18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.45 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House that Mr. E. de Valera, formerly Prime Minister and now Leader of the
Opposition in the Parliament of Eire,and Mr.F. Aiken, a member ofthe Parliament and a former Minister in the Government of Eire, are within thepre- cincts of the chamber. With the con- currence of honorable members, I shall invite them to take seatson the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
HonorableMembers. -Hear,hear !
Mr. de Valera and Mr. Aiken thereupon entered the chamber andwere seated accordingly.
Mr.HARRISON- Has theattention of theMinister for Immigration been directedto pressreports that British passengers on the Egyptian vessel Misr have complained of certain conditions and of maltreatment by the ship’s officers during the voyage from Marseilles to Australia? According to the reports, a deputation protested to the captain about the conditions, and he was alleged to have laid a revolver on the table and to have informed the leader of the deputation, who had served in the British forces, that he was a “ shooting man and knew how to use a revolver”. “Wilt the Minister inform me whether these reports have been investigated ? Is he in a position to furnish any information to the House regarding them? If no investigations have been made, will he institute inquiries immediately?
– I have not seen the press reports, and, indeed, this is the first I have heard of the matter. I shall certainly have investigations made and furnish a report to the honorable gentleman. I know Captain Drexel, who is in command of Misr. I believe that he is a “shooting man”, because he served in the Royal Navy duringWorld War II. I have no knowledge of the circumstances that allegedly caused him to do - if indeed he did do it - what he is alleged to have done, but on previous occasions when Misr was in Australian ports I found him to be quite a reasonable man. Misr is owned by an Egyptian company, arid is controlled by the Egyptian Government. On this voyage to Australia the ship sailed from Marseilles, and not a British port.Its passengers include many different nationalities.On all previous voyages, Misrhas been a happy ship. I examined the vessel for the purpose of ascertaining whether it could be chartered to bring British migrants to this country, but I considered that the accommodation generally, otherthan the deckcabins, was notsuch aswould prove attractive to British migrants. Therefore,we abandoned anyidea of chartering the ship. Misr will continue to bring nationals from other countries to Australia,but theywill travel under conditionsnot acceptable to British subjects.
– The northern areas of South Australia, as well as York Peninsula and parts of Eyre Peninsula have, generally speaking, been completely neglected in the matter of water reticulation which is a necessity for householders,f armers, graziers, gardeners, andsettlers. In view of the fact that the Australian Government has guaranteed a maximum payment of £37,500 per annum to the South Australian Government to cover losses incurred on the Morgan- Why alla water scheme and that the State Government requires consumers at Whyalla and other places to pay exorbitant charges for water, I ask the Prime Minister whether, in the event of the South Australian Government making an approach to the Australian Government for financial assistance for any water supply project in the areas to which I have ref erred, he will recommend that a grant be made on the same basis as that on which the Australian Government has, according to reports, just recommended that the sum of £2,150,000 be granted to the Western Australian Government for water services ?
Mr.CHIFLEY.-I am not aware of the full details of the joint arrangement between the Australian Government and the Government of South Australia regarding the Whyalla water scheme. The honorable member has referred to “ exorbitant charges “, but I understand they are such as will provide only what the two authorities concerned consider tobe a reasonably economic return. Water schemes generally come within the jurisdiction of the State governments, and any applications for funds, apart from grants that might he made by the Commonwealth Grants Commission containing some element for maintenance, should be made to the Loan Council. The Australian Government would grant money for water schemes such as those suggested by the honorable member only in very special circumstances, as in the case of the Whyalla scheme, and then only if they were designed to meet a great national need. In the case of Western Australia, the opinion of the Government is that if there is to be any development of that State considerable assistance will be required. A special grant has been made to Western Australia to assist in the provision of water services. The Government will examine any proposals that are put before it, but I should like to make it perfectly clear that applications for funds for water conservation and irrigation schemes have been rejected because it was considered they should , be made to the Loan Council. Unless an application related to an undertaking of great national importanceI should not be prepared to recommend that a grant be made.
international wheat agreementAustralian Wheat Board.
-I desire to address a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Byway of explanation, I point out that on Wednesday, the 28th April, the following paragraph appeared in the Melbourne Age: -
After a conference with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), and the secretary of the Commerce Department (Mr. McCarthy), the president of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation (Mr. G. H. Evans), of Victoria, and the secretary (Mr. T. C. Scott), of South Australia, made this joint declaration
The International Wheat Agreement will be ratified whether or not the growers like it, and will result in a loss to growers on the English sale alone of£ 12,000,000.
– Order ! I have ruled repeatedly that arguments used by persons who are not members of this House cannot be incorporated in questions. Honorable members themselves may not introduce debatable matter into a question, and they can hardly expect to be allowed to introduce it by proxy from outside sources. With the elimination of the preface, what is the question?
– Is the statement that I have quoted in accordance with the facts?
– Order ! The honorable member had better sit down for a while and redraft his question.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to one aspect of the statute law of the Commonwealth which requires that the Australian Wheat Board shall have a chairman appointed by the Government, and certain members. The board has now been without a chairman for eleven months, and, in addition, a vacancy on the board, caused by the death of an elected member some months ago, has not yet been filled. Does the Government intend to observe the provisions of the statute, or allow the Australian Wheat Board gradually to lapse?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will answer the question.
– The Government realized that an international wheat agreement was a possibility and that the powers of the Commonwealth to acquire wheat, now vested in the Australian Wheat Board, might need to be reconsidered. This would necessitate in the near future the creation of new machinery to implement an international wheat agreement or a post-war marketing scheme. In the circumstances, the Government did not consider it necessary to involve Australian wheat-growers in the expense that would be incurred by appointing a new chairman of the board. We believed that among the personnel of the existing board were quite a number of excellent gentlemen who were fully capable of acting as temporary chairmen, and satisfactorily administering the functions of the board. I further took into consideration the fact that the honorable member for Indi was completely dissatisfied with the last appointment to the chairmanship of the board, and would also be dissatisfied with any appointment which this Government made. As I did not desire to irritate the honorable member, I considered that it would be wise to leave the position vacant until some new arrangements could be made in the near future.
– I have now redrafted the question that I previously addressed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Has the Minister seen the joint statement by the president of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, Mr. G. H. Evans, of Victoria, and the secretary, Mr. T. C. Scott, of South Australia, that the International Wheat Agreement will be ratified whether or not the growers like it, and will result in a loss to growers-
– Order ! The question is in almost exactly the same form as before. It has not been re-drafted.
– I arn asking whether the Minister has seen the statement?
– The honorable member is asking the Minister whether he has seen this argument, and is inviting the honorable gentleman to state whether or not it is correct. That is obviously out of order.
Trans-Australia Airlines - PanPacific Airways.
– Recently the Minister for Civil Aviation told the Leader of the Australian Country party that the Australian National Airlines Commission had spent £2,500,000 in the establishment and had lost between £600,000 and £700,000 in the operation of Trans-Australia Airlines. I link that with the reported negotiations for the purchase by the Australian Government of some or all of the shares in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether that loss has been sustained in pursuance of the Government’s socialistic objective of destroying private enterprise? If the taxpayers’ money is to be spent in defeating private enterprise in that manner, what other industries are to be selected in their turn for similar treatment ?
– The figures quoted by the honorable member with regard to losses are, I think, greatly exaggerated.
– They are the Minister’s own figures.
– The figures given to this House were supplied in the report of the Australian National Airlines Commission. The honorable member ought to check his figures with those given in that report. No approach has been made on behalf of the Government to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited with the purpose of the purchase of any or all of the shares in that company so as to destroy private enterprise. The Government, however, strongly believes that it is essential in the national interests to operate government airlines. The losses sustained in the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines are similar to the losses in the establishment years sustained in the same circumstances in other countries. Twelve or fourteen airline operators in the United States of America have lost millions of dollars in the- last twelve months. That experience has been shared by airline operators in other parts of the world. Trans-Australia Airlines has done a magnificent job in establishing itself in its first year of operations. I assure the honorable member that what he describes as losses will be on a much lower scale in its second year of operations.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether the Government has refused permission to the PanAmerican Airways to extend its Pacific service terminal from .Sydney to Melbourne ?
– Pan-American Airways applied for permission to extend its service beyond Sydney to Melbourne. The agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Australian Government provides that trans-Pacific services shall terminate at Sydney and San Francisco respectively. Both Australia and America are operating services under that agreement. To allow the PanPacific Airways to extend its service beyond Sydney to Melbourne would result, on figures published on their behalf, in a loss to Australian airlines of £270 a fortnight. Probably, the honorable member is actuated by a desire that Australian airlines should incur greater losses
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether anything is being done to introduce television into Australia. As television is operating in Great Britain and the United States of America, will the Minister discuss the matter with Sir Ernest Fisk, who is in Canberra, with a view to keeping Australia up to the mark in modern developments?
– Television, frequency modulation and facsimile broadcasting are under consideration by a Cabinet sub-committee, which met last week and received reports from officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department who have recently returned from Great Britain and the United States of America after studying these modern developments for the last six months. Television, particularly, is largely dependent upon finance, and there is not much likelihood of its being tried out in Australia for a considerable time, although great progress is being made with it in the United States of America and Great Britain. Should it be thought desirable, for the sub-committee to interview Sir Ernest Fisk while he is in Australia, that will be done before the present sittings terminate, but the officers who have returned from abroad have all the information that Sir Ernest is likely to be able to give, because they consulted him and people associated with him in the British venture. While in England, I had the pleasure and honour of being televised myself, and I can speak, from firsthand experience.
Appointment of Director-General of Medical Services
– Can the Minister for the Army say whether the position of Director-General of Army Medical Services has yet been filled?
– Yes, an appointment has been made. The successful applicant was Dr. Kingsley Norris, who has had a splendid record in the Army, and was decorated for his work in one branch of the medical service. The Army is fortunate in obtaining the services of such a capable man.
– Will the Treasurer state whether the Government has yet decided upon a method for disposing of the fund collected from the public to replace the cruiser Sydney? Is it intended to use the money to meet part of the cost of the new aircraft carrier Sydney ? Will the Treasurer say how much money is now in the fund?
– No decision has yet been made regarding the disposal of the fund. As the honorable member knows, the money is in a trust fund, and that position can be altered only by the Parliament itself. Various bodies have suggested to me that the money might be devoted to purposes other than that for which is was collected. I have told them that if an agreement could be reached regarding any proposal the Government would consider it. I have not seen the figures recently, but my impression is that there is about £426,000 in the fund. I hope that a decision regarding the disposal of the fund which will be satisfactory to the present trustees will be reached before the end of the year.
– About a fortnight ago I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service for some information about the dispute which had developed at the State dockyard in Newcastle. Can the Minister say what is the present position, and whether a strike is still threatening?
– The facts regarding the dispute at the State dockyard at Newcastle are that ..members of the Society of Boilermakers held a meeting at which they wisely decided to continue working pending the result of negotiations regarding a case of alleged victimization. I have not been officially notified, but I believe that the dispute has been satisfactorily settled. There was no loss of production, and negotiations were conducted in the best possible atmosphere.
reportof Privileges Committee.
– I ask for leave to withdraw a motion standing in my name on the notice-paper under the heading of general business. The motion relates to the investigation by the Privileges Committee into certain allegations made against the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain). It is clear that the motion could not come on for discussion until after the forthcoming break in the sittings of the Parliament, and perhaps not for some little time after the sittings are resumed in June. As I propose to take the opportunity to go overseas in June, it will not be practicable for me to deal with the motion in that sessional period. In the circumstances, I think the best course is to clear the notice-paper of it so that the matter will once more be at large. Therefore, I ask for leave to withdraw the notice of motion.
Leave granted; notice of motion withdrawn.
– As each State of the Commonwealth has its own laws governing book censorship, and they vary widely and unfairly, has the Attorney-General given consideration to the appointment of a book censorship board on similar lines to the Film Censorship Board, which would bring about necessary uniformity in the field of book censorship? Would it be possible to have books censored while they are in the manuscript stage so that publishers may not incur the expense of printing books which might later be prohibited or withdrawn from circulation?
– Any censorship of books or films exercised by the Australian Government derives from the Commonwealth’s power over imported articles. I think that, in relation to films, there is also a further development of that power. With regard to books generally, the matter is outside the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. My own feeling is that it is a good thing that it is so.
Mr.RYAN. - I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Works and
Housing relative to the policy that appears to be adopted in regard to the acquisition of land for war service homes purposes. As an example, I quote the case of the proposed acquisition of a small property, some 9 acres in area, which has been in the possession of the owner, and his father before him, for some 80 years, and which now represents the owner’s livelihood. As considerable apprehension has been caused to the man concerned, and to orchardists and vegetable growers in the district in which he resides, will the Minister state the policy of the Government in this respect, and, in particular, whether he contemplates the acquisition of land which is being used for primary production and which represents the means of livelihood of the owners ?
– The policy in regard to the erection of war service homes is to acquire land suitable for subdivision for that purpose. An exserviceman who desires to purchase land for home building is handicapped because very little land is now being offered for sale. It is the responsibility of my department to ensure that sufficient land is available to enable forward planning to proceed to meet the requirements of the group home construction plan being developed in all States. It has not been the policy of the department to acquire land if its acquisition would deprive the owners of their means of livelihood. The property to which the honorable member has referred, the owner of which must be either an orchardist or a poultry-farmer, could probably be subdivided into 40 building blocks. He must be a very small farmer if he can obtain a living from a property of nine acres. If the Department has served an acquisition notice on such a man and the honorable member will supply me with the details, I shall examine the matter.
– I have received many letters, and constant personal representations from home owners who, during the war, let their premises either wholly or in part and who now cannot regain possession of them. Among this correspondence is a letter from an organization in Victoria, the Dispossessed Home Owners Association. This organization has records of a number of difficult and often tragic cases. Will the Minister for Works and Housing inform me whether he received a deputation from this association recently ? Can he in any way modify the housing regulations so that some of the problems may be solved and some of the present injustices overcome? Does the Minister know that many of the persons who cannot obtain possession of their homes are aged people who are suffering considerably from this deprivation? Will the Minister examine this troublesome problem ?
– I have not received a deputation from the Dispossessed Home Owners Association. The position under the Landlord and Tenant Regulations is that if the. owner of a house considers that he is suffering hardship by being deprived of occupation of it he has the right to take the matter to court. Whether the owner or the tenant would suffer greater hardship is a matter for the court to decide. Where an owner desires to obtain occupancy of his premises, the regulations ‘prescribe the conditions that he must satisfy. If the tenant contravenes certain of the regulations relating to the payment of rent, damage to property or the non-observance of the tenancy agreement, the owner can take the tenant to court. If the occupier has observed the terms of the tenancy agreement and the owner desires to obtain possession of his property, he can take the matter to court on the ground that he is suffering hardship, and the magistrate will decide the matter. After having read many records of such cases, I am of opinion that the regulations are working as equitably as possible.
– In view of the buoyancy of postal revenue, will the Treasurer discuss with the PostmasterGeneral the advisability of allowing all first-class mail to be carried by air at ordinary rates?
– The Government has already considered and rejected this proposal. If, at a later date, the PostmasterGeneral desires the Government to reconsider the position, the honorable member’s representations will be kept in mind.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Immigration to the following paragraph which appeared in the Melbourne Herald last Tuesday : -
Several of the fourteen Baltic migrant trainee nurses at the Austin Hospital are dissatisfied with conditions, including the rates of pay, and they may be offered alternative work.
Has the Minister any comment to make on that statement?
– I saw the statement to which the honorable member has referred. The cause of the Melbourne Herald’s trouble is related to the war and the unseemly brawl which is taking place in the newspaper world over the distribution of newsprint. In the eyes of the Murdoch press, everything that this Government does is wrong. I corrected a wrong impression yesterday when replying to a question which the honorable member for Fawkner based on a news item in the Melbourne Sun-News Pictorial about certain Baltic migrants who were to be employed as cane-cutters in Queensland. Last Tuesday evening the Melbourne Herald published a story that some Bait nurses employed at the Austin Hospital were dissatisfied with their wages and conditions of employment. All the fourteen nurses concerned signed the following letter and sent it to the editor of the Herald: -
The paragraph which appeared in last night’s Herald has caused us very much concern. We would like you to know we are very satisfied with conditions, and with regard to rates of pay, we are more than satisfied as nurse trainees in our country have to pay for training and board. There is no indication of any member being unhappy, and everything possible is being done to help us in our work and with our English.
The letter concludes -
If the reporter of the Melbourne Herald would take the trouble to interview us before writing such reports, we would be very pleased.
The Austin hospital authorities are perfectly satisfied with the trainees, and I repeat what I said yesterday, that not one expression of dissatisfaction has been received from any of the 1,551 Bait men and women who have been placed in employment throughout Australia. Their employers and the unions are perfectly happy with them. Why this campaign is being waged by the Murdoch press against the Bait migrants passes my comprehension. It is the duty of everybody in Australia to help every migrant, whether British or foreign, to try to become assimilated in the Australian community. Persons who propagate lying reports, such as are appearing from time to time in the Murdoch press, are doing a traitorous act to the future of this country.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs inform me what precisely is the position which must arise in a conflict, such as that now developing” in Palestine, to cause the General Assembly of. the United Nations to refer the matter to the Security Council? If, as seems likely, a decision to refer the matter to the council is reached in the near future, what immediate steps does the Australian Government propose to take in order to discharge the responsibility to which we are committed in this regard?
– The responsibility which Australia has under the charter is to carry out its duty as one of the members; that is to say, in the event of aggression or a threat to the peace and also in the event of a decision by the Security Council to apply force, then Australia, as one of the 57 members, is bound to consider providing its quota towards such a force.
– Does not the Minister know that the veto will be exercised ?
– The honorable member for Richmond is referring to an entirely different matter.
– Order ! The honorable member for Richmond did not asb this question, and I ask the Minister to ignore his interjection.
– If the Security Council does not give a decision because of the veto or for any other reason, the matter to which the honorable member for Darwin, has referred will not arise. But if it does arise, ‘ the allocation of forces h.y Australia must be dealt with by this Parliament.
Officers in the United States of AMERICA
– In view of the Prime Minister’s admission that officers of the Consul-General’s staff in New York have been in conflict with officers of the Department of Information stationed in that city and the action subsequently taken by the Government in retrenching the officer of the Department of Information who was elected president of the Australian Society in New York, I ask the Prime Minister whether he will take the necessary steps to see that the activities of the various Commonwealth departments in overseas countries are co-ordinated ? Will he inform the House whether the Australian Ambassador to the United States of America, Mr. Norman Makin, has been given the necessary authority to exercise control over all members of ‘ the Commonwealth Public Service stationed in that country ? If not, will he give consideration to issuing such necessary authority ?
– There is no association between the unfortunate trouble that occurred in the ranks of the AustralianAmerican Association in New York and certain retrenchments that have taken place in the staffs of all Australian Government departments in America. Nobody was . retrenched because of the argument that took place about who should be president of this society. The discussion occurred after office hours and referred to a matter upon which people could hold differing views. Because of the dollar shortage, there have been retrenchments in the Department of Information in New York, as in all other departments. The president of the AustralianAmerican Society in New York, Mr. O’Connor, is a gentleman of approximately 72 years of age, and it was considered that if anybody should be removed from the pay-roll, those who had passed the retiring age that operates in the Commonwealth Public Service should be the first to go. It is not my prerogative to answer that part of the honorable member’s question which relates to coordination, but never in the history of the Commonwealth has there been such coordination of the activities of government departments inside and outside Australia as exists to-day.
– Has the Prime Minister been able to obtain an agreement between the Australian Government and the State governments on the submission that boys residing in Victoria may be enabled to attend an agricultural school situated just over the Victorian border in South Australia without forfeiting certain rights that they have under the Victorian educational scheme? Is the right honorable gentleman aware of the recent agreement between the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria by which, for the purposes of education, young people receive the benefits of the State education scheme irrespective of the side of the border on which they reside?
– This matter has been the subject of correspondence and discussion. I do not think that the discussions have yet been completed. I shall cause inquiries to be made to ascertain whether a decision can be expedited.
– Can the Minister for the Interior say when I may expect an answer to the question standing in my name on the notice-paper relating to the allotment of land for pastoral leases in the Northern Territory?
– The information sought by the honorable member has been tabled to-day.
– by leave - I desire to inform the House of the progress of the five year?’ defence programme, and alao to make a statement and table a brochure on the Australian higher defence machinery. Before deciding the post-war policy outlined to Parliament on the 4th June, 1947, the Government had considered the lines on which the United Kingdom was working, and consulted it as to the directions in which measures for co-operation in British Commonwealth defence could hest bc undertaken to assist the United Kingdom in the burden which it is carrying. In the United Kingdom White Paper on Defence, 1948, the following observations are made on post-war defence policy: -
Defence policy is conditioned by the balance and inter-relationship of factors such as the economic position of the country, international and national obligations, the lessons of the last war, in particular the influence of new weapons, and an estimate of the form of a future war should it come. The conclusions reached now on any single factor may be nullified, amended or confirmed in the future as further study reveals the lessons of experience and research. Our policy must therefore be kept flexible.
As mentioned in my statement of the 4th June, the United Kingdom has laid down the following four principles relating to the supply of equipment for the post-war forces: - (a) Concentration on research; (b) the limited introduction of equipment of the most modern kind ; (c) the maximum use of accumulated stocks; and (d) the maintenance of a reasonable war potential. The importance of ensuring that first things shall come first was discussed with Field Marshal Montgomery in general principle during his visit to Australia. He then said that there should be a peace-time army which provided a base on which mobilization could be carried out in the event of an emergency. The field marshal added that the curve relating to the nature and strength of the army would depend on the progress of scientific developments relating to new weapons. From the- combined work of service and scientific staffs there will ultimately emerge a conclusion on the probable nature and methods of future warfare which will furnish a firm basis for the introduction of new weapons, and enable the future strength and organization of the forces to be determined. The Government’s post-war policy is accordingly designed to secure a balanced scheme of defence providing for the Navy, Army and Air Force, defence research and development, and munitions and supply. The realms of the three services are blended and interrelated, and their strength and organization have been determined on the following basis of the Government’s policy: - The provision of forces to enable Australia’ to fulfil its obligations under the United Nations Charter, including regional arrangements for the Pacific; participation in British Common Wealth defence; and provision for the local defence of Australia’.
The progress of the defence programme was exhaustively reviewed by the Council of Defence at its meetings on the 20th and the 2Sth April,; on the basis of reports by the three services’ and the Department of Defence and Department of S’up’ply and Development. Before making a brief analysis of the progress of the programme, I would state that the conclusion of the Council of Defence was that the progress of the programme was generally satisfactory. In assessing progress at this stage, it is essential to bear in mind the influence of factors such as - (i) Considerations relating to the transition from the interim post-war forces to the ultimate strength and organization decided upon; and (ii) the fact that it is the first years of a five-year programme when the expenditure must necessarily be below the annual average. The later years will exceed the annual average as the programme gathers impetus. To ensure expeditious and efficient executive work in carrying out the programme the council has issued two directions. First, the services and departments have been directed to take all possible steps to ensure the completion of the annual stages of the programme as planned, and the completion of the whole programme by the fifth year. Secondly, to provide for close and direct contacts between executive authorities, to avoid delays entailed by correspondence, and to bring the chief executives associated with the programme around the table together, a Defence Progress Review Committee has been created to review regularly the progress of the programme and to report to the Minister for Defence. This will enable me to examine the progress at intervals, and inform the council. It will also enable me to submit any recommendations on matters requiring action by the Government. The committee consists of the permanent heads of the Departments of Defence, Navy, Army, Air, Supply and Development, Treasury and Works; the chiefs of staff of the three services; and the ControllerGeneral of Munitions Supply. Departmental representative’s’ will keep their Ministers acquainted with the work of the com.mittee in relation to’ th’e’ir parts1 of the programme. The” permanent head of ‘ the Defence’ Department will be chairman, and the committee is authorized to co-opt cither officers as may be necessary. The Central Statistical Section’, which op’era’ted during the war for the War Cabinet and the Advisory War Council, is’ to be’ fe-e’s fa Wished in the Department of Defence1 in order that the trends’ of progress of the’ various objectives, the de tec-‘ tion of any lags’, and the co-ordination of the progress of related objectives, may readily be ascertained.
I propose now to make a brief analysis of the progress of the programme, covering financial aspects, research and development, the three services and munitions and supply.
As announced in my statement of the 4th June, 1947, on the post-war defence policy, the total amount to be provided for the post-war defence programme over five years is £250,000,000. It is important to consider the amount provided for defence in relation to the structure of the budget and the amount of the national income. Provision is made in the 1947-48 Estimates for £80,000,000 for defence and allied services, and £120,000,000 for postwar charges, or a total of £200,000,000, which, after allowance for miscellaneous credits of £32,000,000, comes to the net figure of £168,000,000. Taking the amount of £80,000,000 for defence and allied services as the comparable figure with the provision for defence in the 3939-40 pre-war estimates, which was £35,000,000, honorable members will see that the present proportion of the national income devoted to defence is 6.5 per cent, as against 4 per cent, in 1939-40. The relative amounts per capita of the population are £10 10s. in 1947-48, compared with £5 in 1939-40. As I have already mentioned, the present budget has also to provide for £120,000,000 fbr post-war charges, which were not a factor in 1939-40. Another important consideration is that, for the first time in their history, and. so far as is known, in any part of the Empire, the services have been given an assured programme over a period of five years as a basis on which the planning and authorization of expenditure in the -balanced development of the services and departments oan proceed. The first stage of the programme involves the placing of authorizations during 1947-48* to the extent of £57,000,000. Of this amount, £32,000,000 had been authorized to the 29th February, 1948, and the expenditure to that date was £15,250,000. I shall refer to the progress of authorizations and expenditure in individual departments when dealing with their respective sections of the programme.
The impact of scientific development on the types of weapons and armament for the various services is a fundamental factor in the post-war defence policy. The importance attached by the Government to defence research and development is illustrated by the provision of £33,500,000 for this purpose over five years. The’ authorizations planned to be placed in the first year total £4,000,000, of which £2,000,000 had been authorized to the 29th February, 1948. The higher defence machinery set up for defence research and development includes the Defence Scientific Advisory Committee for advice on the scientific aspect of the defence policy, and the New “Weapons and Equipment Development Committee, which has been given the task of furnishing recommendations to the Defence Committee on matters concerning the specific research and development projects to be undertaken. The Department of Defence is responsible for questions of policy in this field, and the Council of Defence has approved that the Department of Supply and Development be the responsible authority for executive action in respect of approved policy decisions, and, for this purpose, its organization will be broadly on the lines of the United Kingdom Ministry of Supply.
The Defence Scientific Advisory Committee has examined the basic problems involved in building up the type of defence science organization in Australia most likely to provide the right conditions for the. birth of new weapons and new scientific conceptions of warfare. The essence of the problem is to recruit able scientists and to provide wellequipped laboratories. Achievement in
Australia of results in defence science is therefore conditioned by the availability of scientists and facilities.
The long-range weapons project is thefirst important step in the widening of Australia’s responsibility in defence research and development in accordance with the policy of the strategic development and distribution of resources of the British Commonwealth. Consultations are proceeding with the United Kingdom Government as to the manner in which Australia can further assist in this direction. Also, a British Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Defence Science, representative of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, has been formed to consider and review defence research activities.
On the recommendation of the Defence Scientific Advisory Committee, which was endorsed by the Council of Defence, approval has been given for an examination to be made of the use of facilities at the long-range weapons establishment at Salisbury for research and development activities in a wider field of defence science.
The long-range weapons project, which is the most important individual project in hand, is a joint United KingdomAustralian undertaking, and consideration is being given to increasing the scope of the research and development work to be undertaken in Australia. Considerable work has been done at the range head at Woomera, in which the Airfield Construction Squadron has taken a prominent part. The base establishment at Salisbury, and the air establishment at Mallala, have been in operation for approximately twelve months. This project has been allotted the highest priority for man-power and materials.
In Australia, and, indeed, throughout the British Commonwealth, there is a demand for many more scientists and technicians for work in connexion with defence research and development than are at present available. The Defence Scientific Advisory Committee has given special attention to the vital problem of increasing the number of men trained in research methods. The Council of Defence has endorsed the committee’s recommendations for the intensification of the recruitment of scientists for defence work, and for an investigation to be made of how best to encourage and aid Australian universities to train an adequate number of graduates in research methods, in the faculties appropriate to defence. On the recommendation of the Defence Scientific Advisory Committee and the Council of Defence, approval has been given for the appointment of a chief scientist in the Department of Supply and Development, whose first tasks will be to stimulate recruitment of defence scientists, and to organize the setting up of facilities for defence research. Recruitment of Australian university graduates for training in United Kingdom defence establishments has commenced and, by arrangement with the United Kingdom Ministry of Supply, the first batch will shortly be allocated to various United Kingdom establishments. After a period of from one to two years in the United Kingdom, these trainees will return to Australia for appointment to appropriate government establishments.
Australia is also co-operating closely with the United Kingdom in regard to important aeronautical research. It is expected that this will lead to further dispersion of the British Commonwealth war potential, and also will strengthen Australia’s aricraft industry. The aircraft industry is closely associated with the activities of the long-range weapons organization, and the highly skilled technical men attached to the aircraft factories are being made available as may be required to assist in the development of long-range weapons so far as the aeronautical side of that project is concerned.
Funds have been appropriated for other defence research and development projects, to enable the service departments and the Department of Supply and Development to undertake work within their respective resources. These departments have also provided for the training overseas of certain of their officers in research and development activities.
Proposals are under consideration by defence authorities, in consultation with the Department of Health, for research affecting the comfort and efficiency of servicemen to be undertaken by the National Health and Medical Research Council. The main part of the work proposed is the investigation of physio- . logical factors affecting persons operating under tropical conditions, and includes medical and equipment aspects.
The total cost of the naval programme over five years is £75,000,000. The authorizations planned to be placed during 1947-48 amount to £21,693,000, of which £9,278,000 had been placed at the 29th February, 1948. In view of the further extensive authorizations to be placed shortly in respect of the first aircraft carrier, the aircraft required to be delivered during the next two years, and naval and armament stores for the air component and air stations, it is estimated that the full amount of the programme for 1947-48 will be authorized by the 30th June, 1948. The provision in the naval estimates for expenditure on the programme in 1947-48 is £13,073,000, the actual expenditure to the 29th February, 194S, being £4,849,000. On present indications, the naval authorities expect that the expenditure to the 30th June, 1948, will be approximately £3,000,000 less than the provision in the estimates. This arises primarily from the fact that extensive negotiations were necessary with the United Kingdom authorities, and investigation had to be made by the Australian naval authorities in regard to the most suitable type of carrier for the Royal Australian Navy. Accordingly, the commitment for this amount will require to be met next financial year.
It has now been decided to acquire the Majestic type of carrier, and the first one is expected to be commissioned in October or November of this year, in the United Kingdom. The main body of the ship’s company will arrive in England at the end of June in readiness for sea trials prior to the commissioning. The ship is expected to arrive in Australia in March or April, 1949. The second carrier is to be acquired during the third year of the programme in 1949-50. Progress in establishing a naval air station at Nowra is proceeding according to plan, and the station will be ready for operation on the arrival of the first carrier.
Provision is made in the naval programme for the maintenance of a nucleus ship construction and repair industry capable of expansion in time of war. Work is proceeding on the construction of two battle class destroyers, and the first destroyer, H.M.A.S. Tobruk, was launched in Sydney on the 20th December, 1947. The second, at Williamstown, is expected to be launched within the next few months. Preliminary work on another four destroyers of a later class is proceeding. This construction programme is being retarded, due to shortages of labour and material. So far as is possible, machinery and equipment for new destroyers are being made in Australia. Where this is not possible because of the time required to initiate local manufacture, or because of the highly specialized nature of certain equipment, orders have been placed in Great Britain. The repair and refitting of ships in commission and the maintenance of ships in reserve, are proceeding normally.
The strength of the Permanent Naval Forces to be achieved by the end of the five-year programme is 14,753. The present strength is 11,107. There are insufficient officers of the Permanent Naval Forces to meet planned requirements. It will be some years before numbers can be built up, as the making of experienced officers in the naval service is a long process. In the interval, use is being made of emergency and retired lists and reserve officers, supplemented by Royal Navy officers on loan. The naval authorities believe that the situation in regard to ratings is satisfactory, owing to the recruitment of men for two years’ service to tide over the demobilization period. The period of their enlistment is now expiring, and it is hoped that the improved conditions of service and provision for superannuation, will induce a large proportion of these men to re-engage for long service. An intensive recruiting campaign is being conducted to build up the permanent force, in addition to meeting wastage.
Agreement has now been reached with the United States with regard to the acquisition of American assets at Manus. The further measures necessary for the occupation and use of Manus by the Royal Australian Navy as an advanced naval base in place of Dreger have been authorized.
As I indicated in my statement to the House last June, the Government’s primary duty is to raise an army suitable for the roles which it may have to perform in meeting possible commitments under the United Nations, and co-operating in British Commonwealth defence, and local defence, and provision has also to be made for expansion in time of war. The trend in modern warfare towards a higher degree of mechanization demands higher skill and training. .A comparatively small, well-trained and well-equipped force, rather than a large number of men having only limited training, is the Government’s aim.
The total cost of the army programme over five years is £62,500,000. The authorizations to be placed during 1947-48 amount to £7,334,000, of which £5,261,000 has been authorized at the 29th February, 1948. The provision in the Army estimates for expenditure on the programme in 1947-4S is £7,092,000, the actual expenditure incurred to the 29th February, 1948, being £4,491,000. Authorizations and expenditure are proportionate to the first eight months of the financial year.
The year 1947-48 is a transition period in which the war-time land forces, which have been re-organized and designated the Interim Army, continue their transition towards their ultimate post-war structure. The size and nature of the Interim Army is related to the interim tasks at present being carried out, including the disposal of surplus war-time equipment. As these interim tasks are completed, the strengths of the relevant establishments are being reduced. The Interim Army, as such, will cease to existon the 31st December, 1948, and all fulltime duty personnel continuing to serve after that date will be either members of the Regular Army, or of the Regular Army Special Reserve. The present total strength of the Regular Army and the Interim Army is 23,199, consisting of 5,411 members of the Regular Army and 17,788 members of the Interim Army. The planned peace-time strength for the permanent forces is 19,000. As stated by the Minister for the Army to Parliament on the 23rd April, the progress of recruiting for the Regular Army is satisfactory. One thousand, three hundred and eighty-one recruits have been entered since August from civil life, and 1.462 from the Interim Army, or an average total intake of 350 a month.
The Australian post-war Army, when fully raised, will consist of the following components : -
In air warfare, quality is all-important. It is infinitely better to provide for a limited number of squadrons equipped with the most modern aircraft, and which have the support of an adequate organization for their replacement and maintenance, than to put a larger number of aircraft into the air which cannot be properly maintained or replaced in war. In the light of these principles, it was decided that sixteen squadrons should be provided and organized into a home defence organization and task force elements, as outlined in my statement in June.
The total cost of the Air Force programme over five years is £62,500,000. The authorizations planned to be placed during 1947-48 amount to £20,663,000. of which £13,016,000 had been authorized at the 29th February, 1948. The provision in Air Force estimates for expenditure on the programme in 1947-48 is £9,542,000, the actual expenditure incurred to the 29th February, 1948, being £4,224,000. These figures show that authorizations are proportionate to the first eight months of the financial year, and expenditure is slightly below the pro rata rate.
All units planned for the Permanent Air Force of sixteen squadrons will be formed before the end of this month, and will be at their planned permanent locations with the f ollowing exceptions : -
Four Citizen Air Force fighter squadrons have been formed and, by the end of April, these squadrons will be operating Mustang and training aircraft with the nucleus of Permanent Air Force personnel that is part of the establishment of all Citizen Air Force squadrons. The process of selection of the initial entry for Citizen Air Force pilots and airmen will commence before June, 1948.
Our bomber squadrons, which at the end of the war were equipped with American Liberator aircraft, which are now considered obsolete, have been completely re-armed with the British Lincoln bomber, while the fighter squadrons are completely equipped with Mustang aircraft. The transport squadrons are equipped with the well proven Dakota military transport aircraft, while the survey squadron is armed with Mosquito, aircraft. The search and rescue squadrons, which are equipped with the Catalina, have, in addition to their search and rescue functions, been trained for long range reconnaissance to seawards as their primary role. Reserves of all types of aircraft are held in various categories of storage for early use in an emergency, and a regular output, sufficient to meet the peace-time needs of the Royal Australian Air Force, is maintained from the Australian aircraft industry, to which I shall refer later.
The ultimate strength of the Royal Australian Air Force to be achieved under the programme is approximately 13,000. In July, 1947, the effective personnel strength of the Royal Australian Air Force was 11,550, but, with the cessation of the Interim Force engagements and the completion of demobilization, the present strength is 9,388. However, in response to the recent recruiting campaign, the rate of intake of recruits now exceeds the rate of personnel being demobilized, and a favorable trend in recruiting has been established.
The importance of the great air potential that exists outside the Permanent Air Force has been realized by the provision that has been made for a Royal Australian Air Force reserve. As was recently announced by the Minister for Air, the permanent or active reserve will comprise personnel immediately available for mobilization in an emergency to bring existing units to war strength and to form new units. Personnel will be taken from those who served in the 1939-45 war who are willing and able to undertake annual or periodic training. Subsequently, this reserve will be manned primarily by personnel completing engagements in the permanent and citizen forces. This reserve will te supplemented by personnel drawn from recognized aero clubs and the air training corps.
The allocation under the defence programme to the Department of Supply and Development for munitions, aircraft pro duction and other supply items, is £17,500,000 over the five years. The authorization planned to be placed during 1947-48 amounts to £3,176,000, of which £2,020,000 had been authorized at the 29th February, 1948. The provision in the Estimates for expenditure in connexion with the defence programme in 1947-48 is £3,357,000, the actual expenditure to the 29th February, 1948, being £1,090,000.
At the cessation of hostilities, Australia held large supplies of the munitions of war. It was uneconomic to maintain the munitions factories set up for this purpose at their full capacity. Certain important projects were at that date in their initial stages, including naval guns and mountings of various types, and special large gear cutting facilities. These projects have been continued, and good progress has been made. Considerable experimental work on new types of ammunition and explosives is being undertaken, and it is likely that these will, soon be in quantity production. “Work is also proceeding on certain types of normal munitions as required by the services. In addition, there is a substantial programme for the overhaul and reconditioning of service equipment, including training equipment and mobilization stocks. In order to maintain factories at a strength which could be readily expanded to war production, commercial work has been undertaken. This has assisted industry in obtaining items in short supply, examples being ball bearings and brass sheet and strip, and, in addition, has resulted in the retention of key staff.
It is the policy to retain in peace a nucleus of aircraft and aero engine manufacturing capacity in effective operating condition. This capacity will be used to meet the needs of the Royal Australian Air Force under peace-time conditions so that, in the event of emergency conditions again arising, the volume of production can be rapidly expanded. Locally manufactured Mosquito, Mustang .and Lincoln aircraft have been supplied to the Royal Australian Air Force in substantial numbers. The Mustang and Lincoln aircraft are still being produced to meet Royal Australian Air Force requirements. The Vampire jet-propelled fighter, as developed for the Royal Air Force, is being manufactured in Australia for the Royal Australian Air Force, and production is already well advanced. Concurrently, the Rolls-Royce “Neue” gas turbine engine is being manufactured J :” Australia to be fitted to the Vampire airframes.
Plant is being maintained at the highest level of efficiency, but where it i3 necessary to replace some machines by improved types which are only procurable from overseas, this can only be done as they become available. At the present time most manufacturers are quoting. for de. i very in three years. Although the building programme is small, it is, in common with other works programmes, not being maintained owing to the Commonwealthwide scarcity of labour and materials. Potential capacity is being maintained in certain annexes which were operated, during the war, by private industry.
Provision is made under the defence programme for an allocation of £1,942,000 over five years to cover plant and equipment for, and the operations of, the Bureau of Mineral Resources. In the first year, expenditure is being incurred in connexion with petroleum technology, geophysical surveys, geological surveys, mining (drilling, surveying, &c), and the investigation of resources of radio-active minerals. The actual- expenditure will, however, be conditioned to some extent by the need to conserve dollars, inability to obtain full requirements of technical staff, and time-lags associated with the procurement of certain items of plant and equipment, which, because of their technical or scientific nature, can only be obtained from overseas. To some extent, too, the acquisition of land and buildings, plant and equipment, and the procurement of scientific instruments and other supplies, have been retarded, as agreement with other governments on matters relating to the investigation of resources in State territories has not yet been reached. In consequence, it is expected that the expenditure this financial year will be about one- third of the provision in the Estimates. Steady progress, however, is being made towards the achievement of plans already formulated.
As I stated on the 4th June, 1947, to achieve a balanced defence policy it is necessary to ensure proper co-ordination of the Navy, Army and Air Force, the supply organization and the civil economy which supports the direct military effort. 1 recall that this matter in particular was raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) on a previous occasion. The basis of these plans for an emergency is the Commonwealth and departmental war books. The Commonwealth war book officer, Captain A. E. Buchanan, has recently been appointed, and is at present bringing himself up to date in post-war planning in the United Kingdom, including measures for civil defence against new types of weapons, prior to taking up his appointment here next month.
As mentioned in the Government’s policy statement last June, it would be folly to dispense with our existing weapons and production capacity until they can be replaced by others that are better. This depends on research and development and the organization of production capacity for the new types. It is important that the future developments in weapons and methods of war should be borne in mind when considering national defence, the shape and size of post-war forces, and the new problems of organization and training which they will create. Similarly to .that of the United Kingdom, Australian policy will be kept flexible. At the same time, while the completion of the objectives laid down will be vigorously pursued, according to the planned schedule of the programme, a continuous review will be maintained in regard to progress and the need for any variations that may arise.
I now propose to make a statement on the higher defence machinery and, with the permission of the House, to table a paper on its functions and organization. Copies of the latter document in the form of a brochure are being circulated for the information of honorable members, so that it will not be necessary for me to traverse it in any detail. In. my statement to Parliament last June on post-war defence policy, I referred to the Prime Minister’s proposals for improved machinery for co-operation in British Commonwealth defence, following his declaration to the Prime Ministers conference in 1946 of Australia’s willingness to make a larger contribution towards the defence of the British Commonwealth in the Pacific. I now wish to state that the Government’s proposals for United Kingdom and New Zealand representation in the Australian Government machinery for matters of co-operation in British Commonwealth defence have been agreed to by all three governments concerned. Under the approved arrangements, the High Commissioners of the United Kingdom and New Zealand will be invited to attend meetings of the Council of Defence when matters affecting those parts of the British Commonwealth are under consideration.
On the official level, the Governments of the United Kingdom and New Zealand will maintain in Australia a joint service representative and staffs who will be accredited to the Defence Department: Rear Admiral Pizey has been appointed head of the United Kingdom service liaison staff in Australia. Colonel Duff has been appointed New Zealand joint service liaison officer in Australia. The general principle in regard to representation on the official level will be that these joint service representatives will be invited to attend meetings of the Defence Committee and Chiefs of Staff Committee when matters affecting their country are under consideration. Where necessary, they may also accompany their governmental representative to the Council of Defence as advisers. Similarly, members of the staff of these joint service representatives will be invited to attend meetings of the joint service machinery subordinate to the Defence Committee and Chiefs of Staff Committee.
Reciprocal arrangements have been made for the Australian Government to be represented in the higher defence machinery of the United Kingdom and New Zealand. On the governmental level, the High Commissioners in London and New Zealand will attend meetings of the bodies corresponding to our Council of Defence when matters affecting Australia are under consideration. MajorGeneral Boase, with a small inter-service staff, has been appointed Australian defence representative in the United Kingdom, and Brigadier O’Brien has been appointed Australian defence representative in New Zealand. These officers will similarly attend meetings of the joint service machinery on their level when matters affecting this country are under consideration.
As I mentioned in my statement last June, adequate principles have been laid down by imperial conferences for cooperation in British Commonwealth defence, but the short-coming has been the lack of measures for their practical application. With the establishment of the machinery just outlined, there is now a joint . agency for the study of the problems of co-operation in the light of these principles. Our immediate and particular interest is the development of Australia as a main support area in the Pacific. This relates not only to the armed forces but also to the strategic development and distribution of the resources of the British Commonwealth. Except for research and development, which I have already dealt with, the initiative in the development of Australia’s industrial potential has been left, in the case of government factories, to the measures required for Australian defence, and, in the case of commercial industrial resources, to the influence of economic factors on private enterprise, together with the encouragement given by the Australian Government in its post-war commercial policy to the stimulation of the expansion of secondary industries.
I recall to honorable members the observations of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) on the various suggestions made at the 1946 conference for the development and distribution of the resources of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The first suggestion was -
The development of heavy industry, and in particular the shipbuilding and aircraft industries, in the Dominions, is a task to which Commonwealth countries should give the highest, priority which economic conditions will allow.
The Prime Minister pointed out that this is a policy which Australia has been pursuing, and is prepared to co-operate in to the greatest extent possible. The next suggestion was -
On strategic grounds, it is desirable to spread man-power more evenly throughout the Commonwealth. The importance in this connexion of facilitating emigration within the Commonwealth is obvious.
The Prime Minister observed that this is in harmony with the Commonwealth’s immigration policy, the transfer of people and production units in industries having originally been raised by Australia during the war.
– Does that mean that people and production units will be spread throughout the country districts, or will they be confined to cities?
– The reference is to the British Commonwealth of Nations, but that does not obviate the possibility of what the honorable member had in mind.
A further suggestion was -
The vulnerability of the United Kingdom makes it undesirable to hold there the main concentration of supplies and materials for a -Commonwealth war effort.
The Prime Minister said that the proposal for accumulation of materials and supplies in the Dominions is in keeping with the general view on dispersion cif resources. Arrangements for the production and storage of stocks is a matter for examination in regard to the details of specific proposals. This examination can be made by the machinery to which I have referred. Another suggestion at the 1946 conference was that -
The Dominions should maintain their own Service training . establishments on such a basis that they could expand quickly and easily to receive and train United Kingdom man-power in the event of war.
The Prime Minister stated that this is a matter for consideration in relation to other defence requirements, and for examination in regard to the basis on which any such arrangements would be made. The machinery to which I have referred is an appropriate body to consider this matter.
In regard to the higher defence machinery in general, as honorable members will receive a copy of the brochure, I shall confine my observations to the points made in the Prime Minister’s introductory preface to it. The Prime Minister has pointed out that the present functions of the Minister and department are an evolution from nearly 50 years’ experience of defence administration, since the establishment of the Commonwealth in 1901. The organization is therefore flexible and capable of adaptation to meet progressively the changes indicated by experience to be necessary. The United Kingdom, and more recently the United States, have appointed Ministers for Defence and created defence departments with appropriate joint service machinery. Honorable members will notice that attachment No. 4 to the brochure is a comparison of the higher defence organizations of the United Kingdom, United States of America and Australia. Their parallel nature is confirmation of the soundness of the lines on which the Australian defence organization has been developed. I should mention that the Australian Defence Department, as at present developed, stems from the basic organization originally set up by the Leader of the Opposition in 1939, when he was Prime Minister and Minisrter for Defence.
The next point underlined by the Prime Minister in his preface is the fact that the recent war emphasized a. definite trend towards the closer relation of the services through the joint service departmental machinery. This also had its counterpart in the operational sphere in the appointment of commanders-in-chief commanding naval, land and air forces, and functioning with joint staffs of the three services. The closer integration of the three services, and their unified command and employment, have involved a new conception of co-operation and strategical employment. Another important feature was the development of machinery to provide a link between the commander of the unified forces and the Government. All of these trends are indicated in the charts of organization.
Next, the whole matter of post-war defence policy is affected by the impact of scientific development on the types of weapons and armament for the various services. Prominence has been given by the Government to research and development in its post-war policy, and a new feature of the higher defence machinery is its expansion in this direction.
Finally, special reference is made by the Prime Minister to the following basic principles arising from the Prime Ministers conference in 1946, to which the machinery for co-operation in British
Commonwealth defence should conform : -
It is important to bear in mind the principle of standardization of organization that has been laid down by an Imperial Conference. The development during the war of the machinery for the higher direction of the war efforts of the members of the British Commonwealth of Nation’s and the Allies, and the trend towardsthe closer integration of the three services and their unified command, have emphasized its importance. The provisions of the Charter of the United Nations relating to the military requirements for the maintenance of peace and security, and the employment and command of forces placed at the disposal of the Security Council, also confirm the soundness of this principle.
I conclude by stating that, on the unanimous suggestion of the three chiefs of staff, the Prime Minister has approved of the (permanent head of the Defence Department, Sir Frederick Shedden, being also chairman of the Defence Committee. This will provide a continuous link between the committee, which is the advisorybody on defence policy,and the administrative machinery. This close link is of special importance, in view of the widening of the functions of the Defence Committee to embrace matters of co-operation in British Commonwealth defence, in which important considerations of high level policy are involved, and with the development of which the permanent head has been actively associated for some years.
I lay on the table the following papers : -
That the papers be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 28th April (vide page 1186), on motion by Dr. Evatt-
That the bill be nowread a second time.
Upon which Sir Earle Page had moved, by way of amendment -
That all the words after “That”he 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 -
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.”
– in reply - I do not wish to traverse matters that were dealt with as the debate proceeded, but the two bills under consideration are of great importance and there are some matters to which I think I should refer. The first point made was that the Government possessed no specific mandate from the people for the introduction of this legislation. It has been shown by several honorable members on this side of the House that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) referred to this very matter in his election speeches and in at least one very important speech.
– Which one was that?
– It was the speech quoted in the debate by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). In addition, it is a fact that a number of speakers on the Government side of the House, including myself, have advocated this increase of the number of members of the House of Representatives. I submit, therefore, that on that ground it is not possible fairly to complain of the Government’s action in introducing this legislation.
A very important point was that this proposal tends to reduce the proportionate weight of the less populous States. Omitting the case of Tasmania, which is a very special one, I do not consider that there is much substance in that point. The over-all increase of representation in the new Parliament as proposed will be 64.5 per cent, and the increase of the representation of the individual States will be 68 per cent, for New South Wales, 65 per cent, for Victoria, 75 per cent, for Queensland, 67 per cent, for South Australia, and 64 per cent, for Western Australia. It is in the case of Tasmania that the point is best illustrated. That position results solely from the fact that under the Constitution at present there is, in relation to the House of Representatives, a rigid system of allocation of seats to States which would, if it were applied to Tasmania, give that State less representation than the five members of the House of Representatives now provided for.
– It would give three seats.
– It would give something a little less or more than three. That provision was inserted in the Constitution to guarantee a minimum number of members for Tasmania. First, it is only in connexion with Tasmania that the point can be made at all, and secondly, Tasmania will have exactly the same increase of senators as the larger States. The number will be increased from six to ten. If a solution of that problem is desired, it will have to be found by some additional guaranteed minimum. The matter should not be approached in connexion with this bill.
A great deal of the argument in opposition to the bill rests not upon the fairness and justice of or the necessity for the bills but upon the existence of certain constitutional restrictions that bind the Parliament. The argument that was perhaps given most prominence was that the ratio between the number of members of this House and the number of members of the Senate fixed by the Constitution should be modified, the present position being that the number of members of this House has to be, as nearly as possible, twice the number of senators. Looking at the problem in the abstract, apart from the struggle that led to the framing of the Constitution, there might be something in that argument. In general, it should not, I suppose, be a rule of constitutional law or practice that the popular House should always bear such a numerical relationship to the Senate as is provided by our Constitution. What honorable members criticizing this provision have completely forgotten is that it was inserted deliberately for the protection of the Senate if a dispute arose between the House of Representatives and the Senate under section 57 of the Constitution, by which a double dissolution and a joint meeting of the two Houses following upon that double dissolution could be brought about. It is in relation to section 57 that we must measure the importance of the provision requiring the number of members of this House to be approximately double the number of members of the Senate. The proposal contained in the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) is that section 24 of the Constitution should be amended in order to eliminate the necessity for any relationship between the number of members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives. That proposal is a very interesting one and, in the abstract, might- be considered to be of some significance, but, it would completely destroy the balance set up by section 57 of the Constitution, which provides, in substance, that there may be a double dissolution if a bill introduced in this House is rejected by the Senate. If, after a certain period, the same process takes place and the bill is again rejected by the Senate, then the GovernorGeneral may order a double dissolution, that is, a dissolution of the two Houses. If there is a further disagreement after that double dissolution, provision is made for a joint sitting of the two Houses, and it is only in the case of an absolute majority of the two Houses so constituted in joint session that the bill in dispute can be submitted to the Governor-General for the royal assent. To alter the relationship between the two Houses provided in clause 24 of the Constitution would be completely to alter the intention of section 57 that there should be a balance of numbers between the two Houses of approximately two to one.
– That provides some protection for the less populous States.
– As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) says, that is a protection devised for the benefit of the less populous States, which are represented in the Senate equally with the more populous States. There was a great constitutional struggle over sections 57 and 24. The Parliament of the colony of New South “Wales was most anxious to avoid the proportional requirement contained in section 24, because it thought it would be unfair to the more populous colonies. My point - and I submit it is not answerable - is that once that provision is altered it will be necessary to turn to section 57 and to decide whether the provision for an absolute majority in the joint session following the double dissolution should be retained. Step by step, by the alterations of the Constitution that have been suggested here and which in themselves are very interesting and important, we should reach the stage where all these provisions relating to the Commonwealth Parliament should be reviewed. Whatever may be said about them, I submit that they can hardly be considered as directly relevant to the main purpose of this bill.
Connected with that point and, I submit, giving a further illustration of the weakness or inapplicability of some of the arguments against the bill, is the argument that before the system of proportional representation is established in connexion with the Senate there must or should be a double dissolution. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) suggested that, but he qualified his suggestion, quite correctly, by adding that it- should be according to the existing constitutional limitations, that is, we should have to look at section 57, which deals with a double dissolution, and be sure we were following it. Other honorable members did not make that qualification. There has been a considerable body of press comment in favour of proportional representation. Looking at the history of the Senate since federation and seeing the tremendous disparity at times between the number of senators cf each party who were returned and the votes cast for those parties, one is driven to seek some solution such as proportional representation, and I think there is hardly any opposition to it from either side of the House. Then the question arises as to how it should be introduced? There are 36 members of the Senate at present, and we must increase that number by 24 so that it will be equal to one-half of the enlarged House of Representatives. The addition of 24 senators would result iii a Senate of 60 members as compared with 120 or 121 members of this House. It has been suggested that we should start with a clean slate and allow the whole of the sitting membership of the Senate to be submitted to the people for re-election. The answer to that plainly is that it is constitutionally impossible. Constitutionally that would be a monstrosity. It could not be applied because of the terms of section 57. A double dissolution cannot occur except in conformity with section 57 of the Constitution, which requires a repeated disagreement between the House of Representatives and the Senate on a bill.
– Unless the Constitution is amended as proposed by the right honorable member for Cowper.
– The second proposal of the right honorable member for Cowper is that consideration of the bill be postponed pending a referendum on the alteration of the requirements of the Constitution in relation to a double dissolution. Acceptance of the right honorable gentleman’s proposal would not obviate the need foi- compliance with the provisions of section 57, alteration of which is properly a matter for consideration at a general review of the Constitution.
– Surely it is very relevant to this matter.
– It is relevant in a general way. The right honorable gentleman’s argument, taken to logical lengths, is that an alteration’ of the Constitution should precede legislative proposals, which, if made in another way, would be inhibited by the Constitution.
– It has taken 48 years to introduce this proposal to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives.
– No one knows better than the right honorable gentleman how’ difficult it is to alter the Constitution. Apart from the referendum on the Financial Agreement, referendums have seldom been approved. In 1944, the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Australian Country party, and the Premiers and Leaders of the Oppositions in the States agreed to a transfer of powers from the States to the Commonwealth, but because of political controversy the change did not come about. It would be impossible, I submit, to postpone this proposal until after the Constitution had been altered as suggested. Moreover, I do> not agree for a moment that the alterations proposed are warranted.
– “Would alteration of the Constitution as proposed by the right honorable member for Cowper enable anygovernment that wanted a double dissolution to adopt the manoeuvre of simplyaltering the electoral system and thereby nullify the provisions of the Constitution which safeguard the States?
– The right honorable gentleman proposes an alteration of the Constitution “ to provide for a double dissolution of the Senate and House of Representatives when any general increase or decrease of the number of senators is to be made “. If it were proposed to increase the size of either House - and one must accompany the other - there would have to be a double dissolution and that might lead to a manoeuvre to obtain a double dissolution.
– It would, destroy the provisions of the Constitution safeguarding the rights of the States.
– That is a great bogy to raise. I am too wise to fall for that.
– I do not raise any bogy. I am dealing with the issue more broadly. A proposal supported by many honorable members and a section of the press is that in order to institute proportional representation we should have a double dissolution. I think the impossibility of that under the Constitution will be admitted ; a government cannot, under section 5, deliberately manufacture a dispute between the two Houses as a prerequisite to a double dissolution. To do so, it would be necessary to assume the rejection by the Senate where the Government has a greater majority than it has in this House of a bill sent to it for its concurrence by the House of Representatives, and a repetition of that process after three months, and for the Government then to advise the Governor-General to grant a double dissolution. A purely fictitious dispute would have been created and no double dissolution could possibly be granted on that basis. This idea, which has been put forward by certain honorable members opposite, is not new. When the House debated proportional representation on the 24th. June, 1937, an interesting exchange took place between the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who was then honorable member for Echuca. I think my point will be made sufficiently if I read a few sentences from the Ilansard of that date. The report appears on page 361 of volume 153. The honorable member for Werriwa pointed out that there were 33 non-Labour senators and only three Labour senator? at that time, which is the reverse of the situation now. Referring to the system of proportional representation, he said -
Consequently members o’ the Country party have sought to devise a system which will enable them to hold some of the seats which they would otherwise lose. And they pretend to be so generous about it! They say they want to give the Labour party a chance. The honorable member for Echuca dwelt upon the representation the Labour party would have obtained had a system of proportional representation been in operation at the last elections. I ask him now whether he is prepared to support a proposal whereby the whole 30 senators will face the electors at the forthcoming elections, so that the whole Senate may bie elected under a system of proportional representation.
The then honorable member for Echuca interjected, “ Don’t be funny ! “, which shows no approval of the suggestion and, in fact, rather suggests that the honorable member for Werriwa was putting before the House something so preposterous that it should not be seriously considered. The honorable member for Werriwa then said -
Of course the honorable member will not agree. He wants to keep the seventeen seats which hie party and its allies now hold-
That was seventeen out of the eighteen seats that would be vacant at the next Senate election- - and wants the other nineteen to be contested under the proportional representation system.
The honorable member for Echuca said -
They will all come under the same system within another three years.
That is an exact description of the situation to-day. It is quite analogous. The argument advanced by the honorable member for Indi then was constitutionally sound. A double dissolution could not be caused under those conditions and the proposal of the honorable member for Werriwa could not be put into effect. My second point is that a suggestion from the Labour party then that au attempt should be made to do what some honorable gentlemen opposite want us to do now, was greeted as fantastic. Indeed, the term of those senators who are not due to face the electors until 1953 would be truncated from six to three years, although the Constitution provides that they shall be elected for six years. The Leader of the Opposition said that this plan might be justified in some aspects but should be accompanied by a reduction of the size of State parliaments, which, he said, have far too many members relative to the population. The answer is clear. That is entirely a matter governed by State constitutions and legislatures. I do not see how the Australian Government could take the initiative in that matter without infringing the rights of the State parliaments. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) argued that the enlargement of the Parliament was quite unnecessary because of the limited powers of the Commonwealth. It has been shown during the war and since that the powers of the Australian Parliament are expanding, although the subject-matters have not been enlarged. The defence power has been exercised to a degree enormously greater than in World War I. and the responsibilities of the Parliament are therefore enlarged. There is no substance in the point taken by the honorable member for Barker. It is fair to point to other legislatures such as that of Canada, where in the popular house the membership is far larger than that of this House now or as proposed.
– The reverse applies in the United States of America. Members of the House of Representatives there represent far more constituents than we do.
– That is because of the great population of the United States of America. In the House of Representatives of the United States of America there are 43’5 members. If the enlargement of that- House were in ratio to the population on a basis comparable to that proposed in Australia it would make that House a popular gathering rather than an assembly. The final point made in connexion with this bill by several members of the Australian Country party, and I think the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), was that there should be greater representation of rural areas. That is really a matter for application of the provision contained in the Commonwealth Electoral Act that redistribution of seats can take place with a margin of 20 per cent, greater or less than the quota fixed according to the Constitution and the act. I think that in applying that system regard has been paid to the special position of rural areas. I submit that as a general rule, subject to few exceptions, the democratic principle is that the vote of citizens should have equal value wherever they live.
– Their representatives carry the same responsibilities.
– Yes. It is difficult to accept the principle found in the Victorian Legislative Assembly where the balance in favour of rural electorates was weighted to a completely undemocratic extent”.
– The system of granting rural electorates consideration has applied universally since federation.
– The right honorable gentleman is correct. I have not studied country constituencies, in detail but it does seem that they have been given an appreciable margin so that they have fewer electors on the average than city electorates.
– There are no country electorates consisting of 80,000 electors as there are metropolitan.
– The honorable member illustrates my point.
– There is no city electorate of 80,000 square miles either.
– Members represent constituents, not areas.
– The right honorable member for Cowper has advanced an argument based on area. It is more important in my opinion that each elector’s vote should have the same value.
– Taxation laws discriminate in favour of rural areas.
– The right honorable member knows that certain concessions are given to those engaged in rural pursuits. That is very significant and very important.
– They are given in certain areas.
– Those concessions are given to country residents because of the difficulties that they face.
– Order ! 1 cannot see that taxation has anything to do with the matter before the Chair.
– No. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) said that he favoured proportional representation, but proposed - and I think he was supported by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) - that the Senate should be elected, not by the electors of the State, but by the members of the legislative assemblies of the States. That is an indirect method of electing the Senate by proportional representation. He said that in the Constitution of the United States of America such a provision was originally included. That is correct, and it survived until 1911 or 1912. Then, during the administration of President Woodrow Wilson, the Constitution was altered to abolish the system of indirect election, and to substitute the method of direct election by the people. It had been found that, in many instances, indirect election by legislative assemblies of the States led to the exertion of pressure by local interests, and, in some instances, to corruption. Therefore, it was decided to adopt the democratic system of straight-out election by the people.
– In Australia, casual vacancies in the Senate are filled by appointments by the Parliaments of the State in which the vacancies occur.
Lr. EVATT.- Yes, but the people liav’3 the opportunity to express their opinion at the first ensuing election. I submit that the case put forward by the Government has been made good so far as the method of electing the Senate is concerned. The attack on the principle of proportional representation has been confined to the matters I have mentioned. The Government based its case on the broad fact that there has been a great increase of population in Australia since the number of members of the House of Representatives was first fixed, and it is proper and fitting that the situation should be dealt with in the method proposed in the bill now before the House.
I have also dealt in passing with the amendment proposed by the right honorable member for Cowper. It contains proposals which, in themselves, might merit the attention of aconstitutional convention, but they should not be used in order to delay or defeat this hill.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be loft out (Sir Earle Page’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided.
Ayes . . . . . . 32
Noes . . . . . . 25
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for anact to increase the number of senators and for other purposes.
The appropriation recommended in the Governor-General’s message is required for the purposes of clause 7 of the bill. The Parliamentary Allowances Act fixes the date from which the salaries of senators are reckoned, and makes provision for the appropriation necessary to pay them from that date. In its present form the relevant section, section 4, of that act, covers only the following three classes of senators: - (a) Senators elected following a double dissolution; (b) senators chosen to fill periodical vacancies; and (c) senators chosen to fill casual vacancies. The newly created places in the Senate do not fall into any of the categories mentioned and it will therefore be seen that section 4 of the Parliamentary Allowances Act will not cover senators chosen to fill those places. Clause 7 of the bill makes provision for the date from which the salaries of the senators elected to fill the newly created places shall be reckoned, and the appropriation recommended is required for that purpose.
. -As the Government has publicly announced that it proposes to provide for the election to the House of Representatives of a representative of the Australian Capital Territory, which I understand must be dealt with by a separate bill, will the Attorney-General indicate whether the Government has also given consideration to the representation of the Territories of Papua and New Guinea, the residents of which have a vital interest in legislation passed by this Parliament, but have no effective voice in this chamber as it is at present constituted? I believe that there is a much greater need for representation of the residents of territories such as Papua and New Guinea than of those of the Australian Capital Territory. I do not at this stage desire to submit a case for or against such representation; but I should like to know whether the Government has yet considered, or whether it will undertake to consider, the representation of those outlying areas when the bill to provide for representation of the Australian Capital Territory is being drafted prior to its introduction in this House.
– No consideration has been given to the matter raised by the honorable member. I shall, however, bring his representations to the attention of responsible Ministers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and- by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definitions).
– In another committeea few moments ago the Attorney-General correctly stated that there isno definition in the existing legislation which would accurately describe the senators who will be appointed to fill the four new vacancies which will occur next year. References have been made to casual vacancies, long casual vacancies and short casual vacancies. Does not the Attorney-General think that it might be well to take this opportunity to describe the class of senator who will be elected to fill the four vacancies in the Senate which will be created by this bill?
– Provision is being made, not for a new class of senator, butfor a senator holding office in an unusual manner from the standpoint of time. It is unnecessary to add to the clause a definition which might only cause difficulty and complexity in legislation which already has a certain degree of complexity.
Clause agreed to.
From and including the day of the first meeting of the Parliament after the first dissolution of the House of Representatives occurring after the commencement of this Act, the number of senators for each State shall be ten.
– I move -
That the Word “ ten “ be left outwith a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “six “.
I do not “wish to labour this proposal as I dealt adequately with it in the secondreading debate.
– I rise to order. If the amendment were agreed to the present number .of senators would be retained. The House has already decided to increase the number of senators. I submit that, after such a decision has been made, it is not in order for an honorable member to propose in the committee an amendment which states in substance that the number of senators shall not be increased or decreased.
The .CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).The amendment cannot be accepted. A decision to increase the number of senators has been reported to and adopted by the House.
– The decision of the House was that it approved of the second reading of a bill designed to increase the number of senators. The number of senators to be selected from each State has not yet been determined. All that the House has agreed to is that the number of senators shall be increased. If the right honorable member for Cowper so desires he may move for the insertion of the word “ eight “ in lieu of the word “six”. His amendment for the insertion of the word “ six “ in place of the word “ ten “ is purely negative.
.- This clause makes provision for the increase of the number of senators to represent each State from six to ten. Although we have dealt with this matter to some degree in the second-reading debate, the discussion of this clause provides an opportunity to traverse some of the arguments used by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to justify the proposed increase. Those arguments were utterly unconvincing and were too flimsy to support a major constitutional change of this kind. The first comment I make is in relation to his suggestion that our senators at present have to represent so large a number of constituents that they are overworked. I believe he quoted the proportion of representation as one senator for every 132,787 persons in the Commonwealth. I ask the right honorable gentleman to take his attention outside Australia for a moment - he did not hesitate to ask us to do so when presenting his case - not to Canada or to Great Britain, but to the United States of America, where the Senate nol only enjoys tremendous prestige, hut also exercises great political authority. “ The population of the United States of America is approximately twenty times as great as our own, but the Senate in that country consists of only 96 members, or approximately one and a half times the number proposed in this legislation. Yet the United States Senate is able to give such effective representation to the needs of the constituencies of that great country as to enjoy a reputation as an upper chamber second to none in the world. We have been told that the representation of one senator for every 132,787 persons imposes a heavy task on senators generally. In the United State9 of America two senators are elected from each of the 48 great and powerful States. Two senators may each represent 1,800,000 voters in the State of Pennsylvania, 2,500,000 people in the State of New York, 1,400,000 in California, and 1,275,000 in Ohio - to take only some illustrations. Obviously, it is not the size of the chamber or the number of persons who are to be represented which determines the quality and character of that house of review. What Australia needs it not so much an increase of the number of senators as that the Senate itself should exercise the functions which the Constitution designed for it. In this chamber in recent days we have said some very harsh things about the Senate. That, at least, is how honorable senators would interpret our remarks. It has been alleged, for example, that there is no justification for this substantial increase on the score that senators are overworked. I believe that that is substantially true. Individual senators .may have a good deal of work because of their close association with, for example, the activities of the Trades Hall Councils. In the situation that exists to-day when only three senators represent the whole of the Opposition forces, those honorable senators undoubtedly find that the representations made to them from all over the Commonwealth impose a heavy task upon them. They provide the sole representation in the Senate of the viewpoint that honorable members on this side of this chamber express. But, by and large, no senator can reasonably claim that his duties are very exacting. If, as I believe to be the case*- and I say this with no pleasure - the Senate has fallen in the esteem of the people and enjoys so little prestige that the Labour party has seen fit to adopt in its platform a proposal for the abolition of the Senate, honorable senators themselves must take a great deal of the blame upon their own shoulders. If senators, who are elected to safeguard the interests of the less populous States, had carried out their functions properly, they would have indicated their independence of mind and would have accepted much greater responsibility in the working of the Parliament. However, they have proved to be merely a part of the parliamentary party to which they belong and they record dutifully the decisions reached in the party rooms. They tend to become mere rubber stamps for the party decisions. Senators have thus lost their identity, their intended characteristics, and that real independence which would have commanded the respect of the Australian people.
If honorable members will examine this matter from another viewpoint, they will find that a great deal of the prestige of the “United States Senate has been established by the committee work which that chamber performs, and which is carried out, not in association with members of the House of Representatives, but by committees formed by senators themselves. At one period within my recollection the Australian Senate had a regulations and ordinances committee which reviewed regulations promulgated by the Government. That committee, I have no doubt, performed useful work, but no similar committee is functioning at present. It would be the considered view of the Austraiian people that the Senate to-day is not discharging the useful and important function for which the framers of the Constitution designed it, and none of the explanations which have so far been made justifies the great proportional increase of senators that this bill proposes.
How else, then, could the Government have dealt with this problem? The answer was supplied by the right honorable mem- ber for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in the amendment which he moved to the motion for the second reading of the bill. We agree that the Constitution provides that the Senate must be as nearly as practicable one-half the size of the House of Representatives, and, therefore, any increase of the number of members of the House of Representatives must be accompanied by a proportionate increase of the number of senators. But there is no obstacle to prevent the Government from seeking a constitutional alteration which will dispense with that obligation. The reply which the Attorney-General gave to the right honorable gentleman for Cowper was at once ingenuous and revealing. He said in effect, “You know how difficult it is to persuade the Australian people to agree to alterations of the Constitution “. That difficulty has not discouraged either the right honorable gentleman or the Government from submitting to the people during the last few years many proposals for alterations of the Constitution. The Attorney-General’s statement was extraordinary and noteworthy, particularly as it came from a man who prides himself on his democratic outlook, and who espouses the democratic principles of majority rule and majority control when he goes abroad. Is he so distrustful of the majority will of the people of Australia that he is not prepared to allow them to vote on an issue of this kind? Suppose the people did reject the proposal. All that they would have done would be to record their will on that particular submission. If the people rejected a constitutional alteration of that kind, they would merely be making quite evident and formal what is now equally evident but not so formal, that is, their opposition to any substantial increase of the size of the Senate or the House of Representatives along the lines proposed by the Government. Only yesterday the AttorneyGeneral condemned the use of power politics in international affairs. What is this proposal but the exercise of power politics within Australia - an attempt to ram down the throats of the people of this country important constitutional changes without allowing them to express their views thereon? So honorable members should not agree to this clause.
They should insist that the people be allowed to say whether they are in favour of such an increase of the number of senators. Perhaps, the Constitution in its present form is” an obstacle to the Government’s policy, and it is, perforce, following this course. Even so, the remedy is in the hands pf the Government, and finally in the hands of the people. Any government which, knowing public opinion on this matter, refuses to allow the people an opportunity to vote upon it, is denying and frustrating the democratic principles on which it claims to live and breathe.
.- The remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) should not be allowed to pass unchallenged, and I desire to direct attention to two aspects of the arguments which he has advanced. The first is his assertion that the Senate should be made analogous to the United States of America Senate in regard to its investigatory powers. The second is the false statement that the Government is proposing a constitutional alteration. Regarding the first statement, I believe that it is unrealistic to imagine that we can, by an act of Parliament, convert the Australian Senate into an investigating organization. The American Senate has great powers of investigation because it possesses special constitutional authority. For example, it has special constitutional powers in relation to foreign policy. There is in the Constitution of the United States of America a complete division between the legislative power and the executive power. The President and his cabinet are not responsible to either house of the legislature, and consequently, some means has to be provided whereby the legislature can investigate the acts of the Administration. The investigatory powers of the American Senate are an outgrowth of a Constitution founded upon the separation of powers, but. that situation does not exist in Australia, and we cannot artificially create great investigatory powers in the Australian Senate in the absence of great constitutional powers similar to those of the American Senate. As the Australian Senate does not possess those special constitutional powers over foreign policy and finance, it will never develop into an investigatory chamber.
The other statement of the honorable member for Fawkner to which I shall refer was that the Government is proposing a constitutional change. It is not. Section 27 of the Constitution provides that, subject to the whole Constitution, the Parliament may pass laws to alter the number of members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate. The Parliament will pass this bill in accordance with that section. The Constitution imposes upon this Parliament the responsibility to determine the number of members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate, but it provides that the size of the Senate must be as nearly as practicable one-half of the size of the House of Representatives. That provision was inserted in the original Constitution, and the Government is merely passing legislation on accordance with it. The Government is not proposing a constitutional change. When the honorable member for Fawkner implied that, somehow, behind the backs of the people, a constitutional alteration was being made, he was entirely incorrect.
.- In coming to the rescue of the Government, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), espouses causes which in his heart he does not believe in, because outside the House he advocates an entirely different course. With his usual facility, he has endeavoured to show that the Government is merely carrying out the letter and spirit of the Constitution. The honorable member has not yet been deterred by any effort to alter the Constitution when the proposal suited the policy of the Labour party. In fact I have no doubt that in the next few weeks-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order! I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to the clause.
– The Government would not regard as impossible a constitutional change involving the abolition of the Senate, or a decrease of the number of senators. The honest course for the Government to take, in view of its own policy, is to submit to the people a proposal for an alteration of the Constitution providing for the abolition of the Senate, or a variation of the present ratio of senators to the number of members of the House of Representatives. Section 24 of the Constitution provides that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be as nearly as practicable double the number of members of the Senate. That provision was inserted in the Constitution in 19’00-01 for a definite purpose. Had it not been included, it is doubtful whether some of the States would have entered the federaton. The less populous States in particular were afraid that they would sacrifice their sovereignty to the central Government. However, the Constitution was drafted nearly 50 years ago, and this Parliament need not be married irrevocably to the past. The Labour party at times has shown a disposition not to be so married, because it has submitted numerous referendums to the people on a variety of subjects. A few of the referendums were successful, but most of the proposals have been rejected by the people. Despite these failures, the Government has not been deterred from attempting to secure what it believes to be a necessary and important change in the Constitution. Why does it adopt a different policy now? There can be only one answer. This is a political trick in order to consolidate the Labour party in power in an improper way for the purpose of defeating the will of the people.
– Order ! The honorable member is making a secondreading speech.
– That is not so.
– Order ! The clause under consideration provides that the number of senators for each State shall be ten, and the honorable member’s remarks must be related to that issue.
– The clause states clearly that, “ after the commencement of this act, the number of senators for each State shall be ten”. I am endeavouring to show reasons why the number of senators for each State should not be ten, and, perhaps, why the Senate should be abolished. The only way in which I can fortify my arguments is to show the means within the limits of the Constitu tion for reducing the number of senators, and, if necessary, for the abolition of the Senate.
– Order! I rule that the honorable member must keep his. arguments within the limits of the clauseas well as within the limits of the Constitution.
– If I am to show-
– Order ! The honorable member may refer only to thenumber of senators to be elected.
– I may desire toshow that there will, not be any necessity to elect ten senators for each State. If I am to keep my remarks within the prescribed limits, I must show the meanswhich should be adopted, say, for the abolition of the Senate. However, I have made my point, and I shall not pursue that line of argument.
At this stage, it is pertinent to ask why the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is in charge of this bill, and not the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), who administers the electoral machinery. The Attorney-General stated that the work of honorable senators had increased to such a degree that the present number could not possibly cope with it. Any one with a knowledge of the position would recognize the absurdity of that statement. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) compared the responsibilities of the Australian Senate with those of the United States Senate. The 13,000,000 people of the State of New York are represented by two senators, which means that each of them represents almost as many people as there are in- the whole of Australia. Nevertheless it is said that in Australia one senator cannot represent more than about 160,000 people. That contention is absurd. It is not to the credit of the Attorney-General, who is the Australian representative at the United Nations, that he has advanced such a specious argument. The least that the right honorable gentleman can do is to give an honest dissertation on this matter and to say that if it is desired to have 120 members in the House of Representatives it is impossible, under the Constitution, to have less’ than ten senators from each State. If he said that, we should understand it and appreciate his honesty.
– That is what I said.
– The right honorable gentleman said many other things in addition to cover up the intentions of his party which do it no credit.
– Other people should be given credit for honesty.
– I should like to give honorable members opposite some credit for honesty, but, in view of the bill now before the House, it is difficult to do so. I am opposed to this proposal to increase the number of senators by 66 per cent. All that the Government is proposing to do is to add to the public salary list 24 more pensioners. In view of what every honorable member of this committee knows of the duties of senators to-day, how can this increase be justified? It might be possible to justify it if the senators were engaged in useful parliamentary work or if the Senate were in fact a chamber of review, as it was originally intended to be. It is not a chamber of review. During the ten years that I have been a member of this Parliament hardly any measure forwarded to the Senate has been substantially amended in that chamber. It is true that on occasions the Senate has frustrated the lower house, but in my experience of this Parliament - and during that time the parties now in opposition had a majority in the Senate - the Senate has performed no useful function as a house of review. Nevertheless, in order to increase the size of the House of Representatives, the Government proposes to load the unfortunate people of Australia with a burden of taxation so that senators, who could well be disposed with, may be retained in office. It is recognized that the only reason for the increase is to comply with the provisions of section 24 of tins Constitution. Honorable members on this side of the chamber therefore, suggest that a referendum should be held in order to determine whether the people wish the present numerical ratio of one House to the other to continue. In my opinion, there is no case for the proposed increase and I shall vote against it.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) stated that it was well known that outside this chamber I have made speeches in opposition to this measure. That was a complete misrepresentation. Insofar as the honorable member referred to my attitude in caucus, that could only have been an invention. I have never made a speech in opposition to this bill outside this chamber, and I have never opposed it at any meeting of the Labour party.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable gentleman consider that he has been misrepresented ?
– I was- misrepresented in the personal explanation just made by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). I made no mention in my speech of anything that the honorable gentleman may have said in caucus.
– Most of what the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has said with regard to this clause has, like the flowers that bloom in the spring, nothing to do with the case. The purpose of this bill is, as everybody in the country knows, to increase the size of the Parliament. To increase the size of the House of Representatives it is necessary first of all to enlarge the Senate. That provision was written into the Constitution by the men who framed it, and it was understood by the people who voted federation into existence 47 years ago. To pick out this particular clause, to say there is something sinister in it and that the Government proposes to do something for which it has no mandate, is unfair and improper. The Government proposes to increase the number of senators from each State from six to ten in order that the House of Representatives may be more truly representative of the nation. The Senate must be enlarged if the size of the House of Representatives is to be increased. It is proposed to increase the number of senators elected by each State from six to ten and every three years, when half the members of the Senate retire, five senators from each. State will be included in the number. The Government could have increased the number from six to eight, but that would have meant that at each State election after the next one only four senators from each State would have retired. If the people of each State then had to elect four senators under a system of proportional representation and if there was not a great landslide one way or the other, the elections could result in a stalemate. The Government did not want a stalemate in the Senate, and therefore decided to propose that the number should be increased from six to ten so that one party would obtain a majority in that chamber, and so that if the will of the people as expressed in the election for the House of Representatives were reflected in the Senate - and that doe; not always follow - a stalemate would not occur.
The members of all parties are pledged to the electors on this question of an increase of the size of the Parliament. For many years the Labour party campaigned for it, and three days before the last general election the Prime Minister made a very clear and definite promise to the people at a press conference. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party went on record on this issue in their policy speeches. The speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) negatives all that has been said to-night by the honorable member for Richmond.
– I rise to order. The Minister is about to quote from what is alleged to have been the policy speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party. The committee is now discussing the question of increasing the number of senators elected by each State from six to ten. I submit that what the Minister proposes to do is out of order and that he should confine himself strictly to the point at issue.
– Order ! I am pleased to know that the honorable member for Richmond has at last discovered what we are talking about. I think the Minister is near to the mark.
– If the honorable member for Richmond and his colleagues will listen to the extract that I propose to quote they will realize that it is quite apposite to a discussion on this clause. The Leader of the Australian Country party said -
I cordially agree with Mr. Menzies with respect to the increased membership of the Parliament. As the only way it can bc carried out under the Constitution is by increasing the number of senators-
I think I am very much on the mark on this particular point - we believe that such increase will give a new opportunity for putting into practical effect a continuous policy of proportional representation for that chamber.
That was the policy of the Australian Country party at the last general election. Not only did the right honorable member for Darling Downs argue in favour of proportional representation, but he also went on record as affirming his support for an enlargement of the Senate. The right honorable gentleman said he saw something very desirable in the proposal to increase the size of the Senate, because it provided an opportunity for the introduction of proportional representation. Honorable members opposite cannot have it both ways. They cannot have a pre-election and a post-election policy with regard to this matter. They cannot now say that when the Government proposes to give effect to the very thing that they have advocated it is actuated by some sinister motive and that it ought to submit the question to the people at a referendum. The people have expressed a view. They have elected to> this Parliament members of three political parties, and each of these parties is pledged to this very policy to which the Government is giving effect. What need is there for a referendum when every party has said the same thing to the electors on this issue? Why do honorable members opposite want a referendum on this issue ? Why are they “ squibbing it ? ‘r Why are they running away from this problem? To hold a referendum in order to decide whether each State should return six or ten senators would be to make a farce of democracy. If there is any validity in their present contention, on every occasion when, for instance, a tariff item or an international agreement with regard to wheat was discussed by the Parliament, honorable members opposite would be entitled to ask for a referendum on that particular matter of policy before the Parliament gave effect to what is believed to be the will of the people. The elected representatives of the people must take their courage in their hands, do what they consider to be the right thing, and then take the electoral consequences of their actions. The people may not understand those actions thoroughly and may reject their representatives temporarily for doing the right thing. One of the virtues of democracy is that the people have the right to do wrong. They will have the right to do wrong at the next general election just as they have had it at previous elections.
This clause, if passed, will strengthen the Senate and make it more representative. lt will raise that House from the farcial position to which it has been reduced by the lopsided system that has been in operation for many years and by which one party can obtain an overwhelming majority in it while large minorities are unrepresented. We have seen in the Senate the spectacle of thirtythree anti-Labour senators and three Labour senators, and we have seen that position reversed.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is not confining himself to the clause.
– I shall not pursue that matter further. I point out that by this proposal to increase the size of the Senate the Government is taking the first step necessary to apply the principle of proportional representation and to remove for all time the evils that are at present associated with the election of senators. It is unfair and improper to refer to members of the Senate as pensioners and useless appendages to the parliamentary system. They can and do fulfil a very useful function. If governments in the past and even the present Government have not been able to make the Senate function as it should, it certainly will function better with ten instead of six senators representing each State are elected in the proportional representation system, which will ensure the adequate representation of all sections of the community in the Senate as well as in this chamber.
.- The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) “ blew the gaff “ in telling us why it is proposed that ten senators should represent each State when he said that the only reason for the choice of that number was the Government’s desire to enlarge the membership of the House of Representatives. If the only reason for the enlargement of the Senate is the desire to enlarge the House of Representatives, why does not the Government adopt my suggestion, which would achieve what every one in this chamber desires and what the people would support, which is more members of the House of Representatives, without increasing the number of senators. The Minister made that admission early in his speech, but he went on to draw all sorts of red herrings across the trail. There were so many of them that they stank like the corpse of an enormous whale. Not one word in justification of increasing the number of senators has been uttered on the Government side of the chamber. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), said that with more members the Senate would be able to perform functions that they do not perform now, but those extra functions have not yet been specified, except that the honorable member for Fremantle vaguely referred to “ investigations “. It has been said on behalf of the Government that the figure ten has been chosen to ensure that, with proportional representation, the parties shall be represented on the basis of three to two instead of two to one or two to two. The real reason for the choice of that number is, however, that at the first Senate election after this proposal becomes law, the three Labour senators from each State who will have to face the electors will be assured of three of the seven Senate seats that will have to be filled and thus be provided with a haven for the next six years. Until 1953, unless there should be a swing against the Government of from 15 to 20 per cent., which has not happened in the history of federation, the Labour party is assured of representation of at least three senators to every four anti-Labour senators elected. I see no reason why the membership of the House of Representatives should be increased by 66 per cent, any more than by 100 per cent. In fact, an increase of the membership of the House of Representatives by 100 per cent, would make for a better ratio of private members to members of the Executive and ensure to a greater degree the election of the best brains in the community to the House. Moreover, if the membership of the House of Representatives were doubled, private members would have a real measure of control over the Executive, as was pointed out yesterday by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). Before being asked to agree to ten senators from each State, we should be told why that number has been selected. “Why not nine, twelve or fourteen? The amendment I desired to move to make the number of senators six from each State was designed to enable the provisions of the Constitution to be observed, because it provides that each original State shall be represented by six senators. No need exists for increasing the membership of the Senate as a preliminary to increasing the membership of the House of Representatives, because some other constitutional methods could be and ought to be adopted to increase the membership of the House. It is scandalous that the Government should perpetuate by this means the system that results in huge rural electorates. A remedy of this kind is like putting a plaster on a cancer. Let us adopt the system of other countries and associate the number of representatives in the popular house not with- the number of senators but with the number of people to be represented. That would be the statesmanlike way of dealing with the problem. The Attorney-General (Tr. Evatt) admitted, in his speech in reply to the secondreading debate, that but for the pressure of time and party politics, it would be wise to consider the alteration of the Constitution which I suggested as a means of effecting the Government’s desire to enlarge the membership of the House of Representatives, but I see no reason why the people should not be consulted on this important issue even now. The membership of the House of Representatives has remained virtually unchanged for 48 years because we have been fettered by the provision that its membership shall be double that of the Senate. When one reads tb.e Federal
Convention debates; One finds that that provision was inserted in the Constitution for fear that the Senate might dominate the House of Representatives. Experience has proved how baseless that fear was. I agree with the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) that regardless of the political composition of the Senate, a double dissolution is next door to an impossibility. In the history of federation, a double dissolution has occurred only once, and that was by accident. A double dissolution would have to be based on a real issue. That is why the Constitution ought to be altered to enable the membership of the House of Representatives to bit increased or decreased without regard for the number of senators. I disagree with an increase of the number of senators to ten from each State because that increase will create new vested interests that will increase the difficulty of rectifying the anomaly in the House of Representatives under which, as we all realize, membei’9 have to represent too many constituents. I would agree with the honorable member for Richmond that the digit should be removed from the number ten but for the fact that it is important to have a second chamber. The Constitution provides for at least six senators to represent each of the original States and, under the federal compact, every State would have to agree to a proposal for an alteration of the Constitution to diminish that number, and that is impossible of achievement, but, by an alteration of the Constitution as I have suggested, we should strike off the shackles that bind us to this effete method of increasing the membership of the House of Representatives, which was obsolete when it was adopted.
.- The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) said that the Opposition could not “ have it both ways “, and that as its policy was an increase of the membership of the House of Representatives, it could not logically oppose the Government’s proposal, but he did not tell all the story. I am in a better position to say that the Labour party cannot have it both ways than he i3 to say that we cannot. Is it the function of the
Labour party to apply1 (be policy of thE Australian Country party or the Liberal party, or is it its function to apply its own policy, which, as the honorable gentleman has shown in statements inside anr] outside the Parliament, is the abolition of the Senate? The platform of the Labour party, which is printed on the front page of a booklet issued by the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labour party, contains as one of its planks the abolition of the Senate. On that pamphlet appears the name of the Honorable A. A. Calwell, M.P., as a member of the executive of the branch. Yet the Minister for Information has the temerity to support a measure which, far from seeking the abolition of the Senate, increases its membership from 36 to 60. What consistency and political honesty is there in such an attitude? This measure is a product of expediency ! What is this Parliament coming to when a government wedded to the abolition of the Senate brings down a measure to increase its membership? I have said enough to show that, regardless of its policy, the Government intends that the membership of the Senate shall be increased in order to consolidate improperly in their positions several gentlemen who, however good they may be as citizens, would, after the next Senate election, no longer under the present constitutional set-up of Australia, have the right to be in the Senate.
.- The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) scolded me because I described the Government’s proposal as a constitutional change. The honorable member may use the English language more precisely than I do. I realize, of course, that the Government is not altering the text of the Constitution. One of our Criticisms of it is that it is not proposing to alter the Constitution, We think it should have accepted the proposal made by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) for a referendum on this matter. This proposal does not alter the wording of the Constitution, but an increase of the number of senators from 36 to 60 and of members of the House of Representatives from 75 to 121, which will vary the proportion of State repre sentation in the House of Representatives. is, in essence, an alteration of the Constitution. If it is not, I should like to know what it is. We have often been charged by the honorable member for Fremantle with indulgence in dishonest thinking and expression, but I have never experienced greater dishonesty of thought and expression than that exhibited by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), the honorable member- for Fremantle, and Other honorable members opposite, not one of whom has faced the real issue. Do they believe in their hearts that the people want to increase the number of senators from 36 to 60 ?: They know that the people are utterly opposed to it. What are these professed democrats doing to express the popular will ? We have shown that the only way in which that can be done is by the taking of a referendum.. These professed democrats are merely demagogues who are abusing the power that fh-e people blindly reposed1 in them. This has been- clearly proved by their action in bringing down legislation increasing the membership of the Senate and the membership of the House of Representatives on the proposed scale. TheGovernment has- sought to justify itself by saying to us, “ But this is your policy* You were going to increase the Senate membership, for you put it in your policy-speech “. That is a distortion of what we said in our policyspeech. We said that we favoured an increased membership of the Australian Parliament, but we also said that if we were returned to power we would examinemeans of increasing it, because we knew perfectly well that a change of the kind proposed in this legislation would involve constitutional issues, such as safeguarding the interests of the States, for which purpose the Senate was created. Had we been returned to power we would never have dreamt of proposing to increase the number of senators from 36 to 60.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The Government must face the question which every democraticgovernment is compelled to face, which is whether it is giving the people what they want. Alternatively, it must ask itself whether it is giving the people what it knows they do not want. The Government, in bringing forward a proposal to enlarge the House of Representatives, knowing that this will involve increasing the membership of the Senate from 36 to 60, is doing something which it knows the people do not want. It is denying the basic right of the people to have their wishes given effect by their elected government.
We have been told that the policy of the Opposition provides for a bigger House of Representatives. In answer to that, I have already pointed out that any such proposal calls for examination, because it necessarily involves constitutional matters which have to be studied. The Government’s proposal is to enlarge the House of Representatives, which may be in line with Labour policy; but the complementary proposal to enlarge the Senate is necessarily contrary to Labour policy, which provides for the abolition of the Senate. We have been told that the Prime. Minister (Mr. Chifley) mentioned the matter at a press conference a few days before the last election. Is it seriously suggested that the Prime Minister, at a press conference a few days before the election, would announce that the policy of the Government, far from favouring the abolition of the Senate, was actually to increase its membership substantially ? The Government has no mandate from the people to enlarge the Senate. In fact, if it has any mandate on the matter at all, it is to give effect to the Labour party’s policy; and, seeing that the Prime Minister, in his policyspeech to the electors, was silent on this point, the public were entitled to believe that the policy of the Labour party was still in accordance with its official programme, which provides for the abolition of the Senate. I am by no means convinced that that is not still the longterm objective of the Government. I believe that it intends eventually to abolish the Senate. The Government hopes that, if it can create sufficient public hostility to the Senate by preventing it from discharging the functions which the framers of the Constitution intended it to discharge, and by increasing its membership so as to place a heavier financial burden upon the nation, the public will eventually demand that it be abolished.
The honorable member should now return to clause 4.
– I am discussing clause 4. The Government’s proposal, as set forth in this bill, is to increase the representation of each State from six to ten, whereas its published platform provides for the abolition of the Senate.
– The honorable member is making a second-reading speech, but that is not permissible in the discussion of this clause, which deal? with the number of senators to be elected in each State. The discussion must be kept to that issue.
– Perhaps I have not made my argument clear. The policy of the Labour party is to abolish the Senate altogether. I submit that I am entitled to examine whether there is any direct connexion between the proposal to increase the representation of each State from six to ten members and the proposal to abolish the Senate. 1 am entitled to discuss whether the Government is hoping eventually to bring about the abolition of the Senate. I say that there is a sinister motive behind the Government’s proposal. This proposal is so directly contrary to the official platform of the party that we are entitled to seek the real motive which actuates the Government. If you, Mr. Chairman, believe that I am not entitled to develop- my argument along those lines, I leave the matter there, believing that I have already made myself sufficiently clear.
The function of a government is to give effect to the will of the people. The people are overwhelmingly opposed to increasing the size of the Senate, and if the Government persists in its proposal, knowing the opinion of the people, it must forfeit all claim to their support.
Mr. BURKE (Perth) [S.8.- The tender solicitude of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), foi- the welfare of the people is very touching. He claims to know just what the people want, and what they ought to niven. For a good many years he was in a position to give the people what he now -says they want, but he did very little about it.
The present proposal to increase the size of the Parliament is in line with the policy of the honorable member’s own party, but he and his colleagues failed to put that policy into effect when they had the opportunity to do so. That is why they are now in opposition. Now he is searching for reasons to justify his opposition to a proposal which he formerly supported,’ and in doing so he has professed to discover sinister motives behind the Government’s proposal. I have never claimed to be a strong supporter of the Senate, but this Government, like every other government, is bound to give effect to the provisions of the Constitution, which lays down quite clearly the procedure which must he followed if the membership of the Parliament is to be increased. It was obvious to the founders of the Constitution that at some time the provision for increasing the size of the Parliament would be put into operation. Otherwise it would not have been included. The Constitution provides that the Senate must always have a membership, as nearly as practicable, half that of the House of Representatives. Therefore, in order to effect any worthwhile increase of the House of Representatives, the Senate must be enlarged more or less to the extent provided in this bill, namely, to 60 members, or ten from each State. Therefore, far from the Government’s proposal being sinister, it merely gives effect to the letter and spirit of the Constitution. I deprecate many of the references which have been made to the Senate during this debate. Unless we are out frankly to abolish the Senate, no good purpose is served by referring to senators as pensioners and mendicants and hangers-on to the Government machine. In order to enlarge the House of Representatives without enlarging the Senate it would be necessary to alter the Constitution so as to provide either for the abolition of the Senate or for the removal of that provision which fixes the proportion between the membership of the Senate and that of the House of Representatives. I do not believe that we could get the people to agree at the present time to the abolition of the Senate. I very much doubt whether they would agree to alter the provision that the number of senators should be as nearly as possible half the number of the members of the House of Representatives. If a referendum were taken, the people would divide on political lines. I can imagine honorable members opposite telling the people that the proposal represented a deliberate attempt on the part of the Government to grab more power by whittling away the authority of the direct representatives of the States. It is idle to suggest that a referendum campaign on the subject could be conducted on non-party lines.
– So the Government seeks to flout the will of the people?
– If we were to seek the consent of the people to increase the size of the House of Representatives they would’ refuse.
– So the Government proposes to push the measure through against the will of the people ?
– So much unwise political propaganda has been directed against the Parliament that the people would reject any proposal to increase its size. I believe that, given the opportunity, they would vote to reduce the size of the Parliament. For my part, I believe that the democratic ideal will be better served by increasing the size of the Parliament. I see no great need for a larger Senate; but, as the Constitution now stands, we cannot substantially increase the size of the House of Representatives without making a corresponding increase in the size of the Senate. Honorable members opposite may, for political purposes, rail against the Government’s proposals, but, in so doing, they merely injure the Parliament, and do no good to their own cause.
– I oppose the proposal of the Government to increase the number of senators from 36 to 60. For a day and a half I have listened to Government supporters criticizing the Senate on the ground that it does little work. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said that the Senate has never achieved the purpose for which it was designed by the framers of the Constitution, and that it had never been a house of review or of an investigatory character as is the United States of
America Senate, with its foreign affairs and other investigatory committees. The honorable member advanced various reasons to support his contention that the Australian Senate could not function in the same manner. If that be true, what is the reason for this proposal to increase the membership of the Senate from 36 to 60? I believe it was furnished by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) this afternoon when he said that the Government had introduced this bill as a necessary constitutional step to bring about an increase of the numbers of members of the House of Representatives. It is obvious that the Government relies on the constitutional provision that as far as practicable the membership of the House of Representatives should be double that of the Senate. The Minister then proceeded to criticize the proposal of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that this matter should be referred to a referendum of the people. The people should be given an opportunity to decide whether they desire the preservation of that section of the Constitution which defines the ratio of members of the Senate to those of the House of Representatives.
– Or to abolish the Senate altogether.
– That is so. I cannot understand the objection to the suggestion that this vital matter should be submitted to the people. Honorable members opposite have merely countered that suggestion by stating that the Government has power under the Constitution to introduce a measure such as this. Paragraph 3 (d) of the policy and objectives of the Australian Labour party provides for the amendment of the Constitution to embody .the principle of the initiative, referendum and recall. Paragraph 3 (e) provides for the abolition of the Senate. Yet this Government consistently refuses to carry out the platform upon which it was elected. It refuses to give to the people an opportunity to decide whether or not the membership of the Parliament should be increased or whether they desire the complete abolition of the Senate. This is but another example of the Government’s persistent flouting of the will of the people and of its denial of their right to exercise their vote on such an important matter. This procedure by the Government demonstrates how rapidly we are approaching towards complete dictatorship. The honorable member for Perth (Mr: Burke), who was even more frank than his colleagues, said that if this proposal was submitted to a referendum of the people if would be rejected by them. He then went on to say that the history of referendums in ibis country was one of almost invariable failure to obtain the consent of the people to the proposals submitted to them. What prospects has the Government of having its prices proposals endorsed by the people if it refuses to allow the people the opportunity to express their views on .this vital matter? The will of the people on this matter could be ascertained without additional expense. The proposal for the increase of the size of the Parliament could be added to the other proposals upon which the people will soon be asked to express their views at the referendum. It has been said that the Senate has never performed the functions for which it was established. If, after 48 years of operation, the Senate has not performed its functions, this, surely, is the appropriate time to review the machinery under which it is elected. In order that the federal spirit of the Constitution may be preserved the Senate should be elected by the lower houses of the State Parliaments. If that were done the Senate would be detached from party politics and would take its proper place as the custodian of the interests of the States. To use the Constitution to inflict upon the people something which the honorable member for Perth has said the people do not desire is sheer humbug.
– It is desirable that an honorable member from Tasmania should have something to say on this question because such a member must represent a viewpoint that has so far not been mentioned. This clause, which relates to the size of the Senate representation, affects Tasmania in a way that it affects no other State. With the general argument against an increase of the size of the Senate I am in complete agreement.
Has the Senate fulfilled the purpose for -which it was created by the framers of the Constitution? As far as 1 have been able to read the mind of every honorable member who has spoken from the other side of the chamber, there has been general agreement that the Senate has not done so, and that, for one reason or another, it has digressed from the part laid down for it and has never been a house of review and, accordingly, has never in a practical sense represented the States as distinct from parties. One of the arguments advanced at the time the Constitution was framed was that there was a danger that the Senate might overwhelm the House of Representatives, and accordingly the numbers of the members of the two houses were fixed in such a way as to ensure that that could not happen. By a strange series of events, however, a most paradoxical situation has arisen. Instead of the Senate representation of Tasmania being one-half of .that of the House of Representatives, it will, under this proposal, be double. In future Tasmania will have five members in the House of Representatives and ten senators. I shall probably be walking on senators wherever I go after the next election. I have no objection to senators - they are amiable and at all times prepared to co-operate - but I object to the vitiation of - the whole spirit of the Constitution by a measure which provides, in the case of Tasmania, a representation in the Senate double that of the House of Representatives.
Another point not previously mentioned - it applies equally to representation in the House of Representatives and in the Senate - is the question of the increased cost of the enlarged Parliament. I know that it is not customary in this chamber to consider cost in relation to government administration, hut there can he no doubt that if we increase the size of the Parliament we mast also .engage in an immense programme for additions to this building that would otherwise be unnecessary. I have not been able to convince myself of the urgency of the need to enlarge the Parliament at this juncture, nor have I convinced myself that there is an unanswer- able case for the enlargement of the Parliament at any time. However, the proposal to enlarge the Parliament now seems to be very unwise because the new construction necessary to house an enlarged Parliament will make inroads on the materials available for private building, and these are already in short supply. That is one objection to this proposal that is counting most in the electorates to-day. Any unnecessary building construction engaged in at this time must strike a blow at those people who are having a struggle to provide themselves with homes. The honorable member for Perth said that he had no doubt that the people were against this proposal at this moment. The Government, however, following tradition, says, “We know best what is good for the people “. That is a very dangerous policy to follow. The argument in favour of an appeal to the people in relation to this matter is unanswerable because at this time, above all others, we .should guard against any suggestion that we are flouting the will of the people and presuming to tell them what is for their good.
– In discussing this proposal -for an increase of the membership of the Senate we should pay some regard to the reasons which actuated the founders of the Constitution to determine that the number of senators representing each State should be limited to six. A few minutes ago I was interested to hear the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) publicly proclaim that, although he is a democrat, he would not place this proposal before the people because he knows that they would not agree to it. That is the very ‘kernel of the case submitted by the Opposition. It is true that the Government has the necessary constitutional power to place this measure on the statute-book, but whether in this democratic community it has the moral right to do so is another matter. A few days ago, the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) also said that no good purpose could be served by putting this proposal before the people because they would not agree to it.
– He did not say that. He said that no good purpose would be served by putting to the people a proposal for the abolition of the Senate.
– I clearly heard his remarks, and I believe that I have stated the correct version. In deciding to limit to six the number of senators to represent each State, the framers of the Constitution undoubtedly paid very much more attention to the practice in the United States of America than was justified by the results which followed from that practice. The United States Senate originally consisted of 26 members, no State having more than two representatives and no State being guaranteed as the minimum of representation more than one senator. Although the American Constitution has been in operation for almost two centuries, the State of Rhode Island, which is numerically in the same position as Tasmania, is represented in the Congress by two senators and one member of the House of Representatives. In other words, the representation of that State in the upper house is twice as large as its representation in the lower house. The first draft of the Australian Constitution provided that each State should be represented by eight senators and that there should be a minimum of four members to represent each State in the House of Representatives. That representation was later altered as- the result of a compromise. Certain of the less populous States feared that their interests would not be safeguarded under federation unless they had some equality of representation in one of the two houses of the Parliament. Obivously, that house was the upper house. As the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) has said, there was a fear that the Senate, acting on the model of the United States Senate, might dominate the lower house. That proved to be wrong, but a compromise was reached. The original draft of the Constitution provided that no limit should be placed upon the number of members of the House of Representatives, but that there should be one representative for each 30,000 electors. Later, at the convention held in Adelaide, it was proposed to have one representative for every 50,000 electors. However, a statistician from’ New South Wales produced figures to prove to his satisfaction, and, I am afraid, to the satisfaction of a majority of the delegates, that the population of Australia would increase at such a rate that by 1941 the House of Representatives would have 436 members on the basis of one member for every 50,000 of the population. In other words, the statistician assured the convention that by 1941 Australia would have a population of 22,300,000, of whom 8,000,000 would be in New South Wales, 4,000,000 in Victoria and the remainder in the other States.
There was another factor which determined the limit placed on the size of the Senate and the House of Representative. If honorable members will study the debates of the convention, they will see that the framers of the Constitution were firmly convinced that within ten years we would have at least double the number of States in the federation. They believed that New South Wales and Queensland would be divided into three or four States, and Victoria into two States, while some optimists considered that Western Australia might be divided into five or six States. Under a scheme considered at that convention every time a new State entered the federation six additional senators and twelve members of the House of Representatives would have had to be elected. From all these considerations arose the proposition that, regardless of the number of States, each should have six senators. The House of Representatives, in order to defend itself from the domineering tendencies of the smaller chamber, was constituted a House twice the size of the Senate. The machinery which has been the subject of so much criticism in this debate was provided in the draft constitution considered in 1898 at Sydney.
– That criticism came from the political group which the honorable member now supports.
– At that time the Labour party, to which the Attorney-General belongs, was not represented at the convention.
– The criticism which has been voiced during this debate has emanated from members of the Opposition.
– I have also heard some strange remarks from several supporters of the Government. The Attorney-General, who is a very busy man, cannot afford the time to sit here, as 1 do, like an old broody hen, and listen to everything that is said. Therefore, like the old owl who is up longest and hears- most, I am often in the best position to judge.
At the last of the three federal conventions, and I am sure that the AttorneyGeneral will endorse my words, the colonial parliaments of New South Wales and Victoria made a definite move to break down this present provision. Their contention was that, since they had conceded equality of representation to the other colonies and to what was known as the province of South Australia, those colonies and the province of South Australia should grant to the House of Representatives and the Senate the right to determine the size of the House of Representatives from time to time. Whatever may be the decision of the Government on this occasion, and I know that it dare not change its mind now because it has received its instructions from its masters in caucus, the proposition which the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) put to the chamber this evening will ultimately have to be submitted to the people. Australia will benefit greatly if we can create new States. The Constitution deliberately provided for the creation of new States out of the existing ones. The founders of the Constitution expected that those States would be formed, and properly represented in the Senate. Sooner or later, a government will be forced, by internal conditions which the present federation produces, to reconsider the balance between the Commonwealth and the States. In my opinion, one of the best policies advocated in Australian politics has been that of the Australian Country party for the foundation of new States. That policy, if given effect, would certainly increase the number of senators, and provide a stability in that chamber and in this House which cannot be obtained while one State, New South Wales, has more than 40 per cent, of the population, 45 per cent, of the wealth and 98 per cent, of the mischief-making proclivities of Australia concentrated within its borders. We must consider the proposition in the light of these facts. The Government, like a locomotive out of control, will go on its own way, but sooner or later it will develop a hot box. Those honorable members opposite who were formerly engine-drivers will understand the meaning of that term. When that day arrives, some honorable members opposite will probably regret that the Senate is an elected body instead of being a hereditary body, or like the Senate of Canada, the members of which are appointed for life. If the Australian Senate were like the House of Lords, I believe that some honorable members opposite would accept willingly, and be qualified for, a life appointment when their constituents decided to dispense with their services in this chamber.
– Obviously, members of the Opposition who condemn this bill have not carefully analysed the present method of electing senators. Like many honorable members opposite, I personally do not favour the proposal to increase the number of senators, but I recognize the necessity for departing from the existing system, whereby one political party might secure all 36 seats in the Senate. Therefore, we must study methods for improving that position. I have done so, and I propose to quote a few figures to re-inforce my conclusions. If honorable members desire to depart from the present system of electing senators, they must adopt the system of proportional representation, which will give all political parties representation in the Senate approximately proportionate to the number of votes that they receive. Although the figures which I shall quote are only approximate, I believe that they will bear the closest examination. First, let us consider what could happen if proportional representation is introduced, but the present number of senators from each State is not increased. New South Wales has approximately 1,600,000 electors for the Senate. As honorable members are aware, three of the six senators, who are elected for each State, retire every three years.
– This clause does not deal with the method of election. The honorable member is not dealing with the clause.
Mr-.. THOMPSON.^! am dealing’ very faithfully with the clause. I am about, to explain why each State should return ten- senators instead of six. That is. relevant to; the1 clause-..
– That is- so, but we are- not considering- the- method of election.
– For the purposeof my illustration, one political party may receive 810,000’ votes, and the other party 790;000’ votes. The margin between them, is only 20,000 votes-
– I rise to order.. As: this clause: does not relate to the election, of. senators,. I contend that, the. remarks of the honorable member foi’. Hindmarsh are out of order.
– Order ! The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron),, iia his speech, covered a wid’e field’.
Mb., Archie. Cameron. - I did not, mention the method of electing, senators-.,
– Order! The honorable- member for Hindmarsh- is endeavouring to- show why the- number of’ senators should’ be increased from six to- ten1, and1 his remarks ave1 relevant to- the clause.
– I shall’ show the result of the adoption of proportional representation if applied to the present, system of electing’ three senators every three years. With three senators- to be elected, the quota will be 400,001 votes out of 1,600,000. Approximately 810,000 electors voting, for one political party will’ produce the return of two of’ it’s threecandidates, and’ approximately 790,000. electors voting, for the other political’ party will’ produce the return of one of its three candidates. The unfortunate feature of that system is that the margin of 20,000 votes in. approximately 1,600,000 can secure the return of a candidate. If each State had eight senators, four of them would retire every three years. The quota would be 320,000 votes. Let us suppose that 950,000 electors vote for one political party, and 650,000 voters vote for the other. Although that is a definite swing to- one poEtical party;, each group- will secure the return of two of its candidates. I am trying to> show the’ justification, for this suggested increase from- six- to ten. I have- shown that- if’ three senators are to- be elected’ every three years, proportional representation, might result in an unfair distribution of seats among parties. I have pointed out that if four senators are to be elected every three years, each group* of parties* would have two of its- candidates returned, although one’ party polled a larger proportion’ of the- votes. With five senators to, be elected, which ia. the- present, pro*posal, if 810,000 electors voted for one political party and 79.0;0O0; for the: other, the: first party w/ould- have’ three, candidates’ elected and1 the other1 party twocandidates, which is: a much, healthier proportion. If the- present system of election- is’ wrong; and) another must be substituted fee », I maintain that in order to obtain1 fair representation the number of senators elected’ by each- State must be increased from- six to- at least ten. The- present system is- unsatisfactory. If we- are to- abolish it and1 if the- only alternative- to- it is proportional representation, then the proposal1 contained ia this clause is the correct one. Honorable members’ opposite- acknowledge that the present system is unsatisfactory and’ say they are in f favour of proportional representation, but their understanding- of the matter appears to be so limited that they are not able to make a simple arithmetical calculation in order to see what figure isrequired’ to produce fair, results. If members of the Opposition really understand the position, I cannot believe that they are sincere in saying that they want to alter the present system if, at the same time, they object to this proposal. I support this clause.,
The; suggestion in the amendment, which the right honorable1 member’ for Cowper desired to- move is that this> matter should! be submitted to the people at a. referendum.. I have heard honorable, members, opposite accuse supporters of. the Government of not having the courage of their convictions, or the courage to do* what is right. The Government has a responsibility to> the people. The only occasion, on- which a referendum should, be held, is- when it is. desired to amend the Constitution or when the Constitution itself provides, for such actions..
– What about the Labour party’s platform?
– I do not dispute that the abolition of the Senate is part of the platform of the Labour party. I have said that I do not wish to see more than six senators returned by each State, but I say also that there can be no proper representation in the Senate until an alteration such as this is made. There is no alternative to this proposal if it is desired to abolish the present system of election by a simple majority. If members of the Opposition are sincere in their statements that they want proper representation of the people in the Senate, I do not see how they can oppose this proposal.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Election of senators).
– This is one of the vital clauses of the bill. I tell the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) quite frankly that, try as I may, I cannot understand parts of it.
– It is not an easy clause to understand.
– If the right honorable gentleman had called me into consultation I could have suggested a much simpler solution than this. I believe in economy in words in the drafting of legislation. Sub-clause 2 reads -
If at that election- that is the next election - any senators are to be chosen to fill casual vacancies, the provisions of the Senate Elections Act 1903-1048 shall apply in relation to the filling of those casual vacancies but, in the application of those provisions to the filling of a long casual vacancy, all the places to be filled shall be deemed to be periodical vacancies.
I want to know the meaning of the phrases “long casual vacancy” and “short casual vacancy”. I am not very much concerned with this subclause, which I regard as leading up to the following sub-clauses. I quite understand that the procedure laid down at present by the Senate Elections Act 1903-1948 should be followed in this case, that is, that if there are any casual vacancies to be filled on that election day the last senators elected shall be the ones to take those casual vacancies, regardless of whether they are sitting senators or whether they are new candidates for theSenate. The term “ senator candidate “’ is used in the Senate Elections Act, but not in this bill. That difficulty seems to be overcome by the use of the phrase “other than any sitting senator or any senator elected to fill a long casual vacancy “.
Of the senators chosen at the election (other
Sub-clause 3 reads - than any sitting senator), the first two senators elected shall be chosen for a term of six years and shall hold their places from and including the day referred to in the last preceding section- that is the day of the first meeting of Parliament after the election - but, for the purpose of maintaining regularity in the rotation of senators, the places of those two senators shall not become vacant until the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-six.
With that I agree entirely. Sub-clause 4 reads -
Of the senators chosen at the election (other than any sitting senator or any senator elected to fill a long casual vacancy), the last two senators elected shall be chosen for a term of six years and shall hold their places from and including the day referred to in the last preceding section but, for the purpose of maintaining regularity in the rotation of senators, the places of those two senators shall, subject to this section, become vacant on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fiftythree.
That is clear to me except for the inclusion of the words “ other than any sitting senator “. Why should any sitting senator be exempted from the provisions that would automatically apply to the sixth and seventh senators elected?
– The honorable member is quite right in his comment. That point is sought to be dealt with by sub-clause 6.
– In my opinion it is not dealt with there. My contention is that the first two senators of this new seven to be elected would take their seats from the first day of the meeting of the Parliament, and would fill the short casual vacancies created by the passage of this legislation.
– The honorable member should not bring casual vacancies into it. If he so desires I am prepared to attempt to explain these complicated provisions as a whole now. That would probably save time.
– I prefer to put my points in my own way. The right honorable gentleman may comment later. I say that sub-clause 3 provides for the election of two senators who will serve for a term of six years and eight or nine months.
– That is not a casual vacancy.
– I quite understand that position. I could also understand the effect of sub-clause 4 if it did not contain the words “ other than any sitting senator “. I realize that it does not apply to a senator elected to fill a casual vacancy.
Sub-clause 5 reads -
Each other senator chosen at the election (not being a senator elected to fill a long casual vacancy) shall fill a periodical vacancy arising on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty.
The words used are, “ Each other senator chosen at the election “. By sub-clause 3 the effect of the six-year term is that two of those senators shall be deemed to have been elected three years before they actually were elected. That takes into account the fact that sub-clause 4 says that they shall retire on the 1st July, 1953. For all practical purposes they must be deemed to have been elected as from the 1st July, 1947. Sub-clause 6 is to my mind the most complicated of the sub-clauses. It reads -
If the sixth or seventh senator elected is a sitting senator, or if both the sixth and seventh senators elected are sitting senators, then, for the purpose of maintaining regularity in the rotation of senators -
the place of that senator or the places of those senators (being a place or places which, but for this sub-section, would become vacant on the 1st day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-six) shall become vacant on the 1st day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-three; and
of the senators to whom sub-section (4) of this section applies, the place of the first senator elected, or the places of both those senators, as the case requires (being a place or places which, but for this subsection, would become vacant on the 1st day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-three), shall not become vacant until the 1st day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-six.
That seems to be a complete contradiction of what is said in sub-clause 4, which deals with the sixth and seventh vacancies. Paragraph b of sub-clause 6 deals with the first and second senators elected, although it is related to sub-clause 4. The first and second senators are dealt with in sub-clause 3 of this clause. This clause is extremely complicated in its wording.
– It is quite simple in its working, and I shall try to explain it.
– It might be simple to a Philadelphia lawyer or to a cross-word puzzle expert, but I defy any member of the Opposition to tell me what it means.
– These provisions are complex in their wording, but in the drafting of legislation it is necessary to adopt the meaning already ascribed to certain words by existing law. I do not underestimate the difficulties of these matters because I have been grappling with them for longer than the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). The term “long casual vacancy “ merely means a casual vacancy for a period terminating after the 30th June next following the election at which that vacancy is to be filled. A “short casual vacancy” is a casual vacancy for a period terminating on the 30th June next following the election at which that vacancy is to befilled. If we assume the next election takes place in December of next year or in February the following year, the long casual vacancy would be an effective vacancy which would enable the person elected to fill it to be in the Senate for a period not terminating on the following 30th June but three years afterwards. It is an effective three-year period.
– That is a long vacancy.
– Yes. That is the only type of vacancy that can occur in the present constitution of the Senate. The honorable member sees that.
– I know that.
– Very well. Sub-clauses 1 and 2 of this clause relate to casual vacancies which come at the end of the queue, so to speak. At the head of the queue are the seven senators to be elected to bring the representation of each State to ten, provision for the election of seven of whom is contained in sub-clauses 3, 4, 5 and 6, to which the honorable member for Barker, who follows these matters closely and carefully, has referred. Those provisions set out the order in which the seven senators, filling periodical vacancies, as against casual vacancies, will be returned at the next Senate election. That is why I ask honorable members to put aside for the moment the matter of casual vacancies. Should there be a long casual vacancy to fill, honorable members will at once see that eight senators will have to be elected. Under sub-clause 3, the first five senators elected will hold office until the 30th June, 1956. Any sitting senator who is re-elected in that group will fill a periodical vacancy, that is, from the 1st July, 1950, to the 30th June, 1956. The first two non-sitting senators elected in the group will begin their terms on the day when the new Parliament meets and will hold office until the 30th June, 1956. I ask the honorable member for Barker to follow this closely. It will be seen that there would be no point in providing that if sitting senators head the poll they shall take their seats on the first day on which the new Parliament meets, because they will already be members of the Senate. So, it must be non-sitting senators to whom the award of six years, plus whatever period must elapse between the sitting of the new Parliament and the 30th June, 1950, will be given. It is essential that those senators shall take their seats on the day on which the new Parliament meets in order to comply with the requirement of the Constitution that, as nearly as practicable, the membership of the House of Representatives shall be twice that of the Senate, for it is proposed that the membership of the House of Representatives shall be 120 or 121 persons, which entails a Senate of 60 members actually sitting in the Senate.
– I follow that all right.
– I know the honorable member does, but certain consequences flow from it. It must be remembered that three senators will be retiring in each State and that if re-elected they will already hold office until the 30th June, 1950, and could not therefore commence their terms of office from, say, January, 1950, or whenever the new Parliament met.
– That could not apply to more than three senators in each State.
– I know. That is another aspect of the problem. The constitutional power that we have to apply is contained in section 14 which reads -
Whenever the number of senators for a State is increased or diminished, the Parliament of the Commonwealth may make such provision for the vacating of the places of senators for the State as it deems necessary to maintain regularity in the rotation.
Honorable members of the committee know that the system of rotation is to have two groups of 30 senators elected at each Senate election and for six years. Section 14 of the Constitution enables the Parliament of the Commonwealth, when the number of senators is being increased, as it is from 36 to 60, to make provision for the vacating of places in order to maintain regularity in the rotation and to keep the system in full working order. The first five senators elected will, under the provisions of clause 5, hold office until the 30th June, 1956. Seven senators are to be elected and the first five will hold office until the 30th June, 1956. Any sitting senator who is re-elected in that group will fill a periodical vacancy, that is, from the 1st July, 1950, to the 30th June, 1956, because he is already a sitting member, and, even if he topped the poll, he could not do better than fill a casual vacancy for six years from the 1st July, 1950, to the 30th June, 1956. That is important to remember. The first two non-sitting senators elected in the group will, therefore, begin their terms on the day when the new Parliament meets, that is, some time in January, 1950.
– So they will serve for six and a half years.
– Six years, plus, say, five months, and they will hold office until the 30th June, 1956. In a sense, they will get more than sitting senators will if they are re-elected.
Under sub-clause 4 of the clause, the last two senators chosen, other than sitting senators or any senator elected to fill a long casual vacancy, will hold their places from when the Senate meets until the 30th June, 1953. It is necessary to exclude sitting senators because a sitting senator will still be a member of the Senate when it meets towards the end of 1949 or early in 1950 and cannot fill a place on that day but only from the 1st July, 1950, when his previous period of election will expire. To ensure that half of the Senate will consist of senators whose places expire in 1956 and half of those whose places expire in 1953 it is necessary to provide that two of the newly elected senators shall hold their places only until the 30th June, 1953, and it is appropriate that those two senators should be the last two elected. If sitting senators should be the last two elected they will hold office until the end of June, 1953. Why is it not fair that if non-sitting senators get into the group of five to the exclusion of sitting senators the sitting senators should go to the end of the queue? If sitting senators get into the first five and the other two places are filled by non-sitting senators, it is quite right that the sitting senators should hold office for six years, because that is the maximum period in which they may hold their seats without being re-elected. The other two of the first five vacancies will be filled for about six and a half years. The last two of the seven take the consolation prizes and hold office for only three years. Sub-clause 4 provides accordingly. In this case, it is also necessary to. invoke section 14 of the Constitution and curtail the term of service of the senators concerned in order to ensure regularity in the rotation.
Sub-clauses 3 and 4 deal with the first two and the last two of the seven senators elected but not including any sitting senator. Sub-clause 5 deals with the remaining senators elected and will apply to any sitting senator who is re-elected. The senators concerned will fill the places in the Senate not filled under sub-clauses 3 and 4, namely, the periodical vacancies arising on 1st July, 1950. If, therefore, any sitting senator is re-elected this is the provision which will apply to him and he will continue his service as a senator without a break for six years from 1st July, 1950.
It may happen that the sixth or the seventh senator elected is a sitting senator. As he has been demonstrated by the polling to be the senator least favoured by the electors it is equitable that he should hold the shortest term for which senators are chosen at the election, namely, three years. In the ordinary case, of course, a sitting senator who is re-elected holds office for six years. This sub-clause therefore provides that if the sixth or seventh senator elected is a sitting senator his term of office shall be curtailed from six years to three years. I repeat that there must be 60 senators sitting in their places when the new Parliament, the House of Representatives of which will consist of 121 members, meets. Any sitting senator re-elected will finish his current term on the 30th June, 1950, and begin a new six-year or three-year term, according to his place on the list, on the 1st July, 1950.
– That is a senator who was elected at the last general election?
– No, at the previous general election. Senators who were elected at the last general election will not face the electors again until 1953. The last two senators elected will hold office only until the 30th June, 1953. Any non-sitting senator included in this group will begin his term on the day when the new parliament meets. Any sitting senator elected in this group will finish his current term on 30th June, 1950, and will begin a new three-year term on the 1st July, 1950. In that event, it is necessary, in order to preserve the balance of the Senate, to bring in, as from the day when the new parliament meets, one or two, as the case requires, of the non-sitting senators elected who would otherwise have begun their terms on the 1st July, 1950. The clause will bring about a fair and equitable result, namely, that the order in which senators are elected determines the length of their respective terms - that is, the first senators elected, to the requisite number, hold terms of six years and a few months; the next senators elected to the requisite number hold terms of six years and the last two senators elected hold terms of three years and a few months.
I point out to the honorable member for Barker, who seems concerned that sub-clause 3 leaves out sitting senators, that it is designed to cover the period between the meeting of the new parliament and the following 30th June. Does the honorable member follow that?
Of the senators chosen at the election, other than sitting senators and those filling long casual vacancies, the last two senators elected are chosen for six years. That is because the Constitution provides that senators shall be elected for a period of six years. But for the purpose of maintaining regularity of rotation of their places, they will hold their places from the day on which the Parliament meets, until the 1st July, 1953.
– I ask the Attorney-General to read the first part of sub-clause 6 in conjunction with paragraph b of the same sub-clause.
– I have already done so. The Constitution provides that the places of senators may be vacated for the purpose of maintaining regularity of rotation. In accordance with this provision, the period for which senators sit may be shortened to three years. It might appear, at first sight, that sitting senators are being given preference in being allowed the full period of six years, and to meet this situation it is provided in sub-clause 6 as follows: -
If the sixth or seventh senator elected is a sitting senator, or if both the sixth and seventh senators elected are sitting senators, then, for the purpose of maintaining regularity in the rotation of senators -
the place of that senator or the places of those senators (being a place or places which, but for this subsection, would become vacant on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-six) shall become vacant on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-three; and
of the senators to whom sub-section (4.) of this section applies, the place of the first senator elected, or the places of both those senators, as the case requires (being a place or places which, but for this subsection, would become vacant on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-three), shall not become vacant until the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-six.
Those who are elected sixth or seventh should be not entitled to a full period of six years, but to a shorter period. If sitting senators are among the last two elected, there is no reason in justice why they should not give place in length of office to those elected before them. Thoseelected under sub-clause 4 would hold office for three years, but it is provided that they shall take the place of sitting senators. Thus, instead of a sitting senator being elected for a period of six, years, as would be the case if he were one of the first five on the list, he would be elected for only three years if he be chosen sixth or seventh. The provision means that sitting senators shall give place to those elected before them.
I come now to the long casual vacancies which are covered by sub-clause 2, which provides -
If at that election any senators are to be chosen to fill casual vacancies, the provisions of the Senate Elections Act 1903-48 shall apply in relation to the filling of those casual vacancies, but, in the application of those provisions to the filling of a long casual vacancy, all the places to be filled shall be deemed to be periodical vacancies.
But for this provision, a casual vacancy, which is for a period of three years, would be filled by a candidate who came fourth in the ballot, but the Senate Elections Act provides that a casual vacancy shall be filled by the person who comes next after the persons elected to fill the periodical vacancies. In order to meet the position, the clause provides that all seven vacancies shall be deemed to be periodical vacancies, and then the person elected to fill the casual vacancy shall be the eighth, or perhaps the ninth, on the list.
– Sub-clause 2 contains these words - but, in the application of those provisions to the filling of a long casual vacancy, all the places to be filled shall be deemed to be periodical vacancies.
That refers to a vacancy which begins on the 1st July, after an election, and continues for six years. Sub-clause 4 states that this does not apply to a long casual vacancy, but I cannot see how any provision is made for getting rid of those who are elected to fill long casual vacancies.
– There are not, in fact, periodical vacancies in the strict sense. A periodical vacancy is one which occurs regularly, but the act provides that where a long casual vacancy is to be filled it shall be filled by the candidate next after those who fill the periodical vacancy.
– Robert Burns has written some lines which, I think, might be applied to the AttorneyGeneral’s explanation. They are -
To unite Faith and Sense upon any pretence,
Is a heretic, damnable error.
– Yes, and Shakespeare once wrote, “ Let us kill all the lawyers “ ; but we might, with advantage, include a few other people.
.- The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has made a valiant attempt to explain the intricacies of this clause, but with respect I suggest that the explanation was such as to “make confusion more confounded “ at least as far as the general public is concerned. However he did deal in part with a doubt which exists in my mind concerning section 7 of the Constitution. This section states in clear and unambiguous language that senators will be elected for a term of six years. The Minister explained that this section was qualified by section 14 under the provision of which the last two senators elected in 1949 will be retired after three years plus a casual I vacancy period. This would not infringe section 7 providing the senators mentioned were agreeable. But does section 14 work both ways ? How about the first two senators who will be elected for six years plus a casual vacancy period which may mean six years and eight months does section 14 provide for this contingency?
.- Section 14 of the Constitution which governs the matter reads as follows : -
Whenever the number of senators for a State is increased or diminished, the Parliament of the Commonwealth may make such provision for the vacating of the places of senators for the State as it deems necessary to maintain regularity in the rotation.
There is no other way by which we could evolve a system of rotation under which a Senate of 60 could be maintained with 30 senators retiring every three years, while eighteen senators were actually in the Senate. The terms of office of some of them must accordingly be limited to three years, plus the period between thesummoning of the Parliament after the next election and the 30th June following. Although the Constitution provides for a term of office of three years, section 14 allows the Parliament to make such provision to maintain regularity in the rotation as it deems necessary. As the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has said, after the next election the difficulties will disappear. There is power under section 14 of the Constitution to fix the terminal points of office only for the purpose of getting the machine started.
– I am unable to understand the objection of honorable members opposite to the appointment of some senators for a period of six years and eight or nine months. The Constitution provides that a casual vacancy in the Senate may be filled by the Houses of Parliament of the State concerned choosing a person to hold the vacant place until the expiration of the term or until the election of a successor. Senator Beerworth was elected- to the present Senate for six years and nine months to take the place of Senator Mattner. Although the Leader of the Opposition first voiced his objection to this aspect of the proposal during the second-reading debate, and it has since been repeated over and over again, I am still unable to understand it, especially as the same principle has operated in respect of casual vacancies ever since federation.
.- I do not propose, as some of my colleagues have done, to become involved in a discussion on the technicalities of this clause. I believe 1 understand correctly how it is to operate. The clause, however, embodies the very core of my whole objection to the proposal that at the first election of senators held after the commencement of this legislation, the number of senators chosen to represent each State shall be seven. The application of the rules of simple arithmetic and a knowledge of Australian electoral history enable us definitely to predict that, notwithstanding the expression of the will of the Australian people, it will not be possible therefore, at that election, to displace Labour from authority in this Parliament. In this Parliament, on the hustings, and in the arena of international affairs, we have heard from Labour members a’ thousand speeches about democracy, the rights of minorities, the right of the will of the majority to prevail, the right of self-determination, and expressions of that kind which are so “familiar to us that they readily spring to our lips. Indeed, they have been repeated so often that we dream of them. The Labour party represents itself as the arch protagonist of the rights of democracy. It has guaranteed that under Labour’s administration the rights of the majority and of minorities shall be equally respected. This clause, however, will rob the people of every opportunity to displace Labour from authority in the next Parliament. I am not concerned with the mechanics of Senate elections. It does not matter to me if senators be elected for six years and nine months or for three years, but I am concerned with the lack of principle in this proposal. I object to this clause because it embodies a legislative provision which is a travesty of democracy. Of what use is it for us to debate the method of election of parliamentarians when a clause such as this denies to the people the right to choose their own representatives? I do not hold with the same strength the views expressed by some of my colleagues about the value of the Senate per se. In a country where the total cost of government runs into hundreds of millons of pounds I am not particularly concerned whether an additional dozen or twenty senators be elected. The cost of their allowances would not loom largely in the total cost of government. I do not worry whether senators are or are not overworked, nor, I am sure, do the Australian people, but I am worried by the principle embodied in the legislation and the purpose behind it. We are told that the decision to increase the size of the Senate is the inevitable result of a determination on the part of the Government to increase the membership of the House of Representatives. The Government desired to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives and, short of an alteration in the Constitution, it became necessary to increase the size of the Senate. It so happens that the Labour Government has chosen a method of election of the Senate which it has never before propounded. What has influenced the Government to adopt the system of proportional representation which was advocated by the Australian Country party for many years? I do not know but I do not complain about that. No case has been made for an enlargement of the Senate. If the Government wished to enlarge the House of Representatives it should have followed the procedure laid down in the Constitution and have asked the people for their approval to do so. It has never shown any unwillingness to ask the people to amend the Constitution in the past. Concurrent with the decision of caucus to increase the membership of the Parliament was its decision that the people should be asked to authorize an amendment of the Constitution designed to clothe the Government with powers to control prices. Opportunity should have been taken of the holding of that referendum to ascertain the will of the people in respect of this proposal. The people might also have been asked whether they would agree to an amendment of the Constitution to bring about a variation of the numerical relationship between the two Houses of Parliament. Indeed the Government may well have taken the opportunity to invite the people to express their views on Labour’s policy for the abolition of the Senate. The inclusion of these two proposals on the ballot-papers would not have involved an outlay of more than £150, a mere trifling sum having regard to the amount that will be expended on the referendum. It is curious that “while the people are invited to express their views on a mupiltlicity of variations of Labour’s policy, they are not consulted on this most vital matter. We would be too simple for words if we did not ask ourselves what is the reason for this curious failure on the part of the Labour party either to invite the people to authorize it to enlarge the Senate or to agree to a smaller Senate in relation to the House of Representatives. My examination of the political trends which have developed rapidly during the last year compels me to conclude that the proposal to increase the membership of the Senate stems solely from the desire of the Labour party to increase the membership of the House of Representatives. I am compelled to conclude that, as a part of a plan to enlarge the Senate, it becomes necessary to state a case for a bigger House of Representatives. This proposal has been submitted to the Parliament in an inverted fashion. There is a relationship between this proposal and the decline of the political prestige of the Labour party since its attempt to nationalize banking. That decline waa exemplified in the devastating defeat which the Cain Government suffered in the Victorian elections.
– Order! The honorable member is making a second-reading speech.
– Further evidence may be found in the decision to elect seven senators at the next general election by proportional representation in circumstances which defy every democratic principle that has ever been enunciated in this chamber. The Government has not adduced a sound case for increasing the size of the House of Representatives. I do not withdraw any word which the Leader of the Australian Country party <Mr. Fadden) said in his policy-speech. I admit that he said that there was a case for a bigger House of Representatives. One Minister, who read the right honorable gentleman’s policy-speech, misrepresented the Leader of the Australian Country party, who did not say that there is a case for a bigger Senate. How ever, he did point out that an increase of the size of the House of Representatives, without a constitutional alteration, would necessitate an increase of the size of the Senate. That may be verified by a reference to the right honorable gentleman’s policy-speech.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party also advocated the adoption of proportional representation.
– That is true. I have advocated it for years.
– Now the honorable member is running away from it.
-I am not. I am resisting the Government’s attempt to play a shameful trick upon the Australian people. Eighteen months hence, the people will go to the poll in the simple belief that they can decide whether Australia shall have a Labour Government, or not. But woven into the proposal for a larger Senate, with the adoption of proportional’ representation and the election of seven senators at the one time, is the simple and undeniable fact that the Labour party, which has paraded for years as the defender of democracy, desires to ensure that it shall not be displaced from its controlling position in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
. -The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) stated that the length of time for which senators may be elected can be increased or decreased. Under the present system, eighteen senators retire every three years. The Government should have shown some foresight in introducing proportional representation, and in increasing the number of members of the House of Representatives. I suggest that at the next election all incoming senators should be elected for three years. At the following election all senators should retire simultaneously, and proportional representation should then be introduced along the lines that members of the Opposition have advocated.
– Does the honorable member consider that proportional representation should apply to the next election?
– It cannot properly apply to the next election.
– I -have not understood the honorable member’s argument. Does he favour an amendment to achieve that object ?
Mi-. TURNBULL.- The AttorneyGeneral stated that the provisions of the Constitution allow an increase or decrease of the period for which senators shay be elected.
– That is for the purpose of maintaining regularity of rotation, and not for the purpose of proportional representation.
– We should be able to pursuade the people to agree to an alteration of the Constitution so that at the next election incoming senators would be elected for a period of three years. At the following election all senators could retire simultaneously, and the Government could introduce proportional representation along the lines which members of the Opposition have advocated. I cannot understand the Government’s haste to increase the size of the House of Representatives and of the Senate. This objective could be achieved in the manner which I have suggested, and everybody would agree with it, with the exception of the present Labour Government. I misunderstood the AttorneyGeneral’s explanation regarding the maintenance of regularity of rotation of senators, but I am convinced that some constitutional change must be effected with the consent of the people. If incoming senators were elected for three years, all senators would then retire simultaneously at the following election. The Government could introduce proportional representation, and increase the number of senators to 60 and the number of members of the House of Representatives to 120, on lines that would not give any party an unfair advantage.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 - (2.) Forthwith after the commencement of this Act, the Chief Electoral Officer shall make a determination in accordance with section ten of the Representation Act 1905-1938 of the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States and, for the purpose of the making of that determination, the number of senators shall b’e deemed to be” sixty.
– I move -
That in sub-clause (-2.), after the word “ States “ the following words be inserted : - “ but so that, notwithstanding anything contained in that or any other act, the number Of member’s to be chosen in the State of Tasmania shall be not less than eight “.
Unle’ss the amendment be adopted, ‘the representation of Tasmania in the House of Representatives will be absurd. The present representation of the State will not be increased.
– I rise to order. Clause 8 refers to the Representation Act, and that turns upon, the Constitution, and the provision relating to the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States, is dependent upon section 24 of the Constitution. The number of members for each State is obtained by the method indicated in the Constitution, and the minimum number guaranteed each original to State is five. I submit that an amendment to a statute, which would be a direct contradiction of the constitutional provision, is out of order.
– I rise to order. Naturally I feel, as any lay member of the chamber would feel, extreme diffidence in attempting to controvert a statement of constitutional implications by such an eminent constitutional authority as the Attorney-General; and I merely say that my recollection of this section of the Constitution is that it provides for a minimum number of members. It certainly permits, and is intended to permit, an increase of members in excess of the minimum number, as the population of a State grows, or as the population ratio between States alters. Nothing in the Constitution would prevent the Parliament from increasing the minimum number. I admit freely and readily that any attempt to reduce below five the minimum number of members representing Tasmania or Western Australia would be outside the constitutional authority of this Parliament. The Constitution has permitted the election of a member for the Northern Territory, and is construed as permitting the election of a member of the Australian Capital Territory. With the passage of time, it has been construed to entitle the member for the Northern Territory to vote upon matters relating to that area. I submit that the Constitution does not prevent this Parliament from exercising the prerogative of stipulating, in the special circumstances of Tasmania, a higher minimum number than that set out in the Constitution.
– Order! The amendment which the honorable member for Franklin has proposed conflicts with the Constitution, and, therefore, I am obliged to rule it out of order.
– I should like to speak to the point of order.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member may not do so.
– The amendment is obviously in conflict with the Constitution.
– A point of order of vital importance has been taken, and I desire to put a certain point of view to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, and to the Attorney-General. This is a serious matter for Tasmania.
– It may be a serious matter tor Tasmania, but the amendment is in conflict with the Constitution.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Does the honorable member for Barker propose to submit a motion objecting to my ruling?
– I do not want to take that course unless I am compelled to do so. What I desire to do is to express a certain point of view. If I am not permitted to do so, I must take other measures, and both you, sir, and I know what they are.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I cannot allow the honorable member to discuss that point, because T have ruled that, as the amendment is unconstitutional, it is out of order.
– With great respect, Mr. Temporary Chairman, may I raise another point of order? You have just said that you have ruled that the amendment is unconstitutional. I claim that there is nothing in the Standing Orders to permit the Chairman of Commitees to decide what is constitutional in a matter of the- interpretation of the Constitution. That is a duty for the High
Court, and for no other authority. The only ruling that can be given by the Chair in this chamber is whether a proposal is in conformity with the Standing Orders. The Attorney-General, as a former justice of the High Court, will admit that the determination of whether a matter is unconstitutional is the sole prerogative of that tribunal and neither Mr. Speaker nor the Chairman of Committees may give a ruling that the High Court alone is entitled to give. Therefore, with great deference to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I submit that I should be entitled to state a case on this position, because there is no doubt that there is a case to state.
– May I speak to the point of order?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Yes, but I ask the honorable member to be brief.
– I shall be brief. I merely desire to associate myself with the remarks of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who, I believe, has stated the correct point of view. The Chairman of Committees is not authorized to determine judicial issues. In my opinion, the honorable member for Barker should be upheld in his contention that the function of . the Chair is to conduct the proceeding of the Parliament along the lines laid down in the Standing Orders, and that the determination of the constitutional authority of the Parliament - and that is the real issue at stake - is a matter which the Constitution itself vests in the High Court. It would be an invasion of judicial authority for the Chair to purport to decide what are or are not the constitutional limitations of this Parliament. In a federation that is a matter that is inevitably and constantly the subject of judicial controversy. It would be an intolerable position if the constitutional authority of this Parliament were to be determined on the spur of the moment by, with all respects to you, sir, a lay chairman.
– Without hearing the arguments?
– Yes, although I do not attach so much importance to that point as to the one I have just stated. I say, with the greatest respect to the Chair, that no lay chairman in this Parliament is likely to be so equipped as to be capable of interpreting the Constitution, but that is not the point upon which I base my argument. I submit that it is not the function of the Chair to interpret the constitutional limits of the authority of this Parliament, and that it would cut across the federal relationship to establish such a precedent.
– The Chair is entitled to consider the advice tendered by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt). I accept the advice of the right honorable gentleman that this amendment is in conflict with the Constitution, and therefore rule, that it is out of order.
– I rise to order. I submit that, although the AttorneyGeneral is entitled to express his view on the Standing Orders, he is not entitled to advise or to influence the Chair in any way other than that in which other honorable members may do so. Speaking for the electors of the division of Barker, I say that I have as much right as the Attorney-General, the Prime Minister or any other member of this House to influence the Chair on the question of the Standing Orders.
– Order! Is the honorable member challenging the ruling of the Chair?
– I am.
– I rise because of the observations made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the. honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). If there were any possibility of the plain words of section 24 of the Constitution meaning something different from what everybody knows they do mean, or if some doubtful point of law were involved, I should not suggest for a moment that it would be proper to rule the amendment out of order. The dominating provision in section 24 of the Constitution, as every honorable member knows, whether he is a lawyer or a layman, is -
The number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people. . . .
That is the basis upon which we have discussed these bills. It was because of that that I and other Ministers put before the House the figures that will result from the application of the proportional system. I am not now speaking of the Senate. The provision in section 24 to which I have just referred is a permanent provision.
– Surely the last sentence of the section is an overriding provision. The words are, “But notwithstanding anything in this section . . .”
– The guaranteed minimum for each State is five members. I agree that that provision is contained in section 24, but the dominating provision in that section is in the first sentence of the second paragraph. It reads -
The number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people.
Under the system described in the section, I believe that Tasmania would be entitled only to three members, but the Constitution guarantees that each original State shall have at least five. The proposal of the honorable member means that notwithstanding the fact that, proportionately, Tasmania would not be entitled to the minimum figure of eight referred to in the amendment, but only to five, nevertheless there should be a minimum figure of eight. It seems to me that to put that proposal forward in the form of an amendment would be to act in direct contradiction to the provisions of the Constitution. The section provides that the number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people. That means that if Tasmania has onefifteenth of the population of Australia, it shall have one-fifteenth of the membership of the House of Representatives. Although on that basis Tasmania may be entitled to less than five members, it is given five by the guarantee.
– “Why not increase the minimum ? Section 24 says there shall be five members at least.
– That is true. It gives each original State at least that number. The main provision is that relating to proportional representation, but each State is guaranteed a minimum of five members, whatever the total membership of the House of Representatives may be. The honorable member sees that by clause 8 of the -bill a number has been fixed for each State. Sub-clause 1 of the clause reads -
The last determination made by the Chief Electoral Officer, prior to the commencement of this act, under section 0 of the Representation Act 1905-1038 . . . shall not have effect.
That was the determination that gave Queensland an additional seat. The new determination has to be made under clause 8 (2), and for that purpose the number of senators is deemed to be 60. The number of members of the House of Representatives must be double that number. If we do what is suggested, and if we obey the Constitution, the number of members of the House of Representatives may rise from 120 to 190. I do not know what the exact figure would be. I submit to the committee that this amendment is clearly in contradiction to the provisions of the Constitution.
– What is the significance of the words “ at least “ in section 24 of the Constitution?
– If, on a basis of population, Tasmania was entitled to less than five members, the section guarantees that it will never have less than five. That provision, being in the Constitution, overrides any legislation that is in conflict with it,
– It ia not said that the minimum cannot be more than five.
– It oan be more than five. We might have a system under which there were 300 members of the House of Representatives, and under which Tasmania was entitled to a much larger number of members than five.
M>. ARCHIE CAMERON - This proviso would not apply then.
– It would apply. Because Tasmania would have more than five members this provision would not be needed, but it would still be in continuous operation.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral suggest that the purpose of the amendment can only be achieved by v constitutional alteration?
– Yes. That is the point that I make in answer to the honorable member for Barker and it is completely fatal to the amendment. Therefore, the ruling of the Chair is correct.
– I have listened with great attention to what the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has said.
– Is the honorable member rising to a point of order?
– I am attempting to answer what the AttorneyGeneral has just said.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Is the honorable gentleman speaking to the clause?
– I want to speak to the clause. I have not said anything about it yet. I have only referred to points of order, in which, as usual, I am in disagreement with the Chair. The Attorney-General has argued that no State should have more than five members.
– I have pointed out that five is the guaranteed minimum. It is not possible, by provision in the ordinary law, to make the number larger than the Constitution provides as the proportionate share of the total.
– The last two lines of section 24 of the Constitution read, “ But notwithstanding anything in this section, five members at least shall be chosen in each original State Nothing is exempted from that overriding consideration. It says “five members at least “. In other words, we could have six, and that would still be at least five members.
– Yes, but the figure of six must be reached by the proportionate method indicated in section 24.
– I know that. I have studied the section .and the debates that led up to it.
– I wish the honorable member would .deal with the words
– This proviso is intended to protect the States that have not sufficient population to qualify them for five or more members.
That is the only purpose for which it was put there. It was included at the beginning of federation, because at that time neither Tasmania nor Western Australia was qualified, from the population point of view, to have five members. Realizing that there were provisions in the Constitution that would entitle the Parliament to increase its own membership from time to time, the Convention provided in this section that if, as a result of the method of calculation described in section 24, any State was found to be entitled to less than five members, it should nevertheless have at least five. Western Australia now has sufficient population, I understand, for eight members. How it is entitled to eight members, I do not know. According to the published figures, at the time of the redistribution Western Australia will have about 320,000 electors, and is to get eight members. South Australia will have about 450,000 electors and will get ten members. Western Australia will have eight quotas of 40,000 and South Australia will have ten quotas of 45,000.
– How many seats would Tasmania have on that calculation?
– Four seats.
– That proves that the object of the amendment was to do something contrary to the Constitution.
– The object of the amendment was to provide that in the new Parliament to be elected on the next election day, the position of Tasmania with relation to the other States was to be more equitable in representation than it is now. I say, with great respect to the AttorneyGeneral, that, if English means anything, this overriding provision means that it is within the competence of the Parliament to decide, in the event of a State’s not being entitled to five full quotas, what the representation of that State should be. Therefore, I believe that the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Franklin was perfectly sound and valid, and should have been agreed to.
Mr. ABBOTT (New England) [10.15 J. - I agree that the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) was valid. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) made great play on sub-section 2 of section 24 of the Constitution with regard to representation as between the States, but he will find that section 26 provides that the framers of the Constitution provided in section 26 that if Western Australia was an original State it should have five members in the House of Representatives in a House of 75 members. That section provided that both Western Australia and Tasmania should have five seats in the House of Representatives. If the membership of the House is increased, the number of members for thoseStates should also be increased proportionately. The Constitution originallyprovided that both Western Australia and Tasmania should have onefifteenth of the members of the House of Representatives. Logically, that proportion should be maintained in an enlarged House of Representatives. Consequently,, the honorable member for Franklinwas entitled to move that in theenlarged Parliament Tasmania should have eight members of the House of Representatives. That would maintain the proportion of representation, which theframers of the Constitution realized was necessary for every original State. Onefifteenth of the 120 members provided for in this legislation is eight, and, as an original State, Tasmania’s representation should be increased to eight members.. The last two lines of section 24 of theConstitution provide that, notwithstanding anything in the section, at least fivemembers shall be chosen in each original State. That does not say that a State shall not have more than five members.
.- I think the point of view of supporters of the proposal of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) have been fully explained, and I do not propose to discuss it any further. I propose to discuss the clause.
Order! The amendment has been ruled out of order by the Chair a9 being outside the scope of the power of the committee.
– I am not talking about the amendment, which I said had been fully discussed. I said that I did not propose to say anything about it. I propose to deal with the substance of the matter. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) said that the Government could not accept the amendment, which has been ruled out of order, because it was contrary to the Constitution. He admitted, in reply to the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), that, apart from the requisite increase of population, the only way in which Tasmania could obtain greater representation than five members would be by an alteration of the Constitution.
– No, Tasmania could have more than five members if the membership of the House were increased to such a degree as to permit it to have more than five. That is the overriding provision. It cannot have more than five at present, without destroying the proportion.
– As things stand, Tasmania could not have more than five members of the House of Representatives. An appropriate alteration of the Constitution would be necessary to enable it to have more.
– An appropriate alteration of the Constitution or a far greater enlargement of the membership of the House and the Senate than is proposed.
– I am taking things as they stand. Under this legislation, Tasmania could not have more than five members without an appropriate alteration of the Constitution. If Tasmania’s members were increased in proportion to the increase proposed for the other States, it would have eight members. Therefore, what the Parliament should really concern itself with is whether, having regard to the general increase of membership of the Parliament as far as the other States are concerned, Tasmania ought not to have eight members. It is no answer to say that it cannot have eight members without an alteration of the Constitution. The real issue is whether the Parliament believes that Tasmania should -have eight members.
– What nonsense !
– It may be nonsense to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), who is an authority on nonsense, but to Tasmanians, inside and outside the Parliament, it is not nonsense to ask whether thai State, in justice, should not have eight members, because, if the Parliament feels that it should have eight; members, the responsibility is cast upon the Parliament to ensure that it should have those eight members. The only way in which they can have eight members is by an alteration of the Constitution. A referendum will be held on another subject in a few weeks, and, with hardly any additional expense, Tasmania’s representation in the House of Representatives and the other matters that we have raised in this discussion could be referred to the people for their decision; but the Government does not want a decision from the people. We have among the supporters of the Government men who claim to represent the majority of the people saying that this matter could not be referred to the people because in their present temper they would undoubtedly reject it. I hope that honorable members on all sides will not let those words die. They have been stated publicly by men elected to represent the people.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) for one, and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) for another, and, I think, the Attorney-General himself. I am not so sure about him, but I rely on the Hansard report of his remarks. I assure the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that it is not a fabrication. To-day, I have heard at least two and possibly more honorable members on the Government side say, “ We cannot put these issues to the people by way of referendum, because they would certainly reject them “.
– That is not true.
– Does the Minister suggest that that was not said.
– Order! There is too much interruption. I ask the honor-, able member for Fawkner to address the Chair.
– You, by happy chance, Mr. Chairman, were in the Chair when the statements were made. I put to you and to other members of the committee
– Order ! I ask the honora’ble member to address himself to the clause before the Chair. He is getting away from it.
– I put it to you, Mr. Chairman, that those statements should appear in Hansard. The question is whether Tasmania should be given more representation in the House of Representatives than is already provided for. The Attorney-General admits that the only way in which it could be given additional representation would be by an alteration of the Constitution entitling it to additional representation.
– Does the honorable member agree with the Attorney-General ?
– I am prepared to adopt his argument. If the Government and its supporters want to give Tasmania more than the minimum representation provided for it in the Constitution, they have means available to ensure it without imposing the burden of extra cost on the Australian taxpayers.
– I did not know Tasmania had so many ardent champions. I am delighted. I commend the views expressed on its behalf by honorable members of the committee.
– Not by honorable members on the Government side!
– I have noted that with great sorrow. “We are now discussing whether or not Tasmania should have greater representation in this chamber. We are accustomed in dealing with matters relating to the Constitution to go back to the time when it was framed to find the reasons that actuated its framers in placing certain provisions in it. When the Constitution was framed a long battle was fought on whether Tasmania should enter the federation. Finally, it was decided that unless it was guaranteed a minimum of five members of the House of Representatives - the same condition applied to Western Australia - it would not enter the federation. If we were framing the Constitution to-day, what would Tasmania’s minimum representation be? At the time of federation, it was five members. A comparable propor tion now would be eight, and I believe that, unless eight members are granted to it, the Australian Parliament will depart from the spirit in which the federation was set up. I urge that view upon the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). I accept his view that the Constitution must be altered to achieve that purpose.
– The honorable member accepts the ruling that I gave from the Chair?
– I always bow to the Chair. The Government should ask the people to amend the Constitution to enable Tasmania’s representation to be increased. Otherwise, Tasmania must feel once more that it has been left out in the cold and I submit that most honorable members would wish that not to be so.
– This afternoon, the committee reported progress in order to receive and consider a message from the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation from Consolidated Revenue to make provision for finance. I point out that that message applied only in respect of certain new senators; but the Parliamentary Allowances Act also covers members of the House of Representatives. There is no bound copy of the acts of 1947 on the table and I cannot check the provisions to which I have referred, but I think there must be some reason why financial provision was made for the new senators but not for the new members of the House of Representatives. Perhaps the Governor-General thinks that the new members of the House of Representatives should be paid by results.
.- That is not a bad idea. It might apply to the sudden enthusiasm of certain honorable gentlemen opposite for the cause of Tasmania’s representation. I do not refer to Tasmanian members. It would be wrong if it went forth that the Government is opposed to the fullest representation possible for Tasmania. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) stated the position fairly. Tasmania cannot at present have more members of the House of Representatives without an alteration of the Constitution.
This bill does not provide the opportunity for consideration of alteration of the Constitution. It does not propose to alter the Constitution. We are considering a clause designed to apply a system that will fix the exact number of senators required to balance the increase of members of the House ofRepresentatives, and the representation of Tasmania has nothing to do with the matter. I do not say that slightingly in reference to Tasmania. The Government has always endeavoured to forward the interests of Tasmania in every way possible.Regarding the point raised by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), an appropriation is not necessary in order to pay parliamentary allowances to additional members of the Senate or of the House of Representatives. Section 3 of the Parliamentary Allowances Act provides that payment shall be made to each senator and each member. This provision would automatically provide for payment to additional senators or members. An appropriation is necessary, however, to provide for the payment of allowances to that group of senators who do not fill periodical vacancies or casual vacancies, and are not elected after a double dissolution.
. It is to be regretted that the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) gives so little encouragement to those who are striving to have the Constitution brought up to date as it applies to parliamentary representation for the less populous States, and notably Tasmania. The AttorneyGeneral, as a great writer of constitutions, and amendments thereto - the charter of the United Nations would not be what it is–
– The honorable member must keep to the clause.
– Justice is not being done to Tasmania when it is to have only five representatives in this House, while having ten in the Senate. That is the opposite of the position which will prevail in all the other States. Increased representation for Tasmania in the House ofRepresentatives could be provided if the Government were willing. Although I know that nothing will be done in the matter, I believe that the House ought to express its disappointment with the attitude of the Attorney-General.
. -The Chair has ruled my proposed amendment out of order, and I must accept the ruling, but I still doubt whether there exist insurmountable legal obstacles to giving effect to what I propose. The Attorney-General has said that it would be possible, under the Constitution, to give extra representation to Tasmania. I now ask him whether he will see that it is done.
– I could not possibly give such an undertaking.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 16th April (vide page 968), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– in reply-I have nothing to add to what I said in reply to the debate on theRepresentation Bill.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral closing the debate?
– A clear understanding was reached that both bills were to be taken together, and that when the Attorney-General replied he would close the debate. That arrangement ought not to be departed from.
-I want to make some remarks on the second reading. I want to move an amendment.
– On the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), it was decided to take both bills together to the second-reading stage. Because of complications that arose during a previous debate of a similar kind, I suggested on this occasion that, when the Attorney-General replied, he would close the debate. No protest was made at the time, and it seemed to me that the House was unanimous in agreeing to the proposal. I cannot prevent the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) from moving an amendment if he wishes to do so; but I think, seeing that the House was unanimous in accepting the arrangement made, that the Minister’s reply should be regarded as closing the debate.
– The arrangement reached, at the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition, was that both bills should be debated together, in the second-reading stages, subject to my right, as the Minister who introduced them, to reply generally. In my speech this afternoon I discussed both bills. I did not discuss the Electoral Bill at any length, but I touched upon the subject of proportional representation, and this is the bill which provides for proportional representation. Therefore, subject to the rights of the honorable member for Reid, I suggest that the second-reading debate ended last night, except that I had the right to reply. I should like to know what is the position now.
– It has been the -custom, in regard to bills dealing with closely related subjects, to take the second-reading debate together. Honorable members will recall that recently there were, on the notice-paper, three motions dealing with closely related subjects, and the House agreed to debate them together. However, there was some confusion as to whether any one of the Ministers in whose name one of the motions stood, closed the debate when he replied. Last week, the Leader of the Opposition suggested that as these two bills were so closely related they might be taken together, and the House agreed unanimously to the suggestion. I wanted to make the position of the Chair clear. If’ honorable members look up the Hansard report or proceedings on that occasion, they will find that I raised the question as to whether the Attorney-General, in replying to the second-reading debate, would close the discussion. However, agreements between parties do not interfere with the right of individual members to speak, but if the honorable member for Reid re-opens the debate, I propose to give the AttorneyGeneral the right to reply to him.
– On the previous occasion when a somewhat similar situation arose, three separate papers had been tabled by three separate Ministers, and it was ruled that one of those Ministers could not close the debate on all three papers. On this occasion, the two bills were introduced by the same Minister, and as it was agreed that the debate on the two measures should be taken together, it follows that the Minister, having replied, has closed the debate.
– While I have no authority to speak for the Opposition, I feel sure that members of the Opposition will not want to re-open the debate after the honorable member for Reid has spoken. I point out, however, that no agreement reached by leaders of parties can be taken as binding the independent members of the House. It would be unfair to suggest that they ought to be bound by an arrangement entered into by the leaders of the parties, perhaps while they were not even present, and certainly an independent member should not, because the leaders of the parties have chosen to make an arrangement between themselves, be deprived of his right to state his views to the House. Whatever may be our opinion of individual members, I believe that every member should be assured, of his right to place before the House what he believes should be said in the interests of those who elected him.
– I have already ruled that the honorable member for Reid, has his rights as an individual member of the House, and those rights are not affected by any arrangement between- the parties.
.- If it were possible for me to meet the wishes of the Government, and of yourself, Mr. Speaker, by moving my amendment in committee, I should do so, but I believe that the amendment is of such a nature that it can be moved only at the secondreading stage. I move -
That all words after “That” be left out. with a view to insert in lieu thereof thi following words : - “ before proceeding with the proposed legislation, the question of the method of allocating preferences in a system of proportional representation for the Senate be referred for inquiry and immediate report to an Electoral Commission consisting of the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Chief
Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth, and the Chief Electoral Officers of the respective States “.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has already spoken in this debate. Is he entitled to speak again ?
– The honorable member is entitled to proceed. If we adhered strictly to the Standing Orders, each bill would be treated separately, but for convenience, we decided to combine the two bills and discuss the secondreading jointly. That however, does not prevent honorable members from moving amendments to the second bill.
– A commission should be appointed to ascertain whether there is a more suitable method of allocating preferences than that set out in this bill. Paragraph v of proposed new sub-section 5 of section 135 reads -
Each Divisional Returning Officer shall then, in respect of each continuing candidate forthwith take at random, from the parcel containing the ballot papers of the elected candidate which bear the next available preference for that continuing candidate, the number of ballot papers directed by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer and transfer those ballot papers to the continuing candidate. When this action has been completed in respect of all the continuing candidates, the Divisional Returning Officer shall notify the Commonwealth Electoral Officer of the total number of votes then received by each continuing candidate in so far as his division is concerned.
Surely a better system than that could be devised. The commission, which I suggest should be appointed, might inquire whether the method suggested in the bill does not introduce the element of a lottery into the electoral system and fails to provide a true reflex of the votes cast. It might also consider whether the preferential voting system can be carried out satisfactorily at the next election in view of the different terms to be provided for the senators to be elected. It might be asked to report as to whether the election of a senator for a period in excess of six years, as provided for in the bill, is within the terms of the Constitution. Lastly, it might consider what amendments are deemed necessary to bring the bill into line with the HareClark and other recognized systems of proportional representation. This is purely a machinery bill which will not become operative for at least eighteen months, and consequently, the inquiry by a commission such as I have suggested would not delay the legislative programme of the Government. The Government has already been successful in having the principles of this measure endorsed by the House in the bill for the enlargement of the Parliament. This bill deals with the system of counting votes and the allocation of preference votes. Voters should be able to understand not only the method of voting, but also the method of distributing preference votes. The method of distribution of preference votes provided for in the bill constitutes an incitement to vote manipulation. How can the representation of minorities be assured when two candidates are to be elected under one system of voting, two under another and three under still another. When the system of proportional representation was first introduced into New South Wales, in order that the rights of the minority should be preserved the minimum number that could be elected was limited to three. Now that number is to be reduced to two. No one knows who are the authors of the system that has been written into this measure. Indeed, no one seems inclined to accept responsibility for it. In order to retain the confidence of the people the system of counting votes and the allotment of preferences should not only be wholly fair and just, but should also appeal to the people as being fair and just. That quality of fairness and justice does not appear to be present in the proposal now before us. I doubt whether any member of this House, including the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, clearly and fully understands the provisions in this bill relating to proportional representation. If the commission is composed as I have suggested it will be accepted as competent by every one. No one could accuse the members I have suggested- as being in any way biased. After taking evidence and considering it the commission should present its report at the earliest possible moment. If its report be favorable to the Government, all the better for the Government.
.- Without trespassing-
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Indi has already spoken during the second-reading debate.
Mr. -‘SPEAKER. - The honorable member for Indi is well aware of the agreement arrived at in connexion with these bills.
– I am well aware of the substance of the agreement arrived at. I assure the House that I have no intention of traversing the matters dealt with during the second-reading debate. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) constitutes a new proposal and honorable members should not be expected to vote silently upon it. It is surely not suggested that the agreement should obligate an honorable member to vote silently on a proposal which was brought before the House after the agreement was made. I believe that the honorable member for Reid has made a reasonable proposal. Sufficient doubt has been cast on the procedural processes of counting and allocating votes to warrant the holding of an inquiry by a commission such as has been suggested by the honorable member. If the Government were prepared to accept the principle of an inquiry and report on this matter, hut desired that some alternative commission should be established, I and the party to which I belong would be prepared to consider the alternative proposal; but in the absence of such a proposal we give our unqualified support to the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Reid.
.- I desire to make it clear that such agreement as was reached was never intended to prevent the moving of an amendment on one of the bills covered by the agreement. If the agreement were carried out in the way the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) suggests, honorable members would be precluded from moving an amendment to the bill now before the House. The agreement was made in order to shorten the discussion of the two measures. It was never intended to prevent an honorable member from moving an amendment at the second-reading stage.
– I ask the honorable member to discuss the amendment.
– I merely wish to emphasize that honorable members on this side of the chamber are acting in good faith. I support the amendment.
– in reply - In substance the proposal of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) is that the method of allocating preferences under a system of proportional representation for the Senate should be referred for inquiry and immediate report to an electoral commission consisting of the Chief Justice, the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth and the chief electoral officers of the respective States. The system of proportional representation described in this bill is not new. It was in operation in New South Wales, as the honorable member well knows, between 1920 and 1925. The provisions covering the allocation of preferences are almost identical with those in the New South Wales legislation, which followed in principle the Tasmanian system of proportional representation which in turn was adopted from the system operating in respect of municipal elections in a number of countries including the British Isles and South Africa. The gist of the honorable member’s argument is that it is not enough that the counting should be carried out under a fair and just system but that everybody should appreciate the exact method of counting. It is not easy to guarantee that state of affairs even under a system of direct preferential voting. People may exercise their preferences, but it. cannot be assumed that they will understand the working of the ordinary preferential system. It is true that there is a difference between the system described in the bill and the Tasmanian system, but the system we propose to adopt does not involve any element of lottery except in the loose sense that all elections may be regarded as lotteries. The actual method is mathematically certain to produce the same result as if the candidates’ surplus votes on every ballot-paper were counted.
– The Chief Electoral Officer would agree with that.
– The Chief Electoral Officer will also administer it. He has prepared this bill, and has recommended it to the Government. He is familiar with the system in operation in other countries. In the circumstances, there is no need for a separate inquiry. I admit that the system, in specific application, is difficult to explain, but that is true of all systems of proportional representation. Honorable members representing Tasmanian electorates know that that is so. But the system does produce an overall result which is completely certain. If an odd number of seats - say five or seven - are to be filled and electors vote in the normal way according to the ticket, the majority group will get the majority of seats and no more. The honorable member for Reid is well aware of that fact. One of the governments which he led was elected under the system of proportional representation. The same position prevailed then. No one disputed or could dispute the fairness of the system of counting. Every honorable member will be justified in relying upon the experience of the Chief Electoral Officer regarding the adoption of the system of proportional representation in Senate elections in future. Quite confident, in that sense of the validity of the system, the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Lang’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section one hundred and thirty-five of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1946 is amended by omitting sub-sections (5.) to (14.) (inclusive) and inserting in their stead the following sub-sections: - “ (5.) The several vacancies shall be filled in the following manner: -
Unless all vacancies have been filled, the surplus votes (that is, any number in excess of the quota) of each elected candidate shall be transferred to the continuing candidates, in proportion to the voters’ preferences, as follows : -
Each Divisional Returning Officer shall then, in respect of each continuing candidate, forthwith take at random, from the parcel containing the ballot-papers of the elected candidate which bear the next available preference for that continuing candidate, the number of ballot-papers directed by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer and transfer those ballot-papers to the continuing candidate.
.- I move-
That in proposed new sub-section (5.), paragraph (e), sub-paragraph (v), the words “ forthwith take at random “ be left out.
These words are one of the really objectionable features of the bill, i claim to know the rudiments of the system of proportional representation. It is a perfectly mathematical system of counting votes, and deals even with fractions, but I cannot, in any circumstances, approve of a proposal which allows returning officers to select votes at random in order to arrive at a decision. The whole purpose of this legislation, I thought, waa to improve the system of representation -of the people in the Senate. I cannot believe that the incorporation of a provision of this kind will improve the method of election. According to the way in which the provision is drafted, the returning officer must first count all preferences, and place them in separate heaps. If, in what ‘Would be a tenmilliontoone contingency, a candidate obtained the exact number of votes necessary for a quota, those votes would be put aside. I do not find any fault with that, although, in my opinion, the provision is unnecessary, and would be automatically applied should that most unlikely event occur. The’ next step is that the returning officer must count all the second-preference votes of any candidate who has received more than the quota. He must examine those votes one by one, and classify them according to the second preferences. He must determine what percentage of the second preferences shall be transferred. He does that by determining the number of votes by which the total exceeds the quota. Next, he must ascertain what those transferred votes are. The bill contains an amazing proposal as the next step. When the returning officer has found out what the votes are, they will be taken at random and placed to the credit of some other candidate. In my opinion, that is wrong. The workmanlike way of conducting a count of this description is to hold the count at the central electoral office in each State. All the votes would then be at one centre. The idea of a count of this description being conducted in 47 or 48 sub-divisions in New South Wales is, to my mind, fantastic. When we consider the possibilities that might occur, and the taking of the votes at random in 47 or 48 centres, the system does not commend itself to me. Therefore, I strongly urge the Attorney-General to agree to the omission of the words, “ forthwith take at random “. This will be a test to decide whether the committee considers that this method is fair and proper.
.- The words, “forthwith take at random “, to which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has objected, are rather confusing. They do not suggest the dangers to which the honorable member has referred. The system operates in the manner described in paragraph e, and honorable members must follow the procedure in order to understand what precedes this choice of ballot-papers from the parcel containing the ballot-papers of the elected candidates. The procedure will be to distribute the votes of an elected candidate. In ascertaining the quota for any State, every No. 1 preference, vote will be reported to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer. For instance, if seven candidates are to be elected, the quota will be fixed by taking one-eighth of the total number of votes and adding one to the resulting quotient. In a system such as that to which honorable members are accustomed - that is, the system of Senate counting which has been in operation for more than twenty years - one finds that the votes of candidates for a particular party are regimented so that one candidiate as a rule obtains practically the full force of the No. 1 votes. For the sake of illustration, 1 shall state a hypothetical case in NewSouth Wales. Let us assume that Senator Ashley gets 800,000 votes.
– But he would not get that number under the proposed system.
– He would get exactly the same number under the new system as under the old if voting were regimented in the same way.
– The object is to get away from that.
– The honorable member fails to realize that, if candidates go to the ballot representing a party, the party will regiment the vote in the same way as at present. There may be some exceptions, but broadly that will be true. In other words, if Senator Ashley would get 800,000 No. 1 votes under the present system, he will get approximately the same number under the proposed system. If the quota fixed is, say, 200,000 votes, Senator Ashley, having received 800,000 No. 1 votes, will have a surplus of 600,000 over and above what is necessary to elect one candidate. Therefore, 600,000 votes will be available for distribution for the purpose of electing other candidates. The same principle will apply to the candidates representing any other party. The process is described in sub-paragraph i of paragraph e, which provides that the surplus votes of each elected candidate shall be transferred to continuing candidates in proportion to the voters’ preferences. In the hypothetical case I have cited, Senator Ashley’s surplus of 600,000 votes will be distributed. The full number of 800,000 votes will not be distributed, because 200,000 of them will have been fully used in electing him. In effect, the surplus of 600,000 votes will be made available to the second, third and other choices of the voters.
– How will the number of 600,000 votes be picked ?
– Consider the position in New South “Wales, which will have 47 divisions. The Senate votes will be brought to a central point in each division. Each divisional officer will then report to the central officer at Sydney the result of the No. 1 count in his electorate. Invalid ballot-papers will have been rejected at that stage. The electoral officer will fix. a quota by dividing the total number of valid votes by eight and adding one to the quotient. This will fix a quota of, say, 200,000. In the hypothetical case I have cited, with Senator Ashley receiving 800,000 No. 1 votes, there will therefore be a surplus available for distribution of 600,000. Another candidate might receive 500,000 No. 1 votes. That would leave a surplus of 300,000, and exactly the same procedure would be followed in relation to that surplus. Senator Ashley’s votes will be examined-
– All of them?
– The No. 1 votes will be examined and the No. 2 votes will be examined.
– All of them?
– Yes, without exception. When the No. 2 votes have been examined, that result also will be reported to the central officer. Let us assume that the candidate indicated on the party ticket as the second preference to Senator Ashley is named Arnold. It will be found that the great majority of Senator Ashley’s votes will indicate Arnold as second preference.
– The fraction is applied there ?
– Yes. I do not want to use the word “ fraction “ in an inaccurate sense. I prefer to say that the proportion is applied.
– “ Fraction “ is used in the bill. It is the right honorable member’s choice, not mine.
– Sub-paragraph i of paragraph e states -
The Commonwealth Electoral Officer shall divide the number of the elected candidate’s surplus votes by the number of first-preference votes received by him and the resulting fraction, shall, for the purposes of this paragraph, he the transfer value of that candidate’s surplus votes.
– Then, in the hypothetical case, Senator Ashley’s votes will then be inspected and the second preferences reduced by the fraction in orderto bring them into line with the surplus votes ?
– That will happen a little later in the count. That is where the point raised by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) comes in. Sub-paragraph ii states -
The Commonwealth Electoral Officer shall direct each Divisional Returning Officer to arrange in separate parcels for the continuing candidates the whole of the ballot-papers of the elected candidate according to the next available preference indicated thereon and to advise him of the number of ballot-papers in each parcel.
Therefore, every ballot-paper will be examined at that point. That subparagraph provides that the surplus of 600,000 votes from .Senator Ashley shall be divided according to the second preferences. The resulting figures will be reported to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer. Sub-paragraph iii states -
Upon receipt of advices from all the Divisional Returning Officers, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer shall ascertain, in respect of each continuing candidate, the total number of ballot-papers of the elected candidate which bear the next available preference for that continuing candidate and shall, by multiplying that total by the transfer value of the elected candidate’s surplus votes, determine the number of votes to be transferred from the elected candidate to each continuing candidate. If, as a result of the multiplication, any fraction results, so many of those fractions, taken in the order of their magnitude, beginning with the largest, as are necessary to ensure that the number of votes transferred equals the number of the elected candidate’s surplus votes shall be reckoned as of the value of unity and the remaining fractions shall be ignored.
The result of that provision might be that, in an electorate of 1,600,000 voters, there would be a small handful of votes represented by a series of fractions of less than one. Sub-paragraph iv reads -
The Commonwealth Electoral Officer shall then, as nearly as practicable in proportion to the number of ballot-papers contained in the relative parcels in the several divisions, determine the number of ballot-papers to be transferred from the elected candidate to each continuing candidate in each division and sh n 11 direct the several Divisional Returning Officers to transfer ballot-papers accordingly.
Sub-paragraph v is that to which criticism has been directed.
The situation then is that in each divisional office, the Divisional Returning Officer has these parcels. He has the No. 1 votes of the continuing candidates, and he also has these parcels of votes which show “ Ashley 1, Arnold 2,” in the case of Arnold, or “ Ashley 1, Smith 2,” in the case of Smith, or “Ashley 1, Jones 2,” in the case of Jones. They would be in the Arnold, Smith or Jones’ groups. Under the system of proportional representation, it is not possible simply to add the whole of those to the whole of that group and treat them as, for instance, Arnold’s votes, because he would probably get 98 or 99 per cent, of the votes that Ashley has got. It must, therefore, be limited by the proportion, that is, the fraction of three-fourths. Then what takes place is the physical transference of the ballot-papers in accordance with the provisions of sub-paragraph v. The fraction is worked out simply; there can be no mistake about it. It is determined not from one, but from thousands of booths all over the State. It is assessed and worked out at the central office. The officials at the central office work out the fraction and report to the Commonwealth Electoral Office in each division the number to be taken out. Under the provisions of sub-paragraph v, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer has to determine the number of ballot-papers to be transferred from the elected candidate to each continuing candidate in each division and then telegraph the number to be taken out of this very large group of ballotpapers, which I am assuming would be “ Ashley 1, Arnold 2 “, the smaller number being “ Ashley 1 “ and the other candidates 2. Honorable members will see that under the party system it is practically certain that 97 per cent., 98 per cent, or even 99 per cent, of the “ Ashley 1 “ papers will follow the party line.
– That is not so in Tasmania. It applies to the case of the Labour party but not to the other parties.
– I was thinking rather of New South “Wales. The number having been telegraphed, the returning officer takes from that parcel of the elected candidate the number he is told to take.
– At random?
– Yes. If there are, say, 10,000 ballot-papers in a particular division marked “ Ashley 1, Arnold 2 “, that parcel will belong, so to speak, to Arnold. Then a message comes from the central office saying, “ Take at random 7,500 of the ballot-papers marked Ashley 1, Arnold 2, as to which you have telegraphed me there are 10,000, and add them to Arnold “.
– Why not carry on in the same way counting the whole 10,000 out and taking the fraction ?
– It could be done in that way, but I am advised that it would lead to an enormous number of fractional calculations at later stages of the count. If it were done in the way suggested by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), instead of the result in
New South Wales being determined in ten or fifteen counts it might take 150 counts. The advantage of this system is that by taking them at random from the 10,000, the 7,500 is an effective surplus for all purposes.
– It is not as accurate as the other system. It cannot be.
– Theoretically there might be a slight divergence, but the report, to which I referred in my second-reading speech, from the experts of the Proportional Representation Society and the electoral officers is that, assuming there is a party system, there is one chance in 50,000,000 of the result under this system being different’. So small and insignificant a possibility may be ignored.
– It works out on the law of averages.
– It is more like the law of mathematical probability under which we can be fairly certain that if the meteorologist says that the sun will risc to-morrow at 7.10 a.m. it will rise at that time and not at 7.12 a.m. If this system is not adopted, all these ballot-papers - perhaps 1,600,000 of them in one State - will have to be brought to a central office and dealt with there. The chief electoral officer says that that would impose an immense burden upon the department and that it would have to have an army of workers at the central point instead of keeping them in each division, where the safety of the papers could be assured and where the actual physical transference of the surplus could take place.
– The point of this taking at “ random “ is that it is done in each divisional office throughout the State and not at the central office. In that way a fair cross-section would be obtained.
– Yes. There is a physical transfer. It is not possible to take the lot, because, under the proportional system, only a fraction can be taken. Instead of taking a fraction and looking at all the votes, adding that fraction, getting fractions in other calculations, and at the next stage fractions of fractions and at the next stage fractions of fractions of fractions, you get-
– You get a fraction.
– You do not get any fractions. You ignore fractions at that point.
I want honorable members to see what very slight element of chance there could be under this system and what an insignificant difference there could be in the results. Assume there are 10,000 votes cast for Senator Ashley in a division. You take the 7,500 of them. If the party ticket is marked on the papers, it will be observed. In such a large number as 10,000, spread over 47 electorates, reaching a total of, I have assumed, 800,000, although it might be less, the result achieved in that way, which is more simple administratively and more assuredly safe, differs in no material respect from the result achieved by the other method of counting.
– Are scrutineers to be permitted to be in attendance when the selections are made?
– That would be necessary in order to ensure that the selections were made at random. The scrutineers will not deliberately pick out papers marked “ Ashley 1, Arnold 2 “ and so on. In any case, assuming that party tickets operate, the chance of deviation from group voting appears to be small.
– The explanation given by the Attorney General (Dr. Evatt) does not satisfy me. However, apart from that I understand that when late sittings are to be held it is the practice for agreement to be reached between leaders of the Government and the Opposition. That has not been done in this case, and I did not know that we were in for a late sitting to-night.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– As one who has been a keen student of the system of proportional representation over a period of years, I cannot agree to the enactment of thi3 clause. If electors are to be compelled to exercise their right to make preference votes, as provided by the bill in its present form, then an elector must vote for every candidate whose name is included on a ballotpaper. If there ane 50 names on a ballot-paper the unfortunate elector will have to place a number against every one of those names. What is the sense of compelling a. man to. vote for. every candidate whose name appears on the ballot-paper if the contingent votes are not to be counted? That is utterly ridiculous.. No system of proportional representation will operate satisfactorily unless some freedom is allowed to the electors.. I repeat that if this proposal is agreed to electors will be compelled to vote for every candidate whose name appears on the paper, yet the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt.) says, in effect, “ In regard to a certain number of votes cast it. is immaterial to whom voters allocate their preferences “–
– No; the same; procedure; will obtain in respect of the first, second, third and all other preferences, and the contingent votes maybe counted.
-The. Attorney-General put forward a great case in favour of securing a solid party vote, but. the real virtue of proportional representation lies in the fact that it enables electors to depart from party groups and to be given a choice of candidates., If any political party endorses fewer candidates than there are seats to be filled, its aim will be to constrain the electors by not giving them a free choice. From my point of view this proposal is undemocratic; and is opposed to the true principle of proportional representation, and I urge the committee to reject it. How long would any member of the Tasmanian Parliament be tolerated who made such a suggestion? Indeed, the suggestion would be sunk in the Derwent as soon as it was mentioned by the Clerk of the Tasmanian. Parliament.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Archie Cameron’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J.Clark)
Majority . . … 11.
Question soresolvedin the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause. 4 agreed to.
– I move -
That, after clause 2, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 2a. Section one hundred and twenty-three of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1946. is amended by omitting from paragraph, (a) of sub-section (1.) the wordsall the remaining candidates and inserting in their stead the words as many candidates as there are Senate vacancies to be filled’.”
No attempt is made in the bill to amend section 23 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which provides- that every candidate must be voted for if a formal vote is to be made. With the system of proportional representation, under which, in the majority of the States, there will be candidates from three political parties and a number of independents as well, it seems utterly futile to propose seriously that an elector should be obliged to vote for every candidate on the list in order to record a formal vote. It is hard for electors to express their preference beyond three or four candidates and to compel a man to vote for 30 or 40 candidates - for the Lord knows how many aspirants for office there will be - is to go too far. My proposal would limit the number of candidates that would have to be voted for to the seven candidates to be elected. I am sure that if the Government consults the Electoral Office or any authority on proportional representation, it will be quickly convinced that that is a sufficient number of votes to ensure a proper poll. It will lessen the number of informal votes.
.- I support the amendment because it is common sense. It is unfair to expect the electors to put a number in every square on the ballot-papers. I speak advisedly, because I made an investigation in my electorate and found that 17 per cent, of the votes were informal because the voters had not voted for all the candidates. To require electors to vote for, say, twenty candidates, will prolong the counting, and the next Senate election will be at hand before we shall know the result of the preceding one. In Tasmania, where the proportional system operates, there are long delays in the counting of the votes. Therefore, I heartily agree with the amendment.
– What the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) proposes is an alteration of the existing law which provides for compulsory extension of preferences over the whole number of candidates. That extension of preferences is more necessary under ‘ the proportional representation system than under the present system.
– The right honorable gentleman is quite wrong.
– The honorable member says that I am wrong, but he has not studied all the aspects of the proportional representation system one of which is that candidates may have to be elected, not from the top by the distribution of surplus votes, but from the bottom by the exclusion of candidates. In that case, it may be that a vote well down the ballot-paper will have to be taken into account. If that is done we shall get what are known as exhausted votes; that is, after a certain stage is reached in the counting, a vote might have no effect and might as well not have been polled. Therefore, there is no reason to alter the existing system. On the contrary, there is every reason for retaining it for under proportional representation a very low preference may become either an effective vote when candidates are excluded from the bottom of the ballot-paper, or a fraction of an effective vote when candidates are excluded from the top of the ballot-paper. Those are the . reasons which have actuated the Government in retaining the present system.
– I do not agree that the existing method is necessary to make a system of proportional representation effective. In Tasmania, for many years, the number of compulsory votes totalled only half that of the number of candidates to be elected, and although what are known as exhausted votes were not avoided absolutely, in general electors marked the whole of the ballot-paper. At least they indicated their choice in respect of all candidates of the particular party which they supported. The argument that the present system is essential for the satisfactory working of proportional representation is unsound. It is not in accordance with the opinion which other electoral experts have expressed from time to time. In a system under which the Government has already departed from mathematical accuracy, the argument advanced by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will not bear examination. The Government has cut away complete mathematical accuracy by the insertion of the “ at random “ provision, yet it maintains that the proposal made by the honorable member for Barker will nullify many votes. As one who has had a wide experience of the two methods of voting during the period I have exercised the franchise, I am convinced that the existing method will tend to increase the number of informal votes.
– Like the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) I have had considerable experience of the systems to which she has referred. The Government does not propose to depart from the principle of mathematical accuracy. There is something in the contention of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that under the existing system many informal votes are recorded. However, except in a highly educated community, informal votes are inevitable particularly when a large number of candidates must be voted for. In order to obtain a true reflection of the will of the electorate it is necessary that voters record their choice in respect of all candidates. The retention of the existing system has been recommended by experts after a thorough study of votes cast at general elections during a period of many years and after testing the two methods on that basis. If the names of fourteen candidates appear on the ballot-paper and the voter is compelled to vote for only 7, the number required to be elected, they will vote for only seven and will not record any choice in respect of the remainder. In those circumstances, many votes will become exhausted votes, and thus the poll as a whole will not truly reflect the will of the electorate. We must educate the electors to vote for all candidates in the order of their choice. We have been endeavouring to do that in Tasmania for a number of years. I support the arguments advanced by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt).
Friday, SO April 19U8.
– The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) has uttered a lot of nonsense. All honorable members are anxious to devise a system better than the existing system. I am prepared to accept the Government’s point of view, if I can be convinced that it is preferable. However, I recall that at the last two Senate elections from 15 to 20 per cent, of the votes cast were informal. Out of a total of 3,500,000 votes the number of informal votes exceeded 500,000. Therefore, it is useless for the Minister for Repatriation to say that the existing system ensures a true reflection of the opinion of the electorate. The Minister also said that it is a matter of educating the people to cast their vote in a formal manner. The existing system for Senate elections has been in vogue for the past twenty years, and all parties have been endeavouring to educate their supporters to carry their preferences right down the list of candidates on the ballotpaper. Nevertheless, the percentage of informal votes cast at every election is excessive. When we are introducing a new system we should establish a method of voting which will record a fairer reflection of the intention of the electorate. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) has told us of the working of the system of proportional representation in Tasmania. It has been said that it is’ impossible to get mathematical accuracy unless voters are compelled to indicate their choice in respect of each candidate. The Tasmanian system has been in force for a number of years, and persons who have studied it are satisfied that it truly reflects the will of the electorate. Under it, voters are compelled to vote for candidates to the number of only half the seats filled. At the next Senate election there will probably be a greater number of candidates than ever before, because seven will be required to be elected. If only the three main parties, the Australian Country party, the Australian Labour party and the Liberal party, nominate seven candidates each there will be 21 candidates, without taking into account candidates who may be nominated by other parties. There is every possibility that there will be an even greater percentage of informal votes than previously. I am anxious that a system should be adopted which will reflect the opinion of the people. I suggest that the Government defer the matter until to-morrow so that it may be examined by the electoral officers. Then, if a simpler system can be devised, it should be adopted.
I ask the Attorney-General to consider seriously the proposal contained in the suggested new clause. Our purpose should be to ensure that the maximum number of formal votes are cast. At the last Senate election in Victoria, there were nine candidates, and in my electorate 12 per cent, of the votes were informal. At the next Senate election anything from 20 to 25 candidates will be nominated by the political parties, and probably a large number of independents will nominate as well. If the elector is required to place all the candidates in the correct order it must result in an increase of the number of informal votes.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Civil Aviation - 11. S. Choate, F. R. Liebelt, A. J. Sutherland.
House adjourned at 12.10 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for .the Interior, upon notice -
In the allotment of land for pastoral leases in the Northern Territory, will the Government undertake to give to .returned servicemen and/or new settler applicants who are able to prove their experience in the cattle industry, and who can satisfy the Government that they have ‘sufficient capital to develop and stock a .lease, preference .over the applications of persons or companies who already hold substantial interests in pastoral leasehold areas in the Northern Territory?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
As a general rule, preference over persons and companies who already hold substantial interests in pastoral leasehold areas in the Northern Territory will be given to returned servicemen and new settler applicants who are able to prove their experience in the cattle industry and who can satisfy the Government that they have sufficient capital to develop and stock their leases. In certain instances there may be circumstances which warrant a departure from this general rule, but they would he few in number.
Food for Britain: Dripping.
l. - On the 23 rd April, the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) asked the following question : -
I have received a letter from a woman who has been posting parcels containing food to Great Britain for some time. In the parcel which she proposed to send to the United Kingdom this week she Included a tin of dripping which weighed 5 lb. When she presented the parcel at the local post office, she was informed that she could not send more than 2 lb. of dripping in a parcel and that the parcel which she had prepared could not be despatched. She has informed me that the dripping had been properly clarified and the soldier’s cake tin in which it was packed had been sealed with solder; apparently the postal official did not question the method of packing. The person concerned is a member of a club which has sent more than 400 food .parcels overseas and, because of the urgent need of fat in Great Britain to-day, I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he can inform the House of the reason for the limitation on dripping in food parcels which had been imposed? Would it be possible to revise any previous direction issued to postal officials in regard to this matter? .
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
I am informed by .my colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, that the limit , of 2 lb. .of edible animal fats ‘(including dripping.) in any one overseas food parcel was imposed to ensure more equitable distribution of such commodity among recipients and to prevent exploitation by unscrupulous persons of the generous gesture of the Australian public who are forwarding fat to persons who are in less .fortunate circumstances than themselves. I .am advised that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is reviewing the weight limitation imposed on edible fats and further advice will be furnished to the honorAble .member .as early as possible.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 April 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480429_reps_18_196/>.