physical boundaries, which would become the automatic prerogative of Mr. Speaker. As the most important officer of the Parliament, Mr. Speaker should be removed from the arena of party politics. The position should carry salary and pension rights commensurate with its importance.
With the reservations I have stated, I support the second reading of the bill. It would have been much more satisfactory had the Government followed the Labour party’ platform. I am totally opposed to any increase of the numerical strength of the Senate. That branch of the legislature should be abolished forthwith. I support the proposal to increase the membership of this House, with the proviso that the responsibilities of members individually should also be increased. The parliamentary institution has been debased by the failure of the Government to recognize those responsibilities. The approach to this measure should not be that the matter is one of saving a few jobs or of putting a few more on the public pay-roll. The aim should be to make democracy work more efficiently in Australia. That can be achieved only if the will of the people prevails at all times. It will not be achieved by a government which attempts to circumvent the will of the people. The Government would do well to consult its party platform before the bill is considered in committee. It might then make a real contribution to legislative progress in this country. Instead of thinking of how the Macquarie electorate is to be kept safe for a certain honorable member, or of how the Watson electorate is to he warped in the interests of another honorable member, the guiding principle should be to save the Parliament for Australia as an institution which has the respect of every Australian.
.- I move -
That all the words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the consideration of the bill be postponed to permit the submission to the people by referendum of constitutional alteration -
1 ) to Section 24 of the Constitution eliminating the necessity of any relationship between the numbers of the members of the Senate and the members of the House of Representatives ;
to provide for a double dissolution of the Senate and House of Representatives when any general increase or decrease of numbers of senators is to be made; and
to enable the minimum representation of any original State to be increased if Parliament so desires in proportion to any general increase of membership of the House of Representatives.”
I have moved this amendment in order to ensure certain effects. The first is that the number of members of this House shall not bear any relation to the number of members of the Senate. That matter should be determined according to population. The second part of my amendment is designed to prevent any unfairness, unconstitutionality or illegality in the election of some honorable senators under one system and the balance under another. Let us consider what should be the enlarged minimum representation of any State in proportion to a general increase of membership of the House of Representatives. I shall show that, on the basis of increase of population, if five members was a reasonable minimum for Tasmania 48 years ago, some consideration should now be given to its being increased, in view of the general increase of nearly 66 per cent, that is being granted to the rest of the Commonwealth. I have always believed in, advocated and supported a numerically larger House of Representatives. The records of this House will show that on one occasion I almost secured the adoption of a proposal to institute the system of proportional representation in relation to the Senate. My proposal was defeated by only one vote. However, I am opposed to the method by which proportional representation in the Senate is being provided for in the bill. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) will remember that 26 years ago he and the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) voted for my proposal for the adoption of proportional representation on a proper basis. There was no mention, at that time, of making a random choice from the total number of votes. All votes would have had to be counted and given full recognition. I am fundamentally opposed to the maintenance of any relationship between the number of members of the House of Representatives and the number of members of the Senate. I speak from a political experience of nearly 30 years. The provision, limiting the number of members of this House to twice the membership of the Senate, has had the effect of enlarging some country electorates and abolishing others, consequent upon an increase of population. The result has been an increase of the area which country members have had to represent. Victoria and South Australia to-day have more than twice the population which they had at the inauguration of’ federation, yet Victoria is now represented in this Parliament by three fewer members than it then had, and South Australia’s membership has declined by one. The quota system has applied inequitably because the reduction from seven 1.0 six members in respect of South Australia resulted in that State having an electoral quota approximately 10,000 higher than that of every State except Victoria. That position cannot be changed without an alteration of the Constitution. Section 24 of the Constitution provides that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be as nearly as practicable twice the number of senators. This is the first revolutionary change in the principle that has been proposed. Therefore, the matter of representation should be placed on a proper basis.
I suggest that section 24 of the Constitution be altered so as to read -
The House of Representatives should be - composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth.
When a census of the population is taken at ten-yearly intervals, the population quota should be determined by the Parliament itself, and, if advisable, the Parliament should increase the n umber of its members. Minor consequential alterations of section 24 will also be necessary, but I shall not discuss them at this stage. The proper time for dealing with them will be when the necessary legislation is before us. All that I desire to point out at the moment is that there is no particular magic in the ratio of 2 to 1. The figure “ 2 “ has just been “’’ pulled out of the sky “. It has no relation to the methods of determining the number of members of upper houses and lower houses in other legislatures. In Canada, there are 245 members of the House of Commons and 96 members of the Senate - a ratio of nearly three to one. In South Africa, the House of Assembly has 157 members and the Senate 44 - a ratio of nearly four to one. In the United States of America, from which our own Constitution was copied, in the main, the House of Representatives has 435 members and the Senate has 96 - a ratio of almost five to one.
The retention in the Australian Constitution of the provision that the membership of the House of Representatives should be as nearly as practicable double the membership of the Senate will necessitate the election of 24 unnecessary senators, whose salaries will amount to £36,000 per annum. Incidental expenses will increase this figure to approximately £50,000 per annum. This expenditure should not have to be incurred in order to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives. I agree with the views of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) regarding the advantages of a bigger House of Representatives. The opportunity for firstclass men to gain election will be increased, and persons choosing a parliamentary career will have a greater
Sir Earle Page. degree of security. In addition, the debating power of the House must be improved, because the new members will be at least the equal of the older members, whose extraordinary capacity every one recognizes. The constitutional alteration which I propose could be submitted to the people in conjunction with the referendum on “ rents, prices and other charges “ which will be held in a few weeks hence. Surely the decision to hold the referendum at this time is not a fortuitous circumstance. The Government must have anticipated my amendment. The cost of a referendum is aproximately £100,000, and that amount can be saved by submitting my proposal to the people in conjunction with the forthcoming referendum. If that suggestion is not acceptable, the Government can defer the matter until the next general election, and then allow the people to decide whether they desire an increase of the number of senators, and whether they consider that the present ratio of 2 to 1 should continue, if the Government believes that the referendum should be held before the next general election, the cost of approximately £100,000 would be no more than the salaries of 24 new, unnecessary, senators for two years.
The possession of its representative institutions is one of the principal glories of Australia. The character, number and quality of its parliamentary representatives are matters of the highest importance. In the final analysis, these, are determined in the manner of their election. Therefore, this bill, which will almost double the number of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, is of fundamental importance. It should be examined in the most detached and objective manner, from the standpoint of our future rather than from any short-term advantage to any political party. As the number of members of both chambers will be changed to such a revolutionary extent, the manner of determining the number of members of the House of Representatives, and the way in which they will be elected, should be closely examined from the point of view of our future growth and destiny. The methods which are adopted for this purpose should be selected in the fairest and most equitable way that can be devised. In addition, the method of altering the number of members of the Parliament should be made as flexible as possible in order to meet the requirements of an increasing population and changing political factors.
About 160 years ago the Constitution of the United States of America provided that there should be one member of the House of Representatives to every 30,000 people. On this basis, members of the House of Representatives were allotted to the various States, but the less populous Sta.tes were assured of a definite minimum representation, such as Western Australia and Tasmania had in this Parliament. The American Constitution also contained a provision that the quota should be changed after each ten-yearly census. The number of senators was fixed at two for each original State, and also for each new State, whether carved out of an original State, as West Virginia was, or not. Senators were elected for different periods in order to ensure some continuity in one branch of the legislature. Originally, there w«re 65 members of the House of Representatives and 26 senators. The quota of 30,000 people to each member of the House of Representatives remained fixed until 1810. By that time, the House of Representatives had 142 members and the Senate 36 members. I emphasize that the ratio of 2 to 1 between members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, which the Australian Constitution provides, did not operate in the United States of America. The larger number of members of the American House of Representatives was necessitated by the rapid increase of the population. After 1810, it was found that the practice of electing another member to the House of Representatives for each additional 30,000 of the population increased the size of the House too rapidly, so the quota of people to each representative was progressively changed. In 1840, the quota was 73,000 people to each representative. At that time the House of Representatives had 240 members and the Senate 36 members. In 1940, the House of Representatives had 435 members, and the
Senate 96, and Congress decided, for a variety of reasons, not to increase the numbers. The quota was then one representative to approximately 310,000 people, or roughly 150,000 voters.
The constitutional alteration which I have suggested will allow the same degree of flexibility as that provided in the Constitution of the United States of America, and the number of senators will be limited. When we study our history, we realize the necessity to make a definite change in our system, because this rigid relationship between the Senate and the House of Representatives has operated harshly and unjustly in respect of the representation of certain States, and particularly the representation of rural areas. Victoria caine into the federation with a population of 1,163,000 and a quota of 23 members of the House of Representatives. To-day with a population of over 2,000,000, it has only twenty members of this House. South Australia came into federation with seven members, representing a population of 370,000. To-day, with a. population of over 600,000, it has only six members. As a result, the quota of population and the number of voters for each member of the House of Representatives for South Australia is much higher than that for any other State.
The fixed ratio of the number of members of the House of Representatives to the number of senators has increased the sizes of rural electorates through the relative increase of population .of the States. For instance, in New South Wales, although the total number of members for that State has increased from 26 to 28. all country electorates have increased in area whereas city areas have diminished.
The electorate of Cowper, for example, has been extended to include all the area between the Manning River and Port Stephens. It has been extended with each successive redistribution of boundaries, and it now includes an area of about 6.000 square miles, which was not in the original electorate. The electorate of Richmond has been widened so as to take in the northern part of the New England Tableland. The electorate of New England has been extended from
Scone, on the Upper Hunter River, to Stockton at the mouth of the Hunter River. The horder of Gwydir has been moved from Quirindi to Mudgee, and that of the Robertson electorate has been extended from a line north of Gosford to Hornsby, until it is move a metropolitan electorate than a country electorate. In the far west of New South “Wales, the Barrier electorate has disappeared to become part of Darling, which now stretches from Queensland to the Victorian border. The honorable member for Darling to-day has the privilege of representing almost half of the State of New South Wales in an area bounded on three sides by Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. That is too large an electorate for anybody to be expected to represent efficiently. The same kind of changes have happened in Queensland. For instance, Kennedy, which once was a western electorate, now extends to the Pacific Ocean. Maranoa includes a great stretch of territory on the Burnett Tableland, an area which is difficult of access for the honorable member who represents it. In Western Australia, the electorate of Kalgoorlie has become almost twice as large as the Dampier electorate which it replaced. It has an area of about 900,000 square miles. Swan and Forrest also have been almost doubled in area. In Victoria, three electorates have entirely disappeared. One of these was the Grampians. Corangamite survived as by a hair’s breadth.
The electoral law was designed to avert these radical changes by including a provision for a 20 per cent, margin, upwards or downwards, in the electoral boundaries. This has always been interpreted in favour of country districts. Nevertheless, the areas of country electorates continue to grow while the populations of city electorates increase out of all proportion in every decade. Provision for this margin of 20 per cent, is needed just as badly now as before, even though the number of electorates is to be increased. There is a great difference between the work performed by the representative of a city electorate and by the representative of a rural constituency. The latter has a greater volume of corre- spondence than a city member, he is required to travel over longer distances, and he incurs greater out-of-pocket expenses in the course of visiting his constituents. Many of the people whom he represents are not well educated, owing to the lack of good educational facilities in the country, and theref ore they have difficulty in expressing their wishes clearly by letter, so that it is important that they should have opportunities to meet their parliamentary representative. Some consideration should be given to all these disabilities in the operation of the electoral law.
Whatever else is done, no country electorate should be allowed to become larger in area than it is now. If the development of an electorate has not kept pace with development in the rest of the community, that fact indicates the need for increased representation for its people rather than a need for diffusion of representation. City electorates are represented not merely by their members of Parliament but also by their press, radio, commercial and manufacturing interests. These interests have a great influence on public opinion and, even if the cities were not represented by members of Parliament, they could still secure consideration of their demands through these mediums of expression. Therefore, justice would be served by maintaining the practice of using the marginal quota. In my view, it is of special importance that each federal electorate should maintain a definite community of interest and that its representative should have easy access to all parts of it. We should come to look upon the federal electorate more and more as a unit of administration. That would be an admirable way of accomplishing decentralization. Ultimately, as population increases, Commonwealth activities should be conducted from some central point in each electorate.
An examination of the Constitution shows that the founders of the Commonwealth anticipated that a steady growth of numbers in the House of Representatives would arise from the formation of new States in Australia. They provided that there should be six senators for each State, and they expected that, as new States were created, each receiving an allocation of six senators, the number of members of the House of Representatives would be increased automatically by twelve in order to maintain it, as nearly as practicable, at twice the numerical strength of the Senate. They expected, of course, that the new electorates for the House of Representatives created in this way would be distributed over the whole of Australia. All the founders of the federation believed that new States would be necessary. The Constitution consists of eight chapters and 128 clauses. The whole of one chapter and part of another are devoted to the subject of the creation of new States. The question is dealt with in six of the total number of clauses. This shows that the founders of the Commonwealth envisaged the enlargement of the Parliament by the method I have mentioned. The only comparable numbers of chapters or clauses devoted to specific subjects in the Constitution deal with the judiciary and the Parliament. The creation of new States, of course, would be the natural and practical way to increase, the political influence of large States with small populations. Three States in the area now occupied by Western Australia, or five States in the area of Queensland, would enable those regions to, exercise greatly increased political power. By the nature of their occupations, it, would be found that the smaller States,,, Which have such poor representation in the. House of Representatives, would have natural allies assisting them in their fight for justice. In fact, to enable them to. develop they need something more than justice; they need mercy and some incentive to encourage them in their growth to a stage where, they will no. longer have the minimum representation but something much greater. New States,, by creating new urban centres of administration and industry, would help to give a balance to the metropolitan vote throughout Australia. Their establishment would assist in the decentralization of education. If there were a State of New England, the New England’ University would now be- autonomous The- necessity for- new- federal units to maintain- the political balance and limit the damage- done by unnecessary strikes is greater to-day than ever- before: but the election of ten senators for each existing State would militate greatly against the formation of new States. If the number of senators is increased it will be difficult to reduce it. The only way in which it could be done is that suggested in paragraph 2 of my amendment, that is, to provide for a double dissolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives when any general increase or decrease of the number of senators is to be made. In that way the people rather than the Parliament would decide, what should be done. We should not at this time create a vested interest by agreeing that each State should have ten senators, and I do not think any body has tried to justify the necessity for the increase. I have always been in favour of an increase of the number of members of the House of Representatives, but this suggestion in regard to the Senate seems to me to be absolutely unjustified.
There must be some clarification of the senatorial position. It may be argued that each existing State will, if this bill is passed, be entitled only to ten senators, and that if new States are created a proportion of that representation will have to be surrendered and divided amongst the new .States. That would be an intolerable position. The proposed State of New England, the boundaries of which were defined by Judge Nicholas in the report of the New South Wales royal commission in 1935, would have a population which, under this redistribution, would entitle it to eleven members, or one more than South Australia, three more than Western Australia, and six more than Tasmania. It would be ridiculous to suggest that such a State should have less senatorial representation than any of the other States, or that the remaining part of New South Wales should surrender some of its senators to the new State and, although it still had the. ‘ largest population of any S’tate of Australia, be- satisfied with less senatorial representation than Tasmania. That is another reason- why a- change of this significance should: be made only after the fullest possible consideration and an examination of all1 the constitutional implications. It is1 48 years since federation was achieved1, and this is the first occasion on which an attempt has been. made to increase the number of members of this House. For many years the necessity for such an increase has been realized, but the obstacle in the way of its achievement has been the problem of a consequent enlargement of the Senate.
The passage of the bill in its present form would shackle the future in many ways. It would prevent progressive decentralization and frustrate the real spirit and aim of the Constitution and of the federal union. That aim was, by interstate free trade, to pool the national resources and, by the developed parts helping the undeveloped parts, to bring about uniform development over the whole continent and a growth of population and production that would enable us to maintain fully our pride of place both in the defence of the British Empire and in the councils of the world. Although I have been a lifelong supporter of increased representation in the House of Representatives and proportional representation in the Senate, I beg the House to put the whole basis of representation on a proper foundation before taking a step, the results and repercussions of which may be widespread and damaging.
I support the proposal that there should be a member for the Australian Capital Territory. He will be able to represent the views of the people of Canberra, who at present have no voice in this Parliament. It is to be hoped that the growth of Canberra will be such in the near future as will entitle this member to full voting powers in this House.
The increase of the minimum representation of Tasmania is not dealt with in this bill, but it should be considered and decided now. In 1901 Tasmania had five members in the House of Representatives and a population of 172,000. It now has a population of approximately 260,000j but it still has the same number of members. The proposal before the House at present is really to increase the representation of various States because of the growth of their population, and it seems to me that some provision should also be made for Tasmania, the population of which has increased by one-third since 1901. It may be said that the extra four Tasmanian senators will offset the small Tasmanian representation in the House of Representatives. but the speeches of honorable members on both sides of this House indicate that representation in the House of Representatives is regarded as being by far the more important. The present Tasmanian members, especially the lady member, are vigorous and eloquent, but if there are to be 117 or 118 members from other. States and only five from Tasmania, these five -may become disheartened and weary.
– Does the right honorable member consider that Tasmania should have a greater number of representatives in this House?
– Both Western Australia and Tasmania have for many years enjoyed a greater number of representatives in this House than that to which their respective populations entitled them. When the general electoral quota applicable throughout the Commonwealth was 50,000, Western Australia returned five members for constituencies of only approximately 30,000 electors, and in the Tasmanian constituencies the number of voters was only approximately 2S,000. In 1911, when the general quota was 60,000, the quota obtaining in Western Australian electorates was only 36,000 and in Tasmania only approximately 34,000. By 1920 the’ population of Western Australia had increased, but it still did not possess sufficient voters to approximate the quota. However, Western Australia did not suffer because of that. I am not urging that we should provide more seats for every State by reducing the quota, but merely that the quota should be reduced in States whose populations are not sufficiently large to justify the number of seats accorded to them by the Constitution. The adoption of my proposal would not affect any State which returns more than five members to this House.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that more than five members should be returned by Tasmania and Western Australia?
– Yes. For one thing, it is inconceivable that the population of Western Australia will decline. If my proposal were adopted, that State would have eight representatives in this
House. I have not the slightest -doubt that when the enormous potentialities of Tasmania are developed it will not he necessary to extend to it any preferential treatment. However, under present conditions, Tasmania would suffer an injustice if the Government’s proposals were enacted, because it will be the only State which will not receive more representation.
– If all the additional population which the right honorable gentleman envisages for Tasmania were industrialists would he still contend that the State’s representation should be increased ?
– Yes. I have never examined, according to classes, the distribution of population in Tasmania. I consider that proposals of this nature should be viewed without regard to party, political considerations. The margin of representation which the more populous States enjoy over the others was provided for by the Constitution 48 years ago, and I have already urged that it should continue. However, because Tasmania is separated by water from the mainland of Australia, it labours under a serious disadvantage. Its trade is much less than that of the mainland States and, in consequence, less Commonwealth money is spent upon it. When- we are able to overcome the present trouble on the waterfront and other difficulties caused by labour unrest, the economic position of Tasmania will improve considerably. The injustice which Tasmania will suffer if these measures are enacted, can be remedied by the acceptance of my amendment. The benefit which that amendment is designed to confer on that State will encourage the growth of population and I think honorable members, irrespective of the party to which they belong, should be in favour of any proposal to encourage the development of any part of Australia.
– I second the amendment, and reserve my right to speak.
.- The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who has just taken part in tho debate on these important measures, joins the famed band of members of the Opposition who are now opposing proposals, the adoption of which they have advocated for years.
– The party to which the honorable member belongs has for years advocated the abolition of the Senate !
– I shall deal with that in a few moments. The right honorable gentleman has suggested that we should hold a referendum on the changes which the Government now proposes to make. It is refreshing to find that he is apparently prepared to support the Government’s proposals if a referendum is taken, because he has never been known to support the Government in any proposal on which it has held a referendum. However, his suggestion that a referendum should be taken is nothing more than a political subterfuge which he has adopted in order to justify his attitude in opposing measures, the adoption of which he has always supported.
During the course of the debate, eloquent appeals were made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and other members of the Opposition that the rights of members of the less populous States should not be infringed. I was particularly intrigued by the feeling displayed by the Leader of the Opposition when he spoke of the plight of the Tasmanian electors. His remarks concerning them are in complete contrast with those contained in the speech which he delivered in that State not long ago, when he referred to a great number of Tasmanians as “ the sons of convicts “. If I believed that the right honorable gentleman’s latest utterance indicated a change of heart I should welcome it, but I regard it merely as indicating a lack of .sincerity in his opposition to the present measures. He asked why Tasmania is not to be given an increase of representation proportionate to the increase proposed to be conferred on the more populous States. Does any honorable member who terms himself a democrat honestly believe that a State which has a population of less than 300,000 should be given an increase of representation proportionate to that proposed for New South Wales, the population of which has increased to nearly 3j0.00,*000 ? How can any honorable member justify increasing still further the number of Tasmanian electorates at the expense of the more populous States? Of course, if there were any substance in the right honorable member’s contention, it would be rebutted by the existence of the Senate, in which the State with the smallest population is given equal representation with that which has the largest. The preservation of the rights of the less populous States is ensured by the provisions of the Australian Constitution relating to the Senate, and the present measures will not interfere with that protection in any way.
Honorable members opposite also contend that the Government’s proposals were conceived as a kind of trick intended to secure the return of its supporters at the next election. Let me say at once that the present proposals are not a “ racket “ or a trick of any kind, but are simply a practical approach to the problem of providing for a more representative Parliament, consequent on the increase, and redistribution, of population, as revealed by the recent census. Even if the Government had not introduced the present proposals, the reports furnished by the electoral commissioners following the recent census would have necessitated a redistribution of seats. Sufficient has already been said to justify the measures introduced by the Government, but in case some of the provisions are not quite clear, I propose to elaborate them. However, before doing so I must say that the criticism advanced by honorable members opposite that the Government is seeking to “ trick “ the Parliament represents a very poor approach to this problem. The honorable member for Indi criticized the Government for its proposal to provide a system of proportional representation for the election of the Senate, but he had to admit that the proposal was in accordance with the policy of the Australian Country party, of which he is the deputy leader. The real reason for his opposition to that proposal, of course, is that after the next election the Government may retain the large margin of supporters which it has at present in that chamber. He also criticized the principle of “ one vote one value “, but, like the right honorable member for Cowper, he had to admit that the proposals which he is now opposing ta.re those which his political party has been advocating for years, and all that he could do to justify his attitude was to offer a number -of excuses. Under the heading “Duty of an Opposition”, the Sydney Morning Herald, which is noted for its opposition to anything that the Labour Government proposes and for its constant support of the policy enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition on the -23rd April last criticized the .attitude taken by him and the honorable member for Indi thus -
Only the dangerous doctrine that an Opposition’s duty is to oppose, regardless of the merits of the question in issue, can explain Mr. Menzies’s general attack on the legislation brought down for the enlargement of the Federal Parliament. Insofar as he and Mr. McEwen have any coherent basis for their attack, it would seem to lie in the fact of the reform being instituted by Labour and not by their own parties.
That is a sound statement. The article continues -
No one who believes in the democratic process can be satisfied with the working of the present Commonwealth Parliament, with its unwieldy electorates and the restricted choice it affords to party leaders in search of ministerial talent. This is a matter which should surely be settled by agreement, and without party rancour.
This must surely be the only case on record of an opposition leader attacking the government for carrying out a proposal which he himself advanced in his policy speech, on the ground that his party was rejected by the electors! It is equally absurd to protest that there should be a special appeal to the people before the Parliament acts in such a matter. This reform involves no great social or economic change, as did the Banking Act, but merely a modification of existing machinery which has become inadequate. As a recognized authority on the Constitution, Mr. Menzies well knows that periodical adjustments in the size of Parliament were foreseen and provided for at the time of federation in such a manner as to safeguard the federal system.
The system of dividing electorates in the House of Representatives in proportion to population was adopted deliberately. Certainly it is no argument aga’inst the proposed enlargement of the House to point out that it will reduce the present disproportionate representation of Tasmania in the lower house. The preponderance of Victoria and New South Wales members is balanced by the Senate, with its equal number of members from each State. It was considered of supreme importance by the framers of the Constitution that the size of the Senate should increase in- proportion to changes in the other house, so that the “State’s house” should not be overwhelmed by numbers.
The article goes on at length in a similar strain to criticize the arguments of the Opposition.
Like other honorable gentlemen opposite, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) made heavy weather of his criticism of the proposed enlargement of the Australian Parliament and the introduction of proportional representation in the election of the Senate. He was weighed down, no doubt, by the fact that his heart was not in his argument, because it was opposed to his own beliefs. In trying to discount the Government’s claim that the increased population justifies a larger parliament, the honorable gentleman said .that since the end of the war he had found that his electoral duties had been halved. His electoral work may have fallen, in his eyes, because, being engaged in a legal practice as .well as being a director of half a dozen companies, he lacks the time to do what he should do as a conscientious representative. If he is not available, because of other pursuits, to attend to the needs of his constituents, undoubtedly he must have fewer calls on his time from them. But we on this side who represent large electorates have a full-time job. With the increase of Commonwealth responsibilities we have had more to do, not less, since the war ended. The honorable gentleman twitted us with the fact that our policy provides for the abolition of the Senate. I agree that this is correct. Australia will never he truly democratic until every upper house, particularly every legislative council, has been abolished. But we never hear honorable gentlemen opposite advocate the abolition of upper houses, which support the undemocratic proposals of Liberal governments, and oppose the democratic proposals of Labour governments. The abolition of the Senate may be justified, but I am not so optimistic as to think the Opposition parties would support or the people approve a referendum on its abolition. The Opposition parties would propagate the belief that its abolition would be the forerunner of socialism. Honorable gentlemen opposite have used the fact that we are committed to the abolition of the Senate only as a means of side-stepping the real question, which is whether or not the Australian Parliament should be enlarged. In order to comply with the Constitution, to enlarge the House of Representatives we must enlarge the Senate, for the Constitution stipulates that there shall be as nearly as practicable twice as many members of the House of Representatives as senators. Under this legislation, the membership of the Parliament will be increased by about two-thirds. The House of Representatives will consist of 122 members instead of 75, and the Senate 60 instead of 36. The Commonwealth Electoral Bill specifies the method of electing the larger Senate and provides for proportional representation in the election of that chamber. I propose to leave until the committee stage the expression of my views on that subject. In considering the proposal for an enlarged Parliament, we must answer two fundamental questions: first, whether the enlargement of the Parliament is justified ; and, secondly, whether the proposed procedure is fair to the electors and to all political parties. In support of the contention that a larger parliament is justified, I say that from time to time a larger parliament has been supported by all political parties. On the 20th August, 1946, in his policy speech, the Leader of the Opposition said -
There are two matters which we will have promptly investigated if you return us to office:
The first is the size of the Federal Parliament, which has the overwhelming share of the responsibility for government in Australia but which is nevertheless much smaller in numbers than the Parliament of New South Wales. I point out to you that an effective democracy requires that Parliament should be fully representative; that members should not be so immersed in matters of detail as to be unable to devote full consideration to major matters of policy, and that there should be the widest possible area of choice of the Ministers who have to accept the ultimate responsibilities of administration. We are not wedded to any particular proposal, but we believe that early in the new Parliament the problem should be specially investigated on its merits.
Referring to the Senate, the right honorable member observed -
The second matter is the method of electing the Senate. In view of the fact that only half of the senators are voted for at each general election there are serious difficulties about introducing new methods of voting. But it is, we believe, true that the present system, under which all the candidates elected in any one State are inevitably of one side of politics is basically unsatisfactory. Thus, at the present election it happens that every Liberal party and Australian Country party senator retires. To secure a majority in the Senate as a result of this election we will need to have a complete victory in every State. It is because of the difficulties of the problem that we believe that an early attempt must be made to devise some new method of Senate election and some way of making the introduction of the new method fair to both sides of politics, and to electors of all shades of political opinion.
That is a clear and delightful exposition of the Liberal party’s policy in respect of these proposals, which have been supported by all political parties from time to time. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), in the course of his policy speech on the 3rd September, 1946, said -
I cordially agree with Mr. Menzies with respect to the increase of membership of the Parliament.
As the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) once said, it is unusual to find the Opposition parties in agreement at any time. The Leader of the Australian Country party continued - -
As the only way it can be carried out under the Constitution is by increasing the number of senators we believe that such increase will give a new opportunity for putting into practical effect a continuous policy of proportional representation for that chamber. An increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate will increase the number of advocates for rural development and proper balance in national life. Ultimately, this course will lead to great national economies due to increased familiarity with and concentration upon our problems, and the wider choice of human material for ministerial positions.
The right honorable gentleman, personally, need not worry about that aspect for many a day. The extracts which I have read from the policy speeches of the leaders of the Opposition parties show that they are on common ground with the Government on this issue. The Leader of the Opposition, speaking in this debate last Wednesday, stated -
There is, and I say it quite plainly, a very good case for a larger House of Representatives. I do not need to labour that subject. It will provide, on the whole, closer and more effective representation and will widen the area of choice.
That shows that the right honorable gentleman has not substantially changed his views within the last few years. A few days prior to the last general election, the Sydney Morning Herald reported the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) as sayings -
If the Labour Government is returned at Saturday’s election-
As we know, that happy result was achieved - - it will consider an increase in the size of the Federal Parliament after next year’s census.
The- Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), in his excellent contribution to this debate, pointed out that the late Mr. Curtin, when he was Prime Minister, advocated enlargement of the Parliament. The Minister also showed that members of other parties and representatives of all sections of the community have from time to time expressed views in accord with these proposals. He quoted statements made by Dr. Frank Louat, a former president of the Constitutional Association of New South Wales, which is closely allied with anti-Labour organizations in that State, and Professor Bland, of Sydney University, who is one of the most bitter opponents of the Australian Labour party. The Minister even probed into the history of the Opposition and showed that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) had advocated a larger Parliament. He also brought to light a speech made by the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) which was in accord with these proposals. What I have said clearly indicates that in circumstances in which party politics were not predominant as they are in this debate, members of all parties expressed the view that this reform was long overdue and urgently needed in the interests of the nation as a whole. When one studies the Constitution one finds that the founders of federation realized that as the population of Australia increased and the nation developed the National Parliament would have to be enlarged. Section 27 of the Constitution reads -
Subject to this Constitution, the Parliament may make laws for increasing or diminishing the number of members of the House of Representatives.
And section 24 states -
Those two sections outline the views expressed by members of all parties, not only yesterday, or a little while ago, but right down through the years. That is a strong recommendation for these proposals.
However, other reasons exist for enlarging the National Parliament. I am not at all concerned about State boundaries. All of the people within the Commonwealth are Australians. I shall not worry about State rights being infringed under these proposals, because it is the responsibility of this Parliament to administer the affairs of the country to the common good of all to the best of our ability, regardless of State boundaries. Notwithstanding what State authorities may thing, we must take into consideration the growth of the Commonwealth since federation. In order to ascertain and justify the proposed enlargement of the Parliament we should compare the conditions which existed in 1900 with those existing to-day, nearly half a century later. In 1900 the population of Australia was 3,765,339, whereas in 1947 it was 7,580,820. Since federation our population has more than doubled, yet the Parliament still consists of 75 members of the House of Representatives and 36 senators. However, whilst the ministry consisted of only seven ministers, a vicepresident of the Executive Council and one minister without portfolio at the time of federation, it now consists of nineteen ministers. That fact indicates that the founders of federation did not visualize the tremendous increase of the responsibilities which would devolve upon the National Parliament. Whereas in 1903 the number of electors enrolled was 1,893,586 the number to-day is 4,780,334.’ In 1903 each member of the House of Representatives represented on the average 25,247 electors whereas to-day the average is 64,599 or nearly two and a half times as many. In 1903 each senator represented on the average 52,596 electors whereas to-day the average is 132,787. In 1903 each member of the Parliament, combining senators and members of the House of Representatives. represented on the average 17,059 electors, whereas to-day the average is 43,457 electors. When the Parliament is enlarged under this measure each member of the House of Representatives will represent approximately 41,000 electors and each member of the Parliament, combining members of this chamber and the Senate, will represent 27,600 electors. Thus, under these proposals, the size of the Parliament will, in relation to the number of electors enrolled throughout the Commonwealth, approximate more closely the size of the Parliament in 1903, when it had fewer and less onerous responsibilities to shoulder. Another aspect of this matter that should be remembered is the substantial membership of the State parliaments in relation to the responsibilities of those legislatures. Throughout Australia, there are 610 members of the State parliaments, including both upper and lower houses. Those members represent an average of 12,000 electors. When one considers the increases that have taken place in Commonwealth responsibilities in spheres which, prior to World War II., were the sole concern of the State legislatures, one realizes that there is a state of unbalance between the representation in the Commonwealth and State parliaments. The wider Commonwealth responsibilities necessitate an increase of representation in the Commonwealth Parliament to bring it more into line with that of the State parliaments. I have ascertained the number of electors in the various State electoral divisions and I find State representation costs the taxpayers of this country about five times as much as does Commonwealth representation. In Canada - a Dominion which has a voting population not very much greater that that of this country - the parliament consists of 96 senators and 250 members of the House of Representatives In Great Britain, electoral divisions have a maximum of 50,000 voters, and in the United States of America, the Constitution provides that each constituency shall have not more than 30,000 electors. However, I do not complain about the number of members of the State parliaments or of the parliaments of other countries. I wish only to emphasize that we in this legislature have an average of 70,000 voters. This is out of all proportion to the position in other countries, and members find it impossible to do all the things that they wish to do, and should do, on behalf of the people whom they represent.
In 1901, the Commonwealth Parliament approved a budget providing for an expenditure of £4,000,000 - only a small fraction of even the smallest State budget to-day. From £4,000,000 in the first year of federation, Commonwealth budgets increased to approximately £100,000,000 in the last pre-war year. Our largest budget was that for the year 1943-44, which provided for an expenditure of £717,000,000. The budget for the current year is £427,000,000, and it is expected that during the next five years the figure will not be less than £500,000,000 per annum. Let us consider the field over which Commonwealth expenditure is now spread, and our financial responsibilities today compared with those of the Commonwealth Parliament in earlier years. In 1910, expenditure on social services was £2,000,000; the current budget provides £69,000,000 for this purpose. This comparison illustrates the remarkable growth in that aspect of our national welfare. A frequently asked question is: “What does the Australian Parliament do”? The answer is that amongst other things it deals with the defence of Australia, international affairs, taxation and national finance, trade and customs, conciliation and arbitration, prices control, repatriation, the selling of our primary products abroad, immigration, postal services, broadcasting, and social services including pensions, child endowment, unemployment and sickness benefits, and the projected national health service. We are all interested, directly or indirectly in these matters. Our security depends upon Commonwealth policy. The tremendous growth during the last 50 years of expenditure on national services, particularly those relating to defence, social services, and the general welfare of this community present a sound case for a substantial increase of the membership of this Parliament. It i9 idle for the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) and the honorable member for
Fawkner (Mr. Holt) to say that the work of members of this House has decreased since the end of the war. If anything, our activities and responsibilities have increased in the post-war years because1 of the great demands that are being made upon us in respect of the many services, that I have enumerated. For once I find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), who listed the duties that have to be performed by a member of this Parliament if he is to give effective and sincere representation to his constituents An elector is entitled to approach his member for advice on personal problems relating to the activities of the Commonwealth Parliament. In an electorate with 80,000 voters such as that of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), it is almost impossible to cope with the legitimate demands of constituents and for that reason, if for no other, an increase of representation is necessary. With only 40,000 electors in the rolls in each division it will be possible for constituents who wish to seek the assistance of their federal member to present their problems to him and to have their interests represented more efficiently and more effectively in the Commonwealth Parliament.
Summing up, I say that an increase of representation is fully justified, first, because of the substantial increase of Commonwealth responsibilities; secondly, because of the increase in population since federation, and the proposed influx of migrants within the next ten years; thirdly, because a larger Parliament will provide many more members who have an informed background on the various subjects with which the Parliament deals, and will enable a wider choice of members for ministerial positions; and finally, because a larger number of members will be more capable of dealing effectively with the problems of their constituents because of their reduced numbers. These, I consider, are very sound reasons why this measure should be approved.
– There is a much sounder reason.
– I cannot help smiling when I hear guarantees being given by
Opposition members of the safety of government supporters at the next election should this measure become law. I am not simple enough to believe that the mere drawing of a line through an electorate can change the political outlook of its constituents. Despite the allegations of honorable members opposite, we on this side of the chamber have approached this problem without consideration of personal issues. This measure is in the broad national interest and is also in accord with principles that have been enunciated from time to time by the Opposition parties.
I return now to the problem of the Senate. I have dealt with the policy of the Labour party in regard to the abolition of the Senate. It is not difficult to imagine the outcry that would come from the Opposition parties if the Government were proposing the abolition of the Senate at this juncture. Honorable members opposite oppose every proposal that is advanced by the Government, solely on political grounds. Undeniably, there is a great need for reform in respect of the Senate. This has been supported at various times by all political parties. Both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) have stated clearly that reform of the Senate is desirable. In the past, whenever one party has obtained an overwhelming majority in that chamber at the expense of other parties, which may have obtained almost the same number of votes, various authorities have declared that the method of election is undemocratic. I refer the House to a statement made by ex-Senator Burford Sampson, who, for many years, was a Liberal party member of that chamber. He wrote as follows in a letter to the Proportional Representation Club of South Australia : -
I most emphatically agree with the contention by your Proportional Representation Group that the method of electing the Senate is a caricature of democratic representation. . . After the 1934 clean sweep of the Senate by followers of the late Joseph Lyons, I begged him to have the whole method thoroughly examined. He promised to have this done, but nothing came of it, largely because of the hostility of sitting senators to any change. In my opinion, held for many years, there is no hope of freeing the Senate from a rigid adherence to the party lines until the remedy of proportional representation is applied.
Those were the words of a notable and widely respected Liberal senator, who had a sound knowledge of the principles of proportional representation because he came from Tasmania, where the system has been in operation for many years. The Melbourne Age, of 1st October, 1946, published a leading article which contained the following passage : -
Once again, the likely result of the Senate pell serves as a reminder of basic defects, and emphasizes the long-standing need of radical changes in ballot methods. It is monstrous and intolerable that little more than 50 pei cent, of the total voters can secure a monopoly of the representation. To leave nearly hall the people unrepresented makes a mockery oi democratic principles. . . .
There is no defence of a system which throws up such absurdly unjust results.
At the present time, 33 Labour senators dominate the Senate, there being only three members of the Opposition. Some years ago, there was only one Labour senator, and 35’ senators who supported the government of the day. Obviously, there is need for reform. The principle of proportional representation for the Senate has been accepted by the spokesmen of all the parties at various times, but the present Government is the only one which has had courage enough to introduce the change.
– Would the honorable member support the introduction of proportional representation for the election of the members of the House of Representatives ?
– That would involve a far-reaching change, and it would be necessary to alter the Constitution first. It. has been claimed that the Government is trying to pack the Senate with a majority of Labour members until 1953. The Leader of the Opposition said that, if the present proposals were agreed to, the Labour party would control the Senate until that date. I sincerely hope it will, hut even if no change were introduced the Labour party would be very unlikely to lose control of the Senate before 19.”>3. At the next election the Labour party would need to win only one State in o:der to retain control, and the
Leader of the Opposition himself said that it was practically impossible for one party to win every State. Therefore, it is misleading to state that the Government’s proposals have been designed to ensure that Labour shall control the Senate until 1953.
The Government has adopted the system of proportional representation in response to numerous requests from political parties, from important sections of the community, from leading newspapers and from public men to make the Senate a more democratic body. Short of complete abolition of the Senate, this proposal seems to me to represent the best approach to the matter, and offers the only possible solution of the problem with which we are confronted. The system of proportional representation decided upon by the Government is in accordance with the recommendation of the Proportional Representation Society and, except for one or two minor alterations, is similar to that in operation in Great Britain, South Africa, Tasmania and Eire. While it is not, perhaps, perfect, it will ensure a fairer system of representation in the Senate.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– In order to meet the wishes of honorable members opposite who have advocated a double dissolution, the Government would deliberately have to “ rig “ legislation so that it would be rejected by the Senate, as there is no provision in the Constitution enabling the Governor-General to dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives for the simple purpose of re-electing the Senate unless legislation is rejected. Even taking the most uncharitable view of honorable members opposite, I do not think they would suggest that the Government would be guilty of “ rigging “ legislation for that purpose. Honorable members opposite have said that this proposal has been introduced for personal gain, and for the purpose of ensuring that certain honorable members will retain their seats- in this House. They themselves, however, have displayed a great deal of personal interest in it. In making his attack on the bill, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was doubtlessly very much concerned about his prospects of leadership with thepossible inclusion of the Right Honorable-
.- The honorable member for Martin (Mr.. Daly) has followed the line set by theAttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), whoopened the debate on this proposal, and by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), in that all of them have discussed this measure on the highest national plane, stating that it was introduced purely in the national interest-
It is somewhat remarkable, however, that that regard for the national interest should coincide so closely with the personal interests of members of the Labour party. The genesis of this proposal is to be found in the Victorian elections which were held last year. We all remember how pallid were the faces of honorable members opposite after they had read in their morning newspapers the day after the Victorian elections how roundly their party had been defeated. It was difficult to raise a smile on the face of any one of them. They walked about with a most dejected air; they could almost feel the edge of the executioner’s axe at the back of their necks. Ever since this proposal has been before us, however, they have gone around as blithely as though the world was free from worry, regardless of the fact that Jews and Arabs are slaughtering one another in Palestine, and that the international outlook is disquieting. The reason is evident. Their elation has its genesis in this bill which was brought before the Parliament solely in the national interest ! It is a tribute to the many fair-minded men in the Labour party, however, that this bill did not get through caucus without a considerable amount of opposition. Some members of the Labour party take a national view of many affairs and, if they had their way, they would not have imposed upon this Parliament a measure of such a partisan character as that now before us. Prom reports in the press it was evident that a faction in the caucus led by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) wanted to enlarge the membership of the Parliament so that the adherents of the faction would retain their seats for a considerably longer period than the .people intended. That faction was opposed by another, which was led, according to the press, by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). However, those supporting the increase of the membership of the Parliament won the day. It is easy to understand how their victory was achieved. They had only to point out to 33 members of the Senate, 18 of whom would have run the risk of losing their seats at the next elections, that by the device which they advocated these senators could make their position secure for another six years. As the result of that appeal to their selfinterest, the virtual gerrymaking of the Senate was agreed to. This is the most indecent political proposal that has ever been brought before the Parliament. It is indecent because it conflicts not only with public morals and decency but also with the very platform of the Labour party itself, which distinctly states that the party stands for the abolition of the Senate. This measure contains a proposal, not to abolish the Senate, but to increase the number of representatives of each State in the Senate from six to ten, or, in other words, to increase the total membership of the Senate from 36 to 60. How does that proposal square with Labour’s policy for the abolition of the Senate ?
– The nationalization of banking is in our policy, too.
– Certainly it is. The Australian Labour party has issued a little book setting out its constitution and platform which can he bought for one shilling. If a person wishes to buy a gilt enamelled pendant he can do so and display it in the lapel of his coat for a modest outlay of two shillings. The principle followed by the Australian Labour party, of course, is “nothing for nothing”. I have not yet seen many of these little enamel pendants being worn, at any rate in this House. The booklet sets out the objectives of the Australian Labour party. One of the planks of the party is -
Socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange.
Do honorable members opposite accept that as one of their objectives? There is absolute silence on the Government side of the House. Another plank in the platform of the party opposite reads -
The extension of the scope and powers of the Commonwealth Bank until complete control of banking and credit is in the hands of the nation.
The Government is attempting to give effect to that proposal. Honorable members opposite are well aware that, in the process of giving effect to it, and in the normal course of electoral events, they would be “ carried out “ of this Parliament but for the passage of the measure we are now considering. A further plank in the platform of the party opposite reads -
The precedent established of appointing an Australian citizen to the position of GovernorGeneral shall be followed should Labour be m power when the position again falls vacant.
Effect has been given to that plank in the platform of the party. At page 72, this appears -
The immediate application of a maximum 40-hour working week with progressive reductions to a 30-hour week.
So the unfortunate housewife does not know when she will be able to get what she needs for her home. Later, there will be a 30-hour week, should the Communists obtain control of the economic structure of the nation. But the most interesting plank in the platform, particularly in view of the introduction of this measure, is that which appears at page 69, and reads -
Amendment of the Commonwealth Constitution -
To abolish the Senate.
The intention of the party is there stated in very simple words. Yet a bill has been introduced which is completely in conflict with that objective and with the will of the Australian people, who are anxious to have an opportunity to record their opinion of the actions of the Government. It proposes, not to abolish the Senate, but to confirm its existence as an integral part of this legislature, and to enlarge the number of its members, the cost to be borne by the long-suffering Australian people. From the Attorney-General down, honorable members opposite have had the audacity to claim that they are motivated by the highest principles of public policy. If there is to be consistency in our political life, and observance of the principles enunciated in the platform of a political party, the Government should now set the example. While the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) was defending this legislation in the speech that he delivered last week, I interjected, “But what about your Labour party platform ? “ The honorable member roundly abused me, and avoided making a reply to my question, but when
I asked him a second time, “But what about your Labour party’s platform for the abolition of the Senate?”, he replied, “Well, we could not put it into effect unless we first submitted the proposal to the people at a referendum. We know that we would have no chance of carrying a referendum “. Yet the honorable member and his colleagues have the audacity to- propose that on the 29th May the Australian people shall have submitted to them, by way of a referendum, a proposal which the people have twice rejected. The honorable member for Denison fears that a referendum on the subject of the abolition of the Senate would result in the defeat of the proposal ; that the people would not favour such a doctrine, and would refuse to agree to that plank of the Labour party’s platform being embodied in the Constitution. I am not sure that the people would not agree to the abolition of the Senate, especially if they had studied the uses and abuses of the Senate as it is now constituted. The Senate could be made a very useful bicameral chamber, devoted to the purpose of reviewing the legislation passed by this House. That would be the result if the intentions of the framers of the Constitution were observed. The Senate would then consist of men who would represent States rather than political parties. To-day, the Senate is merely a reflection of the governing party in the lower house.
– It has never been other than that.
– I agree with the honorable member. I believe that the time has arrived for reform of the system under which the Senate is elected. I consider that the Senate was just as useless - if one cares to use that expression, with a minimum of disrespect - when the parties at present in opposition in this House had an overwhelming majority in the other chamber. To-day, because of the system under which honorable senators are elected, the Government has an overwhelming majority in the Senate, the numbers being 33 Government senators and three Opposition senators. The time is opportune to submit to the people by way of a referendum a proposal for the abolition of the Senate or for. giving effect to the policy- propounded by the right honorable member for. Cowper (‘Sir Earle Page) for. an altera-tion of the Constitution which would ensure that the Senate would perform a useful function in the Australian political structure.
I” shall show to the House and the people of what value the Senate has been. It must be realized that every honorable senator enjoys privileges- equal to those enjoyed by every member of the House of Representatives, leaving out of account the- additional emoluments that are received by Ministers. They receive a similar salary, the same travelling allowance, and similar secretarial assistance. The Journals of the Senate record the -proceedings- of the 7th April, 1948, thus-
Meeting op the Senate: - The Senate met at i p.m., in accordance with the terms of the resolution of the Senate passed on 4th December, 1947. The President (Senator the Honorable Gordon Brown) took the chair.
Honorable members will have observed that the Senate had not assembled from the 4th December, 1947, to the 7th April, 194S.
The /ournals of the Senate contain this record of the proceedings on the 9th April -
Next Meeting of the Senate. - The Minister for Trade and Customs- (Senator Courtice) moved - That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Wednesday, 28th April, at 3 p.m.
Question - put and passed.
The Senate adjourned at twenty-two minutes past three p.m., till Wednesday, 28th April, 1948, at three p.m.
It1 will be noted, therefore, that, prior to to-day, the Senate had met on only three days during this year. Honorable members will be interested to hear what the Senate did on the 9th April. It considered Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1948. In committee, the following motion was submitted : - “ That the bill be reported without requests “. It then considered Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 2) 194S. In committee, the motion was submitted, “ That the bill be reported without requests”. It also considered Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1948: In committee the motion was submitted, “ That the bill be reported without requests “. During: the. three days on which the Senate sat, itsmembers performed the duty of. merelyrubberstamping what had. been done- in this House. Although this is not a: plea for the retention of the Senate, that chamber, could be made a useful part of the legislative structure, of this country. But there is- no justification for increasing its- membership from 36 to 60, and to. pay £-1,500 a year to. each honorable senator- in, addition- to all theother emoluments that accrue to him, merely for- the purpose of performing: functions which are unnecessary as the Senate is now constituted. Whatever case can be put for the enlargement of ‘theHouse of: Representatives - and I am not satisfied with the case that has been presented - no valid case can be made for the enlargement of the Senate. Indeed, we have every reason to agree that there is justification for that part of the Labour party’s policy which advocates the abolition of the Senate. When conducting the referendum a few weeks hence, the Government should invite thepeople to express, their opinion as towhether or not they favour the present system of voting for the Senate.
The suggestion has been made that members of the House of Representativeshave too much work to do and that because of the growth of the population sincefederation, many more members are now required. I dispute that contention on the evidence of other- legislatures. I have selected as examples theparliaments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. In Great Britain, the House of Commons has 640 members, who serve a. population of approximately 45,000,000 - an averageof 66,000 persons to each member. When comparing the 640 members, of the House of Commons with the 74 members of the Australian House of Representatives, wemust bear in mind that Great Britain has no State parliaments, and governs an Empire from Westminster. The 640- members of the House of Commons do all the work that is done by the Commonwealth and State Parliaments of Australia, which govern 7,500,000 persons.
The United States of America, with a population of between 130,000,000 and 140,000,000, is immensely rich and’ productive, and wields enormous power in the international sphere. The American House of Representatives has 435 members - an average of one member to 320,000 persons. Yet, honorable members opposite declare that a member of the Australian House of Representatives is over-worked when representing as few as 100,000 persons. The United States Senate has 96 members, who represent between 130,000,000 and 140,000,000 persons - an average of one senator to 1,400,000 persons. If this bill becomes law, one senator will represent approximately 125,000 persons. The implication is obvious. It will require twelve Australian senators to do the work that one American senator performs. Under this bill, seven members of the Australian House of Representatives will be required to do the same work as one member of the American House of Representatives performs. We are invited to tell the people of this country that we need an enlargement of this Parliament because we cannot cope with our multifarious duties. Every honorable member who is honest with himself knows that he can do the job if he likes to “ put a little bit of work into it “. I am confident that every honorable member is industrious. J have seen the work that honorable members perform, and I know that my friends opposite do their work well on behalf of their constituents. Rut they can cope with the duties that are entrusted to them without an enlargement of the Parliament.
I continue my comparison between the Australian and American systems of representation. The State of Alabama, with a population of 2,800,000, has nine members in the House of Representatives, and two members in the. Senate. New South Wales has a population of 2,S00,000, and, under this bill, will have 48 members in the House of Representatives and ten senators. In my view, their responsibilities will not be comparable with those that rest on members of the American Congress under present world conditions. The State of Arkansas, with a population of 1,950,000, has seven members of the House of Representatives and two senators. The State of Victoria has a population of 1,997,000, and, under this bill, will have 33 members of the
House of Representatives and ten senators. Honorable members opposite will say, “ But there are 48 State legislatures in the United States of America. What kind of a job do they do? Do not they take a great deal of this responsibility ? “ My answer is that the members of the State legislatures of the United States of America are unpaid, except for a daily allowance of from 3 to 10 dollars, which is generally limited to 60 sitting days. Members of the Legislature of Oklahoma receive 6 dollars a day for the first 60 days, and thereafter, two dollars a day - a matter of 6s. or 8s. The result is that the sittings of the Legislature of Oklahoma do not greatly exceed 60 days a year. The members are not issued with gold passes, and are not entitled to free air trips. They may recover only the expenses which they incur in travelling from their homes to the State Capital. In making these comparisons, I do not believe that members of the present House of Representatives should receive a lower travelling allowance or fewer privileges than they have at the present time; but if honorable members opposite endeavour to strengthen their arguments in favour of the bill by pointing out that the United States of America has 48 State legislatures, each of two chambers, my reply is that we should compare the ‘cost per capita to the American people with that borne by the long-suffering Australian people.
Some honorable members who support the bill claim that the National Parliament, as now constituted, has too much work to do. They insinuate that the States have ceased to exist. I admit that the States will go out of existence if members of the Australian Labour party are able to give effect to one of the planks of their platform, and if the forthcoming referendum results in a victory for the Government. That will be the end of the States. At present, however, the States have definite functions, which I propose to place on record, because honorable members opposite assert that the National Parliament, meeting at Canberra, is the only parliament in Australia which has any real responsibility. The functions of the State parliaments include legislation for the control of factories, harbours, mines, railways, tramways, agriculture, land, irrigation, prices under normal conditions and when the Commonwealth relinquishes its war-time authority the administration of the law courts, health, hospitals, roads and bridges, municipal and shire councils ; the land settlement of ex-servicemen, the administration of pure foods acts and even the registration of dogs. Whatever case can be made for the enlargement of the House of Representatives. obviously, no case can be honestly put for an enlargement of the Senate. In my opinion, a case can be made for a proper redistribution of seats so as to give better and fairer representation to the vast rural areas of Australia. But such a case cannot be made out for enlargement of the Parliament on the lines proposed in this legislation.
– One vote one value!
– If that is to be the cry of the Labour party, what hope have the people of our country districts of bringing about proper development of their areas ? The honorable member says, “ One vote one value “ ! I refer him to a booklet issued by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who is always issuing something about something. This pamphlet is entitled Australia in Facts and Figures, and a foreword states that the edition is strictly limited and it advises the owner to file it for reference. In case I should lose my copy, I propose to put some of its contents on record.
It states that when the 1921 census was taken, there were 5,400,000 people in Australia. Forty-three per cent, of the population lived in the cities, 19 per cent, lived in the provincial towns, and 37 per cent, lived in the rural areas. By 1933, the balance had changed. Forty-seven per cent, of the population lived in cities, 16 per cent, lived in the provincial towns and 35 per cent, lived in the country. By 1947, the lack of balance had become even more pronounced. The census showed that our population last year was 7,580,000. Of that number, 50.72 per cent, lived in the six capital cities of the States, 18 per cent, lived in the provincial towns and cities, and only 31 per cent, lived in the country. Those figures tell their own tragic story of what is happening in our country areas. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who is trying to interject, is chairman of the Immigration Council. I give him credit for anything that he is endeavouring to do for Australia in that capacity, but a policy of immigration will not succeed if people are poured into the already overcrowded cities; it will succeed only if it is directed to the development of Australia’s vast rural areas. Those areas are not being developed. I do not blame this particular Government for that fact. The drift to the cities has been going on since 1921, irrespective of the political characters of succeeding governments. I am not endeavouring to make party political capital out of this. I merely point to the fact that lack of representation of country interests in this Parliament is one important reason for the drift; and, while the drift continues, Australia will not advance as we want it to advance.
I have some figures here which show exactly what is happening and indicate what kinds of people are drifting from the country to the cities. I examined the rolls for my own electorate in order to ascertain how many males and how many females were enrolled. I found that men outnumbered women by 1,000. That led me to wonder about the situation in other electorates. I thought that women might have drifted across the border of my electorate to that of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). However, an examination of the rolls showed that the right honorable member was in an even worse situation than I. There were 2,000 fewer women than men in the division of Cowper. I wondered whether the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) had by some magic, induced the missing women to go to his electorate. But the figures showed that there were 2,000 fewer women than men in that area. I thought then that, surely to goodness, our photogenic friend, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) - the fearless champion of everything that Australia holds dear when outside this House, though not inside it when the votes are taken - might have been able to attract, by his glamour, some female support. Once again, however, statistics showed that there were 1,000 fewer women than men in the electorate.
I then remembered the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), who interjects so vociferously in this chamber on occasions, and wondered whether he bad been able, by virtue of his work for the electorate of which he boasts so much,- to attract a preponderance of women to it. Incredible as it may seem, in the electorate of Hume also there were 1,000 fewer women than men!
In the course of my search for these missing women of Australia, I examined the roll of every electorate in the country. I hesitate to mention the fact at this moment, but in the electorate of Dalley represented by you, Mr. Speaker, I -discovered that there were 5,00.0 more women than men. Lest this fact should make you feel over-exuberant, I refer you to the electorate of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), where there are 7,000 more women than men. Next, I examined the figures for the electorate of the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Spender), which includes such places as Manly, Mosman and Clifton Gardens, and I found that it includes 35,000 males and 47,000 females, a preponderance of 12,000 women. But the real Don Juan of the Parliament, whose apparent attractions bring women from all parts of Australia to reside in his electorate and vote for him, is the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), who represents 16,000 .more women than .men!
I also discovered the tragic fact that, in “the electorate of Kennedy, represented by the Minister ‘for the Navy (Mr. Riordan), that great part of Australia stretching north to Cape York Peninsula and including almost the whole of northern Queensland, there are 7,000 fewer women than men. The electorate of Kalgoorlie, the vast area of Australia which is represented by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), also has 7,000 fewer women than men. These figures tell a story of hardships and of unendurable conditions in the country districts. The result is that the women are migrating to the cities. If “ One vote, one value “, without regard to the dependence of the cities and towns upon the great primary industries for their prosperity, is to be the maxim of the Labour party, and if votes in this
House are to be cast, as is frequently the case, in accordance with the interests of certain metropolitan industries, the drift from the country is unlikely to be arrested.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the people in the country districts will stay there if they have two votes
– This is not a subject for levity. It is a very serious matter, not only for the inhabitants of the overcrowded cities, but also for the men who are struggling on in the country without that aid, comfort and support from the women that they must have if they are to remain there. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) should go to the western parts of New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria and see for himself the conditions under which many men working on stations in those districts are living.
The value of exports of primary products from Australia during the last ten years was £1,282,000,000 and the value of exports of manufactured goods was £143,000^00. In that period 90 per cent, of our total exports consisted of primary products. Nevertheless, the men and women who produced the goods’ which have enabled Australia to remain as prosperous as it is to-day are to have the value of their votes reduced as a result of this redistribution. On the basis of the figures given by the Minister for Information (Mr.- Calwell), the country districts will return 38 per cent, and the cities and great provincial towns 62 per cent, of the total membership of this House. ‘Despite what may be said by honorable members opposite in favour of a redistribution designed to safeguard their own positions, there is the strongest possible case for .greater representation of the people in the country areas. I do not know what directions will be given to the Electoral Commission, but the commissioners are allowed a margin of 20 per cent, on either side of a quota of approximately 40,000. I trust ‘that in the exercise of their discretion they will make country divisions smaller and city divisions larger and so remedy the present maladjustment. Unless something like that is done there will be a grave maldistribution of representation in this
Parliament. I support the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Cowper urging that these questions should be submitted to the people by way of referendum.
This proposal has not been conceived in the best interests of the nation or with the intention to improve our parliamentary, constitutional or electoral machinery. It is put forward in order to preserve the seats of certain senators and honorable members of this House. Of the present senators, eighteen will retire and may submit themselves for re-election at the next general elections. Under the proposal, the people of each State will then be asked to elect seven senators. Even if the Labour party were to suffer from the greatest landslide in its history, under the system of proportional representation three Labour candidates for the Senate in each State would be successful. All that those senators have to do to secure their position in the Parliament for a further six years or more is to obtain pre-selection by their party. It is a scandalous scheme and one that does not commend itself to anybody who desires to improve the parliamentary machinery of this country. The commission to consider the boundaries of the electorates in each State will consist of the Chief Electoral Officer, the Surveyor-General of the State and a person to be appointed by the Government.
– Who is” this person?
– That has not yet been disclosed. I have the utmost confidence in the integrity of Mr. Turner, the Chief Electoral Officer. I do not believe that he would be a party to any conscious gerrymandering. I presume that we may also be confident of the integrity of those officers who will ex officio be members of the commission. Therefore. in the estimation of the public, a great deal will rest upon the person appointed by the Government to act as the third commissioner in each State. He and his colleagues will be charged with the duty of considering a matter that will vitally affect the future of democracy in this country. I hope that the Government will select men of the highest integrity. Irrespective of the way in which the boundaries may be altered, the will of the people will eventually prevail. In 1950, honorable members opposite must answer to the people for the legislation that has been passed by this Government, and for the scandals of this administration. Anything that may be done by the Government, although it may result in the re-election of certain honorable members opposite, will not maintain it in office in 1950.
.- We are discussing a proposal for a major alteration of the Australian Parliament. It has been pointed out that the framers of the Constitution provided for a House of Representatives in the proportion of two members to one senator. It has not yet been recalled, however, that there was not unanimity on this point. During a contentious debate in 1897, the late Sir Isaac Isaacs outlined just such a position as has arisen to-day when, due to an increase of the population, it may seem desirable to increase the numbers in the House of Representatives. He said -
We could not do this without an increase also in the Senate numbers.
He added -
What a farce!
He said later -
There are some things that one would be glad to get over, but this is not one of them; this is not alone a mistake, it carries other mistakes with it.
Those other mistakes are with us to-day. Furthermore, it is known that the framers of the constitution deliberately made provision for change if later generations believed that such was necessary. One has only to refer to the reports of the debates of the Federal Conventions held in 1S91, 1897 and 1898 to discover that. At those conventions a great deal of discussion centred on the constitution of the Senate, and many opinions were expressed as to its value or otherwise in the proposed Parliament. It was during the discussion on the Senate that the elasticity of the Constitution was stressed, and, when during a speech of Sir Samuel Griffith, Sir John Cockburn interjected in favour of providing an elastic constitution, Sir Samuel Griffith said -
That is the conclusion I arrive at, that it is well to have a constitution so elastic as to allow of any development that may take place.
Mr. Deakin interjected, saying: “A constitution capable of being amended “. I particularly emphasize those remarks for the benefit of those who contend that the framers of the Constitution would turn in their graves if they knew what the present Parliament proposes to do. Actually, those who took part in the several Federal Conventions doubted whether the Senate would fulfil its purpose, that is to say, the purpose which they had in mind. They did not wish the Senate to become merely an upper house; they intended it to be a council of States. It seems to me that the present Senate is just what those who framed the Constitution did not wish it to become. To-day it is regarded as an upper house with the power of veto, and very little else.
Now I turn to the platform of the Australian Labour party. A great deal has been said of the inclusion in that platform of a proposal to abolish the Senate. At the seventh Commonwealth conference of the Australian Labour party held in Perth in 1918 the subject of electoral reform was much discussed. It was then that the introduction of proportional representation for Commonwealth elections was advocated.’ At the next Commonwealth conference of the Australian Labour party held in 1919, a committee under the chairmanship of the late Daniel McNamara was appointed to inquire into the matter of electoral reform. Certain recommendations were made by that committee. It recommended the abolition of the Senate and I believe the introduction of proportional representation for the election of members of the Commonwealth Parliament. When a motion for the abolition of the Senate was submitted, Senator Barnes moved the following amendment : -
That the Senate be abolished, and that the House of Representatives consist of 100 members, each electorate to have as nearly as possible an equal number of electors.
That amendment was accepted by Mr. McNamara, and was agreed to by the conference. The abolition of the Senate has been a part of Labour’s policy ever since, and that has been the wish, as well as the policy, of the Labour movement. Of course, the Senate could be abolished only at a time when Labour was in power. That opportunity is presented to the Australian Labour party to-day. We all realize that the abolition of the Seriate would necessitate the holding of a referendum, but since one is to be held shortly in connexion with the control of rents and prices the question of the abolition of the Senate and the enlargement of the House of Representatives might well have been submitted to the people at the same time. I know that it is claimed that the Government’s present proposals have the advantage that they do not require to be submitted to the people in order to be implemented. I do not know whether the course which the Government is taking is constitutionally correct, because I am not competent to pass an opinion on that ; but I am competent to decide that the present Labour Government, is not implementing the policy of the Australian Labour party when it proposes, not to abolish, but actually to increase, the membership of the Senate. During the debate, a Minister said that the Government did not propose to “ run away “ from any duty which.it should perform. However, I think that that is just what it is doing. It seems to me that the only argument has been advanced in favour of the course which the Government has adopted is that if the proposal to abolish the Senate were submitted to the people they might not vote in favour of it. I believe that, if given the opportunity, the people would vote for the abolition of the Senate, and that the Government should seize the present opportunity to ask the people their decision. Had the Government taken that course, I believe that the people would, at the same time, have approved the enlargement of the House of Representatives, which would then have been fully justified.-
The present proposal to enlarge the House of Representatives may have much to commend it; indeed, that is my view, but I am unable to support it on the grounds advanced by the Government. When the Parliament last year discussed the measure to provide for an increase of members’ allowances, I was not in favour of the way in which the increase was sought to be effected. I did not consider that the allowances of members should be increased at a time when persons in the community, who sorely needed increased incomes, had to do without them. As an alternative, I urged that a “constituency “ allowance would have been equitable. One of the principal arguments advanced in support of the proposal to increase members’ allowances was the extra work imposed upon them by their constituents consequent upon the extension of social services. It is true that the extension of social service benefits has entailed additional work for parliamentarians, mainly because of the present size of many constituencies. However, the Government now proposes to reduce electorates by approximately half their present numbers. What then is to be done about the allowances of members? Is this matter to be discussed again, or is it proposed that with half - or less than half - the work to do, members are to receive the salary granted to them last year? Are members to receive only half the amounts that they now receive? Those are questions which have not so far been asked in the course of this debate, but I believe that they are fair questions and should be fairly considered. I wish it to be clearly understood that it is the principle that concerns me. It does not seem to be quite honest to increase one’s own salary because of pressure of work and then halve or more than halve that work without altering the salary. In my constituency recently, at not one meeting but several meetings, and not one place but several places, I have been asked about my attitude to an enlarged Parliament; and, even before these bills were presented to the House and this debate began, my answer was always on the lines I have just indicated. On the question of the enlargement of the Senate, I do not propose to vote against accepted Labour policy, and I cannot support an increase of the membership of the House of Representatives if the present allowances are to stand and the low fixed incomes of unfortunate people in the constituencies are to remain unchanged or not be changed substantially. My voice is raised not so much against the Labour Government as in favour of the observance of Labour principles.
When we are making a major change in the Constitution of the Parliament, many possibilities confront us. It seems that we have the opportunity to make other improvements. I should like to see the system of proportional representation introduced into elections for the House of Representatives. If it can he introduced into the Senate elections, why not into elections for the lower house? I pointed out earlier that proportionate representation was advocated at Labour party conferences as long ago as 1918. I have been asked to move on amendment providing for the introduction of the system in elections for the House of Representatives, but I have refrained from doing so in the hope that in committee the Government itself will amend the bill for that purpose.
.- In .the interests of order in this debate I argue on the following lines: First, the bill is certainly not in the best interests of the primary producers. Secondly, at the present stage of our history, it will not be of benefit to Australia. Thirdly, it will give greater representation to city interests and will not create the conditions necessary to attract people back to the land. Fourthly, a tax-ridden Australia cannot bear the increased cost of government involved in a larger Parliament. Fifthly, the Government is continually blaming the war for the lack of so many essential commodities, and I see no reason why this major constitutional move should be made before the effects of the war have been greatly lessened. Sixthly, there is little doubt that the Government desires and intends to create safe seats for those of its supporters who, against their will and judgment, and in the face of public opposition, have been compelled to vote for the Government’s socialistic policy. Seventhly, the primary-producing areas will not be given markedly increased representation, and the large electorates in those areas will be perpetuated. Lastly, the people are opposed to the scheme, and the Government has not a mandate for it. I address myself first to my last point. Honorable gentlemen opposite have attempted to convince themselves that the Government has a mandate for this proposal, and the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) said the bill had been introduced for the national good, but who is he to judge whether that is so or not ? I qualify his claim with the words, “ in the opinion of the Government and the Labour party “. He also said that a democracy must be allowed to express itself in its own way and in the proper way, but Grover Cleveland, a great American democrat, said, “ True democracy is absolute subservience to the will of the people”. Who is the greater authority - the Minister for Information or Grover Cleveland?
– I am for the “ Aussie “ every time !
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) would be on the side of the Minister for Information, but I am on the side of Grover Cleveland. The Minister -for Information made his greatest blunder - and his words have been echoed by other honorable gentlemen opposite - when he claimed, as a justification for this proposal, that, at the last general election, the people had given the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) a “ blank cheque “. Labour supporters have the habit of making that claim in trying to justify everything that the Government has done against the interests of the people since the general election. But a blank cheque is not what they would have the people believe it is. A blank cheque is not given unconditionally. On the contrary, the conditions on which a blank cheque is given are strict. For instance, I recently received from a man at Mount Gambier, a blank cheque with a request that I buy a certain article for him. He left the cheque blank because he was not sure whether it would cost £5 or £8. I was not able to buy the article and I returned the cheque. Had I, however, filled it in for £1,000, on the assumption that he had that much in his current account, and cashed it, I should have found myself in the police court. The blank cheque plea was made by honorable gentlemen opposite in the debate on the nationalization of the trading banks. The Government has found itself in the court over that legislation. I illustrate further the conditions attaching to a blank cheque. Let us suppose that I go into a shop in a hurry to settle an account and the shopkeeper does not know precisely what I owe him, and that I give him a blank cheque, leaving him to fill in the amount. Should he fill in an amount more than that required to settle the debt he would find himself in trouble. Honorable members may remember that recently a young man in Melbourne filled in a blank cheque for a large sum of money, whereas the amount should have been only about £2. He is repenting in gaol. A person who fills in a blank cheque for £1 more than the drawer of the cheque has in the bank cannot cash it. But the Treasurer, who is levying heavy taxes to ensure that, whatever else happens, the Government’s coffers shall be full, fills the “ blank cheque “ he was given at the general election for far more than he is entitled to when he claims that it gives him a mandate for this legislation. That the people are opposed to it has been shown at many Gallup polls. I agree with the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) that the forthcoming referendum on prices and rents would provide a splendid opportunity for the people to express an opinion on the subject of an enlarged Parliament. Scouting the suggestion that the people have not been consulted on this issue, the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) made the ridiculous claim that a passing reference made by the Prime Minister before the last general election to the fact that he would look into the matter of an enlarged Parliament justified the measure. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said, “It does not matter whether the matter was mentioned or not during the last general election campaign “. Of course, the Minister spoke the truth. As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) said in a recent speech at Ballarat, “ the Government will go on “. Nothing contained in this legislation will help to increase our rural population. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) compared the populations of metropolitan and rural electorates. The latest figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician show that in the inter.censal period from 1933 to 1947 the population of Victoria increased by 234,989, or an increase of 12.91 per cent., but of this total increase, all but two persons went to the cities. On that basis, if Victoria doubled its population, only seventeen additional persons would be in rural districts, whilst the remainder would live in the cities. In view of the nation’s dependence upon increased primary production, that trend discloses a serious state of affairs. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction said that whilst the primary producers play an important part, the men who operate rail transport and build roads in this country contribute most to the national economy. However, when I interjected, “ Where are the railways and where are the roads ? “ he remained significantly silent. The fact is that the primary purpose of our railways and roads is to facilitate the transport of primary produce from the country to the cities and the seaboard. Until the claims of our rural population for greater representation are recognized, justice will not be done to our primary industries. In Victoria, for instance, the lack of such representation will probably mean that the Port of Portland will not be opened and that areas such as the Murray River Valley, will not be developed.
-I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair. .
– Our people are now so heavily taxed that they should not be asked to shoulder the additional burden involved in financing these proposals for the enlargement of the Parliament. I have summarized in the form of a balance-sheet the benefits and disadvantages of this legislation. On the credit side the only entry shown is “ nil “, whilst on the debit side is the sum of £450,000, representing the minimum cost that will be involved in implementing these proposals. One item in that expenditure will be the payment to each of the additional 70 members at £1,500 per annum, making a total of £105,000. On the debit side also must be shown the loss that will be suffered by the community generally by the extension of Parliament House which will deprive our citizens of urgently needed building materials for the construction of homes. According to press reports, the Government has approved an expenditure of £60,000 on additions to Parliament. House in order to provide the accommodation to meet the needs of the increased number of honorable members and senators. However, that is only a portion of the cost that will be involved under that heading, because additional outside accommodation must also be provided in Canberra for the incoming members and senators and their families. On that basis the estimate of £60,000 will be doubled; and we can add to that amount another £60,000, because in such projects the actual cost is always much greater than the estimate. Any one who has had a home constructed knows that the ultimate cost always exceeds the estimate. In addition, the materials and labour which will he required to provide the additional accommodation to meet the needs of the . enlarged Parliament will cause .a corresponding shortage of materials and labour necessary for the construction of homes. It is clear that we cannot afford to incur this cost, just after we have passed through a costly war, and at a time when the Government is always blaming conditions resulting from that war for the lack of essential commodities needed by primary producers and for the construction of homes for exservice personnel. Official figures released to-day reveal that from November, 1947, to January, 1948, 16,400,000 fewer bricks were produced per month in this country, and that there has been a corresponding decline in the production of building materials generally. Possibly, that decline is due primarily to the introduction of the 40-hour week in industry. The materials which will be used in the provision of additions to Parliament House could be better utilized in the construction of homes for ex-service personnel. Last week-end, when I was travelling from Dimboola to Warracknabeal, T saw from the roadway a building half finished on a soldier-settler’s block, and when I remarked to my companion that it was a funny looking house, he informed me that the settler could not obtain sufficient bricks with which to complete the structure.
For the reasons I have given, I oppose this legislation. Many honorable members opposite will welcome it because it will provide safe seats for them, particularly those who, against their own convictions, have supported the Government’s socialistic measures in this House. That is the primary purpose of these proposals. Honorable members opposite have claimed that when governments formed by the present Opposition parties were in office the disparity that now exists in the representation of parties in the Senate in favour of the Government existed in favour of the anti-Labour Governments did nothing to rectify the disparity by reforming the electoral system. Those Governments did not interfere with the electoral system because they had the decency not to do so. The Government’s primary purpose in introducing this legislation is to assure the Labour party of a majority in the Senate, despite the swing of public opinion against it that will undoubtedly take place at the next general elections. Another argument advanced in favour of these proposals is that the greater the number of members and senators the higher will be the calibre of Ministers chosen from among them. I have nothing to say about the calibre of the members of the present ministry. I take them as I find them, and judge them on what they do. However, I have not found any justification for the argument that the greater the group numerically the greater will be the calibre of individuals in the group. If a town has only one football team and then decides to have two football teams, obviously the standard of play will be lowered. Similarly, if we were to choose the six tallest men in Canberra, and then add the next six tallest men, the average height of the twelve would be less than that of the original six. Therefore, it is obvious that by substantially increasing the membership of this Parliament, we shall also be lowering its standard.
– That means that if we reduced membership to one, we should have the perfect parliament.
– Apparently the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) believes in dictatorships, but I assure him that I do not. I consider that representation in the Commonwealth Parliament should remain at its present figure. At some future date it may be wise to increase the membership, but as I said earlier, I do not believe that this is an appropriate time for a major constitutional change. We have not long emerged from a disastrous war. In fact, nearly every time I ask a question of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) in this chamber, he reminds me that there has been a war. To-day all available money and materials are required for developmental purposes. If there is a surplus of funds it should be used to ease the burden upon the Australian tax-payers, thus giving greater incentive to production. I have emphasized frequently that the two greatest needs in this country to-day are an increase of production, and the full rehabilitation of ex-servicemen.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to return to the bill.
– This measure has been introduced solely to provide safe seats for Labour members, and I oppose it wholeheartedly.
.- I cannot see in the measure now before us anything to excite much controversy. The bill proposes to increase the membership of the House of Representatives from 74 to 121, to establish the principle of proportional representation in the Senate, and, because the Constitution requires that the Senate shall have half of the membership of the House of Representatives, the measure provides that the Senate shall be increased from 36 to 60. In no other English-speaking country are the electoral systems so disgracefully undemocratic as they are in Australia. I make that stricture on my own party, which is in office in several States, notably in Queensland, and upon other parties in office in the other States. In Queensland, the present Labour Government was elected with 280,000 votes. The Opposition obtained 325,000 votes, yet it remained the Opposition. In New South Wales, a nonelective, nominated upper house can veto the legislation of the popularly elected lower house. The present Opposition parties in that State, when in office, so altered the power to nominate, that no government, no matter howgreat its majority, can, excepting over a long period of time, nominate sufficient members to give it a majority in the Legislative Council. In Victoria, the Country party under Sir Stanley Argyle, pursuing the policy enunciated to-night by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) - both Australian Country party members - so altered the constituencies of Victoria that at the last elections, Labour polled 485,000 votes and obtained nineteen seats, whilst the Country party polled 165,000 votes and obtained 22 seats. Although the Labour party obtained three times as many votes as the Country party, it obtained three fewer seats! In Western Australia three successive Labour governments - those led by Mr. Collier, Mr. Willcock and. Mr. Wise - maintained a disgraceful electoral system which had been arranged by a Country party government, whereby Pilbarra, a pastoral constituency, with 450 voters, returned a member and the metropolitan seat of Nedlands with 14,000 returned a member. To-day, the pastoral electorate of Pilbarra is represented by Labour and the metropolitan seat of Nedlands by the Liberal party, Labour votes in Pilbarra having 80 times the value of Liberal votes in Nedlands. Admittedly there are many Labour seats in Western Australia as large as Nedlands, but it would be true to say that due to the unanticipated swing of pastoral seats to Labour in Western Australia that party was for a considerable period over-represented. Of course, the Country party, each of whose members represents only about 2,000 or 3,000 voters, is grossly over-represented in that State. In South Australia, there is a similar gerrymandering of electorates which penalizes the Labour party. The upper houses in the several States make no pretence of being democratic. In Western Australia, an emphatic swing of public opinion once gave the Labour party 35 seats out of 50 in the lower chamber, but in the upper house it had only six seats out of 30. I merely state these facts as a preliminary to show that in Australia there is in the constitution of every State means to defeat the will of the majority. The constitution of every State has in it undemocratic principles, if by “ democratic “ we mean a legislature which will reflect the will of the majority of the people. So, it is necessary to say that the constitution-makers of Australia, with the exception of those who framed the Commonwealth Constitution, had very little belief in democracy, if by “ democracy “ we mean the principle of one vote one value. 1 am aware of all the arguments that are advanced. .We are told that if country districts are firmly represented, legislation is brought down in favour of the country, and that that results in decentralization. I know of no argument which has less to sustain it than that. The idea that investment, which determines development, follows representation, is too patently absurd to merit consideration. In the immediate pre-war period there was a movement of investment to New Guinea to the sum of approximately £2,800,000. New Guinea did not have parliamentary representation, but it had a highly profitable gold-mining industry. Tasmania has as many members of Parliament as Western Australia, but in the immediate pre-war period it was attracting much more investment because of the possibility of developing hydro-electric schemes in its mountains on which abundant rain falls. Investment, which means development, is attracted to resources and representation has nothing whatever to do with it. If the elaborate rationalizations of the honorable member for Richmond about the drift from the country to the towns had any substance, they would be borne out by a less emphatic drift in Victoria than in the other States because in Victoria the country electorates are heavily weighted in favour of the country voter. But in fact Victoria exhibits exactly the same tendencies as every other State, showing that representation has no relation to investment. The one method by which this drift to which honorable members opposite have referred could have been resisted, in Western Australia at least, was by the cutting up of large estates. However, Country party members of the Legislative Council voted solidly against every measure seat up from the lower house for the cutting up of large estates, and the making of more farms so that the population of rural areas might be increased. If we leave aside these sweeping rationalizations of honorable members opposite we can consider the bills dispassionately, and decide whether we ought to enlarge the Parliament, and introduce proportional representation for the election of the Senate. Section 27 of the Constitution is as follows : -
Subject to this Constitution, the Parliament may make laws for increasing or diminishing the number of the members of the House of Representatives
I emphasize the words, “subject to this Constitution “, because their effect is to ensure that if the number of members of the House of Representatives be increased the number of senators must also he increased to half the number of members of the House of Representatives. That provision guarantees a minimum representation to the smaller States, but beyond that there are constitutional provisions to discourage the gerrymandering of electorates for the election of the Federal Parliament. It is provided that, after every census, there shall be a redistribution of seats. Even so, the populations of the electorates become disproportionate. There was a census in 1933, and there should have been another a decade later. However, it was delayed because of the war, and great anomalies have arisen. For instance, there are 80,000 electors on the roll for the division of Fremantle, whereas there are only 37,000 in Kalgoorlie. The number of electors in the Perth division has also greatly increased. It is obvious that a redistribution would have had to take place whether this measure was introduced or not.
The question of the Senate has not been honestly faced by any honorable member opposite. The Senate, as it has existed during the whole period of federation, has been scarcely worthy of respect. In its constitution, it has grossly overemphasized the vote received by every party which has been returned with a majority. “When the Labour party received 42 to 45 per cent, of the total votes cast, it had only one seat out of 36 in the Senate. In the last election, the Opposition parties polled 45 to 46 per cent, of the votes, but they have only three seats out of 36 in the Senate. It is obvious that a system which leads to such gross misrepresentation of powerful interests calls for some amendment, and the Government is to be congratulated upon having endorsed the system of proportional representation. Honorable members opposite have asked that the people be consulted in a referendum. They say, “ Let us suppose you are going to introduce proportional representation in the Senate. Suppose you are going to increase the number of members in the House of Representatives. Then, get rid of this constitutional provision which requires the Senate to have half the number of members of the House of Representatives. Enlarge the House of Representatives if you like, but do not enlarge the Senate.” That argument ignores one very important thing: The Commonwealth Constitution, alone among constitutions of the British Empire - indeed, I believe it is unique in the world - does not make the two chambers of the legislature absolutely separate. It provides that if there is a deadlock between the chambers, which cannot be otherwise resolved, the two Houses shall sit as one. The framers of the Constitution, in providing that the Senate, in which the States have equal representation, should have half the number of members of the House of Representatives, had it in mind to preserve the representation of the smaller States on controversial issues. Suppose the House of Representatives increased to 120 members, whilst the Senate remained with only 36. Then, Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia would have between them only eighteen senators in an assembly of 156 when the two chambers sat as one; whereas, if the present proportion were maintained, those three States would have 30 senators at a joint sitting, and their voting power would be, to that degree, increased. Thus, the provision that the number of senators should always be as nearly as possible half of the number of the House of Representatives was inserted in the Constitution to prevent the Senate from being swamped during joint sittings of the two chambers. It was intended to safeguard the rights of the smaller States, and I have no doubt that those States would resist any proposal for the enlargement of the Parliament that failed to preserve the present relative strength of the Senate and the House of Representatives. in which the larger States, owing to the operation of a democratic system of election, have so many more representatives than the smaller States. Thus, the proportion of senators to members of the House of Representatives is not merely a mathematical question, as honorable members opposite suggest. The existing arrangement was designed to protect the interests of the minor States, which would not have entered federation if their, position had not been thus safeguarded by the provision of equal representation in the Senate, and the further provision that, in joint sittings of the two chambers for the consideration of controversial issues, the Senate would not be swamped by the House of Representatives
Honorable members opposite have condemned the proposal to introduce proportional representation unless it applies to all senators. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said that, in enlarging the Senate from 36 to 60, the Government was ensuring that, at the next election, eighteen senators would not have to face the electors; and that of the 42 members elected, some would be returned for six years, and some for three. He was assuming a Liberal victory, and that his party would win 24 seats, and the Labour party eighteen. In those circumstances, he said, the Liberals, though winning the election, would not have a majority in the Senate. I interjected, “ It sounds like a State upper house “. The Leader of the Opposition replied, “ If the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) intends to convey by that that it is not democratic, I agree with him “. I certainly intended to convey that it was not democratic, and honorable members opposite, who joined in a pean of applause in the belief that their leader had scored off me, were wide of the mark. I was agreeing with the Leader of the Opposition. Where the right honorable gentleman displayed intellectual dishonesty was in suggesting that the result which he outlined could follow only as a consequence of putting this measure into effect. Honorable members will recall that, in the 1943 elections, under the present very unfair method of election, there were nineteen seats to be filled in the Senate, and that the Opposition, though it gained 40 per cent, of the total number of votes, won no seats at all, the Labour party winning the whole nineteen. In the general election of 1946, eighteen of those nineteen senators did not have to face the electorate, so that if the Liberal party had swept the whole country in that election it still would not have had a majority in the Senate. That position could have resulted from the presentmethod of election. I agree that themethod is not democratic. The founders; of the Constitution were suspicious of swings of public opinion, and deliberately provided that the Senate should not reflect those changes in the same way as the House of Representatives. I cannot understand why they did so, except that many of them were conservative old gentlemen, and that the system which they introduced was already in operation for the election of the Senate in the United States of America, but it is undemocratic. It was suggested by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that we should amend the Constitution to provide for a double dissolution. The right honorable gentleman was at least intellectually scrupulous enough to admit that it requires a constitutional amendment for the Government to dissolve the Senate or that part of the Senate represented by senators who will not have to contest the next elections. Let me remind honorable members of the history of this question of double dissolution. The Scullin Government came into power in 1929 with a great majority. The House of Representatives had been dissolved because the Bruce-Page Government had been overturned by a vote in committee; but the dissolution of the House of Representatives did not affect the Senate which, by law, had to fulfil its term. Thus, the Scullin Government came into power with a minority in the Senate although it had 44 seats in the House of Representatives. Had Mr. Scullin, knowing that public opinion was behind him at that time, been able to dissolve the Senate, he would have been glad to do so. Had he the constitutional power to do so, he would have forced a double dissolution immediately, and the swing that put him into power would have given him a majority in the Senate. When the Senate, too clever to reject Mr. Theodore’s measure providing for the issue of fiduciary notes, merely held up that measure, Mr. Scullin was unable to dissolve the Senate. He was unable to say to the Governor-General : “ There is a deadlock between the two Houses”. It is obvious that in the circumstances that exist to-day there is no deadlock between the Senate and the House of Representatives and accordingly the Senate cannot constitutionally be dissolved. The existing constitutional practice that the senators who were elected for six years should fulfil their term must be observed. I have often listened to the Leader of the Opposition debating in this House. I wish the right honorable gentleman would sometimes use words that refer to something physical. I am tired of hearing him when speaking on trade union matters referring to “firm measures “, “ positive policy “, and the rest of the undefined jargon and word spinning which are the distinguishing features of his speeches. The right honorable gentleman perpetrated one of his masterpieces of meaninglessness when in his speech on this measure he favoured and did not favour the gerrymandering of electorates. He advanced the argument that we are a community in which the greatest concentrations of population are in places of the great development. That is obvious. He went on to say that we are bound to take account not merely of numbers but also of other circumstances. As usual, he was quite indefinite. If that statement means anything at all, which is extremely doubtful, it is an argument for the weighting of rural electorates, a situation which exists in Victoria, where, as I have said, the Labour party polled 485,000 votes and obtained nineteen seats and the Country party polled 165,000 votes and obtained 22 seats.
– It exists in most of the States.
– I have already made that point. If the honorable member had been in the House he would have heard me do so.
– I have been in the House throughout the course of the honorable member’s speech.
– The gerrymandering of constituencies in that flagrant manner is forbidden by the Constitution. At least the right honorable gentleman would not be accused of being undemocratic, for he went on to say that he was not an advocate of the state of affairs which he saw existing in Victoria in which one electorate might have 30,000 or 40,000 voters and another 6,000 voters, and that he did not plead for “ rotten “ boroughs. Having declared that he was not in favour of weighting of electorates he defined and refined his position out of existence. We await further definition of his position when the bill is in committee. The right honorable gentleman asked three questions concerning the bill. The first was : What is to be the proportion of seats as between city and country? The electoral practice in Australia is that the State Surveyor-General and the Chief Electoral Officer and another member constitute a . commission which shall draw up the actual .boundaries of the constituencies. The Electoral Act, which determines how and by whom boundaries shall be ascertained, is in noway being amended by the bill before us, except that the bill provides for proportional representation in. the Senate. Obviously, therefore, the Government cannot know what the State SurveyorGeneral and the Chief Electoral Officer may do in respect of electoral boundaries. There is no answer to the right honorable gentleman’s question, and he was well aware there would not be. His words sounded very democratic and successfully suggested to the unwary that there was something sinister in this proposal. The right honorable gentleman then asked what protection is to be given to the smaller States? The only protection given by the Constitution to the smaller States is in the Senate, where all States have equal representation. There is no protection for the smaller States in the House of Representatives. in which New South Wales and Victoria at present have 48 members and all the other States together have only 26. So, if any case is to be made against this hill on the ground that under the democratic principle of representation according to population the major States will be overrepresented, the answer is that under the existing constitutional practice they already outweigh the smaller States and that the smaller States must obtain what protection they can in the Senate.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) justly twitted Government members with inconsistency in that the platform of the Australian Labour party provides for the abolition of the Senate and that the measure before the House does- not seek a referendum of the people on the abolition of the Senate. The honorable member at least had the honesty to draw attention to the fact that the Royal Commission on the Constitution in 1929 unanimously recommended proportional representation for the Senate; but all unwittingly he disposed of the plodding honest nonsense advanced by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson), who advocated the setting up of another Constitution convention or a royal commission on the Constitution, quite oblivious of the fact that a royal commission had already reported on the Constitution at great length in 366 pages of close print. The royal commission heard evidence, running into 1,722 closely printed pages, from all kinds of people who had opinions concerning the Commonwealth Constitution. I draw attention to the recommendations of the commission because they are being carried out in respect of the Senate in this bill. The commission consisted of the Honorable J. B. Peden, K.C., one of the leading constitutional lawyers of Australia, as chairman; former Senator P. P. Abbott; Mr. Thomas Ramsden Ashworth; Mr. E. K. Bowden, M.P. - not to be confused with the honorable member for Gippsland; Sir Hal Colebatch, a member of the Legislative Council of “Western Australia and a former senator and State Premier, who in his dispassionate consideration of constitutional questions is one of the few men of Australia who have earned the right to be called liberal in the real sense of the word, and not in the sense that goes with the connotation of the word as part of the title of the Liberal party; Mr. Maurice
Duffy, and Mr. Daniel McNamara. It is rather interesting to note that there have been two major royal commissions, one oh the Constitution in 1929, and the other on banking in 1937, both appointed by the parties which now constitute the Opposition. On neither occasion did the government of the day legislate to give effect to any of the recommendations. This Government has given effect to a recommendation in relation to banking in the legislation that it enacted in 1945,. and it is doing so again in the measure we are now considering. The royal commission in 1929 recommended at page 215 of its report that the States should be equally represented in the Senate and that senators should be elected under the proportional representation system. At page 267 the royal commission made this statement -
At present, although parties may be almost equally divided in the constituencies, one party may so far predominate in the Senate that there may be no opportunity for the presentation of different points of view. We think that such a condition of affairs is undesirable and that the Senate would be better qualified to act as a chamber of revision if senators were elected under a system of proportional representation.
The commission recommended that the Constitution be altered temporarily to provide for the election of senators under the proportional representation system for a period of ten years. Sir Hal Colebatch differed from that view, as will be seen at page 300 of the report, where he made this reservation -
The Constitution as it stands authorizes Parliament to prescribe the method of choosing senators. If the Parliament sees fit it can adopt a system of proportional representation, and it would be much more likely to embark upon such an experiment with its right of retreat unfettered, than to invite the electors to put into the Constitution a provision tying the hands of Parliament.
In other words, he said, “Don’t make proportional representation mandatory by means of a referendum, since the Constitution already gives you power to introduce it “.
There has been devolved upon this Parliament responsibility for determining its numerical strength and the rules according to which it shall he elected. It is only an evasion of responsibility to say that non-elected persons, in some convention or other, shall determine the future of the House of Representatives. Honorable gentlemen opposite contend that the people would reject this measure if it were submitted to them for their approval. If that contention is sound, they will do what they have always done with members of whose policy they have disapproved; they will turn us out. The Government could not do other than legislate according to the responsibilities assigned to it by the Constitution. We have had definitely assigned, to us the responsibility to determine what shall be the numerical strength of this House, and by what method both Houses shall be elected, and we stand or fall on the judgment of the people as to whether the legislation is good or had. That is always the case. The theory of the mandate which is advanced by honorable members opposite is advanced with tongue in cheek. If those honorable members seriously believe that the electors of Australia make a detailed analysis of every statement by party political leaders, and vote accordingly, subsequently accepting only legislation framed along those lines, they have an “ Alice in Wonderland “ conception of realities. Ministries have always stood or fallen, not so much on what they have promised as on what they have done - their legislative record.
I shall now deal with the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), who attacked the argument that the Parliament now has to deal with issues more complex than those that arose at the inauguration of federation. He said that the founders of federation must have turned in their graves when they heard the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) seriously put forward that argument. Those same founders of the Constitution are repeatedly being turned over in their graves, verbally, by honorable members opposite. The honorable member also said that those gentlemen had to face pioneering problems, thus taking refuge in a vague expression and failing to mention what the pioneering problems were. Let us consider some of the problems that had not to be faced in those days. Honorable members opposite will rejoice to hear that there was then no Commonwealth Bank; no world wars with resultant problems of rel) at. riation, reconstruction training, land settlement of ex-servicemen, or war debt; no unemployment problem, because unemployment was not regarded as a Commonwealth responsibility; no pensions or other social services ; and no threatening international situation, and all international representation of the British Empire was controlled by Great Britain. The High Court of Australia interpreted the Australian Constitution very narrowly, according to what was called the doctrine of immunity of instrumentalities - the mutual exclusion of the governments of the Commonwealth and the States. Whilst this practice caused the withdrawal of power from the Parliament of the Commonwealth, it also lessened its responsibilities. Later, there was elevated to the High Court bench a school of justices, which included the late Sir Isaac Isaacs, which so broadly interpreted the Constitution that, in effect, both the powers and the responsibilities of the Parliament of the Commonwealth were expanded. International trade did not, in those early days, present problems as great as those that have to be dealt with to-day, and there was not the major problem of foreign exchange, which now exists. Therefore, the honorable gentleman’s contention that the world is no more complex in 1948 than it was in 1901 would appear to be somewhat wide of the mark.
There remains to be considered the problem of the Senate. I do not suppose that any person can regard the Senate, as it exists to-day, as a satisfactory chamber. I shall not be so dishonest as to say that this measure will convert it into a satisfactory chamber. Because it is typical of the failure to realize the problems which confront the Senate, I draw the attention of the House to a recent leading article in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, which argued that the Senate should be turned into a house of investigation, similar to the American Senate under the Constitution of that country. The article drew attention to the great investigatory power of the American Senate. That power did not grow because somebody thought it would be nice for the American Senate to investigate, as the Sydney Daily Telegraph believes that it would be nice for the Australian Senate to investigate. The investigatory power of the American Senate is an outgrowth of its law-making power, and its investigations would be useless without the power to take action based on the investigation. That has been made clear in two major cases which came before the United States Supreme Court. One was the case of Kendal v. the United States of America, which established the power of the Senate to investigate, and the second was that of McGrain v. Daugherty, in which the Supreme Court of the United States of America declared that the investigating power of the Senate was confined to the obtaining of such information as was needed for the efficient exercise of the’ Senate’s legislative functions. Therefore, we cannot make the Australian Senate the equal of the Senate of the United States of America merely by altering the manner in which its members are elected. That is one illusion we should not entertain, however necessary proportional representation may be. The Senate of the United States of America has great power in relation to foreign policy. The Australian Senate could pass as many motions of no confidence in the Minister for External Affairs as it chose to pass, but that would make no difference to his continuance in office, constitutionally, in Australia. The Senate of the United States of America has great power in regard to finance, whereas the power of the Australian Senate in that respect is very limited. In Australia, the House of Representatives i3 more powerful than the Senate, because the principal members of the Cabinet must sit in this chamber. In the United States the House of Representatives is weak by comparison with the Senate, which is the most powerful second chamber in the world. The ratification of treaties requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate, and the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the Senate has the power to investigate the State Department, which is equivalent to our Department of External Affairs, compel the production of documents, and the attendance of the Secretary of State, and perform many other functions, which show that it is a most powerful institution. Therefore, the argument which the
Sydney Daily Telegraph advanced that we can, somehow or other, arrange that the Australian Senate should be made an investigating House, thereby increasing its importance, contains little merit. That is not unusual with the Daily Telegraph’s leading articles. I drew attention to it as another in a long series of similar articles.
We must face the fact that the Australian Senate has not operated as a States house, and, furthermore, we must ask ourselves whether it ever will do so. In fairness, one must admit that proportional representation will prevent the gross dishonesty of Senate elections in the past. I use the words “gross dishonesty” in reference to the method whereby political parties which have obtained 45 per cent, of the votes have not, in certain circumstances, obtained any representation in the Senate. That system does not allow the Senate to operate as a States house. I ask: Will the Senate ever operate as such? I believe that it will not, because the Senate rests on one of the illusions of those who drafted the Australian Constitution. I am certain that the Australian people imagine that the Senate does operate as a States house, and they would resist tooth and nail any step to. abolish it. The honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) was very naive when she said that she believed that the Australian people would support the abolition of the Senate. If she were to reside in some of the less populous States for awhile, she would lose that particular illusion.
The Senate cannot operate as a States house because there is no separate State interest. When we examine the record of the constitutional convention of 1897, we find that the members were greatly influenced by the experience of the United States. They were naive enough to believe that the American Civil War showed the importance of State rights, because it was a conflict in which the cry of State rights was raised. In actual fact, the American Civil War, which gave them that impression, was a war between one particular economic Hoc - the cottongrowing States of the .south - and another economic bloc, the industrialized States of the north-east. It was not a matter of State rights as such, but a conflict of a certain economic interest. That economic interest was geographically confined to various southern States.
Examining the position in Australia, we do not find any economic interest with which one State is exclusively identified. In Western Australia, the working man - the industrial worker - tends to vote exactly like the industrial worker in the eastern States. The farmer in Western Australia has the same interests as the farmer in the eastern States. The metropolitan ‘businessman in Western Australia has the same interest as the metropolitan businessman in the eastern States. Consequently, the Senate, when elected, reflects the temporary predominance of the Labour party interest, the Australian Country party interest or the Liberal party interest, and the swing of opinion in Western Australia usually takes place at the same time as it does in the eastern States. I am aware that during the secession campaign, it was argued that Western Australia suffered under federation, because it was a primary producing State. Those who espoused the cause of secession said that exploitation by the eastern States during the world-wide economic depression, was the cause of the Western Australian farmers’ grievances. In the eastern States, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) could not raise that cry, so he toured New South Wales, advocating the formation of new States. The farmers of Riverina and New England were told that the wicked city of Sydney was the cause of their grievances, and that if a State of New England and a State of Riverina were created, and Sydney and Newcastle were segregated into a small coastal State, their interests would bo properly represented in the Parliament. But the interesting point is that the grievances of the Western Australian farmer against the fall of international prices for wheat were identical with the grievances of the eastern States farmer. A separate State interest did not exist. The divisions in the Australian community are not vertical, as between States, but horizontal as between classes or - expressed in another way - horizontal as between occupational groups. For that reason, the Senate has never been a States house.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) made the discovery that certain of his former colleagues, who had been senators and who unhappily are not now with us, did act as State supervisors of legislation which came before them. I should be interested to learn how they voted on controversial issues between political parties, as, for example, the bill which a former Treasurer, Mr. Theodore, introduced to permit a fiduciary note issue. The records will undoubtedly show that they placed their occupational or class interest before State interest. So, although this measure does remedy an injustice by introducing proportional representation into the Senate elections, it would be unwise to harbour the illusion that it will convert the Senate into an important chamber.
– Does the honorable member support the principle because it is more democratic?
– I am supporting it solely because it is more democratic. If honorable members opposite twit us with inconsistency, and draw our attention to the fact that the platform of the Labour party advocates the abolition of the Senate, my reply will be that the uselessness of the Senate for 47 years of federation is a strong argument either for its abolition or for increasing its powers in a manner analogous to the constitution of the United States of America, and turning it into a significant chamber. One course or the other must be taken. The Senate must be given the significance which the present Constitution deprives it of; otherwise, it will continue to earn the reproach that it is largely a useless chamber. The persons responsible for including in the platform of the Labour party the advocacy of the abolition of the Senate were influenced by several considerations. One was an honest consideration of the record of the Senate. Another was frustration and ignorance - frustration because for 28 years the Labour party did not obtain a majority in the Senate, and ignorance because they drew an analogy between the Senate and State legislative councils. They did not recognize that the Senate is at least elected on universal suffrage, whereas State legislative councils are not so elected.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Conelan) negatived -
That the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) be granted an extension of time.
– The long speech which the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has delivered has not contributed anything to support or defeat the arguments that have been used in favour of or in opposition to the bill. The honorable member has consistently supported the proposal for the abolition of the Senate, and I understand that he continued to do so in caucus when this bill was being considered.
– I was not present at that meeting of caucus, so do not invent things.
– Some times it is useful to be absent from caucus meetings. Although honorable members opposite believe that the Senate should be abolished, they are now supporting a bill to increase the number of senators. A few weeks ago they criticized members of the Opposition for urging the Government to ban a certain organization in Australia. They said that such action would be undemocratic, and that at least the members of that organization should have .the right to vote and speak for the things in which they believe. The honorable member for Fremantle belongs to an organization that has him tied hand and foot. He is opposed to the continuance of the Senate and would oppose this measure within his own party. But, although he does not believe in the bill, he will support it in this House and, in doing so, vote against his own convictions. That is far more undemocratic than the action we urged when we proposed that a certain organization in Australia should be banned. The honorable member for Fremantle is not only banned; his party also has him working of the other side against his own convictions ! His statements to-night could not have convinced anybody that he was earnest in his advocacy of the bill. His remarks were wide of the mark and did not deal with the arguments involved in this debate at all.
I listened with interest to the verbiage he used, and I congratulate him on his choice of English. It was very pleasing, but he did not get very far with his attempt to convince me that he believed in the measure. He evaded the real point at issue which is whether it is expedient for the Government, in the interests of its continuance in office, to alter the constitution of this Parliament. He claims that he supports the bill because it is democratic. It is far from being democratic. The honorable member suggested that we get rid of the provision in the Constitution which prescribes that the numerical strength of the Senate shall be, as nearly as practicable,’ half that of the House of Representatives.
– I did not say that. I said that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) suggested it.
– Does the honorable member support the provision in the Constitution that the Senate shall be half the size of the House of Representatives ?
– I drew attention to the fact that the right honorable member for Cowper wants to repeal that provision.
– But the honorable member for Fremantle does not. The honorable member cannot have things both ways. He said that we should alter that provision because he does not like it. I, too, do not like it. Why did not the honorable gentleman attend his party meeting?
– I opposed the introduction of the bill.
– Well why does the honorable member support it now? I said that the honorable member, at the meeting of his party, opposed the introduction of this bill. He then said that he was not present at the meeting.
– I opposed it in disgust. The honorable member has twisted my speech to give it an opposite meaning.
– If the honorable member opposes that provision in the Constitution governing the relative sizes of the Senate and the House of Representatives, let him be democratic and propose an alteration of the Constitution to the people. I would support such a proposal. Personally, I would support the abolition of the Senate altogether.
– The honorable member would do so only until his party cracked the whip.
– There is no whip-cracking in the Opposition as there is in the Labour party. I have opposed the existence of the Senate ever since the upper house in the Queensland legislature was abolished. That house was nearly as useless as the Senate is. It was possible, to “ stuff “ it with as many members as the government of the da.y wished. In this Parliament, it is not necessary ,to “ stuff” the Senate. While the Government has a majority in the Senate, that chamber will support the decisions that are made in caucus. Therefore, the Senate is of no use whatever. Unfortunately, we have no means of dealing with that situation. The honorable member for Fremantle argues that the present constitution of the Senate is not democratic. However, he apparently favours making it more undemocratic by retaining one group of senators who were elected according .to one system and allowing the people to elect the remaining number by the system of proportional representation. All but three of the senators elected under the existing system and who will not retire until 1953 are supporters of this Government.
The abolition of the Senate would be expedient and democratic, but the honorable member asserts that we cannot abolish it. He agrees that senators whose terms will not expire until 1953 must be allowed to complete their six years of service in that House. I remind him that a referendum could be submitted to the people so as to remove the anomalies which would make the new Senate, elected under the terms of this legislation, undemocratic in character. The honorable gentleman declared that the Government will stand or fall by the character of its legislation. Of course that is so ! That is the reason for this bill. The Government has foreseen a fall for itself, and therefore it has introduced legislation to tamper with the House of Representa tives and the Senate. That is apparent. There are bigger issues in this matter than were brought forward by the honorable member for Fremantle in defending his attitude in voting in favour of the bill, whilst opposing it in principle and favouring the abolition of the Senate, asI do.
– All that he did was to convict himself.
– Well, the electors will convict him later anyhow. I do not say that with any personal animus, because it is very pleasant to have the honorable member with us and to hear him speak. He does no harm.
– That is the kiss of death.
– It will be a slow death, at any rate, because the honorable member will not have to go before the electors until next year.
Realizing that Australia’s population would grow, the framers of our Constitution many years ago made provision for the enlargement of the House of Representatives and the Senate. In that provision, those long-headed old gentlemen gave to this House the right to increase the number of its members. They also provided that the number of senators should be, as -nearly as practicable, half the number of members of this House. I disagree with that provision, and I think that the honorable member for Fremantle does so, too. In fact, a majority of the members of this Parliament disagree with it because the Senate, as constituted to-day, is a useless and costly instrument. It is unnecessary. We could make better use of the services of senators in other capacities. I have in mind ways .of doing so. Over almost half a century, the population of this country has increased from 3,765,000 to 7,580,000. Therefore, a reasonable argument can he adduced in favour of increasing the number of members of the House of Representatives. I support the proposal for such an increase, but I do not favour any increase of the size of the Senate. In fact, I repeat emphatically that I am opposed to the existence of the Senate. The concept of that chamber, as at first envisaged, was very sound. The honorable member for Fremantle does not hold that view. He declares that the Senate cannot operate as a States’ house because there are no separate State interests. That is a remarkable contention by a representative of “Western Australia. It is contrary to all the preachings of other representatives of the “Westem Australian people since I have been a member of this Parliament. The separate interests of Western Australia are the fundamental interests of the people of that State which have been advocated in both Houses of this Parliament, in deputations and in the Parliament of Western Australia. The people of Queensland, too, have separate and important State interests. The Senate could act as a house of review representing the States as it was originally intended to act.
– How would the honorable member guarantee that senators would not vote on party lines?
– Tha t could not be guaranteed. Members of the Labour party would be compelled to vote on party lines or out they would go. The honorable member agrees with that. He has said that senators are bound to support their parties.
Many reasonable arguments have been put forward in favour of increasing the number of members of the House of Representatives. No good arguments have been put forward, even by honorable members opposite, in favour of increasing the number of senators. Many members of the Labour party oppose the existence of the Senate as at present constituted, and they realize that the people will not stand for an increase of the number of senators. They realize that the people will not approve of this proposal because it envisages an increase of the size of the Senate as well as of the House of Representatives. There is no more reason for suggesting that the House of Representatives should have 121 members than 110, which, to my mind, would be a very reasonable figure. The 36 senators could be transferred to this House, making a total of 110 members with full voting power. Supporters of the Government say that such a procedure would be unconstitutional, but are they not themselves endeavouring to overcome a constitutional difficulty by means of the forthcoming referendum? Why do they not suggest the abolition of the Senate, which has been described as useless, and guarantee that each of the present senators shall serve in this House for the remainder of his tenure of office? The Government wishes to retain the Senate purely for party political reasons. All but three of the present senators are supporters of the Labour party, and, therefore, the Government does not wish to bring about a dissolution of the House. Honorable members opposite advocate proportional representation in this case because if it is adopted the Government will not lose control of the Senate. I contend that that is not a democratic action.
No one has any illusions about the value of the Senate as a legislative machine. It was originally conceived as a house of review and as the guardian of the interests of the States. To-day it performs neither of those functions and is merely a party political machine. The members of the Cabinet who are in the Senate would serve the country better if they were members of this House. When past governments allotted ministerial posts to senators they destroyed the value of the Senate as a house of review. When the President of the Senate recognized leaders of the Government and leaders of the Opposition in that chamber, the independence of the Senate disappeared. Many senators owe their political existence to party organizations, and in consequence they will not vote against their parties. By attending party meetings they destroy their usefulness as guardians of the interests of the States and as members of a house of review.
– It is a shame. If members of the Senate attend meetings of caucus it is obvious that they cannot review impartially legislation that has already been considered and decided upon by caucus. When voting in the Senate they must abide by the decision of caucus.
– Did the Senate ever function. as a house of review?
– Senators are responsible to their own parties and not to the people of the States they represent. I think I have proved my contention that the usefulness of the Senate has disappeared. There are other ways in which to utilize the services of the members of that house. A large proportion of the time of this period of the sittings of this House has been devoted to the consideration of tariff matters, upon which there have been many keen debates. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) is a member of the Senate, but it would have been better had he been a member of this House. The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) is also a member of the Senate, and as a result he cannot hear the protests made in this chamber against his determination that country dwellers shall be compelled almost to build their own telephone lines. The Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) has proposed a scheme for the eradication of tuberculosis in Australia, but he, too, is a member of the Senate. In consequence, he does not hear the speeches of honorable members of this House on that subject. It is anomalous that Ministers who should be members of this House are in the Senate. Let the senators become members of this House. It is possible to submit to the people by way of referendum a proposal that those senators who have a right to sit for three years after the next general elections should act as general representatives of their States for that period, and be provided with seats in this House.
What will be gained by an increase of the number of members of the House of Representatives? Question time will become a farce. The Whips will have to arrange rosters so that certain honorable members may speak’ during one month and others later on. Some limitation of the number of speakers will be essential if the business of the House is to be carried on at all. The Legislative Council in Queensland, which was just as undemocratic in principle and just as useless in operation as the Senate, was abolished 25 years ago, and no one in Queensland now wishes to restore it. Its abolition was no loss to the State. The responsibility for the government of Australia rests upon honorable members of this House. There have been occasions when a government has brought down legislation of which it did not really approve, knowing that the Senate would reject it, in order to be able to say to the people that, in spite of its efforts, the Senate overrode its desires. Years ago when almost all the members of the Senate supported a non-Labour government and there were only three Labour adherents in that chamber, the principle involved in its continuance was just as wrong as it is to-day, and I condemned it then as heartily as I do now. The only thing to do is to abolish the Senate.
In comparison with the huge amount that is collected from the people in taxes the cost of government is a small item, but it is nevertheless, a consideration of some importance. If a proposal to absorb the 36 members of the Senate into this House were approved by the people at a referendum the interests of the States would be safeguarded, and at no additional cost to the people. The adoption of such a proposal would obviate the necessity for enlarging Parliament House to accommodate additional members, which is estimated to cost approximately £80,000, apart altogether from the hundreds of thousands of pounds which will be involved in the construction of office and housing facilities for the new member’s and their staffs. However, the Government,- in its political wisdom, has disregarded all such considerations, and it believes that it can afford to do so because its money bags are full. It says, in effect: “We are not going to deprive ourselves of the opportunity to ‘ stuff ‘ the House of Representatives, although that will necessitate our making the Senate, which is now ridiculous, even more ridiculous “. Absorption of the present members of the Senate in the House of Representatives would not result in any increase of parliamentary staff, and would provide room in Parliament House for party rooms of proper dimensions and other facilities which are badly needed. However, the Government has not even advanced any practical proposal to accommodate additional members. Nevertheless, those are only minor considerations compared with the fact that the Government, which knows that it has lost the confidence of the people, has deliberately sought to perpetuate its existence, and that of its supporters, by introducing a major measure without giving the people an opportunity to express their views upon it.
Under the present system the parliamentary representation of the States of NewSouthWales and Victoria, and particularly of the former, outweighs that of the less populous States. In saying that, I have in mind the representation of Queensland. The less populous States would welcome the adoption of a scheme which would incorporate their Senate representatives in the House of Representatives. The platform of the Australian Labour party contains a pledge to abolish the Senate. The assertion of the. honorable member for Fremantle that the Government intends to abolish the Senate, is simply so much humbug. Under the present political circumstances Labour’s majority in the Senate is a weapon which it can wield in the event of the defeat of its representatives in this House at the next elections. That is why it wants to continue the existence of the Senate, and seeks to ensure, as far as it can, that it will continue to have a majority of supporters in that chamber by introducing a system of proportional representation. The present time is ideal to abolish the Senate, and to review generally the whole system of parliamentary representation.Why not summon a convention to review, not only the alterations at present proposed, but also the whole subject of parliamentary representation? All shades of political thought could be represented at the convention, and from its deliberations some better system might emerge. The present situation provides an admirable opportunity for rebuilding, but the Government does not wish to take that opportunity. Instead, it proposes to foist upon the people proposals which can only be detrimental to their interests. However, since the Government does not welcome such a convention, I suggest that some means might be devised whereby the present members of the Senate could be incorporated for the time being in this House, and their places in the Senate left vacant;, preparatory to abolishing that chamber. A practical scheme to bring about this result has been devised by a former member of the Parliament, who has set out his proposals as follows : -
Much can be said in favour of those proposals, and for many years I have thought along similar lines. Obviously, any such scheme should aim not only at safeguarding of the rights of the States, but also at providing equitable treatment for the present members of the Senate. The honorable member for Fremantle mentioned many anomalies of the present electoral system, including the unequal treatment of country and city electors, but he did not suggest the inclusion in these measures of provisions to overcome any of those defects. All we learnt from the honorable member’s long speech was that given the chance he would vote for the abolition of the Senate and that the party political system compels him to vote for something with which he disagrees.
– This legislation proposes to increase the membership of the House of Representatives from 74 to 121, and of the Senate from 36 to 60. I have always favoured an increase in the membership of the House of Representatives. because 1 believe that more members would provide a wider field from which to choose a ministry and that they are necessary to give the people adequate representation. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that it is anomalous that the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, which has to legislate for only a section of Australia, whereas the domain of Commonwealth legislation is the whole of Australia, has 90 members compared with our 74. So I favour an enlarged House of Representatives, hut not an enlarged Senate, because it has not fulfilled the role assigned to it by the fathers of federation. The speech of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), to which I listened withgreat interest, condemned the existence of the Senate. He is more loyal to the Labour party’s platform than the Government that he supports has shown itself to be in that the Government has decided to enlarge, instead of destroying, the Senate, as members of the Labour party are pledged to do. The honorable member, however, made the extraordinary claim that a Senate is not necessary in Australia to represent the interests of the States, hut that one was needed for that purpose in the United States of America owing to the cleavage of opinion between the cotton-growing southern States and the northern States. The honorable member said that the people of the United States of America were vertically divided whereas the people of Australia were horizontally divided. I do not know how he would fare if he preached in Western Australia the gospel that no need exists for a House specifically charged with the duty of watching the interests of the States, since that State has suffered more from Canberra control than any other part of Australia. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) has illustrated how harshly Western Australia suffers under the system of allocating tractors coming into Australia. Instance after instance of harsh treatment of the less populous States, particularly Western Australia, by the Australian Parliament could be cited. I agree with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that the people should have the opportunity of deciding at a referendum whether they desire a larger Senate. No government has submitted more referendums than has this Government, and the subject of each referendum has been an attack on the sovereignty of the States, the preservation of which is specifically provided for in the Constitution. Defeat has not deterred the Government. One attack having failed, it has not hesitated to attack the sovereignty of the State from another quarter, its intention being to sap the strength of the States in order to bring them down and finally bring about unification with, as in other countries, all the power concentrated and used and abused at the behest of the strong Communist movement in Australia.
– Order! I ask the honorable gentleman to deal with the bill, and not to make a dissertation on referendums.
– I am putting forward
– I know what the honorable member is putting forward, but I want him to discuss the bill.
– The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), as one reason for increasing the membership of the Senate, made the specious claim that whereas in 1903 one senator represented 52,596 electors, to-day one senator represented 132,787 electors, compared with 83,000 as would be the case under the proposals of the Government. The reply is that, under the Constitution, senators have never represented individual electors. The Senate was created for the specific purpose of representing the States. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) delightedly quoted a leading article in the Sydney Morning Herald as supporting the Government’s proposal, but he quoted only those parts of the article that suited him. I propose to repair that omission. The article, referring to the Leader of the Opposition, went on from where the honorable member for Martin ceased reading it, in the following terms : - _He might more profitably have concentrated his criticism on the proposed method of making the change, since the Opposition is, with justice, deeply concerned over a manoeuvre which will leave Labour strongly entrenched in the Senate until 1953, whatever the changes in public opinion in the meantime.
The honest course would have been for the Government to seek a double dissolution, if necessary by constitutional amendment, so that Parliament might make a fresh start on the new basis.
Proof that it is intended to increase the membership of the Senate to ensure Labour’s retaining control of that chamber until 1953 was the interjection of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) on Thursday to the effect that the proposal would ensure a Labour victory at the polls. I propose to consider whether the Government proposal is in the best interests- of the Australian people. I repeat that the reply to the argument of the Attorney-General that individual senators to-day represent more electors than they did in 1903 and more than they will under this proposal is that the Senate was never intended to represent individual electors and was always intended to represent the States. If the framers of the Constitution intended that senators should be elected as direct representatives of the electors in the sense that members of the House of Representatives are, is it conceivable that they would have provided that casual vacancies should be filled, not at a normal byelection, as are casual vacancies occurring in the House of Representatives, but, under Section 17 of the Constitution, by election by the Parliament of the State concerned? That section also provides that the person s-o elected shall fill the vacancy until the expiration of the normal term for which his predecessor was elected or until the following general election whichever occurred the sooner. That provision shows that the framers of the Constitution had clearly in their minds the maintenance of a distinct nexus between the Senate and the States. The honorable member for Fremantle and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) argued that the Senate is completely useless and that it has not functioned as the guardian of State rights. Whilst the Constitution vests the Commonwealth with great powers, it also allows the States to retain enormous residuary powers, and conflict often arises as the result of the efforts of the Aus tralian Governments, . particularly the present Government, to take more and more power from the States. I venture to say that if the Senate had been truly the States’ house, representing the interests of the State legislatures, it would never have consented to the whittling away of the power of the States in respect of taxation, the revenue from which was the life-blood of the States and their main means of carrying out the responsibility devolving upon them to develop the areas under their control. Quick and Garran, in their Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth, state -
The Senate is not merely a branch of a bicameral parliament, it is not merely a second chamber of revision and review . . . it is that, but something more than that. It is the chamber in which the States, considered as separate entities and separate parts of the Commonwealth are represented. They are so separated for the purpose of enabling them to maintain and protect their constitutional rights against attempted invasions, and to give them every facility for the advocacy of their peculiar and special interests, as well as for the ventilation and consideration of their grievances. . . .
That the States and not the people are actually represented in the Senate is shown by the requirement that “ the equal representation of the several original States shall be maintained “.
The point I emphasize is that the method of election of the Senate which has been followed for the past 48 years has not provided senators who are concerned with the protection of the States’ rights, and conceive that to be their duty, with the opportunity to stand sentry over those rights. We must now ask ourselves whether we cannot devise a method of electing senators better than the present system. I agree that proportional representation for the election of senators is an improvement upon the existing method, but it will not produce senators who will realize that their first duty is to safeguard the sovereign rights of the States and ensure that the people shall not be governed in an increasingly greater degree by the Government at Canberra in place of the State governments, which are better equipped to deal with local problems. I believe that in order to preserve the rights of the States under the Constitution, we must provide for the election of senators by the lower houses
The State legislatures ought to have some means of defending themselves against the encroachments of the National Government.
The need to observe that principle is just as pressing to-day as it was at that time. That it was hoped that the Senate would operate in accordance with that principle is shown by the following extract which
An elected Senate in which each State is equally represented is a guarantee that no law will be passed, not only without the consent of the people but also without the consent of a majority of the States.
That has been proved to be an optimistic prophecy; it has not been fulfilled, because we know from experience that the last thing senators have ever considered in dealing with legislation has been the sovereign rights of the States and their duty to protect those rights. Quick and Garran also point out that the Senate has a dual function -
First, as a chamber of revision and review. Secondly, as a chamber to represent the particular views, opinions, and interests of the States.
The Senate has never fulfilled those requirements. It has neither reviewed legislation nor looked after the interests of the States in the National Parliament. Australia is a federation. Time and again the people of this Commonwealth have been asked to adopt unification, having one parliament and one government centralized ‘ at Canberra, but they have resolutely rejected that proposition. The time has now come when this Parliament should ensure that our federal machine shall operate in a proper and adequate manner, by ensuring that the national government shall never be allowed to encroach upon the sovereign rights of the States by centralizing controls in Canberra except with the consent of the people and thus bringing about permanent conditions of the kind which have existed for too long in this country. The honorable member for Richmond has dealt forcefully with that aspect, too. I disagree with the argument advanced by the honorable member for Reid in favour of the abolition of the Senate, for apparently the honorable member does not believe that there is any need to protect the sovereign rights of the States by devising a method of electing or appointing senators who would appreciate the true functions of this National Parliament and would act as members of a house of review as well as the guardians of State rights and the federal system ‘ generally. There is no necessity whatever to increase the membership of the Senate. The senators are supposed to represent the States. There is no ground for the argument of the honorable member for Fremantle that the provision in the Constitution dealing with the membership of the Senate in relation to that of the House of Representatives is necessary to protect the rights of the small States in the event of a double dissolution and a subsequent failure to effect a reconciliation. My view is that if the will of the people is freely expressed at an election after a dissolution it should be obeyed. No hardship would be inflicted upon any State by confining State representation to the six members necessary for original States under the Constitution. As the Senate is supposed to represent primarily the States’ rights in the Parliament, there is no reason why the membership of each State should not be retained at six and the Government’s proposals submitted to the people by way of a referendum for an alteration of section 24 of the Constitution to eliminate the necessity to associate an increase of Senate membership with an increase of membership of the House of Representatives. I believe also that an effort should be made to devise better machinery to protect the sovereign rights of the States and allow the lower houses of the State legislatures to elect the members of the Senate.
.- I wish briefly to record my support for the amendment that has been moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and my objections to the bill as it stands. Acceptance of the amendment would give to the people of this country an opportunity to express themselves on these proposals, which, according to a recent gallup poll, are opposed by 88 per cent, of the people. For these reasons, I believe that, as we are members of a democratic parliament, and are supposed to represent the views of the people, the people should have an opportunity to express their opinion on a major piece of legislation such as this is.
It has been highly diverting to note the mental and verbal gymnastics of Ministers and government supporters in their endeavour to justify this sudden solicitude for overworked members of the Parliament and, in effect, the provision of another shift for the harassed Senate by increasing its membership from 36 to 60. One Minister, who is noted for his consistent abuse of the press, has discovered suddenly that that very same press is lily-white. He has found in the most reactionary journals hidden virtues that he had never suspected. So complete has been his conversion to this new outlook that almost the whole of his speech was taken up by quotations from the press which he has condemned for the last ten years. Other honorable members opposite have performed similarly, and I have come to the belief that the press is good or bad according to whether it agrees with the point of view of a particular person, or dares to have an opinion of its own. Whether the Sydney Morning Herald or any other newspaper chooses to condemn the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) for the views that they have expressed, I shall not change my opinion because, if the Sydney Morning Herald is against 8S per cent, of the public, it is just as wide of the mark as the Minister was. Practice and precedent appear to be in favour of some measure of this kind, because neither the public nor the Parliament has seriously contested the principle of an enlarged legislature. However, I say that methods, motives and costs are subjects which can justifiably be debated, and, in spite of the feverish attempt by Government speakers to foster a belief that they are actuated by purely altruistic motives, there is no gainsaying the fact that the unfavorable public reaction to the Banking Bill and the devastating defeat of the Labour party in Victoria as the result of the passage of that legislation, are the direct causes of the introduction of this measure.
If the public had accepted without demur the Government’s handling of this blank cheque with which it has allegedly been entrusted, we should never have heard of this measure, and, if anybody had dared to suggest it in caucus, what crushing arguments would have been advanced against it? Obviously, it would have been said that the position was so eminently in favour of the Labour party that no attempt should be made to interfere with it.
Surely honorable members opposite do not believe that “we on this side of the chamber are all sweet innocents who believe that this measure is designed solely to relieve overworked members of Parliament of stress and strain. I must confess that I have not noticed this alleged overwork. I agree with the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) who raised a most important point when she reminded the House- that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), when endeavouring to justify the increase of salary for members of this Parliament last year, stated that the increased responsibility of members necessitated by the widening of the scope of the Government’s activities imposed so much additional strain on them that they were entitled to some further remuneration. The right honorable gentleman did not say on that occasion, “ As soon as we get this increased salary, we shall double the membership of the Commonwealth Parliament, and so halve the work of its members “. The point raised by the honorable member for Bourke was very well taken. If we have received an extra allowance for doing extra work, then there is no justification for lightening the work by increasing the membership of the Parliament. I should not dare to suggest here that the increase of membership should be- accompanied by a reduction of salary. I do not think there would be a voice to support me. Certainly I should not get a vote for the proposal. But the criticism is sound, and, although some of the people can be - fooled some of the time, all of them cannot be fooled all the time. They will remember these things as well as we do.
This bill stands revealed as an attempt by the Labour party to preserve itself, or to provide partial protection at least, against the wrath that is to come. I repeat that, had not that wrath been envisaged by the Labour party, this measure would never have been brought forward. However, no matter how unworthy the motives for the introduction of this bill may be, its merits have still to be considered. Whatever arguments may be advanced in favour of an increase of the membership of the House of Representatives, there is no argument -that would justify increasing the membership of the
Senate by any means other than a vote of the people. I confess that since I have been in this Parliament I have been sadly disillusioned about the Senate. It hasbeen called a replica of the House of Representatives. but it is not even a paleshadow of this chamber. I think everybody realizes this. The fact that we cannot constitutionally increase the number of members in this House without at the same time increasing the number of senators is justification for asking the people to amend section 24 of the Constitution. I do not believe that the people would agree to a proposal to abolish the Senate,, but I believe that they would agree to the amendment of section 24 to provide for the enlargement of the House of Representatives without necessarily enlarging the Senate. Already, each State has six representatives in the Senate, and if we were to increase that representation to ten the States would be no better off. If senators did the job which the founders of the Constitution intended them to do, which was to act as true representatives of their States, instead of becoming mere party hacks, as many members are in this House, no one would ask for the abolition of the Senate. However, as long as the senators spend only three hours dealing with legislation over which this House spent six weeks, there will be demands for the abolition of the Senate. The case for a larger Parliament is that members are over-worked. That does not apply to the Senate, and it is not right that the people should have to put up with the enlargement of that legislative anachronism, as the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) called it, because it is desired to do justice to members of the House of Representatives. The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) said that the Government could not submit to the people a proposal for the alteration of section 24 of the Constitution because it would be defeated. That is a naive way of saying that the people are opposed to what the Government proposes to do, hut I believe that the people would agree to the amendment of section 24 in the manner suggested- by the right honorable member for Cowper. If it was explained to the people that the alternative to such an amendment was to increase the number of senators they would fall over themselves to vote “ Yes “. Were such an amendment made, the membership of the House of Representatives could be varied according to the ebb and flow of population without any need to worry about varying the membership of the Senate.
The speech of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) was excellent if one did not concern oneself with the subject under discussion. He disclosed a considerable knowledge of world politics, but he could not resist claiming a false victory. He condemned the present system of voting because in Victoria the Labour party won nineteen seats with some hundreds of thousands of votes, while the Country party won 22 seats with only 160,000 votes. That is a false presentation of the position, because the Country party contests seats only in the country. If he had compared the results achieved by the Labour party in the country with those achieved by the Country party he would have presented a true picture. He should have combined the Liberal votes in the city with the Country party votes in the country if he wished to arrive at a proper assessment of the votes cast. I wish to record my approval of the amendment put forward by the right honorable member for Cowper, and I ask the Government, even at this late hour, to accept it, so that the people may have an opportunity to express themselves on a proposal to amend section 24 of the Constitution, so that the House of Representatives may be enlarged without necessarily enlarging the Senate.
.- The Government^ in introducing this measure, is actuated by a policy of selfpreservation. Its primary objective is to ensure that those of its supporters who are at present members of the House of Representatives shall continue to be members after the next election. It knows that the writing is on the wall. It has witnessed the devastating defeat of the Labour party in Victoria and it knows the feeling of the public in South Australia and in Western Australia. Therefore, it has invoked the assistance of the wily and astute and able Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who is more renowned on foreign fields than on the home field, to devise a method to ensure the continued existence of the Labour Government, and the right honorable gentleman has brought down this very subtle bill. He knows that many people, including members of the Opposition, believe that the House of Representatives should be enlarged. Assuming that the population of Australia is about one-seventh of that of Great Britain, our House of Representatives should number about 100 if the people are to be represented on the same basis as are those of Great Britain. The Government is resolved not to ask for a double dissolution of the Parliament which would be the fair thing to do, so that the people might speak on this subject and on others. There would then be no need for an expensive referendum costing more than £100,000 on a proposal which has been already twice rejected. If there were a double dissolution the people would be able to express their opinion on the Government’s banking proposal.
– Order !
– I know that I cannot dilate on that, and I do not intend to do so. I am merely mentioning it in passing as one of the reasons which have actuated this very scared Government into bringing down a measure to prolong its political life. If Machiavelli’s ghost could come into this House to-night he would speak in complimentary terms of the work of the Attorney-General. The purpose of this measure is to increase the membership of- the House of Representative to 121, but as an addendum, the Senate is to be increased from 36 members to 60. This is being done so that the Government may “ get away with “ its machinations in the House of Representatives. The Senate should be what the framers of the Constitution intended it to be, a brake on hasty legislation, but it has failed in its proper function which was to represent the States, and has become a party house. Labour senators, in particular, have consistently voted as their party dictates. Honorable members know full well that that is the iron rule of caucus. Those who belong to it are merely so many deaf mutes at the funeral of their own freedom. They know that on any subject, no matter how important or how trivial it may be, they have to toe the party line. Had the Senate been truly representative of the States, WesternAustralia would have derived great advantages. The fluent and rather charming member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) gave us another of his wordy dissertations as he came to the rscue of the Government after it had blundered. He sought to prove that the Senate is all that it should be, irrespective of the fact that his own State passed legislation many years ago in favour of seceding from the Commonwealth. Western Australia has gone back, rather reluctantly, to its former allegiance to the Commonwealth. If the Senate, instead of being elected on the same franchise as the House of Representatives, had been elected by the State governments, as is done in the case of casual vacancies, representation in that chamber would have been much better than it is at present. Certainly, matters would not be decided purely on party lines, and the Senate would function in a manner similar to the United States Senate. From cabled reports from America, we are aware of the excellent work carried out by Senate committees. For many years, I, and other honorable members of this House, have advocated the establishment of an international affairs committee, consisting of representatives of all parties in both Houses of the Parliament. Had that suggestion been adopted, Australia’s diplomatic name would be higher in the world than it is to-day. But our foreign policy, instead of being shaped by such a. committee, is drafted virtually by a “ one-man band “. The Minister for External Affairs beats the drum overseas, saying how Palestine should be administered or what we should do in Germany; but when he comes home he is unable to settle trouble on the waterfront.
– Order !
– Many of our difficulties could be overcome if members of the Senate could sit in committee with members of the House of Representatives to advise on these matters.
To-day, four or five members of the Cabinet are Defence Ministers - a combination nearly as strong as our forces themsel ves-
-Order! I ask the honorable member to discuss the bill, or I shall have to direct him to resume his seat. The Chair will not tolerate any more of this diversion.
– The Senate could be a usefulbody-
– If the honorable member persists in making a fool of himself he will not make a fool of the Chair-
– Nature has perhaps already done that.
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Normally, I would deal on some more appropriate occasion with a matter of the character of that which I now present for the consideration of the House with the department directly concerned. I have actually followed that course in this matter up to the present time, but the stage has now been reached where I feel that only the personal consideration, and I hope the intervention of the appropriate Minister will bring results which, I believe, the Government would desire, and which, in my view, would bring justice and satisfaction - if satisfaction it could be called - to the parties concerned.The story which I present for the consideration of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers), in particular, and of those honorable members who are interested, is of one of those tragedies which often follow in the aftermath of war. Before dealing immediately with the relevant matters in this case as they affect the family concerned, I, perhaps, should give to the Minister a complete picture upon which he can pass appropriate judgment. I propose to give some of the background of the history of this family as it so tragically affects those who have survived. I speak of the case of Mr. and Mrs. F. M. Pollock, who reside in my electorate.
This family can claim to be one of the fighting families of the Commonwealth. The Pollocks had fifteen children, ten of them born in Scotland and five in Australia. Mr. Pollock, senior, joined the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders at the age of eighteen years. He served in that regiment for eighteen years, fighting in the Boar War, and later as an “Old Contemptible” in World War I. He was wounded and gassed in 1917, and was confined to his home for two years after the war, unable to work. The splendid fighting record which the father had established in two wars was emulated by his sons in World War II. Five sons enlisted. The eldest, James, enlisted in the 6th Division at the outbreak of the war and, after going through the campaign in the Middle East, came home with his division. He was discharged from Heidelberg Hospital after undergoing treatment extending over six months, in the words of his father, “ a nervous wreck “. Two other sons served in the 2nd/23rd Albury’s Own. William was killed at Tobruk on the 15th May, 1941, dying in the arms of his brother, Horace, who was taken prisoner on the same day. Horace escaped a year later and got safely to Switzerland, but had to undergo two operations as a result of floggings he received while a prisoner. Two other sons, Francis and Matthew, were in the 1st Independent Company - the Commandos. They were in the islands eight months before the Japanese entered the war. Francis was reported missing on the 4th August, 1942. Later, by a communication of the 27th October, 1945, he was officially presumed dead as at the 1st July, 1942. In consequence of the late advice of his death it was alleged that his mother’s allotment had been overpaid from the 5th November, 1942, to the 1st November, 1945. The term “ overpayment “ was used by the Department of the Army in its correspondence. The total amount involved was said to be £163 19s. I have no doubt that in making a demand for repayment the department has strictly applied the appropriate financial regulations. But that is the unhappy circumstance which has been associated with it. The mother’s allotment was suspended at one stage for a long period ; but later, because of advice or information which the Government received, it notified Mr. Pollock that continuance of the allotment suspended in November, 1942; was authorized on the 10th February, 1944, as evidence had been received that the man previously deemed to be missing was a prisoner of war. This over-payment was made without any mistake on the part of the unhappy mother, and it was not until after the return of some of those who had been fellow prisoners that it waa established, apparently to the satisfaction of the Department of the Army, that this soldier had been on board the ill-fated Monte Video Maru, which had been sunk near the Philippines on the 1st July, 1942 with the loss of all prisoners of war on board. The department notified Mr. and Mrs. Pollock by telegram on the 5th October, 1945, as follows: -
The customary expression of sympathy followed. A telegram on the 15th October notified -
The Department of the Army then claimed that because its earlier advices were found to be incorrect, allotment had been overpaid, and it proceeded to deal with the over-payment. It stated that the deceased soldier had a personal credit, made up of earnings, deferred pay, &c, less debits, amounting to £108 ls. That amount was set against the over-payment of £163 19s., reducing it to £55 18s. The department said that it would waive the balance. The allotment was used by the mother for her own needs. When it became evident that the soldier had died some considerable time previously, the money had been spent. Normally, the mother might have derived, not any real solace for the loss of her son, but some small financial provision from his estate, but th entire estate was swallowed up by the apropriation by the department, of the amount which it claimed had been overpaid.
I have already made some mention of the Pollock family’s record because I consider that, whatever the regulations may provide, the family deserves from the Government more generous treatment than has been meted out to it. However strict the financial provision may be, the discretionary power of the Minister should be exercised in order to extend gratitude on behalf of the Government and the Australian people as a whole to a family which has served them so well. I appreciate the presence of the Minister for the Army in the House. I told him that I intended to raise the matter. I hope that he will personally investigate the facts that I have placed before the House, and, if possible, exercise whatever generous discretion be may possess so as to ensure that some financial provision will be made to the Pollock family on behalf of the Government. Whilst that would not make up for the loss of their son or for the great grief which they have suffered, it would show the nation’s appreciation of their sacrifice.
– Whenever reliable information concerning such cases of hardship is brought to my notice, I always endeavour to give sympathetic consideration to them. I can not recollect having received information in regard to the case mentioned by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). Nevertheless, he may rest assured that I shall immediately ask that the file shall be forwarded to me. When I receive it I shall investigate the case. If it be possible, I shall direct that relief be given to the parents of the soldier.
.- I raise a matter which calls for the attention of the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford). I am astonished that the Government, at a time of dollar stringency, is expending so much American currency on Convair aircraft. From time to time I have asked the Minister for Air for particulars of the cost of aircraft of this type, as well as the cost of spare parts, and the expenditure which has been incurred in sending engineers to America. He has given me an incomplete reply, covering only some of the items mentioned. I understand that an amount in excess of 2,000,000 dollars has been expended on these aircraft, which, according to press reports, are to be flown to Australia, stopping at 23 places en route. The spokesman for the Minister made a cunning observation when he said that these planes will be used in Australia, not on the route from Melbourne to Perth, but on other routes, and that the Government intends to save dollars by not causing them to be fitted with extra tanks for trans-ocean flying. There is no reason why these aircraft could not have been shipped from America to Australia in the ordinary way. Had that been done, thousands of dollars would have been saved. Instead, the Government has seized the opportunity to advertise the aircraft. It is deliberately wasting dollars, rather than trying to save them. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said recently that he had had a conference with the proprietors of private airlines, at which various aspects of petrol consumption had been discussed. That is another reason why the aircraft should have been shipped to Australia. Obviously, they are being flown to Australia because the Government desires to advertise its socialized services.
– A good deal of information concerning Convair aircraft has been supplied from time to time. The Government, having examined the whole position, and, in the light of questions asked in this House, decided that these machines were a good “ buy “. They have been purchased on most advantageous terms, as the result of information supplied direct to the Government from independent sources in America, The Government has every reason to be satisfied with the purchase, and action to rescind the contract would not be warranted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Bankruptcy Act - Nineteenth Annual Report by Attorney-General, for year ended 31st July, 1947.
Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department of -
Labour and National Service - I. Anderson, G. W. Kesson.
Postmaster-General - M. Knight.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, No. 49.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, No. 50.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (48).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - Yalgoo, Western Australia.
House adjourned at 11.40 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
What are (a) the salaries and (5) the payments other than salary, paid to the chairman and members of the Dairy Produce Board, respectively ?
Mr.Pollard. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
A travelling allowance of £2 2s. per day is paid to the chairman and each member while actually travelling to and from meetings and all fares involved are reimbursed.
e asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
g asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he direct the Tariff Board to prepare for Parliament a report on the possible effects on Australian industry and employment of the Trade Agreement?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Parliament has already validated the tariff proposal contained in the draft International amendments resulting from the conclusion in Geneva of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Before recommending these changes to Parliament the Government considered carefully their effects upon Australian industry. The results of the General Agreement will be kept under continuous review by the appropriate Commonwealth departments and there is no need for a reference to the Tariff Board except in cases where an industry can prove that it has been detrimentally affected by the tariff changes negotiated at Geneva.
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
;White asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Coupons surrendered as a result . of the Food for Britain Appeal are as follows: - Meat, 3,357,621 coupons, equivalent to 2,216 tons of meat; butter, 63,769 coupons, equivalent to 285 cwt. Consequent upon the surrender of these* coupons, their equivalent in rationed foodstuffs is withdrawn from Australian civilian consumption and this additional quantity of food automatically goes into export.
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
Service in each State (i) from January to December, 1947; (ii) in January and February, 1948?
-The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: -
Item (a) includes both permanent officers and temporary employees and officers of the Department of Social Services seconded to the Commonwealth Employment Service to assist in the local administration of the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act.
Item (b) includes expenses connected with the local administration of the act mentioned. These items cannot be separated without the expenditure of considerable time.
d. - On the 14th April, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked a question regarding the basis of payments for carriage of mails by air. As such payments are made by the Department of Civil Aviation, I give the following reply to the honorable member’s question : - .
There is no common rate of payment for the carriage of mails by air applicable generally to all airline operators. On the contrary both the basis and the rate of payment to each operator is determined having regard to the particular circumstances of each case. The ultimate objective is to pay a “ commercial “ rate for mails actually carried and such a commercial rate should be related to the cost of such carriage and therefore would be comparable to passenger and freight rates. Air transportation has not yet reached the stage where such a truly commercial rate can be adapted generally in Australia or in fact in any part of the world so far as our informa tion goes. Therefore it is necessary in Australia, as in other parts of the world, generally to pay for the carriage of mails by air a substantially higher rate per lb. than is charged by the operator for the carriage of passengers and freights. In determining what that “ higher “ rate shall be for any particular operator the. Department of Civil Aviation takes into account inter alia the operator’s estimated costs and revenues from other sources. It follows, therefore, that varying rates (and bases) of payment are adopted for different services according to the particular circumstances of the operation.
y. - On the 16th April, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) asked a question concerning campaign medals. I have ascertained that the manufacture of campaign stars has been completed and the cardboard boxes’ in which they will be issued are in course of production. It is anticipated that issues will commence in approximately three months. Tenders for the. manufacture of the Defence Medal have been received and it is expected that supplies will be available in about six months. It is also anticipated that from eight to twelve months will elapse before supplies of the 1939-45 War Medal are available for issue.
t asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he, in accordance with the promise made to the honorable member for Fawkner on the 10th March, table the full text of a broadcast by the Prices Commissioner, in which, amongst other things, that officer was stated to have said that the black market in used motor cars was very black?
– I have forwarded to the honorable member a copy of the broadcast referred to.
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 April 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480428_reps_18_196/>.