19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation, and by way of explanation, I point out that the Latrobe Valley development scheme makes provision for a permanent aerodrome on a site that is now privately owned land between Morwell and Traralgon. An aero club at Morwell is at present using a paddock just outside that town which lias been lent to it by a farmer. However, that area has become dangerous as a landing ground for aircraft because the surface is very rough, and the aero club is not prepared to expend any money on levelling it. Will the Department of Civil Aviation consider the advisability of anticipating some of the expenditure that it will incur on the construction of the permanent landing ground in order to make the area suitable for use by the aero club ?
– I am not familiar .with the matter .to which the honorable gentleman has referred, and the course that I recommend is that the local governing body concerned should apply to the Department of Civil Aviation to despatch an officer to the ar«a for the -purpose of discussing the problem with the various parties who are interested in it. That may be the .simplest approach to the matter..
- Mr. Speaker-
– Order! Is the honorable member seeking an opportunity to apologize to me?
– I am seeking to ask a question.
– Then I cannot see the honorable member.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture with the explanation that when the British Government joined with the Australian, New Zealand and South African Governments in the formation of United Kingdom Dominion Wool Disposals Limited, which was known as the Joint Organization, it had a direct and very important financial interest to serve in the orderly marketing of the balance of its purchases under the war-time appraisement plans, totalling 10,000,000 bales. Now, however, the United Kingdom Government has indicated that it will not enter into any post-Joint Organization scheme unless it receives international approval. Does that decision mean that the matter will be referred to the International Wool Study Group? If so, will the Minister advise the House whether the Government is prepared to accept the decision of the International Wool Study Group, seeing that it is composed mainly of consumer countries, with a fair sprinkling of the socialist variety? In view of the fact that with the liquidation of Joint Organization stocks of wool, Great Britain will have no corresponding interest to serve as a participant in a new floor price wool marketing plan designed to protect the interests of wool producers in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, will the Minister advise the House on what basis the United Kingdom Government asks to join the scheme seeing that it is primarily a consumer country? Will he also say whether the Government is prepared to enter into a scheme without Great Britain?
– The honorable member has referred to the conference that took place in London early this year be tween representatives of the three woolgrowing dominions and the United Kingdom Government. One outcome of the conference was a suggestion that there might be consultation on a wider basis than that which that conference provided. It was suggested that the most convenient method of consultation would be through the wool studygroup which consists of representatives of the important producing countries and all of the consumer countries. At the present time, the wool industry seeks to express itself with respect to certain aspects of that issue, and in view of the importance of the matter, I believe that I shall be warranted in making a prepared and rather fuller statement on the subject. I shall take the earliest opportunity to do that.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether it is the intention of the Government that Australia’s representative to the Soviet who is now in Australia shall resume his duties at Moscow? Does the Government still consider that the expenditure involved in maintaining such official representation is justified?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “No”. As to the scond part of the question, the increasing cost of upkeep of our embassy at Moscow is a matter which has given me considerable concern, particularly since the recent revaluation of the rouble by the Soviet Government. In the circumstances, I directed that a communication should be sent to the Soviet Embassy in this country making certain suggestions with respect to the costs involved, because it seems to me that we much consider the size and scope of our representation in Moscow from the standpoint of the return we are receiving for the money expended. I have not yet received a reply from the Soviet Embassy on this matter, but as soon as I do so I shall communicate it to the House.
– Mr. Speaker, I draw yourattention to the fact that up to the present three questions have been asked this morning and on each occasion you have given the call to a member of the Government parties, whilst you have completely ignored a member of the Opposition who has risen to ask a question. In addition, you have intimated that you cannot see one honorable member of this House. I regard that attitude as completely unjustified under any of the Standing Orders. If an honorable member has been guilty of some indiscretion and you feel that he should be corrected, he should be disciplined and the Opposition believes that it is your duty to take such action yourself either directly or by bringing the matter to the notice of the House, thus giving the House the opportunity to form judgment upon your decision. In view of this unwarranted intrusion upon the privileges and rights of honorable members, and I say so respectfully, I now move, under Standing Order 60-
That the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) lie now heard.
– Is the motion seconded ?
– I second the motion.
– I, in common with many other honor-able members, have been giving some thought to the difficulty that has arisen, because I feel - as I am sure you, Mr. Speaker, would feel - that o have an honorable member indefinitely excluded from either putting a question oi- speaking would be a most unhappy result. From what we know - and I have taken the opportunity to have a look at the record that was referred to - two things suggest themselves to my mind. I hope that you will be willing to hear me put them before you, Mr. Speaker, and before the House. The first is that on the bare words of the record it would appear as if Mr. Speaker had ordered the honorable member for Wilmot to go to his, Mr. Speaker’s, room. That, I am sure, is an order that you would not think of making, nor indeed would it be an order which, as I understand it, is within the competence of the Chair. But it may well be that the words used were misunderstood, and if in fact you were offering an invitation to the honorable member to check the figures to which you had referred, and that invitation was misunderstood as an order, I am sure that you would be very willing to say so and that you were not in any sense delivering an order to the honorable member.
– The matter goes further than that, and the right honorable gentleman knows it.
– I want to put the matter to the House because there may be room for misunderstanding about it. In the second place, the record equally shows that the honorable member for Wilmot, as I am sure he will agree, challenged the distribution of questions and had in terms said that more calls were being given to one side than to the other. Having regard to the figures that Mr. Speaker then mentioned to the House of the calls given, I am perfectly certain that the honorable member for Wilmot would be disposed to withdraw the imputation contained in his statement. If we are to proceed with the business of the House in a civilized way, what I have suggested is full of good sense and any misunderstanding contained in the words used by Mr. Speaker could be resolved by Mr. Speaker making it clear that no order was given or made.
– That is not right.
– I am offering my own view. After all, I and other honorable members have to be the judges of this matter. T am making my observations primarily, if I may so with respect, to Mr. Speaker and to the honorable member for Wilmot. I suggest that the course I have proposed will enable ns to proceed, without further distraction, with the business of the Parliament.
.- I support the motion. The honorable member for Wilmot has been denied his privileges and rights in this House by Mr. Speaker’s refusal to enable him to exercise the right, which every honorable member enjoys under the Standing Orders, to address a question to a Minister of the Crown. I think it is quite clear that the point that was made by the honorable member for Wilmot on the motion for the adjournment of the House last Thursday was that during the 35 minutes in which questions are recorded for re-broadcast honorable members supporting the Government had .been called more often than had honorable members on this side of the House. I believe that that is correct.
– Order ! That is not correct. The honorable member will withdraw his statement which is absolutely fake. I will not tolerate it.
– I am prepared to examine the records-
– Order ! The honorable member has had the week-end in which to examine them. He will withdraw his statement without qualification.
– In deference to you, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the statement.
– Hitler is not dead.
– Some people have no experience of that.
– -Heil, Hitler!
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) will withdraw and apologize to the Chair.
– I withdraw and apologize most unreservedly.
-If the honorable m ember makes that remark in the Parliament again I shall name bini. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) will also withdraw and apologize for his statement.
– I do so most humbly, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister has made the point that there has been a difference of opinion on these matters. I am merely stating my opinion. The question before the House is whether the honorable member for Wilmot who represents the electors of the division of Wilmot is to be continuously denied the right of a hearing in this House or whether he is to be heard. I consider that the onus now lies upon the Government to say whether the honorable member’s rights and privileges in this Parliament shall be withheld or whether the honorable member shall be allowed to address a question to a Minister. The incident during which the honorable member is said to have offended the Chair occurred at a specific time on Thursdaynight. If on that occasion the honorable member said anything to which the Chair took objection, that is, if he had cast a. reflection upon the Chair, the Standing Orders provide that the Speaker should there and then have called upon him to withdraw any such reflection just as you, Mr. Speaker, did a few minutes ago in my case. The honorable member could then have withdrawn if you had ruled that his statement was a reflection upon the Chair. You did not do so at that time, Mr. Speaker. Consequently, it cannot be considered that the honorable member in any way reflected upon the Chair. If you considered the honorable member out of order at the time when he raised the matter, because you believed he should have raised it on a substantive motion as provided in the Standing Orders, you should have ruled him out of order on that score. Certainly the honorable member for Wilmot has not erred in the attitude that he adopted on Thursday night. I consider that you, yourself, Mr. Speaker, erred in not ruling him out of order for raising a matter on the motion for the adjournment of the House that lie should have raised by way of a substantive motion. I repeat that you should then and there have called for a withdrawal if you considered that his statement was a reflection on the Chair. I think that you have handled the matter wrongly. The honorable member for Wilmot made his statements to you in good faith and is entitled to his opinions. I have much pleasure, therefore, in supporting the motion that he be now heard. I consider that the House should, in justice to the honorable member for Wilmot and to its own precedents, adopt the motion. In supporting the motion I desire to lay emphasis on Standing Order 60, which states-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is now canvassing a decision of the House yesterday. He may not do so.
– The Leader of the Opposition has moved that the honorable member be now heard and under Standing Order 60-
– Order ! Standing Order 60 has no bearing on the matter.
– I support the motion and leave it for the House to decide.
– There appears to be a good deal of misunderstanding on this subject. I was in the House when the incident occurred on Thursday night. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) made certain statements which were proved to be inaccurate by the reply given by you, Mr. .Speaker. The honorable member for Wilmot did not question the authenticity of the records from which you read. ‘ If he questioned the reliability of those records he has had ample opportunity to examine them. I understand that he has not taken advantage of your offer to do so. It is the ordinary and decent thing for a man who has made a misstatement in good faith to retract his misstatement without being asked to withdraw and apologize when his mistake has been pointed out to him. I believe there was a very easy way out for the honorable member for Wilmot. If he accepted the authenticity of the figures that you j gave, it was quite easy for him to admit that he had made a mistake. He could have said, “ I do not wish to question your impartiality, Mr. Speaker; I am prepared on the strength of the statement that, you have made to withdraw and offer my sincere apologies “. I am sure that the incident would then have been closed. When you made your remarks, Mr. Speaker, I understood that it was with the express intention of allowing the honorable member for Wilmot to examine the records that you had kept of the number of questions asked by the members of the different parties in this House. He has not availed himself of that opportunity. The authenticity of your records has not been questioned, but has been accepted by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) and I suggest that instead of censuring the Speaker it would be better for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) to suggest to the honorable member for Wilmot that he do the honest and manly thing on this occasion and admit his mistake.
– I rise to order. The words used by the honorable member are plainly a reflection on the honorable member for Wilmot.
– What are the words to which/you take objection?
– The words, “ do the honest and manly thing.” Those words should be withdrawn.
– I do not think so.
– The Prime Minister is practically-
– Cannot you get order on the front bench, Mr. Speaker?
-I should like to have order on both sides. Order! The right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) is now conversing on -the front Opposition bench. I want silence from both sides of the House.
– Hitler is here.
-I name the honorable member for Lalor unless he apologizes for that remark.
– I withdraw and apologize.
– If an honorable member makes any further reference to Hitler, in any shape or form, he will be dealt with.
.- In the course of his speech the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) referred to the incident which occurred last Thursday and criticized the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). I witnessed what occurred during the debate on the adjournment of the House on that occasion and in my opinion the honorable member for Wilmot did not for a moment challenge Mr. Speaker’s impartiality. What he did. was to ask for an alteration of the- system under which the call was given- for questions. He did not deal with the aggregate number of questions asked but with the method by which members were called. As all honorable members are aware, the important part of question-time is the early part of that period. The aggregate figures concerning members who had been called did nol’ have much to do with the honorable member’s suggestion. The honorable member for Wilmot, as every one knows, is at all times most careful and courteous in his behaviour to all honorable members and to the Chair. If anything has been done that could be complained of by you, Mr. Speaker, or by »ny honorable member, appropriate action should have been taken at the time that the incident occurred. However, no suggestion was then made that the honorable member was out of order. He was not called to order and the heavy penalty of suspension was never suggested, but to-day, as a result of your subsequent action, Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for “Wilmot, although he is entitled to enjoy the ordinary privileges of the House and is able to sit with honorable members, is denied his privileges as an honorable member. That is an unheard of situation and it has caused the Leader of the Opposition to move this motion.
I do not want to add any additional fuel to the flames of this dispute. I think it is a most unhappy incident. I submit, Mr. Speaker, with the greatest of respect that you did, in substance, command the honorable member to do something which you had no right to command him. to do and it would have been most undignified for the honorable member to have obeyed such a command. You gave your version of the facts and nobody disputes the correctness of the figures that you gave. However, they are quite irrelevant. Finally, I turn to what was said by the Prime Minister. What he said- amounts to a suggestion that you should take the initiative in this matter. So far, I have not noticed any indication of. your doing that. I submit that in the absence of action on your part, the House and the Prime Minister should support this motion. Everybody can see the Prime Minister’s view of this matter; it is implied in everything that he said to-day and in everything that he did. not say yesterday. It is the duty of the House to support the motion.
– The right honorable member for Barton has stated that last Thursday night the honorable member for Wilmot referred to the first- 35 minutes of’ questions. I have the record in front of me, and it is quite clear that he did not mention the first 35 minutes. He did say that I was granting two questions to Government members for every one that I granted to the Opposition. That statement is absolutely untrue. It was a gross re flection upon my impartiality in this position, and instead of calling upon the honorable member to withdraw forthwith I did what, upon looking it over, I think was perhaps a weak thing. Nevertheless it was a merciful thing. I gave the- honorable member an opportunity to come to my office-
– You ordered him.
– If the honorable member says that I ordered him, he will be in trouble. The record is here, and it shows that the word “ order “’ was never used. The word “ direct “ was never used. I said that, the honorable gentleman “ will come to my office “ and examine the record and will make his explanation to the’ House. If an honorable member gets up in this House, and says that I, have given two callsto the Government side for every one I have given to the Opposition, when thefacts prove that not on any day since I took this chair has that happened or anything like it, then I say that such a statement is a gross reflection upon my impartiality in this chair and my administration of the office to- which I have been elected. I say that so far as I am concerned, what I require of the honorable member is an, apology for the imputation cast upon my impartiality last Thursday night. As to whether he comes to my office, I am quite easy on that - quite easy indeed. I thought that the honorable gentleman would be a man who would at least have truth on his lips and justice in his heart. If he had examined the records, then his statement was knowingly untrue. If he had not examined the records, then he made a completely and utterly irresponsible and indefensible attack on my impartiality. I require the apology, and he can make it as soon as he likes.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know whether, even in your exalted position, you are entitled to say that a member had no honesty on his lips or something else in his heart.
– I said that I would expect to find that.
– You obviously inferred that it was not there, and I think that is a gross reflection.
– Order !
Air. Rosevear. - I am asking you a question.
– I realize it.
– Under what standing order or under what procedure or precedent have you the right in this House to make such a reflection upon an honorable member from the shelter of the chair ?
– I have made the statement and the House is the judge.
– It is exceedingly regrettable on this occasion that so much heat has been shown in the debate about this very important matter. In the first place the question arises as to whether you, Mr. Speaker, have directed a member of this House to attend you in your rooms. I am sure that you will agree with me, sir, that no member of this Parliament should submit to any such direction, and I am glad that your own words have indicated that you did not intend that impression to be conveyed although I must confess that the words. “ He will come to my office “, were very inapt. I can understand an honorable member construing such words as a direction to him to see the Speaker in his room. I do not believe that any honorable member will support the proposition that a member of the Parliament who has been sent to this place to represent a constituency should be told by anybody to report to the Speaker. The Speaker has control of the House here. He can discipline an honorable member for conduct that contravenes the Standing Orders and he can call upon the House to punish any honorable .member for anything that he may have done of that character. Having made those statements, I make an appeal to the honorable member for Wilmot. I do so, not with a desire to gain party advantage, but with a desire to ensure that this Parliament shall work effectively. I have clearly indicated my view that in no circumstances can a Speaker demand that a member of the Parliament see him in his room. Indeed, I go so far as to say that in no circumstances could a Speaker punish an honorable member for refusing to see him in his room. I come now to the fact that the honorable member for Wilmot did make a charge of gross partiality against the Speaker. Both sides of this question have to be studied. If honorable members will view the matter objectively, it must be clear to them that, if a member of the Parliament says that the Speaker has deliberately called upon one side of the House as against the other side so as to give an advantage to the Government side over the Opposition side, that is one of the most serious charges that could be levelled at a Speaker, whose function is to preside impartially over the deliberations of this assembly. It seems to be commonly agreed that such an imputation was made, and the facts establish it beyond any doubt. Therefore, whilst I say that it is wrong for a Speaker to use language that, in my judgment, is indicative of compulsion upon an honorable member to attend him outside the chamber, I contend also that it is equally wrong for an honorable member to make a charge of gross partiality against the Speaker. What I am trying to do is to find ways in which this Parliament may work effectively. I am trying to approach the matter reasonably, and I suggest to the honorable member for Wilmot that, if he would indicate that he withdraws the charge of gross partiality against the Speaker, the incident can be closed and the honorable member can be heard as he ought to be heard. In those circumstances we could get on with the business of the Parliament.
.- The speeches that have been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) have been consistent with a. reasonable, honest and just approach to this matter. I regret that I cannot say as much for the speech that has been made by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald), and I regret very greatly that you, Mr. Speaker, have seen fit, in the statement that you have made, to aggravate what I consider to be a very serious offence. The simple fact has been demonstrated by the two
Ministers who have spoken to-day that no member of this Parliament can allow himself to be ordered by Mr. Speaker to attend him in his chambers.
– That is not the point.
– I shall deal with the interjection in a moment. “No member of this Parliament can be directed by Mr. Speaker to make a. statement following an interview that he has had with Mr. Speaker at the direction of Mr. Speaker. It is idle to quibble, as apparently some honorable members are attempting to do, about the question whether or not the words, “ He will come to my office “, constitute a direction. Only one interpretation can be placed upon that. The words “ The honorable member will see me “ are imperative, and they mean, “ The honorable member shall see me” or “I direct the honorable member to see me “. Any other interpretation of that expression is purely a dishonest quibble. The Prime Minister has made an appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the honorable member for Wilmot. I waited, although I had intended to rise earlier, because I thought that, you might have risen, and admitted that you were in error. I feel that you have not done so, and that you have actually aggravated the offence which you committed on a previous occasion. It is clearly established that the honorable member for Wilmot made no charges of partiality against the Chair.
– Oh !
– The honorable member for Wilmot did not make such charges against the Chair. He followed the line which I followed on a former occasion, because we had been clearly told that Mr. Speaker intended, when debates such as the Address-in-Rep’ly and other subjects which were not contested, and at question time, to have regard for the number of members on both sides of the House. I thought that there was no disagreement upon Mr. Speaker’s decision on that matter. I was told by our party Whip and by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) that Mr. Speaker intended on such occasions to give a greater number of calls to the combined Government parties than to the Opposition parties.
– The charge was that he had done so.
– lt may still be true.
– It has proved to be false.
– An appeal has been made to honorable members to discuss this matter with reason and restraint. I hope that that appeal with be heeded. It has been said to-day that members of the Opposition have asked more questions on some occasions than Government supporters have asked. If that statement be true in relation to some occasions, it must of necessity follow, that on those particular days, members of the Government parties were not seeking to ask questions. The fact that it may be said that the Opposition has asked more questions on a particular day than the combined Government parties have asked is not proof of that statement.
– That is fantastic.
– What is the position at question time? A Government supporter receives the first call, and an Opposition member receives the second call, and assuming that the call then alternates between Government and Opposition members, the Government parties and the Opposition must have an equal number of calls. If, on a particular day, or even on a number of days, the Opposition gets a greater number of calls than the Government parties do, the explanation must be that Government supporters are satisfied, and are not seeking to ask the questions.
– On that claim, Mr. Speaker could never be right. If members of the Opposition are called more often than Government members are, it is purely bad luck.
– That is perfectly true. I had accepted it as a practice, which had been adopted by Mr. Speaker, that he would call, in turn, a member of the Liberal party, a member of the Opposition, a member of the Australian Country party, a member of the Liberal party, and so on, and I was never in doubt about the position. I raised that matter in committee on one occasion with the Chairman, and I said that such practice had been accepted in regard to questions not only by the Opposition but also by the Government, but that it had not been adopted, as applicable in committee. The honorable member for Wilmot made a similar statement, and he said that he considered that that practice should not be followed any longer. If he were reflecting upon the impartiality of Mr. Speaker, the remedy was obvious. You, Mr. Speaker, at that moment, could have asked the honorable member to withdraw that remark, to apologize to the Chair for having made it, and to resume his seat. Had. the honorable member not obeyed the Chair, you could have suspended him from the service of the House”, or taken such other action as the situation required. It is idle to-day to say that the fact that you did not ask the honorable gentleman to withdraw the remark, apologize to the Chair for having made it, and resume his seat was a show of weakness on your part. It was not. In my opinion, if you will pardon me for saying so, I suggest that it was a show of arrogance on your part.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman should control himself.
– I am speaking quite calmly, sir. You suggested that it was a show of weakness on your part.
– I rise to order.
Government Members. - Sit down.
– I know what I am talking about.
– May I raise a point, Mr. Speaker, following your own announcement on the 22nd February last -that you intended completely to dissociate yourself from party matters while you occupy the chair? The practice of the Speaker of the House of Commons, when his conduct is questioned in any way, is for the Speaker to keep silent. The test on him is his silence, and not his interjections.
– That is not a point of order.
– I was seeking to make the point that it would have been simple, and it would have followed the practice that has been adopted by a succession of Speakers, including yourself, sir, for you to have said to the honorable member for Wilmot when he made his statement, “ That is a reflection on the Chair and the honorable member must withdraw it. He will not be in order in pursuing that line, and will resume his seat “. Had the honorable member not accepted correction in that way, as you were entitled to give it, you could have named him. However, I am sure that the honorable member would have discontinued his speech, and resumed his seat, and, generally, would have accepted your direction to him. So I am suggesting deliberately that you followed a harsh line, and not a weak line.
I come now to another matter. It has been suggested that the honorable member for Wilmot should apologize to the House and to you, Mr. Speaker. There may be some reason for that, if you, sir, are prepared to make a humble apology to the honorable member and to the House for the stand that you yourself have taken. I believe that if you are not prepared to do that, members of the Government parties cannot logically oppose the motion. We contend that it protects the rights of not only the honorable member for Wilmot, but of all honorable members. If the motion is determined on party lines, -and if the Government, with its weight of numbers, upholds Mr. Speaker once more, not one but two dangerous precedents will be established. It will be said that Mr. Speaker can direct an honorable member not only to attend him in his rooms, but also to make a statement to the House about that fact on the following, day. The information which has ‘been given about the number of calls that has been granted to members of the combined Government parties and of the Opposition, may be correct. The figures probably are correct, but the point which I wish to make -is -that they are irrelevant to this debate. The honorable member for Wilmot referred to the practice which you had laid down, and you did not immediately exercise your authority to discipline him. Therefore, the honorable gentleman must, in all conscience, be heard.
: - Two important issues are involved in this debate, and not one issue, as has been represented by the Opposition speakers. The first important issue is one which they have rightly stressed, and that is the rights which are enjoyed by private members to be called in their turn in this chamber and to put tho. views of their constituents before the Parliament. No’ honorable member in any part of the House would support action which would take away from the private member the rights which he should enjoy. It has been made perfectly clear by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) that the Government will protect the rights of the private member against invasion, whether it be by any one outside this Parliament, or even by Mr. Speaker himself. We would not lend ourselves to a situation in which Mr. Speaker, acting beyond the disciplinary powers available to him under the Standing Orders, sought to direct members of the Parliament on what they should do in the manner which has been suggested, but you, sir, by your own statement from the chair, have made it quite clear that such is not the real matter at issue now. It may be that the words which you used on a former occasion were not happily chosen, but, at least, you have said from the chair to-day that what you require, in substance, is some redress for a charge of gross partiality which has been made quite deliberately against you. That is the second issue which is involved in this discussion. The first issue may be the rights and privileges of private members, but the second issue is the authority and impartiality of the Chair. One issue is not less important than the , other is.
This Parliament cannot function unless there is a general .acceptance by honorable members generally, and by Mr. Speaker himself, that the presiding officer maintains authority in the Chair without partiality to one side or the other, to every section vt the Parliament, and to every member of it. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that the impartiality of Mr. Speaker should at all times be maintained, and that when that impartiality is challenged without cause, suitable redress shall be made. Your impartiality was unquestionably chal lenged directly by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). I was in the House when the honorable member was speaking, and I heard his statement. He did not put his remarks in the form of a question, but he made direct allegations which had no meaning other than that you had quite deliberately, and acting with partiality to the Government side, denied reasonable opportunities to members of the Opposition.
– And the Minister, himself, did not object .to it at the time.
– I did not object to it at the time because Mr. Speaker dealt with that matter himself. It is not for me or for any other Minister when the Speaker is able to defend his own position to interfere in such circumstances. That is the Speaker’s prerogative and also his responsibility. The honorable member for Wilmot made a clear charge against the ‘Speaker which, on the facts, Mr. Speaker refuted. At that time, the honorable member might have risen and said, in effect, “On the facts you have given me, Mr. Speaker, I see that I was in error and I desire to express regret if I have unwittingly made any allegation of partiality against you “. If we assume that the honorable member felt that he had been affronted at the time by the terms of Mr. Speaker’s comment, or that he felt that Mr. Speaker had gone beyond what was proper in the circumstances the fact remains that the honorable member has had some days in which to take the course that common sense would have suggested to any honorable member. The Speaker is readily accessible, informally, to every honorable member and the honorable member could have gone to him privately - not necessarily to Mr. Speaker’s rooms, if he desired to preserve a point of principle - and said, in effect, “ I desire to express regret for what I said, but I >cannot concede as a matter of principle that you can direct me to attend at your rooms “. If there had been .any misunderstanding in the matter it could have been rectified in that way. It was open to the honorable member for Wilmot also to put his .view through the Leader of the ‘Opposition.
But, whatever may have been the merits of the case so far as the honorable member is concerned, he has done nothing to remedy his position. He has lent himself to a shabby party manoeuvre on the part of the Labour party. I say that deliberately. If the Opposition had made an effort in good faith to remedy the position, it could have been remedied; but the Opposition has not made any such effort. What happened in this House yesterday? Members of the Opposition entered the chamber determined to stage an incident. Normally, from 20 to 30 honorable members opposite would rise when the Speaker called for questions without notice, but yesterday not one of them, except the honorable member for Wilmot, endeavoured to obtain the call. That happened three times, and the Leader of the Opposition, with a great show of moral indignation, then advanced to the table to make his protest. The right honorable gentleman was followed by hie deputy, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), who had carefully extracted from the Hansard “ flat “ the relevant pages and with his brief in his hand he endeavoured to stage a party stunt. Only a few weeks ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) exposed the tactics that th, Opposition has been adopting in relation to Mr. Speaker. From the moment thai Mr. Speaker was chosen, honorable members opposite have set out to undermine his authority in the chair and have resorted to every manoeuvre in their power in order to discredit him. They have done that not as part of a personal vendetta against Mr. Speaker, out as part of a campaign to discredit the Government. Those are the tactics that the Opposition has adopted.
The Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) have clearly established the point, of principle at issue so far as the Government is concerned. We affirm the principle that we shall not permit any invasion of the rights of private members by the Speaker, or by any one else, and that we shall not lend ourselves to a direction that an honorable member can be disciplined in the Speaker’s private rooms. But you, Mr. Speaker, have made it clear this morning that all that you require from the honorable member is a public expression by him of regret for having made a charge against you which he made deliberately and in public. That is all that you require the honorable member to do, and that is what any honorable member with a sense of fairness and justice after having made an error would do. I hope that the honorable member for Wilmot will be prepared to take the decent and honest course in this matter. I and my colleagues will not lend ourselves to what is merely a party stunt on the part of the Opposition.
– The honorable member for Melbourne.
– Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That the question he now put.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. You gave me the call before the Minister had risen to submit his motion.
– It is competent for the Chair to accept the motion “ That the question be now put “ at any time, whether an honorable member happens to have the floor or not. I now put the question -
That the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) be now heard.
– I rise to order. The question should be -
That the question be now put.
– I have already put that question, and I have declared it carried. I have put it once, and I shall not put it again.
Question put -
That the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) be now heard.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - How. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . ‘. 16
Mr.Ward. - I desire toask you a question, Mr. Speaker.
Mr.Ward. - I rise to order. Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, you refused to accept a motion, submitted under Standing Order 60, “ That the honorable member for Wilmot be now heard “, on the ground that that standing order did not apply to questions. To-day, you have accepted a similar motion as being in order.
Question resolved in the negative.
Mr.Ward. - I rise to order. During the division, I pointed out that yesterday, Mr. Speaker, you ruled out of order a motion thathad been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition and that today you had accepted a motion in similar terms, and you replied that we may as well have a vote on one thing as another. I want to know whether you will see that that decision is preserved in the records of this House.
SUPPLY. (“Grievance Day.”)
Coal -Poliomyelitis - Immigration -Pensions -ElectricityService.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave thechair andthat the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.
OppositionMembers. - Hear, hear !
– Several references have been made in the House recently to the development of the Callide Valley coal-field in Queensland. In view of those references I wish to place on record the facts relative to the efforts that had been made by the Government of Victoria to make certain contracts with the owners of the leases on the Callide field. There is apparently a notion in the minds of some honorable members that the Callide field is not receiving the support that it should receive.
Conversation being audible,
– I must insist once and for all upon the House maintaining order. Disorderly conduct is becoming excessive. I shall not continue to repeat my warning.
– Advantage should be taken by the State governments interested in the Callide deposits, in conjunction with the Australian Government, of the opportunity to develop the Callide field. I am glad that the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) is present in the House, because I know that he is eager to do everything possible to enable the field to be developed. The statement that the Queensland Government was not approached to conclude contracts covering coal from the Callide field is absolutely incorrect. I propose to state the facts, so that honorable members may be able to make up their own minds about this matter free from politi-cai considerations. When the Victorian Government was short of fuel in 1948’, I, as the responsible Minister of that Government, was- authorized to go to Queensland to ascertain whether I could obtain coal from the Callide field in order to assist the State Electricity Commission to maintain electricity supplies for industry and to provide warmth in tha homes of Victoria during the winter of 1949. I visited the field in July, 1948. The only leases then being worked were those owned by the firm of Wood, Parnell and Julin, and by a man named Neil. The leases owned by the firm to which I have referred were not being developed in a manner that, offered prospects of the. Victorian Government being able to obtain its coal requirements from that source. In addition, the price quoted by the firm was so high that the Victorian Government did not consider a purchase on that, basis. I discussed the matter with representatives of the Queensland Government, including the Premier. It was mutually agreed that as the Queens^ land Government intended, in the early part of 1949, to appoint a coal board to act as arbitrator in relation to price and conditions, it would be better to leave the matter until the board had been appointed. Because it was obviously impossible to arrange for the development of the Callide field and provide loading facilities at the port of Gladstone in time for Victorian requirements for the winter of 1949 to be met, the Government of Victoria decided to obtain coal from overseas countries. Late in September, 1948 an order was placed for 100,000 tons of coal from
India.” The supply of that coal was very largely responsible for the fact that, during the winter of 1949, the fuel position was very much better in Victoria than in other states. The Victorian Government wrote to the Premier of Queensland in January, 1949, stating that as the State Coal Board had now been established it would like to renew discussions and go into the question of a contract for the supply of 200,000 tone of Callide Valley coal each year for three years. We. received a letter from the Premier of Queensland, dated the 3rd March,. 1949, in which he said that the Queensland Government considered that it would be much better if we did not deal through the Queensland Coal Board but dealt direct with the directors of the Callide Valley mine, in which the Government had no direct interest, as its interests were concentrated in the Blair Athol mine. As a result, in April, 1949, after making certain arrangements with the directors of the Callide Valley mine, we gave the management a- preliminary contract for the supply of 30,000 tons of Callide coal. It was only a preliminary contract because we desired to have the coal properly tested. The directors of the mine then asked the Queensland Government for leave to supply that amount of coal to Victoria. Acting on behalf of the Government the Queensland Coal Board said that no coal was to leave Queensland until that State had a. reserve supply of, I think, either 50,000 or 100,000 tons of coal. I am not criticizing the Queensland Government for desiring to accumulate a reserve at that time, when it saw trouble looming, but the fact remains that in March it said that it was not interested and in April, after we had given a preliminary contract for the supply of 30,000 tons, of coal, it would not allow the contract to be proceeded with. As soon as the coa] strike was over we wrote to the Queensland Government and said that we wanted to go ahead with the contract and asked what the position was in regard to future supplies of coal from Callide Valley. In reply the Government, or the Queensland Coal Board, which is the same thing in effect, said that it could not give us any definite date upon which coal would be available, and that it did not know in what quantities it would be able to supply coal. In other words, it said, “ You can have some coal at some time of some quality at some price”. Would any honorable member or anybody who has done business even in a small way have proceeded with a contract of that nature ? Naturally, the answer is “ No “. At that time the Victorian Government had to prepare for the winter that lay ahead, because it is impossible to obtain large supplies of coal at a. moment’s notice. As the Queensland Government could give no definite answer the Victorian Government naturally went ahead and made fresh overseas contracts, not only with India but also with South Africa. The Queensland Government did not show any interest beyond a suggestion that it would be prepared, as I have said, to let us have some coal at some time of some quality at some price. It did not in fact show any interest until the present Government said that it intended to buy coal from overseas and to subsidize Victoria and New South Wales so that more coal mined in New South Wales would ba left for use in that State. Those are the facts of the case. We knew how much coal could be produced from Callide Valley. We even tried to help in the supply of the necessary steel. We had the chairman of the Gladstone Harbour Board down in Melbourne trying to help to obtain equipment. We knew that Gladstone harbour had a depth of 27 feet of water and that Rockhampton had a depth of only 14 feet, but we were not interested in the local squabble. We wanted to help Queensland to develop its own coal-fields. I understand now that the quantity of coal that could be exported to other States from Callide Valley is about 250,000 tons a year. But we cannot be expected to buy coal of 10,400 British thermal units at the same price as coal of 12,000 British thermal units and over.
– Where does the coal with 12,000 British thermal units come from ?
– It comes from South Africa. Nobody should be expected to make such a contract unless it is a firm contract with an assurance of definite regular supplies coming in every month. I am sure that such supplies could be obtained if a conference of the interested parties were called. I understand that such a conference has been called.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- For some time a very serious epidemic of poliomyelitis has been raging in two States, but the Government appears to be totally unaware of the fact despite the news items about the subject that appear in the press and that are broadcast almost daily. Either the Government is not concerned about the situation or it is powerless to act. Whether or not the Government is aware of the seriousness of the position, its attitude is in keeping with its policy generally on the question of national health. It appears to be fiddling, as Nero fiddled while Rome was burning. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) is fumbling and dithering around in connexion with the Government’s national health proposals and conferring with certain business and professional interests that may be concerned with their own economic interests, while many people in the community, particularly little children, are suffering. Even grown-ups are victims of the dreadful scourge of poliomyelitis. The Minister may be quite sincere in his desire to devise a practicable national health scheme, but he should not allow himself to be pushed around by those whose main concern is their own economic interests. After all, the health of the community is the Government’s responsibility, and the Government should act fearlessly on behalf of the community irrespective of any vested interest. As evidence of the futility of the Government in this connexion I mention the fact that some months ago the Minister assured the House, in reply to questions asked by honorable members, that a conference of State Ministers of Health, representatives of State Departments of Health and of the Commonwealth health authorities, was to be held, and that poliomyelitis would be discussed in common with other problems. Last April the New South Wales Minister for Health, Mr. Kelly, said that he knew nothing about the matter and had not received any invitation to a conference between State Ministers of Health and Commonwealth authorities for the purpose of discussing poliomyelitis, although he knew that some conference to deal with health matters generally had been proposed. Apparently nothing has come of that conference and the matter seems to have vanished into thin air, like the Minister for Health himself, because he has not been seen in the House for the last week or so.
The matter of dealing with poliomyelitis has apparently been left to various high-minded citizens and bodies. Tn South Australia, where the epidemic lias reached its gravest proportions, a research body has for some time been attempting to discover the cause of, and a cure for, the disease. That body was sponsored by the South Australian Government and various local organizations. A committee was established comprising Dr. Southcott, Dr. Crosby, and Mr. N. S. Stenhouse of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Prince Henry Hospital in Sydney has been endeavouring to establish an institute of epidemiology. The medical superintendent of that institution, Dr. “Walters, has shown considerable interest in the matter, and Dr. Stanley was recently sent overseas to study methods of treatment and the progress of research in other countries. He has returned to Australia, after finding that re latively little progress has been made overseas, to seek a solution in Australia. The Kenny clinic has been operating for some time at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, but has been slowly strangled because the orthodox medical men in charge of that hospital do not regard it sympathetically, and because patients attending the clinic are being diverted to orthodox medical practitioners. As a result, the Kenny clinic will soon have to close down. The Government’s policy is supposed to be that the Commonwealth will concentrate on research and leave the details of the administration in the hands of local national health authorities. The encouragement of research is an essentia] task for the Australian Government. The machinery for that purpose already exists. There is the National Health and Medical Research Council the province of which is to encourage and assist research into various health matters which I presume include poliomyelitis. The following report appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 20th May:-
The Medical Superintendent of Prince Henry Hospital, Dr. C. J. M. Walters, said last night that an approach to the National Health and Medical Research Council for funds to finance research into poliomyelitis had been turned down flat. He was commenting on Sir Earle Page’s statement on Thursday that proposals to establish an Institute of Epidemiology for research into polio should be submitted to the research council if financial help was required. Dr. Walter.* said it was not the province of those engaged in research to approach the council. It was the council’s job to seek out scientists and research worker? and see what help they needed to carry on their work. Some years ago, when Professor Pratt had sought financial assistance from the council to carry out research into polio, he was refused.
Dr. Walters said the polio epidemic appeared to bc on thu up-grade and not abating as it seemed a few weeks ago. This had been noticed at Prince Henry Hospital, and he thought the same -position applied at the Children’s Hospital. The Acting DirectorGeneral of Health. Dr. H. C. Wallace, said from the number of cases notified the epidemic appeared to he holding a constant level. The notified cases iri the last fortnight were slightly fewer than in the previous two weeks. Metropolitan cases numbered slightly more than country.
Dr. Wallace said there had been about 1,000 cases of polio in the South Australian epidemic and 4.00 here. For an unknown reason, the South Australian death-rate was lower than in New South Wales. Four more cases of polio, bringing this year’s total to 274, were reported to the New South Wales Health Department yesterday. During the same period of last year there were 40 cases. Two of the cases reported yesterday were girls and two were boys. They came from Balldale, Wellington, East Bankstown and Bondi Junction. Their ages were one. six, nine and seventeen years.
Honorable members will note that these cases were reported from very widely separated areas and that young persons in the community were affected. That fact may provide a clue for those who are inquiring into the cause of poliomyelitis. The National Health and Medical Research Council, instead of encouraging the activities of people who are very anxious to inquire into this matter, ismore concerned with immunizing people throughout the community against an epidemic that has not even reached this country. On the 20th May, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, the council recommended a wide programme of vaccination to prevent the introduction of smallpox into Australia. The Herald report stated -
The Council in a report to the Federal Government suggests, as a precautionary measure, vaccination of ‘persons liable to smallpox exposure, with re-vaccination after three years. They would include medical practitioners, health inspectors, hospital, ambulance, airways and overseas shipping companies employees, wharf labourers, taxi drivers, shipping crews, policemen und press reporters. The Council also suggests voluntary vaccination of young children between three months and two years with re-vaccination on entering school. School authorities should he encouraged to ask for vaccination certificates when the child enters school.
It seems that this body which is charged with the responsibility of undertaking research is concerned with having people innoculated against a disease that has not reached our shores, whilst it is not concerned with this one which is raging throughout the community. I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to consider re-constituting the Joint Committee on Social Security, which operated for many years under the previous Government and which did good work and made many recommendations that were incorporated in the statutes. That body would be able to explore the various possibilities of throwing light on the cause of poliomyelitis and could encourage research bodies, particularly the Prince Henry Institute of Epidemiology, to investigate practices that are outside the range of orthodox medicine, such as Sister Kenny’s method of treatment and that exercised by osteopaths and chiropractors. Many of these people are doing good work and curing cases of poliomyelitis, but their methods are something that the orthodox medical practitioner will not examine because of the ethics of his profession.
– Order ! _ The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to address myself to the subject of Callide coal that was raised by the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes). Possibly honorable members are not familiar with the record of the honorable member for Chisholm in matters of this kind but when he was a prominent member of the Victorian Government recently he made continuous efforts to encourage the development of Victorian and Australian natural resources. He was very interested in Callide coal. Callide is one of the great deposits of Australia and is capable of being exploited by open-cutting. The size of the deposit is not yet known with any precision, but it is known that it contains many millions of tons of coal and, I believe, may even contain tens of millions of tons. I have visited both of the open-cuts and have travelled along the road between Callide and Gladstone and I can assure the House that the Government is most anxious’ to co-operate with the Government of Queensland in the development of the coal in that State. Callide is now being developed in two small open-cuts the tonnage from which ha? been very small. The sole market for the coal at present is in Brisbane wher it is used to produce thermal generated power and it seems clear that if Callide is to be developed the principal market? for its output must be sought in Victoria and South Australia.
The Commonwealth is importing about 1,000,000 tons of coal for the Governments of Victoria and South Australia. This is a temporary measure which is intended to bridge the present gap between consumption and production of Australian coal. I assure the honorable member for Chisholm that the Government is actively pursuing the matter of mining Callide coal. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has recently held discussions with the Premiers of South Australia and Victoria and, possibly as n result, the Premier of South Australia with some of his officers, and at least one Minister and officers of the Government of Victoria, are to visit Callide in the course of the next fortnight.
I believe it to be perfectly possible to mine half a million tons of coal a year at Callide without using very extensive equipment. The present market, would absorb much less than that quantity. The costs of production at Callide are now relatively high. The cost of delivering it to the wharf at Melbourne’ is something over five guineas’ a ton because this has been done on a very piecemeal basis. I believe that the coal, is being mined with what is not wholly adequate equipment. It is being taken by road from Callide, a distance of between 50 and 70 miles, to Gladstone in trucks which are largely unsuitable for the job. There is no coal-handling equipment at the Gladstone wharf. Cargoes are shipped from Gladstone to the south intermittently and, consequently, the freight rates are very high indeed. In addition, the Queensland Government is exacting a toll of 5s. a ton on all coal transported by road from Callide- to Gladstone so at present all the cards are stacked against Callide coal.
– How do the British thermal units of Callide coal compare with those of imported coal?
– They are substantially less. The British thermal units of Callide coal are 10,400 whereas those of other imported coal are 11,500 and over. The figures for Indian coal are 11.5 and for South African coal over 12. If the operators of Callide coal are able to get orders for about 250,000 tons a year for southern markets in Victoria and South Australia, [ have no doubt, having been through the figures item by item, that that coal will be delivered for something like £4 a ton, and not £5 5s. 6d. a ton, on the wharf in Melbourne. That is rather more than the cost of New South Wales coal, on a British thermal unit basis, delivered in Melbourne, but the purchase of that coal will greatly improve the condition of industry in the south. I can only hope that the visit of the Ministers of the South Australian and Victorian Governments to Callide will result in orders for coal, not merely for one year but, in order to get this undertaking going on a business-like basis, for two, three or four years ahead. If Callide were to get, orders to a minimum of 250,000 tons a year for three years, the coal could be delivered in Melbourne ‘for very much less than is being paid at present. The road at Callide is being improved, and the Gladstone Harbour Trust is installing adequate modern coal handling equipment at the port of Gladstone which will reduce the cost of coal by 2s. or more a ton. If regular cargoes” are delivered to the south, I am sure that the shipping companies will charge freight rates considerably less than they are’ charging at present. I have high hopes for the Callide field. I know it fairly well personally, and I believe that it is capable of vastly greater development. It is for the four governments,, the Australian, the Queensland, the Victorian and the South Australian, to get together and iron out the relatively small problems involved. If that is done we shall be able to ensure, particularly for the southern States, a large and important additional supply of coal. On the developmental side I am greatly concerned, because coal is the base of our economic pyramid in Australia. That has become apparent over the last twenty years because of the tremendous upsurge of mechanization in secondary and primary industry. Coal is the basic factor in primary and secondary industry. Even those who never see coal are at the present time almost entirely dependent for their livelihood on Australia being possessed of .adequate coal supplies. Callide is one of our important coal-producing areas.
I believe that there is no reasonable doubt that Callide coal is not the best coal in Australia- by a long way. Its properties for steam raising and thermal power raising have been adequately tested in Brisbane. For a considerable time it has been subjected to tests by the experts of the Government of Victoria,, and I believe that its quality is sufficiently high to make it most useful. A big future exists for this field, and 1 hope that the various governments concerned will be able to collaborate on production and distribution of Callide coal in the near future.
.- I was pleased to hear the Minister for National. Development (Mr. Casey) say that the Government is anxious to develop the coal-fields of Queensland. It is true that the Blair Athol field contains one of the largest deposits of coal in the world. It is also true that there are enormous deposits of coal at Callide. Recently in this House I raised the matter of the development of Callide coal, and asked that consideration should be given by the Government to the subsidization of coal produced in Australia rather than overseas coal. In answer to a question
I was informed by the Minister that the reason for the proposed importation of 1,000,000 tons of coal was that a gap between, consumption and production in Australia had to be bridged. We know that it will take the best part of twelve months to deliver that 1,000,000 tons of coal to Australia. When the Government was considering this importation, the two operators at Callide offered to supply 200,000 tons- of coal by the end of this year to consumers in the south. That was an offer to supply 200,000 tons of coal in the period during which 800,000 tons was being, brought from overseas, so that 1,000,000 tons would be made available for Australia within twelve months. The landed cost of Callide coal in Melbourne was £5 12s. 6d. a ton compared with £6 6s. 6d. to land South African coal, and £6 10s. to land Indian coal. The subsidy paid by the Government reduced the cost of the South African and Indian coal below that of Callide coal. Without the subsidy, the cost of Callide coal compared more than favorably with the cost of the coal imported from India and South Africa. In addition to that, as the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) said, the coal from South Africa has a heating value of 12,000 British thermal units, the Indian coal one of 11,500 and the Callide coal one of a little less. As a result of tests by the Brisbane City Council it was found that Callide coal has a heating value of 10,600 British thermal units. Tests made by the Queensland Mines Department showed 10,270 British thermal units, and tests by Gardner and Warner, of Melbourne, showed from 10,400 to 10,600 British thermal units. It will therefore be realized that Callide coal has not much less heating value than has South African or Indian coal’. However, Callide coal has a much lower ash content than Indian coal, the respective figures being
II per cent, and 23 per cent. In addition, Callide coal does not clinker. Therefore, Callide coal compares more than favorably with the coal that is to be brought to this country under subsidization by the Government.
I should’, now like to reply to one or two statements by the honorable member for Chisholm. He said that the Queensland Government did not make the offer to supply Callide coal to Victoria. Although the Labour party was charged, during the general election campaign, with wanting to socialize everything, the honorable member was told by the Premier of Queensland that he should deal directly with the owners of the Callide coal-field. The Queensland Government does not own the coal, it is owned by Wood, Parnell and Julin and by Neil. It should be remembered that the honorable member, when Minister for Transport in a Victorian government, spent some time in Queensland before a trial order was placed for 30,000 tons of Callide coal. That order was given when everybody knew that a coal strike was imminent. At that time the Queensland Premier had the responsibility of ensuring that the Queensland people should have adequate supplies of coal during the crisis. His position would have been precarious if the Queensland people had been short of coal and had known that coal was leaving Callide for Victoria. Also, he was not far from a general election.
– That is exactly what I said.
– I agree with the. honorable member, but neither was Victoria far from a general election. The position of the Queensland Premier under those circumstances would have been impossible and intolerable had he not done what he did. An honorable member said recently that the Queensland Government had submitted a bad sample of Callide coal for analysis. That was not true. The State Government has nothing to do with Callide coal. However, it is true that the engineer member of the Queensland Coal Board was present when certain tests were made of a sample of Callide coal that had been submitted by one of the companies that own the coal. Other’ supporters of the Government have said that the State Government should’ provide better transport services for the handling of Callide coal. In reply to them, I need only refer to a statement that was made by the present
Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on the 1st December, 1949, which was reported in the Brisbane Courier-Mail on the following day. According to my recollection, a federal general election campaign was in progress at that time. The present Prime Minister made the following statement to an audience at the Brisbane City Hall : -
We will nut in a decent transport syste i to replace the primitive set-up now at Callide.
That was a definite promise, but, although the Government has now been in office for seven months and the Prime Minister has told us that the coal problem has received the close consideration of Cabinet, it has not yet been honoured. In fact, the Government has done nothing to improve the arrangements for the transport of Callide coal. All its talk about developing Queensland’s coal resources has been futile. At least it could take action to improve the situation by collaborating with the Queensland Government. Negotiations between it and the State Government for the purpose of increasing the coal output of Queensland, especially from the Callide field, were initiated some time ago but, according to the newspapers, the State Government has been waiting for weeks to obtain replies to communications that it has directed to this Government. The Government has mouthed great promises, but it has not followed them with constructive action. It is subsidizing imported coal at the rate of approximately £2 a ton. In the circumstances, it should give favorable consideration at least to the claims of locally produced coal. There was no attempt to build up stock-piles of coal in Queensland, except by consumers, until the middle of January last, because reserves had been depleted as the result of the coal strike last year.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I urge the Government to give consideration to the granting of financial assistance to British immigrants who have paid for their own passages to Australia. Considerable numbers of such persons came to this country under their own steam, and many, of them dissipated most of their life’s savings in the process.
– Is the honorable member referring to British immigrants only?
– Yes. Many of them applied in the first instance to Australia House, London, but were informed that, unless they had friends or relatives in Australia to nominate them, they would have to wait for years before they could obtain assistance to migrate here, but they could make the journey fairly soon if they paid their own way. Having the necessary courage and initiative, many of them took the risk of adopting the latter course and came to Australia, not knowing whether they would be able to obtain accommodation here, but prepared to risk what little money they had in order to settle in what they considered to be a country with a bright future.
– They did not know then that a Libera] government would be in power here.
– The rate of immigration to Australia since a Liberal government came to power has steadily increased, and it is increasing very rapidly now. These immigrants, who have displayed courage and initiative, are the sort of new settlers that we want. It would be only fair if the Government reimbursed them at least to the amount of the normal subsidy after they have qualified as useful citizens by remaining here for a period of perhaps a year or eighteen months and have settled into useful occupations. I believe that a scheme has been formulated for the nomination by the Government of many prospective British immigrants so as to overcome the difficulty of obtaining private nominations. At the same time, consideration ought to be given to the merits of those who have already come to the country at their own expense. They have taken risks and undergone great changes because of their faith and confidence in Australia’s future. When they have qualified as good citizens, they will have proved that they deserve some financial assistance.
– I regret the continued necessity that impels me to speak again upon a subject that I have discussed many times in this House since I have been a member of the Parliament. From week to week and from month to month, the conditions of pensioners in Australia have been going steadily from bad to worse. The prices of commodities are rising continually, and the Government has admitted time after time that the fi is now worth only about 10s. What is happening to the pensioners as this process of inflation continues? The Government expressed its concern for their situation in the Governor-General’s Speech on the 22nd February last, but six months have passed since then, and another six months is likely to elapse before we can expect it to do anything to mitigate their hardships. I speak on behalf of all pensioners, but particularly for those who receive only £2 2s. 6d. a week. When I have raised the subject previously, supporters of the Government have asked by interjection, “ What did the Labour Government do?”. I remind them that I was not a member of this Parliament when, the previous Government was in office. In any case, I should fight for the welfare of the pensioners whatever government happened to be in power. I naturally expected that this Government would take the earliest opportunity to come to the aid of pensioners. It should do for them at least as much as has been done for other needy citizens of the world, both in Australia and in foreign countries. The Labour Government contributed £30,000,000 to the relief of distressed countries and encouraged the sending of food to the United Kingdom and European nations that were suffering from the effects of post-war shortages. Week after week, Australians send thousands of food parcels overseas and everybody approves of their actions. But the pensioners inside Australia are neglected. They are not able to augment their incomes by working overtime, as the Government suggests that employees in industry should do. The Governor-General’s speech at the opening of this Parliament contained the following passage : -
My Government realizes that the increase in the cost of living is accentuating the difficulties with which age and. widow pensioners in particular have to contend. My advisers realize, also, that the present system, under which various benefits are paid subject to a means test, gives rise to problems of which there is no easy solution. My Government, however, is closely investigating the most pressing anomalies to see what can be done to remove them. It believes, moreover, that the application of its financial and economic policy will result in improvement in the purchasing power of the currency, so that pensioners, as well as other fixed income groups, will benefit.
Conditions have gone from bad. to worse since His Excellency read that statement, and I hope that the Government, even at this late hour, will give sympathetic consideration to the plight of pensioners.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ this late hour “ ?
– It is a late hour for people who are starving because their pensions are not adequate to enable them to provide shelter for themselves and purchase the necessaries of life. The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), who not only receives his parliamentary salary but also has drawn money from other sources in the past, lives very comfortably-
– Yes, he received a gift of £25,000.
– Doubtless he placed that money in the cupboard as a nest egg.
– The honorable member should go into a mental home.
– The right honorable gentleman is in a sound financial position, but, unfortunately, the poor pensioners are not.
– What has the honorable member ever done for the pensioners?
– Order! These interjections must cease.
– The Government has been so busily engaged in protecting its friends, the private banks, and in rushing the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950 through the House, that it has not given a thought to the pensioners.
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in discussing bills that the House has passed during this session.
– Only time will show whether the Government proposes to improve the conditions of the pensioners. I believe that it should grant to those unfortunate persons before the 30th June next a subsidy or some other form of relief for the purpose of assisting them to make adequate provision for themselves during the cold winter months. The Government has already shown special consideration for other sections of the community. For example, persons who were rendered homeless when disastrous floods occurred in many parts of the Commonwealth received assistance. I assure the Government that the plight of many pensioners is just as desperate as was that of the unfortunate people who almost starved during the floods. The Government has abolished the prohibition on the sale of cream, and I expect that it will abolish butter and tea rationing in the near future, yet the removal of those restrictions will not benefit the pensioners. They will see ample supplies of butter and tea in shop windows, but they will not be able to purchase them. Does any Government supporter contend that the pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week is adequate to defray rent, and the cost of the necessaries of life?
From time to time the Chifley Government increased the rate of the pension in order to meet the higher cost of living, and the former Prime Minister (Mt. Chifley) told the people during the last general election campaign that, if the Labour party were returned to office, all pensions would be reviewed. The present Government, whilst it speaks in glowing terms of its intention, has not taken any action to improve the plight of pensioners, some of whom are reduced to semistarvation during the winter months. The cost of renting a room is probably 1 5s. a week, and as the purchase power of the £1 is constantly decreasing, a pensioner has not sufficient money to purchase the necessaries of life. I shall continually direct attention to the plight of those unfortunate persons until the Government gives sympathetic and practical consideration to it. Doubtless many honorable members opposite derive incomes from business interests and investments in addition to their parliamentary allowances, and, therefore, they have difficulty in visualizing the pitiful plight of pensioners. I understand that a pensioner is able to buy only one meal, or, at the most, two meals a day. The Pensioners Association has informed me that the cheapest meal that may be purchased at a hash-house costs 2s. 6d. How many of those meals can a pensioner afford to buy in a week after he has paid his rent ? He certainly has nothing left with which to buy tobacco, or a drink.
– The honorable member should give the pensioners free drinks in his “pub”.
– I have not a “ pub “ ; that may be news to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett).
– The honorable member is shedding crocodile tears.
– The Sydney City Council, of which I have the honour to be a member, provides £5,000 or £6,000 every Christmas for the relief of those unfortunate people, and for the purpose of ensuring that they shall not go without their Christmas dinners. What do the big monopolists, of Australia know about thecondition of the pensioners ? Government supporters are not in the least concerned about the plight of those poor people. Members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party have only one interest in mind, namely, to prevent the private banking institutions from being nationalized. I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, for referring to that subject-
– This Government is not interested in the plight of the poor, and I hope that, in the near future, it will be replaced by a Labour administration that will make adequate provision for them. “ Big business “ supported members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party and paid their expenses during the last general election campaign. That has been proved particularly during the last two months. The time will soon arrive when the people of Australia will realize that this Government is not the poor man’s friend.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
a question, and I regret that he is not in the chamber at the moment, because- he may be able to help me in a matter in which I am interested. During the general strike on the coal-fields last year, great losses were sustained by the Government of New South Wales, by many other bodies and, of course, by individuals. After the strike had ended, representations were made to the Commonwealth for the payment of compensation or, at least, a grant to cover some of those losses. Naturally, compensation could not be paid for all of them. I understand, from inquiries that I have made, that the Commonwealth gave to the Government of New South Wales a sum exceeding £3,250,000 to make up for some of the losses that it had sustained during that strike. As honorable members know, I have had an interest in electricity matters in Sydney. It was announced last week, on the auditor’s certificate, that the Sydney County Council, which controls the greater part of
Ohe distribution of electricity in the City of Sydney to more than 1,000,000 people, had sustained a loss of approximately £900,000 on its operations last year.
– Our million dollar baby.
– A charge of bad man. agement has been made from time to time, against the Sydney County Council.
– There is a good deal of substance in that contention, too.
– The honorable mem ber for Cunningham (Mr. Davies) does not know very rauch about the subject. Statements have been made in this House to the effect that the Sydney County Council is largely responsible for the increased charges for electricity. I should like the Treasurer to provide some information about the representations that were made by the Government of New South Wales to induce the Commonwealth to grant it £3,250,000 in respect of the losses that were caused by the general stoppage on the coal-fields last year. I have a suspicion that the State Government’s claim included the losses that were sustained on the generation of power. It may astonish the House to learn that the losses that were sustained directly by the Sydney County Council in providing electricity for the people during that general strike on the coal-fields amounted to approximately £750,000. In other words, £750,000 of the deficit of £900,000 on last year’s operations was directly attributable to that strike. As a result of those losses, the Sydney County
Council has been obliged to increase the price of electricity to the people. The council has repeatedly requested the State Government to pay a part of that loss, because it has received from the Commonwealth approximately £3,250,000 in respect of losses that were caused by the general strike on the coal-fields. Unfortunately, the State Government has continually refused to grant any concession to the council for the work that it did at that time. Few people in New South Wales have any idea of the magnificent job that was done by the county council at that critical stage. Its foresight has been unjustifiably criticized for party political purposes. Did it not show foresight in expending £1,000,000 in order to fit the whole of its boilers at the Bunnerong power station with auxiliary equipment to burn oil instead of coal? Did it not show foresight when it established the biggest oil tank of its kind in Australia, with a capacity f 20,000 tons, and arranged for a subterranean pipeline to convey oil from tankers in the bay? Had it not been for the county council’s foresight in those matters, the City of Sydney would have undergone one of the most tragic experiences that could possibly overtake a city. Supplies of electricity were maintained for essential industrial and commercial purposes, and domestic consumers were exposed to comparatively little hardship because the county council was able to produce electricity with its oil-burning equipment and, by that means, to maintain the City of Sydney at that critical time. In doing so, it incurred an expenditure of £750,000, and it has not received any compensation from the Government of New South Wales. I am wondering now whether it is yet too late to make an appeal to the Commonwealth for compensation, because it is definitely unfair - putting the matter on a national basis - that the users of electricity in Sydney should be obliged to pay higher charges as a result of the Communist-inspired strike on the coal-fields. Incidentally, that strike was largely aided by the weakkneed attitude of the McGirr Government.
– That is not true.
– -Undoubtedly, the Sydney County ^Council, which hass ‘been so severely criticized, ‘has been attacked on >most unfair <grounds. ‘It is !the vn’- body that :is .’capable ‘of ‘supplying :th. technical officers, or ;the technical equipment, for the schemes ‘that are now in hand. The council, together with the Railways .Department of New .-South Wales, has .’sufficient (machinery in Sydney ‘to-day to -prevent any possibility crf black-outs, ‘birt -.despite .appeals to the State ‘Government in ^relation to “.the shortage -of steel, mail .and labour, lt >bas nott been possible to install that equipment.
– The ‘Government ‘has nothing to ‘do with ‘that.
– The ‘Government nas everything ‘.to do with that.
– That is “not -so. Tie honorable ‘member knows .that such .a statement is fate.
– I point .out to the honorable member for Cunningham that the Government crf New .South Wales has direct control >ov.er .the /Railways Department. The .’county -council -.cannot install its machines because .the .Railways Department (cannot ;put in .a -50,000 .kilowatt .machine, .for .which it has ;all .the paris.
-AMIEB. - -Why blame the State Government?
-Because T think that the McGirr Government could ,h .9,up (taken titan ger measures £to .’ensure that labour should be provided for .the (purpose of installing that equipment. What I emphasize is the injustice of imposing upon consumers of electricity an Sydney the obligation <of meeting the additional costs that >were incurred solely ‘as “-a result of the coal strike. Their quarterly accounts Raw include amounts :in respect :of ‘those -coats. Those honorable members who have criticized the .-Sydney County Council -in (this matter do mot .know -the facts. I .am ,not mow telling die whole -story because there -is much moye of it that would .he -of interest to -the House. A’t this juncture., J ;am dealing specifically with .the costs that were incurred in maintaining electricity supplies in Sydney during a period of national emergency, and no individual ‘‘body, <such as ‘the
Sydney -County ‘Council, should ‘be obliged to bear the whole -of the burden -that was thus “tin-own -upon ft. However, that was done deliberately in an attempt to ‘lower its prestige and ‘in -order to -provide *the Premier of 2vew “‘South Wales with a [pretext for “fire establishment of the “socialist organization -that his ‘Government ‘now proposes to set up. T hope that the people tff Sydney Who ‘have suffered ‘sufficiently by reason of the .actions :o’f that Government will withdraw their support .from it in order to .prevent .thu proposed organization from ‘being established.
– .Order.! IT-he honorable .member?s time has expired.
– Is the honorable membar opposed to friendly societies?
– I am a member of a friendly society. I am aware that within the last few yea’rs the friendly societies have increased their dispensary fee by as much as 200 per cent., whilst, at the same time, they are not dispensing nearly so much medicine as they used to dispense. How* ever, many medicaments required by pensioners are not obtainable at dispensaries that are controlled by friendly societies. For instance, sulphanilamide tablets which cannot be obtained at such dispensaries are sold by private chemists who charge move than friendly soeietie’9 dispensaries would charge for them. The cost of medicines and medical treatment represents a considerable proportion of the present amount of pension and leaves very little to pensioners with which to purchase the ordinary necessaries of life. Therefore, T urge the Government to provide assistance immediately for this section of the community. Numerous questions have been, asked by the Opposition upon this matter, but all our inquiries have merely been referred to- the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden). Apparently, we shall not know the Government’s- intention, until the budget is’ introduced next September. Consideration of> the budget willi involve a further d.ela.y of gome months,, and in. the meantime the pensioners must continue in desperation in their efforts to make ends meet.. Of course, honorable members are ku’ more fortunate circumstances.. No strain is placed upon us in having to attend in this air-conditioned chamber. Many honorab’e members’ are inclined to become complacent and to forget,, or ignore,, the plight of less fortunate sections oi. the community. Muck haw been saia in this House in recent, weeks about adequate Goal supplies.. I have no doubt that the average’ pensioner would like very much, to be able to afford to purchase a ton of coal, but they need more urgently food,, clothing, and medicines.
I appeal to supporters of the Government to1 be a. little more humanitarian and to show more; regard for pensioners in. the plight, m which” they naui themselves.. We have been informed that the
Government does not intend to provide relief to pensioners under its Social services legislation. At the same time, it proposes to introduce a national health scheme on a contributory basis. I urge the Government to explore the possibilities of providing medicines and medical attention free to pensioners under that scheme. Indeed, I urge it tc> go further and to provide free to pensioners such comforts as tobacco. That is not too much to ask on behalf of the aged who have pioneered this young country”. Furthermore, the? present rate of pensions is not sufficient to enable recipients to attend entertainments or sporting fixture’s at week-ends. In the larger cities it is net unusual to see many age pensioner’s playing dominoes awd draughts in public parks. Surely they ave entitled to a greater measure of recreation The G6vernment contributes only a miserable pittance of- £10 tO-wards the” cost of burial of pensioners”. Invariably, undertakers accept that sum” merely as a deposit and many refuse to carry out burials until relatives- of the deceased scrape- up the balance’ of the cost,
– Order E The honorable member’s- tin&e”> has” expired.
.- In the few minute’s that remain’ tff tie time allowed foi- this deb-ate I wish to present certain facts regarding- the development of the Callide coal-field to which’ several’ honorable’ members Save referred- daring the last few days7. The matter was” raised by the- honorable member for Kennedy (Mr.- Riordan ) on the motion for the adjournment on Tuesday evening. It was obvious from his extravagant and inaccurate statements that he wa’s not concerned1 about the development of the field, but had raised the matter solely in order to- make party political capital. He attempted to lay at the d’oor of the Government the blame fo’r’ the! fact that the field- has not been properly developed. The honorable- member for Capricornia- (Mr. Pearce) immediately replied- to« him- so” effectively that the honorable- member fo’r Melbourne (.Mr. Calwell)’ was- obliged to come to the defence of his colleague. However; the honorable member for’ Melbourne displayed complete lack- of knowledge of- the facts. After” indulging in cheap personal sneers at the expense of the honorable member for Capricornia,he made the amazing charge against the Government that it had some devious plan to hand over the field to private enterprise. I point out that right from its inception the Callide coal-field has been worked by private firms, and that it has not been subject to any form of government control apart from the prohibition that the Queensland Government imposed upon the exportation of coal from that State. This morning the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) revealed the real cause of the hold-up of the development of the field. The point I make is that regardless of whether the Queensland Government has acted rightly, or wrongly, in prohibiting the export of coal from. Queensland, the fact remains that ifth at prohibition had not been imposed the Callide field would now be supplying coal to the Victorian Government at the rate of 200,000 tons a year. Therefore, the blame in this matter must be laid at the door of the Queensland Government. Difficulties have also arisen in respect of the. transport of the coal from the field to the coast.
– Order ! The time allowed for this debate under Standing Order 291 has expired.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 31st May (vide page 3505), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr.FRASER (Eden-Monaro) [2.15]. - This bill proposes to obviate deadlocks between the House of Representatives and the Senate after a double dissolution. That purpose is admittedly very important. There is certainly need for some measure of this kind. In the world to-day thereis a formidable challenge to the system of parliamentary government.We defend that system ; we believe it to be better than any other. As its champions our duty is to see that the system is workable and that it works, because the parliamentary system needs public confidence and public respect if it is to survive. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) warned us of the dangers in the recent decline of public respect for the institution of parliament. He reminded us that in many other countries people have been influenced to surrender their parliamentary institutions. That has been due, as he said, partly to the fact that the parliamertary institutions in those countries showed themselves incapable of taking courageous, prompt and unorthodox action when such action was required.
The honorable member, who is the son of one of the fathers of federation, spoke yesterday thoughfully and informatively on this subject. He warned us that we stand in danger of losing our parliamentary institutions in Australia, and that what has happened elsewhere can happen in this country. That, of course, is a powerful reason for removing defects which we discover in the working of the parliamentary machine. It is clearly a defect that a. double dissolution may perpetuate rather than resolve a deadlock between the two Houses. The purpose of a double dissolution is to end such a deadlock. The proportional representation system of the Senate demonstrably will result in a chamber containing 30 Labour members and 30 non-Labour members after a dissolution. That is unless one side or the other obtains at least 55 per cent. of the formal votes cast in at least one State. Political history shows how rarely that happens. The government of the day could have no assurance of the passage of legislation transmitted to such an evenly divided chamber by the House of Representatives, and, equally, the Opposition would lack the numbers to amend government legislation. That position is established by the provision in the Constitution that equal voting in the Senate means the defeat of the question.
When the last Parliament debated and altered the law relating to the method of Senate voting, no member of the Parliament directed attention to this consequence. The remarkable byproduct of proportional representation - that it might destroy the value of a double dissolution - waa not discussed in the Parliament. A correspondent of the Melbourne Age directed attention to the position early in January last. He was the first person I know of to do so. Shortly after the publication of his comments I gave a public address on this problem, and it was interesting to me to hear the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) devote his maiden speech to it. There can only be widespread regret that the honorable member has not been able to maintain in this House the high level and content of that opening address. Possibly the present period of chastening which he is now undergoing will have a salutary effect. “ For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth “, though how the Lord manages to love the honorable member for Mackellar may be beyond human comprehension. In one phase of his remarks on this- subject the honorable member fell from the very high note he set himself. I refer to his accusation that the previous Labour Government deliberately brought about the position with which we are now confronted for its own future political advantage. That charge has been repeated during the debate on this bill. It is easy to demonstrate its absurdity. A Labour government, equally with any other government, needs a method of breaking Senate deadlocks. The Scullin Government suffered disastrously at the hands of a hostile Senate. If the present position remains unremedied, and if a double dissolution no longer resolves a deadlock between the two Houses, a future Labour government may again suffer equally disastrously. Do not honorable members who make this charge of bad faith on the part of the .Labour Government realize that in fact they are also making a charge against the then Leader of the Opposition, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) ? The Opposition is particularly charged in the Parliament with the duty of examining carefully all legislation and of publicly exposing its defects. Do honorable members opposite, when they in ako this charge, say that the Homer from Kooyong nodded, or that he saw the defect and concealed it for his party’s political purposes? All such suggestions are unworthy and have no place in the present debate. It is agreed that a defect exists and it should be remedied in the interests of the smooth working of the parliamentary system. But surely no one claims that the bill deals with the only defect, or that the method proposed in this bill is the only way to overcome it.
– I am grateful to the honorable member for his interjection. Surely, since it is necessary to employ all the complicated and expensive machinery of constitutional change, there should first be most careful consideration before deciding what proposed change should be submitted to the people. And surely, since experience shows the practical impossibility of obtaining the consent of the people to an alteration of the Constitution which is opposed by a major political party, every effort should first be made to obtain agreement between the parties on the nature of the change to be submitted to the people. Let me deal first with the latter aspect - that every effort should first be made to obtain agreement between the parties. That should not be impossible because this is a matter which equally affects the interests of all political parties. All of them are equally interested in the working of the democratic system. The holding of a constitutional referendum is arduous and expensive. A widespread campaign is necessary to bring the matters surrounding the proposal to the attention of the voters. The voters are required to give the proposal careful and detailed study. The cost of holding a referendum might well be approximately £200,000. Yet experience shows that referendum proposals are almost certain to be defeated unless both sides in politics agree on the terms of the change to be proposed and. join in recommending it to the electors of this country. What effort has been made on this occasion to obtain agreement between the parties on the terms of this proposed change? No effort has been made at all. On the contrary, the Government and its publicists, even prior to the presentation of the bill to the House, created an advance atmosphere calculated to diminish the prospects of obtaining agreement on the proposal and, indeed, to arouse active hostility to it. What other meaning can be attributed to the advance heralding of this bill as “ A secret weapon to dish the Labour party “, and “ A bombshell to burst in the Labour caucus during the consideration of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill”? A number of such references were made before the measure was presented to the Parliament and before honorable members on this side of the House had any knowledge of what it contained.
– By whom?
– It is useless to say that those statements were not ministerially inspired.
Government members interjecting,
– I happen to know that they were directly inspired by Ministers. They were openly so inspired. No secret was made of the source of their inspiration. As a matter of fact, they were gloried in, no matter how foolish they sound now and. how much they may be regretted by those who inspired them.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) has no authority for saying that the statements to which he has referred were inspired by anybody.
– I did not notice the statement to which the honorable member has taken exception.
– I said, Mr. Speaker, that before this bill was presented to the Parliament statements were made that it was a “A secret weapon to dish the Labour party “, and “ A bombshell to burst in the Labour caucus during the consideration of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill “. I characterized those statements as having been ministerially inspired.
– No honorable member opposite can possibly know whether or not they were ministerially inspired. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has no authority for making such an assertion.
– I cannot see any statement in the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro that should be withdrawn. He is entitled to express his opinions. Honorable members opposite are capable of expressing their own opinions in reply.
– I repeat that the statements were openly inspired by Ministers. They were gloried in, no matter how foolish they sound now and how much they might since be regretted.
The moving finger writes, and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line
Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.
Nevertheless, I suggest that it is not too lute for the Government to repair the mistake that it made on that occasion. I do not think that that mistake was anything more than a mistake of political tactics. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) has, I understand, been recently promoted from the position of assistant witch hunter on the Government side to that of deputy chairman on the applause committee. I do not think, however, that even that honorable member would care to assert that his beloved leader is a master of political strategy or of human relations. The Government still has the obligation to endeavour to obtain agreement between the parties on the proposal that is to be submitted to the people.
The other prerequisite for a constitutional change, with which I suggest that members of this House would generally be in agreement, is that before the proposal is submitted to the electorate there should be most careful consideration of its nature. The widest possible field of public discussion and thought should first be invited. That has been done in respect of other proposals for constitutional changes in former times, as was convincingly stated by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) yesterday. For reasons which it is very difficult indeed to fathom, that course has not been followed in this instance. The course pursued has been the exact reverse. Far from this constitutional measure being first thrown open for the widest possible discussion and for the assistance of the most expert minds on constitutional change, it was kept a complete secret from the Parliament until the very day of its introduction in the form of this measure. I do not know to what extent honorable members on the Government side were taken into consultation about the details of the proposal before the bill was presented to the House, but I do know that not the slightest opportunity was given for a general discussion of the nature of the measure, such as the Government should, have permitted and initiated long before the bill itself was presented.
The second extraordinary feature in the bill is that so far from it being the product of the best minds in the community capable of dealing with a question’ of constitutional reform, it is wholly the fruit of the mind of one man only. That man is himself not an elected representative of the people and is- not entitled to speak for anybody except himself. I have no doubt that he is a very worthy gentleman. An honorable member asks what evidence I have that the bill is the idea of only one man. On the day on which this bill was finally presented to the House the gentleman in question gave a press interview in Melbourne, in which he stated that the bill was, bolus bolus, his work, and that he was astonished to find that he had received no tribute or acknowledgment from the Government for that work. He later received a telegram from the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), the contents of which were also published. The Minister telegraphed him in these terms, “ You should be a proud man to-day on the presentation of this measure to the Parliament”. So be should be a proud man, when a bill that is solely the product of his mind is to be adopted by the whole of this Parliament as the very best proposal for the reform of the Senate that the combined wisdom of the Parliament can submit to the people of Australia. I suggest that the Government itself should not be proud of having adopted and presented to the Parliament a proposal for constitutional reform that is the product of the mind of one man only.
It is clear from the structure of the bill that the proposed change has not been well considered. Nobody will deny that some change along the lines suggested is desirable, but I consider that nobody would caTe to assert that this is the best form of change that could be evolved.
No opportunity has been given for consideration and consultation regarding the proposal. The honorable member for Fremantle yesterday very clearly pointed to a number of weaknesses in this measure. The proposed change, if adopted by the people, would provide a means to enable the Government to face a double dissolution without throwing away the advantage of a majority in the Senate, which it would otherwise possess after the general election in 1952 unless the Labour part carried every one of the six States at that general election. It is a legitimate charge against the bona fides of the Government in this matter that it has so framed this legislation as to endeavour to preserve for itself the advantage of an almost certain majority.
Secondly, the reform proposed does not touch the vital question of Senate by-elections, which was dealt with veT adequately by the honorable member for Fremantle yesterday. The Government has produced no answer at all to the Opposition’s charge that the reason why it is not dealing with the vital question of Senate by-elections is that the present method enables it to control the election of a senator at a by-election in four States out of the six. The Government should face up to that position if it desires the support of this side of the House for this constitutional reform, and should be prepared to advance a reasonable proposal to the people.
Thirdly, the bill has another very serious weakness in that it prevents the reasonable enlargement of the House of Representatives in accordance with the growth of population. The Constitution provides that the House of Representatives shall have roughly twice as many members as the Senate has. Under the proposal contained in the bill the minimum Senate enlargement would be four senators for each State, or from ten senators to fourteen senators for each State, which would give a minimum total enlargement of 24 senators. If this bill became law the consequent minimum enlargement of the House of Representatives would have to allow for 48 new members. The growth of population may require an enlargement of this House by ten, twenty or 30 members, but this bill would prevent such an enlargement from being made and would, in fact, prevent the enlargement of the House until the population of the country had increased sufficiently to justify the enlargement of the House by 48 or 50 members. The bill will also weaken the influence of the electors and increase the power of political party organizers, as was pointed out yesterday by the honorable member for Fremantle. It will take away the present right of the electors to decide which senators shall be elected for a long term and which for a short term. That is a proper democratic right of the electors and this bill is weak in that it removes the rights of the electors in that respect. That matter is also worthy of consideration, if the Government desires to present to the people a proposal that will have the support of al) major parties in the Parliament. Such support would give to the proposal a reasonable chance of being accepted by the people.
Another serious weakness in the bill is that it proposes a permanent alteration of the Constitution to deal with a situation that has been caused by temporary legislation. The proportional representation voting system for the Senate is admittedly an experiment that was made by an act of Parliament and that can be altered by another act of Parliament. However, once the proposed change has been made in the Constitution it may become permanent and may be a source of injury to the working of the parliamentary sys tem. The Government has allowed no consideration of practical alternatives, of which there are many, that should bv” reasonably discussed and considered. No one would be dogmatic enough to assert that this is the only way to remedy the situation. Are there not a number of simple ways in which the present difficulty in connexion with deadlocks between the Senate and the House of Representatives could be resolved? For example, would it not be possible to consider altering the Constitution to provide that when the Senate is evenly divided upon a bill that it has received from the House of Representatives, the bill should be considered to have been passed by the Senate instead of, as now, considered to have been rejected. That sug-
J/r. Fraser. gestion seems to me to be reasonable. That would be a far simpler means of dealing with the problem than is the present proposal. It would mean only a minor change in the constitutional provision that where voting is equal the question should be resolved in the negative. That provision could be changed so that where voting was equal the question would be resolved in the affirmative. I do not wish to discuss at this stage whether or not the Senate should be allowed to exist at all. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) stated yesterday that the people would not vote in favour of abolishing the Senate. I consider that his assessment of that matter is very probably correct. It is most unlikely that the people of the smaller States would vote in favour of the abolition of the Senate. Having some intimate knowledge of the conditions in some of the smaller States I would not blame the people of those States for being highly suspicious of a parliamentary system in which their fate would be entirely dominated by the wishes of the two largest States, New South Wales and Victoria. I am quite sure that if the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) had his rights in this House-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I withdraw and apologize for that statement.
-I call the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson).
– I have withdrawn and apologized for my statement, Mr. Speaker.
– The honorable gentleman knew perfectly well that he was having something to say about n debate that took place in the House yesterday and was casting a reflection upon the Chair.
– My statement was a momentary slip, and I immediately withdrew it and apologized for making it.
– I did not hear the honorable gentleman do so.
– I did so immediately I made the slip, and T therefore ask permission to continue my remarks.
– I Lave called the honorable member for Sturt, but if that honorable gentleman is agreeable the honorable member for Eden-Monaro may continue his remarks, but I want all honorable gentlemen of the Opposition generally to understand that I shall not tolerate that kind of treatment.
– I repeat that my remark was made on a momentary impulse and that I immediately withdrew it and apologized for having made it. I do not desire to be threatened. I conclude my remarks by saying that the Government’s proposal is a matter which should properly be referred to a select committee of the Parliament, and should be dealt with only after full public discussion and by the assembled wisdom of the Parliament, in an endeavour to obtain united support- for whatever proposal may be submitted to the people. There is no great urgency about this proposed change. When is it to operate? Is it intended that the referendum should be held prior to a double dissolution of the Parliament? If so, it is perfectly clear that the double dissolution which may be necessary to solve the difficulties now existing, cannot take place for very many months, if a referendum is first to be held. On the other hand if this proposal is to be submitted to the people by referendum, concurrently with the holding of a general election following a double dissolution, which may occur early next year, then when will the principle, if established, usefully operate? History shows that double dissolutions are rare and that, on the law of averages it would be another 30 years before such a provision would be likely to operate. In all the circumstances there is plenty of time to make an effective change in connexion with this matter. Some change is necessary and it is essential that such a change should be agreed upon by the major parties if it is to have a reasonable chance of success. I urge upon the Government the wisdom of referring the bill to a select committee of the Parliament.
.- The object of this bill is to enable the country to be governed according to the provision of the Constitution and to remove the deadlock which has arisen as the result of the legislation that was passed by the Labour Government last year. This question arose prior to the achievement of federation. Those great men who framed our Constitution realized that if we were to have an Australian Constitution which would work there must be some means of resolving deadlocks. There must be some means of enabling the will of the people to prevail. So, for weeks men drawn from every part of Australia devised ways and means of preventing a deadlock between the two Houses of the Parliament. Eventually’ they arrived at a means of doing that which was incorporated in the Constitution and which worked satisfactorily until last year when the Labour party caused to be passed an alteration of the electoral bill which for all practical purposes has the effect of blocking the safety valve of the Constitution, and of destroying the very provision which enabled the Constitution to work. It destroyed the means of resolving deadlocks and it will enable the Senate to flout the will of the people. It is interesting to review the debates which took place in 1897 and 1898 which dealt with this very problem and to realize that this is not something that is merely incidental to the Constitution. It is something upon which the whole existence of the Constitution is based. The Honorable J. H. Carruthers, at page 543 of the Official Record of the Debates of the Australasian Federal Convention is reported as having said -
It would be a terrible state of affairs in future if we provided a Constitution so rigid that unconstitutional means would have to be adopted by the people to give expression to their wishes.
At page 544 of this record the same gentleman is reported as having said -
I fear, there will be a conservative opposition . to any proposal for providing against deadlock.
To-day, the conservative party - the Labour party - is resisting this bill which is designed to enable the people’s will to prevail. In other words, the Labour party which has. truly assumed the role of the tory and conservative parties is trying to block the will of the people.
– We want to improve the measure.
– The Labour party has been a conservative party for a long time and that is why the Liberals are opposed to it. Dr., later Sir John, Quick, who is well-known for his famous work on the Constitution, is reported at page 551, from which I am quoting, as having said concerning the official record, the conditions upon which federation was brought about -
There are three great conditions upon which 1 have been for some time past advocating federation, and upon which I have been prepared to advocate it here and support it in the country. The first condition is that the parliament of this federation should be elected upon a popular basis, and I should not be willing to accept any federal legislature which was not created upon the vote of the people. The second condition is that the senate of this federal parliament should not have the power of amending money bills, and the third is that there should be provision in this constitution for the settlement of disputes and deadlocks between the two houses.
Honorable members will see that deadlocks were a vital question when federation was being discussed. Unless the framers of the Constitution had been able to devise ways and means of removing deadlocks there would have been no federation. Sir Frederick Holder likened the Constitution to the creation of a machine by an engineer. At page 559 of the official record he said -
He would be mad, indeed, who spent much time in designing an engine, who left out of his consideration a safety valve which would provide for that machine doing its work and continuing to exist once it was made.
Every one of the speeches of the framers of the Constitution on this matter indicated, agreement that no Constitution would work unless there were some way of resolving a deadlock between the two Houses. The only alternative way for the people to implement their wishes would be an overthrow of the Constitution by unconstitutional means. The opposition of the Labour party to this bill is really an advocacy of the overthrowing of the Constitution by force. As it has become apparent that there is no other way of solving the problem, honorable members on this side of the House believe that the Constitution must be amended to enable deadlocks to be resolved.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Eraser) admits the weakness in the Constitution. He clearly and frankly admitted that the Constitution is defective. If the Constitution is defective it is not only the right, but also the duty, of this Parliament to remedy the defect and it should not delay that action until the damage has been done. That is why this bill has been introduced.
– The procedure set out in the bill is> not the only method of remedying the defect.
– The honorable member says that it is not the only remedy. If he has a better remedy this is the place where it should be explained. Let him come forward with an amendment. The object of this measure is to remedy the obvious defects that now exist in the Constitution. The only opposition which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro raised was that the Government’s proposal was not the only remedy. He did not state what his remedy was. However, this bill does provide a remedy. It is a means of resolving the deadlock and it has been put forward for consideration in order that honorable members may either oppose it or bring forward an alternative and convince the House that they have a better remedy for achieving the same purpose. The honorable member says that this is not the only defect in the Constitution. He is not prepared to support the bill which will have the effect of remedying the obvious defect because, he says, there may be other defects. I say that this bill is designed to solve the real problem. Let us meet that problem quickly and in a practical way. The honorable gentleman says that a referendum should not be held because it would be expensive. I say that the rights of the people are more important than anything else. At the present time the people have been deprived of the right to self government for the reason that a deadlock makes their will entirely invalid, not only for one year, but also in perpetuity. The honorable gentleman also said that there has not been any effort to achieve agreement. The proper place to introduce legislation is in this House and not at some caucus or Australian Council of
Trades Unions meeting. The Government has introduced this legislation in this House where the representatives of the people are present and it asks them to agree to this bill or, if they have any suggestions or amendments to make, to bring them forward. Honorable members on this side of the House would like to hear them because they want to solve this problem and would like to have the co-operation of the Labour party in doing so.
The honorable member made a most extraordinary statement to the effect that this bill was kept secret. Suggestions have been made that members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties did not know anything about it. That statement is absolutely false and I suggest that it was made recklessly by the honorable member and without any belief in its truth. I knew all about this bill before it was introduced and. as far as I know, every other member of the Liberal and Australian Country parties knew all about it. Now the Government has introduced it and is informing the Labour party members all about it and inviting their support and. co-operation. Unfortunately, honorable members of the Opposition cannot understand the difference between their principles and those of the Government parties. Our principle is that the House of Parliament is the proper place in which to introduce and discuss legislation. Honorable members of the Opposition seem to think that legislation should be introduced at an Australian Council of Trades Union or a caucus meeting and that once those bodies have made their decision members of Parliament should simply be rubber stamps for the purpose of endorsing it. Liberal party members have rights and responsibilities and they consider that this is the place to discuss bills. It is utter nonsense to suggest that this is a secret weapon or an atomic bomb. The only factor that has annoyed some people is that Liberal party members, when told things, do not blab them about the lobbies of the Houses of Parliament. Members of the Government parties, when they are given information, act on it in the proper place, which is this House, and if members of the Labour party were annoyed because they did not know about this measure earlier, it is very nice to know that there are some people who are able to keep a confidence.
The honorable member also complained that this bill was a product of one man’s mind. I suggest that everything is originally the product of one man’s mind, but the Government parties are not too proud to take advice and assistance from any humble citizen of this country, and if it was a humble citizen of Victoria, as some honorable members opposite have suggested, who put forward this scheme for resolving a deadlock, I congratulate him because it is a mighty fine scheme for the curing of the serious defect which the honorable member says is in the Constitution at the present time.
– Was it a scheme’ or a dream ?
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro shows a much more intelligent approach to this problem than does the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin). The honorable member for Eden-Monaro admitted that this was one means of resolving a deadlock. His objection was that it was not the only means of doing so and did not go far enough. I think that other honorable members should attempt to make intelligent observations on this matter, which is vital to our constitutional system, instead of trying to be clowns. If this question had not been resolved when the Federal Convention met there would not have been an Australian Constitution to-day. Unless we do resolve the difficulty there will not be an Australian Constitution in the near future because sooner or later one of the Houses of Parliament will start to flout the will of the people and then continue to do so. If that occurs there will be no way of resolving the deadlock. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) spoke at great length about proportional representation. He claimed the credit of being the person who introduced it into this House and of eventually piloting it through to the statute-book. If proportional representation is to work properly, this amendment must be made. It is the system of proportional representation which has created the deadlock, and if it is to continue as the form of voting for the election of senators, then it must be made effective. It is perfectly obvious at the present time that so far as a double dissolution is concerned, voting by the existing system of proportional representation for the Senate can only create a deadlock and thereby destroy the spirit of the Constitution. I suggest that if the advocates of proportional representation really want the system to be given a fair trial they should be prepared to assist in making it work. We are trying to make it work by this 1.leisure. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) asked why the framers of the Constitution provided that half the senators should retire at intervals of three years?” He then went on to suggest that the framers of the Constitution almost deliberately sought to create a deadlock. The idea of those who drafted the Constitution was that one of the functions of the Senate is to prevent hasty legislation. Therefore, they thought it a good thing that only half the senators should retire each three years. Under that system of retirement hasty legislation would be avoided because opinions would be put forward that had been considered over a reasonable period of time. However, the framers of the Constitution did not leave the Senate with the power to permanently block legislation; they provided a safety valve. That safety valve was provision for a double dissolution under which the people themselves could remedy the evil by turning out the obstructing senators. We must restore the position to what it was at the time of federation, because we still want to prevent hasty legislation. We want mature consideration of matters before the Senate, but at the same time we must have a safety valve so, that if either House becomes obstructive the matter may be put to the people and the views of the people will then prevail. I commend this bill to the House and I shall personally welcome any suggestion that might improve it. However, it seems to me that this is a very simple amendment; it is one which merely allows the electors to decide themselves which senators shall hold office for three years and which shall hold office for six years. The effect of that alteration would be that there would never be equal numbers in the Senate except under the most improbable circumstances.
– It could occur.
– I suppose it could happen whatever safeguards are provided. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has already pointed out to the House, after this bill is passed it will be most improbable that the Senate, at any time, will be composed of an equal number of representatives from the two opposing political groups. Whereas at present, under the system of proportional representation and with the Senate composed as it is to-day, it is almost a certainty that after a double dissolution a deadlock will occur. This bill will enable the system to work. It will provide a safety valve and ensure that the will of the people will eventually prevail. It is most extraordinary to hear Labour and socialist, members trying to prevent the wishes of the people from being put into effect. I know that they did it during the last three years of office of the Chifley Government-
– The honorable member said a while ago that we on this side of the House were conservative.
– Unfortunately, the members of the socialist party have become not only conservative but ultra-tory. They have refused’ to allow any change to suit the people, even a change to make the Constitution work. The Liberal party is a progressive and dynamic party. It wants to create a constitution which will work, and it wants the will of the people to prevail. That is why we put forward this bill. It is a means of resolving a deadlock between the two Houses, and therefore is a means of allowing the people to decide whether legislation is suitable or not.
.- The contribution of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) to this. debate relative to deadlocks with the Senate is most interesting inasmuch as he pleaded for the removal of the possibility of such deadlocks and gave various reasons why this measure should be accepted. He said that it will create harmony between the two Houses of the Parliament. He also said that honorable members on this side of the House are conservative and must be won over by the fierce radicalism of the Government to do something so desperate and revolutionary that it will quicken the pulse of the people of this nation. He believes that this legislation is necessary to ensure sane and well-ordered government. I agree that there is a considerable problem relative to the Senate, but I remind the honorable member for Sturt that his fears and protestations are about twenty years too late. In 1930, the will of the government was frustrated by the Senate in regard to legislation that affected the lives and happiness of the whole of the people of this nation. At that time, no anti-Labour voice was heard advocating liberalism and progressive thought because the anti-Labour parties gloried in the political opportunities given to them by the Constitution. They gloried in the opportunity to frustrate the will of the Labour Government led by Mr. Scullin. Pleas for mrecy from that Government were unheeded. The plea dealt with was no ordinary matter of government. It related to legislation designed to deal with the most desperate crisis that had ever occurred within living memory in Australia, and, in fact, in the world - the depression. The honorable member has spoken about virtue and trust and the necessity to approach thi? matter with a liberal mind. History has proved, particularly the history of events in 1930-31, that the party he represents did not think so at that time. I. also include the members of the Australian Country party in that remark. They snuggle up to the Liberal party and are known as the “kiss, kiss, kiss in the corner “ group. Their attitude was the same as that of the Nationalist party during 1930-31. If the conservatives on the Government side of the House see anything wrong in this Constitution. I point out to them that their remedy is worse than the disease. The honorable member for Sturt made a good contribution to the debate in other parts of his speech, inasmuch as he analysed the difficulties facing the Government to-day. However, I must contest one of the points relied upon by the Government parties. That is the idolatry of the Constitution. History will show that there were very few towering figures among the so-called fathers of federation. Beyond a few State righters sanctified by miswritten history they were “ poor boys “. Only half a dozen men stood against the vested interests of the States. Those vested interests are sometimes represented in this House, where they try to frustrate an alteration of the Constitution which will give us true federation instead of a conglomeration of people sitting here pretending that they constitute a federal parliament. Actually the Constitution strips them, of all power.
I do not idolize the fathers of federation, because in the desire to retain the sovereign rights of the State they drew up a ramshackle Constitution which provided for a ramshackle Senate. As the years have gone by it has been proved that this Senate suffers from all the troubles that ever beset a Senate. During mv first six years’ membership of this House, the Senate was treated as a calm retreat for aged gentlemen who no longer worried about the hard facts of life. After the recent general election it became a roaring, raving lion, which chewed up legislation and spat it out to the great consternation and indignation of the Government. It was only then that the Government developed a conscience. If Government senators had been in sufficient numbers to pass the Government’s legislation we should not have heard anything about the necessity for democratic government. The curious thing about this attempt to bring democratic government to Australia is the completely involved algebraic equation put forward as a means of solving the problem. While arithmetic is necessary, this involved equation may ultimately give the same result as a much simpler calculation.
The Commonwealth Constitution is full of faults. We agree that it is not democratically good to have deadlocks, and we have searched as assiduously as the Government for solutions. Any solutions we proposed were rejected and tossed back in our faces. The human problem is to make the Senate work smoothly.
The first point is the election of so many in and so many out. Then there is the fifty-fifty basis which, if this legislation is passed, would solve the problem for only one parliament. Have honorable members considered that? This proposal looks good on paper. It was rushed here, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) said, with all the glee of some one finding somebody else who had had a brainwave. I pay tribute to the disinterestedness of the gentleman from Melbourne who attempted to find a formula. His arguments were well intentioned; but the only way to deal with this matter is to put it to a select committee so that the brains of both Houses could be employed upon it.
The Government has complained of criticism, but honorable members on this side of the House complain of the Government’s precipitate action. This measure was submitted as a plan to end all deadlocks, but it appears to be only a bright technicolour dream. In the morning, when wa wake up, the dark problem remains. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) last night gave a reasoned speech on the matter supported by statistics. The most ponderous statistics are talked about in this matter quite needlessly. A human problem exists in relation to the Senate which cannot be solved by mathematics. This bill will make confusion even worse confounded so far as the people are concerned. After all, the people are our masters and we should bo able to provide for them something more simple than the present insare complication of Senate voting. The fact that there were 505,000 informal Senate ballots at the last general election indicates that there is something wrong. Apparently, 500,000 voters found the difficulty of sorting out 20, 30 or even 40 names spread across one ballot paper was too great for them to resolve and, in desperation, voted merely for the sake of avoiding fines instead of for the sake of choosing the legislators to represent them in the Senate. Anybody who has been a booth worker at an election - and who in this House has not? - knows how difficult it is for some people to vote according to the silly democratic process that we have at present. Yet, the Government proposes to pile complication upon complication! The human factor cannot be ignored. In any case, I maintain that very little can be done to eliminate the perplexity that is caused by the multiplicity of candidates under the democratic system. How can we ease the mental confusion of a voter who is confronted with a ballot-paper almost as long as his arm? The Government’s answer to the question apparently is to present each voter with two ballot-papers, or one that must be marked on both sides, in order that some candidates may be elected for six years and others for three years. The honorable member for Sturt, had the temerity to say that that would help the electors! “Whatever may have been said in the past about the Senate being the House of the States, to-day it is very much the House of the government of the day, unless there happens to be an Opposition majority in the upper chamber as thereis now. With the close organization and the marshalled propaganda of electoral contests, the nominees of the strongparties win the Senate ballots, usually according to their positions on the ballotpapers. The proposal for the ballotpapers to be so arranged that the electors will choose some candidates for a term of six years and others for a term of three years after a double dissolution will not simplify the system. The idea is absurd. The method of electing the Senate is already so complicated that 500,000 people have been disfranchised as the result of informalities in their ballots. What will the ordinary citizen think of the algebraic symbols in the bill ? They will confuse him still further. In addition, he will be expected to deal with two ballot-papers, or one ballot-paper divided into two sections. The Government’s intentions on that point are not clear. If John Smith or Bill Jones is told that the bill provides that the number of senators for each State must be divisible by two without remainder, but not divisible by four without remainder, he will imagine that, by some freak of chance, he has arrived at a radio quiz where contestants are told, “ Take away the number you first thought of and you may win a book “. We want: clarification and simplification. If the Government is genuinely sincere, it will allow the bill to be referred to a select committee. I pay tribute to the young
Despite the tacticaladvantage that theLabour party enjoys in the Senate at present, we, as conservative democrats, wouldlike to see the democratic system working effectivelyinstead of in the way that it hasoperated in Australia since federation. Thebill will frustratethe Senate voter. Somehonorablemembers who havemade aclosestudy ofthe arithmetical problems that areinvolved havetold usthat the measure can be effective as a means of resolving aSenate deadlockonly for oneParliament. Underthe system of proportionalrepre- sentation,the tendencyis to use theby- productof every vote. The elector votes for the man of his first choice andthen deployshispreferences. That process may react against him, as many members ofthis House must be aware from their own experiences. Many men of good intent have been gravely concerned for years about the difficulties of Senate vot- ing; but so far they have failed to, devise awhollysatisfactory means of disposing of thosedifficulties. In the present cir- circumstances the simplest, sanest and most appropriatecourse of action wouldbe to refer the bill to a select committee of investigators. I should not limit the membership of thatcommittee toparlia- mentarians. The. Government shouldcall upon every mathematical genius, every man whose braincan grasp theconvolu- tions of Senatevoting andeveryelectoral officerwhohas studied the matter for years. It shouldco- opt theservicesofall such persons and endeavour, once and for all, to slay the dragon of Senate deadlocks. I have been amazed by the sophistryof Government supporters. The honorable member forSturt, as usual, madean orderly contributiontothe debate buthe challenged the sincerity of members of the Opposition. The honorable member forNew England (MrDrummond) took agreatdealofunction to,himself because thelegislative Council of New SouthWaleshadfrustrated democracy, in that State for fifteen years. Since 1941, the mother State of the Common wealthhas been under Labour rule,
TheoldideaoftheSenateasachamber ofreviewhasgone.Itisnowafiercely andpoliticallypartisanassembly.Itis ofnousetodroolaboutwhatmighthave been.Wemustdealwiththehardreality. ThehonorablememberforNewEngland wasonlybowingdownbeforethefutilities ofupperhouses;whichnegatedemocracy whenhegloriedinthehistoryofsuch institutions.Thegovernmentshouldnot lookblindlyaheadwiththisproposal. Whilstacknowledging,thatsomeaction mustbetakeninordertoresolvetheproblemsthatariseintheSenatefromtimeto time,itoughttoacceptthesuggestion ofthehonorablemember for Melbourne andappointacommitteeofinvestigation. As an intelligent parliamentarian, that honorable member issued a sober warning ontheindicationsofthepast,thatthe Governmentwillnotbeabletocarryits planatareferendumnomatterhow earnestly itmayplead. The people have a”No” complex in relation to referendums, which members of the present Government parties helped to create. They will find that the people will throw their old slogan back in their teeth. The Opposition wants to reform the system of electing the Senate by means of a proper constitutional amendment. It does not want the reform to be merely a temporary expedient to overcomewhat I consider to be a very happy situation in the present Senate, though, taking the wide national view, perhaps that situation is most unfortunate.
Anomalies, in the Senateelectoral system cannot be removed satisfactorily by meansofahurriedlegislative enactment. Therebeaproperinquirybya selectcommittee, and all partiesinthe Parliamentmustbeinagreementsothat theycanlaunchacombinedpropaganda campaigntoconvincetheelectorsthat reformis essential. Having reached agreementuptothatpoint,weshould furtherstrivetomaketheSenate a body worthyofthenamethatitbears.When theearlyplansforafederationwerebeing considered,allsortsofproposalswere iinvestigated.Mostoftheideaswere takenfromtheUnitedStatesCongress, but the planners stopped short when they were dealing with the Senate scheme. They seemed to be reluctant to give it anything to do during the placid periods that it was to enjoy for many years. The American Senate is a great power in the world. The members of its foreign affairs committee are policy-makers for peace. American Senate committees have dealt with great problems of national development, tariffs, and international humanitarian work and they have served that country magnificently. The Americans indeed have elevated their chamber of review to the dignity of one of the greatest institutions for peace and good government in the world. We should emulate them. Some subjects should be lifted out of the hurly-burly of politics in this chamber and referred to the Senate for the framing of policies. I refer to such matters as immigration, repatriation, and even the White Australia policy, which subjects should not be trumpeted about or trampled upon in this place as they are of importance to every Australian citizen, whatever his political opinions may be. The Government’s .proposition smacks of politics. If it wants to change the Senate election system and establish a stable form of government that will operate smoothly in both Houses of the legislature, it must hasten slowly. Certain features of the bill worry me considerably. One of these is the proposition that, after a double dissolution, candidates for the Senate shall be divided into two sets, one eligible for election for six years and the other eligible for election for three years. I should like the Government to announce what form the ballotpapers will take because I envisage dreadful confusion if the plan is ever put into effect.
I do not think that the bill will solve the problems that we want to solve. I do not believe that any equation of numbers or formulas can provide a satisfactory solution. We must work out the necessary reforms carefully and without haste. The existing system has been evolved slowly over the years since federation. The “first past the post” system in elections was rejected in favour of preferential voting, which, in turn, has been rejected in favour of proportional representation. History shows that democratic processes are evolved by trial and error as the result of diligent and careful study. The Government is acting too quickly, and therefore the bill bears the taint of politics when it should carry the high sign of statesmanship. It will not achieve what the Government claims that it will achieve, except perhaps by temporarily resolving the Government’s immediate difficulties in the Senate. It will not solve the problem of deadlocks in the Senate in the long run because proportional representation is inexorably effecting a levelling-off process. The basic idea of proportional representation is to use each vote in such a way as to ensure that its value steadily increases until the final result of the election has been made clear. I am not a great believer in the system, but, since .it is the system that we have,T consider that we must try to make it work effectively. The most urgent need is for a system that will enable the electors to exercise their Senate votes intelligently. Under the existing method, half a million voters have been disfranchised because they were unable to indicate correctly their order of preference for a multiplicity of candidates. The method of balloting in order to decide .the position of candidates’ names on the ballot-papers is absurd. The man who is lucky enough te have his name placed in the first position in the group to which he belongs considers that good chance to be worth an extra total of 100,000 or more votes in the aggregate. Such features of the system are objectionable, but they should not be altered hastily. The subject requires careful research by some important, conscientious and well-appointed committee. That is why I advocate the appointment of a select committee. The people are not being accorded true democratic justice under the present Senate election system.
If the Government is reasonable enough to acknowledge the necessity for further discussions on this subject, I hope that it will also realize the importance of rebuilding the Senate with a view to the improvement of its performance as a unit of the legislature. There is a division of opinion within the Opposition concerning the Senate. Some of us consider that it should be abolished and others consider that it should be strengthened. Supporters of the Government have said that the Labour party once advocated the abolition of the Senate. That is true, but we now cherish the institution. Labour’s hatred of the Senate arose from the fact that it was a massed House of privilege in the past. It should be made into a truly democratic institution that will operate successfully as a means of implementing the will of the people. Times and conditions change, and governments come and go. That is the trend of democracy. It would not be a democracy if it were otherwise, and we can have no real regrets about that system. However, 1 suggest that if we are to review the Senate system of election in particular, we should reject this bill in its entirety, iii.icl.ask the Government to provide a more concrete and stable proposal, even as a holding measure. Let us throw a wider ri.ot, and ascertain whether we can obtain assistance from other people in our perplexity in order to make our democracy work smoothly. Let us make the Senate a more democratic institution, with an international tie-up with the other democracies of the world through committees which have been given wide terms of reference. It is a disgrace to this Parliament that the committee system has been almost completely abandoned. For various reasons, governments have decided not to appoint joint parliamentary committees, committees of the House, or even ministerial committees to assist them. Committees of such kinds which functioned in the past, were useful and democratic. If they have not worked satisfactorily in the flux and hatreds of political contests in this House, the remedy may be to allow an impartial Senate to appoint committees to undertake valuable inquiries. Those are my conclusions on this matter.
The bill has merit only up to the point that it recognizes that the time has arrived for the system of electing the Senate to be reviewed. I find that the bill is really a formula, like the formula for the manufacture of the atomic bomb, which goes into astronomical figures of arithmetic, and algebraic symbols. If it is a political atomic bomb, comparatively little heavy water is included in its composition. If it is the political secret weapon of the future, it requires the addition of a considerable quantity of plutonium. I have honestly expressed my opinion about the dangers of the bill as a weak political instrument for the solution of a problem that should be considered on a national basis. I again plead for the bill to be submitted to a select committee, which will have power to co-opt the best brains of the nation for advice on parliamentary electoral systems. We are in despair about the Senate, not only at present, but also for the future. Let us evolve a formula for the election of that chamber so that democracy may still exist and function in this Parliament.
– I rise to support the bill, which is a brief and clear legislative proposal to give effect to the Government’s plan for the avoidance of double dissolution deadlocks in the Senate. The House should congratulate the Government on meeting its responsibility in that respect so early in the life of this Parliament. Honorable members are well aware of the situation that has resulted from the introduction of the new system of electing senators, and the Government has placed the present proposal prominently on its list of responsibilities so that, at the earliest possible moment, the existing irregularity may be corrected. World conditions are becoming seriously unsettled, and Australia will be increasingly affected by them. This country requires stable government more urgently now than possibly ever before, and will continue to do so for the next few years in particular. The people have granted to the present Government a clear mandate, which was most decisive in the overall voting, to give effect to its pre-election promises, but stability of government cannot be maintained while the Senate is so hostile to the present Administration.
I invite honorable members to reflect upon the problems of the constitutional needs of this country since federation. Australia is approaching the end of th, first half century of its existence as a federation, and during that period of 50 years, various attempts have been made, some of which have been successful, to reform the Constitution in various ways in order to make it more workable. I shall examine the reasons for the establishment of an upper house in the bicameral legislative system. The second chamberinademocraticparliamentary systemusexpected,fundamentally,to guardthepublicagainstcertaindecisions bythelowerhouse.Iftheupperhouse dischargesthoseresponsibilitieseffec- tively,itrendersagreatservicetothe people.Itshouldactasasafeguard againstanattemptbyagovernment, irrespectiveofitspoliticalviews,to introduceavitalmeasureforwhichit hasnotobtainedamandatefromthe people.IftheSenateinthelastpar- liament had acted inaccordancewith those principles, it would have prevented the Government f rom attempting to implement legislation that was designed to give eff ect to its policy of nationalization. The Senate should have said in effect, “ The, Government must obtain a mandatefromtheelectorsbeforewe shallpassabilltonationalizeanindus- try’.ButtheSenate,duringthelast Parliament, allowed itself to become a part of the Labour party organization, and it forgot its main responsibility to the country. After that experience, we can readily visualize the part that the Senate willplayinthisParliament The Labour Opposition in that chamber; which has no responsibility to the Administration, has taken the control of the Senate out of the hands of the Government, and is becoming increasingly arrogant. It is a matter of extreme urgency, in those circumstances, for the Government to ask the people to agree to an alteration of the Constitution with a view to remedying that situation without delay.
The honorable.memberforFremantle (Mr. Beazley), who was the chief spokesman for the Opposition, on this bill, delivered a long speech, and I expectedhimtoannounce the attitude that the Labour party would adopt to it.I believe that all Government supporters have endeavoured to follow his arguments as closely as possible, because we desire, as Opposition members should desire, to appreciate the vital importance of thebill, and to evolve the most satisfactory system for the election of the Senate.I confess that I followed the speech of the honorable member forFremantle with great difficulty, and I think that Government supporters generally will admit that the honorable gentleman, at the end of his remarks, left them in doubt about the attitude the Labour pary, would adopt towards the bill. The onlypartof the Labour party’s policy that is really clear is its determination to confuse the people wherever possible, and to frustrate the progress of the country. Other Opposition speakers have added to our bewilderment about the Labour party’sviews on this bill by following a different line of thought from, that taken by the honorable member forFremantle. Yet all of them have failed to appreciate the vital need for this measure and to realize thatits provisions, will apply only in the event of a double, dissolution, a situation, which has arisen in the past, and may arise again. The bill does notdiscriminate between the three political parties, that are represented in this chamberbut is equally fair to each of them.I challenge any member of the Opposition, to state that the implementation of this measure will, in practice, give anadvan tage to one political party compared with another political party. The bill may have some shortcomings, but it. is completelyfair. Let us suppose that agovernement was defeated after a double dissolution. The political partywhich hassat in.Oppositionwould then derive the benefit of an increase ofrepresentation in the Senate, just as theGovenment would have obtained that benefit if it had been returned to office.
One ofour functions in examining legislation is to ensure that it meets the particular purpose for which it has been drafted, and, is fair to all political parties which are represented in the chamber, and to the Australian people. Is any Opposition member prepared to state that the bill is not fair to the three political parties which are represented here? I have carefully examined the measure, and I believe that it is completely fair to each of. them. The Prime Minister in his second-readingspeech, did not claim for a moment that this legislation would remove allthe possibilities of a double dissolution,but he said that it would reduce them as far as was practicable. The existing position in respect of the Senate is impossible, and isnotin the interests of stable government. This bill, if it becomes law, will provide a practical system for the election of senators. I invite members of the Labour party to show, if they can, that the bill, in practice, will be unfair to any political party. A bill which is completely fair, is entitled to receive a fair trial at the hands of all honorable members. [Quorum formed.] .
The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), shortly before he rose to speak last night, was given a few suggestions and inspired thoughts by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and one or two of his colleagues. The honorable gentleman evidently acted on those suggestions, which had been quickly passed to him, because he devoted the greater part of his remarks to an attack on the upper house system in this country, and he referred particularly to the Legislative Council of New South “Wales. His remarks plainly revealed that he had little knowledge of the working of that chamber, and, for that reason I propose to make a brief reference to it. If an upper house is to be effective, it must stand as a safeguard between the government and the people, and should prevent a government, regardless of party, from imposing upon the people important legislation for which it has not received a. mandate. During the last session of the last Parliament, the Senate should have made it clear to the Chifley Government, when it introduced legislation to nationalize the banks, that it had no mandate to pass such legislation. The Senate should have forced the Government to go to the people to seek such a mandate, but it failed to do that. It was completely dominated by the Chifley Government, which it allowed to put legislation on the statute-book for which it had not received a mandate from the people.
I shall now refer to practices and principles observed by upper chambers in the State parliaments, particularly the Parliament of New South Wales. Until about 1934 the Legislative Council in that State was a nominee chamber. The government of’ the day nominated appointees who were generally approved by the Governor of* trie State. In 1934. the chamber was reconstructed. The new constitution proposed for that purpose was submitted at a referendum and the people completely endorsed it. Under its new constitution the members of that chamber are elected by the joint votes of members of the two chambers of that Parliament. In 1934, a large number of members of the council were nominee members, all of whom had the right to vote at the first election that was held under the new constitution. That election resulted in the return of a large majority of non-Labour members because at that time non-Labour parties had a substantial majority in the lower house having been returned by the people in their violent rejection of the Lang Administration. It was said then that the upper chamber had been stacked against the Labour party for all time.
– I rise to order. The honorable member has said that the nominee members of the Legislative Council of New South Wales were appointed by the governor of the day. I submit that that is a reflection upon the King’s representative.
– There is no point of order.
– I rise to order. I support the submission that the honorable member for Reid has just made.
– Order ! I have already ruled that the honorable member has not raised a point of order.
– On another occasion, Mr. Speaker, you ruled that a similar point was in order.
– Order ! The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) has not made any reference to the King’s representative.
– Whenever an honorable member who supports the Government reminds honorable members of the Opposition of some home truths, the latter are quick to show their resentment. 1” repeat that in 1934 the first election of members of the Legislative Council in New South Wales under the new constitution of that chamber resulted in the return of a far greater number of nonLabour representatives than Labour representatives and that it was then said that the chamber had been stacked against
Labour for all time. However, time has proved the wisdom of that new system because relative party representation in that chamber has changed in keeping with the gradual swing that has taken place in the meantime towards Labour in the lower house. The result is that, to-day. Labour has a majority of members in the upper chamber. That is evidence that the system of election of members of the upper house in New South Wales has worked effectively and fairly from the standpoint of all parties.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! If honorable members on my left do not cease interjecting and give the honorable member for Lyne a fair hearing, I shall have to take action.
– I shall now deal with the actual operation of the upper chamber in New South Wales. I was a member of the upper chamber in that State for a period of nine years. At no time has a majority of non-Labour members in the upper chamber ever prevented a Labour government from enacting legislation for which it had received a clear and definite mandate from the people. I challenge the Opposition to cite one instance in which that upper chamber has ever prevented a Labour government from passing legislation for which it had received a mandate. Certainly, the upper chamber amended several measures. For instance, it amended the Western Lands Rill, because the premier of the day, in the course of the general election campaign that had just taken place, made merely an ambiguous statement that he would review western land leases. He made no further reference to the subject in the course of that campaign. However, when the particular measure came before the upper chamber it was found to provide for the complete confiscation of those leases. The Government had not received any mandate from the electors to take such action, and, therefore, the upper chamber amended the measure in order to prevent the Government from confiscating those leases. I repeat that the upper house interfered only with legislation related to vital issues in respect, of which the government of the day had not received a mandate. Honorable members from New South Wales are aware that during a certain period, the upper chamber in New South Wales made 103 amendments to legislation of a general nature and that the government of the day voluntarily accepted 99 of those amendments. That is evidence of the fact thu: that chamber has safeguarded thiinterests of the people of New South Wales whenever a government in thai State has attempted to enact legislation for which it has not received a mandate.
To-day, the Labour party hae a majority in that chamber. I point out that in New South Wales, non-Labour governments when making appointments to the upper chamber invariably did so on the basis of giving representation to all sections of the community and to all sections of industry and commerce; with the result that the composition of the chamber represented a cross-section of the vital interests of the State. An examination of the facts will convince any honorable member that that statement is correct. But what have Labour governments done in that respect? On every occasion on which a vacancy has occurred Labour has always selected a trade union secretary as its nominee. During a period of seven years only one of the persons who were nominated by the Labour party for election to the upper chamber came from a country district.
If ever there was a time when the Senate should play its part fearlessly in the interests of the people, it is now. Since I have been a member of this House, and probably for many years previously, the members of the Opposition have seized every opportunity to bring up the old argument that in 1930-31 a non-Labour majority in the Senate prevented the Scullin Government from carrying out its policy. The present Government recognizes that the Senate is hostile to it, but it is facing up to the issue. Unlike the Scullin Government, it will not sit idly by and permit the country to fall into a depression and then run ‘ round the Commonwealth blaming a hostile Senate for its failure to grapple with the problems that confront it. The Scullin Government could have brought about a double dissolution with a view to seeking from the people a complete mandate for any proposals that it may have had to combat the depression. The fact is that it did not have any such proposals. It was not game to face up to the issues that confronted it; but ever since then the Labour party has claimed that a hostile Senate prevented that Government from carrying on. This Government is not prepared to remain in office under similar conditions and, consequently, it has introduced this measure in order to rectify the anomalies to which 1 have referred.
The bill now before us provides a simple way of dealing with the situation so that as soon as possible the people may, in their own interests, make it possible for the National Government to work along sound and solid lines. Supporters of the Government have refuted the statements made by the Opposition that the Cabinet did not inform all its supporters of its intention to introduce this measure. Every supporter of the Government was apprised of these proposals and was given every opportunity to express opinions upon them and to suggest any alternatives. However, not one member of the Opposition is prepared to help the Government to solve this problem even though he knows that the proposals embodied in it are completely fair from the standpoint of all parties and- will enable a government to carry on the administration of the country in the interests of the people. The Opposition is endeavouring to confuse and frustrate the people in this matter. I have pleasure in supporting the bill, which, I hope, will soon be placed upon the statute-book.
– I was interested to hear the speeches that have been made by the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) and the honorable member for New England. (Mr. Drummond). The honorable member for New England was a member of a government in New South Wales that perpetrated what I believe to be one of the greatest political rackets that have ever been worked in this country. I refer to the alteration of the system of election of the members of the Legislative Council in that State, That Government was so little concerned about the rights of the democracy that it brought about a set of circumstances which resulted in Labour having to govern for nine years, and to fight three general elections, in each of which Labour candidates secured a huge majority of the votes of the people, before it was able to obtain a majority in the State upper house. The system of electing the New South Wales upper house was altered solely to prevent Labour from ever gaining complete control of the New South Wales Parliament. The honorable member for New England was one of the sponsors of that proposal. The honorable member for Lyne was merely one of the cogs in the machine. Even now the Labour Government of New South Wales has only a majority of one or two seats in the upper house. The most extraordinary feature about the proposal was that it provided for the election of some members of the upper house for a period of twelve years. For twelve long years the people were denied the right to decide who should represent them in that legislative body. The proposal was adopted on the joint vote of both houses of the Parliament in which the majority of the seats were held by conservative interests. Although at one period Labour held 55 of the 95 seats in the lower house it had no control of the upper house. In one or two short periods Labour held an even greater number of seats in the lower house but in spite of its overwhelming majority it was unable to control the upper house.
Something has been said about a mandate from the people for the legislation now before us. No government can possibly claim to have a mandate to deal with every emergency which arises during the period of its administration. It is impossible for the leaders of political parties to state in their policy speeches what -matters will be dealt with if they are elected to office. Do honorable members opposite believe that Mr. Churchill was able to claim that he had a mandate for every action taken by his Government during its term of office? I have always regarded the action taken by the antiLabour parties in New South Wales in changing the system of election of the upper house as a. political racket to keep Labour out of office. While I was Prime Minister the Premier of New South
Wales frequently telephoned me and stated that members of the anti-Labour parties in the New South Wales upper house desired to move amendments that would have destroyed the effect of legislation on matters that had been the subject of arrangement between the Commonwealth and the State. These are the people who are so solicitous of the welfare of the people, and who are now demanding a “ fair go “. Let us consider what has happened in the State Parliaments of Victoria and Tasmania. Is it contended that a government should not have the right to carry on the services of the State merely because it cannot command a majority in the upper house, particularly when the members who constitute that majority have not been elected by the popular vote of the people ? What wonderful solicitude for the principles of democracy honorable members opposite and their friends exhibit when they permit a state of affairs to continue which is in existence to-day in almost every State in the Commonwealth ! Tory reactionary interests have made it their business to retain control of the upper houses of the State parliaments no matter what majority Labour may have in the lower houses of the legislatures which, in the main, are elected on a popular franchise. In South Australia, even in the lower house, it takes twice as many votes to elect a city member as to elect a member to represent « country constituency.
– Has the right honorable gentleman examined the system that operates in Queensland ? Does he regard that system as being fair?
– I do not intend to become embroiled in an argument about the re-distribution of electorates in Queensland.
– Of course not!
– I remind the Minister that the figures of the recent general election in that State show that Labour candidates obtained an aggregate majority of the votes cast.
– It did not do so.
– The Minister might lie including independents in his calculations. I am excluding them. I admit that I am relying on press reports, which are not always dependable.
– Order! I ask the Leader of the Opposition to return to the bill.
– I apologize for having digressed. I was led to do so by the interjections of honorable members opposite. It has been claimed that the Government has no sinister or ulterior motive in introducing this measure. Does any honorable member opposite, or any one else, believe that it was introduced for any other purpose than to gain a party political advantage for the Government parties?
– It is designed to give the government of the day a fair deal.
– This proposal will not prevent deadlocks from arising in the Senate. I do not think that any honorable member opposite claims that it will do so. The Prime Minister has said that, at most, it can only minimize deadlocks. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said last night, the Government, in it3 attempt to minimize deadlocks, has produced a clumsy measure, the predominant purpose of which is to gain a political advantage for the Government and its supporters. What solicitude have honorable members opposite exhibited in relation to this matter in the past? From October, 1941, until July, 1944, when a Labour government was in office in this Parliament, a deadlock existed between the House of Representatives and the Senate. During the whole of that period the government of the day was engaged in the task of conducting the war. Did honorable members of the antiLabour parties then talk about the rights of the democracy and the need for a “fair go” for the government? Not a word was then said about a “fair go”.
– At that time the Labour Government depended on the support of independents in the House of Representatives.
– Although there were eighteen Labour members in the Senate a deadlock existed between the two houses.
– Why did not the government of the day seek a double dissolution ?
– The honorable member for Lyne knows nothing of the history of those days or he would not have made such an interjection. In 1929 Labour went to the polls and literally swept the country, and although the Scullin Government had a majority in the House of Representatives and equality with the Opposition parties in the Senate, Opposition senators adopted obstructive tactics, and so prevented the Scullin Government from carrying on its task. The question has been asked why the Scullin Government did not seek a double dissolution. The reason can be definitely stated. When the Scullin Government took office in 1929 it was faced with a bankrupt Treasury and the country was moving into the throes of a depression. The previous Government had been unable to borrow money either in Australia or abroad, and conditions had become so bad that it would have been useless for the Seullin Government to approach the banks for money to relieve unemployment. The number of unemployed was growing daily by thousands and because of the exigencies of the times the Scullin Government was forced to impose import prohibitions and high rates of duties. Import prohibitions covered more than 200 items. In the event of a double dissolution the tariff schedules which had been tabled but not passed would have lapsed. That matter had been held up in the Senate. I do not like to have to recount the history of those days. What happened is to the discredit of those who were responsible.
Let us consider some of the other extraordinary things that have happened. On the death of Senator Keane, a former leader of the Government in the Senate, the non-Labour parties of Victoria appointed a conservative to fill the resultant vacancy notwithstanding the fact that, at the previous general election, Senator Keane had topped the Senate poll in Victoria.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) says, “ Hear hear ! “ Apparently one member on the Government side agrees that if it is possible to take an unfair political advantage the opportunity to do so should be grasped. The man who was elected to fill the vacancy caused by Senator Keane’s death had previously been rejected by the people.
– But he was a good man.
– I do not say anything against him as an individual. My remarks are directed solely to the fact that his political views were diametrically opposed to those of the man in whose place he was appointed. When honorable members opposite talk about fairness they should remember that they themselves have committed acts which were the absolute negation of fair play. It is distinctly unfair that casual vacancies in the Senate should be filled by persons whose political faith differs from that of those whose places they fill. The present system under which members of the upper house of a State parliament, which is elected on a property franchise, should be able to influence the election of a person to fill a casual vacancy in the Senate, is most unfair.
The Prime Minister has said that most of the provisions of this bill will minimize the possibility of a deadlock resulting from a double dissolution. If I had the time to do so, I could cite cases in which in such an event a deadlock between two houses could be aggravated. What is the history of double dissolutions in this country? Only one double dissolution has occurred since federation and the government that was responsible for it did not fare too well in the subsequent general election. As the result, all governments have been wary about seeking a double dissolution.
This subject was very fully covered by the honorable member for Fremantle Inst night when he led the debate on behalf of the Opposition. I agree with him that this is a clumsy measure, notwithstanding that it was described by the Prime Minister as “ the surprise of the week”. I understand that honorable members opposite were told about it only an hour before lunch on the day on which it was introduced. I do not say that Ministers were not informed of its contents, but private members certainly can not deny that they were not told about it.
– I deny that.
– The honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) may be included in the inner councils of the Government.
– I knew of its contents.
– I should not be permitted by the Standing Orders to use the language that I should like to use to describe that action on the part of the Government.
– And we also know what goes on at meetings of the Labour party.
– If honorable members opposite know something of what goes on at meetings of the Labour party, they should not deceive themselves into thinking that we do not know something about what goes on in the meetings of their parties. I refer to meetings not of the Cabinet, but of the parties. All that this proposal will do is to establish a new set of complications. The elector will have to fill in two ballot-papers for the election of senators. He will have to decide on one ballot-paper which senators he desires to be elected for six years, and on another ballot-paper which senators he desires to be elected for three years.
– It will not take him long to decide.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) should study the number of informal votes cast at the last general election, especially in his own electorate. I consider that some action should be taken to avoid the high percentage of informal voting, particularly under the system of proportional representation. I had the experience of entering a polling booth to vote at 7 o’clock on the evening of election day and of having to complete a buff-coloured ballot-paper in a dim light. The ballotpaper had a large number of names on it, and the elector had to. mark his preference in a small square printed beside each name. I am not surprised that under such conditions a large number of informal votes are cast at general elections for the Senate. I am at one with the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride) in that I am not at all happy about preferential voting for the Senate being carried down to the twenty-third place, as it was at the last general election for the Senate.
On one occasion 30 Senate candidates appeared on the ballot-paper for New South Wales. It is very easy for an elector to make a mistake when so many names appear on the ballot-paper and when he must indicate his preference for every one of them. I believe that a large number of voters are, in fact, disfranchised because they make mistakes when completing such cumbersome ballot-papers and because they have too much pride to go to an electoral officer to obtain a fresh paper. I do not intend to argue with the Minister for the Interior about that matter. I do not want anybody to think that I was tremendously enamoured of the system of proportional representation in Senate elections, but the Labour party decided to adopt it after due consideration. Proportional representation is, theoretically, completely democratic, but has defects in actual practice. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) will have some knowledge of proportional representation as it applied to the lower house in New South Wales, in connexion with which it did not prove satisfactory. Many people have considered that the system of proportional representation should be abandoned or altered, but now the Government proposes to ask the people ‘for an alteration of the Constitution to deal with an electoral condition caused by an act that introduced a system that may not be continued by this Parliament and that may, indeed, be abandoned by the present Government. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) stated, this proposed new section of the Constitution may be left high and dry by an amendment of the electoral act. There is no saying that the present Government may not itself believe that proportional representation, after it has had a sufficiently long trial, may not be worthy of continuance. The Government wishes to have the Constitution altered in respect of Senate elections only to meet a temporary difficulty in relation to so-called possible deadlocks. Such deadlocks have been occurring in parliaments throughout the world for a long time. It is physically impossible to avoid them.
For these reasons, and for the clear mathematical reasons that I have stated, the Labour party proposes to oppose the bill. I am not saying that I do not consider that an examination should be made of the whole subject of Senate representation. Let me take one fundamental point. Despite what the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) may say about this matter, the framers of the Constitution apparently never wanted all the members of the Senate to be elected at the same time as the members of the House of Representatives are elected. They provided in the Constitution that only one-half of the senators should go to the people at any general election. As a consequence of that provision in the Constitution eighteen senators, or one-half of the strength of the Senate as it was constituted until the election, of the present Parliament still remained in office during the election and for three years thereafter. The framers of the Constitution had good reasons for that, and they may have included some of the reasons that the honorable member for Lyne has mentioned. They believed that there should be an overlap. En the general election of 1946 the Labour party failed by only a narrow margin to win every seat in the Senate that it contested. If all the senators had stood for election at that time the Senate would have been a complete replica, party poll.Rally. of this House. That has happened in the past when conservative governments have been elected to office. The framers of the Constitution desired to avoid such an eventuality. I cannot read the minds of those who are dead and gone but I assume that they did not want to provide for elections at which all the members of the House of Representatives and all the members of the Senate should be elected. They must have foreseen the possibility of deadlocks arising from such a system. I shall give the House a simple illustration. In 1928 the Bruce-Page Government swept the polls for the Senate, and ten months later, in 1929, the Labour party had an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives. If all the senators stood for election at those two general elections there would have been a complete change of senators twice within a period of 10 months, and the Senate in each case would have been :a mere reproduction, party politically, of the House of Representatives. I have no doubt that the framers of the Constitution desired to avoid such, an eventuality. Honorable members can argue as much as they like about State parochialism, but I have no doubt that what I have outlined was the objective in the minds of the framers of the Constitution. They never intended that the Senate should be a mere reproduction, party politically, of the House of Representatives. I do not think that anybody will deny that all that this bill will achieve in the long run will be a cumbersome, expensive and very intricate system. Anybody would only have to read the explanation of the bil] made by the Prime Minister when he introduced it to the House to be convinced of that fact. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and I propose to prepare a short comedy on the Prime Minister’s statement about twos and fours and what Ls left over. How in the name of heaven can the people of this country be expected to understand this proposed system when the speech of the Prime Minister himself was almost incomprehensible? The right honorable gentleman admitted that when the bill came from the draftsman he was completely puzzled by it. He is a great politician, parliamentarian and lawyer, yet on his own admission, when the bill came to him at first he could not understand it and had to get the Parliamentary Draftsman in to explain it to him. After the Parliamentary Draftsman had explained the bill, the Prime Minister admitted that he had drafted the bill correctly. How can the Prime Minister expect the ordinary man in the street to understand the bill ?
– How many ordinary people will read the bill?
– That is a reflection upon the electors. My reply to the honorable gentleman is that, although the Prime Minister is an able man, his explanation of the bill was almost incomprehensible. If a parliamentarian cannot understand the bill there is not much use in attempting to explain it to the ordinary man in the street. There are factors about the Senate, particularly regarding the filling of casual vacancies, that I regard as a complete electoral anomaly.
State parliamentarians elect people to the Senate to fill vacancies that are caused by the death or retirement of senators who were elected by the people and they can, a3 they have done before, elect people who hold opposite political views to those of the senators who formerly occupied the seats. Surely honorable members cannot defend such a system. There is room for improvement not only in regard to the matter covered by the bill but also in regard to other matters. The method of filling casual vacancies might well be thoroughly examined by experts, or with the advice of experts. The proportional representation system is known as the Clark-Hare system, but when I first studied it I considered that it should have been called the “ March Hare “ system.. The only man I know who can explain that system thoroughly is the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson). He is the only man 1 know who seems to have a complete grasp of the system. We spent one Saturday afternoon with sheets of paper that flowed in great rolls over the edge of a desk before I could achieve a reasonable understanding of how the system works.
It is possible that this Parliament may consider that the system of proportional representation and the system in use for filling casual vacancies in the Senate ought to be submitted to an expert committee for review. In the meantime the Labour party does not propose to lond itself to what is, in this particular instance, a measure that is intended to meet a temporary position only to gain some party political advantage for the Government. That advantage will be gained at great expense to the country. The proposed constitutional alteration will produce a cumbersome system that will not leave to the elector the right to determine which senators shall be elected to the Senate for a long term and which for a short term.
– It does not appear to me that in considering this bill there is any necessity for us to be drawn into all sorts of considerations of constitutional law. Before I continue, I desire to refer briefly to what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has said. Much of his speech appears to me to be irrelevant to the issue before the House, and some of it, in fact, was inaccurate. I refer to his statement about the number of votes polled in the Queensland election. I submit that his statement was quite wrong. When it comes to a discussion on questions of fairness in the past, I can cite for the right honorable gentleman an incident precisely similar to the incident that he cited in connexion with Senator Keane. A labour council in a certain town took action precisely similar to that which he described and when the mayor of the town, a Labour mayor, protested that the action was undemocratic, he was expelled from the Labour party for daring to criticize. Nobody claims that this bill gives a 100 per cent, iron-clad guarantee that it will prevent a deadlock, but in all human probability it will do so. The bill is intended to provide that when certain circumstances arise the expressed wish of the Australian people shall not be frustrated. That is the kernel of the bill, which deals only with the possibilities that may follow a double dissolution of the Parliament. It is not concerned, and properly so, with other situations such as Senate by-elections or ordinary general elections. Honorable members should fix this cardinal point in their minds.
I want to refer to the attacks that have been made on the bill by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). The honorable member for Fremantle objected to the bill because of its method of introduction to the House. He complained that it was a secret until it was sprung on the House as a surprise. The only people who were taken by surprise were honorable members of the Opposition. The honorable member for Fremantle complained that many minds on the Government side were not consulted. Whilst acknowledging the delicate tribute to the intellectual wealth of the Government, 1 hasten to assure him that that is an entirely gratuitous assumption. The honorable member for Melbourne adopted a similar approach, and made the extraordinary statement that only three Ministers knew the contents of the bill and tha*” the Australian Country party knew nothing about it. That is also a gratuitous assumption. It is something novel to see the honorable member in the role of the champion of the rights of the Australian Country party. I think I can assure him on behalf of that party that it would prefer to choose its champion. Both parties on this side of the House are in full accord, and are not in the least disturbed by the method by which the bill was introduced. Honorable gentlemen opposite are seeking to give the impression that this bill emanated from one mind and was not considered by the Government parties. That is the kind of attack that they frequently make on the Government in an endeavour to give the impression that legislation is ill-considered. This bill has been subjected to the scrutiny of at least one mind - that of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) - the power and intellectual scope of which are greater than the combined mental resources of the Opposition. The Prime Minister enjoys the unbounded confidence not only of all members of both the Government parties but also of the great majority of the people of Australia. Surprise is one of the basic and also one of legitimate principles of war, and I assure honorable members of the Opposition that if they intend to pit themselves against the party that is led by the right honorable mem befor Kooyong they must prepare themselves for even more surprises than the> have encountered on this occasion.
– The Labour party always recognizes facts.
– Order ! Will the honorable member for Melbourne please keep quiet?
– I want to refer to the inconsistencies in the argument of the honorable gentleman who led the Opposition’s attack. The honorable member for Melbourne referred to the Senate as a part of the bargain of federation. What does he care for the bargain a of federation ? The honorable gentleman has signed a pledge to do away with the Senate. What will happen to the. bargain in that case? The pledge that he has signed represents an attack on the principles of federation. The honorable member for Fremantle said that such a proposition as abolition, when related to abolition of the Senate, was “ academic “. What does that mean? Does it mean that the honorable gentleman is not going to honour his pledge or that he is an extremist or an academic extremist, whatever that may be? First of all, honorable members of the Opposition spoke about the bargain of federation and then they indulged in this “ academic extremism “, Wowing hot and cold in the same breath. When the Labour Government took any action about the Senate it increased by two-thirds the membership of that chamber. It is very hard to follow the antics of these “ academic extremists “.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), whose honesty nil honorable members respect, and who stands like a rock in the surging and uncertain sea of his party, gave the reasons why he and presumably his party oppose the bill. He said that if a double dissolution occurred on an unwelcome issue and his party were defeated, it would be in danger of losing its majority in another place as well as in this House if this bill had previously received the approval of the Australian people at a referendum. In other words, honorable members of the Opposition oppose this bill because they desire to retain their present insecure hold on their tottering political fortunes in this Parliament. Fear is the motive which inspires the opposition to this bill, fear of the consequences, fear to face the verdict of the people of Australia.
A double dissolution is a special event which very seldom occurs. Honorable members of the Opposition have been at great pains to point out how seldom it does occur. I suggest that it occurs only when the party that has been elected by the Australian people to carry out a definite policy is unable to do so because the majority in the Senate, which has been elected on different considerations, prevents the expressed desire of the people from being carried out. The object of this measure is to implement the will of the Australian people. It does nothing else. The matter is not one of constitutional law or of what happened in the past. Previous governments that experienced this obstruction, such as the Scullin Government, had their remedy. I suggest that the Scullin Government did not bring about a double dissolution for the reason that causes the present Opposition to be unfavorable to this bill. It was very much afraid of how the people would vote if they did so. This bill restores the sovereignty of the Australian people. It is designed to make their will prevail. It is a democratic measure in every sense of the word and is designed to fulfil the expressed wish of the electors. There is no complicated issue, as honorable gentlemen of the Opposition attempt to persuade the House there is, for the electors to understand. The very simple proposition stated in this bill is that th« number of senators for each State, whether it be an original State or a new State, shall be a number which is divisible by 2 without a remainder but not divisible by 4 without a remainder. I suggest that an understanding of that proposition is well within the compass of the intelligence of honorable members of the Oppo– sition. The principle that is embodied in this bill is enunciated in the common expression that is found on the lips of every Australian - the principle of a “ fair go ‘’. It is fair to the Australian people and it will enable them to have their expressed wishes carried out. I commend the bill to the House and I have no doubt that its merits will commend it to the Australian people.
.-Before this bill was introduced, honorable members and the public of Australia were bombarded with propaganda which informed them that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), on a certain evening at S p.m., would drop a bombshell in this House, that he had a mystery measure which would remove the deadlock in the Senate and make everything right in this community. I read the “ballyhoo” in the newspapers and it reminded me more of the advertising of a Jack Davey or a Bob Dyer show on the radio, than of the preparation of the people of Australia and, more particularly, honorable members of this House, for the reception of a serious piece of legislation. But when the Prime Minister had addressed thi-; House and had explained this wonderful mystery measure that was going to cure all our ills it was found that it was similar to many of the other statements that he had made after a great advertising boost.
An examination of the bill proves that it is a peurile thing which is not worthy of the consideration of this House. The right honorable gentleman said, that it was a bill for an act to provide for a system of election that would prevent a deadlock in the Senate after a doubledissolution. The bill does not mention the possibility of a deadlock after an ordinary general election although that possibility is always present. Themeasure is expressed in phrases that are very complicated. As the Prime Minister himself admitted, he had to call in the draftsman to explain one clause tohim because he did not understand it. The bill provides that in the event of a double dissolution there shall not be a subsequent deadlock in the Senate. There has been one double dissolution in a period of 50 years. There might bea second in another year or it might not occur for a further 50 years but the Government says that the bill will ensure that there shall not bea. deadlock after a double dissolution. No consideration has been given to what will happen in the event of an ordinarygeneral election, in 1952 or 1953, resulting in the return of an equal number of representatives of the Government and’ Opposition parties in the Senate. Noprovision is made to prevent deadlocks after ordinary general elections but in case, once in 50 years, there may be a double dissolution, the Government says that machinery should be provided to ensure that there shall not be a deadlock: after the ensuing general election. That idea is preposterous and this is a most ridiculous proposal to place before this House.
The honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) stated that the element of surprise was very necessary in this instance. Honorable members of theOpposition do not want any element of surprise in the introduction of proposals for the alteration of the Constitution. A great deal of consideration should be given to proposals of this nature by all sections of the community before any alterations are made to the Constitution. Honorable members- of the
Opposition do not want to deal with this subject in a secret manner. They do not want to keep all ideas concerning it in the mind of a half-dozen men until it is suddenly introduced to this chamber and pushed through with as much speed ;« possible. It is necessary not only that members of the Parliament should understand the meaning of proposed alterations of the Constitution; the people of Australia also should understand them. The people will be called upon to vote yes Dr no, and it is not reasonable to ask them to vote on a proposal which they do not thoroughly understand. This is M measure which has been given scant consideration by the Government parties, and one that will receive only limited consideration in this House. The honorable member for Oxley complained that certain honorable members of the Opposition had described the bill as an illconsidered measure. I am of the opinion that it was given no consideration at all. ! understand, and I am open to- correction if I am w.rong. that honorable members on the Government side did not know the contents of the bill until a few hours before it was introduced to this House. Therefore, it certainly did’ not receive much consideration from honorable members on the back benches who are to-day supporting it. They are endeavouring to make it appear that this is a reasonable proposition, and that it is necessary to alter the Constitution, f suggest that quite a number of them rsti.ll have a very vague idea of its meaning although they are telling us that it is a panacea for all the ills that affect the Australian system of government.
– It is .apparent that the honorable member himself does not know much about it.
– Nevertheless I can criticize it, and perhaps I shall teach you a little more about it if you listen to me.
– Order ! The honorable member must address me.
– I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that certain interjections are occurring.
– The honorable member should refrain from taking any notice of the interjections.
– I shall do my best. Many things must be considered in relation to this bill. Upon an examination of the Prime Minister’s introductory speech, it becomes quite apparent that he said, in effect, that while a particular party has a majority in the House of Representatives it is necessary that that party shall also have a majority in the Senate. In effect he said that the Senate should be a reflection of the Government in this House. He inferred that the Senate should be merely a rubber stamp to approve every proposal that the Government puts forward. That is the only logical conclusion that can be drawn from the Prime Minister’s remarks. If that is to be so, then there is an alternative to this very complicated system of resolving double dissolution deadlocks. The obvious remedy is the abolition of the Senate. If the Constitution is to be amended to ensure that the Senate shall meekly carry out the bidding of the Government, then the necessity for the Senate, which is the so-called States House, no longer exists. The cheapest and most satisfactory method of ending deadlocks would be to hold a referendum to ask the people to alter the Constitution to provide for the abolition of the Senate. The nation would be saved a certain amount of money and the Government and administration of the country would be simplified. If the Government will bring forward a proposal of that nature I shall support it whole-heartedly. I shall not only support it in this House, but also campaign on the Government’s behalf throughout the country to try to ensure an affirmative vote of the people. I believe that the system of government by two Houses is to-day completely outmoded. A number of remarks have been made to-day in regard to the upper houses of the various State parliaments. In four of the States the upper houses are merely houses of privilege which represent approximately onethird of the electors, who are arch tories. They are placed in legislative positions to prevent the march of progress and to thwart the wishes of the democratically elected members of the lower houses.
New South Wales has an even worse parliamentary system. In that State 120 or 150 persons decide who shall be members of the upper house. It is therefore a. party House at all times. Far from being, a democratic system, as the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) said, if the Labour party is returned in New South Wales at the. next general election the upper house will merely be a reflection of the Government. Although a Labour government was elected in New South Wales in 1941, about nine years elapsed before that Government was. able to achieve a majority, in the Legislative Council.. The New South Wales upper house acted as a sprag in the wheel of government ; it. prevented the lower house from carrying out the mandate given to it by the people. The Senate is. quite likely to act eventually in a similar way. At present the Labour party has a majority in the Senate, but that has not always been the case. On several occasions that party as a government has been faced with a non-Labour majority in the Senate, which has been able to prevent it from enacting certain legislation. To-day is- heard for the first time a cry from our opponents that something must be done in regard to the Senate. It is said that an appeal must be made to the people so. to alter the Constitution that the Senate will have to do what the Government wants it to do. Why not face up to facts- and say that because the Senate must be a reflection of the Government,, it is of no use and the people should abolish it? That is a matter that could have been well considered by the Government parties. Another matter that I” bring tor the attention of the House, to which I have not given as much consideration as the Government should have given, is that no reason exists why only half the Senate should be elected at a time, thus giving senators a six-year term of office. The Government, or a select committee, could consider a proposal to retire all members of the Senate every three years and to elect them at the same time as members of the House of Representatives are elected. There could then be little complaint about the Senate merely reflecting the opinion of this House.
Even that proposal would not” completely solve the. problem because of State rights-.. An equal number, of rep-re- sentatives is. returned to the Senate from each State, and a succeeding government, might find itself in difficulties because a comparatively small number of electors in Tasmania return ten senators. The quota for a senator in Tasmania at the last general election was about 30,000 votes whereas the quota in New South Wales was about 146,000 votes-.. All those matters need consideration,, and I suggest that they received no consideration at all from the Government before this bill was introduced in thi House. It is possible under the existing, system for one party, be it Liberal or Labour, to obtain at a general election a majority of seats in the House of Representatives on a majority vote of the electors, and at the same time for the opposing party to win a majority of the Senate seats on a minority vote. That could happen because off the system, whereby the vote of a person in. New South Wales has about one-fifth of the value of the vote of an elector residing in Tasmania. A similar state of affairs exists in the other States. In proportion to population the most populous State has the. smallest representation in the Senate. That would possibly be an additional argument for the. abolition of the Senate. If there is to- be a democratic system of election to the National Parliament of Australia, then tha government of the day should be completely representative of the majority of the- electors. It could happen under our existing, system that a party that had. received a minority of the votes would have a majority of the seats in the House of Representatives because the value of the vote, even for election to the House of Representatives, is not the same in all States-. The value of the vote is approximately one. and a half times as great in Tasmania,, as in Victoria.. Because of those inequalities in oar system, which has been praised by many people but. which I believe to be definitely outmoded, the people of Australia are deprived of democratic government. Another reason why I say that this measure was not considered at all’ is that we have been informed through the daily press that an obscure member of the Liberal party who reside? in. Melbourne had a brain-wave- and worked out thissystem.Hewrotealettertothe Prime Ministerandthefirstacknowledg- mentofthereceiptofhisletterwasthe introductionofthisbill
-Apparentlyabreach of copyright.
MrBRYSON. -Yesandhewascon- gratulatedbyoneoftheMinisters.This personhadanotherclaimtofamein thathehadworkedoutasystemfor the playingofsemifinalandfinalfootballmatchesinacompetitionwhichwould ensure that therewouldalwaysbefour gamesinthefinalseries.Eveninthat connexion Iamdoubtfulwhetherhis claimhadsubstance.
-Idonotthinkthat thatsubjectreallyhasanythingtodo withthematterbeforetheHouse.
Mr.BRYSON.-No.ithasnot,except insofarasamanwhowasresponsible fortheintroductionofthisbillclaimed fameinregardtoworkingout-
MrSPEAKER.-Thepointthehonor- ablememberismakingisoutsidethescope ofthedebate.
Mr.BRYSON-Very well,Mr. Speaker,Ishallleavethefootballcompetition out of my remarks. Atthe recent State generalelection inVictoria,the Labour party obtained the largest number of votesbutdidnotwinamajorityofthe seats.Thisgentlemanwasaskedwhether hecouldevolveasystemofvotinginthat Statewhichmightpreventdeadlocks whentherewerethreepartiesinthe Housenoneofwhichhadamajority.He expressed regret that hecouldnotwork out a systemwhichwouldcurethat manifest evil inVictoria.Of course,the obviousansweronthelipsofmajority oftheelectorsinVictoriaisthat,ifthere were a reasonable distributionofvotersin electoratesaccordingtothe”onevote,one value”system,thecompositionofthe Parliamentwouldtrulyreflecttheir wishes. However, thisyoung genius could notworkoutthatproblem.Isuggestalso thatthisschemethathasbeenpresented tousdoesnothearexamination
TheConstitutionwasnotintendedto provideforasystemthatwouldensure theelectionofaSenatethatwouldmerely echotheviewsofthegovernmentofthe day.Rightlyorwrongly-Ibelieve wrongly-theframersoftheConstitution providedthattheSenateshouldbe regardedasaStateshousethatitshould gaveanequalnumberofrepresentatives fromeachState,andthatitsprimary dutyshouldbetolookaftertheinterests oftheStates.However,theyearshave shownthatthisintentionhasnotbeen carried intoeffect.Byintroducingthis bill,theGovernmenthasclearlyindicatedthatitisnotconcernedaboutState rights.Itisinterestedonlyinthe possibilityofarrangingfortheelection ofaSenatethatwillechoitsviewsso thatallthelegislationthatitseeksto enact,whetheritbegood,badorin- different,willbepassedwithoutimpedi- ment.ItmerelywantsaSenatethat willdowhatitistoldtodo.Thus,the billisanegationoftheprinciplesofthe Constitutionandshouldnotbetolerated inanydemocraticcommunity.Some honorablemembershaveremarkedthat theGovernmenthasbecomepower-drunk becuaseitcommandsamajorityof 27 in thisHouse.Ireminditthatthat majoritydoesnotrepresentaverylarge majorityoftheelectorsofAustralia.If thetotalvoteatthegeneralelectionwere analysed,itwouldbefoundthattheGo- vernmentisnotinsostrongaposition as it hasmisleditselfintobelievingitis.
Mr.Freeth. -Thenwhyisthehonor- able member worrying about adouble dissolution?
-Iamnotworrying aboutadoubledissolution.Unlikesome honorablememberswhoconstitutethe Government’smajority,Iamnotin theleastafraidofadoubledissolution.I ammerelypointingoutthattheGovernment’s majority does notrepresent avery largemajorityof the people. The Governmentshouldcomedowntoearth againandrealizethatitrepresentsonly about52percent.oftheelectors.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 June 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500601_reps_19_208/>.