19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Eon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for National Development aware that a new and serious bottleneck has occurred in the housing and .developmental programme, as the result of a New South Wales timber shortage estimated at’ 46,000,000 super, feet! Is he also aware of the difficulty associated with the importation of Oregon from Canada because of increased prices on the Pacific seaboard, and the fact that the value of Australian imports is restricted ,to a fixed sum in pounds for dollars ? ls it true to say that imports of timber will be reduced by approximately 25 per cent.? Is it also a fact that recent floods will cause a reduction of 20,000,000 super, feet in the output of New South Wales hardwood ? Will the . Minister endeavour to arrange for additional dollars to be made available for the importation of Oregon in an effort to meet a very dangerous situation ?
– The Government is well aware of the unfortunate shortage of timber in the three eastern States of Australia, particularly in New South Wales, caused, largely, by the interruption of logging operations during the last four or five months. I cannot hold out any hope that additional dollars will be provided, but I can assure the honorable member that the supply of softwood timber in Australia, particularly in relation to housing and development generally, is now under the active consideration of the Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works and Housing. By way of explanation I refer to recent reports concerning the completion of an agreement made overseas by this Government for the purchase of 2,000 prefabricated homes. Is the Minister in a position to say whether these imported homes have been allocated to various States, and if so, to indicate the proportional allocation? If these homes have not been allotted, is the Minister aware that the successful development of certain Commonwealth areas and undertakingsis now dependent upon providing homes for workers. Bearing this in mind, will the Minister give consideration to reserving some of these imported homes for workers in Commonwealth developmental areas such as that at St. Mary’s in New South Wales ?
– A considerable number of the houses that the Government proposes to import are for Australian Government purposes only. They are for the accommodation of members of the three fighting forces and of post office employees and other Commonwealth public servants. The general position of houses for workers and others in the States of Australia is the responsibility of the States themselves. They are now making provision for the importation of prefabricated houses to supplement local housing programmes. I appreciate the honorable member’s reference to the necessity foT housing at St. Mary’s; the Government has every sympathy with that matter.
– I call the honorable member for Indi.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has risen in his place repeatedly since the commencement of question time, but you have called three honorable members from the Government side of the House without giving any calk to this side of the House.
– I think that the honorable member for Wilmot knows perfectly well why he has not been called.
Mr.Chifley.- I rise to order. I support the point of order that has already been raised and concerning which I do not think that you, Mr. Speaker, have given a proper ruling. I understand that the practice of the Chair at question time has been to give the call to ask a question to two honorable members in succession from the Liberal party and Australian Country party benches and then to give the call to ask a question to a member of the Opposition. The honorable member for Wilmot has risen three times and has now been refused a call by yon. I shall be glad if you would say on what ground you have refused to accord to a member of the Opposition the right to address a question to aMinister.
– If the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) will study what the honorable member for Wilmot said last Thursday night about my giving of the call, he will understand why Ihave not given a call to the honorable gentleman to-day. I simply told the honorable member on Thursday night that he must come to my office–
– Why should he?
– Order ! While I am on my feet there willbe silence or some honorable members will soon be missing from the chamber.
-Heil Hitler !
– Order! The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) will withdraw that remark and apologize to me for having made it.
– I withdraw.
– And apologise to me for having made it.
– And I apologize.
– The honorable member for Wilmot made an accusation against me concerning the giving of the call and declared that I had given two calls to honorable members on the Government side of the chamber for every one that I had given to members of the Opposition. Having read out the figures of the calk that I had given during last week and the two preceding weeks, I asked the honorable member to see me in my office, look at the figures, and then make a correction of his statement in the House. His statement was a hopelessly incorrect, inaccurate and unjustified reflection upon my conduct in this chair, and I require the honorable member for Wilmot to explain himself before I shall see him when he rises to ask a question.
– I rise to order. _ I should like you to state what standing order or ruling gives to the Speaker of this House the authority or right to direct or request any individual members of the House to call upon him in his private chambers in his capacity as Speaker. The business of this House is conducted within the House and when punishment has to be meted out it must be meted out, I respectfully suggest, either by yourself, as Speaker, while the House is in assembly, or by a decision of the House. I ask under what ruling or standing order you can require any private member of the House to call upon you in your office.
– I do not know that I can quote any standing order, but I have decided that I shall not call the honorable member for Wilmot for another question until he corrects the unjustified and inaccurate charges that he made against me last Thursday night. The matter is in the hands of the House, and, if the House does not support me, that ia too bad.
– I move -
That the honorable member for Wilmot be now heard.
-The Leader of the Opposition may move that an honorable member be heard only to enable him to make a speech. There is nothing in the Standing Orders of which I am aware that provides-
– I refer you to Standing Order 60, Mr. Speaker.
– I shall examine it. It states -
When two or more Members rise together to speak the Speaker shall call upon the Member who, in his opinion, first rose in his place; but it shall be in order to move, that any Member who has risen “ be now heard “, or “ do now speak “.
That is in regard to the rules of debate, privilege and order, and not in regard to questions.
– I rise to order. May I take it, Mr. Speaker, that you have now ruled that until the honorable member for Wilmot does something which you ex. plained a few moments ago, he will not receive the call? If that is your ruling, I desire to move dissent from it.
– Will the right honorable gentleman put his motion in writing?
– Yes: I shall do so immediately.
– May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you have ruled my motion OUt of order ?
– I have ruled it out of order.
– It was obviously out of order.
A n honorable member having risen in his place.
-Order ! A point of order may not be taken while the right honorable member for Barton is writing out his motion of dissent from my ruling. We shall take one point of order at a time. The honorable member can remain in reserve.
Dr. Evatt having submitted in writing his objection to the ruling,
– I move -
That Mr. Speaker’s ruling of to-day refusing to call on the honorable member for Wilmot to ask a question of a Minister be dissented from.
Mr. Speaker, it is now clear fromwhat you have said to-day and in addition from what you said last Thursday evening on the motion for the adjournment of the House, that you have taken a course which is quite unparalleled in parliamentary history, and I submit that it is entirely opposed to the Standing Orders. Last Thursday, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) raised the matter to which you referred a few minutes ago. He mentioned the practice that was adopted by Mr. Speaker in calling honorable members at question time, and he pointed out that it had been the practice of Mr. Speaker to call a member from each of the Government parties in turn, and then a member of the Opposition.
Conversation being audible,
– Do you not consider, Mr. Speaker, that Ministers should be silent when the right honorable member for Barton is addressing the Chair?
– I have taken the trouble to-day to call the attention of all political parties, through the Whips, to the need for silence when an honorable member is speaking. My request applies to both sides of the House.
– On the occasion to which I refer, the honorable member for Wilmot submitted that you, Mr. Speaker, in giving the call at question time, should in your discretion treat the members of both the Government parties as members of the one group which, in effect, they claim to be.
– When was that ?
– On Thursday last. In reply to the honorable member for Wilmot on that occasion, Mr. Speaker said-
– I rise to order. Is the right honorable member for Barton in order in quoting from the Hansard “ flat “?
– Who said that the right honorable member was quoting from the Hansard “flat”?
– I can see him doing so.
– I was present in the House on that occasion, and I am now referring to a document in ‘order, to refresh my memory of what happened. In no sense am I quoting from the H award “ flat “. The fact is that after the honorable member for Wilmot raised this matter, you, Mr. Speaker, answered his remarks on the adjournment.
– I rise to order. The right honorable member for Barton is still quoting from the Hansard “ flat “. I can see from here that he is doing so.
– Order! If the right honorable member is quoting from the Hansard “ flat “ he is out of order.
– I am not quoting from the Hansard “ flat “. I am referring to a document for purposes of greater accuracy so that no dispute will arise about what was said on the occasion to which I have referred. You, Mr. Speaker, having given what you considered to be a sufficient answer to the honorable member for Wilmot, then directed him in mandatory terms that he must see you in your chambers. I believe that you acquiesce in that statement as an accurate account of the facts. All honorable members who were in the House at the time will recall what happened and will - remember the command that you gave to the honorable member for Wilmot who raised a perfectly legitimate point on the motion for the adjournment, which he had an undoubted right to do.
Now, we begin a second chapter in relation to the matter. When the honorable member for Wilmot, as a representative of his constituents, desired to-day to nsk a question of a Minister on a matter of public importance, you, Mr. Speaker, ruled that you will refuse to permit the honorable member to represent his constituents in that particular until he sees you in your chambers and makes some explanation to you and, in addition, makes some explanation to the House with respect to the statement that he made on the occasion to which I have referred. I submit that it is completely outside the jurisdiction of the Chair to give any ruling unless specific authority exists for such action. Your action in this matter constitutes a form of discipline that is calculated to interfere with honorable members in the discharge of their duties. The honorable member for Wilmot did no more than place his views before the House. Mr. Speaker dealt with the matter and gave his explanation and so far as the House was concerned the matter ended there. It seems now, however, that the matter is taking a further turn, so that t,b e honorable member for Wilmot is to be penalized from day to day, not personally, but in his representation of his constituents. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that ;5 ou cannot point to any standing order that gives you authority to rule in that way. This afternoon when you called on questions without notice, you did not call, for questions from all honorable members except the honorable member for Wilmot. You invited questions generally. Now you have refused the honorable member for Wilmot the right to ask questions of Ministers on matters of public importance. I again submit that you have no authority for that ruling. Therefore, the motion that I have submitted is justified and I hope that it will be considered on non-party lines.
– Is the motion seconded ?
.- I second the motion. It raises a very important question which should not be treated lightly by any honorable member regardless of the side of the House on which he sits. The motion arises out of a complaint that was made by the honorable member for Wilmot with regard to Mr. Speaker’s allocation of the call from the Chair at question time. The honorable member claimed that undue preference had been given to honorable members sitting on the Government side of the House. Mr. Speaker, in reply, pointed out that his list indicated that the calls from the Chair had been evenly distributed to honorable members on both sides of the House. Whoever may have been right or wrong, the honorable member for Wilmot felt aggrieved at the manner in which the calls were being allocated and he referred to the matter on the motion for the adjournment of the House. In no other way could he have brought the matter before the House. The honorable member for Wilmot, having raised the matter on the motion for the adjournment, Mr. Speaker produced a list of the calls which he claimed had been given during the day. I do not desire to question the accuracy or otherwise of the list. I assume that at least from the point of view of numbers it would be correct. The important thing that most honorable members realize-
– Order ! That matter is not under discussion. The question before the Chair is a motion of dissent from my ruling that the honorable member for Wilmot may not ask a question until he has complied with certain conditions. The manner in which calls have been given from the Chair is not under discussion.
– I am reciting the facts that gave rise to your decision. The correctness of your action to-day, Mr. Speaker, depends on whether you have the right to summon any member of this House to your quarters. ;Mr. SPEAKER. - That is not mentioned in the motion either.
– ~No, but if I may so submit, Mr. Speaker, the whole matter depends on whether or not you possess the authority to do so. If I may not refer to that matter I do not know on what authority you, Mr. Speaker, could refer to it. You have already said to-day that you will not give the honorable member for Wilmot the call from the Chair until he has visited your rooms and discussed certain things. If you advance that ruling to the House to-day as justification for your failure to give the call to the honorable member for Wilmot, surely 1 should be permitted to question whether it is competent for you to require any honorable member to visit you in your chambers. This is . the place in which decisions are made. This is the place where members ask questions in the interests of their constituents. Surely you do not intend to superimpose on your authority in this place the right to adopt star chamber methods. If an honorable member asks a question that aggrieves either a Minister or yourself, Mr. Speaker, both you and the Minister have your remedies in this place. Surely you do not intend to superimpose on the Standing Orders authority that does not exist in the Standing Orders to summon to your rooms and to explain his actions any honorable member who exercises his right of free speech in this House. On the basis of your statement to-day, Mr. Speaker, you seem to have so acted in deciding that you will not call the honorable member for Wilmot. In this decision you are taking a very important step. It is not a matter of whether the honorable member for Wilmot had said something about you that was distasteful ; it is a question of whether you have the right to disfranchise the electors of Wilmot by refusing to give the call to the honorable member for Wilmot and thus exercise authority which has never been exercised in the history of this Parliament. I could understand your action if you could cite a precedent for it, or if you could convincingly refer to some custom or usage of the House or of its Standing Orders which entitled you to summon to your chambers an honorable member and to require him to accept, in a no doubt contrite mood, the correctness of your ruling. If he does not accept it, then for the rest of his term in this Parliament his electors will be disfranchised as far as you are concerned. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that all that can be inferred from your statement to-day is that if the honorable member does not go to your chambers and contritely accept perhaps your censure for exercising his right of free speech in this House, his electors will be disfranchised. I consider that that is an exercise of authority which members on the Government side, who have been so turbulent to-day on this matter, should consider very carefully in relation to a situation of this kind. The Standing Orders not only give authority to a single member, the Speaker, but they also give the House an overriding authority. Standing Orders 60 and 87 deal with the rights of honorable members to speak on certain subjects. Standing Order 87 deals with matters upon which they may not speak whilst Standing Order 60, upon which you have relied in this instance, states -
When two or more Members rise together to speak the Speaker shall call upon the Member who, in his opinion, first rose in his place; but it shall be in order to move, that any Member who has risen “ be now heard “, or “ do now speak “.
You have ruled, peculiarly enough, thatthat standing order refers only to debate. I consider that to be an absurd deduction. After all, if it does refer only to debate, what does a member do when he rises, except to speak with the permission of the Chair ? I contend that this particular standing order deals with any occasion upon which any member of the House considers that another member is being victimized or overlooked, either accidentally or deliberately, by the Chair. The standing order gives to any other member, and in fact to the member concerned himself, the right to move that the member be now heard. He may make his motion a personal matter. He does not require the sympathy of anybody to move that he be heard. I contend, therefore, that your interpretation of Standing Order 60 is completely wrong. I shall repeat the first part of that standing order, which contains all that is material to the present issue. It reads -
When two or more Members rise together to speak the Speaker shall call upon the Member who, in his opinion, first rose in his place;
Honorable members cannot ask a .question without notice unless they speak. I suggest that the asking of a question comes within the same category as the speech of a member on any matter that may come before either the House or the Committee. There is no other question
Conversation being audible,
– Honorable members on the back benches are not being very helpful to me.
– Order ! I call the attention of the House to the fact that the honorable gentleman is endeavouring to address me, and apparently is being distracted by some of his helpful lieutenants. I ask both sides of the House to maintain silence.
– My final point is that in view of the fact that no other standing order refers to the right of members to speak at question time, Standing Order 60, from which I have quoted’, adequately covers the matter. This standing order does not discriminate between honorable members who have incurred the wrath of the Chair and those who have not. It gives the right to bcheard and that right has been exercised to-day by the Leader of the Opposition. I contend, Mr. Speaker, that your rulingthat that order applies only to debates is entirely erroneous. If a motion is moved that an honorable member be heard’ it should be put to the House. As yon have failed to put the question to the House, I contend that the Oppositionis justified in supporting this motion? of dissent from your ruling. Surely lbc House is the proper place to settle the point whether or not the Chair disagrees with what an honorable member says and surely it should not be settled by the exercise of authority by the Chair. What remedy would an honorable member have if you said something that was offensive to him-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must deal with the question of dissent and not deal with hypothetical positions.
– I am afraid, Mr. Speaker, that if I were to search all the records of this Parliament in an endeavour to find a parallel to the ruling that you have given to-day, I should be looking for something that was hypothetical.
– I was not present at the adjournment debate on Thursday but E think that what has been said to-day has been sufficient to place most honorable members in possession of the outline of what occurred. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) seemed to be addressing himself to an argument that was completely irrelevant to the. motion. The question before the Chair Li not whether somebody can move that an honorable member be heard. The question before the Chair is -
That Mr. Speaker’s ruling of to-day refusing to call the honorable member for Wilmot to ask a question of a Minister be dissented from.
– That is a quibble.
– I shall deal with the quibble first. “ Standing Order 60 which has been referred to, is part of chapter S of the new Standing Orders, which is headed “Rules of Debate and Privilege “, and it undoubtedly provides that when two or more members rise together to speak the Speaker shall call upon the member who, in his opinion, first rose in his place. It is now said that that rule applies to question time altogether questions are specifically dealt with in an entirely different chapter of the Standing Orders. If Standing Order 60 were applied to question time very curious results would follow because if honorable members, on one side of the House were quicker in rising than the honorable gentlemen on the other side and the calls all went to one side of the House, questions would constantly be put on whether certain honorable members should be heard. Standing Order 60 relates to debates and it pro-
A’ides for the putting of the motion that an honorable member be heard. It does not apply to the present position and the Opposition itself, by constant practice, has accepted that state of affairs. Mr. Speaker, with no objection from any honorable members, quite early in this session, indicated that at question time he would always have in mind that some honorable member had been afforded an opportunity of asking questions the day before and that some had not and that hp therefore proposed to give some priority to those who had not secured the call on the previous day. In other words, the question was not one of, “ Who got up first ? “ If that were the question all the calls would go to the young and active, and poor old fellows like myself would never get an opportunity to ask a question.
– Now get on to Mr. Speaker’s ruling.
– That is what I arn dealing with. I am glad that the honorable member’s feeling for relevancy is returning. So far I have been merely disposing of the alleged application of Standing Order 60, which has nothing to do with this matter at all. The next question is whether Mr. Speaker must call an honorable member in the order of his rising at question time, or in some other order. This- House has already accepted the proposition that Mr. Speaker does not need to call honorable members in the order of their rising. By common consent Mr. .Speaker pays attention to the side of the House from which questions ave coming so that he may keep a balance, and by common consent he chooses honorable members bearing in mind whether they have asked a question the day before or the day before that.
In other words-
– What a’bout the honorable member for Wilmot?
– I can understand that the honorable member does not want to liston to this argument. because he will have to wait a long time to find an answer to it.
-Order! There is too much interruption while the Prime Minister is speaking. The right honorable member is entitled to a fair hearing.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the Prime Minister’s remarks do not refer to the matter before the Chair at all. We are not dealing at the moment with Standing Order 60. The motion, which does not relate to the Standing Orders, has already been read to the House. The motion read by both myself and the right honorable member for Barton does not mention Standing Order 60.
-The seconder of the motion read the whole or part of Standing Order 60 at least twice. The Prime Minister is in order.
– I referred to the standing order, but said that in my view it was completely irrelevant. As the seconder of the motion devoted the whole of his argument to Standing Order 60 it became necessary to dispose of it. I had then turned, before the right honorable gentleman interrupted, to deal with the terms of the motion which I had read to the House. The basis of the motion is that Mr. Speaker gave a false ruling when he refused to call on the honorable member for Wilmot to put a question. My first proposition is that Mr. Speaker has a discretion which is admitted in this House-
– It was not a discretion.
– What a lot of “ squealers “ honorable members opposite are.
– What a dictator the Prime Minister is. Why does he not shut the Parliament up if he does not want the Labour members to be heard?
– I should be reluctant to shut the Parliament up, but I could nominate a section that I could shut up with great pleasure.
– Honorable members on this side will have to give the fascist salute shortly when they want to enter this House.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw, but just the same it is true.
– I was establishing that by common consent in this House Mr. Speaker has a discretion in deciding whom he shall call. He said to-day that on the adjournment of the House on Thursday night the honorable member for Wilmot made a reflection on his impartiality. The honorable member for Wilmot, as Mr. Speaker has informed us and as is quite clear, said, in effect, “ You are giving the call unfairly because you are calling more people in total from the Liberal party and from the Australian Country party than from the Labour party”.
– The Prime Minister admitted that he did not know what the honorable member for Wilmot said.
– I did not know until I was put into possession of the facts, but I have enough literacy to read the same “ flat “ as the one from which the right honorable member for Barton has quoted. The maintenance of the discipline of the House is the prerogative of Mr. Speaker. If Mr. Speaker says to an honorable member, “ You have made a charge against the manner in which I- discharge my office. You have accused me of partiality. Here are the facts. You will correct your statement before I give you another call “, then all that I can say is that he is doing something that has been done a hundred times in the House of Commons, to the great advantage of discipline.
.- The Prime Minister’s casuistry should not allow the real point of this motion escape us. For the purposes of this debate, I accept without reserve your statement, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) was wrong in his speech on the adjournment, but you have revealed that you have interpreted his remarks as a reflection upon your impartiality. The Standing Orders give you power, where such a reflection has been cast upon the Chair, to take disciplinary action. That disciplinary action is to demand that the honorable member shall withdraw his remarks. If he refuses to withdraw you have power to suspend him. That is the power vested in you as the Speaker. You have not exercised that discretionary power, you have done something quite without precedent. You have orderedan honorable member to see you privately and because he has failed to do so you have refused to allow him to ask a question in the House. We submit that that is not a proper exercise of your authorityas Speaker because it has no warrant in the Standing Orders. If the honorable member for Wilmot was incorrect in what he said at the time, you should have exercised the disciplinary authority which is vested in you, and demanded a withdrawal. You should not have taken this method of blocking a member and preventing him from asking a question. You should not have imposed a perpetual punishment until he complied with your command to visit you in your rooms. I submit that that was an order which you have no authority to give.
Motion (by Mr. Gullett) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolvedin theaffirmative.
Mr.Rosevear. - I think that it should be read out, as everything else has been broadcast.
That Mr. Speaker’s ruling of to-day referring to the call of the honorable member for Wilmot, to ask a question of a Minister be dissented from.
Mr.Rosevear. - You have made a mistake in reading the motion, Mr. Speaker. You said “ referring “ instead of “refusing”.
– The motion is as follows : -
That Mr. Speaker’s ruling of to-day refusing to call on the honorable member for Wilmot to ask a question of a Minister be dissented from.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. Bostock having ashed a question,
– The point of order is correctly taken.
– The PostmasterGeneral will recollect that, on many occasions in the past, I have submitted representations and asked questions which have been designed to obtain an increase in the amount of departmental expenditure on the provision of individual telephone services in country areas from £100 to £200 a subscriber. A few weeks ago, in response to my last question, the honorable gentleman said that he expected to be in a position shortly to make a decision on that matter. Will he inform me whether a decision has yet been reached, and if it has been, what is its nature?
– I acknowledge that the honorable member for Dawson has been making representations on this matter for some time, hut it has not been possible for me to give an immediate answer. I have been collecting the necessary information in order to be able to make a detailed statement to the House. I propose to make such a statement to-day.
– I address a question to you, Mr. Speaker. It arises from a sub-leader in last Friday’s issue of the Adelaide News, in which there was a comment on your statement that you would not permit gambling within the precincts of the Parliament. The comment was to the effect that Parliament should set an example, and the clear implication was that Mr. Speaker’s statement on gambling referred to his having found members of the Parliament gambling within the precincts of the House. Will you, Mr. Speaker, examine the sub-leader to which i have referred, and see whether, in your opinion, it is a deliberate attempt to deflect the force of your criticism from pressmen to members of the Parliament? Will you also consider whether the nature of the comment constitutes a breach of the privileges of this House?
– I have not seen thecomment to which the honorable gentleman has referred. If he has any ideas on breaches of privilege, they may be raised by a substantive motion in the House,, but not by me.
Mr.SPENDER. - On the 25th May last, I made a statement-
An Opposition Member. - The Minister has not obtained leave to make a statement.
Mr.SPENDER. - I ask for leave to make a statement.
Mr.SPEAKER.- Is leave granted?
Leave not granted.
Mr.SPENDER (Warringah - Minister for External Affairs and Minister for External Territories) [3.29]. - I move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent a ministerial statement being made by the Minister for External Affairs.
Tie statement relates to the unfortunate death of one, John Doderick.
Mr.Chifley. - The Minister did not mention the subject when he asked for leave to make a statement.
Mr.SPENDER. - The Opposition would not have granted me leave, in any event.
Mr.SPEAKER. - Order !
Question resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority of the whole number of the members of the House.
– On the 25th May last, I made a statement to the House about the unfortunate fatal shooting in Djakarta of John Doderick. I mentioned that an official report on the incident was awaited from the Indonesian Government. That report has not yet come to hand, hut it is expected very soon. When it is received, I shall, in conformity with my statement last Thursday, make, if necessary, a further statement to the House on the matter. However, the Government has already given consideration to the more general issues which are raised by the incident. I refer, of course, to the safety and welfare of Australian citizens in Indonesia. As the result of that consideration by the Government, the Australian Embassy in
Djakarta was directed to despatch a memorandum to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, in which the hope was expressed that the Indonesian authorities would take steps that would ensure the safety of Australian citizens in Indonesia. The embassy has been instructed to seek from the Indonesian authorities an early assurance on that point. I may add that it has been made clear in the memorandum to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry that, in taking that action, the Australian Government reserves its right, at a later date, when the official report has been received from the Indonesian Government, to make appropriate representations on behalf of Mr. Doderick’s widow.
– I ask for leave to make a short statement, which was foreshadowed in my statement yesterday on the subject of Malaya.
Mr.SPEAKER. - Is leave granted ?
Leave not granted.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent ministerial statements being made by the Prime Minister and the Postmaster-General.
Mr. Speaker proceeding to put the question,
Mr.Rosevear. - I rise to order.
Mr.SPEAKER. - Order ! The honorable member for Dalley may not rise while I am on my feet.
Mr.Rosevear. - I desire to raise a point of order.
Mr.SPEAKER. - The honorable gentleman may not do so until I resume my seat.
Mr.Rosevear. - At what other time can my point of order be heard?
Mr.SPEAKER. - After the division on the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
Mr.Rosevear. - I point out, Mr. Speaker, with all respect, that the motion provides for the suspension of the Standing Orders so that the two Ministers may make statements.
– The same motion was moved on the 25th May last, and the Opposition did not object to it.
– But the motion is not in order.
– The Opposition will always grant the Prime Minister leave to make a statement.
– Order ! The fact is that the Opposition has denied the Prime Minister the right to make a statement.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! The motion now before the Chair is similar to one. that was moved about a fortnight ago in order to enable two Ministers to make statements. Is a division called for?
– Is leave being sought to enable only the Prime Minister to make a statement, or to enable another Minister also to make a statement?
– Leave is being sought to enable the Prime Minister and the Postmaster-General to make statements.
– It has always been the practice for the Opposition to grant leave to the Prime Minister to make a statement, but the Opposition cannot extend tl at undertaking in respect of statements that Ministers generally may wish to make.
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! If honorable members will not permit the Leader of the Opposition to be heard in silence, I shall have to take action.
– In accordance with the practice in the past, the Opposition will always grant leave to the Prime Minister to make a statement, and it will not refuse him leave on this occasion. However, we do not want a request by the Prime Minister to be joined with a request that leave be given to another Minister also to make a statement.
– Unfortunately, when I asked for leave to make a statement, leave was refused. That being so, and as my colleague the Postmaster-General also desired to make a statement, I thought it was convenient to move for the suspen sion of the Standing Orders to enable both statements to be made.
Question resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority of the whole number of the members of the House.
– Yesterday I made a statement to the House regarding the serious situation in Malaya. The Government has recently had under consideration a request by the United Kingdom Government for assistance in Malaya in the form of provision of aircraft and crews, and in servicing aircraft of the Royal Air Force stationed in the Far East. No request for other forms of military assistance has been made. The Government has agreed to provide a transport squadron of Dakota aircraft, for supply dropping and general transport services. The Royal Australian Air Force crews and ground staff accompanying the squadron will total approximately 168. The Government has also agreed to provide assistance in servicing certain Royal Air Force aircraft in Australia. I might add that since September last the New Zealand Government has maintained a flight of Dakota aircraft at Singapore at the disposal of the Air Officer Commanding in Chief Far Eastern Command.
As I said yesterday, events in the Malayan Peninsula are of vital concern to the security of” this country. Malaya is a key point in the strategic region of which Australia is a main support area. The Government is in full accord with the statement made to the House by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) on the 19th June, 1946, following his return from the conference of Prime Ministers in London, when he said -
As a principal power and member of the British Commonwealth in the Pacific, we must also be prepared to shoulder greater responsibilities for the defence of that area, including the upkeep of our bases which are essential to the strategic plan.
I referred earlier to the heavy burden of military commitments being borne by the people of the United Kingdom who poured out blood and treasure without stint, to save the world. I therefore told the Conference - and I am quite certain that I was expressing the sentiment of both sides of this House and the people of Australia - that it was recognized that Australia, nu:fit in future make a larger contribution towards the defence of the British Commonwealth, that this could best be done in the Pacific, and that the approach to a common scheme of defence of this area should be by agreement between the United Kingdom, Australia and Kew Zealand, and thereafter with the United States, and later with other nations with possessions in this area. These views met with the full endorsement of the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
I also note, and express our complete agreement with, a decision taken by the previous Government in May, 1948, to authorize strategic planning to be developed on the official level through the Australian defence machinery in conjunction with representatives of the United Kingdom and New Zealand for the regional defence of the South -“West Pacific area, the boundaries of which include Malaya. In taking this decision, the Government emphasized that the planning was to proceed on the official level and quite rightly stipulated that such planning did not involve any commitment with regard to government policy, except where approval was specifically sought and obtained.
For the reasons that I gave in my statement yesterday, the winning of the “ cold “ war in Malaya is of vital importance to the security of Australia. This ‘ is not because we desire war. On the contrary, like every other democracy, we want peace. But peace cannot be secured by the avoidance of responsibilities or the denial of realities. It is for this reason that the Government has decided to accept a commitment to render the aid which I have mentioned. I lay on the table the following paper : -
Situation in Malaya - Australian Assistance - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
– I propose to deal with the provision of telephone services in country districts. This subject has been raised by a number of honorable members, particularly the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson). The
Deputy Directors of Posts and Telegraphs in the various States have been instructed to put this new scheme into operation immediately after I have made this statement to the House. Therefore, honorable members will appreciate the importance of the statement.
After reviewing the basis of provision of telephone subscribers’ services in country districts in the light of present- day costs and the desire of the Government to make facilities available on the most generous terms possible, the conditions are being amended to enable telephone services requiring new line construction to be provided under more liberal conditions in the future. Since 1930 telephone services in country areas have been provided in accordance with a basis which has allowed the department to erect 60 chains of new pole line from the exchange for the first applicant and to spend up to £100 on new construction for each additional applicant along the particular route. Due to steadily rising costs of labour and materials in recent years the permissible amount of expenditure for each applicant has not been sufficient to avoid calling upon many applicants to contribute a substantial amount towards the cost of a line or to erect and maintain a portion of the service. To this extent applicants in rural areas who reside some distance from an exchange have suffered in comparison with those living in cities and townshipswhere a contribution towards the capital expenditure incurred by the department is not required.
In view of the importance of developing the telephone services in country districts from the national standpoint, it has been decided to adopt a more liberal basis somewhat on the lines of that in force during the period of the BrucePageGovernment but which was modified in 1930 because of financial restrictions. Briefly, the main principles of the basisto be observed in future are as follows : -
Where a new departmental pole lineis required: The equivalent of 60 chainsof new poles with a pair of wires will be erected for each applicant, after allowing for the cost of running wires on poles provided for residents who live closer tothe exchange.
Where a departmental pole line already exists: Wires will be erected for each applicant up to a distance of ten miles from the exchange. Where lines are required beyond that distance, each application will be dealt with on its merits.
Lines on private property: Where the applicant’s premises are situated not more than 40 chains across private property from the departmental line, wires will be run, -without cost to the applicant, up to a distance of twenty chains on poles supplied and erected by him. For distances beyond twenty chains a small charge will be made for running the wires. Country people who have no knowledge of running telephone wires can erect the poles, and the department will then run the wires for twenty chains without charge. For distances beyond twenty chains only a very nominal charge will be made.
The application of the revised basis will be of substantial benefit to applicants for telephone services who reside at some distance from exchanges in country districts. For instance, assuming that the premises of six applicants are located at distances of between two and three miles from an exchange and. there is no existing department pole line on the route, the department will erect the lines for the full distance. Under the former basis the departmental construction would terminate at about If miles from the exchange and the applicants would be required to erect lines for distances of from i a mile to li miles at a total cost of about £200. For ten applicants situated between 3 and 4 miles from an exchange, the department will erect the lines for the full distance. Under the old basis they were required to erect lines for distances of from three-quarters of a mile to lj miles at a total cost of about £400. To quote a further example, where an applicant resides 10 miles from the exchange and a departmental pole line exists for the whole distance, he will not be required to make any cash contribution. In the past, the applicant would have been called upon to pay about £150 towards the capital cost.
It has been the practice since 1930 to rebate to subscribers, in the form of a reduction in the annual rental, the amount of any cash contribution made towards the capital cost of providing a telephone line. That arrangement involved a good deal of additional work and has been the subject of considerable criticism from country applicants. Under the more generous conditions which will apply in the future, contributions from applicants towards the cost of providing services will be the exception rather than the rule, and in the circumstances it is proposed to discontinue the practice of making rebates. Quite apart from benefiting telephone applicants in country districts the amended basis will simplify the procedure as far as the department is concerned and also help to speed up the treatment of applications.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Telephone services in country districts - Ministerial statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– by leave - I desire to read to the House a statement covering the ^activities of Radio Australia since its control was assumed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The statement is made at the request of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell).
– I suggest that the Minister should supply the honorable member for Melbourne with a copy of the statement and ask for leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
– I .desire the statement to be read to the House.
– Order ! I point out, to the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) that the House has already given the Postmaster-General leave to make the statement. That leave can bo withdrawn only with the consent of the House.
– In the transfer of Radio Australia from the Department of Information to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, there has been no alteration of policy in regard to the retention of existing wave lengths, all those formerly employed being retained in full. There is, therefore, no truth whatever in the statement that Russia has used a wave length as the result of abandonment of it by Australia due to this transfer. Statements have appeared in the press that Russia had taken advantage ofwave lengths formerly used for the transmission of programmes from Radio Australia but which have recently been abandoned. There has been no such abandonment. With regard to the daily period of transmission, when Radio Australia was under the control of the Department of Information it was operating for an average period of seventeen and a half hours daily and the combined programme time from the transmitters totalled593/4 hours a day. These periods have not been reduced and when the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s new schedule comes into force on the 1st June, they will be extended to eighteen and a quarter hours and 62¼ hours respectively. The extension will provide a longer listening period in SouthEast Asia and the United Kingdom and should also be of advantage to listeners in Central Australia. Radio Australia is the medium for broadcasting Australian programmes to outback areas of Australia.
With regard to the overseas scope of the service, the only alteration made in the schedule formerly adhered to by the Department of Information is the elimination of the Dutch and German language broadcasts, which have now been replaced by broadcasts in English. Concerning the reduction of the staff of the service, the previous establishment provided for 97 employees. The number has now been reduced to 49, representing a reduction of 48 officers. The estimated cost of the overseas service, as operated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, is £44,000 per annum, which represents a reduction of the former expenditure by £35,000. It will be seen, therefore, that as a result of the transfer to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and the employment of the commission’s administrative and programme facilities, the full service of Radio Australia is being maintained, and even extended, at a greatly reduced cost.
Mr.Calwell. - Will the Minister continue the practice of placing on the table of the Library copies of the broadcasts from Radio Australia, so that I may be in a position to compare them with those made when Radio Australia was under the control of the Department of Information? If that is done, I shall be in a better position to discuss the matter when the debate is resumed.
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s request. I lay on the table the following paper : -
Radio Australia - Ministerial statement, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr.Calwel) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 30th May (vide page 3395).
Clause 4.- (1.)- (1.) Section 95 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: -
(2.) The rate of an endowment shall be Ten shillings per week.
– I move -
That proposed sub-section (2.) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following proposed sub-sections: - (2.) In thecase of anendowee other than an institution, the rate of endowment shall be -
where the endowee has the custody, care and control of one child only - Five shillings per week; and
Where the endowee has the custody, care and control of twoor more children -in respect of the elder or eldest child, Five shillings per week and, in respect of each other child, Ten shillings per week. “ (2a.) In the case of an endowee being an institution, the rate of the endowment in respect of each child who is an inmate of the institution shall be Ten shillings per week.”.
There are two amendments to this clause, of which I have now moved the first. I do not propose to speak on the amendments at any great length, because to do so would be merely to cover again ground that was thoroughly covered during the previous debates in the House and to some degree those that occurred earlier in the committee stage. The first amendment will restore a provision that was in the bill in the form in which it was introduced in the’ Senate. It will make the rate of payment 5s. a week for the first child instead of 10s. a week, as the Opposition has proposed and has carried in another place. I have already given the Government’s reasons for rejecting- the Opposition’s proposal and for its intention to restore the bill to its original form and I do not intend to weary the committee by going over that ground again.
.- I consider that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) should have told the committee why the Government considers itself unable to endow the first child at the same rate as that at which subsequent children are endowed. He has not done so despite the fact that during the second reading stage four members of the present Ministry were quoted as having advocated, in various debates, the payment of endowment for the first child at a rate equal to that being .paid, at the time that they expressed their opinions, to the other children of each family. The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) and the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Dame Enid Lyons) are two Liberal party members of the Ministry and the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) and the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) are two Australian Country party members of the Ministry who in 1946 urged the payment of endowment for the first child at the rate of 7s. 6d. a week which, at the time that they urged that payment, was- the rate prevailing in respect of the second child and subsequent children of each family. During the second-reading debate reference was made to the fact that the Australian Council of Trades Unions desired endowment to be paid in respect of the first child. Officers of that body have said that they want endowment to be paid at the rate of 10s. a week for the first child. I cannot see how the Government can with any consistency propose the payment of endowment for the first child at the rate of 5s. a week and -.still maintain the payment of endowment for other children at the rate of 10s. a week. The Government’s position is also particularly odd in that it has already indicated that it does not desire the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to take the payment of endowment in respect of the first child into account when it is considering the application now before it for an increase of the basic wage. It seems to me that in all the circumstances the Government should accept the clause as it now stands. I have a suspicion, which I have expressed before, that the Government is loath to expend the extra £15,000,000 a year that it would be called upon to expend on endowment for the first child if it accepted the clause as it now stands, for the reason that it desires to use that money for the purpose of reducing taxes. Nobody can say truthfully that the sum of 10s. a week is too much money to give to a. mother towards the upkeep of a child. I said during the second reading debate that 5s. a week would not keep a dog. Nobody has denied the truth of that statement. Yet the Government expects a family to keep its first child on 5s. a week.
An elector in Victoria has written to me setting out the cost of providing a child with the necessaries of life for the first six months of its life. He has itemized the cost as follows: -
Oranges would be beyond the ability of the ordinary family man to buy because they cost 6d. or 7d. each as do apples. How the ordinary worker on the basic wage is able to afford to buy any fruit for his family is beyond me.
– No worker is on the basic wage at present. Most workers are earning more than the basic wage.
– When the Minister says that most workers are earning more than the basic wage does he mean, that the average worker receives twice or three times the basic wage? If the average worker gets anything above the basic wage it is only a very small amount above it. The cost of upkeep for a child, the details of which were supplied to me by the elector who wrote the letter that I have quoted, stated that the items enumerated were essential for the feeding of a child, and they total 16s. 5d. a week. That elector should know all about the cost of rearing children, because he is a grandfather who has reared his own family and is now helping to rear his youngest daughter’s child. I know that the women of Australia desire the extra 5s. that the Government proposes to pay to them by this measure. They want anything that they can get to help them to meet the increased cost of living. But they do not want the 59. because they consider that it is a fair sum. They want the 10s. that we desire them to have. A number of people have told me that the suggestion that I have made previously that every child should be endowed- at the rate of 15s. a week, states an amount that is nearer to the realities of life. The mothers of Australia desire to receive 15s. a week endowment for each child if they can get it, but they will not get it while this Government remains- in office. It is idle to say that because the mothers, of Australia will be glad to receive the extra 5s. a week which the Government proposes to give them, that that amount will satisfy them. They will accept the 5s., but only as payment on account. They will still desire the 10s. a week that we wish to give them..
– They will regard 5s. a week as a token payment only”.
– Yes, as a email token. They cannot see why they should not receive more than 5s. a week when the wool cheques coming into this country to-day are so abnormally high that even the graziers themselves are worried about the magnitude of them and about the effect the high price of wool and wheat will have on land values and the economy generally. Honorable members opposite who are graziers and squatters will agree with that much of my contention.
The Minister should have indicated, when he moved the amendments which will have the effect of reducing the proposed payment of endowment for the first child, that the Government proposes, in the event of a deadlock on this matter either in this chamber or in another place, to make an endowment payment of 10s. a week for the first child from the beginning of the next financial year. People who are really concerned about the future of this country realize that we ought to be spending as much money as we can on the family man. We ought to be doing as much as we can by the provision of social services to encourage people to have larger families and to assist people who are rearing families to rear them decently. We should pay as much as we can to avoid malnutrition and other evils.
– Why did the Labour party not endow the first child when it was in office?
– The answer to that question is simple and I have given it at least twice already. When we were in power we increased child endowment 100 per cent., and if we had been returned at the last election we would undoubtedly have increased it again, because we promised we would increase all social services.
– Yet the Labour party is fighting this measure?
– We have fought against the principle of the payment of endowment in respect of the first child for the reason that we feared it would affect the basic wage, which is determined on the basis of the needs of a family of a man, wife and one child.
– Then why does the Labour party want the payment for the first child to be doubled now?
– I said in my secondreading speech that if we were logical we would throw the whole bill out because of our fear of the effect of this payment or of any such payment, no matter what it was, upon the basic wage. The Government introduced this bill in another place. The bill now comes before this cham’ber and the mothers of Australia expect the payment that the Government promised them in its election speeches, which promise it attempted to fulfil when it brought the bill to the .Senate. Now the bill is before this committee and no matter how good it may seem to honorable members of the Government parties it can be made better. The role of the Labour party in politics has always been to ma’ke whatever proposition is brought forward better for the great masses of the people. To the Labour party, a proposition can never be too good, for the great masses of the people whom that party primarily represents.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– During the second-reading debate on this bill honorable members of the Opposition stated that the amount of 5s. is too small to be of any effective use. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) ha3 just mentioned again that the sum of os. would not keep a dog. Honorable members of the Opposition believe that nothing effective can be accomplished with such a weekly contribution. I propose to show the committee how 5s. a week can be used effectively. I do not believe that this amount was intended to cover the total cost of keeping a child. The payment of a few shillings a week in respect of each child is not going to do away with the need for paternal or maternal sacrifice. Those who have children deem it a privilege to make some sacrifice for their welfare and 1 should like to commend the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) for his observation on that point.
Last week I was talking to a journalist who had just arrived from England and he said that the provision of social services in England was deterring people from migrating to Australia because it was having a softening effect on them. They are losing their self-reliance and their spirit of adventure and willingness to take risks which has .been one of the greatest’ attributes of our pioneers. That is another reason why social services payments including child endowment should not completely cover the cost of the services entailed. However, the payment of 5s. a week in respect of the first child would enable parents to secure for it added health and cultural benefits. Half that amount would be sufficient to pay for music .lessons c t for elocution lessons for a child. A child who would other.wise be debarred from receiving a musical education would, by payment of half this amount, be able to receive that instruction and increase its cultural standing.
I believe that I can speak with authority on health benefits obtainable with a small amount made available regularly, because, before coming into this chamber, I was a surgeon dentist. When child endowment was introduced previously I noticed a very big increase in the number of children who came to my surgery for dental treatment. An honorable member asks how many teeth could be pulled out for 5s. That point does not enter into this question because one does not have teeth pulled out every week. However, if any honorable member of the Opposition would like me to pull his teeth out I should be pleased to do so without any charge at all, but I shall not guarantee the anaesthetic.
– Order ! Honorable members must not make so much noise.
– Many children, whose teeth had been neglected previously, sought treatment and it was very significant that payment for that treatment was made on days when the parents would have received child endowment money. Not only were children brought to me, but more parents also came and they used this money in order to pay for their own treatment.
In 1919 the Federal Government appointed a royal commission to inquire into the family budget. The commission reported that a family living in Melbourne needed £5 16s. 6d. a week for its support and included in that amount was the sum of 9d. a week for dental and medical treatment. Last week I examined my accounts in respect of the last 21 years in which I have been in practice and I ascertained that children have been able to obtain dental treatment to keep them dentally fit for less than 6d. a week. I believe that the extra amount of 5s. which the Government proposes to pay will enable the purchase of more eggs, milk, fruit and vegetables and will provide more vitamins. Mothers will accept this extra money because it will help in the provision of warm clothing in the winter and cool clothing in the summer and permit the children to participate in health giving sport and youth community groups. All these things will be made available without taking from the parents the real privilege of looking after and making sacrifices for their children which is an essential factor in all family life.
– I have not spent sufficient time in this Parliament to learn how a Liberal Government operates, nor to understand exactly the manner in which the minds of its supporters operate. That is- one of the reasons why I am amazed to find that the Government did not hold some kind of consultation after hearing the battery of facts that came from this side of the chamber during the second-reading debate on the question of how much should be paid in respect of the first child, and then announce to the committee that it was convinced that the amount should be at least 10s. As the Government has not done that it has become necessary to reinforce arguments that should already have been convincing. The arguments are particularly clear. Oh the 10th December, 1949, the present Government parties said, in effect, to the families of Australia which had one or more children, “We consider that such are the existing conditions that you should receive 5s. endowment for the first child That was their promise, but the position has now altered. The 5s. which. Government members offered to the people on 10th December is not now worth what it was at that date. Therefore in order to give effect to its promise to the people, the Government should accept the amendment that has been inserted in this bill by the Opposition in another place, and increase the amount of endowment payable in respect of the first child by at least another 5s. -When the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was speaking, the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) said, by way of interjection, that this 5s., in effect, would be quite a considerable amount. But he has altered his opinion, in the course of a couple of days. When he was making his second-reading speech he made the assertion that, with the cost of living as it is at present, 5s. was a negligible amount. I take it that a negligible amount is an insignificant amount divided by about ten. That was the amount that the honorable member for Bennelong said that the Government intended to pay as endowment for the first child. The Government could say that it will pay 5s. because that sum is now worth as much as it was during the election campaign and therefore its promise will be honoured. The Government could say that it realizes that through the increasing cost of living the purchasing power of the os. offered in December has been decreased, and therefore the amount of endowment will be increased to give effect to the promise made during the election. The Government could also say, “ We cannot fulfil our obligations to any greater extent than 5s. because the funds are not available “. The only justification for the action of the Government in not giving more than 5s. is that the money is not available.
– Why not make it a “quid “?
– I suppose the honorable member means £1. If he does mean £1, then I have no objection to the payment of £1 if he can convince the Government that endowment for the first child should be increased to £1. The honorable member will have my wholehearted co-operation in such a proposal, and I shall endeavour to induce my colleagues on this side of the chamber also to support it. Endowment of £1 for the first child would be more reasonable than 5s., because it has been shown conclusively by members of the Opposition that the first child is a most expensive addition to a family at a time when the family can least afford such expense. The only justification that the Government could have for proposing 5s. for the first child, would be that the revenue or the reserves were not sufficient for any greater payment. It is obviously wrong to say that the revenue of this country is not more buoyant than it has ever been. The wool cheques being paid to graziers are immense. Every section of the business community is receiving high prices and consequently great profits.
All those who live on interest and dividends are getting greater returns than ever before in the history of this country.
– But will such a condition of affairs continue?
– I do not know whether it will. The honorable member should not always act upon the supposition that our economic structure will suffer disaster in the future. He must not act on the policy that because there may be financial stringency in the future, although to-day business is very profitable, this committee should say to the working man, “ Because in the future the present prosperous conditions may not continue, you and you alone at the present time will be deprived of something that the community can well afford to give “. I inform the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) that the first child should be the last to suffer and not the first.
– It is not the last, it is the first.
– My friend agrees. I have therefore secured two converts during my speech. My first convert wants fi a week to be paid in respect of the first child. The honorable member for Gippsland agrees with my contention that the first in the community to suffer should not be the working man’s family through the payment of such a small endowment for the first child.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I think that it is clear to the committee that I have no pecuniary interest in this matter. With a good deal of regret I say that not since I have been in this Parliament have I known any measure in which so much insincerity has been shown as has been displayed by the Opposition during the debate on this bill. The pattern of the Opposition’s tactics is quite clear. I remember, and honorable members opposite should remember, thanat the general election the Government’s promise to endow the first child was described as a bribe to the electors for the purpose of catching votes. It was also described as a bribe that would not be honoured if a Liberal government came to power. A
Liberal government was returned and was determined to give effect to its promise. Then the Opposition’s problem was to decide how best it could cash in on the Government endowment scheme. I agree with an honorable member on this side of the chamber who said that the only thing wrong with this measure was that it was introduced by a Liberal Government. In order to switch some of the limelight on to themselves and to discredit the Liberal Government and its promises as much as they could, the Opposition decided to get in on the ground floor and propose 10s. a week endowment. The Labour party said quite definitely before the election that it could not endow the first child. It had adopted that attitude for eight years. That party said that such endowment would cost £15,000,000. Now, having been divested of all responsibility by the people, the same party comes along and says, “ We shall make it £30,000,000 a year “. On its own showing that is doubly impossible. Honorable members opposite should have at least some sense of shame for the attitude that they are adopting. Meagre as this 5s. is, it is 5s. more than the mothers of the first child would have received if the Labour party had won the last general election. Honorable members opposite rightly claim that they raised social services payments from £18,000,000 to £88,000,000 a year. That is correct, but their social services did not include endowment of the first child. [Quorum formed.]
It is a notable fact that when a quorum was called for a few moments ago there were only six Labour members in the chamber. It is also notable that only two answered the call to form a quorum. This is a common experience of honorable members lately, and the idea behind the constant calling for a quorum by Opposition members is to frustrate debate and foil any point being made by a speaker which is likely to destroy their arguments. When a sound argument is being put up they try to prevent the honorable member from continuing.
– Order ! The conversation in the chamber is too audible.
– Five shillings endowment for the first child is not intended to be sufficient to maintain that child, any more than 10s. is enough, to maintain the second child. I should not approve any social service legislation which provided that the nation had to .accept responsibility for the rearing of families. That is a family responsibility, and it is one in which families take a pride. The endowment is intended to supplement the family income without being reflected in prices. It is the only way that I know of whereby more money can be taken into the family without a resultant rise of prices. It is a direct help to the mother when she has her first child. As a matter of fact 10s. is not enough for the maintenance of a child, and honorable members who have argued that since the 10th December the purchasing power of 5s. has been decreased to one-half of that amount, should apply the same argument to the 10s. that is paid for the second and third children. If that argument applies to one it applies also to the others. The statement is made for no purpose other than to try to deny the Liberal Government credit for having introduced this legislation. It represents a deliberate attempt to swing the credit to the Labour party and to cash in on the Liberal Government’s policy because that policy bears the stamp of the nation’s approval. The emasculated bill which we received from another place provides for the payment of 10s. instead of the 5s. originally provided. That is the proposal of a political party which has been divested of all responsibility by the people themselves. Having no responsibility it now seeks to induce this Government to provide perhaps another £60,000,000 or £70,000,000 for social services. Although the country at the present time may be able to carry such a burden, there is no guarantee that in the future when price levels begin to fall or stabilize it will be able to continue to support it. Such a fall or stabilization is absolutely inevitable in the future. This social services structure that now cost9 £100,000,000 a year is based on the highest national income that this country has ever known. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), who was the former Treasurer, refused to answer when I asked, “What will you do to finance this service when price levels fall to probably 50 per cent. of what they are to-day?” The right honorable gentleman refused to answer it because he cannot do so. He said that these services will never be financed out of hank credit or out of loans, but that the money must come solely from income tax.
– From national income.
– They will be financed from tax revenue, which is at the highest level that has been recorded in Australia and is probably twice as bountiful now as it will be ten years hence. It is sheer hypocrisy and humbug for a party that has no responsibility in the matter to demand the payment of £30,000,000 a year instead of £15,000,000 a year in extra endowment for the first child of every family. Members of the Opposition say, “ How simple it is “. We who are now Government supporters know that it is, because we were in opposition for eight years.
– The honorable member did likewise when he was in Opposition.
– The honorable member admits that the Opposition’s proposal is just a stunt. He and his colleagues are trying to cash in upon the Liberal Government’s programme because it will he to the credit of the Government and to the discredit of Labour governments of the past. Honorable members opposite want to get on the band wagon and so, having no responsibility in the matter, they demand that the additional endowment be paid at the rate of 10s. instead of 5s. a week. Any child in the street can see through the pretence. I cannot understand why they continue to harp upon the subject, because the humbug is patent to everybody. He who runs may read. Speaker after speaker from the Opposition has persisted in asking for something that he knows cannot be given.
– Order ! The honorable member’s- time has expired.
– The Government has revealed its utter insincerity by submitting an amendment that provides for the reduction of the rate of extra endowment from 10s. to 5s. a week. By enforcing the deletion of clause 3 it is failing to provide a safeguard for the family bread-winner, because it is known that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court-
– Order! That subject has been thoroughly debated. The honorable member must keep to clause 4.
– I hope to show that endowment of the first child at the rate of 5s. a week will be of no assistance to the mothers of Australia. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has said more than once that very few workers receive only the basic wage to-d;ay. If the honorable gentleman would accompany me on a brief tour, I could show him thousands-
– In what industry?
– In all industries. Labourers on the railways, water board employees, timber workers and men in other classes of employment have no guarantee that they will receive even the full basic wage. As- soon as rain falls, labourers engaged in digging trenches for the installation of sewage, gas and water mains must either go home or work in water three or four feet deep. Thousands of men throughout Australia earn less than the basic wage on the average of their yearly earnings-.
– The weekly rate of the average yearly earnings in Australia is £9 14s.
– It is not anywhere near that figure.
– The honorable member can argue that with the Commonwealth
– The Minister may argue with whom he wishes, but I am telling him that there are thousands of men in Australia to-day whose average income is less than the basic wage. Any honorable member who cares to visit the western part of New South Wales with me will meet men working on the railway lines who receive only 9s. a week more than the basic wage and others who receive not more than £1 a week above the basic wage. They live in such places as Garah, Inverness and Cryon, where children suffer from sandy blight, scurvy and other complaints that are caused by their under-privileged conditions. Yet the Government has the audacity to say that an extra 5s. a week will help those people.
In 1919, Mr. A. B. Piddington stated, in his famous memorandum to the then Prime Minister, who is now the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes)-
– Order ! The honorable member must not proceed with that line of discussion. He must refer to clause 4 and the proposed amendment.
– I am pointing out that Mr. Piddington recommended in 1919 that child endowment be paid at. the rate of 12s. a week. Endowment at the rate of 5s., or even 10s., a week is not sufficient to provide for the needs of tb<’ children of ordinary labourers to-day. Even though a Labour government, increased endowment by 100 per cent., it did not provide sufficient for the upkeep of workers’ children.
– Endowment is not supposed to do that.
– It is supposed to do so. The people of Australia are supposed to live in the maximum degree, of comfort that can be provided by the community. Children should be able to enjoy the benefits of the scientific progress that has been made over the years. Those who are obliged to live in the undeveloped areas of Australia, where they suffer from scurvy, sandy blight and other complaints, have a right to be supplied with good food and proper treatment. They cannot receive their just dues if the Government will not provide their parents with sufficient money to maintain them in comfort. In 1919, the royal commission of which Mr. Piddington was a member found that an overcoat for a boy ten and a half years of age, of sufficient quality to last for three years, cost £2 9s. Is it possible to get such an overcoat for that price to-day?
– What was the basic wage then?
– It was £4 a week, and Mr. Piddington recommended that 12s. a week be provided as endowment for each child. To-day, the basic wage is £6 18s. a week, but the Government proposes to pay endowment at the rate of only 5s. a week. In 1919, a suit expected to last for two years cost £2 7s. 6d., a pair of trousers of the same quality cost 12s. 6d., another pair of trousers cost 9s., and a hat cost 2s. 6d. Could any honorable member buy a hat to-day for 2s. 6d., or even ten times 2s. 6d. ? A pair of pyjamas for a child ten and a half years of age in 1919 cost 9s. A similar pair of pyjamas would cost three times as much to-day. A petticoat for a girl of seven years intended to last for two years cost 6s.11d. and a pair of pyjamas for the same child cost11s. 9d. Handkerchiefs cost 6d. each. Can the Minister buy articles of clothing of the same standard at those low rates to-day? An overcoat for a boy of three years expected to last for three years cost £1 ls., and a suit for the same child cost 18s. 6d. Prices to-day are four times as high as those figures.
– If the honorable gentleman can obtain clothing as cheaply as that to-day, I wish that he would tell rae where it can be bought. I have a son thirteen years of age. He is growing rapidly, and we have to renew his boots at least twice a year. He is also outgrowing his suits. The discarded articles have to beput aside because there are no other children to whom they can be passed on. It is impossible to provide for the upkeep of a child to-day on 5s. a week, especially if the child is attending a secondary school. Many thousands of children are suffering from diseases that have been caused by malnutrition over the years. Unless parents can afford to buy the correct quantities of nutritious foods, they cannot have healthy children. The report of the royal commission that inquired into family allowances in 1919 shows that a family of five persons in those days was expected to consume only 2 lb. of butter a week. Does any member of the Government suggest that 2 lb. of butter weekly would be sufficient for a man, wife and three children? We have cast aside such poor standards. Every child should be properly fed and clothed.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I support the amendment that has been submitted by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) said that many people are receiving less than the basic wage to-day. I very much doubt his statement, particularly in view of the fact that the average wage throughout Australia now is £9 14s. a week. On the last occasion when I went down a. mine, I saw youths eighteen years of age who received £12 19s., after all taxes had been deducted, for a five-day week. I do not begrudge them such wages, hut I refer to the fact as an indication that the average wage throughout Australia is considerably higher than the basic wage. The Australian Workers Union and many other unions have refused to agree to the payment of bonuses to their members.
– Hear, hear!
-Evidently the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) would like to see all workers reduced to the basic wage level. Either he is in favour of working men receiving all the extra wages that they are entitled to and can get, or he is in favour of reducing them to a common level.
– We do not want to kill men with overwork.
– Order! The honorable member can make his own speech. There is too much noise on my left.
– What about the right?
– Order !
– I can hear Government supporters from here.
– Order ! The honorable member will apologize to the Chair.
– I apologize.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) seems to believe that there is something sinister in the intention of the Government and employers to ensure that workers shall have better conditions of labour. The honorable gentleman is a member of the central executive of a union that has consistently refused to allow its members to receive bonuses. If employees did not receive bonuses they would be far worse off than they are. The honorable member recently pointed to supporters of the Government in this chamber and said, “ There are people who go on trips to Honolulu, who own five cars, and who have no thought for their employees at all”. Yet he is a member of the executive of a union that attempts to prevent the workers from receiving the full amount that they may receive. I am proud of the fact that seven of the eight persons whom I employ own their own motor cars, and the eighth owns a motor cycle. That has been made possible through a system of profit sharing, which, according to Opposition members, should be abolished.
I realize that those remarks are hardly relevant to the clause that is now under consideration, so I shall return to the discussion of the subject of child endowment. The conflict between the various arguments about whether the Government should pay 5s. or 10s. a week in endowment for the first child of a family under the age of sixteen years, may be simply resolved. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) is the person who knows how much money he has at his disposal, and the demands that will be made upon Consolidated Revenue in the future. He recognizes that the Treasury will be required to provide many millions of pounds for the benefits that are to be provided under a national health scheme, legislation for the implementation of which will be introduced during the next session of the Parliament. The right honorable gentleman also knows that the cost of granting endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child under the age of sixteen years will amount to £15,000,000 per annum, and he believes that, at the present time, the National Welfare Fund is not in a position to meet the cost of providing endowment at the rate of 10s.. a week for the first child. However, the time may come when the fund will be able to support that additional expenditure. The right honorable gentleman realizes that many other people, particularly age and invalid pensioners, have claims for an increase of pension. I remind the committee that an increase of the pension by ls. a week involves an additional charge on the National Welfare Fund of £1.100,000 per annum. In other words, an increase of the rate of pensions by 10s. a week would make a demand on the National Welfare Fund of £11,000,000 a year. The Chifley Government considered that it was not able to provide endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child, but the present Government believes that it is in a position to do so. I regard the payment of 5s. as a step in the right direction. All honorable members feel that the amount should be as generous as the country can afford to pay, and the Government has at least shown that it is willing to make a start. I hope that it will be possible in the not distant future to increase the amount to 10s. a week. For the reasons that I have given, I support the amendment.
.- The Opposition has endeavoured to be consistent in its attitude towards child endowment, and has not resorted to subterfuges, or tried to put a confidence trick over the mothers of Australia. The Labour party has consistently expressed the view that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court takes the first child under sixteen years of age into consideration when it is computing the basic wage. As a matter of fact, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), when he introduced the Child Endowment Bill in 1941, appeared to be in agreement with that view, and the Labour party has accepted -that principle. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) put forward that view during the last general election campaign. However, the people of Australia apparently accepted the promises that were made by the Liberal party and the Australian Country party that, if they were returned to office, they would provide endowment for the first child under the age of sixteen years. Doubtless, the people were carried away by the plausible argument in the reservation that was then made by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to the effect that the payment would be increased to 10s. a week if the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration decided to take endowment for the first child into account when it was determining the basic wage. The mothers of Australia could not have been expected to understand the finer points that are involved in the computation of the basic wage, and they probably adopted the attitude that “ a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush “. They did not understand the implication that if the Commonwealth Arbitration Court were to take cbe payment of endowment for the first child into consideration when it was computing the basic wage, single persons, and married couples with no children would be penalized.
The Labour party has now accepted that principle in relation to the granting of endowment for the first child, but differs from the Government about the amount that shall be paid. We feel that consistency should be preserved in the matter. Why does the Government desire to discriminate between the payment for the first child and the payments for subsequent children? If an amount of 10s. a week is considered necessary for the second child and any subsequent children, why should not that amount be paid for the first child? The cost of living has risen substantially since the present Prime Minister promised the electors that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, if they were returned to office, would provide endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child. With the safeguarding declaration in clause 3 preserved, the Labour party would be satisfied that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would not take the payment of endowment for the first child into consideration when it was computing the basic wage. The retention of that declaration in the legislation would not involve the Government in any additional expenditure, and would provide some proof of its .bona fides and sincerity in stating that, in its opinion, the court would not take endowment for the first child into consideration. However, the Government is in control of the national exchequer, and, therefore, is responsible for determining whether the amount of endowment for the first child shall be 5s. or 10s. a week. The Opposition can only endeavour to prevail upon it to accept the view that the payment should be 10s. a week. The additional cost would be £15,000,000 per annum, making the total cost of providing endowment for the first child £30,000,000 per annum. That amount is a mere pittance when we consider the substantial surplus of £100,000,000 that the Chifley Govern ment left in the National Welfare Fund on vacating office. That amount would enable the Government to provide endowment at the rate of 10s. a week for the first child for approximately three years.
The Government can well afford to adopt the Opposition’s proposal in this matter, because it has not been called upon to expend large sums of money on the national health scheme that was evolved by the Chifley Government. The wageearners, and taxpayers generally, have subscribed large sums of money to the National Welfare Fund. I urge the Government to give sympathetic consideration to the Labour party’s view that endowment should be provided for the first child at the rate of 10s. a week. I hope that the Government will not give the benefit with one hand and take it away with the other hand. The proposal to endow the first child may be like a sprat to catch a mackerel, and the employers will be the real beneficiaries if the payment of endowment for the first child has an effect upon the basic wage. Doubtless, the Minister for Labour and National Service is sincere in relation to this matter., and I urge him not to spoil a good gesture by insisting upon the payment of the niggardly amount of 5s. a week.
– I support the amendment. I first began to appreciate the system of payments for children on my introduction to one of the service during World War II. It seemed so natural and excellent that the memory of it has remained in my mind. A few days ago, the Minister for” Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) mentioned that the amounts that are now being granted are probably higher than they were during the war. In my opinion, industry however beneficient cannot carry that kind of burden. If an employer were to engage a man who had a wife and six children, and pay him accordingly, the overhead in the cost of production would be so great that industry generally could not carry it. However, the principle of granting payments for children is excellent, and it has been accepted by the three political parties that are represented in this chamber, although the Labour party is now temporizing about the proposal to pay os. a week for the first child under sixteen years of age. The Government and its supporters have expressed the opinion that such a payment will not have the slightest effect upon the Commonwealth Arbitration Court when it is determining the basic wage, and I regard our proposal as most meritorious. The mothers of Australia, who will benefit from that payment, adopted the same view during the recent general election campaign. My recollection of the events at that time is that the people brushed aside the contention that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would take endowment for the first child into account when it was determining the basic wage, and they merely asked us, “ Will you provide endowment for the first child at the rate of os. a week ? “ Members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party promised that if they were returned to offi.ce, they would make that provision, and we are now giving effect to that undertaking. The Opposition has asked us whether we consider that the payment of 5s. a week will be of any material assistance to families. The answer to that question depends upon the perspective in which the payment is viewed. For instance, the value of it may be. minimized when it is reduced to the basis of approximately 8£d. a day. The payment of 5s. a week has been described as niggardly, but the housewife, who is responsible for the family budget, realizes that the receipt of a bonus of £13 per annum will considerably supplement her income. The money will be available for the purchase of extra shoes and clothing. We do not contend that that sum is granted entirely for the purpose of maintaining the first child of a family because such a statement would be foolish indeed, but we claim that the payment will be a useful supplement to the family income, and that the housewife will welcome it eagerly.
– An amount of £13 a year would not be sufficient to purchase a bicycle.
– Perhaps I can assist the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) to obtain a bicycle for less than that amount. The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) stated in a very pleasant manner that the first child of a family is actually a greater expense than subsequent children are. What is the position? Employment is to-day so readily available, and so congenial, that husband and wife are working and are saving money before the first child is born. The fact that both of them are able to obtain employment enables them to save an amount of money that will at least partly defray the expenditure that is associated with the birth of the first child, and offset the reduction of the family income when the mother is no longer able to go to work. The first child may be a greater expense than the second and the third children are, but that is balanced, at least to some degree, by the peculiar conditions of employment to-day, which readily accept the fact of women working in industry. Under the prevailing conditions, such as the 40-hour week, women are glad to go to work and make provision in the way I have stated for the arrival of the first child.
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) stated that payment of endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child will involve an expenditure of £15,000,000 per annum, and he blithely suggested that the Government should increase the amount to 10s. a week, as the additional cost of £15,000,000 that would thereby be involved was a mere pittance. Such a statement is indicative of a frenzied outlook on finance that the average Australian does not welcome. The people do not like to think that the Government would squander millions of pounds merely for the sake of doubling the amount of endowment for the first child. They prefer that the disbursement shall be made on a sound and equitable basis, because they realize that the Government has obligations to other sections of the community, for whom Opposition members constantly express great sympathy. This year the Government will expend large sums of money
On all classes of pensions and other social services. The logical method that the Government has evolved of adjusting the payment of endowment for the first child will be appreciated by the recipients, who will understand that the refusal to increase the payment to 10s. a week is not detrimental to their interests. The people realize that it is a better system of finance to begin the payment of endowment for the first child at the rate of 5s. a week, and if Commonwealth revenues are sufficiently buoyant at a later date to increase the amount to 10s. a week. Child endowment as well as other social services will be reviewed from time to time. Our logical course at present is to honour the promise that we made to the people during the last general election campaign to provide endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child.
.- I oppose the amendment that has been submitted by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who considers that the rate of endowment for the first child of a. family under the age of sixteen years should be 5s. a week, whereas the Labour party believes that’ it should be 10s. a week. The honorable member for “Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence) stated that he believed that one effect of the payment would be to assist the cultural advancement of the first child. I am not impressed with that contention. An amount of 5s. a week would be almost negligible in that respect, and would provide a dead, or almost flat kind of culture. The payment would be sufficient to meet a dentist’s charge for extracting a tooth, and that thought reminds me that the Labour party believes in the principle of a tooth for a tooth. If the Government considers that endowment at the rate of 10s. a week should be provided for the subsequent children, it should pay 10s. a week for the first child. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) said that the Opposition was not sincere in pressing for an increase of the endowment from 5s. to 10s. a week. That statement is groundless. I say to the 1,000,000 mothers to whom the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) referred that the Labour party is on their side. The Opposition urges that they should receive endowment for the first child at the rate of 10s. a week. The honorable member for Gippsland mentioned that be himself had no pecuniary interest in this proposal. I am in different circumstances. I have a baby daughter, and I believe that she would he disappointed with me if I did not on her behalf put up a battle for the higher rate.
The honorable member also described the proposal to provide endowment at the rate of 10s. a week as political bribery on the part of the Opposition. The Government’s proposal that the rate be fixed at as. can equally be regarded as a form of bribery in the interests of employers because they stand to gain by a corresponding reduction of the basic wage. In reply to the honorable member’s statement that the Opposition is merely puting on a stunt, I say that I shall be prepared to be in any stunt that will provide an additional os. a week to the mothers of Australia.
The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) referred to the recommendations that were made by the Piddington royal commission in reference to family allowances. That commission’s investigation of this subject was the most thorough that had been made up to that time. It recommended that child endowment should be provided at the rate of 12s. a week. That made all Australian mothers very happy, but, subsequently, they were equally disappointed when the Government of which the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister refused to implement that recommendation. The point I make is that that commission completed its inquiry in 1919 and that even at that time it recommended that child endowment should be provided at the rate of 12s. a week for each child.
All honorable members support the object of the bill, which is to provide endowment for the first child in a family. I appeal to the Government not to be stubborn in this matter. Although at the recent general election the present Government parties promised to provide endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child, the cost of living has risen so substantially in the meantime that the purchasing power of 10s. to-day is hardly equal to that of 5s. six months ago. Therefore, those parties should approve of the rate of 10s. if ‘they really wish to honour the promise that they made to the people. That amount is little enough. Indeed, I should be prepared to support any amendment to have the rate increased to £.1 a week. The provision of endowment at the rate of 10s. a week would encourage young parents to have more children. Population is our greatest need to-day. The best new Australians are native born babies. It would be better to curtail our present expenditure upon immigration in order to make more funds available for the purpose of increasing our native population. Supporters of the Government have argued that the provision of endowment at the rate of 10s. a week would involve too great an expenditure. When the purpose to be achieved is so meritorious, the expenditure involved should not be allowed to deter the Government from attempting to achieve it, particularly when millions of pounds are now expended for purposes that are of less importance and the national income has reached a record figure. The families should be given a fair share of that income. However, the mothers of Australia should derive pleasure from the knowledge that the parties represented in the National Parliament are vieing with each other in their desire to give to them this benefit that they so richly deserve. Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Holt’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment (by Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That, after proposedsub-section(3.), the following sub-section be inserted: - “ ‘ ( 3a. ) Where, by reason of divorce, separation, death of a parent or otherwise, any children who would otherwise be living together as one family or as part of one family are not so living together, endowment may, in the discretion of the Director-General, in respect of each of those children who is in the custody, care and control of a person whohas the custody, care and control of no other children, be paid at the rate which would be payable if those children were living together as one family or as part of one family.”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 8 agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That, after clause6, the following new clauses be inserted : - “6a. Section one hundred and three of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: - (3. ) Where, in the case of an endowee (other than an institution) who has been granted endowment in respect of more than one child, the endowment (being at the rate of Five shillings per week) in respect of the elder or oldest of the children in respect of whom endowment is payable ceases, by virtue of this section, to be payable, the rate of the endowment payable in respect of the other child, or the next eldest child, as the case may be, shall thereupon become Five shillings per week.’. “6b. After section one hundred and three of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted : - 103a. Where an endowee (other than an institution)who is in receipt of endowment in respect of a child at the rate of Five shillings per week assumes the custody, care and control of another child who is older than the first-mentioned child, and is granted endowment in respect of that other child, the rate of the endowment payable in respect of that firstmentioned child shall, as from the date from which the endowment in respect of that other child becomes payable, be Ten shillings per week. 103b. Where a person has the custody, care and control of more than one child, and one or more or those children, other than the elder or eldest child, is a child in respect of whom endowment may notbe granted, the Director-General may, if he thinks lit, authorize the payment of endowment in respect of the elder or eldest child at the rate of Ten shillings per week.’.”.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.15 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 4th May (vide page 2224), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The measure before us seeks to avoid deadlocks between the House of Representatives and the Senate which might occur after a double dissolution has taken place. Quite rightly the measure has in it an implied assertion of the superiority of the power of the House of Representatives over the Senate. It seeks to ensure that, if the majority in the House of Representatives after disagreeing with the Senate majority is supported by the people in a general election caused by a double dissolution, the Senate will be more likely to agree with the majority obtained in the House of Representatives. The Government fears that under the present Senate electoral system of proportional representation, the Senate will be divided 30 Government, 30 Opposition, in event of a double dissolution. Let me say at the outset that such a situation would be almost as unsatisfactory to the Opposition as to the Government. It would probably be remedied at the next general election when half the Senate went out, but there would be a three years’ interval or yet another dissolution. In the course of a speech earlier in this session the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) implied that proportional representation had been introduced by the Chifley Government to produce just such a. 30-30 result in the event of a double dissolution. A moment’s thought should show the limited value of such a situation to an Opposition. It is provided in the Constitution that, in the event of an even vote in the Senate, a question is decided in the negative. It is true that an even vote would thus enable a Senate Opposition to reject any Government bill, but it is equally true that such an even vote would enable any Government to reject Opposition amendments to a bill. The situation would not be really satisfactory to either side. The Labour party’s agreement with the Government that there is a problem to be dealt with does not, however, involve us in agreement with the manner in which this bill attacks the problem.
Before putting before the Government the Opposition’s objections to the measure I should like to speak of the manner in which it was brought into the HouseMost people would agree that Constitution alterations should be carefully considered. In most cases in the past there has been plenty of time for consideration. The Labour party’s referendum proposals of 1944 were submitted to a conference of State Premiers and State Leaders of Oppositions in 1942. Two years of discussion took place before they were submitted to the people. The referendum proposals of 1946 were equally well discussed. The social services proposal was carried by 58 votes to one in this House. The organized marketing proposal, repeated in 1946, had previously been submitted by the Lyons Government in 1937, and again by the Curtin Government in 1944. The industrial powers proposal had been submitted in 1944 before it was again submitted in 1946. All of these matters had been debated extensively over a number of years. But until this bill was introduced into the House of Representatives its nature was concealed from all but Cabinet Ministers. It was even kept secret from members of the two parliamentary parties which support the Government. It has since been discussed only as a good political manoeuvre, designed to further the Government’s policy in the present pass-‘ ing dispute between the Government and the Opposition. It was loudly crowed that it would help to induce the Senate to surrender or not to press amendments to the Commonwealth Bank Bill or the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. Government members gloated and said that it would help to intimidate Labour senators in Labour party meetings.
Because it was introduced secretly, and with a view to short-term political advantage, it is clear from the structure of the bill that it is not well considered.
– I rise to order. I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the honorable member is reading Lis speech.
– If I were to interpret strictly the standing order in regard to the reading of speeches, a lot of damage would be done to both sides. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) is officially opening the debate on behalf of the Opposition, and on this occasion I ask honorable members to accord to him a degree of latitude that I do not propose te extend to others.
– Many minds on the Government side could have been brought to bear on this problem. They were not consulted.
– That is not true.
– As a result, the bill is such that its provisions ought not to be incorporated permanently in the Commonwealth Constitution.
Before turning from considering the purely political motives of the Government, I wish to draw the attention of the House to the. dilemma in which the Government finds itself. The real reason why the Government has introduced the bill is because it wants to extricate itself from that dilemma. As the Senate is now constituted, 30 senators must stand for re-election in 1952 and 30 will not have to stand until 1955. Of the 30 senators who will continue for the three years after 1952, seventeen are members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties and thirteen are members of the Labour party. Unless the Labour party wins in all States in the Senate election of 1952, it will not have a Senate majority. It could win in five cut of six States, and still not have a Senate majority. The Government naturally desires to keep that advantage. The Government’s dilemma is therefore that a double dissolution now would mean that the 30 long-term senators would most, likely be divided fifteen to fifteen. The Government would thus forfeit its seventeen to thirteen advantage in 1952. It wishes to overwhelm the present Senate and at the same time retain its 1952 advantage, no matter how slight its majority vote after a double dissolution might be. That is the real purpose of this bill. That is why the bill is nothing but an arithmetical formula for counting votes. That is why more intelligent means of breaking deadlocks have not been considered. That is why, after 50 years of federation, the opportunity .to draft an intelligent bill, based upon consideration of what ought to be the powers and duties of the .Senate in the light of 50 years experience, has been neglected and set aside in favour of a pip-squeak bill about counting votes and arranging ballot papers.
The bill is objectionable for what is in it; it is also objectionable for what it has neglected to touch. It has neglected to touch the important question of Senate by-elections. Under proportional representation the Senate is always likely to be fairly evenly divided. In the event of an evenly divided Senate, or a Senate in which a majority one way or the other is small, it is clear that the filling of vacancies caused by death or resignation is more important now than ever before. If the Government had been as actively concerned with making the Senate reflect, the popular will, as it claims in this bill, it would have also proposed in the bill to amend the Constitution to provide that ali the people of a State voting in an election would fill interim vacancies, instead of the present method of filling vacancies. But to do that would he to forfeit a great Liberal party advantage. Vacancies are now filled, by the State parliaments. In four States out of six, legislative councils are elected on ballots rigged to return anti-Labour majorities, and in practice these councils can determine who will fill Senate interim vacancies. Even when a Labour senator dies, they frequently have replaced him by an anti-Labour senator. Now that the Senate is fairly evenly divided, this abused privilege becomes more important to the anti-Labour parties than ever before. They have four chances out of six. Failure to amend this situation casts doubt on. the democratic intentions of the Government.
Let me stress how important the problem of vacancies by death has now become. T shall discuss the problem from the Government’s point of view. If Labour won in four States at the next Senate election it would have 31 seats to the Government’s 29. The death or retirement of a Government supporter from two of the six States could result in the State parliaments replacing him. unfairly by a Labour man. The Senate would then be 30 to 30. Such casual vacancies scarcely mattered in the past, .because Senate majorities were almost always large ones, but they matter greatly now.
The bill provides for two ballots if there is a double dissolution. In each State there will be a ballot for five senators to serve a six-year term. There will also be a ballot for five senators to serve a three-year term. The uneven number of vacancies in each ballot - namely, five - will lead to a division of three for the winning party and two for the losing party. Taking both ballots together, the Senate candidates will very likely divide six to four. In a very close ballot one group could win the three vacancies on one ballot and only two on the other, but that would not be likely. To that extent the proposal sets aside the idea behind proportional representation. To avoid the danger of the majority being underrepresented, it ensures that the majority will be over-represented, as it is almost always over-represented in this House. From arrangement of the Senate vacancies into two groups of five in each State as is proposed in this bill, undesirable consequences will flow. “When the Senate positions are divided, as this bill proposes, into six-year seats and three-year seats, the number must be uneven on each ballot-paper. Thus, if there are ten senators for each State, as at present, two groups of five will be elected, three representing one side of politics and two representing the other side.
The bill lays down that the number of senator for each State must be divisible by two without remainder, but not by f our without remainder. Fourteen senators for each State will therefore be the next permitted enlargement of the Senate under this bill.. Any future enlargement of the Senate must therefore, be from 60 to 84 - an increase of 24. That would compel an enlargement of the House of Representatives by 48. Interim adjustments of the size of the House of Representatives are ruled out. It might be desirable to increase the number of seats in the House of Representatives by about twenty in the future, but that could not be done. Had this proposal been well thought out, it should surely have included a provision to alter the section of the Constitution which requires that the Senate shall be half the size of the House of Representatives. Alterations of the size of the Senate are confined to a rigid formula by this proposed constitutional amendment. There was therefore every reason to free the House of Representatives from its present relationship with the size of the Senate. That is not proposed in the bill.
I stress that the measure should provide for Senate by-elections, and that it should alter the constitutional provision which makes it necessary for the House of Repesentatives to be twice the size of the Senate. If those proposals were included in the bill, it would have more claim to be considered as embodying an intelligent and democratic reform. I say “ more claim “, but it would still not be a complete claim. There are two other considerations which must be raised to show how ill-considered this proposal is. The first is that this legislation weakens the influence of the elector and increases the power of the party organizers.
The Prime Minister has suggested that the division of the ballot for ten vacancies into two ballots for five vacancies somehow gave the electors a better chance to decide which senators could have a sixyear term and which could have a threeyear term. That is not so. This measure strengthens the political party machines to the detriment of the elector. In practice,, the parties will decide which of their candidates shall have their names placed on the six-year ballot-paper, and which names shall go on the three-year ballot paper. At present the elector can decide those terms. It is true there is a regrettable tendency to vote straight down the party group. But in Tasmania, where the electorate is accustomed to proportional representation, the electors do not vote straight down party lists. They move freely up and down the list selecting the individual. The Labour Senate team in Tasmania was not returned as listed by the Labour party. Neither are individuals returned in Tasmanian State elections according to position in. party lists. If there were a double dissolution to-day without this proposed amendment, the elector’s first to fifth votes would be votes for a six-year term. Under the Government’s proposal he would be compelled to vote into office for a three-year term only a man whose name appeared on the second short-term, ballot-paper, although he might consider him worthy of a longer term than a candidate whose name appeared on the six -year ballotpaper. Vice versa, he would be compelled to vote an individual on the long-term ballot-paper above one on the short-term ballot-paper, because the parties put him there. A curious feature of the bill which also shows hasty and slipshod thinking is that it proposes to amend the Constitution permanently, yet it does so. because of what after all only temporary legislation. Proportional representation for the Senate is only an experiment. The experiment could be ended at any time. As the Lender of the Opposition said in a press statement -
It is competent for any Parliament to amend the Electoral Act; to revert to the old system; or to alter the particular system of proportional representation.
In the same statement the Leader of the Opposition went on to say -
Mr. Menzies is proposing permanently to alter the Constitution to conform to alleged necessities arising from a repealable Act, which, if repealed or altered, would leave this proposed new clause in the Constitution standing high and dry us meaningless, cumbersome and mlschievous.
It is clear that a double dissolution conducted as the Government proposes under this bill is an attempt to conduct two separate elections for the Senate, so arranged as to make the result in each election identical. The half elected for three years will be divided between parties in the same proportion as the half elected for six years. Whereas at present a government which wins a double dissolution may be rejected at the next election three years later, and the outgoing half of the Senate will be returned in such a way as to ensure that the new Government will have a Senate majority, this new proposal practically destroys the chance of such a new government having a majority. The remaining half of the Senate may be three to two against it. Because this proposal rolls two elections into one, and inflates a temporary majority, a change of public opinion in the next election after a double dissolution will certainly lead to fresh deadlocks. To get over one deadlock the Senate will be re-elected in such a way as to give unduly prolonged strength to one movement of public opinion. More deadlocks than before are therefore likely to be caused. Would it not have been more intelligent to have brought in a measure re-defining the powers and duties of the Senate? The extreme question is whether the Senate should continue at all. The minor States, I am sure, will insist that it shall continue, but if its nature is not to be altered and we are to ensure that it must as often as possible merely duplicate the House of Representatives, it is hard to see what useful purpose the Senate will ever serve. But such an extreme proposition as abolition is academic. The feeling of smaller States for a chamber in which they have equality is likely to be strong.
There are many problems to which the Government could better have given attention in framing a proposal of this nature. For instance, is it necessary that wo should continue to have double dissolutions at all? Might it not be better to give the Senate only the power to delay legislation ? Might it not be better to provide for joint sittings of the two Houses after an interval of time of disagreement, without recourse to double dissolutions? If there is value in the Senate representing a different movement of opinion because half do not come up for election at the same time as the House of Representatives, how long should it be entitled to resist the House of Representatives? On the other hand, if a government has a majority in both Houses could the Senate not be given special duties so that it will not be a mere useless duplication of the House of Representatives? “We on this side find it hard to take seriously the indignation of the Government parties at deadlocks.
The Liberal and Country parties in four States, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria, maintain and defend second chambers that may deadlock Labour lower houses in those States permanently.
Among the problems which ought to be considered are whether any steps can be taken to give the Senate special State duties. The Commonwealth Grants Commission and the conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers seem to have taken over such duties. How far can they be restored to the Senate? Could not the Senate have committees charged with the duty of examining State needs? Foreign affairs and external territories are largely neglected by this chamber. Could not statute or constitutional amendments impose on the Senate special duties in relation to both? The welfare of the natives of Australia and of our external territories might with benefit come under the surveillance of committees of a Senate. If that Senate happened not to agree with a particular government such surveillance might be the more beneficial. Statutory rules and ordinances are not given real attention by the House of Representatives. In view of this great flow of unscrutinized law, special rights and duties might be im posed on the Senate in regard to them. There seems to he no reason why the Senate should not have the duty to examine State requests now submitted to the Loan Council. Other bodies which have grown up deal with problems that are of a State character that should be the special concern of the Senate. The Australian Agricultural Council, the National Health and Medical Research Council, the National Works Council, the Tariff Board and the River Murray Commission are examples.
Senate committees should have duties and authority in some of these- subjectmatters. Here I would add that if uniform taxation is to be permanent, the Senate as a States house might be charged with the duty of examining State disabilities, real or alleged, under the system. These suggestions ought to be considered. There is no thought given in this bill to the nature of the Senate. There is only a desire to make it a useless duplication of the House of Representatives, and that in an expensive and clumsy way. Long ago, Lord Bryce, in a letter to a British Prime Minister, stressed three points on second chambers that might well be considered. He thought that they should -
To sum up, we believe the bill to be wrong in form and inadequate in scope. It is wrong in form because it is party political p..nd relates solely to present conflicts. It would .be a pity to warp the Constitution permanently to meet the Government’s needs in present temporary conflicts. It is also wrong because it seeks a permanent amendment to suit a temporary electoral act. It is clumsy because it will make it difficult to adjust the size of the House of Representatives. It is wrong because it infringes the rights nf the electors. It is inadequate because it leaves untouched the problem of Senate by-elections. It is faulty because it leaves unamended the unnecessary provision which binds the House to be twice the size of the Senate. It is inadequate in scope because it accepts the Senate as it is and merely rnakes an electoral amendment when there are possibilities of making the Senate a usef ul chamber. It is insufficient because it will not face up to ‘the problem of resolving deadlocks without dissolution, and it does not consider the whole problem of a possible suspensory veto for the Senate instead of the present absolute veto.
It is a serious thing for us to oppose a constitutional reform. The Constitution obviously needs change. It is a still more serious thing for the Government to bring in snap amendments that are crudely hailed as “ bombshells “ and “ secrets “. The Government parties have not considered this clumsy proposal properly. f,f the Cabinet had taken its own rank and file into its confidence a more sensible suggestion might have emerged. With regret the Opposition opposes this measure because it considers that the Senate’s position needs new definition. While we recognize that change is needed, the faulty structure of the bill has led us to believe that its proposals should not be incorporated in the Constitution. In opposing the measure the Opposition is convinced that the people will agree with it that the Government should alter this bill. We consider that the measure should be referred to a committee to go into the problems properly. Should the Government persist and override our objections we are convinced the people will support us in voting “ No “ and so prevent what is a proposed perversion of the Constitution. What is needed is a re-definition of the Senate’s powers and duties, not a formula in arithmetic written into the Constitution because it might suit one side in a passing phase of political conflict. That is all this proposal is, and it should be rejected.
.- After listening to the speech read by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), I cannot see any substantial argument in the reasons that he adduced for the Labour party’s opposition to this very reasonable measure which, it is as well to point out, is the direct consequence of legislation passed by this Parliament less than eighteen months ago during the term of office of the Chifley Government. This bill is not the usual form of constitutional amendment, which in the past has sought additional powers for this Parliament at the expense of the States or of individual rights. It applies to one contingency only, that of a double dissolution. It leaves untouched the normal method of election of senators. I emphasize that point. It neither lengthens nor shortens the term of office of senators; it does not subtract one iota from State rights; it does not seek additional powers for this Parliament, nor is it at variance with the intentions of the framers of the Australian Constitution insofar as it seeks to eradicate a major defect in the Representation Act 1948 and in the Commonwealth Electoral Act of the same year. The measure more nearly gives effect to the intention of the fathers of the Constitution than do. those two measures enacted by the previous Government.
The bill is simple and is not, as the honorable member for Fremantle has suggested, a machiavellian document. It simply aims at enabling Australian democracy to function more effectively. Honorable members opposite who profess to belong to a democratic party cannot possibly object to that statement.
Nobody will deny that in its 50 years of existence our federal parliamentary institution has declined in public esteem. Even if some honorable members are inclined to deny that fact, the Australian people are under no illusions about it. One of the most disquieting tendencies of recent years has been the declining public esteem for the Parliament and, let us admit quite frankly, for members of the Parliament. The history of this century is rich with, illustrations of how, in many countries, disillusioned electorates have discarded representative government simply because of its inefficiency and its inability to deal with circumstances which demand bold and unorthodox promptness and courageous action. What has occurred in Europe in the last 50 years may very well happen in Australia unless we periodically overhaul our machinery of government so. as to bring it into conformity with contemporary needs. That is one of the objects of this measure. It is quite untrue, that, as the honorable member for Fremantle has said, the Government is seeking to gain some political advantage from this measure. I was very disappointed to hear him ascribe such intentions to the Government parties. The Government has no intention to achieve any shortterm political advantage by this bill. After all, a remedy lies in the hands of the parties on both sides of the House. It will be available to members of the Opposition when, in the distant future, their turn to hold the reins of office comes round again. The remedy will be available to them just as it will be available to honorable members on this side of the House. The Opposition should he the last body to raise the cry that legislation is designed to perpetuate the influence of the government of the day. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has shown that under the legislation of 1948 it is almost impossible for the Liberal and Australian Country parties, or for the Labour party, after a double dissolution, no matter how strongly they may be supported and how victorious they may be in the House of Representatives, to gain a decisive majority in another place. The Government and its supporters are quite prepared to accept Labour’s idea of proportional representation. Some honorable members on this side may not care for that idea particularly. I myself think that it is both unworkable and unsound. The honorable member for Fremantle implied that this legislation is only intended to be effective for a short term, but it is the Government’s intention that it shall be effective for a considerable time. The proportional representation system in the Senate will have a much fairer trial if this Parliament agrees to the provisions of the present hill.
My only complaint about this bill is that it does not go far enough. It does not address itself to a fundamental problem which sooner or later must be faced. The
Senate has proved to be one of the great disillusions and consequently one of the biggest problems which have ensued from federation. That chamber was designed primarily not only to be a chamber of review but also to be a House of the States. It has failed signally to fulfil that intention, chiefly because of the increasing rigidity of party organization since 1901. This is something for which all parties are probably equally to blame. The authors of the Constitution might well be pardoned for having believed that senators with a tenure double that of members here, would be less susceptible to party influence than honorable members in this House. Events have sadly belied their hopes. More often than not the government of the day has commanded a majority in both Houses, and the result of that position has been no searching review of legislation and. few constructive amendments in the Senate. Instead, there has been a costly and cumbersome duplication of authority. At present, as was the case twenty years ago, the Government is confronted by a hostile Senate, which does not reflect contemporary public opinion and our legislative programme and administrative efficiency is, in consequence, impaired. This predicament has been worsened because, whereas, until 1948, before the Labour party’s amendments were introduced, it was possible to cut the gordian knot by resorting to a double dissolution, an impediment has now been thrown into this machinery which is so formidable that it can wreck the whole efficacy of bicameral government. The Senate was designed, not only as a chamber of review, but as a House of the States, which would represent, not a party, but a State, point of view. That intention has become increasingly submerged.
A problem of this magnitude cannot be solved by one party alone. It demands a joint approach. The honorable member for Fremantle put forward several ideas, some of which were interesting and worthy of examination. Perhaps it may be possible for all parties to come together in some serious study, in order to rectify this very disappointing state of affairs.
An honorable member has asked, bv way of interjection, “ Why not abolish the
Senate ? “ That question conies very badly from an honorable member on the Opposition side of the House, because, although abolition of the Senate has, for many years, been a plank in the Labour party’s platform that party did nothing about it when it was in power between 1941 and 1949. It reversed its policy. Although the Labour Government was prepared to put numerous referendums before the people, instead of trying to abolish the Senate, it very ‘nearly doubled the number of senators. That action illustrates the falsity and, I might almost say, the hypocrisy of Labour’s attitude to this problem. The Opposition’s plan to abolish the Senate resembles an attempt to cure an injured limb by cutting it off. It begs the whole question. Honorable members of the Opposition know perfectly well that if such a proposal were put to the people of this country they would not be prepared, at a referendum, to sanction so drastic a surgical operation on the Constitution. The Opposition knows that the people would not be prepared to do that or it would have tried to have such a proposal accepted at a referendum during its long term of office. At all events, whether we like it or not, this country has a bicameral system of government, and the joint task of political parties in this House is to make this system work as efficiently and adequately as possible. If the Opposition would consent to a conference with the Government parties on this question. I make that suggestion in my capacity as a private member
Honorable members interjecting,
-Order ! I am quite tired of hearing interjections coming from my left. Certain honorable gentlemen who should know better are interjecting from seats which are not their own.
– I repeat that if honorable members opposite would consent to confer with the Government parties and if as a result of that joint study of the matter some form of agreement could be arrived at, then proposals which had been agreed upon could be put to a referendum and would have a good chance of being accepted by the people. Even without structural and electoral changes something could still be done, pro vided that honorable members opposite were willing. AH parties could agree to some form of relaxation of party discipline in the Senate, and bar senators from, attending party meetings. Instead of chattering, it would be worthwhile for the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) who has a brilliant legal mind to give his consideration to this proposal. If party discipline were to be relaxed in the Senate a start would be made in realizing the pristine objective of the founders of the Constitution and restoring to some extent the status of the Senate as a chamber of review. No country has satisfactorily settled this problem of the relationship between the two legislative chambers. This bill does not attempt to do so to any great extent but, as far as it goes, it makes an alteration which, at least, is imaginative and represents a definite effort to surmount the additional difficulty which has been created by the previous administration. I think that it will be accepted by the public and will enable public opinion to be expressed more accurately and permit greater efficiency in government. Accordingly, this bill, in spite of its limitations, is worthy of the support of the Parliament and of the country.
.- This is a very strange piece of legislation. In the first instance, it was a mystery piece of legislation. It was so mysterious a piece of legislation that only three Ministers knew anything about it. Members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties were never consulted on its provisions. They were just told that the Government had a secret weapon with which to destroy the Labour party’s majority in the Senate, but the secret weapon turned out to be a thorough dud. The secret weapon was explained by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in a speech in which he said that clause 2 of the bill might produce a mystery because it seeks to be written into- the Constitution these words -
The number of Senators for a State (whether an original State or a new State) shall be a number which is divisible by two without remainder but is not divisible by four without remainder.
The Prime Minister said that that sounded like a mathematical epigram.
The people of Australia are to be asked to vote for or against a mathematical epigram ! The cost of living is a mathematical problem. The people would like to vote on that also. But honorable members are told that the public is to have a vote only upon this mathematical epigram.
In the course of his argument, the Prime Minister said that a double dissolution of Parliament, now that the Senate consists- of ten members from each State would, if the voting were the same as it was on the occasion of the last general election, result in the election of five Government senators and five Labour senators from each State. That is not mathematically correct. As a matter of fact the voting in Queensland for the Labour party senators at the last election was of the order of 39 per cent, of the formal votes cast. On that proportion the Labour party would not have had five senators elected. It would have had only four elected, and the Opposition parties would have had six. The Labour party got three seats out of seven through the approximate 39 per cent, of votes cast. The provision of the law relating to the election of the Senate on the proportional representation system lays down the principle that a quota for each candidate shall be determined - by dividing the total number of first preference votes by one more than the number of candidates required to be elected and by increasing the quotient obtained (disregarding any remainder) by one.
That becomes the quota. If one is added to the total number of seats to be filled and that sum is divided into 100 to get the percentage, it is found that a person with approximately 9 per cent, of the votes gets a quota. If that result is multiplied by five, it will be found that a party, in order to get five senators, has to get over 45 per cent, of the total votes. A. party that got only 40 per cent, or less could get only four seats. It is the Prime Minister’s unwitting ignorance of the voting in Queensland that led him into the error of thinking that under the present system of voting each party in this Parliament, the Government party and the Labour party, would have five senators in the event of a double dissolution. Therefore his argument that this bill is a necessity to prevent something from happening in the future that might have happened in December last, is fallacious. The truth is that a Senate, elected at a double dissolution under circumstances such as prevailed on the 10th December last, would be composed of 31 anti-Labour members and 29 Labour members. A deadlock therefore could not have occurred. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) pointed out very effectively, YOU cannot decide the future of a Parliament at an election because things happen after the election. Senators die and retire, and it all depends on how the vacancies occur, and are filled, as to whether there is a resultant deadlock.
If this bill became law it could happen that a party would be returned to the Senate, say the Labour party, with a. majority of the seats while the Opposition parties would be in the minority. The margin between the two parties might lie very small - perhaps only two or three. It could happen, because the relevant provisions of the Constitution are left unaltered, that the Houses of a State parliament, sitting together in the State concerned, could arrive at a decision that would return an anti-Labour senator to fill the vacancy created by a death or resignation of a Labour senator. In South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and Victoria that would often occur. It has always occurred in the case of Western Australia, .South Australia and Tasmania, and it has occasionally happened in Victoria. When the last vacancy occurred in the Senate by the death of Senator Keane of Victoria, the seat was filched from the Labour party. Senator Fraser was elected by the combined votes of the Country and Liberal parties of that State. I admit that in the case of Queensland and New South Wales where Labour majorities exist ordinarily or often, every vacancy that has occurred whether Labour or non-Labour has been filled by a Labour man. The Government sets out to get over one difficulty with this particular piece of legislation, but it does not make the provision that exists in Tasmania under the Hare-Clark system whereby the next man on the poll automatically fills any vacancy created by the death or resignation of a member of his party. There has been a scandal or two about the Senate!
The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) remembers Senator R. Keith Ready. He knows how that gentleman disappeared one evening. He was a Labour senator from Tasmania. The right honorable gentleman also remembers how Senator John Earle arrived at 9 o’clock the next morning to take his place as a Nationalist senator from Tasmania in order to give the right honorable gentleman a majority in the Senate. That occurred in 1917. Such things could happen again. Senators can be got out of the road, or they can decide that they should retire in favour of an opponent.. Such a thing has perhaps occurred only once, but I think that there may be other instances of a similar nature which could be quoted. When we set out to consider what should be done with regard to Senate elections, we should also consider how casual vacancies should be filled. That is a complementary part of any such legislation. The main provision of this bill, which was inspired by a young Melbourne enthusiast, deals with only one aspect of the problem. In passing, I might say that the gentleman who put up this proposition was asked to solve the difficulty of the final four in the great Australian rules game of football. He solved the problem by creating four permanent games where sometimes there were only three. He might create a few similar problems if this legislation is enacted. Honorable members on the Government side had ample opportunity over the years to give consideration to the nature of the Senate and to the method of election to it. During the 1913 election campaign when the fusion party led by Joseph Cook succeeded in winning 3S seats compared with the Labour party’s 37, Cook promised a reform of the system of Senate election. Ho did nothing about it, and in fact nothing was done about the Senate election system from 1901 to 1948. The Chifley Government altered the system for two reasons.
– For one reason.
– The honorable member’s bad mind would suggest a sinister motive for everything. We altered the Senate system because we wanted the Senate to be more representative than it has been for many years. At that time we had 33 members in the Senate as against three Opposition members. In 1932 the Senate consisted of 33 anti-Labour members and three Labourmembers. On one occasion the Labour party had 31 senators to five. There wasanother occasion when the antiLabourforces had a majority of 35 to one in the Senate and the sole Labour memberwas his own leader, deputy leader andwhip. From. 1917 onwards the Senate., when it became wholly one-sided, began to lose a good deal of respect in the country. Some people clamoured for its abolition. However, the truth of thematter is that the Senate is part of the bargain of federation. The States federated in the same way as the American States federated, on the understanding that they were to get equal representation in the Senate and were to have membership of the House of Representatives based upon the numerical size of the States. We have not faced up to any question of abolishing the Senate. A lot of people have talked about it, but I doubt whether we shall ever get a majority of people in a majority of States to agree to its abolition because the four smaller States would have to vote themselves under the control of the two larger States. I think that at the present time, because of the present stage of the education of the public on this matter, that will not occur. The Minister at the table, who is the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), gave some thought to what was going to happen after the election if it was won by the anti-Labour parties. In the Melbourne Herald of the 8th December, 1949, it is reported that the Minister said -
Labour control of the Senate would safeguard the public - if any safeguard were needed - against extremist or unwanted Liberal legislation, Mr. Holt, M.H.R., said today.
Labour could not lose control of the Senate in the Federal election on Saturday, he said. With its majority there, it could block any Liberal legislation from the House of Representatives. The Liberals would then be forced either to drop the measures or force a dissolution of both Houses.
If Labour were returned on Saturday there would be no corresponding safeguard because Labour would control both Houses.
– What is wrong with that?
– Nothing at all, but what sounds strange to my mind is the suggestion that the Liberal party would bring in extremist or unwanted legislation. I direct the attention to honorable members to the words “ Labour control of the Senate would safeguard the public “. That is exactly what it will do. When will this bill go before the people? Presumably after the Government gets a double dissolution. But getting a double dissolution is not an easy matter. There is only one case in Australian history of the granting of a double dissolution. That was on the 5th June, 1914, and the right honorable member for Bradfield remembers what he said about it and what the late Andrew Fisher also said. A number of people have described it as a fraud.
– We had 35 senators returned and our opponents had only one.
– It was not quite as good as that, but the right honorable gentleman’s party won 44 members in the House of Representatives. The Age newspaper of the 6th June, 1914, in referring to the question of a double dissolution, such as must precede the coming into effect of the legislation now before us, stated -
By granting the Cook Government a double dissolution over the Administrative Preference Prohibition Bill, the Governor-General has exercised his discretion to interpret the Constitution in a strictly technical spirit. It is obvious that Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson considers it unnecessary for the King’s representative to examine the nature of any bill which has twice passed through the House of Representatives and has been twice rejected by the Senate.
I repeat that there has been only one double dissolution in 50 years of federation, and perhaps another 50 years will pass before another one occurs. Therefore, the legislation seems to me to be completely fatuous. The Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) got an idea from an elector, took the idea to the Cabinet, the Cabinet gave it to the draftsman who turned it into a bill. It was then rushed into this Parliament as a solution of all our future problems.
As I have said, it was described as a secret weapon. It has been suggested that the Government is .not too keen about this legislation. It has given the problem an airing, and if it wants conviction it should go further. I commend it to the excellent summary contained in the final sentences of the speech by the honorable member for Fremantle. He said, “ It is wrong because it is a permanent amendment to suit a temporary electoral act “. Another Parliament might decide to go back to the old system, or adopt another system of proportional representation. This amendment of the Constitution seems to imply that the people of Australia are to be committed for all time, or until they again alter the Constitution, to the election of the Senate on the system of proportional representation.
My idea of the role that the Senate can play is best expressed by the suggestion that, if Australia were divided into a sufficient number of new States or provinces, each of which returned two senators, who would retire alternately as in the United States of America, we should have no need for proportional representation. There would he very little likelihood of deadlocks, and we should have more autonomous regions of government in Australia developing the nation more effectively than it can be developed under the six States system. That is another aspect of our problem to which the Government should have given some consideration. It should have received the attention of members of the Australian Country party in particular, because they, like the Labour party, advocate the division of Australia into a greater number of States. The Australian Country party advocated the system of proportional representation for the Senate for many years, but did nothing about it.
– Why did not the Labour party do something about it during its eight years of office?
– We did something very effective when we increased the size of the Parliament in order to make it more representative of the nation. The first reason why we introduced proportional representation for the Senate was to make that body more representative. The second reason was that, having fulfilled the requirement of the Constitution that the size of the Senate must first be increased, we were then able to increase the size of the House of Representatives, which, in my view, is still too small.
The proposal that the Government has submitted to us in legislative form was first considered in almost identical terms, I am informed by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), by the framers of the Constitution when they made their original submissions more than 50 years ago. Thus there is nothing new about it. The founders of the Constitution were not so much impressed with the proposition as some members now seem to be. The Government parties are in difficulties over the legislation. They cannot let it go forward in its present form without committing some of the errors that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) and I have pointed out. They ought to refer it to a select committee of this Parliament so that it could be further examined with a view to making necessary alterations in its provisions. I believe that at some time a select committee of this Parliament, truly representative of all parties, must get down to the job of drafting some obvious and necessary amendments to the Constitution. The Government will not get very far by pushing on with this bill, or any other such bill, as a party measure. The amendments that have been made to the Constitution up to date, which have been too few, have required the support of members of all parties. Therefore, I hope that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) will decide at a suitable stage to refer the bill to a select committee. The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), who is a very erudite legal personality, has written a series of books which deal with the relationship of the Dominions to the King. He wrote one very learned book, entitled The King and Eis Dominion Governors, in which he suggested that the federal character of the Senate was secured by provisions which, by protecting it against every kind of attack, gave it a stronger position than any other second chamber in the Empire.
– Who wrote that?
– The right honorable member for Barton, and I doubt whether there is another living Australian who could write as brilliant a piece of reasoning as is contained in that book. In the course of his disputation withProfessor Berriedale Keith, he propounded a thesis, which afterwards won support from Dr. Forsey, K.C., a distinguished Canadian. That thesis demonstrated the right honorable gentleman’s complete knowledge of the relationship of both Houses of the Parliament to the Crown. If the Senate is to continue to be what it was intended to be - in the words of the right honorable gentleman, a stronger second chamber than any in the Empire - we ought to be very careful about tampering with it by means of ill-considered constitutional alterations.
We should examine Professor Sir Ernest Scott’s contribution to The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18, in which he dealt with the Novar papers. Lord Novar was Sir Ronald Munro-Ferguson. the GovernorGeneral who granted the double dissolution in 1914. It will be seen from those papers that the GovernorGeneral had very great difficulty in making his decision. He consulted not only Mr. Cook, but also the then Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith, whose memorandum upon the views that he expressed to the Governor-General is included in the Novar papers. The documents were sought at that time by Mr. Fisher and by the present right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes). However, they did not become available until an edition of the Novar papers was issued many years later. But we know the position now, and we should tread very carefully when we are considering double dissolutions and the method of electing senators following double dissolutions. In order to make this legislation effective in the event of another double dissolution, it would be necessary before that double dissolution to have the bill passed by the .Senate, submitted to the people, and approved by a majority of the votes in a majority of the States at some time before the double dissolution took place. Otherwise, the bill would have to be passed twice by the House of Representatives and rejected twice by the Senate after the lapse of time provided in the Constitution - three months to be specific - before it could be put to the people. A further period of not less than two months, but not more than six months would have to elapse before the Government could submit it to the vote of the people. If that referendum were taken on the same day as the double dissolution and1 were approved, it would not apply to the Parliament that would be elected as the result of the dissolution. It would apply only to any subsequent double dissolution, and one might not take place for another 50 years .niter that date. Thus, honorable members can see that this is more than a mathematical epigram. It is a first-class constitutional problem.
No proposals for constitutional amendments involving the fundamental structure of the National Parliament will ever be made effective unless agreement is reached between all political parties or unless they have the strong support of the people. I think that a proposal of the kind that is embodied in this legislation would confuse the people if it were submitted to them by way of referendum and that they would not know how to vote. Therefore, they would follow the dictum of so many Australians who have opposed referendum proposals in the past. When in doubt, they would vote “ No “. I have never voted against a referendum proposal yet, no matter what political party has submitted it to the people, and I have spoken in favour of most of them because I believe in amending the Constitution and strengthening the power of the central government. But I do not believe that this provision would strengthen the power of the central government. Its object is to alter the structure of the Senate. A remark was made to me before I began to speak that the chill of death seemed to be on the Government’s brow when it talked of double dissolutions and a new method of electing the Senate. For the reasons that I have stated, and no doubt for other reasons that will be advanced by other Opposition speakers later, there can be no certainty that, if the bill were enacted, there would not be a deadlock in the Senate as the result of any election arising from a double dissolution. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) admitted that a deadlock in the Senate would be mathematically possible even under the proposed new system. We cannot provide any safeguard against that possibility and we cannot provide a safeguard against the possibility that the people’s will, once expressed at an election following a double dissolution under the provisions of this bill, might not be thwarted by the legislative councils of the States, where reactionaries still have power and still invariably steal seats from the Labour party, cheat the electors, and choose representatives of their own parties to take the places vacated by Labour men. For all of the reasons that I have stated, I consider that the bill is not so simple as the Prime Minister has said. It is certainly not an atomic weapon, and it is not worthy of the title “secret weapon”. It has undoubtedly proved to be a dud. The Minister for Labour and National Service ought to accept my advice and have the measure re-examined. Certainly the Government ought to take careful notice of what the honorable member for Fremantle said. I repeat his words, because they seem to me to sum up the position admirably. He said of the bill -
It is also wrong because it seeks a permanent amendment to suit a temporary electoral .act. It is clumsy because it will make it difficult to adjust the size of the House of Representatives. It is wrong because it infringes the rights of the electors. It is inadequate because it leaves untouched the problem of Senate by-elections. It is faulty because it leaves unamended the unnecessary provision which binds the House to be twice the size of the Senate.
– The debate on this measure so far has been on a high plane that does credit to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), who first stated the opinion of the Opposition. That statement does not indicate that I agree with the statements that were made by the honorable member and by his colleague the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). Before proceeding to discuss the bill, I wish to correct the statement by the honorable member for Melbourne to the effect that the Labour party received 39 per cent, of the votes in Queensland at the last Senate election. The honorable gentleman used that figure for the purpose of trying to demolish the arguments that had been advanced by Government supporters. He was considerably astray. The official figures show that the Labour party candidates received 44.1 per cent, of the votes. Communists received 1.7 per cent., and as their votes ordinarily flow to the Labour party, that gave a total of 45.8 per cent, for Labour.
– Their votes usually go to the Liberals.
– The honorable member is entitled to his opinion. The “ also rans “ accounted for 1.4 per cent, of the votes. I am prepared to admit that Australian Country party votes usually go to the Liberal party.
– Is the honorable member referring to the vote in Queensland?
– Yes. The honorable member for Melbourne, referring to the figures in that State, said that there was a mystery concerning this bill. I should say that there is a mystery upon a mystery if we compare the figures that he cited with the official figures for the State election in Queensland.
The situation that lias developed in. the Senate poses two problems of prime importance. The first concerns the question whether the system of proportional representation is compatible with the British system of Cabinet responsibility to Parliament. The second concerns the reasons for the existence of a second chamber, the Senate, in that system. . What purpose is the second chamber intended to serve? Dealing with the first problem, it is clear that the old system of electing the Senate, which gave results such as 35 to one and 33 to three, as in the last Parliament, to which honorable members have referred, would undoubtedly destroy the Senate by sheer absurdity. The idea of baying an upper house, in which one political party has an overwhelming proportion of members is, in itself, enough to raise grave doubts about the efficacy of the system under which that chamber is elected. I gravely doubt whether the system of proportional representation will, in the final analysis, prove compatible with our British system of parliamentary government.
The essence of proportional representation is to give to a large number of groups in the community direct representation in the Parliament, whereas the success of the British parliamentary system has depended upon the existence of two major political parties, or, at the most three political parties, two of which are prepared to have the same philosophical basis of approach to essentials, and to cooperate effectively with one another. However, two entirely different principles have been introduced into the parliamentary system of the Commonwealth, and the purpose of this bill is to amend an act, the soul or core of which a large number of different parties into the upper house whilst the essential features of the British parliamentary system are retained in the lower house. The British parliamentary system requires that there shall be a. synthesis of the different points of view’ within the community upon certain broad lines. Cabinet and parliamentary responsibility are the corner-stones upon which that system stands or falls.
Incidentally, the fact remains that whatever defects there may be in the British parliamentary system, it is thebest that has yet been devised by human wit to give the greatest benefit to the greatest number, and the greatest stability in the political system of a country. AsI have said, it depends, not upon splitting the. community into small warring groups,, but upon a synthesis of public opinion that gives a mandate to a majority groupfor a period in order to achieve what is deemed to be the greatest good for the-, greatest number. However, we are now confronted with a fait accompli. I amquite prepared to admit that the Senate is now elected under the system of proportional representation. I am also prepared to admit that, as a member of theAustralian Country party, I was at one time a great believer in the theory of proportional representation, but I was alsoone of those who voted that system out of existence after it had operated for five years in the State of New South Wales.. I then regarded it as one of those beautiful theories which, like a few others that I could mention, are not followed by theresults for which one had hoped.
We are now confronted with a position that was brought about by a previous government, which completely altered the system of voting for the Senate. Certain disparaging references have been made, either directly or by implication, against a system that was adopted for the election of members of the Legislative Council of New South Wales. I admit that I was fairly closely associated with the adoption of that system of election, but I claim that we did one thing that would have made all the difference needed to the present position in the Parliament of the Commonwealth if the Chifley Government had followed our exam Dle We completely dissolved the Legislative Council, and the electoral college had to vote for a completely new chamber. If that had been done in respect of the Senate, the basis would not necessarily have been entirely satisfactory, but we should not now be obliged to proceed with this amending legislation. However, the fact remains that the system of proportional representation, introduced under conditions which, unfortunately, appear designed to achieve a certain result for a defeated government, has had the success that its architects apparently endeavoured to secure for it. The remedy for that situation is provided in this hill. Unfortunately, I have only a limited time in which to express my views, and I propose to use it to best advantage. Therefore, I shall not reply to interjections: The bill proposes to remedy the weakness to which I have referred, by a device that will ensure that the government of the day - not necessarily this Government - may have the support of three-fifths of the members of the Senate; that it so say, on the most favorable result, the Government may have 36 supporters and the Opposition 24 members in the event of a double dissolution. When the President had been elected from among the 36 senators, the Government’s majority in the chamber of 60 members would be reduced to eleven. As the Prime Minister has mentioned, certain factors may alter that calculation against the Government, but in the circumstances, it is the best solution possible. The Prime Minister did not attempt to burke the fact that the position that I have described could be considerably upset if the Government went to the country with a certain proposal, and three States voted for it, and the other three voted against it. In that event, the Government would not have the support of one-half of the senators, because the election of the President from among its 30 supporters would leave it in a minority of one. The Prime Minister quite freely faced that fact. If four States were to vote against the proposal that was submitted to the electors, the Government would be defeated, and, therefore, we need not be concerned with that aspect.
– What was the system of voting in the Legislative Council of New South Wales?
– I shall have a private chat with the honorable gentleman about that matter. At the moment, I desire to proceed with my speceh. However, I remind him that we voted, on a number of occasions, for the election of a member of the Labour party to the Senate, and we also voted for the election of members of the Labour party to the Legislative Council of New South Wales to replace other Labour supporters who had ceased to be members of that chamber. However, that courtesy was never reciprocated.
The following questions are frequently asked: - What are the reasons for the existence of a second chamber in the bicameral system, as we have it in Australia, and what is the purpose that it is intended to serve at the present time? Those questions, which are particularly relevant to this discussion about the future of the Senate, are being asked with increasing insistence, not only by honorable members, “but also by other people. Another question is, of what use is a second chamber if the majority of its members are the opponents of the government of the day, since it can thwart the will of the electors at a general election? The opposite question is, of what use is a second chamber if the majority of its members are supporters of the Government, as it is apt to be a rubber stamp of the Government’s legislation, and, therefore, to become a farce? I point out that if the strength of the two major parties is almost evenly balanced, the
Government is apt to be at the mercy of the venal few. The late Sir Henry Parkes, who was a great statesman, laid down the principle that it wa9 necessary for a government to have a reasonable majority so that it might not be at the mercy of those who might endeavour to use the position for their own ends. I believe that a second chamber should always be guided by certain principles if our parliamentary system is to work as the machinery of government. I cite the opinion that was given by Lord Peel on the 2nd July, 1922, when he was introducing a resolution of the Government for the reform of the House of Lords -
The second chamber was not intended to oppose the people but to oppose the House of Commons when that House did not respect the settled opinion of the people.
That statement clearly and fairly defines the functions of an upper House, more especially in regard to legislation.
I shall now describe a number of factors on which the usefulness of an upper house depends. The first, of course, is the respect that it concedes to democratic conditions and its own responsibilities. When, as in the case of the Senate, its members are elected for terms of three and six years, the tendency is for it to develop an outlook and a corporate consciousness that are not necessarily identical with those of the lower house. There is not the slightest doubt that a house, the members of which are elected for a longer term, becomes a little more conservative a.s a rule than does a House that is elected for three years. Consequently, such a chamber has a real value as a House of review, provided it is prepared to recognize the first condition that I have mentioned, namely, the respect that it concedes to democratic conditions and its own responsibilities. The plain truth is that men are modified by institutions. The procedures of an Upper House make for delay and for revision, and its existence is necessary in order to give the maximum passible security and independence to officials who are responsible to the Parliament. Indeed, that is one of the most important functions of a second chamber, yet all too often, it is overlooked in debate. If an Auditor-General or a public service commissioner is dependent on the vote of a single chamber he is apt to lack that independence which is essential to the impartial discharge of his great functions. It is of no use burking the fact of human nature. A second chamber has been established in British institutions of government for the plain reason that it is one of the checks and balances that are necessary to preserve the democratic system. If the strengths of two political parties in the second chamber are almost even, the government may be dependent upon the goodwill of one member who may be, to use a humble phrase, a nark or a crank. That situation will not make for stable government. Whether or not we like it, the fact remains that the Senate should be a House of review, in which the government of the day has a reasonable majority. Otherwise, there is a grave danger that the purposes of review may not be achieved.
Some honorable members have referred’ to the fact that it was originally intended that the Senate should be a States’ House. Why has not that intention been fulfilled ? I shall endeavour briefly to answer my question. The homogeneous nature of our population has caused party affiliations to override the intention that the Senate should be a States’ House. For example, if our population consisted of different racial elements such as exist in Switzerland, representation in the National Parliament would tend to be more balanced. Our position in that respect differs also from that of older countries such as the United Kingdom where, for instance, the natural desire of Scotland to control its own affairs is a factor of a kind that has not hitherto been in evidence in this country. For that reason, the purpose of the framers of the Constitution that the Senate should be a States House has not, in fact, been achieved. A further reason for the failure of the Senate to operate strictly as a States House has been the aggregation of relatively large populations in the cities which has given a predominant advantage to industrial interests. The great writers of the past, from Aristotle onwards, have noted that a comparatively large rural population tends to establish stable forces in the community. In passing, I point out that at the last general election only one of the successful Senate candidates in New South Wales could he said to be representative in the strict sense of rural interests. I refer to Senator Reid. All the other successful candidates in that State could fairly be classed a 2 city men. I do not reflect on their ability in any way but merely direct attention to that silent fact.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) referred to the failure of successive Parliaments to implement the provisions embodied in Chapter VI. of the Constitution governing the formation of new States. The measure now before the House deals with -the election of senators not only for an original State .hut also for a new State. It is clear that if the provisions of Chapter VI. of the Constitution had been implemented even by the admission of a seventh State no necessity would exist for this measure. As a seventh State I have in mind the proposed new State of New England, which with an area of G4’,000 square miles with a population as large as the State of South Australia. If that region had been established as a seventh State, the problem which this measure is designed to overcome would not have occurred, because, with an. odd number of States, each having representation in the Senate, no deadlock would arise. If there were nine, eleven, or fifteen States, or any odd number of States, each having equal representation in the Senate, it would be impossible for a deadlock to occur between the Government and the Opposition parties in that chamber. The honorable member for Melbourne said that he believed in the principle of establishing a. greater number of States with equal representation in the Senate. However, whilst I am happy to accept allies in propagating that idea, I should like to he sure that the honorable member’s idea coincides with that which the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) expounded in one of his books, Australian Statesmen, when he corrected a view that had been expressed by the late Honorable William Holman. The right honorable gentleman said, in effect, that if the governing authority of any State had only one power of which it could not be deprived without its consent, it would to that degree be a sovereign
State. That fact is patent. However, if we were to speak about new States which, in fact, would be controlled by the Commonwealth, we should merely have in mind the governing authorities of a municipal character and not the sovereign States for the formation of which the Constitution makes provision. In any event, it would be impossible to form new States, the powers of which would be different from those of the original States for the simple reason that the States’ powers are laid down under the Constitution. The Constitution also provides that the powers of the Commonwealth shall not be enlarged as the result of the creation of new States.
Whilst I welcome the introduction of this measure, I should like the Government to take up seriously as a long-range reform the idea of the establishment of new States. However, all the attempts that have been made to form new States in various parts of the Commonwealth, including Queensland and New South Wales, have been in vain. Those attempts that have been made by residents of different regions of the Commonwealth in order to obtain the privilege of selfgovernment have been frustrated. Thus a right that the framers of the Constitution specifically provided for has been denied. As the States themselves have refused to use the power conferred upon them in Chapter VI. of the Constitution to form new States, the Constitution should be amended to give to the Commonwealth a concurrent power that would enable it to by-pass the original States in order to give to the people of northern New South Wales and of similar natural regions in Queensland the right of self-government. Of themselves, people in such regions lack the power to obtain that privilege, and Australia as a whole is the poorer by reason of the failure to implement the provisions of the Constitution to which I have referred.
The honorable member for Fremantle and the honorable member for Melbourne dealt with a number of matters which I think are quite irrelevant to the issues that arise under this measure. They disapproved of the hill because, they said, it infringes the rights of the electors. That argument is clap-trap. However, it is typical of a number of ex parte statements. that have been made in opposition to this measure. It was not in keeping with the remainder of the speech made by the honorable member for Fremantle, and I was astonished that an honorable member of the standing of the honorable member for Melbourne should have repeated it parrot-like. How does the measure infringe the rights of the electors? On the contrary, it enlarges those rights, because it ensures that a government that is returned with a majority in the lower, or popular, chamber shall be enabled to carry out its legislative programme. In this respect certain responsibilities devolve upon an upper chamber. What are those responsibilities? In the first place, if a government is returned after it goes to the country, and states in clear and specific terms that it will pass certain legislation, the upper, chamber is in duty bound to enable it to honour the mandate that it receives from the electors. Furthermore, if a government introduces legislation that is in general harmony with its election programme, the upper chamber has greater freedom to review or amend such legislation, but not sp as to destroy its character or intention. However, if a government introduces legislation that is contrary to the policy it has enunciated, or clear evidence exists that the public attitude has changed, the responsibility rests upon the upper chamber to challenge and, if necessary, defeat such legislation. It may be that in a time of national emergency, or when the country is confronted with economic disaster, a government may be obliged to bring in legislation that has not been endorsed by the electors or, perhaps, may be diametrically opposed to the wishes of the electors. In those circumstances, the government has the responsibility of seeking the approval of the electors as soon as possible. However, unless both Houses of Parliament are prepared to play the game according to the rules, democratic government will be frustrated and the financial and economic structure, and, above all, the political structure, of the country must inevitably be undermined. That is the situation that exists in the Parliament to-day.
– I am amazed at the arguments that the honorable member for New
England (Mr. Drummond) has advanced. He said that if an upper chamber rejected legislation sent to it from the lower chamber in which the Government had a large majority, it would be doing wrong. The honorable member should have explained to the House why the Constitution provides that only one-half of the number of senators shall retire at each general election. H’ad the framers of the Constitution intended, as the honorable member argued, that the upper chamber should in all circumstances pass legislation sent to it from the lower chamber, they would have provided for the retirement of all honorable senators at each general election. The honorable member has admitted that in certain circumstances a government with a majority in the lower chamber and which was elected some considerable time previously, may not then represent the will of the people and that in such circumstances a double dissolution should not take place. However, if his earlier statement were correct the framers of the Constitution would not have provided that only one-half of the number of honorable senators should retire at each general election. What is the reason for that provision in the Constitution? Is it not to give to those honorable senators who are due to retire at the following general election the opportunity and the right to oppose legislation sponsored by the government of the day?
I was interested to hear the honorable member for New England deal with the history of the system of proportional representation in New South Wales. He said that the Parliament of that State had abolished that system of election for the lower House after it had been tried for a period of five years ; but he, himself, was a member of the Government of that State that introduced that system for the election of members of the upper house in New South Wales. He also said that the Chifley Government introduced the system of proportional representation in the Senate solely in order to ensure the maintenance of a Labour majority in that chamber.
– That is so.
– Yet, the honorable member for New England was a member of the State Government that introduced a similar system for the election of members of the upper house in New South Wales. That Government was able to achieve that objective because it had a substantial majority in both houses of that Parliament. At the same time, the people of New South Wales were not given an opportunity to vote for the election of members of the upper house, this being done by the members of the two houses. When the Government of which he was a member introduced the proportional representation system it did so with the deliberate intention of maintaining a non-Labour majority in. that house. Under that system one fourth of the members retired each election, and it was only after the Labour party had been returned at four successive general elections that it was able to obtain the majority that it now enjoys in the Legislative Council of New South Wales.
– The system was democratic in principle.
– The Government of which I speak did not make any provision in respect of a double dissolution of the Parliament of New South Wales. The parties opposite seek the right to bring about a double dissolution of this Parliament if the Senate delays the passage of their legislation. Yet when they applied the proportional representation system to elections for the Legislative Council of New South Wales they knew that that system would assure them a majority in that house for from, nine to twelve years. At no time during that period did they seek power to provide for a double dissolution in the event of a deadlock between the two Houses of the State Parliament. Honorable members opposite have said that in introducing the system of proportional representation in the Senate and in providing for an increase of the number of members of the Senate the Labour Government sought to gain a political advantage. When we examine the record of honorable members opposite while they were in office we realize that in making such a charge they were speaking with tongue in cheek. If the number of senators had not been increased by the Labour Government and the old system of elections had been continued there would have been an even distribution of seats between the Labour and anti-Labour parties after the last general election. Although the anti-Labour parties gained a majority of the votes of the electors they still would have had difficulty in passing their legislation through the Senate because the numbers of opposing senators in that chamber would have been even.
– The Labour party did not foresee that result.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Menizes) has introdduced this bill for the specific purpose of gaining control of the Senate. Honorable members opposite know as well as I do that if there were a double dissolution now, on the basis of the votes cast in December last, it would be necessary in any one State for one side or the other to obtain approximately 55 per cent, of the formal votes recorded in order to win six seats out of ten. When the Prime Minister introduced the measure he stated that position very plainly, and I know that his figures were accurate. The right honorable gentleman knows that there would have to be a very great swing for any political party to obtain almost 55 per cent, of the formal votes recorded. He is also well aware that if there were a double dissolution now the Government parties might not be able to secure such a high percentage of the formal votes. The Government desires to place this legislation on the statute-book and to hold a referendum on the matter before it is forced to seek a double dissolution.
– Docs the honorable member believe that we should allow the Opposition to control the Parliament?
– In 1931, when the anti-Labour parties had a majority in the Senate they did not hesitate to take the control of the business out of the hands of the Government of the day. If the then Government tabled a regulation on a Thursday the Opposition wouk use the weight of its numbers to disallow it on the following Tuesday. Honorable members opposite then saw nothing wrong with that. It was all right for them to knock the Scullin Government at will, but they now object when the Labour majority in the Senate hampers this Government in any way. Whenever a proposal is submitted to alter the electoral system all political parties examine it closely to see whether it can be turned to their benefit. Time and again schemes to alter the system of representation in the South Australian Parliament have been evolved, allegedly with the object of giving the people more appropriate representation in the legislature. AH of them were closely examined by all political parties in order to see whether they could benefit from them. I contend that any electoral system - the system of proportional representation, the system described as “first past the post “ or the preferential system as we have known it in the past - that does not provide an opportunity for the maintenance of stable government, is of no value to the country. The Government has introduced this bill for the sole purpose of gaining control of the Senate in order that it may be able to place on the statute-book any legislation which it desires to introduce. The Senate is a States house. It was established to prevent great numbers of people in one or more States from overriding the wishes of the smaller populations in the other States.
– Exactly; but the intention of the framers of the Constitution is not being given effect. The honorable member has made that statement twenty years too late.
– I agree that it is not being given effect. The honorable member has said that I have made my statement twenty years too late. Nineteen years ago I pointed out that the anti-Labour majority in the Senate was defeating the intention of the framers -of the’ Constitution by its attitude towards the measures that were introduced by the Scullin Government. Section 57 of the Constitution which deals with disagreements between the two Houses reads -
If the House of Representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to puss it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not -agree, and if after an interval of three months the House of Representatives, in the same or the next session, again passes the proposed law with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or pusses it with amendments with which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously. But such dissolution shall not take place within six months before the date of the expiry of the House of Representatives by effluxion of time.
If after such dissolution the House of Representatives again passes the proposed law, with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the GovernorGeneral may convene a joint sitting of the members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives.
Thus, the framers of the Constitution foresaw the possibility .that, after a double dissolution, the numbers of the opposing parties in the Senate might be even. The sole purpose of a double dissolution is to give the people an opportunity to express their views in relation to a matter in dispute between the two Houses of the Parliament. The Government seeks to amend the Constitution in such a way as to enable it to gain control of the Senate and to place on the statutebook in its original form its legislation to dissolve the Communist party. By adopting such a course it is setting a bad example to future governments with a majority only in the House of Representatives which wish to place on the statutebook legislation governing matters about which there are very strong diverse opinions among the people.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has said that no provision has been made in this bill for dealing with future vacancies in the Senate. If honorable members opposite are as concerned as they would have us believe they are about adequate representation in this Parliament, why did not the Government insert in this measure a provision enabling the people to elect candidates to fill long casual vacancies in the Senate? Under the system now operating short vacancies are filled by a vote of both Houses of the Parliament in the State in which the vacancy occurs. It might be contended that vacancies do not occur very often.
That is not so. The figures relating to long vacancies since the beginning of federation, show that from 1919 to 1946 the number of long vacancies in the representation of the various States was as follows : -
The Government, in its anxiety to overcome the dilemma in which it finds itself as the result of the deadlock in the Senate, has given no consideration to the position in relation to vacancies. In all the circumstances I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) that this bill should be referred to a select committee for inquiry and report so that the defects that are apparent in our electoral system may be removed. All senators should be elected for a period of three years. If such a reform were instituted, all seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives would be filled simultaneously. The existing system under which senators are elected is absolutely ridiculous. Further, there is no need for each State to be represented by ten senators. Representation in the Senate might well be reduced to seven for each State and all honorable senators should be elected for a period of only three years. Under the present system and under the proposals contained in this bill it will be impossible to avoid deadlocks between the two Houses.
At the last general election Labour Senate candidates secured four seats in South Australia and candidates representing the Liberal party secured three. Those four Labour party candidates were returned simply because their names were nearer to the left side of the ballot-paper than were the names of the Liberal party candidates. If the positions on the ballot-papers of the Labour and Liberal candidates had been reversed, the result would have been exactly opposite to what it was; the Liberal candidates would have won a majority of the seats. Two of the candidates at that election ‘were men from New South Wales who stood as representatives of the Protestant Peoples party. Those candidates did not come to South Australia during the election campaign. No “ How to vote “ cards were issued on their behalf. The Protestant Federation put them well down on its list of candidates, and gave them no special preference. As a matter of fact, it gave the Liberal party candidates preference above those two men. Yet, those two candidates, who did not conduct any election campaign in South Australia, received more votes than any of the other groups of candidates with the exception of the two major groups of Liberal party and Labour party candidates. That fact is very illuminating. Because of their position on the left side of the ballot-paper those two candidates received more than 7,000 primary votes, and the distribution of preference votes gave them a final total of 8,003. They stood as protestant candidates, but protestants themselves werri not interested in them as such. Of the 8,003 votes that they received, the distribution of preferences gave 6,437 to a Labour candidate, 999 to a Liberal candidate and 567 to an independent candidate. Those figures show very definitely that at least 1.25 per cent, of the people vote straight across the ballot-paper, according to the order in which the names appear on it. Under the present system, the electoral authorities draw lots to decide the order in which the names of the various groups of candidates shall appear on the ballot-paper. Under the system proposed by the Government, some candidates will have to nominate or be nominated for a six-year period and other candidates for a three-year period. Lota will have to be drawn to decide the positions that the names of the various group.* of candidates are to occupy on each of the two ballot-papers that the elector will be required to complete. If that system had been in operation in South Australia during the last Senate election, the Labour party, on the basis of the figures at the previous election, would, if it had gained the lefthand -position on the six-year ballot-paper, have had three senators returned and the Liberal party would have had two Senators returned. If the Liberal party had obtained the position on the left ofthe three-year ballot-paper it would have had three candidates returned and Labour would have had two returned. Yet, the. position in the House of Representatives would have been altogether different. This matter is notso simple as, to some honorable members, it may appear to’ be. It should be straightened out so as to meet the position satisfactorily. About fifteen years ago in South Australia, I advanced the proposition that candidates in the various groups should not be arranged as in the old Senate system. I do not desire to give Brown a number one vote, Smith a number two vote andJones a number three vote. J desire to vote number one for each of the three candidates required. I should like to see a system adopted1 under which the elector had to vote number one for each candidate whomhe wanted to fill each vacancy. That is to say if there were six vacancieshe would vote number one for each of sixcandidates.
I agree with the honorable memberfor New England (Mr. Drummond) that a system of proportional representation in relation to Senate elections is most likely to produce an even balance between the parties represented in the Senate. At one election the Labour party may carry four States and the Liberal party may carry two. At the following election the position might be exactly reversed and there would be atieintheSenate. That deadlock would have to continue for three years before it could be resolved- Ifthe Government wishes to have a referendum to amend the Constitution, I adviseit not to have it at this time, when the whole matter is suspect. If it wishes todeal with this matter from the point of view of equity and justice to the people, and so as to be able to deal with the existing difficulty, it should take a referendum concurrent with the next general election. The Government is not justified in taking a referendum in the near future although I believe that to be its intention.
– Should we allow a deadlock to continue?
– Deadlocks have continued in the past. Historical examples have been cited during this debate. Honorable members have pointed out that the relative party strengthsin the Senate at one tinto were 35 and 1. It would be possible to have a very efficient deadlock with that disparity of strength. I have already mentioned’ that a deadlock in the Senate occurred in 1931. I find it remarkable that the Government is so anxious to have this measure enacted, because in the past Labour governments, and not anti-Labour governments, were more likely to be affected by deadlocks in the Senate. Very rarely has. the Labour party had a ma jority in the ‘Senate when it has been in a minority in the House of Representatives, and thusbeen able to cause a deadlock. But this measure has a goal. I. do not, desire to affirm that it is an intimidatory measure, but it looks verymuch like that indeed, so far as the Government’s bill in relation to the dissolutionof the Communist party isconcerned. The Government is in fact saying now to Labour party senators, in effect, “ If you defeat the Communist Party Dissolution Bill we shall reintroduce it in the next Parliament, and in the meantime we can use the fact that you have thrown it. out. as propaganda that will assist us tocarrya referendum to amend the system of election to the Senate “.
– What is wrong with that?
-There is nothing wrong with it. if the Government wants to useapopularcause as a means of winning as referendum to alter the Constitution inawaythatis designed to affect not onlyonematter at issue but for all practical purposes to secure control of the Senate, in order: to dealwith all matters. There is no doubt that once the Constitution is altered in this connexion it will be very difficult to have it altered again. It would be highly undesirable and embarrassing if having convinced the people that certain provisions should be in the Constitution, it should be considered necessary to tell them later that those provisions should not be in itatall. Honorable members opposite must face that fact. I consideralso that the people must realize and appreciate the fact that the proposal to. make the alteration at this time, in conjunction with the manner in whichthe Government is dealing with the bill, shows that the intention is intirnidatory. The bill has been introduced to influence the Senate in its consideration of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. It will not bring a double dissolution and final decision on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill if the Senate rejects, or fails to pass it one day sooner than it would otherwise be returned. I also say that if the Government asks for a double dissolution in consequence of a deadlock on that measure, and under present conditions, at the ensuing election an even number of senators were returned representing the Labour and anti-Labour parties, a joint sitting of the two houses could pass the bill.
Mr.Treloar. - That is only one bill.
– That is why the Government has introduced this legislation. It wants to use the strong feeling against communism as a means of passing any bill at all. Some members of the Opposition expressed astonishment at the mildness of the Commonwealth Bank Bill which was before the House recently. There is no doubt that if the Government had a majority in the Senate now, that billwould not havebeen nearly so mildInstead, it would havebeen far morein line with the wishes of the business interests which the Government parties represent. If the Government asks for a double dissolution on the issue of communism the people will vote on the issue ofcommunism alone. But the Government’s aim is really to carry a referendum to amend the Senate election system for use in relation to ether matters besides theCommunistt Party Dissolution Bill.
Mr.DRURY.(Ryan) [10.10].- It is a strange coincidence that the Opposition seessome sinister and ulterior motive in every measure that the Government introduces. ‘This is a simplebillwhich is very fair to all parties. The need for a change in thesystem of election to the Senate is apparent even to those who have no knowledge ofthe Constitution. I believe that a great majority of the people of Australia are displeased with the present parliamentary position.Only five months ago they elected a LiberalAustralian Country party government with a mandate that so far we have not been able to carry out. The honorable member for Port Adelaide(Mr.
Thompson) has challenged us to support our statement that the Senate should not obstruct legislation passed by this House. In support of our argument I shall quote from a leading constitutional authority, Mr. L. F. Crisp, who in his book The Parliamentary Government of the Commonwealth of Australia made the following statement: - a Senate majority partly made up of Senators who have already served half their term can claim no valid up to date mandate to obstruct the measures of the new House of Representative’s majority.
No feat of reason or imagination can prove that the Senate is representing either the current views of the electors of the six States or the long-term will of the nation as a whole. For clearly the earlier-elected half of the Senate can have had no more deliberate mandate at the time of its election than the contemporary Lower House and nowhas an entirely stale authority which in effect has been lately superseded.
I have quoted that statement in support of the case we are making out regarding the present obstructionist tactics of the Labour majority in the Senate. Mr. Crisp has concisely summed up the present position so far as the relationship between the two Houses of this Parliament is concerned. I believe that a great majority of the people who elected a Liberal-Australian Country party government to power wish to see a change effected as soon as possible in order that the Governmentmay carry out its mandate and thatthe Parliament may function effectively. The bill before the House has been introduced for that reason. The honorable member for Port Adelaide has also claimed that there was no ulterior motive in the Chifley Government’s 1948 legislation, out of which the need for this bill has directly arisen. On the contrary, I say that facts speak louder than words. The 1948 legislation was shrewdly and carefully designed in order to ensure that the Labour party would have a majority in the Senate even though it might lose am election as far as the lower house was concerned. “That is exactly what has happened. Tike Labour party gave itself a startof fifteen men-retiring Labour senators. “When it introduced the system of proportional representation, a matter with the merits and demerits of which I shall not become involved now, it should have made that system apply to all senators. I venture to suggest that had it done that, which would have been the democratic thing to do, this Government would now have a majority in both houses. This bill, being simple and straightforward, is a test of the good faith of honorable members opposite, because they cannot truthfully say that it is in any way likely to favour one party more than another. It is impartial, reasonable and fair. The Government seeks merely to ensure that the parties in power for the time being, irrespective of political colour, shall have a working majority in the Senate as well as in the House of Representatives in order that the will of the people of Australia may be carried out. If the Labour party was in power again, under the present system, it would find itself in the same difficulty as the Government is in to-day. I thought that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) was going to keep the debate on a high plane, but his speech degenerated into a number of unworthy imputations. He said that the Government was setting aside the idea of proportional representation. That is completely contrary to the fact. In putting this bill before the House the Government seeks to ensure that proportional representation shall be effective. An unworkable system of election serves no good purpose and it is to prevent such a state of affairs that this bill has been introduced. If the Labour party continues to oppose the bill, it will be because it is more concerned with gaining power for itself than in seeing that the will of the people shall be carried out. During the course of earlier debates in this chamber honorable members opposite admitted that the Government received a mandate from the people of Australia on the 10th December. In order to be consistent they must admit that the Government is entitled to carry out that mandate. If honorable members of the Opposition continue to oppose the bill, they will confirm the belief that the. 1948 legislation had the ulterior purpose of ensuring that Labour would be able to obstruct legislation that was put forward by a Liberal-Australian Country party Government. It will also show that the Labour party fears to go to the polls.
I suppose that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) thought that he was being amusing when he described this bill as an atomic bomb. If this bill is an atomic bomb, which I deny, I say that the Chifley Government’s 1948 legislation was a guided missile because it was designed for the purpose of assault. By its 194S legislation the previous Government ensured, whether by accident or design, that in the event of a double dissolution there would still be a deadlock despite the provision in the Constitution for resolving it and actually attempted to torpedo the Constitution. It has been said that, in order to avoid the election of an even number of senators of different parties from any one State, it would be necessary to have approximately a 54 per cent, vote in favour of one party. In view of the history of past general elections, such a landslide is not a very likely event and this House is concerned with probabilities, not with improbabilities. Honorable members on this side admit that, under the provisions of this bill, it would still be possible to have a deadlock in the Senate. The Government and the Opposition may still have 30 members each in the other place. That is a remote possibility but it is not mathematically possible to avoid it. The Government has done as much as it possibly can to ensure that whatever party is in power in this House will have a workable majority in the other place. Stable government cannot be ensured under the present system. It is one of the functions of this Government to ensure that parliamentary procedure shall be kept on an even keel. The Parliament cannot have a state of perpetual frustration because that is distressing to the people of Australia and to the Government, a.nd it cannot be giving honorable members of the Opposition any real satisfaction if they are genuinely interested in the democratic working of this institution.
This measure does not alter the powers of the Senate. Its purpose is merely to ensure that the present system of proportional representation, which admittedly has not been written into the Constitution, shall not be departed from but shall work effectively and democratically and that thu Government of the day, whether it be Liberal, Country party, or Labour, shall be able to proceed with the business of the country and put on the statutebook the legislation for the enactment of which it was elected.
Mention has been made of the functions of the Senate, which was designed originally as a house of review. It was originally designed as a States House but it functioned as such only for a few years, after which it degenerated into a party chamber. To a great extent, it has failed in the purpose for which it was originally designed. It was intended to safeguard State rights against any attempt at federal encroachment. That point was emphasized by the Royal Commission on the Constitution in its report of 1929. The founders of the Australian Constitution had very lofty ideals. They intended that the Constitution should work, but they did not intend that it should remain entirely unchanged. So, from time to time, it is the duty of the Government to consider what alterations should be made. It is not-
– Honorable members opposite are a lot of tories.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman who interjected is not in bis right seat.
– At this stage the Government does not propose to make a complete review of all the alterations that might be necessary. That is a matter which will have to be considered and if the Labour party is sincere in its protestations it will co-operate with the Government in working out the best way of altering the Constitution. I am sure that the Government will heartily welcome such co-operation if it is given in a true and honest spirit. The Government has no intention of waiting for a crisis before taking positive steps. It is looking ahead because it considers that the stability of the Parliament must be ensured. It is not known that there will be a double dissolution, but the Government is taking early steps to ensure the continuity of government in that eventuality.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide maintained that a referendum was not justified. Honorable members on this side of the House say that it is justified. Members of the Government parties have been elected to this House with a mandate which they are not being allowed to carry out. They believe that the people will uphold this bill when it is put to them in the form of a referendum. I have recently spoken to. a considerable number of my electors on this bill and I know that a lot of people are taking a great deal of interest in this endeavour by the Government to ensure that it will be able to carry out the mandate that has been given to it. The honorable member for Port Adelaide insinuated that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) brought down the bill for a sinister purpose. He astonished me very much when he described it as an intimidatory measure. I challenge the honorable member to find in it any intimidatory words or ideas. The electors have expressed their wishes, but the Government is unable bo carry them out, and it believes that by putting this bill forward it is doing a service to the people of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
The Parliament: Answers to Questions - Hearing Aids - Electoral : Liberal Party Pre-selection - Long Bay Rifle Range.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want to learn, through you, Mr. Speaker and from the Minister at the table (Mr. Holt), how one gets something done in this place. How on earth, in spite of striving and more or less imaginative effort, does one accomplish anything? 1 can understand your difficulty in accomplishing anything, Mr. Speaker, but I want a . positive answer to my question. Honorable members have been attending to their duties in this House since the 22nd February. During that time I have addressed scores of letters, which have been well composed and more or less dignified, to Ministers. I have also interviewed some of them in a respectful fashion, but I have achieved no results. With the exception of the.
Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Labour and National Service, who are both real Liberals in that they occasionally say “ Ye9 Ministers have given me a more or less polite, “ No “. Far he it from me to interfere with the stoical attitude of any Minister. I would not disturb his serenity for the world. I would not impair his efficiency or make him a disagreeable person to live with. But the constituents of many honorable members who occupy the back benches are looking for adequate vocal representation in this House. If our representations do not receive attention, we may as well sit here rusticating, vegetating and remaining inarticulate all the time. Some sort of peroxide politicians who will ginger things up a little are required in order to make our representations carry some weight.
Some time ago I spoke to the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) about the establishment of a branch of the Commonwealth Bank in the City of Williamstown, which has a population of nearly 30,000 souls and is a most important seaport. I do not think that the Treasurer knew where the place was. Again, I asked the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) to have telephone trenches excavated in the City of Footscray. Surely Footscray is famous in gong and story, but as far as my efforts went I might as well have been asking for the completion of the filling in of the Coode Canal.
– Footscray speaks for itself.
– I am speaking for Footscray at the moment, and I am sure that the people of that city are proud of me to-night. Honorable members of the Opposition have had considerable difficutly in obtaining adequate and sensible replies to their representations. We have made scores of representations, but the answer has invariably been, “ No “. “ The Minister is exploring every avenue.” “ He is consulting his advisers “. “ He will see about it at a later stage “. Surely I am entitled to look with more or less optimistic expectation towards obtaining an affirmative answer at least once in a session. The method is always the same. If a Minister is in a sombre mood, a huffy, stuffy, dignified, reserved answer is given. If he is bright and breezy, then a bright and breezy answer sometimes containing a littlebackscratching, is given. What is the good of that sort of thing? Honorable members who ask questions want to accomplish something definite. That is what they are here for.
I have a complaint about a highly efficient and courteous body of men called ministerial private secretaries. They are a body of bright young men who are beautiful buffers. Their main task in life seems to be to keep the ordinary members away from the Ministers. We cannot get near the Ministers. Then again, they have the responsible task of dictating replies to requests. The reply to a request asked by a member of the Opposition is invariably in the form, “ The Minister regrets “. It is suave and respectful, and on that ground not objection to it can be raised. The job of the secretary seems to be, in my case, anyway, to find adequate reasons for a refusal. No doubt to requests from members of the Australian Country party, the secretary’s job is to find adequate reasons for consent. That is my grouch to-day, and this is the time for grouching. The motion for the adjournment of the House is a form of safety valve because it provides means for selfexpression. I put it to honorable members to-day that they should decide on some positive action in connexion with this matter. I ask them to consider the functions of lobbyists. Since the 22nd February, when I first took my place in this House, I have seen representatives of the tin interests, the butter interests and the newspaper interests, all laudable gentlemen, and animated by a purposeful and enthusiastic desire to serve their country - and at the same time to serve themselves. Honorable member? can imagine the great deference and the cordiality with which their representations are received. I am only a backbencher, but I call upon all back-benchers with a spark of vitality in them to form-
– A rebel group?
– Yes, a rebel group; a union that will stick together and get something done in the interests of the people that we represent. I wish that Ministers would occasionally come down from their olympian perch and do something for the rank and file.
– Can the honorable member tell us what he wants?
– A branch of the Commonwealth Bank at Williamstown at the moment. The Postmaster-General made a special statement for the edification of members of the Australian Country party but said nothing about my problems. Honorable members on this side want to be met by Ministers, and I invite all prospective candidates for the ginger group and the peroxide group to see me later in order to discuss what can be done to bring some of our projects to fruition.
– The matter that I wish to raise has been previously referred to by me. It really concerns the department administered by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). I made representations some time ago, ably supported by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), for .the provision of hearing aids free of charge to age pensioners. I thought that we had put up an excellent case for the grant of free hearing aids to these pensioners, and I showed the Minister where legislation already existed which would permit the Government to meet the request. In due course I received a letter from the Minister in which, as the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens), has remarked, the Minister expressed his regret at not being able to accede to the request. Then he made the amazing statement that age pensioners do not know how to use hearing aids. He said that they had been so long without proper hearing aids that he was afraid that the provision of such articles would be more detrimental than beneficial to them. I do not believe that for a moment, and I do not think that the Minister for Health believes it. These old people cannot afford to buy hearing aids out of their meagre pension, in view of the rising cost of living, and their only alternative is to go without them. Surely, in this civilized country, in which we all claim to be Christians, even though among honorable members on the Government side we find very little practical Christianity, it is about time that the Government forced the Minister for Health to give some recognition to the people whose interests he is supposed to represent in this House. It is about time that the Government took stock of his actions, and removed him from office, or gave him definite instructions which would show him where he gets off so far as this particular matter is concerned. There are plenty of honorable members on the Government side who would be only too glad to jump into his shoes if he were removed. I appeal now to the Minister in charge of the House (Mr. Holt) who has been commended by the honorable member for Gellibrand as one Minister who can be relied upon to give an occasional satisfactory reply, to look into this matter himself and not refer it to the Minister for Health unless the reference is accompanied by his definite instruction, as the Minister who is third in order of seniority, or the Prime Minister’s instruction, that he shall be a little humane about these things and shall realize that the people upon whose behalf I am making this appeal are the pioneers of the country and have made it possible for honorable members to be present in this House and draw their allowances. I am certain that the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) will support me in this matter, and I sincerly hope that if my request is not granted the burden of my complaint will not rest on my shoulders on the next occasion. Perhaps if a satisfactory reply is not forthcoming before this House rises towards the middle of June, the honorable member for Sturt will express his views about the Government’s failure to provide these very necessary articles for the old people of Australia.
.- It must have sounded strange to those honorable members who were members of the last Parliament to hear the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) express himself as he did a few moments ago. As one of the back-benchers, . I should like to inform the honorable member of some things that happened during the last four years of the recent eight years of Labour government. What is happening to-day should please all honorable members. I refer to the way in which Ministers answer questions. I have taken particular notice of this matter, because in the last Parliament, from the then Prime Minister down, with one or two exceptions, it was very hard to get any information. One exception was the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr.. Ward), who as a rule answered questions quite moderately and in a fairly practical way. When he answered a question he tried to give information and did not waste too much time in the process. In this Parliament I want at all times to give honour where honour is due; but in the previous Parliament it was very difficult to get any information from Ministers. As members of this House during the Labour regime will remember, if a newspaper statement was referred to in a question to the then Prime Minister, the right honorable gentleman always said, “ I have not seen the newspaper “. Honorable members like the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the then honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) spoke often for ten minutes when answering a question. For nine out of the ten minutes they delivered Labour party propaganda. That sort of thing became such a racket that I had to bring it to the notice of the House on one occasion when the proceedings were being broadcast. I was forced to say that we on the Opposition side were trying to get information and were getting nothing but party propaganda in answer to nine out of ten questions that we asked.
– It is a wonder Mr. Speaker allowed you to do that.
– It is a wonder, but I do not want to refer ,to any past Speaker. However, I shall say that you are on the right track-
– Order ! The honorable member -will address me.,
– When a new member comes into this House he can be regarded as not knowing what took place in the previous Parliament. I believe that the honorable member for Gellibrand would feel a little guilty for having brought this matter up to-night, if he knew what had happened in the past. I am prepared to cooperate with anybody in getting the best possible answers to questions. I believe that during this session Ministers have been answering questions without attempting to insert propaganda into their answers. The honorable member for Gellibrand will do well to look into what happened in the past before he attempts to criticize what is happening at present.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) is present, and that he proposes to seek the call, because he might want to reply to something that I intend to say. A few weeks ago the honorable member spoke about the selection of A. D. Hurley as Liberal candidate for Waverley. He referred to the fact that Hurley-
Honorable members interjecting,
– If honorable members are not prepared to .treat this debate seriously, I shall do what I threatened to do two or three weeks ago; that is, to leave the chair. I should be quite happy to go home to bed, and if honorable members want to turn this House into a sort of amusement parlour they can do it without me.
– Mr. Hurley was selected as a Liberal candidate for the Waverley seat by 30 local people and 20 people from the Liberal council, which is the usual method of selection. A few days later, I think on the 10th May, the honorable member for Watson and th, honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Gordon Anderson) declared that Mr. Hurley was a Communist. They did so definitely and distinctly.
– What about the onus of proof?
– The onus of proof issue may arise in a moment.
– A “fellow traveller”!
– Order ! If the honorable member interjects again I shall put him out.
– I hope that he will not have to leave, Mr. Speaker, ‘because r should like him to be able to reply to what L have to say. The honorable member stated that the security service had checked up on this man, and he said over and over again that Hurley was a Communist. Members of the Opposition talk about the onus of proof. In this instance, because of the declarations that were made by the two honorable members, the ona? of proof was transferred to Mr. Hurley. He has since made a statutory declaration to the effect that he is not and never lias been a Communist. He states that his name was placed on a ticket for election to the executive of the Operative Painters and Decorators Union, as the honorable member for Watson said in this House last night when he made another statement on the subject. That ticket wa> issued on behalf of a body that is called the “ vigilance committee “ of the union in opposition to the Australian Labour party Industrial Group ticket. Mr. Hurley states that his name was placed on the ticket without his knowledge and that he protested to the union executive and was told that the matter rested between himself and the vigilance committee, the Communist supported body. Mr. Hurley’s declaration also states that the name of a union official called Meagher was placed on the ticket without his knowledge, and that Meagher is not a Communist. This sort of manoeuvre is not uncommon. In an election conducted by the Federated Clerks Union in Sydney, the names of some reputable persons were included in the Communist ticket against their wishes and without their knowledge. Mr. Hurley is entitled to have his case stated in this chamber because attacks have been made upon him under the cloak of parliamentary privilege. On the night on which the first attack was made, I asked the honorable member for Watson and the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith whether they could produce proof that Mr. Hurley was a Communist and said that, if they could not do so, they should apologize to him, to his family and to everybody else associated with him. It is a serious matter to declare such a man to be a Communist.
Last night, upon the pretext of defending himself against some alleged attack by a person named Frank Browne, the honorable member for Curtin made a further attack upon Mr. Hurley. It was only a sham defence because the honorable gentleman did not say what sort of an attack had been made upon him. However, he said that Mr. Hurley’s name had been on a Communist ticket and that Hurley had followed the Communist line. He did not say that Mr.’ Hurley was a Communist. In other words, he backed down, and, judging by his behaviour in this House, that can be interpreted as an abject apology. If the honorable member wishes, I shall accept it as such.
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
– Order ! If the honorable member wishes to remain in the chamber, he had better keep quiet.
– If the sworn declaration by Hurley is true, he is no worse than people like the Labour candidate for the State electorate of Waverley, who has appeared on Communist platforms
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. That is an insulting remark, and it is offensive to me. I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I am very sorry, but I cannot see anything insulting to the honorable member in the remark.
– The remark about the Labour candidate for the Waverley electorate is offensive to me.
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– The position is that the House accepts my statement that the Labour candidate for the State electorate of Waverley has appeared on a Communist platform, and that Mr. Hurley has signed a declaration that he is not and never has been a Communist, but that his name appeared on a Communist ticket. Mr. Hurley’s situation is no worse than that of anybody who has been a member of the Australia-Russia Society, the Friends of the Soviet Union and other such organizations and has appeared on Communist platforms. Mr. Hurley is entitled to fair play. The honorable member for Watson, in pretending to defend himself last night, did not state the terms of the alleged attack upon him by Browne. His statement was couched in very strong language. Most honorable members will not agree with Frank Browne that the honorable member should be referred to as “ Dopey Dan “. Those of us who have listened to his statements in this House consider that other terms might be applied to the honorable member. We like his breezy manner, but the term “ Dopey Dan “ does not go far enough as a description of him when he rises to speak. He has made a cowardly attack upon an Australian ex-serviceman, who is entitled to fair play. The honorable member is branded as a coward because lie has failed to make an apology for that unwarranted attack. He has merely backed down from his original stand. If he has any decency, he will now rise and apologize to the House and to Mr. Hurley and his family.
.- I should like to have your guidance, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a matter concerning ex-servicemen, but I should like to have your indulgence so that I may also reply to the honorable member who has referred to me as “Dopey Dan”. Have I your permission to discuss the two matters?
– The honorable member has been here long enough to have gained some idea of what the Standing Orders provide. If he is merely out for amusement, he can save himself the trouble. I am not in a mood to be amused.
– I propose to reply to the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), who referred to Hurley. The honorable member’s speech served only to throw light upon the naked facts of the Liberal party’s actions in conjunction with the Communist party. It is remarkable that a member of the Liberal party in this House should rise in defence of a man who has voted the Communist ticket repeatedly within the trade union movement. Mr. Hurley has followed the old Communist line, and “ old jerry-built Jeff “ has been nai’ve enough to follow him along it. The honorable member made great play about the fact that Mr. Hurley was an ox-serviceman. Honorable members should not forget, however, the treatment that was extended to him by the Returned Servicemen’s League. 1 remind the House that, in conjunction with Comrade Burgeest, Comrade Hurley tried to take control of the Operative Painters and Decorators Union, notwithstanding that Mr. Hurley told the honorable member for Macarthur that he was placed on the ticket against his will. During the last 30 years practically every Communist member that I have come in contact with has claimed that he was placed on the ticket against his will. Unfortunately, the honorable member for Macarthur lends a retentive ear to the cries of Communist;and “ fellow travellers “. I point out that “ fellow travellers “ are worse than Communists because, while a Communist will say his piece, “ fellow travellers “ creep and crawl and cringe and whisper and go round corners to assassinate the characters of people. I should advise the honorable member to be very careful of whom he associates with in this matter lest he be declared. Until the time is opportune, I shall not concern myself further about Frank Browne.
I take this opportunity to bring to the notice of the House a matter of considerable interest to ex-servicemen who live in the metropolitan area of Sydney. I have been inspired by the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) to repeat a request that I voiced on their behalf three or four weeks ago. The Long Bay rifle- range is not at present used other than by a few of the upper crust of the military class in Sydney. On Saturday afternoons they can be seen driving to the range in limousines. Upon arrival they walk round and then set about consuming large quantities of intoxicating liquor. I might mention, because of thi; obvious amusement that some honorable members opposite have derived from this assertion, that the poor old private who shoulders a rifle and pulls a heavy howitzer up the hill is not allowed to tak, part in the consumption of the liquor. Ho is privileged, however, to unload it from trucks. Members of the Returned Servicemen’s League who live in the locality are disgusted with this practice.
– Have they made the honorable member a life member of the organization ?
– Various exservicemen’s organizations consider that that portion of the Long Bay rifle range should be subdivided and homes erected on it for ex-servicemen. Although supporters of the Government hold up their hands in horror when any honorable member on this side of the House says anything against ex-servicemen, they always try to ridicule and laugh off criticism of the upper crust of the military class. Half of the rifle range could be utilized for the purpose I have mentioned, and there could be constructed on the remainder of the land a golf course on which the occupants of those homes could enjoy recreation. I inform the young honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder)-
-Order ! The honorable member will address me.
– One reason why a golf course should be constructed in the area for the use of ex-servicemen is that at present they merely have the privilege of teeing up on the toney Metropolitan golf links by 7 o’clock in the morning, and must hit off the first tee by half-past seven. Ex-servicemen are fully entitled to have a game of golf at whatever time suits them. They could do so if a golf course were provided for them in this area. This afternoon I listened to statements on behalf of the Government about the great development that will occur in Australia. One of the first developments that I should like to see is the construction of an adequate number of homes for ex-servicemen. Much misery has been caused to these people through being forced to live in shelters and shacks that they have thrown .up themselves as emergency accommodation. Yet honorable members opposite continually mention what the Government intends to do for this class of people in our community. In the early part of 1940 the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), told troops that enlisted in New South Wales for overseas service that they were going away to fight for a new order, and he promised then that when they came back-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Beale) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
House adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
lite following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Is there any provision in the lease of government-owned hotels or hostels in Canberra requiring the lessees to make accommodation available to members of Parliament during sittings?
e. - On the 10th May, the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon) asked the Minister the following question: -
Will the Minister for the Interior consider the advisability of introducing legislation to amend the act relative to Senate elections in order to simplify the method of voting? Is it necessary, in proportional voting system, to mark the ballot-paper for more than the number of candidates who are actually to be elected ?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
While it is not absolutely necessary in a proportional voting system that a voter must indicate his preference for all the candidates, there are substantial reasons why it should be so required. The objection to the requirement is that it imposes a too onerous task upon voters and results in substantially increasing the number of informal votes. Against this it can be claimed that the requirement definitely precludes the possibly greater problem of votes which become exhausted in the process of transfer. It is understood that when the previous Government introduced the proportional representation system for the Senate elections, the question as to whether electors should be compelled to indicate their preferences for all the candidates as formerly, or for a specified number only, was fully considered. The decision was in favour of the continuance of the marking of preferences for all candidates. In order that authentic information in relation to the causes of informality in voting may be obtained, arrangements have been made for a systematic examination and analysis to be made of the informal ballot-papers recorded at the lust election and for the results to be tabulated. “War Graves.
– On the 9th May, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Grayden) asked the following question : -
Is the Acting Minister for Defence aware that dissatisfaction exists in Western Australia as a result of the action of the Australian War Graves Commission in re-interring the bodies of certain civilians of another nationality who had lost their lives in Broome during the war, in an annexe of the Hollywood War Cemetery ? Will lie have this matter investigated with a view to removing the grounds for the dissatisfaction ?
I stated in reply that a report received from the Imperial “War Graves Commission indicated that the area, in which the civilians referred to are interred is quite distinct from the war cemetery. I have since made further inquiries which confirms the advice given that the graves in question are not within the war cemetery but within an area adjoining it. There is no record in my department or with the Anzac agency of th” commission of any further complaints in this regard.
Land Settlement of EX-SERVICEMEN.
e. - On the 9th May, the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) asked the following question: -
I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation concerning the war service land settlement agreement which relates particularly to financing ex-servicemen who desire to enter the dairying industry. In view of the need for increased production of milk, can the Minister advise the House whether more generous provision can bc made of financial assistance to the purchasers towards the purchase of dairy farms than was provided by the previous Government, or has yet been provided by the present Government?
I now desire to furnish the following information on the assumption that the question relates to the loans available to ex-servicemen under the “War Service Land Settlement Scheme under Part VI. of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945. Under this scheme the farms are purchased by the State and allotted to the successful applicants under perpetual leasehold, generous advances being available for working capital; for paying for and effecting improvements, and for acquiring stock, plant and equipment. The act limits the maximum loan which may be made available for this purpose to £1,000. The Commonwealth has authorized the lending authorities administering these loans on its behalf to accept second mortgages as security for advances, provided the combined encumbrances do not exceed 90 per cent, of the approved value of such security. This permits borrowers to approach any financial organization they desire for loans on first mortgage security. Exservicemen desiring assistance under this scheme must have some capital of their own, and thi9 combined with that obtainable from the Commonwealth and private institutions has proved sufficient to date. To the 31st March last loans were approved for 12,586 ex-servicemen involving a sum of £9,141,571. As £2,264,S98 have been repaid it would appear that the maximum amount available has proved adequate as a re-establishment measure. Following representations early this year from the 34th Annual Congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, the question of the necessity for increasing the present maximum amount of the loan was considered. The league was informed that while it was not proposed to agree to an increase at present, if evidence were produced of specific cases in which the existing loan maximum is retarding the re-establishment of exservicemen, the decision would- he reviewed. To date no such evidence has been furnished.
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. No such investigations have been carried out. All our past species of locusts and grasshoppers are native to Australia. Their predators and parasites including several species of wasps and flies are also native insects and already occur throughout the range of climate to which they are suited.
y. - On the 18th May, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) asked a question concerning the shipment of motor bodies by road from Adelaide to the northern ports of New South Wales. The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport has furnished the following reply: -
It is understood that the reason why numbers of motor bodies are being transported by road are - (1) road transport provides direct carriage from point to point; (2) less handling is involved and the incidence of damage is in consequence reduced considerably; road transport is quicker than sca transport. Local shipping could cope with additional quantities of motor bodies, but under present conditions the limiting factor is the availability of berths and labour to load and unload this cargo rather than an actual shortage of shipping space. There would, therefore, be no advantage in arranging for motor bodies to be accommodated on overseas ships.
n. - On the 16th March, in reply to a question addressed to me bv the right honorable member for Bartor (Dr. Evatt), I promised to look into hi? request that, in view of the fact that & special allocation of the Commonwealth roads grant is being made to local authorities in country areas, a special allocation of the road grants might also be made to local authorities in metropolitan areas. I may point out to the right honorable member that under the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act 1947, two different grants are made to State governments for road purposes. One grant, made under section 6 (1.) of the act, and equal to 3d. per gallon of petrol taxation, is available to State governments for road purposes generally. They may, if they think fit, use part of it to assist local authorities in road construction and maintenance and these local authorities may be either metropolitan or country authorities. Whether such allocations are in fact made and on what basis is, however, a matter for State governments in which the Commonwealth does not intervene. The other grant, made under section 6 (4.), provides a grant for roads in sparsely settled areas, timber country and the like, and under the terms of the act would not be available for payments to metropolitan local authorities. I may say that all aspects of Commonwealth finance for road purposes will be taken into account by the Government in preparing legislation to follow the existing act which expires on the 30th June this year.
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport has supplied the following information: - 1- Yes. Discussions have taken place on two occasions. Firstly, on the 23rd March my colleague, the Minister for Supply, conferred with the Premier of Western Australia and the Western Australian Railway Commissioners. Secondly, during my visit to Western Australia in April of this year I took the opportunity to continue these discussions.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
VVU-.it is the estimated extra quantity of petrol required tu meet unrationed requirements up to the 30th June, 1950, as compared with th:’ period the 31st December, 1948, to the 30th June, 1040?
– The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport has supplied the following information: - 1. (a) Notices served on the oil companies in accordance with the provision of the Liquid Fuel (Defence Stocks) Act 1949, require the companies to maintain in seaboard storages at all times petrol stocks aggregating 50,000,000 gallons. (&) stocks of petrol held by oil companies in seaboard storages at the 31st December, 1949, were 57,S14,347 gallons and in inland storages (estimate) 20,000,000 gallons. 2. (a) See reply to question J. (a). (6) Stocks of petrol held by oil companies in seaboard storages at the 31st March, 1950, were 64,242,612 gallons and in inland storages (estimated) 18,500,000 gallons. Stocks of petrol held by oil companies in seaboard storages at the 30th April, 1950, were 75,027,04« gallons, and in inland storages (estimated) 20,300,000 gallons. 3 and 4. Sales of petrol by oil companies during January, February, March, April, 1949 and 1950 were -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 May 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500531_reps_19_208/>.