21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether it is a fact that the Singapore Government has expressed opposition to the stationing, in Singapore, of Australian forces. Is that a clear result of a communication made by the Minister to the Chief Minister at Singapore?
– I am not aware that the Government of Singapore, by expression through the channels that the right honorable member has mentioned, or otherwise, has expressed direct opposition to the stationing of troops in Singapore. The matter has not been the subject of government determination, or of inquiry in the terms used by the right honorable gentleman in his question.
– I should like to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question supplementary to that asked by the Leader of the Opposition. 1 preface my question by reminding the Minister that the elections in the Federated Malay States, which are due to take place in July, will be contested by the People’s Action Party, or P.A.P. as it is known for short, which is making the main plank of its election campaign programme, opposition to the stationing of Australian troops in Malaya. I wish to know from the right honorable gentleman whether it is a fact that the British Government has requested the Australian Government to withhold a decision on the question of sending troops to Malaya until after those elections are over, in order to persuade the people of Malaya that no such plan is, in fact, mooted by the Australian Government. Is it also a fact that the Australian Government has also been requested by the British Government to give serious consideration to not persisting with the request made by the American Government for this Govern* ment to send Australian troops to Malaya at all? I want to know also whether the Government is prepared, in the event of the People’s Action Party winning the election in Malaya, which will indicate that the people of Malaya, as distinct-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is making a lot of statements. I cannot detect very much in the way of a question. 1
– .1 appreciate the point, Mr. Speaker, but this is such an involved question, and so terribly important, that I am sure that you will appreciate that it is not possible to put it into a few brief words. I have almost finished now. “Will the Minister, in the event of the People’s Action Party being successful at the elections, accept its success as an expression of opinion by the people of Malaya in opposition to this Government’s decision to send Australian troops to Malaya? In that event, will the Government reverse its decision, because the sending of troops to Malaya in the face of such an expression of opposition by the people of Malaya to their presence in that country would be tantamount to an invasion of one part of the British Commonwealth by another part of it?
– So far as I know- and I believe that I would know - the British Government has never made representations in the direction mentioned by the honorable member. It is quite improper to canvass the views of a particular party before an election in another country over which Australia has no jurisdiction, but even if it were not, I think that the statement of the honorable member would be quite wrong. I do not propose to add fuel, to the flames by bringing this matter to the point of controversy. It is entirely wrong, and against .the interests of this country, for the honorable member to say these things.
– During the debate on the Courts-martial Appeals Bill I urged that it be amended in another place to give effect to the principle that appeals shall be possible from the decisions of not only courts martial but also medical boards. Has the Minister for Defence had an opportunity to obtain reports from the relevant service and legal officers upon the proposal, and to give the matter the consideration that he then promised ? If not, will he give the House an assurance that he will do so during the recess, and that in the next session he will either introduce the necessary legislation or give, his reasons for rejecting the proposal ?
– I have referred this matter to the Services but have not yet received a reply. When I receive it the matter will be considered by the Government and an announcement made.
– Will the Prime Minister say when he proposes to have talks on the Constitution, especially in regard to deadlocks between the Senate and this House, and the alteration of dates for elections? Does he propose to have a constitutional convention at a later stage, and would this be an elected or nominated body?
– I concluded my discussions on this matter in the Cabinet only yesterday or the day before. I propose, as soon as it is convenient to all concerned, to have a talk with the other party leaders. After that I would hope to be in a position to answer the questions put by the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether appointments to the trade commissioner service of Australia, for which applications were called by his department some months ago, have yet been made, and whether the House will be informed of the names of the appointees ?
– The appointments have not yet been made. I understand that more than 600 applications have been received. Those who are regarded prima facie, as suitable, are being interviewed in their own States. This process, obviously, occupies a considerable time, but there will be no undue delay in finalizing the appointments; indeed, they should be made before very long. It is not customary to announce in the House the successful applicants for such positions, but I will be glad to make the names available to the honorable member and any other honorable member who is interested. Normally, they are published in the daily press.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that, in a speech made earlier this year, the Minister declared that in 13 per cent, of advertised vacancies for male workers employers specified an age limit of 40 years; in another 13 per cent., 45 years; and in a further 45 per cent.. 50 years ? If so, in view of the fact that workers of 50 years of age, if they become unemployed, have little prospect of securing another position, will he state whether the Government has any plan to deal with this grim situation? Or does the Government expect these men, the great majority of whom are married men with dependants, to exist, between the ages of 50 and 65 years, on the Commonwealth unemployment benefit of £2 10s. a week, plus £1 5s. a week for a wife and 5s. a week for a first child, and from the age of 65 years onwards to depend solely upon age pension payments for an existence ?
– This Government has given attention to all aspects of employment, and, in particular, to the employment of aged persons and persons who are physically disabled. As to the community generally, I think it will be realized by honorable members that, thanks to the economic policies of the Government, we have been able to maintain full employment throughout our term of office.
– Did the Minister make the statement to which I referred?
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney has asked a question and he should have the courtesy to wait for a reply.
– The Minister is not answering the question.
-Order! I point out to the House once again that it is the privilege of honorable members to direct questions to Ministers and that it is the privilege of Ministers to decide whether they will answer questions at all, or the way in which they will answer them,
– I intend to answer this question fully because it relates to an important aspect of employment policy. [ want to tell the House what the Government is doing. The honorable member covered a good deal of ground in putting his question to me. The question has gone on the record. I request the right to explain, on behalf of the Government, the action we are taking in relation to the matter. I have every intention of dealing with the point he raised. It is relevant to that point to explain to the House that, thanks to full employment, difficulties which might otherwise have arisen to an intense degree in respect of elderly persons have not been experienced on that scale. The fact of the matter is that in the whole of Australia at the present time only about 3,000 persons, of both sexes and of all ages, are drawing the unemployment benefit. That is a record which, I suggest, is without parallel in any other industrialized country in the world. The particular passage to which the honorable gentleman has referred appeared in a statement prepared by me for submission to the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, on which managements and trade unions are represented, so that we could examine together that element of unemployment, which relates to persons who are regarded by some employers as being beyond employment age. The whole purpose of the move made by us was to demonstrate to employers that there are many years of good service left in people who have gone beyond the ages specified in the advertisements, and to impress upon employers the desirability of providing employment opportunities for such persons. Anybody who studies the statement that we put out at that time will see the reasons we advanced and the case we stated on behalf of elderly persons in the community who may be seeking work. I am happy to say that, as a result of our efforts in that and other directions, never have the prospects of employment for elderly persona in this country been brighter than they are now.
_ Mr. HOWSE. - My question, which ia directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, is supplementary to a question asked by the honorable member for Robertson. Has any expansion taken place recently of the Australian trade commissioner service overseas? If so, will the Minister indicate whether new posts have been established, and whether any extra posts and additional staff for existing posts are contemplated in the future? To what extent is the trade commissioner service co-operating with Australian export industries ?
– One of the primary functions of the trade commissioner service is to maintain close contact with the Australian export industries. One of the mechanisms of maintaining thai contact is the Federal Export Advisory Committee. The representatives of chambers of manufactures and chambers of commerce, the National Farmers’ Union and such appropriate bodies, meet the representatives of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Out of this arrangement flow suggestions for the investigation and exploration of new trade opportunities overseas. This is a constant process. In recent times, new trade commissioner offices have been opened, out of this background, in Rome, Trinidad, Bonn in Western Germany, Salisbury which is the capital of the new Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Rangoon, and at Auckland, in addition to the office already existing at Wellington in New Zealand, which, incidentally, is the principal and growing market for the export of our secondary industry products. It is not fully understood, or recognized, that Australia is at the present time, notwithstanding cost problems here, constantly expanding the export of our secondary industry products. Even motor vehicles made in Australia are finding a market overseas to the tune, if not already to be spoken of in millions of pounds, then of certainly more than one million pounds, and it is growing at that rate. The matter of opening additional trade commissioner offices in new areas abroad is constantly under review, and, as I have said in reply to the question, to which this question is supplementary, applications are at present under consideration. The Government, I may say, will be glad to take into consideration any constructive suggestions that come from members of the Parliament in this regard, as well as those that come from industry.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to the report of the New South “Wales DirectorGeneral of Public Health, in which it was stated that, according to the latest United Nations reports on narcotics, Australia has the highest per capita consumption in the world of narcotic drugs. As most of these drugs are used in highly-advertised patent medicines as sedatives and so on, is the Minister prepared to call a conference of State Ministers with a view to reaching some general over-all Australian control of this patent medicine racket and introducing legislation to protect the Australian people?
– The position is that certain representations have been made by the World Health Organization with regard, for instance, to heroin, and the Australian Government has prohibited the importation of it into the Commonwealth. The question of the limitation of other narcotics in patent medicines is a matter for State legislation, and not for Commonwealth action, because it is quite impossible to prohibit the total importation of those drugs. I shall examine the honorable gentleman’s suggestion and see whether it is possible or .worth-while to summon such a conference.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform me whether it is true that Qantas Empire Airways has purchased the Union Club premises in Bligh-street, Sydney, for £500,000? As Qantas Empire Airways is building new premises nearby, what is the purpose of this purchase? Furthermore, if it is proposed to build on this site in Bligh-street, which will front the new Elizabeth-street extension at some future time, will an opportunity be given to the Public Works
Committee to conform any new buildings erected on that site to harmonize with new Commonwealth offices shortly to be built in this new extension of Elizabethstreet, so that a substantial Commonwealth centre can be established which will be a very great contribution to the development of the City of Sydney?
– As the honorable member would know, he being keenly interested in the city of Sydney, Qantas Empire Airways Limited has owned a block of land in Hunter-street for a good many years. About a year ago, it was decided that the company would build a block of administrative offices on the land. Those offices eventually will front Hunter-street and Elizabeth-street. Owing to the realinement of Elizabeth-street, one of the proposed Elizabeth-street entrances of the new building will be blocked out, and there will be no access to the rear of the premises. The land was purchased in order to ensure that the new building would- have access from Elizabeth-street and Hunter-street. 1 shall be pleased to consider the question of having the Public Works Committes consider any new building that may be associated with the project.
– I address a question to you, Mr. Speaker, in your capacity as chairman of the Library Committee. Are you aware that the fiction section of the Parliamentary Library is largely out-moded and would do credit to a country mechanics’ institute, because it contains works such as Milly the Mill Girl, From Shop Girl to Duchess and others that are not a fit reflection on the intelligence of members of the Parliament? I should like you, sir, to consider having included among the volumes in the library half a dozen copies of the standard work The Life of Titus Oates. For the benefit of the generations to come after us, to whom those copies will be handed down, I should like you also to arrange to have them autographed with the signature of the right honorable member for Barton.
– I do not think the question is of a type that should be asked in this chamber. Fiction works are purchased by the Commonwealth National Library, but never with my consent. I think people who want fiction should buy it.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that, on the west coast of the United States of America, celebrations are held annually to commemorate the very great flight of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, Captain C. P. Ulm, and two other members of Sir Charles’s crew, which was the first air crossing of the Pacific Ocean from the United States to Australia? Does he not consider it appropriate that Australia should honour the great feat by those Australian fliers and hold a similar celebration to that which is held in the United States, in order to recognize the flight of perhaps one of the most famous airmen that the world has produced ?
– I was not aware that the anniversary of this flight was celebrated in the United States until I read an account of such celebrations in the newspaper this morning. Immediately, I was persuaded that it would be most appropriate for Australia to take action on the same lines. This morning, I have been in touch with the head office of the Department of Civil Aviation in Melbourne in order to ascertain the precise dates and times of arrival of Kingsford Smith in Brisbane with a view to considering what could be done to celebrate that occasion in Australia. As the honorable member for Maribyrnong will be well aware, the Sydney airport has been named “Kingsford Smith Airport” in recognition of that great airman. 1 hope to be able to do something about this matter this year and I shall make an announcement concerning it within the next day or two.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence Production. In view of the fact that six American experts are to come to Australia to assist in the planning of the
St. Mary’s munitions filling factory, will the Minister consider having British experts also brought to Australia to assist in the planning of the project, in view of the magnificent efforts that the British people made under bombing attacks during World War II. on construction works, and their great knowledge of the requirements for the dispersal of munitions establishments?
– The American experts are to come to Australia to make an engineering process study.
– What is that?
– The term means that the experts will study the methods of siting the plant and will suggest designs to which the buildings may be constructed for the minimum expenditure of capital in order that the maximum level of production may be achieved with a minimum of labour. The advice of British experts would doubtless be of some use, and I have no doubt that the architects for the project will obtain assistance not only from the United States of America and the United Kingdom, but also from any other countries where expert advice is available.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister for Defence Production who has given certain information to the House concerning the proposed filling factory at St. Mary’s. In the course of his remarks, the Minister stated that whilst it would be possible to put one section of a tri-partite factory in one place and the other sections in two other places, that procedure would not lend itself to the economic functioning of the factory. Can the Minister inform the House whether there are technical reasons why the factory should not be constructed in three sections which could be associated one with the other ? If there are technical objections which are based on methods of mass production could he inform the House of those objections?
– In the first place, because of the nature of the plant, if it were constructed in three sections the factory would not give the production that would be required for the services in time of war. The construction of the factory in three parts would mean that it would give three times the production that we require at present and at three times the cost that would be incurred if only one factory were erected.
– But is there any reason why the output of each factory should not be reduced?
– The proposed plant has been designed to give a certain output. Not only would the triplication of the plant raise serious technical problems in relation to output but it would also raise the problem of finance, management and transport. Such a plant would cost three times as much as a single unit.
– The Minister knows nothing about it.
– What I have said is perfectly true. Nobody should know better than the Leader of the Opposition that maximum production is not achieved by the triplication of plant. It is much more economical to have a certain production from one unit than to have the same production from three small units. The whole of .the industrial expansion of the United States of America is a testimony to that principle. I have no doubt that what the Leader of the Opposition has said was in the mind of the honorable member for New England; but in establishing this factory, the Government has considered the history of all filling factories in the free nations of the world.
– I desire to make a personal explanation in regard to a matter that was raised in the House during my absence last week. I was misrepresented by the Leader of the AntiCommunist Labour party (Mr. Joshua) in relation to what I said both inside and outside the House. In the first place, he has sought, in my view, to create the impression that there are honorable members on this side of the House who are not wholly behind their leader in his attitude on foreign affairs. In order to bolster up his case, the honorable member for Ballarat related a conversation that he alleged took place outside the
House, and he was called to order by you, Mr. Speaker, for quoting from earlier debates.
The honorable member said that one of my statements was that Australian troops would be welcome in Malaya. I never made such a statement. What J said, and what everybody knows I have advocated in this House, was that I considered that, before any troops were sent from Australia to South-East Asian countries, a delegation from both sides of the House should go to those countries so that we would be better informed than we have been by any speeches that, have been made by anybody here. I was amazed at the state of ignorance of South-East Asian affairs that was displayed by many honorable members. The inference to be drawn from the speech of the honorable member, both before he was called to order and afterwards, was that I was one of the members of the Opposition who were dissatisfied with their leader’s policy. My position was made clear three weeks earlier when I stated in this House as follows : -
I support the action of the Leader of the Opposition in this debate in every particular.
Nothing could be plainer than that. But apparently the honorable member sought an opportunity in the Hotel Kurrajong, after I had left the dining room to go to the office to buy an evening Herald, to raise the question with me. I did not seek it; he sought it. What he said-
Opposition members interjecting.
– I am being subjected to a good deal of interruption.
– Order ! The interruption is coming from the honorable member’s own side.
– He has said these things, and I am disturbed about references to conversations that are alleged to have taken place outside the House. What I said was that I was not prepared to see any Australian troops sent to Malaya unless or until a delegation had gone to make inquiries and had reported back to the Parliament. T do not want to belabour the matter, but there is much more that could be said. Anybody who reads my speech on foreign affairs, or what I have said since, knows quite well that the statement of the honorable member is a complete misrepresentation of the truth, and I deplore the technique of this gentleman, who belongs to another party,-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may deal only with the misrepresentation. He may not deplore anything. .
– I think I can repeat that I did not discuss this or any other matter with this misrepresenter of private conversations, and I feel that, as the statement was made in my absence, which has delayed correction, no person holding a position in the official Labour party could afford to let it pass. My strong feeling is that, when people speak to you and when, in ordinary courtesy, you reply but do not carry on a conversation, you should not be misrepresented in this House in the way that the Leader of the Anti-Communist Labour party has sought to do. There is much more I could say, but I do not want to belabour the point.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Does the honorable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented ?
– I think that an unfair inference has been drawn from what I have said. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) gave the House to understand, that there were people in Malaya who would not be opposed to the appearance of Australian troops in that country, because they were military people and it was in their way of profession to have troops to work with. For that reason, they were not opposed to the appearance of troops in Malaya. I think that is a fair statement. I cannot see that the honorable member hasbeen misrepresented by anything that I have said.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! If honorable members will be good enough to maintain order, we shall get through these matters much more quickly.
– I do not think, therefore, that my remarks which the honorable member for Maribyrnong has quoted are a misrepresentation at all. The second point is, that when a man makes a statement, and when one knows that he has been to Malaya quite recently, one would expect him to substantiate his remark by some direct knowledge of his own, and his speech did not-
– Order ! The honorable member is now dealing with the honorable member for Maribyrnong. He can only deal with misrepresentation of his own position.
– I can only say that anything I said was a fair statement, and that the honorable member for Maribyrnong had not substantiated his statement in any way by his own experience in Malaya, which was the point I made in my speech.
– I wish to makea personal explanation, because something that I said in this House recently may have misled the House and have done an injustice to an individual. On the 25th May, in the course of a question to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) in relation to the Landlord and Tenant Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory, I asked the Minister whether he would investigate a report that an owner of business premises recently constructed at Ainslie at a capital cost of about £5,000 was seeking to obtain rentals totalling £45 a week from them. I desire to inform the House that my information was incorrect. I have now been informed that the cost of these buildings was £10,800, not £5,000, and that the weekly rentals payable total £40, not £45. I regret that I unwittingly misled the House and perhaps did an injustice to the owner of the premises.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim to have been misrepresented in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald in relation to remarks made by the. honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) in debate in this House. The newspaper report reads -
Mr. Whitlam referred to the speech of Mr. W. M. Bourke in the House last night.
The paragraph goes on as follows to set out something of what I said : -
Mr. Whitlam said ;
– Order ! The honorable member should refer to honorable members, not by their personal names but by the names of their constituencies.
– I am reading from the newspaper, Mr. Speaker.
– Order ! The relevant Standing Order is perfectly clear.
– The newspaper stated that the honorable member for Werriwa had said that the honorable member for Fawkner had attacked him in a wanton and malevolent fashion. That report gives an entirely false impression of the remarks that I made in this matter. The Sydney Morning Herald referred to an attack by the honorable member for Werriwa upon myself as a wanton and malevolent attack. It did not give a report of the remarks I made concerning the honorable member for Werriwa, upon which he based the attack. If a full and balanced report were made, it would be clear that the extreme language which the honorable member for Werriwa used concerning the remarks that I made was completely unjustified. In the course of the debate on Tuesday night, I cited two paragraphs from the Sydney Morning Herald’s report of a speech which the honorable member for Werriwa had made at a conference early this year. The Sydney Morning Herald did not repeat the remarks that I made. That newspaper stated on the 1st February
The honorable member for Werriwa claimed that the High Court had shown itself -
-Order ! The honorable member is getting right outside the scope of a personal explanation.
– He is reiterating a slander.
– Order ! The honorable member for Werriwa will cease interjecting whilst I am on my feet. If he interjects again, I shall name him. The honorable member for Fawkner will resume his seat while I am on my feet. That also is one of the rules of the House. The honorable member is getting outside the scope of a personal explanation. He cannot refer in general to debates that have taken place, but if he has been misrepresented in any particular, he may put that right. He cannot re-open the question of what was said for and against the Judges’ Remuneration bill.
– Where was he last night, anyhow?
– I happened to be out of the House when the honorable member for Werriwa made his remarks.
– Where was the honorable member ?
– I was attending to the business of my constituents in the House, and not playing cards, as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) does.
– Is the honorable member sure he was not in the bar, drinking with his liberal friends?
– Order ! I heard some reference to an honorable member being in the bar. The honorable member for East Sydney will withdraw thai remark.
– I withdraw the remark. 1 now ask that the honorable member for Fawkner withdraw his allegation that I waste my time playing cards.
– Order ! Personal references are out of order. The honorable member for Fawkner will withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw the remark. The remarks that I made concerning the honorable member for Werriwa, in the course of the debate on the Judges Remuneration Bill, were, I claim, fair and honest criticism based upon a report in a newspaper of remarks which he does not deny are correct. He admitted, as reported in the press today, that the report upon which I based my criticisms correctly quoted him. I based my criticisms of him on those remarks, and I pointed out that the remarks ho made came with very bad grace from a member of the bar in New South Wales.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting right outside the scope of a personal explanation. If he wishes to proceed, he must confine himself to matters in respect of which he has been represented.
– I claim that the criticism which I made of the honorable member for Werriwa was a fair, just, and honest criticism, based upon remarks which he made and admits he made, and his statement that I attacked him in a wanton and malevolent fashion is quite out of order, and those words are unjustified and untrue. The honorable member for Werriwa is also reported in this press statement as having said, “ If, as the honorable member for Fawkner suggested, I had been misrepresented, it would have been easy for him to check with me. “ I would like to say that the honorable member for Werriwa attacked honorable members in this corner of the House-
– Order ! That is not a matter for a personal explanation.
– It is, sir, if you allow me to proceed. The honorable member for Werriwa made remarks in which he referred to the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua)-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not introduce the case of other honorable members. He is entitled to make a personal explanation only in relation to matters that concern himself.
– Referring to this statement, the honorable member for Werriwa claims that I should have spoken to him. Previously he made the remarks that no honorable members sitting in this corner behind the honorable member for Ballarat were ex-servicemen. I would suggest that he might have checked up on those remarks, which he made in the course of a debate, because they are completely untrue as far as I am concerned.
– Mr. Speaker,-
– Does the honorable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Constantly in this matter. I did not admit yesterday in the debate, which, in his characteristic fashion, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) omitted to attend, that I had been correctly reported in the Sydney Morning Herald. I said, as he and all other honorable members will be able to ascertain by perusing the daily Hansard later to-day, that I had not been fully reported. It was the newspaper’s own function to decide what was most sensational or most news-worthy in what I said. It chose to repeat some of the portions of my remarks. I furthermore said that I could not ascertain whether the honorable member for Fawkner had repeated all that the newspaper had reported of my remarks on that occasion, since that particular copy of the Sydney Morning Herald was no longer on the library file, having disappeared on the day before yesterday. I furthermore said that if the honorable member for Fawkner had pursued his researches, as one would expect a person who belongs to the same profession as I do, and a person who holds office in this House, to do, for a few further issues, he would have found that the Sydney Morning Herald, in characteristic and just fashion had, in its “ Letters to the Editor “ column, published a letter from me on this very matter. The Sydney Morning Herald may be completely biased in its news presentation, editorials and cartoons, but it is relatively unbiased in publishing letters-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is not up to defend, or accuse the Sydney Morning Herald. He has risen to make a personal explanation in respect of himself.
– If the honorable member for Fawkner peruses in Hansard both the full text of my letter which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, and the complete text of what I said on this particular subject in my remarks before the Australian Institute of Political Science at the end of January, he will realize that I did not misrepresent him at all but that, in fact, he misrepresented me; and he is not misrepresenting me any theless because in his tedious, whining fashion he reiterates his misstatement
– Order !
– As Chairman, I present the report of the Committee of Privileges relating to matters. raised by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke), on the 25th May, 1955, together with the minutes of proceedings of “the committee.
– I desire to move a motion in connexion with the report.
– What is the motion ?
.- I move -
That the House take the report into consideration forthwith. [ wish to speak to it. First, I wish to ask that the committee furnish the House with a copy of its report. An attendant is now handing me a copy of lt. I think it is extraordinary that the chairman of a committee to which matters have been referred by this House, should simply rise in his place in the House and present the report of the committee without adding anything whatsoever to his mere announcement that he is presenting the report. If a matter referred to the Committee of Privileges is thought by this House to be of sufficient importance to warrant its reference to that committee, surely the consequent report of the committee should be held to be important enough to warrant consideration by the House.
This is the first opportunity I have had of even knowing what the committee has decided in relation to the matters referred to it as a result of motions moved by the honorable member for Fawkner and by mc. As far as I can gather from my necessarily brief study of this report since it was handed to me a minute or so ago by an attendant, the committee has decided that statements made by an honorable member in this chamber about another honorable member are not matters of concern to the Committee of Privileges. In other words, the committee has decided that, whatever statements may be made, by an honorable member in this House, the Committee of Privileges has no jurisdiction in relation to them, and that no breach of privilege occurs, irrespective of what allegations or reflections may be made by the particular honorable member concerned. It has been suggested to me that, in view of the disability that we are faced with in endeavouring to discuss a report which has just been distributed, I should ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date. I therefore ask for such leave.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
REPORT of Public Accounts Committee.
.- On behalf of the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee -
Twenty-first Report on the Aluminium Production Commission, Part I.
In explanation, I should like to say that this report is in the nature of an interim report. It covers all the substantial matters concerned, and all the conclusions of the committee, but the committee has not had time to deal with, and report in relation to, certain minor matters, nor to include certain appendices. They will be drawn up and submitted to the House during the next sessional period. J move -
That the paper be printed.
– May I ask the honorable member for Petrie to state briefly the special matters dealt with in the report?
– The honorable gentleman has presented the report.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned. -
Suspension of Standing ORDERS
Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) ] 1.21]. - I move-
That, contingent on the second reading of the Civil Defence Council Bill not having been concluded at the expiration of the time for precedence of General Business to-day. so much of the .Standing: Orders be suspended as would prevent the debate on the second reading of such bill being proceeded with immediately upon the termination of the time allotted to other General Business by the House to-day and being continued without interruption to the completion of the second reading stage. [ do not intend to delay the House long in regard to this matter, which deals with a question of procedure. I point out, however, that if the matter is allowed to lie it is unlikely that the bill will be brought to any conclusion before the Mouse rises for the recess, which, I understand it will do next week. In those circumstances this whole matter could not be brought before the House again. It can only be brought before the House by the motion that I have moved. You can understand, Mr. Speaker, that an honorable member has no chance, except by an absolute majority, of moving the suspension of Standing Orders successfully except on every alternate Thursday. This is the last Thursday in the present sessional period. I have, therefore, taken the only means that are available to me to bring this matter once again to the attention of the House. In doing so, and in regard to the bill which is the subject of this motion, I remind the House that, like all honorable members who are not members of the Government, under the provisions of section 56 of the Constitution I cannot bring in a bill for an executive act. As a result, the bill which I presented to the House certainly does not, in my mind, cover all the things that should be done. Indeed, it seems to me that the most important of those things are in the realm of executive acts rather than planning, although planning is an essential ingredient also. But it is urged that further action be taken on this matter, and this is the real point to which the House should direct its mind. Our country is doing far less in the realm of civil defence than are other countries which are threatened, perhaps to a greater degree than we are, but not to a much greater degree. The House already knows that the per capita expenditure on civil defence in Australia is ludicrously below the corresponding figure in both the United Kingdom and the United States of America-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not argue about civil defence matters. The question to which he is speaking refers to the suspension of the Standing Orders and nothing else.
– Indeed, I am directing my mind to the urgency of the suspension of the Standing Orders, and I am pointing out that, since this bill and the Government’s decision are not likely to be otherwise debated, then the urgency of the matters referred to in the bill is certainly a matter for proper consideration by the House in regard to this motion. I am simply directing my mind, not to what is contained in the bill which, as we all know, it would be out of order for me to do, but to the question of urgency in relation to the subject with which the bill deals. That is a proper matter to be debated in regard to a motion of this character. The Government’s plans, so far announced, are still inadequate to deal with the very real danger that faces us. It is urgent that something should be done towards putting the civil defence of this country on a proper basis. The implementation of the Government’s plans is still a nugatory thing. In these circumstances, the House has a very real duty to direct its mind to the urgency of the situation. I do not intend to’ delay the House, but I do intend to make it clear that, apart from this bill, the measures that the Government has taken are quite inadequate to deal with the situation which has arisen.
It has been said that we should do nothing, lest we terrify people. I do not believe that that is a proper argument for further delay. It is true that the facts are likely to terrify, but it is much better-
– Order ! The honorable member is now debating civil defence.
– No sir, I am debating the urgency of doing something about it. I am not referring to the contents of the bill for, as you properly point out. I am not entitled to do that. It is quite true that the facts, when known, are likely to cause terror. It is far better to get that terror over now so that the people can be inoculated against it than to allow the event which the enemy controls to coincide-
– Order ! The honorable member is now dealing with terror and all sorts of things. It looks as if I will have to become a terror.
– With the greatest respect, sir, no one has ever regarded you as being anything else. I do not intend to delay the House but this is the only opportunity given me by the Standing Orders to point out that, in my view, the plans so far announced by the Government are inadequate. I hope and trust that that will not remain true, and that the Government will take executive action in the way I have suggested.
I proposed pressing this matter to the vote, but the Prime Minister made it plain to me that he would regard that as a vote of censure, necessitating the resignation of his Government. That would certainly have served no useful purpose. The incoming Government would in no respect be better than the present one; indeed, I believe that in every respect it would be far worse. If the Government has failed, as I suggest, it is on this front alone.
– Order ! I shall not permit the honorable member to proceed in this manner. The question before the House is the suspension of the Standing Orders. The honorable member has a perfect right to defeat the Government or let it alone, as he likes.
– I believe that, in other respects, the Government has done a very good job.
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat. Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and move -
That the debate be adjourned.
– Can I speak on this?
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate accordingly adjourned.
– I move -
That, in the opinion ofthis House, the available gallery accommodation for the general public should be reviewed, bavins regard to the necessity for providing greater facilities for members of the public.
In this chamber, there are fourgalleries and the one behind the chair is known as the press gallery. I understand that, in earlier days, the House of Commons did not wish to have the press report its proceedings and, with that great capacity for improvising situations, which is so noticeable in the English character, a fiction was created. The press gallery was placed behind the Speaker’s chair, -so that the Speaker could not see it. _We have adopted that practice, too.
We have three other galleries, which are intended for the use of the public. Back in the depression years, in the late 1930’s, when Canberra became the permanent capital and the Parliament assembled here, the gallery on the southern side of the chamber was handed over by the then Speaker, Sir Littleton Groom, for the use of the press. That position has been continued by succeeding Speakers. The gallery on the left of the Speaker’s chair is not always fully occupied by the press. On most occasions there are very few pressmen to be seen in it. I understand that there are something like 60 or 70 pressmen utilizing the facilities provided for them in and around Parliament House. These 60 or 70 journalists represent the Australian metropolitan daily and weekly press, the Australian provincial daily and weekly press, and, in some instances, overseas newspapers and chains of newspapers.
The time has arrived - I always held this view when I was a Minister-when the press should be asked to vacate that gallery, which they now occupy and have occupied for nearly twenty years. . I believe the press should be asked to vacate that gallery because, as we are in an age of syndication, not so many pressmen are required to report the proceedings of the Parliament. Because of changes in readers’ habits, and particularly because the proceedings are broadcast to the nation, the reports are neither extensive, nor always informative, nor always so printed that they give a fair and accurate account of the proceedings. In other words, a good deal of the reporting now is unbalanced. The tendency is to play up the vituperative side of debates, and less attention is given to a full report of proceedings. Therefore, not so many pressmen are required ; and certainly not so many pressmen are using the gallery on your left, Mr. Speaker, or the gallery immediately behind you. There is always the exceptional occasion. When there is a foreign affairs debate, a motion of want of confidence in the Government, a debate on some important bill or the presentation of the budget and speeches by Opposition leaders in criticism of it, the press galleries may be fuller than they normally are.
I have said that there are 60 to 70 pressmen in more or less continuous attendance here when the Parliament is sitting. There are many here when we are not sitting. They have relations with Ministers and departments, and they must remain in Canberra. The pressmen are here in great numbers when the House is sitting, but they are not to be seen using the galleries. Therefore, there cannot be any objection to handing over the gallery on the southern side of the chamber to the general public.
Before I proceed to argue the case for the general public, I should like to say that only a fortnight ago I took the precaution of checking attendances, just to see the extent to which the galleries were being used by the press. I made checks at intervals of roughly a quarter of an hour. At 8.15 p.m., there were five pressmen in the gallery on your left, Mr. Speaker, and there were another five in the gallery behind you. At 8.30 p.m., there were six pressmen on the left of your seat and seven above you. At 8.45 p.m., the figures were four and four; at 9 p.m., three and ten; at 9.20 p.m., four and eight: at 9.45 p.m., three and four; at 10 p.m., two and three; and at 10.30 p.m., six and eleven. It cannot be said that the proper press gallery was not large enough to accommodate all the pressmen in attendance in this House on that night. That being so, I suggest that the time has arrived when the interests of the public should be given the consideration they deserve. _ Mr. Howse. - Who was speaking at the time?
– I wish the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) had not asked that question, because comparisons are invidious. I should not like to be the cause of losing even one vote for him in his electorate. However, he was not one of those who spoke during that time.
The population of this country is growing. Facilities for reaching Canberra are better than they used to be. Certain tourist organizations are bringing people to Canberra, and one of the attractions for tourists is Parliament House. It is a common sight in the evenings, and sometimes during the early part of the day, to find members of the public from all over Australia lined up in queues, waiting for seats in the two galleries open to the public. On many occasions, I have seen people who had come here from the far corners of Australia turned away because the press gallery was not open to them. The press gallery is practically empty all the time, but they cannot be admitted to it, under existing conditions, and not without an opinion from this House as to how the galleries shall be used. Some of the visitors who are turned away from this House arc found seats in the Senate. I make no observation on whether that is a suitable alternative or not. They are able to get into the Senate but they cannot see the House of Representatives. If the Senate does not happen to be sitting, they may have to go away altogether without having had the opportunity to see the Parliament in session. If these people are prepared to wait around for two hours - while this gallery on your left remains empty - they may be able to fill positions vacated by some persons who have arrived earlier. I know it is contended by a number of people - some inside this House and .others outside - that it is the people of Canberra who fill the galleries when the big debates are in progress. Well, I do not think that is so, but I consider that the general public, whether they come from Canberra or any other part of Australia, have the first right to the use of the galleries. They have more right to the gallery under discussion, which I want to be made available to the public. When I make that statement, I am speaking on behalf of the party which, by unanimous decision, has decided that the gallery should be made available to the public, and not to the press.
– Proper seating accommodation should be provided.
– We want proper seating accommodation to be provided in all the galleries. We think that the seats in the northern gallery are very hard, and that the seats in the gallery in front of you, Mr. Speaker, over the clock, are also too hard. We ask for the furniture to be modernized, and the facilities improved.
Reverting to the observation I was making about the people of Canberra, it. is not true that they flock in, as it were, to the first night of a new performance. They come because they are entitled to come. I think that the press proprietors themselves should be reasonable about this matter, and they should use the facilities that were originally provided. We .might even modernize those facilities for the use of the press, but the proprietors should not continue to demand something to which they have no right at all. We reached an extraordinary position recently, sir. I understand that you, the P rime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and some other people spoke to the chairman of the Press Gallery, and requested that that gallery be made available to honorable senators who could not be seated in the area provided for them in this chamber, so that they would be able to hear the Prime Minister’s speech on foreign affairs, and the report of his recent visit abroad. After some discussion, the chairman of the Press Gallery had to be told by the Speaker and the Prime Minister that the gallery, or portion of it, would be made available to the senators. That is an intolerable position, in my view. When we wish to make available any portion of the gallery that belongs to the public, the Speaker’s word should be sufficient, and the seating accommodation should be arranged so that senators or anybody else who come into that particular gallery should not have to stand for an hour, or an hour and a half, when they could be seated in comfort. That would be the position if we adopted the attitude we ought to adopt. The British House of Commons would not tolerate the position we have in Canberra for one minute. Very few pressmen are to be seen around the .King’s
Hall or the corridors. They belong to one category, arid they get special privileges for special work. Those who report the House are in another category, and they never leave their particular chamber.
The way proceedings have gone on in Canberra for years has developed a situation which is not satisfactory to the general public, not satisfactory to the Parliament, and, I suggest, not satisfactory to the press themselves. The press have their rights and their duties, but Canberra is now becoming a big city, and it should be the privilege and the obligation of the press proprietors of this country to provide their own Newspaper House, as they have been talking of doing for 37 years. They could locate most of their staff in that building, and transact most of their business from it. They should not be using the facilities of this House as if it were a factory or a newspaper office, or anything of the sort.
The Government of which I was a member gave them many additional facilities, more than I would have given them, in actual truth. Those facilities were provided for them, and a rental was charged, which you, Mr. Speaker, in my view very properly, discontinued, because they began to claim that they had some right to occupancy of Parliament House itself, when honorable members could not obtain accommodation for the proper discharge of their duties to their electorates. This is a. situation which should be resolved, and must be resolved, sooner or later. T. think it should be resolved now. What I have had to say is in no spirit of antagonism towards individual pressmen. 1 am saying, on behalf of the Labour party, that we want to get a proper regulation of the use of galleries. Consequently, I have brought this motion forward, and I hope the House will carry it. The motion cannot be regarded in any way as being critical of the Government; it cannot be regarded in any way as being offensive to any pressmen or any press interests, [t simply states -
That in the opinion of this House, the available gallery accommodation for the general press should be reviewed, having regard to the necessity for providing greater facilities for members of the public.
I am satisfied that the public who come to Canberra, and the public who will wan to come to Canberra at some time in the future to hear the proceedings of this House, will be unanimous in their support of this motion.
– Is the motion seconded ?
.- I second the motion, and I desire briefly to support it. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has given very clearly his reasons why he believes that the accommodation should be increased in this Parliament. Just in passing, Mr. Speaker, I mention that the Parliament is not the only place where accommodation is somewhat crowded, but I do not intend to trespass on that aspect at this moment. In view of the great interest taken in political affairs in this country at the present time, and in view also of the large increase in the number of visitors to Canberra, who come here as members of organized tours or by other means, it is quite apparent to those who see the queues outside the chamber, practically every night of the week and every day, that there is not enough accommodation in the chamber for those who desire to see, at first hand, how the National Parliament works. I do not say that if will always be possible to provide the accommodation necessary for all who want to come into the chamber. It is evident when prominent speakers and radio stars are available at certain times, that practically every one desires to come in ; and that applies also when matters of great moment, which have a bearing on all sections of the community, are being discussed.
– Is the honorable gentleman a radio star?
– I thank the honorable gentleman for that compliment. I certainly did not include myself in that category.
I see no reason why a raised dais at the back of the Speaker’s gallery should not be constructed, so that visitors seated at the rear might see more of the House than they do when they are seated on the same level as the people in front of them. Although that gallery is supposed to be the best in this House, I suggest that people seated in the public gallery at the King’s Hall end of the chamber obtain a better view, because they are able to look down on the scene. Visitors seated in the Speaker’s gallery often - cannot see what is happening and sometimes cannot hear what is being said. It might be of advantage if the rear part of the Speaker’s gallery were raised, and if similar action were taken in the Senate chamber, in order to enable visitors to obtain a better view of the Parliament in action. Possibly, the best solution would be for the government of the day to proceed, over the next few years, with the construction of a permanent Parliament House on the chosen site at Capital Hill, _ in order to provide adequate accommodation for members and visitors and the necessary facilities for members. Whether accommodation should be provided also for the members of various staffs that work here when Parliament is in session is a mattter that will have to be decided.
As the honorable member for Melbourne has stated, at the present time it is not possible for all of the visitors who wish to see the Parliament in action to obtain admission to the public galleries at the appropriate time. I agree with the honorable member that visitors are entitled to come here, whenever they wish, to see the Parliament at work. Many visitors to Canberra come here only periodically or even only once in their life-time. Many of them take great pleasure in meeting their local member here and in seeing him participating in the work of the Parliament. That is more particularly the case in respect of supporters of honorable members on this side of the House. Many tourists and visitors to Canberra are able to spend only an hour or an hour and a half in this city, and they go away disappointed when they cannot obtain admission to the public galleries to see the Parliament in action. I do not know whether it is possible to extend the existing galleries by adding another tier to them, or whether, if it is possible to do so, the expense would be justified since a new permanent building is proposed. I think we all are inclined to take things for granted when we consider the problems of accommodation and housing. We are inclined to let things stand and donothing practical in an endeavour to alleviate the inconvenience that many people suffer.
I support the motion, which has been, submitted in all good faith by the honorable member for Melbourne in an endeavour to ensure that all public visitorswho wish to see the Parliament in action shall be able to obtain admission to thepublic galleries and that those, who obtain seats in the galleries shall enjoy reasonable comfort and be able to see and hear everything so that they may enjoy the feeling that, perhaps, they are more or less participating in the work of theParliament. I suggest that, as an immediate measure, the Speaker’s gallery be raised, in order that visitors, many of whom naturally wish to sit in that gallery, may readily see and hear what happens in this chamber while they arepresent. It would be much better, also, if honorable members who are seated near to that gallery could be kept clearly apart from the public gallery. It is not possible, with the present crowded accommodation, to do this. With those few constructive suggestions, I support the motion. I trust that it will bear fruit and that ample accommodation will soon be available for visitors who wish to seethe Parliament working. I have in mind’ particularly the time when the nextLabour Government will hold office and’ when legislation of real value will beintroduced. Visitors in their thousandswill wish to watch the enactment of such, legislation.
– I listened with great interestto the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), whose remarks made a lot of sense. I was particularly interested’ also, in the observations of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who suggested that various platforms should be constructed about the chamber. Itseems that the honorable member regards this House as some sort of a stadium, about which tier upon tier of seats should’ be provided for visitors to watch the House, as the honorable member said, in action. I am aware that he is greatly interested in the noble art of boxing. Perhaps he is unable to think of this House except as a stadium. This chamber was never designed as a departure from the conventional plan for a chamber of a British parliament. One has only to see the House of Commons to learn how greatly limited is the accommodation provided for the general public in the Mother Parliament. In the chambers of the various State parliaments, also, the accommodation made available for the general public is very much limited. This building was designed on the conventional basis. Since it was designed, Australia’s population has increased considerably and, as a consequence, the Parliament has been enlarged.
In Canberra, we are far from the great centres of population to which adequate press reports of proceedings here must be transmitted so that the public may be informed about the proceedings of the National Parliament. This fact causes major problems. It is only a short time since the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), a representative of the Opposition, and other leading figures in this House, with you, Mr. Speaker, examined this building to ascertain whether additional space could be made available to the general public and. to review the accommodation provided for the press. I think each and every one of those who made that inspection with you, sir, agreed that it is almost impossible to provide additional space for the public. In this building, we have, and must have, adequate press representation. That is the reason why the gallery along the wall of the chamber behind the Opposition was made available to the press. Canberra, hy reason of its isolated position, is subjected to repeated waves of visitors from the various States who come here to see the Parliament at work, especially since large-scale bus tours have been introduced. They wish to spend a short time in the public galleries and then proceed on their travels according to the schedules of the bus companies. All of these circumstances cause problems in this building. Visitors from all of the States are entitled to see the National Parliament at work, and it grieves me much to see long queues of visitors extending across King’s Hall barred by attendants from admission to the crowded public galleries. That sort of thing should not happen.
At present, all we are able to do is point out those difficulties. What can we do to remove them? Nothing less than a new Parliament House with adequate gallery accommodation will solve the problem. The space available to the press must not be reduced, because the newspapers need all the space they have in order to provide the necessary press reports of proceedings in the Parliament. It is true that, in the press gallery on the wall behind the Opposition, a little space is available, but it is sufficient only for standing. It is impossible to put in an additional row of chairs in that gallery if the newspaper reporters are to be free to move to and fro in the course of their duties. From time to time, when major debates take place in this House, you, Mr. Speaker, have allowed visitors to be admitted to that gallery, and I have seen a long line of them standing, uncomfortably, at the back of the press gallery to watch the House at work. It is all very well for us to say that the problem must be solved. What is the solution? The honorable member for Melbourne, if ] did not misunderstand him, finds the solution in the curtailment of press representation. I do not agree with hi.ni. Press reports are provided by the newspaper reporters in this building for more than one capital city. The problem is greater than is that in a State parliament, where, generally speaking, only the local press has to be served. Newspapers in all of the States and also overseas must bp represented here.
It is unfortunate that visitors must wait for admission to the galleries, but it seems that the only practicable solution while the Parliament meets in this building is to make available to the public the little additional space that can be ‘provided by extending towards the rear the press gallery on the wall behind members of the Opposition. I do not know whether it would be possible to extend that, gallery further towards the rear. An extension would be a major building operation, but if it could be made, it might temporarily solve the problem. I emphasize the fact that the solution would be only temporary, because we would find this problem in our laps again in a few years’ time. I think that it is just as well that this matter should be ventilated and that honorable members should direct their attention to it in an endeavour to find a solution of the problem. Personally, I should like to give the matter much more consideration. I should like to give you sufficient time,Mr. Speaker, to consult your officers and the representatives of the newspapers in order to discover whether some action can be taken to make additional space available. The problem cannot be solved merely by a resolution, of this House. I know that you have interested yourself in this subject and I do not think that the House should assume that you are taking no action, and, by resolution, give you a direction. So that I may have an opportunity of considering this matter further, and so that the leaders of the various parties and honorable members may further consider it, I ask for leave no continue my remarks.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
.- 1 move -
That in thu opinion of thi; House, section 1 14 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth operates unjustly towards a section of the people, namely, the ratepayers, who are compelled by local government authorities to contribute funds for community services, while the Commonwealth Government is exempt from the payment of any such contribution to local government revenue.
Section 114 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth provides -
A State shall not, without the consent of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, . . . impose any tax on property of any kind belonging to the Commonwealth. . . .
This section also provides that the Commonwealth shall not impose any tax on property of any kind belonging to a State. I hope that all honorable members will approach this subject on a non-party basis. I am sure that most of them will agree that the terms imposed by this section of the Constitution, under present conditions, are unjust and inequitable. I think it fair to point out that throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and through nut Ireland, including
Dublin and Belfast, no such provision operates and, as a result, the taxpayer? as a whole provide the government’? share of the cost, in conjunction with property owners and tenants, when fundsare raised to pay for community services. In Australia, this is not the case. The responsibility falls upon the property owners, including pensioners who have provided their own homes, and upon tenants whose rentals have been fixed so as to provide for the payment of rates. The Commonwealth, which is the larges property owner, goes free.
It is unjust to ask the ratepayers, who comprise a small section of the people, to provide roads aud maintenance, footpaths, lighting, fire cover and many other amenities while the Government shelter? behind the Constitution and refuses to accept its share of the responsibility. Figures which. I have extracted from the Commonwealth Tear-Booh indicate that a steep increase has taken place in net collections by the Commonwealth since 1901. The Commonwealth Year-Booh No. 1, al page 643, shows that the net collections for the first six months of 1901 were just under £5,000,000. In 1902, they amounted to £11,296,895. Tear-Booh No. 40, at page 667, shows that the net collections for 1939 were £74,000,000. In 1952. they amounted to £934,000,000. In the budget which was presented to the Parliament in 1954, it was estimated thai net collections for the coming year would be £1,022,000,000. I think that these figures suggest that a corresponding increase has taken place in relation to the buildings that have been required by the Government for the purpose of housing the increased staff which it has found necessary to employ. Records show that, as far back as 1904, local government authorities have been protesting against the operation of section 114 of the Constitution. Of course, they have been protesting to all governments, regardless of party.
It was not until 1951 that the present Government agreed to contribute a grant in lieu of rates in respect of all Commonwealth instrumentalities engaged in commercial enterprise in competition with private firms which either own property or lease property from the Commonwealth, such as the Commonwealth Bank or Trans - Australia Airlines. The principle also applies to houses erected on Commonwealth property and used solely for domestic purposes. I shall cite figures which were compiled for the lord mayors of capital cities in 1952, showing the loss that has been suffered in all States. These figures are not complete, as many small local authorities did not furnish returns. A total of 30 local authorities failed to furnish returns in Victoria. The following table sets out the losses which have resulted from the failure of the Commonwealth to pay rates on its property: -
Despite the submission, of this evidence to the Government, no further relief has been given to those taxing authorities which are responsible for raising revenue so that local governments can function effectively. It is very disturbing to note that since the Government came into office in 1949, and up to 1953, the losses of the City of Adelaide had increased to the following extent : -
Those losses are additional to those which were suffered before 1949. Whilst the figures that I have quoted are disturbing enough, those for 1954 are even worse. In the latter year the loss to the City of Adelaide, which is probably similar to losses suffered in other States, based on a rate of 3s. Sd. in the £1, has reached a total of £22,121 8s. 9d. When added to the amount lost by the non-payment of rates by the State Government, the total loss is at the rate of 10 1/4 d. in the £1, or an extra 33^ per cent, of the total rate struck. The increase from 1949 to 1954 was 300 per cent. I think it can be established that, in South Australia, the refusal of the Commonwealth to share in the cost of these services places the burden inequitably upon some councils.
Let me compare the case of the City of Mitcham with that of the City of Prospect. The City of Mitcham is in the electorate of Boothby, and has 12,500 ratepayers. The annual loss of rates on Commonwealth property is £6,125 17s. 6d. The City of Prospect, which is in the electorate of Adelaide, has 9,850 ratepayers, and hae a small annual loss of £58 2s. 6d. In the case of the local governing body of Salisbury, which is in the country and which has 2,000 ratepayers, the loss is estimated to be £3,000 a year. I have based those statements on the 1952 figures. There are other similar cases, all of which go to prove that the burden imposed upon the local governing authorities is inequitable and that the responsibility falls unjustly upon certain of those bodies.
Situated within the City of Mitcham are the Dawes-road military hospital, the Cowan tuberculosis institution, the Byerlee rest home and the Waite Institute, which is used by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in conjunction with the State. The Waite Institute is situated on 340 acres of the most suitable and valuable building land in the metropolitan area. It abuts Cross-roads, where land to-day is bringing over £30 a foot. In fact, a reasonable average for the whole area would be not less than £10 a foot. As you, Mr. Speaker, know, this land was given to the State by the Waites, one of the oldest and most respected families in South Australia. We all know the work that is being performed at the institute in the interests of primary industry, and the real value that it has been to Australia as a whole. My objection is that the Commonwealth does not pay rates on that land. When it was necessary to provide transport in this particular area, the municipal tramway trust imposed a special levy on the abutting owners to meet the loss on capital and running expenses.
It has been argued that concessions have been made to local authorities, and there is no doubt that that did happen. We all know that the Commonwealth has withdrawn from the field of land taxation, but in South Australia, as in many other States, the State Government was very speedily moving into a position to levy that form of tax. The annual pay-roll tax for the City of Adelaide is £10,401, and the estimated gain from the exemption of local governing bodies from the payment of sales tax to the Commonwealth is £6,600. That leaves a net loss of £3,801. There has been some rural thinking in relation to the benefits that should be enjoyed in the capital cities. In the City of Adelaide, as I believe in all the other capital cities, not only do the ratepayers pay the bulk of the petrol tax and of motor registration fees, but also, when those funds are distributed throughout the State, the city does not participate in the benefits that accrue. The users of motor vehicles in the capital city have to provide the bulk of the petrol tax, and, as ratepayers, they have to pay, in addition, rates that are used for the purposes of the community generally.
It should be pointed out also that in the last twelve years the number of properties affected in the City of Adelaide has increased from five to 25. There has been a corresponding increase in the number of government-owned vehicles that are using roads which have been provided in many cases by the local authority. From time to time, the various local governing bodies have made representations to different governments asking them to make better use of the accommodation that they possessed. I think the time has arrived when we should declare that the Commonwealth should no longer be a landlord, but that it should dispose of any surplus buildings and should make
Ifr. McLeay. better use of the buildings it retains. Bydoing so, it would recognize the ria hai’ that has been made over the years in relation to the injustice that exists.
I make no apology for having submitted this motion. I feel sure that it is the obligation of every private member to take advantage of any opportunity he has to place constructive suggestionsbefore the House, and I hope that, du ringany debate which may follow, honorable members will take advantage of that opportunity.
– Is the motion seconded ?
– I formally second the motion.
– I- do not propose to speak at any length at this stage, but not out of disrespect to the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay) who has put his case in very powerful terms. The caseitself relates to a problem, or, if you like,, a group of problems, with which we have all become more or less familiar. I am not so familiar with them as is the honorable member for Boothby, who has had an uncommon and full experience of these matters, but, from time to time, I have had the advantage of hearing the views of the lord mayors at conferences,, and of other representatives of municipal bodies.
I have no doubt that the constitutional exemption operates in many cases, though not necessarily in all, unjustly. But this is not one of those simplematters, as my friend the honorable member for Boothby will agree, in which one merely says, “ All right, let us strike out the constitutional exemption “, because the Commonwealth is not the only authority that is affected by it. The States themselves, in toto, probably levymore in rates than does the Commonwealth. I know there are persons whoare optimistically inclined who believe that, if the Commonwealth sets £1,000.000- worth of example, the States might display £2,000,000 worth of virtue. My experience has not entirely encouraged me to believe that that is likely.
In the meantime, let me, first of all, inform the honorable member that his re- marks, and in particular, the very valuable figures that he has submitted on this occasion, will be very carefully studied by me and my colleagues. But I point out that there are one or two considerations of another kind which must be borne in mind, although I do not undertake to state what the answers are. I have already mentioned one of those considerations - the position of the States. I now mention another. There are some cases, particularly in well-established and closely settled cities, where the subtraction of a building from rateability would mean a serious loss to the municipal authorities, without any diminution of their responsibility. Not very far away from such cities there might be an aerodrome, the property of the Commonwealth, which is exempt from rating. There are counter considerations in such a case, because very frequently, the establishment of that airport would have drawn to its margin, as we have seen all over Australia, close settlements of people, the building up of those areas, and the establishment sometimes of factories and shops. All that, of course, has led to an increase of rateable values, and, therefore, to an increase of municipal revenues. I agree that it is a special case, but I put it forward because it is an indication that there is no simple single rule that will do justice overall. My own feeling right through the piece is that we have to deal with this thing justly, provisionally if you’ like, taking one step at a time. I acknowledge that the honorable member for Boothby has generously recognized the fact that the present Government made changes in respect of buildings that were occupied for what might be described as commercial or competitive purposes. “We did that, if I remember aright - I am not perfectly clear on the point - by providing not that there should be, technically, any exemption from rates, but that the Government could pay an amount that should be calculated by reference to them. I think I am right in saying that that was the way in which it was done, in order not to abandon the general principle.
I do not want to speak further on this matter. I should like to acknowledge, not only the constant pressure that the honorable member has exerted in relation to this problem, but also the fact that honorable members on both sides of the House have, on many occasions, taken the opportunity to direct the attention of the Government to these matters. I admit the gravity of them, and I am conscious of the difficulties associated with them. They contain in themselves, of course, relatively large financial implications, which nobody could deal with casually in a discussion of this kind. I assure the honorable member for Boothby that all he has said on the subject to-day, together with what has been said on it on former occasions, will receive the earnest scrutiny of the Government. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 19th May (vide page 903), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the following paper, laid on the table of the House on the 26th October, be printed: -
Royal Commission on Espionage - Interim Report, dated 21st October,1954.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 5th May (vide page 438), on motionby Mr. Bland -
That the following paper be printed: -
Public Accounts Committee - Nineteenth Report - Treasury Minute and comments of Postmaster-General’s Department on Twelfth Report of the 1952-54 Joint Committee of Public Accounts - PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– When the report of the Public Accounts Committee was presented on the 5th May, I secured the adjournment of the debate on the motion, “ Thatthe paper be printed “. I have once examined the report. There appears to be nothing in it that should be brought to the notice of the House or which would justify the continuance of the debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 19th May (vide page 912), on motion by Mr. Wentworth -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), this morning proposed a motion designed to facilitate early discussion of this measure, he was endeavouring to demonstrate that civil defence is a matter of great urgency, and therefore, there was justification for his attempt to have the Parliament treat it as such. I think that up to that point his remarks would have general agreement on this side of the House. It is a matter of great urgency. Now we have the resumption of the debate on the bill proper. First, I say, echoing to some extent what he has said that there has, in effect, been no planning for civil defence since the present Government took office. Certainly there has been a skeleton staff, but there has been no real planning of our civil defence requirements. To that extent, therefore, the Opposition welcomes a discussion of the matter. The plain fact is that, despite the emphasis placed by the Government and its supporters on the clangers which might confront the country through changed, modern weapons of mass destruction, there is, in effect, no provision for the defence of the country to meet that peril. The Government’s inaction may indicate, of course, that it does not think the peril is as great as some people suppose, but nevertheless it is the duty of the executive Government to see that the civil defences are organized in advance of the emergency. That has not been done. The real pointis whether the proposals contained in this particular measure constitute the best way to tackle the problem.
The bill provides for the establishment of a civil defence council. The key provision is in clause 4, which provides that the council shall consist of the Minister, three persons appointed by the Minister, two senators elected by the Senate, two members of this House, and eighteen persons appointed by the Governors of the States.
– The Commonwealth will have eight representatives on the council, and the States eighteen, and the Commonwealth will pay for the lot.
– My colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), points out that that would, in effect, give greater representation to the States than to the Commonwealth. Clause 5, which deals with tenure of office of the members of the council, is not important, and the procedural provisions need not be mentioned at this stage. I now come to the point for the House to determine, and I direct the attention of the honorable member for Mackellar and his colleagues associated with the measure to it. Clause 14 reads -
That is the key function. The clan.v continues - <h) to devise plans for ensuring the maximum survival of the people of Australia in the event of such an attack and for maintaining the existence of organized government and society in Australia in that event.
Those are excellent descriptions of what is required in planning the civil defence of Australia, but that is not a matter for such a council, except as a possible adjunct of the Department of Defence and an adviser of the government of the day. The security of Australia is encrusted to the Commonwealth and to its executive government under the Constitution. It is the Government’s job to have made inquiries into this matter, to see that the plans are adequate and that there are provisions for carrying them to completion. The situation to-day is that nothing has been done. While the honorable member for Mackellar is perfectly entitled to bring in the bill, and no doubt some of his observations on the weapons of mass destruction have been positive and helpful, many of his statements in relation to the causes of the international situation have been most unhelpful, particularly his reference to the possibility of preventive action, but I pass’ by that to say that the bill at all events tells the Commonwealth Government from within its own ranks that it has to start planning on this great matter. The States cannot be expected to take the initiative. In my opinion, the Commonwealth Parliament has exclusive power in this country in relation to all defence measures, naval military, air, or civil. Civil defence is just as much a part of the defence of the country a.? is naval, military or air defence. There is no distinction. In time of war, industrial organization is an essential part of defence. Therefore, J think it is a will o’ the wisp to suggest the formation of a council with all these representatives of the Commonwealth Parliament, the State parliaments, and the State governments. We would noi get much benefit from such a body.
I suggest as an immediate step that th,Government should appoint, in association with the Department of Defence, b committee of a representative character, not necessarily consisting of persons- holding specified offices, but consisting of people who can assist the Department oi Defence in this matter, irrespective of whether they are members of Parliament, or of the Commonwealth or Statsservices, together with the responsible Minister. In my opinion, responsibility for civil defence should not belong to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Ken Hughes), not because he would not be able to do the job, but because civil defence is an integral portion of the defence system itself. Why can that not be done ‘’. Why cannot the matter be approached from that point of view? That is thiview that the Opposition would take. We appointed a Director of Civil Defence in 1949, just before the Chifley Government was defeated. I know that this Government has since appointed some one eisin his place. I repeat that, as far as 1 know, not a thing has been done in civil defence preparations, notwithstanding the talk that has taken place in the last fiveyet, rs in regard to the inevitability of war. and the obvious fact that if there is a world war, there will be a grave danger that nuclear weapons will be used and th» civil population will be affected. The Government’s record in this field is 8 completely barren one. The introduction of this bill has directed pointed attention to that fact. I ask for leave to continuemy remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of general business has expired. Sitting suspended from- 12.U5 to 2.15 p.m
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee: (Consideration of Governor-General’s message).
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to make provision for the grant of financial assistance to the States in connexion with universities.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Menzies and Sir Philip McBride do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I do not need to make a very elaborate speech on this matter, because honorable members will recall that, since the 1st July, 1950, we have had legislation of this nature. Prior to 1950 there had been Commonwealth grants for research, and substantial subsidies were paid to universities in connexion with the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. In 1950, after an investigation by a committee, we decided that this matter ought to be put on a regular footing, and inevitably, of course, through the process of State grants for those specified purposes.
What this bill does is to seek to continue the Commonwealth grants to universities for the year 1955, and to repeal the act of 1953 under which sums were paid to the States for their universities up to the end of 1954. It might be useful if I reminded honorable members of the principles on which those grants have been calculated. First of all, there is a basic grant. If honorable members will examine the schedule to the bill they will find that the basic grant is shown in the third column of the schedule. The first column of the schedule describes the university; the second column describes the amount of State aid and fees, which represented the sub-structure on which this scheme was begun; the third column shows what we call the “ basic grant “, which is related quantitatively to what has been happening in the second column - related quantitatively in this sense, that having qualified by exceeding by that amount, the Commonwealth would then pay a proportionate sum to be known as the “ basic grant “, which is shown in the third column. For this year it will be £877,130. Then, to the extent to which those universities exceeded in their fees and State grants the amount set out in the second column, it was agreed that we should pay a second level grant, which would be equal to one-third of that excess. I am happy to say that, one of the objects of the exercise having been to improve the financial position of the universities, honorable members will see that the second-level grant in the fourth column is now almost equal to the basic grant and, in the result, the amount to be found by the Commonwealth this year will be slightly more than £1,700,000. Since 1950 all universities have qualified easily for the basic grant, and the question has been, how much of the second-level grant they can attract. I point out that this year it will be £828,800, as shown in the fourth column of the schedule. Last year there was a short fall in the second-level grant because one or two of the universities failed to qualify for the full amount that had been voted and, in the result, the amount paid fell short of the estimates by something over £100,000. This year the estimate will be £180,000 more than last year, without allowing for the short fall to which I have referred. We propose in this year, in. other words, grants of £1,700,000. Some slight variations are made, as those honorable members who are interested in the matter will observe, as between one level and another. That is the result of our desire - and I am sure that honorable members will approve of it - to pay attention to the increases of numbers in universities and, in some cases, to their particular disabilities.
The fifth column of the schedule refers to the amount for teaching and administrative costs of the residential colleges. I myself felt from the beginning that there was a strong case to be made out for some assistance, in a university context, to the residential colleges. Therefore, when this scheme began in 1950, an amount was indicated which, I think, at that time was £25,000. This year it is £35,700. That amount, I may say, is not additional to the amount expressed in the third column, hut is included in it. It is shown separately because I want to have it perfectly understood that the residential colleges are getting this modest amount of assistance. If the amount of £877,130 shown in the third column is added to the amount of £828,S00 shown in the fourth column, it will be seen that the total amount involved is somewhat more than £1,700,000.
We have not made any changes in the existing system, but I may tell honorable members that, during this current year, we are making a review of the present basis on which grants are determined, in the light of changes in student enrolments and changes in relative costs as between one university and another. Those considerations are very important in trying to give relative justice to each university which is one of the beneficiaries. We have put that in hand. We are having a very close examination made this year, and if it leads to the conclusion that there ought to be changes in the allocation, or in total, in the next financial year, we will, of course, be very happy to make those changes.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders he suspended as would prevent the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture from moving a motion in connexion with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for making of certain payments in respect of meat exported to the United Kingdom, and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. McEwon and Sir Eric Harrison do prepare and bring in a. bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. McEwen, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of the bill is to authorize the Australian Meat Board to make payments to exporters against meat delivered into cold store and subsequently exported to the United Kingdom. The board will be authorized to anticipate the receipt of moneys which are expected to become due to Australia from the United Kingdom Government in respect of the minimum price guarantees in the fifteen-year meat agreement. For the information of honorable members I shall briefly traverse the facts relating to the meat agreement. The fifteen-year meat agreement was signed by representatives of the United Kingdom and Australian Governments on the 11th October, 1951. However, the history of the negotiation of the agreement goes back a long time before that. An understanding was reached with the United Kingdom Government during the period in office of the Chifley Government that there should be a fifteen-year agreement for the sale of meat by Australia to the United Kingdom, but no substantial progress in the development of an agreement had been made until the present Government came into office.
During the period of approximately two years between the time this Government came into office and the signing of the agreement, Australian live-stock and meat interests, through their representatives on the Australian Meat Board, were brought into consultation at all stages of the negotiations. On two occasions delegations from the board visited London and took a direct part in those negotiations. During this period the members of the board, who in all cases represented interested parties, either producers or exporting processors, were free to, and wore in fact expected to, consult their organizations on the principles involved.
Further, during this two-year period, I., as Minister, deliberately made more than a dozen public statements which were fully published in all live-stock and meat industry journals, and which dealt with the points raised and the progress towards agreement in the discussions with the United Kingdom Government. My intention was to ensure that all sections of the live-stock and meat industry would be aware of what was going on, and therefore able to make any contribution or criticism or, for that matter, protest which they might desire. In short, that with adequate knowledge of the facts, industry opinion should have full opportunity to crystallize on the issue.
The Australian Meat Board, by a substantial majority, approved the provisions of the agreement before it was signed. This agreement has a completely novel and unprecedentedly advantageous provision when compared with the long-term commodity agreements previously entered into by Labour governments. Those agreements provided for direct govern.menttogovernment trading and did not l>er.mit trader-to-trader selling.
The present meat agreement provided that when the parties to the agreement decided to revert to normal tradertotrader selling, which occurred in fact last year, then, if the average prices obtained over each year for beef, lamb or mutton separately were higher than the schedules of minimum prices provided under the agreement, Australian producers were to get the benefit of such higher prices. However, if average market prices over the year were lower than the scheduled minimum prices, then the deficiency was to be made up by way of a lump-sum payment by the United Kingdom Government. Beef, lamb and mutton are each treated separately so that if. for example, average lamb prices for a year are above the minimum schedule while average beef prices are. below the minimum schedule, the beef deficiency payment will not be offset by the higher lamb prices.
The agreement, however, retains all the advantages of the former straight-out government-to-government trading agreements by the provision of a guaranteed market in the United Kingdom for the whole of the exportable surplus of beef, lamb and mutton for fifteen years. The United Kingdom and Australian Governments decided in March, 1954, after consultations in which the chairman and the producers’ and processors’ representatives on the Australian Meat Board took a direct part, to cease governmenttogovernment trading in mutton and lamb as from the 30th June, 1954, and in beef as from the 30th September, 1954. At the same time, a schedule of minimum prices for the year 1954-55 was negotiated by the board’s representatives with the United Kingdom Ministry of Food. These minimum prices were considered by the board’s representatives to include a reasonable, but not excessive, margin of profit for producers.
Since reverting to a trader-to-trader basis, the price of frozen beef on the United Kingdom market has fallen considerably and is now below the minimum price for beef set in the schedule. This fall has been due to a variety of factors, the major ones, apparently, being the greatly increased quantities of meat available in the United Kingdom in the form of accumulated Ministry of Food stocks, high United Kingdom production of beef and pork, and increased quantities of imported chilled beef.
The declared intention of both parties to the agreement in such circumstances was that special provisions would be made to ensure that a satisfactory part of the combination of sale price and deficiency payment reached the producers of the live-stock. It will be appreciated that the precise calculation of a deficiency payment likely to be due from the United Kingdom Government cannot be made until after the end of each year, because of the averaging provisions over the full year. The most difficult, and possibly controversial, aspect flowing from thi? deficiency payment provision is the question of how the payments can be got back to the producers, in the circumstances that the precise entitlement is not going to be known with certainty until months after much of the meat has been shipped.
The bill is designed primarily to establish the basis for this disbursement. It represents a proposal which the Meat Board decided about a month or six weeks ago should be recommended to the Government as the best possible means. I.t is, in fact, precisely the means which I suggested in an explanation to the Parliament of the terms of the meat agreement immediately after my return to Australia. That was on the 15th November, 1951. I might be pardoned if I find myself unable to refrain from observing that a number of spokesmen for livestock organizations and specialist industry journals have been alleging for years that there is no possible equitable way of getting the deficiency payments back to primary producers. It now transpires that the representatives of all the livestock organizations which have representation on the Australian Meat Board urge, by resolution, that the Government should take the exact course which I myself had suggested to them three and « half years ago.
Theoretically, it might be thought possible to keep records of the producers whose live-stock was exported, and after a deficiency payment had been received, to pay to each his entitled share. In actual practice, as the industry is conducted, that would be completely impossible. Where lines of cattle are bought by processors who engage, as most do, in the carcass export trade, the local meat trade and in canning operations, it would he quite impossible to keep records of the original owners of the stock ultimately exported in carcass form. This is especially impractical where live-stock are purchased at auction. The course intended to be followed is not only practical, but has, as I explained in this House in 1951, tremendous additional value- to the whole live-stock industry.
Take the case of beef as the example for illustration. What is intended is that there should be payable to the processor exporter an amount of l£d. per lb. on appropriate carcass meat delivered into store between the 1st May and the 31st July, 1955, and exported to the United Kingdom. The entitlement to this payment will enable the exporter to increase his offer for cattle, or his bid at auction, by an equivalent amount. This, therefore, sets a new value for the cattle on the hoof, and it is that value which the local butcher must recognize in competing against the buyer for export.
Therefore, without additional money* being provided, this arrangement or device will sustain the value of cattle for local consumption at the equivalent level of the value for commercial export, plus the deficiency payment. Thus there is established this level of value for all fat cattle in the areas where cattle are being slaughtered for export.
In case any one should feel that this is an unjustifiable, artificial raising of the price to the local consumer, let me remind honorable members that the export subsidy is payable only in circumstances in which the value for export would otherwise be at levels judged to be unprofitable. No subsidy will be payable while export values are at profitable levels. Therefore, in those circumstances local consumption prices will find their floor. a.-= they always do, at export parity.
I believe the days have passed when there will be any one found to argue or believe that there can be any good for the Australian economy in food being available at prices which represent loss to the primary producers. By the means which I have described, there will be a stable level of values for fat stock. This, in turn, of course, establishes the appropriately equivalent level of values for store stock, which is the generic term used by live-stock men to describe all stock other than fat stock.
From the point of view of stability in the beef industry, that is the tremendous value of this whole arrangement. In short, it is a device by which the negotiated entitlement to a deficiency payment from the United Kingdom on a percentage of our live-stock production gives stability at reasonable levels to the entire industry in those areas in which export killing takes place.
The overwhelming percentage of beef exports are from. Queensland, with some from north-west Australia. These are the areas to which my remarks particularly apply. Prom the great stock markets of Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, there is practically no beef export. In1 those markets, available supplies of beef, except on odd occasions, are no greater than the demand for local consumption, and the ordinary forces of competition establish price levels which are invariably higher than export parity. Therefore, this arrangement will have no effect capable of being measured in those areas. There is a small but increasing export of beef from New South “Wales. In that State, market values are mostly determined by the forces of competition for home consumption, and the effect of this arrangement would’ be no- more than to prevent fat cattle values in New South Wales from falling below the price level represented by a combination of the commercial export parity and the deficiency payment operating at the time.
To sum up this aspect of the matter, the arrangement embodied in this legislation provides both an equitable method of getting back to primary producers the actual money received from the United Kingdom as deficiency payment, and also multiplies the advantage of this to the producers by the sympathetic stabilizing effect, on fat stock for local consumption and the whole store stock market..
The finance provided to cover the payments authorized by the measure will not be a charge against the Australian taxpayer in any circumstances. In the first instance, it will be provided by the Commonwealth Bank by means of an Australian Government guaranteed overdraft to the Meat Board. This guaranteed overdraft will later be discharged by the deficiency payments made to Australia by the United Kingdom Government. In the event of the board recommending a rate of deficiency payment which in total amount at the end of the year exceeds the amount of money received from the United Kingdom Government, a levy on exports will be imposed to balance the ledger. That, of course, in the whole total arrangement, could occur only if export values had returned to profitable or higher than profitable levels. Any such levy may be spread over a period of about one year unless special circumstances dictate- a longer period. Authority to impose such a levy will be sought in a complementary bill and the operation of this bill, if approved by the Parliament, is conditional upon Parliament’s approval also- of the complementary bill. This system of balancing the ledger, if that should prove necessary, has. been recommended to the Government by the Australian Meat Board on the clear understanding that the Government would not itself assume liability if payments by the board should exceed the amount ultimately received from the United Kingdom Government. The board suggested that the Government might assume liability for any failure of United Kingdom deficiency payments to us liquidating the board’s overdraft on this account. The Government has, however, made it clear at all relevant times that it would not involve the taxpayer in any liability in this connexion.
The provisions of the bill’ would permit the board in its discretion to draw upon accumulated funds held by the board from profits made in early years under bulk contract trading for the purpose of adjusting any over-expenditure on deficiency payments to exporters. This could be alternate to or supplementary to the levy to which I have referred. The bill also provides that consequent upon the Government guaranteeing the- board’s overdraft for the deficiency payment purposes, the accumulated profits of the board, which are separately identified on account of the three classes of meat - mutton, lamb and beef - shall be available against the Government’s guarantee. This is considered to- be a proper action to be taken to protect the general public interest.
However, there will, in fact, he no intention ot likelihood of the Government exercising its rights in this regard, because the whole concept, as proposed by the meat board and approved by the Government and embodied in this bill, provides that a levy on exports, imposed when prices are higher than the minimum guarantee under the agreement, shall be the means of bringing the board’s accounts into balance1. It is the opinion of the Australian Meat Board that competition between meat works and the meat operators at public utilities will ensure that they will pass on the benefit of the deficiency payment in the prices they pay for live-stock whether purchased at unction or by private treaty.
I may say that this general proposal has been canvassed in recent weeks at widespread meetings of cattle-grazier interests in Queensland. These meetings, without exception, gave their approval to the concept, thereby endorsing the view that a payment, or an entitlement to processors, will be passed on through the customary arrangements that exist between processors and producers. They are the people capable of judging that issue,, and I am advised that they are quite content on that point.
A safeguard has been incorporated in clause 8 of the bill providing for the suspension of deficiency payments where the Minister, after examining all evidence available, is not satisfied that the prices being paid by meat exporters to producers axe such as to pass, on in an equitable manner the full benefit of the deficiency payments. The export subsidy in itself should effectively silence such criticism of the fifteen-year meat agreement as has been based on the grounds that the benefits of any deficiency payments received from the United Kingdom Government could not be passed back to producers.
I am sure that the opportunities for export other than to the United Kingdom which are incorporated with the long-term meat agreement, are not fully understood. I believe that in some cases where they are fully understood, they are misrepresented. This misunderstanding is the basis for some criticism of the whole agreement. On this point, let me advise the House that in the first place, canned meats may be freely exported to any destination without restriction, because canned meats are not covered by the agreement. Canned meat exports are at the annual level of approximately 65,000 tons canned weight, equal to probably more than 100,000 tons carcass weight. Total carcass beef exports to- all destina tions this year are estimated at about 120,000 tons. Almost half of the total exports in canned form can be sold to the best advantage by any one who wishes to export, no matter to which country he desires to export.
In the second place, under this agreement, Australia has the specific right to export without limit to all British colonies, dependencies and British oil companies. The operations of the oil companies, of course, as honorable members know,, are carried out in the Persian Gulf and. the Indonesian areas, &c. This trade in carcass meat normally represents 16,000 tons a year. That is on the basis of completely open trading. In the third place, the agreement reserves, to Australia the right of similar free export anywhere in the world of a quantity of beef, mutton and ]anib, equal to 3 per cent, of the exports to- the- United Kingdom. In the fourth place,, the agreement visualizes negotiations of quantities additional to this 3 per cent, for free- sale anywhere in the world.
Within these three free export opportunities for carcass meat, it is estimated that in the current meat year about 42,000 tons of carcass meat will be available to exporters for sale in these terms at the best price they are able to negotiate in ordinary open commercial competition. Actually, this year the United Kingdom market has! provided high enough returns to leave little inducement to- export lamb under this free: quota arrangement. To put this position! another way, the quantity of carcass meat, which- may be sold outside the United Kingdom this year would represent approximately 25 per cent, of our total exports1. For the- present, no deficiency payments will be made on exports of lamb- and mutton because prices received in the United Kingdom for these two classes of meat do not warrant payments. In other words,, they are above the minimum guaranteed level. I say this notwithstanding that the end of the year could show that we are entitled to some small deficiency payment on account of mutton. It would, however, not be large enough to warrant distribution, and the meat board would hold that payment against future events. However, in the event of circumstances arising in the future similar to those now in existence in the beef industry, this bill provides the necessary machinery for action to be taken by the Australian meat board to make deficiency payments on the export of mutton or lamb to the United Kingdom.
– What about pig meat?
– Pig meat would have been included in the agreement but the Australian Pig Producers Association, at the time when it was known that these negotiations for an agreement were proceeding, came to the Government and asked that pig meat should not be included. The Government, having a steady policy of respecting the wishes of the ownership of the various commodities with which it is concerned, instantly said, “All right, if the pig producers clearly do not want pig meat to be included, it shall not be included “, and so it has not been included. I say to representatives of grazing interests, and beef, mutton and lamb interests, who may regard themselves as having higher business judgment than the pig producers on the whole, and who now criticize the inclusion of these classes of meat in the agreement, that if they had had the wit to protest, or if they could have marshalled a majority of the producers of those classes of meat to protest - and that is the critical test - then those classes of meat would not have been included in- the agreement.
Following the most serious world-wide food shortage of the war and post-war years, a meat surplus has developed much more quickly than any authoritative person forecast. This situation has resulted in .a sharp depression of prices. It is valuable that the provisions of the longterm meat agreement permit arrangements which provide a most useful stabilizing factor to support the Australian live-stock industries. If this measure is approved by the Parliament, the beef industry will directly benefit forthwith by approximately £700,000 in the first three months of the operation of the plan ; and, if there is no alteration, in the rate of deficiency payments during the balance of this “ meat “ year - the subsidy would be reduced or withdrawn only in the event of the United Kingdom market rising to profitable levels - the industry will re ceive a further £350,000, which will make a total of more than £1,000,000 by the end of the current export season. To pui the matter another way, the payment of ltd. per lb. on first and second quality ox beef exported to the United Kingdom is expected to enable exporters to pay about £3 12s. a head above export parity. 1 commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That, in this Resolution, unless the contrary intention appears - “ declared meat “ mean meat of a kind or class declared by the Minister, by instrument in writing, on the recommendation of the Board, to be declared meat for the purposes of the Act passed to give effect to this Resolulion; “ edible offal “ mean any edible portion, other than the flesh, of cattle or sheep; “ excess payment in relation to a year, mean the amount by which deficiency payments by the Board under section five of the proposed Meat Agreement (Deficiency Payments) Act 1955 in respect of that year, together with expenses (including interest charges) incurred by the Board in connexion with those payments, exceed pay ments by the Government of the United Kingdom to the Government of the Commonwealth under the Meat Agreement referred to in that pro posed Act, in respect of that year; “ meat “ mean beef, veal, mutton, lamb and edible offal, but do not include canned meat; “ the Board “ mean the Australian Meat Board constituted under the Meat Export Control Act 1935-1953; “ year “ mean a period of twelve month,ending on the thirtieth day of Septem ber.
– (1.) That, for the purpose of making good amounts by which deficiency payments by the Board under section five of the proposed Meat Agreement (Deficiency Payments) Aci 1955, together with expenses (including interest charges) incurred by the Board in connexion with those payments, exceed payments by the Government of the United Kingdom to the Government of the Commonwealth under the Meat Agreement referred to in that pro posed Act, a charge, in addition to the charge imposed by the Meat Export Charge Act 1935- 1954, be, subject to this paragraph, imposed on declared meat exported from the Common wealth to the United Kingdom. i 2. ) That the rate or rates of the additional charge be fixed from time to time by the Minister by notice published in the Gazette, and that different rates of the additional charge may be fixed for different kinds or classes of declared meat. (3.) That the additional charge be payable only on declared meat exported during such periods as are fixed from time to time by the Minister by notice published in the Gazette. (4.) That the Minister, as far as he considers it practicable to do so, exercise his powers under this paragraph in such a way that the amount of the excess payment in respect of a year will be made good by the end of the succeeding year. (5.) That the Board, from time to time, make recommendations to the Minister as to the rates and periods of operation of the additional charge necessary, in the opinion of the Board, to ensure that the amount of the excess payment in respect of a year will be made good by the end of the succeeding year, and that the Minister, in exercising his powers to fix rates and periods of operation of the additional charge, take those recommendations into consideration
That all moneys payable under the Act passed to give effect to this Resolution be paid, on or before the entry of the declared meat for export, to such officers in the respective States, >r in the Northern Territory of Australia, as the Minister specifies.
That the Act passed to give effect to this Resolution come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. McEwen and Mr. Kent Hughes do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. McEWEN, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill he now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to authorize the imposition of a levy on the export of meat to the United Kingdom in the event of deficiency payments to be made, by the Australian Meat Board under the Meat Agreement (Deficiency Payments) Bill exceeding the moneys received from the United Kingdom Government under the fifteen-year meat agreement. The relationship of the levy ro the deficiency payments plan was dealt with in my .second-reading speech on the Meat Agreement (Deficiency Payments) Bill. The measure now under discussion limits the rate of levy to a level sufficient to cover the amount which will be required to liquidate the over-expenditure within one year of the end of the “meat” year in respect of which the over-expenditure occurred, unless some set of special circumstances arises. If special circumstances should arise the bill will give to the Minister discretionary power to extend the period over which the repayment may be spread.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 1st June (vide page 1342), on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the House of Representatives approve* of the distribution of the State of Victoria into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs R. C. Nance, F. W. Arter and F. Cahill, th, Commissioners appointed for the purpose df distributing the said State into divisions, ir their report laid before the House of Representatives on the 11th day of May, 1955, anr” that the names of the divisions suggested it. the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “La Trobe”’ be substituted for “Bruce” and the name *’ Bruce “ substituted for “ La Trobe ‘’.
.- From the remarks that have been made by honorable members who have discussed the redistribution of electoral boundaries in Victoria and in other States, it is apparent that there are differences of opinion about the machinery by which the redistributions have been made. The Commonwealth Electoral Act should contain more specific provisions for the guidance of the distribution commissioners in the making of redistributions. In order to give honorable members some idea of the variety of the interpretations that have been placed upon the provisions of the act by various distribution commissioners, and to indicate the weakness in the act, I wish to discuss the position in respect of my own division of Isaacs.
The redistribution commissioners for
Victoria, at page 3 of their report, state -
A number -of objections and suggestions, particularity in relation to the proposed Divisions of Bendigo., Corio, Deakin, Isaacs, McMillan, Scullin, “Wills and Yarra were received within the period prescribed ‘by law.
I did not lodge with the commissioners any formal objection to the proposed redistribution as it affects my electorate, but I am fully aware that an objection was made by the St. Kilda City Council because the town clerk sent to me a copy of a letter that; he had addressed to the commissioners on behalf of the council. That objection related to only a very small area, which has not very great political significance. I am aware, also, that various ratepayers resident in that small area submitted to the commissioners a petition in support of the council’s objection to the proposed redistribution. But there was no connexion between these representations. Apparently, each was made separately.
The objections related to a very small portion of the St. Kilda area which was placed in the division of Higgins now called Fawkner at a previous redistribution. Apparently., the council and the ratepayers did not want this anomaly to be preserved. They felt that the present was the time to lodge an objection in preference to having the anomaly perpetuated for another seven years when the next redistribution would occur. Tha area was a small portion on the northern boundary of the division of Isaacs which stops at a 1-chain road. The council suggested that the commissioners should move the boundary about .150 yards further north in order to bring it into line with the municipal boundary which stopped at a 3-chain road which incorporated two plantations and two tramlines, and which was an arterial road in the real sense of the word. Some few hundred electors were resident in thi3 area. The only desire of the council in lodging an objection was to try to make its own administration function more easily, and to lessen confusion concerning the boundaries of the electoral division, because people had experienced a great deal of confusion about the municipality in which they resided, particularly at the time of municipal elec- tions. ‘Some confusion lad also been experienced in regard to postal districts.
Tie letter that the council sent to the commissioners clearly indicated that its objection was a serious one. The letter commenced by stating -
At a meeting of the full Council held last evening, reference was made to the proposed alteration to Commonwealth electoral divisions in accordance with maps open for inspection, and a discussion ensued on the new boundaries for the Federal electorate of Isaacs.
Another part of the letter stated - ‘
It will be appreciated that the width of Dandenong-road, being three chains, forms a definite division of local interests, the interests of residents south of Dandenong Road being almost entirely divorced from the interests of those residing north of Dandenong Road.
The council then referred to the diversity of interest between two municipalities and explained why it was necessary to move the proposed boundary about 150 yards. In the last portion of the letter, the council stated -
Lastly, and I am permitted by the Council to speak from personal knowledge as a former Returning Officer for the State Electoral District of St. Kilda and the Province of Monash (formerly Melbourne South), voters recording absentee votes in other parts of the State almost invariably gave their Electoral District as St. Kilda (naturally, being in the St. Kilda Municipality and the St. Kilda postal district), and as a consequence, voting official? entered on their ballot papers the names of candidates for the St. Kilda Electorate. These declarations were naturally rejected by the St. Kilda Returning Officer and forwarded to their rightful destination but the ballot papers would be subsequently rejected because the wrong candidates’ names were included. It is, of course, appreciated that the fault lies entirely with the voter and ignorance of their State or Federal Electorates is no excuse. The viewpoint is proffered, however, that this position would be vastly improved if the Council’s suggestion put forward herein, were adopted.
May we beg, therefore, that the Commissioners give these matters their earnest and sympathetic consideration. A copy of this letter has been -forwarded to the Federal Member for this Electorate (The Honourable W. Crawford Haworth) in the hope that he will lend his support and approval to the proposals now advanced.
The Commonwealth Electoral Act clearly sets out the circumstances under which a person may lodge objections to the decisions of the electoral commissioners. The act states that electoral commissioners shall be appointed and that they shall take notice of certain provisions of the act. After they have reached a decision, according t©’ the- act, maps of proposed new divisions must be displayed in post offices and they must remain there for 30 days, during which time an objection may be lodged by any person who wishes to lodge one. The objection must be noted and- conveyed to the Minister for the Interior. In Victoria, the commissioners made it known in the beginning that they definitely would not consider any approach by any members of the community while they were considering the redistribution of electoral boundaries. I am not objecting to that action, which the commissioners were entitled to take. There is a. lot to be 3aid in favour of it. To the best of my knowledge, no approach was made to the commissioners while they were deliberating upon this matter. But I understand that, within the period of 30 days during which the maps of the proposed new divisions were displayed at the post offices, objections were made in writing. But no opportunity whatsoever was given to councils, or other bodies whose work would be affected by the proposed new boundaries, to appear before the commisioners in order to state their objections. The commissioners accepted objections only in writing. They sent a formal notice to the council stating that they had received the council’s letter. The council heard nothing more from the commissioners, and its first intimation that a decision had been made was a published statement in the newspapers that objections had been overruled.
That was rather shabby treatment to give to what might he described as a semi-government body, the officers of which have to work in close association with the officers of the Government. It is obvious that the commissioners, having drawn the maps, did not intend to alter them. They did not intend to consider any objections. If they had considered one objection they might have had to consider others, and the easiest way out was not tO consider any. In consequence, the ratepayers and the council were denied the opportunity to place their objections before the commission in a way that objections had been placed before commissioners in other States. Victoria and Queensland are the: only States in which the commissioners prevented persons from coming before them- tm& dis, cussing with them how the maps should be drawn. I do not wish to state whether or not persons should be denied the right to appear before the commissioners, but it seems strange that in all States;, except Victoria and Queensland,, people were allowed to appear before the commissioners and state how they considered the boundaries could be distributed to the advantage of the electors and the municipal councils. That might -be a very good procedure, but it seems strange that no direction whatsoever was given to the commissioners who were appointed for the purpose of redistributing electoral divisions in Victoria and Queensland. If the Minister for the Interior can obtain any satisfaction from the report on the distribution of Victorian electorates I shall be astonished, because it is obvious that opportunities were denied to the people of Victoria which were granted to the people of all other States except Queensland.
I do not want to prolong this discussion, because I can quite understand that there will be a lot of discontent in regard to the question of whether particular areas should be included in one electoral division or another. There could be no agreement amongst members about that matter, because we would all look upon it in a different light. I do believe, however, that, before the commissioners started their job, there should have been some kind of understanding about whether or not evidence would b<? taken before them, and whether the commissioners in all of the States would do the same thing. I submit that a ministerial recommendation should have been given to all of the commissioners in order that an opportunity to give evidence before them may have been clearly defined. The opportunity to give evidence is not defined in the Commonwealth. Electoral Act and, therefore, I think there should have been a ministerial direction setting out what the commissioners should have done.
My objection to the report rests entirely upon that basis, and I hope the Minister will take early action to ensure that the duties of the commissioners shall be clearly defined in the act and, if necessary, to ensure that it shall be overhauled. It seems that, in the main, the act has not been altered since 1905. It is high time that it was altered, and brought up to date, in order to give some clear definition about what the commissioners can and cannot do in relation to the taking of evidence.
.- I agree with the criticisms that have been made by previous speakers in relation to the report of the commissioners for the State of Victoria. Any one reading the report must feel a sense of dissatisfaction and, to a certain degree, frustration because of its very nature. The report is a matter of very great importance, not only to honorable members of this House who represent parts of Victoria, hut also to public bodies such as municipalities and organizations that represent the different sections of production and commerce. Under those circumstances, one would expect a report on the redistribution of electoral boundaries to give very fully the reasons why changes were made, and some idea of the consideration that was given to objections, and generally to place honorable members, who are affected by the matter, in a position to understand the reasons for the decisions of, and alterations made by, the commissioners.
– Hear, hear!
– -But I discover, to my astonishment, that in Victoria three seats have been left unchanged. They are Chisholm, which is represented by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), Kooyong, which is represented by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and Murray, which is represented by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen). As I have stated, those three seats remain unchanged, leaving 30 other seats that have been changed. Eight objections were lodged in respect of those other seats. In other words, slightly more than 25 per cent, of the seats involved were subject to objections. All that the report, which is exceedingly brief, and which, therefore, does not display either courtesy or consideration to the House when the importance of the matters involved is taken into account, had to say about those objections is contained in the following brief paragraph : -
A number of objections and suggestions, particularly in relation to the proposed Divisions of Bendigo, Corio, Deakin, Isaacs, McMillan, Scullin, Wills and Yarra were received within the period prescribed by law.
The decision of the commissioners in respect of those objections is expressed in two lines, which read as follows : -
The whole of the objections and suggestion? were given full and careful consideration and consequent thereupon your Commissioners decided to make no alteration to the originally proposed boundaries.
I suggest that the House, by way of comparison, might look at the reports that were submitted in respect of South Australia and Western Australia. In those reports the objections were stared, and reasons were given by the commissioners for rejecting some objections and accepting others. I think that a similar procedure should have been followed in relation to Victoria, because those persons who have made objection are entitled to know- why their objections were rejected, and why the commissioners decided not to alter their original proposal. They might have had sound reasons for their decision. They might have had convincing reasons, but when no explanation of the reasons for the rejection of the objections is given, one is not, and cannot be, satisfied that the decisions of the commissioners were sound, fair or just. I suggest that courtesy to the House, to the Government to whom the report was submitted, and to the persons who are affected by the decisions, warranted a statement of the reasons why the commissioners found it necessary to retain, without alteration, the original boundaries that they drew.
Having expressed my views about that matter, I refer to the briefness of the. report itself. Of all the reports that have been submitted on the redistribution of electoral boundaries - and there are six of them, as you, Mr. Speaker, know - the report in relation to Victoria is the briefest and gives the least information about what lias been done by the commissioners. It leaves, in my opinion at any rate, a sense of frustration in respect of the principles, and the plan and policy, that were pursued by the commissioners. When we turn to Part II. of the report, we see the number of electors that have been fixed for the various divisions in what are termed the metropolitan area and the extrametropolitan area. One feels, after looking at the tabulated statement that appears in the first section of Part II., that there has been a total failure on the part of the commissioners to make any allowance, in fixing the number of electors, for certain electorates the populations of which, during the last six years, have increased to a degree that had not been anticipated.
I have always understood that, when the Commonwealth Electoral Act provided that the number of electors in any particular constituency should not exceed 20 per cent, above or below the quota, the idea was, in redistributing boundaries, to give to those electorates that were regarded as being fully developed the higher quota, and to those electorates that were in the process of development, and which could reasonably be regarded as being likely to expand in the fairly near future, the lower quota. Instead of that being the position, we find that constituencies in which the number of electors has risen by many thousands between 1948 and the last census are barely on the quota, and that others which might be regarded as developed are on the quota and, perhaps, in some cases, slightly below it. One wonders whether the principles underlying redistribution have been properly understood by the .commissioners in the case of Victoria.
– Hear, hear !
– We do not want to see the number of electors in one section constantly dwindling, and the number in another section constantly rising. Another eight years may pass before the next census is taken, and we may discover startling inequalities in relation te the electoral boundaries of Victoria. I desire to refer particularly to what has been done in respect of the constituency of Bendigo. Like the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), who spoke on this matter last evening, I believe that, in respect of Bendigo, the redistribution commissioners have departed very largely from section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which gives a very clear direction to them. That section reads, in part -
In making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration to -
Community or diversity of interest,
Means of communication,
Existing boundaries of Divisions and
In respect of the division of Bendigo, the redistribution commissioners have ignored four of those five factors. Today, the Bendigo constituency is somewhat similar to the Ballarat constituency. Tt embraces one of two well-known goldmining districts. Originally, it was a rich alluvial area, and was subsequently developed as an auriferous area. The boundary went across to Maryborough, came back practically to Castlemaine, and then back to Bendigo. Another constituency was based upon the other big gold-mining district. In the course of time, mining declined in the district and it became necessary for the area to be developed industrially. In Bendigo to-day there are three big industrial centres - big from the stand-point of country districts - namely, the cities of Bendigo, Maryborough and Castlemaine, at each of which there are large enterprises representative of specific secondary industries in Victoria. That community of interest is clear and distinct; it cannot be denied. That area must be regarded as the industrial centre of activity as far as the midlands of Victoria are concerned.
In the proposed redistribution, the subdivision of Maryborough is taken out of Bendigo and placed in the Wimmera division. In its place, two subdivisions of the division of Lalor are placed in Bendigo. One is the subdivision of Kyneton which, from the point of view of physical features is correctly placed by being attached to Bendigo. The other is the subdivision of Seymour, some distance away, which could by no means be described as a district of industrial activity. Immediately north of Bendigo is the division of Murray, which will remain unaltered. If Bendigo were permitted to retain Maryborough, that division would preserve its community of interest of industrial activity. Those two relatively small subdivisions - small from the point of view of population - Raywood and Elmore, could have been added to the division of Murray. The addition then of Kyneton to Bendigo would not detract from the physical features of that division. At Maryborough there is an exceedingly large engineering establishment known as Patience and Nicholson Limited, as well as large woollen milk and a prefabricated housing factory. There are quite a large number of other small industrial undertakings. In Castlemaine exist Thompson’s foundry and the Castlemaine woollen mills, in addition to smaller industries. Bendigo, the centre of the electorate, is highly industrialized. It contains the Commonwealth ordnance factory, railway workshops and the Bradford Cotton Mills, as well as many textile and food-preserving factories. By deleting Maryborough from the electorate the community of industrial interest is destroyed.
Let us then consider the question of the means of communication. The whole of the present Bendigo electorate is ideal from this point of view. There is direct access by rail to Castlemaine, Maryborough, and other places in the area. As far as the subdivisions are concerned, in most instances good arterial roads radiate from Bendigo to all parts of the electorate. When we turn to the proposed redistribution we find that there is no direct rail communication with Seymour. Furthermore, the road communication is not good. If one desires to travel to Seymour from Bendigo he finds that the side roads are in a very bad state. It is therefore necessary to make a very long journey. From Bendigo, one travels via Heathcote to Kilmore, and thence to Seymour - a distance of about 90 miles. From the point of view of communications, the proposed redistribution does not conform with the requirements of section 19 of the act.
I come now to the factor of physical features. Again, the requirements of the act have not been complied with.
After crossing the Dividing Range, one reaches the relatively flat country running from Malmsbury right up to Echuca. From Bendigo to Maryborough and on to Heathcote and Castlemaine the country is not hilly.; it is relatively flat. But the Maryborough area, which has physical characteristics similar to those of the rest of the electorate, is to be taken out and Seymour placed in the division. The Seymour district is mountainous, timber country, which is entirely different from the rest of the division.
When one sees these things taking place and lodges a protest,, points out the characteristics of the electorate and shows where the community of interest is being destroyed, it is disheartening to find that, the report of the redistribution commissioners ignores those factors. The commissioners’ report gives no explanation for their decision. The fact that objections had been lodged on behalf of eight electorates was apparently of no consequence to them. They have submitted a bare report, and have treated the proposed redistribution of Victorian electorates quite differently from the manner in which the subject was approached in the other States, where at least the commissioners furnished explanations in relation to proposed alterations to enable those who would be affected by them at. least to understand why the commissioners acted in a certain way. I do not consider that the report of the redistribution commissioners in relation to Victoria is satisfactory. For that reason, it should be rejected.
.- I wish, to address myself quite briefly to the situation that arises from the commissioners’ report in the electorate of La Trobe. A discussion of this sort is really a discussion on a series of parish pumps and. like the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), I want to polish my parish pump a little. So far as I am concerned, the situation quite briefly is that I represent the division of La Trobe and the commissioners have recommended that that electorate should, speaking broadly, have a line drawn across it dividing it into two, the north-east portion of which they recommend should be called Bruce, no doubt after Mr. S. M. Bruce, now Viscount Bruce, who represented the electorate of Flinders for a considerable number of years. They recommended that the south-west portion of what is at present La Trobe should continue to carry the name of La Trobe. To this south-west portion of the present electorate of La Trobe they have added a further area to the south, which was a part of the old electorate of Flinders when it was represented by Mr. Bruce. I suggest that the two names, Bruce and La Trobe, should be transposed for, I think, a very good reason. I recommend that the area which the commissioners suggest be called Bruce should be called La Trobe, that is, the area which has its main centre of population at Ferntree Gully. My principal reason for that is because the electorate of Flinders, as represented by Mr. Bruce, had as its principal centre of population the town, now the city, of Dandenong. I think that the area which I suggest should be called Bruce contains more of the old electorate represented by Mr. Bruce than does ‘the area which the commissioners recommended should be called Bruce. I think it would be very much more logical to have this re-arrangement of names. For one thing, clearly this new electorate, which I suggest should be called Bruce, will have its political and principal centre in Dandenong, which was the principal centre of the electorate of Flinders in which Mr. Bruce, as Prime Minister, made his policy speech during his term in the 1920’s. For that reason, if for no other, I think that that electorate should be called Bruce. That is the only direction in which I desire to inject myself into this discussion. I hope that the House will accept the proposal for the alteration of the names of those two electorates.
.- Unlike the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), I do not intend to polish the parish pump for any length of time. As every one knows that redistributions are a preliminary to possible elections, it may be possible under this proposal to indulge in a few reflections. I may say at the outset that I entirely agree with the statement of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). In Gellibrand the commissioners have jumped natural barriers, they have jumped the Yarra, and they have done other things. I rest content, because it is entirely irrelevant. It is quite opportune at this moment, under this heading, to draw attention to something of prime national importance, and it is most refreshing to find the obvious air of altruism with which Her Majesty’s Opposition has approached consideration of these proposals. The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) has never, during my stay in this House, better exemplified his love of natural justice and pure, abstract right, and his devotion to the eternal verity of goodness, than in his approach to these proposals. It is most refreshing that in this day and generation, in this Australia on the edge of the civilized world, statesmen could be found, the right honorable member for Barton amongst them, to tell us, in a high spirit of altruism and devotion to an ethical ideal, about the glories of physical features such as the George’s River, in regard to which the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) unburdened himself last night, the smooth beauty of the Sydney tramlines, another natural barrier, and the frolics and figures of Bankstown. All these matters are drawn in to buttress this case. Such unselfishness deserves more than a passing mention. I refer again to my original statement that I do not intend to polish the parish pump. I am content to let the present constituency of Gellibrand he cast on the wheel of fortune and left to the dice oi chance. Not for me, and certainly not for the right honorable member for Barton, this pettifogging piffling about boundaries ! Perish the thought ! Shame on those followers of such a distinguished statesman, the man whose clarion tones have rung through the great halls of the United Nations, and whose thoughts range over the Pacific with the irresponsibility of a butterfly and the deadly intent of a trapdoor spider. Are we in this House, in this year of grace 1955, to get down to such earthy matters as boundaries, tramlines, tunnels and the Yarra? Perish the thought!
– Swan songs !
– The honorable gentleman says, “ swan songs “. Every swan I have seen travelled in a Hoek. I am looking, metaphorically, at the swans who will travel down, if necessary, with this one. Let no one think that the motives of the honorable member for Parkes are selfish. Do not harbour that thought as a viper to one’s bosom. If ever I saw an example of sheer, pure disinterestedness, it was in his statement last evening. Some may say that he was peevish. He referred to a division of his electorate,, and it appears that a preponderence of numbers have gone elsewhere. I am surprised, amazed, and astonished, and it hurts me to my heart and sears me like an atomic blast, to think that such a stalwart, such a clarion apostle of Labour and the social services of our nation should begrudge the name of Grayndler to ari electorate. Honorable members know that the name of Grayndler is renowned in song and story. A pioneer of the Australian Workers Onion, Grayndler did everything that was pure in the golden age of Labour. I quite fail to understand why the honorable member for Parkes should object to the retention of the name “ Grayndler “. it is most fitting that this afternoon - and it stems logically from this whole matter - there should be an atmosphere of fear and tension abroad.
– How does the honorable member know?
– I can feel it. This is a stereotyped bill, an ordinary measure, but the honorable member for Parkes - ah. no, he is discussing this on a purely abstract basis! He is interested in the boundary formed by the George’s River. He has no designs on the Grayndler electorate. The name has no significance for him whatsoever. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. There is an air of tension abroad, and the right honorable member for Barton-
– Who is he?
– He would not be thinking of transferring his affections elsewhere. The name “ Cunningham “ would have no significance for him !
– I rise to order. Is it permissible, Mr. Speaker, for the honorable member to be constantly discussing the subject of a motion that was considered, and dealt with, by the House last night, when this debate is on a motion affecting the redistribution of electorates in Victoria?
– Order ! We have before us six separate motions dealing with the one matter, the redistribution of electorates. It is perfectly true that the electoral redistributions in Queensland and New South Wales have been dealt with, and that the House has agreed to those propositions. I should think that, unless there is something such as the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) introduced this afternoon, which directs attention to .disparities between the work of the electoral commission in one State, and the work of a similar commission in another State, we should now confine ourselves to the redistribution of electorates in. Victoria.
– In. general terms - and you will pardon me for submitting this to you, Mr. Speaker - the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), in his remarks on certain boundaries and certain constituencies, made charges that are general in their application. He tickled the ears of the groundlings with references to “ gerrymandering “, “ ruthless rigging “ and “ pressure “. Surely, Mr. Speaker, you would not debar me from making a passing reference to those charges. Although superficially the honorable member for East Sydney seemed to rejoice in the coming victory of Her Majesty’s Opposition, underneath, of course, he was seething with a discontent that was not divine, and he referred to the work of the eminent commissioners as “ gerrymandering “ and “ ruthless rigging “. I now revert to the original proposition. It is a cause of great satisfaction to me that so many honorable members opposite have seen fit to criticize in that spirit of selfsacrifice for which they are famed, those boundaries. They know, as the honorable member for Parkes and the right honorable member for Barton know, and others for whom the pall of inertia, the pall of gloom is rapidly descending know, that all this is irrelevant. The establishment of those boundaries in Victoria and everywhere else is irrelevant, because it does not matter. As sure as the sunt rises, as sure as motion in the celestial sphere, the boundaries will not matter one iota, because the honorable members are marching forward to the certain doom of dissolution and dusty death. The honorable member for Parkes, I am pleased to see, has entered the chamber. I was just explaining to the House that the attitude that the honorable member had taken in relation to the revision of electoral boundaries in New South Wales was based on the highest motives, and that, neither the honorable member nor any of the other honorable members who. have spoken about what has happened to their electorates, is interested in any question of survival at all.
– Clowns in circuses.
– Exactly, and in every circus the clown finds some animal to jump on.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman shall not refer to members of this House as animals. He will withdraw, that term.
– I withdraw it. Mr. Speaker. I do not mind the application of the word “ clown “ to me. Perhaps, I used a wrong analogy. I was thinking of Marilyn Monroe on the pink elephant. Who am I to ascribe wrong motives to the honorable member for St. George (“Mr. Lemmon).
– Who are you f
– Exactly ! I live in Victoria and not in New South Wale3, in which the division of St. George is situated. But I am trying to analyse this state of emotional tension, and I am not going to suggest for one moment that the honorable member for St. George would be looking for another seat at the expense of a colleague. That is not done among the followers of the right honorable member for Barton. My leader says, “ No He knows the state of chronic tension there, the emotional stress.
Consideration of these measures is not as it seems. There is a ferment, there is unease and disquiet, a feeling that stalks by night, while they manoeuvre. That is before the election comes. But it is microscopic in its expanse, and falls into the limbo of forgotten things beside the fear of facing the election itself, when, [ am confident, they will meet their deserts, and this redistribution will be a thing of the past.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will now be good enough to deal with the question of boundaries.
– Boundaries, after all, loom large at the moment. After all, 1 have to confess that every one has to try to carve as good a piece as possible for himself. We are subject to human disabilities, and for that reason the boundaries of my electorate loom largely in my mind at the moment. I look with nostalgic eyes on the beautiful Yarra entering the sea at Williamstown, and I think to myself, “What right has the honorable member for Port Melbourne to jump the Yarra and come into Williamstown ? “ Then I find that, as a counter-balance, there is added to my electorate the glorious vista called North Footscray. The burden of my story this afternoon Ls that what seems to be of great moment now, what looms largely in our consciousness this afternoon, all the causes of wear and tear and tension, emotional stress and worry, will fade like mist in the morning air because the electors will have the final say, and the manoeuvring for Grayndler, the manoeuvring for Cunningham, and the intrigues for this and that which are so reminiscent of a mediaeval court, since the party has had the dire misfortune to follow the right honorable member for Barton-
-Order ! I must ask the honorable gentleman to link his remarks with the subject of electoral boundaries. He has no doubt read of the Roman god Terminus.
– Then, having in mind that the verdict of the electors is as inevitable and inexorable as the crack of doom, the easiest way out of it for my threatened friends is to divide those constituencies into three, like the shamrock, and forget the whole thing.
– Although I am a Tasmanian, I desire to enter thi3 debate on electoral redistribution in Victoria for one reason only. I desire to speak on the subject of the Corio electorate, because I feel that the honorable member for Corio (Mr.
Opperman)’ himself is such, a true sportsman in the proper sense of the word that he may not hare been able to say some things yesterday that I may be able to say for him to-day. It so happens that 1 know his electorate fairly well, and, I am happy to say, have been there with him on several’ occasions. 1 hope to visit it again’ in his’ company. Having studied t’he electoral map, I have come to the conclusion that the adjustment in relation t6’ the Barwon section of Corio was not made with due recourse to the three provisions iri. the act whereby the redistribution commissioners are empowered to carry out the redistribution. At present, I am in a somewhat similar position tfr that of the honorable member for Corio in that my own majority has suffered. I have no complaint to make about that because the commissioners have made the redistribution as between Franklin and Denison on a perfectly logical basis.
However, being familiar with the seat of Corio, I do feel that here the redistribution commissioners have made a mistake. I want to say that very briefly to this House, for it is something that, perhaps, the honorable member himself could not do. The adjustment means, quite literally, that many people in Barwon who work in Geelong will be denied representation while they are at work. They will have to come to the honorable member for Corio if they want anything done. Thai, obviously, ignore? the first proviso’ set down in (he act - that of community of interest. That is all that I wish to emphasize’ in regard to the division of Corio. The honorable gentleman concerned’ hag the’ respect, affection and admiration of all honorable members oh this side of the House, and, I hope,- on the other side also.
– Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works) [3.S7]. - in reply - I have gathered, . perhaps wrongly, from the remarks of Opposition speakers, with the exception of the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens)’,- that the Labour party disagrees with, or does not like, the redistribution in Victoria. I listened to the discussion last night on the redistribution in New South Wales and gathered that they did not like that either. I will be interested to see what happens when they come to some of the other States where distributions that I donot like have been made. I mention that because it is about time that I, as Minister, said something on behalf of the redistribution commissioners. During this- and other debates on the redistribution motions’ the commissioners have received a lot of criticism ; and last night the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) subjected them to a smear and sneer campaign. They were accused of having produced theworst boundaries that have ever been drawn, and of the greatest gerrymandering that has ever taken place in the history of Australia.
– I rise to order. A vote has been taken on the New South Wales boundaries and the Minister is replying concerning them. Have I the” right to reply on that matter ?
– The honorable member may speak on any of the motions before the House.
– I am not referring to the New South Wales boundaries, but to the generality of the criticism of the redistribution commissioners by the Opposition in States where they do not like the redistribution. I shall watch with great interest /what happens when some’ of the other States’ come up for discussion. Honorable members Opposite have called the commissioners the play-things” o’f the Government, and have” said the commissioners did not resist Government pressure, that they failed to do justice and generally made a proper mess of the redistribution. These” fire only a few of the criticisms that honorable” members opposite: have made. The criticism, of the redistribution’ ki Victoria Was not quite’ so violent, but it was in the same’ strain. I remind honorable members that the redistribution commissioners, as far as I can gather - and I have here a copy of all the 194S reports-=-have followed almost exactly the lines of the redistribution made under the Labour Government in that, year, so far as the’ reports are concerned. The honorable member for
Bendigo (Mr, Clarey) complained that those reports were lacking in as much as they did not contain the reasons for certain actions that the commissioners had taken.
Who are these shocking people, these Unfair gerrymanderers, who have made a mess of things and shown themselves to be the play-things Of the Government? The chairman of the commissioners in New South Wales who were criticized last night was formerly the Chief Electoral Officer when Labour was in power; and the second member of the commission, the Surveyor-General of the State, likewise held, that office when Labour was in power. In respect of the redistribution in Victoria, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) in his usual gentlemanly manner, described the chairman of the commission, quite mildly, as having made some bad mistakes. On the other hand, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) did not put it so mildly, hut that was just the difference in temperament between the two honorable members. The man whom they criticized was chairman of the redistribution commissioners in 1948.
– In 1948 he put Maryborough in my electorate.
– That is so, and he did not state his reasons for doing so. This time he has taken it out, and again he has not stated his reasons.
– Last time he did not put it in Bendigo at first. He put it in Wimmera.
– Honorable members may know more about that than E do. Whatever honorable members may think of their own boundaries, or of the distribution in a State such as Victoria, they are playing it pretty low down in attacking the redistribution commissioners as the Labour party has done. E am not saying that this or that ought to be done. The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) said that he joined with the honorable member for Bendigo in saying that the commissioners should have given their reasons and that the Minister should have directed them whether they should take evidence. I point out that under the act the Minister lias no power to direct the commissioners.
Apparently Parliament, when it passed the act, decided that the Minister should not have that power; and. I hope that it will not be given to any future Minister. If the Parliament wishes the position to be altered, let it amend the act so that the commissioners shall be required to take evidence. But it is perfectly obvious that ever since the act was first passed Parliament has considered that any objections should be stated in writing. The obvious reason was that Parliament did not wish people to go along to the redistribution commissioners and attempt to indulge in “ log rolling “. I do not suggest that that lias been done by any honorable member ; but under such conditions a person with the better advocate would have had an advantage.
– It has been suggested that that went on in some States.
– In every redistribution we are bound to have people saying, “ I like this, and I do not like that “. Such remarks have come from both sides of the House. The Parliament, in its wisdom, or unwisdom, decided that objections must be made in writing.
– There are six different interpretations of that provision.
– There may be. I am not saying that I should object to it being altered if the Parliament wanted to alter it. I am just pointing out that the Minister could not issue directions. The redistribution commissioners had to receive objections in writing. Some of them asked for certain information from certain bodies. before making their first report, but they are bound by the act to receive objections only in writing.
However much we may like or dislike what has been done, I appeal to honorable members not to make personal attacks on the commissioners during the rest of the debate. When redistribution commissioners are appointed, I do not think it is a fair thing for honorable members to say that they are the play-things of the Government or that they are gerrymanderers. I do not think it is fair to subject them to the smear and sneer tactics which have been used during this debate. Some honorable members think that the commissioners have acted wrongly, but others believe they have acted rightly. I remind the House that some of the present commissioners, in particular two of the chairmen, were appointed as commissioners by the Labour party when it was in office, and apparently they did a very satisfactory job then. In those circumstances, the hollowness of the criticism to which the commissioners have been subjected becomes all the more apparent to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and everybody else.
– What has the Minister been saying about me?
– I have been saying that the smear and sneer tactics used by the honorable member for East Sydney in trying to prove that the commissioners were biased and were playthings of the Government were not worthy of any member of this Parliament.
– Tell us about Cody and Willis. The Minister will have something to answer then.
– That matter may come up, but it has nothing to do with the redistribution. In any case, the contract was not made with this Government.
It has been said that the commissioners in Victoria should not have gone on the basis of numbers, as they have done to a very large extent, and as they are required to do by the act to a very largo extent. But when we look at the 1948 redistribution, we find that, on that occasion, the commissioners in both Victoria and New South Wales acted very largely on that principle. The honorable member for East Sydney has said that electorates with 46,000 voters have been arranged in order to put more and more Labour voters in blue-riband Labour seats. If the honorable member will look at the previous report for New South Wales, he will find that the electorates with the largest number of voters then are the electorates to which apparently between 3,000 and 4,000 votes have been added now. The criticism of the commissioners is not only inaccurate and unfair, but it has been done with a. definite purpose. The intention underlying it is the intention that underlies many of the tactics that have been adopted in this House recently. Whether we like the redistribution or whether we do not. I hope that the rest of the debate will not be devoted to making attacks on the commissioners personally, attacks against which they are unable to defend themselves in this House.
Question put -
That the motion(vide page 1370) beagreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 31st May (vide page 1239), on motion by Mr. KENT Hughes- -
That the House of Representatives approves nf the distribution of the State of South Australia into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs. F. B. Phillips. H. L. Fisk and A. W. Howden, the commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the ku id State into divisions, in their report laid before the House of Representatives on the 11th day of May, 1955 and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, bc adopted.
.- Honorable members of the party represented on this side of the House raise no objection to the redistribution that has been made in South Australia. In the discussions that have taken place on redistributions in other States, particularly Victoria, complaints have been made, and dissatisfaction exists. This was most evident in the remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) who objected to the fact that the decisions arrived at by the commissioners were not clarified in their report. But when we road the commissioners’ report for South Australia, we see that they have clarified their report, and I think both political parties can say that there has been a great deal of satisfaction with the redistribution in that State.
The duties of the commissioners, which are enumerated in section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, have been mentioned before, but I shall refer to them again. There is a specific responsibility on the commissioners to have regard to five points, namely, community or diversity of interest, means of communication, physical features, existing boundaries of divisions and subdivisions, and State electoral boundaries. I believe that because the commissioners complied with those five conditions, a satisfactory situation has been brought about in South Australia.
– Only satisfactory so far as the Labour party is concerned.
– The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) is unjust. If he reads the report, he will see that only one letter containing objections and suggestions was received by the commissioners within the prescribed period. The Minister himself must be very satisfied with the work of the commissioners when only one complaint was received, particularly in view of the .many complaints that were received in Queensland, New South “Wales and Victoria. The Minister brings criticism upon himself. I am amazed that he should make the statement that the redistribution satisfies only the Labour party in South Australia. That cannot be so, in view of the fact that after the redistribution had been completed, only one objection was lodged. I think that would be a magnificent result for commissioners carrying out a redistribution in any State.
I desire to pay great tribute to the three commissioners who were responsible for the redistribution in South Australia. I am. confident that if other redistributions had been made with the same satisfactory results, there would have been no complaints made about them in this House. I also believe that if the other reports had been as comprehensive as the one for South Australia, there would have been even fewer complaints about those redistributions. The commissioners in South Australia, in each instance, gave their reasons for making the distribution. Then they considered the objection that was received from one section of the community, and gave their reasons, in their report, why that objection was disallowed. That has not happened in all the States.
I repeat that I regret that the Minister interjected that the Labour party was the_ only party to be satisfied with the redistribution in South Australia. I think that practically everybody in South Australia is satisfied, because the redistribution has been carried out in accordance with the conditions laid down in the act. The commissioners- have put into operation the five principles contained in section 19, and by so doing, they have given satisfaction, not only to the Labour party, but also to Government members. As I said previously, only one objection was received, and the commissioners set out clearly their reasons for rejecting it Once more, I pay a very special tribute to the commissioners - the chairman and the other two commissioners - for the splendid way in which they carried out their duty to the great satisfaction of both Government and Labour members in South Australia.
– I support the remarks of my colleague, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), by saying that I believe the commissioners in South Australia are entitled to the highest praise for the manner in which they rejected the objection put forward by the Liberal and Country League in that State. The Liberal and Country League wanted to perpetuate the undemocratic system which operates m the distribution of the State seats, and had the audacity to ask the commissioners to incorporate in the federal boundaries some of the vicious features of the State boundaries, which enabled the Liberal Government to continue in office, in spite of the fact that a majority of 40,000 people at the last election preferred a Labour government.
– Is that known as the Playford block?
– As the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) says, that is known as the Playford block. Another objection I have is to the name “ Bonython “, which has been given to the new seat. I, personally, would have preferred the new seat to have been called “ Chifley “, or “ Price “, after some really distinguished Labour man. That could have been done, if the commissioners had paid regard to men of distinction in South Australia from the Labour side. Seeing that it was not possible to get any recognition of the great Labour statesman in South Australia, surely the commissioners, if they must commemorate the name of a tory, could have selected a far more distinguished tory than Sir Langdon Bonython. I can at once think of a tory of far greater distinction than Sir Langdon Bonython ever had. I refer to the late Sir John Downer, who was probably one of the greatest and most outstanding tories that South Australia has had since federation, and even before it. I ask you, sir, to make a comparison now, and I should like the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) to listen to the logic of my case. It is not now too late to change the name of the proposed new division. Let- us compare the claims of the two men to have their names commemorated. I would not wish to perpetuate the memory of either Sir Langdon Bonython or Sir John Downer, because they both were tories. However, if we must perpetuate the memory of a tory, let us choose the better of the two. who were a bad lot. It is proposed to commemorate the name of Sir Langdon Bonython, who did nothing for South Australia except hand back a few thousand pounds of the money that he thieved from the people of South Australia.
– I rise to order. We are aware that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) uses extravagant language, but it is contemptible of him to accuse a dead man of thieving.
– Order! I uphold the point of order, and I ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh to withdraw the remark to which objection has been taken.
– I withdraw it. The fact remains that Sir Langdon Bonython gave back to the people a few thousand pounds of the money that he was able to extract from the community in South Australia by conducting a politically biased newspaper and by other devious means by which he was able to amass for himself a tremendous fortune. By what act for the public benefit is he entitled to have his name commemorated in the title of an electorate? On the other hand, the late Sir J ohn Downer, as I wish to remind the House, was not only a Premier of South Australia, a very able Premier who did his duty as he saw it but also the representative in the South Australian Parliament for more than 30 years, of the area that is to become the federal electorate of Bonython. Moreover, he was an original member of this Parliament, for he represented South Australia as a member of the first Senate that was elected.
– Did he own a newspaper?
– It is not true that Sir J ohn Downer owned a newspaper. He was one of the men- who attended the federal conventions and helped to draft the Australian Constitution. He was one of the fathers of federation, and it is known, also, that most of the sections of the Constitution were drafted in his home. Here was a man who represented in the South Australian Parliament the area now to become the federal electorate of Bonython. He was & Premier of South Australia and, as a South Australian senator, a foundation member of this Parliament. He has a son who is at the present time a distinguished member of this House, the honorable member for Angas. No matter what test is applied to his merits and those of Sir Langdon Bonython, Sir John Downer has the far greater claim to have his name commemorated.
I wish to refer also to the objections to the proposed redistribution that have been made. From, remarks that were made by my esteemed colleague the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), I understand that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) made some inane interjection to the effect that supporters of the Australian Labour party are the only people who are satisfied by the proposed redistribution in South Australia. If Labour had had the opportunity to redistribute the electoral boundaries in South Australia in conformity with its wishes, it could have done a much better job for itself than was done by the distribution commissioners. Tho boundaries in South Australia have been so redistributed as to make Sturt a handmade Liberal stronghold. If the redistribution had been made in a slightly different manner, the metropolitan area of Adelaide would have returned at least six Labour members out of the seven metropolitan members. I make no objection on that score. “We do not want to gerrymander the electorates, and Labour has never asked that they be gerrymandered. We say simply that the distribution commissioners have done a very good job. They avoided the mistake that was made in 1949, when the electoral boundaries were so redistributed as to give the South Australian electorates approximately equal numbers of voters, without regard for the known probability of population increases in certain areas. On this1 occasion, the commissioners, to their eternal credit it may be said, have had enough foresight to realize that the population of the proposed new electorate of Bonython will expand rapidly during the next five years, and therefore they have determined the proposed new boundaries in such a manner as to make the population of the electorate between 5,000 and 6,000 less than the quota. If this were not done, in five or six years’ time the population of the electorate would probably be 10,000 or 15,000 in excess of the quota, just as the number of voter; in the present Kingston electorate is about 20,000 in excess of the quota, because the commissioners who made the redistribution in 1949 failed to consider future developments.
I repeat that the distribution commissioners have done an excellent job. I completely disagree with their plan to commemorate the memory of the late Sir Langdon Bonython, who I think if not entitled to any special honour. [ do not think that we should commemorate the name of any tories, for they all have been well repaid by the pecuniary rewards most of them received during their life-time for any service that they have done.
– Is the Barker electorate retained ?
– What changes in its boundaries have been made?
– The only change was a very sensible one. The Mount Barker area has been transferred to the Angas electorate. We know that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has objected to this change. He is a weird individual, as you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, know, and his opinions are often based on most peculiar grounds. No one has been able to find any valid basis for his objections to the proposed redistribution of electoral boundaries. One would have expected objections from him in any event. We can dismiss the honorable member and forget about him, because his opinions on matters such as this are unimportant. I content myself with saying that if it is the policy of the Government that the names of tories only shall be perpetuated, for goodness’, sake let us commemorate the name of a tory who has left behind him a legacy ot statemanship of -which his State and Australia may be proud.
– I should not have been drawn into this debate had it not been for the unfortunate references made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) to the name of the proposed new division in South Australia. I have no objection to the honorable member suggesting any name he likes for a new electorate. As one who has had considerable experience in the community life of Sou:h Australia, and as one who is a little older than is the honorable member for Hindmarsh, I should neglect my duty if I did not protest against his attack on the reputation of the late Sir Langdon Bonython. The Bonython family’s record of service in South Australia knew no politics, and I am sure that the opinions expressed by the honorable member are not shared by his South Australian colleagues. It was in bad taste for the honorable member to refer to Sir Langdon Bonython as he did. Let it now go on record that that gentleman presented to the University of Adelaide the Bonython Hall, which is adjacent to Pulteney-street, and which, has a capital value at which I cannot even guess. It is a. very handsome and attractive building. In addition, he gave to the South Australian Parliament £100,000 for the construction of Parliament House in Adelaide. If it were necessary to do so, and if time permitted, I could mention scores of acts that reflect very great credit upon Sir Langdon Bonython who, without any thought for political aspirations, did much for the underdog in the South Australian community. I know from my own contact with members of the Opposition who represent South Australian electorates that the name of Sir Langdon Bonython is respected and highly regarded, by all reasonable men among them.
I shall not refer to the name “ Downer “ at length. We on this side of the House are very proud to have among us a descendant of a gentleman who made a substantial contribution to the national life of this country. It is unfortunate that that name should be mentioned in this chamber in the circumstances in which it has been mentioned, and that the names of dead men who cannot defend themselves should be bandied about.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh made some reference to the only objection that was made in South Australia. That objection was lodged by the Liberal party in. South Australia and it. was lodged after consultation between every member of the House of Representatives and every senator in that State. We considered that if this protest were made by the Liberal party after consultation between all honorable members and senators in South Australia, then nobody on our side of politics would have occasion to raise any objection to the redistribution. Our chief objection was that, over a period, ail electoral commissions in South Australia have considered that, there should be a margin between the rural and the metropolitan divisions. This principle has been adopted by all commissions in South Australia, whether appointed by a Labour party or Liberal party government. The commission that was appointed by the late Mr. Curtin examined this position in association with the late Mr. Kevin McEntee, who was a Labour candidate in South Australia, and re-affirmed the principle which had operated since 1922. In these circumstances, metropolitan electorates had approximately 8 per cent, more electors than rural electorates. Objections were lodged to that principle, which was reconsidered by the commission, -but the commission recommended to the Parliament that it should be retained and it has never been rejected by any government.
The objection which the Liberal party lodged against the redistribution of divisions related only to that principle. We felt that the principle should be maintained. In order to support our objection, we had to suggest a redistribution of boundaries which would conform with the principle that I have mentioned. That was done very hurriedly but, speaking as one who had something to do with that work, I suggest that it was done very effectively. When our proposal was submitted to the commission in accordance with the Commonwealth Electoral Act, it was rejected. All the ethical procedures that could he followed have been followed in this connexion and, in the circumstances, I am. not opposing the proposal before the House. The Parliament appointed a commission. The commission made its recommendations to which the Liberal party objected at the proper time. Now, the commission has made its recommendations to the Government and, as I have said. T am not opposing them.
The commission was remiss in relation to the security of the plan of - the boundaries. I directed correspondence to Mr. Phillips, the electoral officer, and. he replied, informing me of the policy that had been adopted, which was in complete agreement with the Commonwealth Electoral Act and which had been supported by all reasonable people who bad been associated with the redistribution. But I objected that, whoever “was responsible for passing the plans of the proposed new divisions to the Government Printer and allowing information concerning them to leak out–
– I do nor, think that the commissioners were- responsible for that.
– The commissioners had the responsibility of ensuring that the information did not leak out. I suggest that some astute members of the press told members of Parliament where the information could be obtained because they were informed of the proposed new boundaries long before the maps were exhibited in the post offices.
The Parliament should examine the Commonwealth Electoral Act with a view to having its horse-and-buggy provisions brought up to date. The act should be streamlined so that there may be no repetition of what happened in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, not because of any improper action on the part of the commissioners, but because of their failure to prevent a most unfortunate leakage of information. Ethical procedures were followed by both the Government parties in connexion with redistribution of electorates in South Australia. I regret that we had less than two days in which to prepare a plan before the commission came to a decision. In those circumstances, it was impossible to study all the electorates of South Australia and arrive at a satisfactory plan in order to support our argument. 1 consider that commissions in every State should take evidence under a uniform procedure. Members of Parliament, political parties, and the public should have the right to submit to electoral commissions evidence which they should be given adequate time to prepare. Despite what the honorable member for Hindmarsh has said concerning the Premier of South Australia, who did not interfere in the work of the commission, I think that much more effective work could be done by commissions if effect were given to this proposal. I regret that the commission in South Australia has failed to retain the principle which was endorsed by Labour and Liberal governments and which was recommended by the commission which was assisted by the late Mr. McEntee. I refer to the principle of maintaining a margin of 8 per cent, between metropolitan and rural electorates. I also regret that the commissioners have not seen fit to control the handling of their plans once they have left their control and gone to the Government Printing Office. Finally, I say that the honorable member for Hindmarsh will regret the charge that he has made against the name of the late Sir Langdon Bonython.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay) has stated that all the South Australian members of the House of Representatives and all South Australian senators met. discussed this matter and then submitted their objections to the commission.
– He referred to all honorable members on his side of the House.
– No. Later, in a rambling way-
-Order! How has the honorable gentleman been misrepresented ?
– The honorable member for Boothby said that I attended a meeting with all other South Australian members of this Parliament and that I was a party to an objection which was lodged with the commissioners. I had nothing to do with the meeting to which the honorable member referred. I attended no such meeting and took no part in the lodging of any objection.
– I did not make the statement which the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has attributed to me. I would not suggest that the honorable member was so acceptable to honorable members on this side of the House that he became a party in our deliberations and our submissions to the commission.
– I inform the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) that the members of the Opposition from South Australia accept this proposal, but not because we consider that a wonderfully good job has been done for us. I do not agree that the redistribution was effected in the best possible way, but I accept what was done. I had a different idea from that of the commissioners. I know that some of the Liberal members had the idea tha t the new seat would be to the south of Adelaide instead of to the north of it. That was also my idea of the manner in which the seats would be redistributed, but we accepted the distribution that was made by the commission.
I was rather interested to hear the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay) state that the idea behind the objection of the Liberal party was that the rural districts should have a numerical advantage over the others, meaning thereby that the rural divisions should not be dominated by metropolitan urens. In the plan that the Liberal party submitted to the commission - and the honorable member for Boothby said that he was mainly responsible for it - the suggestion was made that the subdivision of Norton Summit should be added to the division of Sturt. The proposed division of Sturt contains 43,547 electors, nearly all of whom are city people. Yet it was suggested that the rural subdivision of Norton Summit, in which there are no city dwellers, should be swallowed up in the metropolitan area. Honorable members opposite have expressed the view that the rural members should have some say, yet they make a submission to the commission that the subdivision of Norton Summit should be added to the division of Sturt in order to add to it a strong. Liberal vote. The Premier of South Australia lives in the subdivision of Norton Summit. He gets a big majority. There is a big Liberal vote in that subdivision.
It was also suggested that the subdivision of Clarendon should be added tothe division of Boothby. You, MrSpeaker, know as well as I do that that is a rural area, yet the Liberal party was quite content, so long as it had a strong majority, to see that subdivision swallowed up in the metropolitan area.. Although the supporters of the Liberal party claimed that they were trying to give to rural electors a better representation in the Parliament, they were doing the very opposite. In fact, it was stated in one of the Adelaide newspapers that the reason why they were making their submission was that they were afraid, following the manner in which the redistribution was made, that both those districts in a few years would gravitate towards Labour unless they had some help from a more Liberal or conservative district. For that reason, it was suggested that those two country sections should be included in the metropolitan area. The commissioners dealt with the suggestion in much the same way as I have dealt with it to-day, and they contended that the inclusion of those two rural areas in the two city divisions would, not satisfy the consideration of community interest. They were not prepared to adopt the proposal.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) was kind enough to say that the commissioners, in their report, referred to the making of minor alterations to the division of Adelaide and other divisions. But there was no suggestion about any alteration to the division of Port Adelaide. If they were to have taken anything from that division, which I represent, it would only have had the effect, perhaps, of helping an adjoining division. In the circumstances, I do not think that any objection that may have been lodged by the Liberal party would have been sustained.
As the honorable member for Hindmarsh has also stated, the commission has given more consideration to the growing areas than they have been given in the past. I refer particularly to the 1948 redistribution. On that occasion, the commission took a little section out of the division of Adelaide and added it to my electorate to make the number of voters in each seat balance to within a few score of each other. The section taken out of the division of Adelaide was the only area in which there was open country where people could build, and, indeed, building was proceeding rapidly upon it. The overflow of population from Adelaide went into the area that was added to the division of Port Adelaide. As the honorable member for Hindmarsh can tell you, Mr. Speaker, within a few years of that alteration, the electorate of Adelaide went down from approximately 43,000 to approximately 35,000 electors, and the number of electors in the division of Port Adelaide went up from 43,000 to between 57,000 and 58,000 voters. I said, at the time, that the commission was making a wrong deal, and was taking from the division of Adelaide that section in which the number of voters would grow.
I now refer to the naming of the electorates. The honorable member for Hindmarsh also has discussed this matter. Perhaps, it would be wiser, instead of giving the name of a particular person to an electorate, to give it a name that would commemorate a particular place or some great occasion during our history. Let us consider the position in South Australia. I admit that I am not a great one for delving into history, but I take, first, the name “ Grey “. I do not know whether Grey was Liberal, Labour or Conservative. We have also the name “ Barker “. Another electorate has been named Hindmarsh after a former governor of South Australia. If anybody should tell me that the name “ Hindmarsh “ is one that should he revered from the Labour point of view, I should be very surprised. I am not saying anything against Governor Hindmarsh or against the present honorable member for the division of Hind marsh, who works so well for his electorate. However, I feel that, if I did not say something about the late Sir John Langdon Bonython, I would not be fair and just. During the time I was a member of the South Australian Parliament from 1930 to 1946, the centenary of the founding of that State was celebrated. The Premier went to Sir John Langdom Bonython and said to him, “We want to do something on a big scale to commemorate our centenary. We want to complete Parliament House “. To do that, Sir John Langdon Bonython gave £100,000. The Leader of the Opposition has referred to the great hall of the University of Adelaide. It was my pleasure, as a member of the council of the university, to be associated with the building of the great hall, towards which Sir John Langdon Bonython gave the sum of £50,000.
– The honorable member does not think that he was a friend of the workers, does he?
– I am not saying anything about his being a friend of the workers, but I know that during the depression period, workers came to me and told me that the only person from whom they had received encouragement was Sir John Langdon Bonython. In addition, that gentleman made a munificent gift towards providing a building for the School of Mines in Adelaide. I say these things in defence of a man who, while .1 was a member of the State Parliament, was doing something that was of moment to South Australia. I know of Sir John Downer only as a name, and I do not wish to say anything further about it. .1 feel that, whatever may have been the reason behind them, we should recognize the deeds of such public-spirited men. I do not necessarily mean that recognition should take the form of naming federal electorates after them. I am not suggesting that at all. My father was one of the original members of the Labour movement in South Australia. I remember him telling me that, in the early days of the movement, when the Advertiser was a Liberal newspaper and the Register was a Conservative newspaper, on many occasions the Advertiser gave considerable assistance to the Labour party. I believe that a man’s memory should be honoured if he did something worthwhile for the people during his lifetime. Of course, every one is entitled to his opinion, and I do not object to the honorable member expressing his opinion.
– But he was always anti-Labour.
– There is a vast difference between a man who does not vote Labour and will not do anything for his country, and one who, although he is opposed to the Labour party, is prepared to do something for the public good. I must say that I was not keen for an electoral division to be called Bonython. When such a proposal was made in 1949, it was rejected after objection had been made by the Labour party, [f, to-day, the Labour party said that it did not want an electorate to be called Bonython, I would raise no objection to another name being substituted.. However, in view of my lengthy period in public life, I considered it my duty to make fair and just comment on the proposal. I do not know whether an approach has been made to the Government to substitute another name for Bonython, but I believe that the honorable member for Hindmarsh has expressed an opinion which is held by many people in the Labour movement. As far as I know, there is nothing objective before the Labour party in this connexion.
I have grave doubts about the desirability of naming electorates after notable men. Sir Langdon Bonython was a member of the first House of Representatives. As the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) has said, the Opposition does not oppose the adoption of the commissioners’’ report, but it considers that the commissioners could have given Labour a better deal. They could also have given a better deal to the metropolitan area. However, the commissioners have done what they considered to be right. I referred a few minutes ago to the fact that, some years ago, a large area was taken from the electorate of Port Adelaide, which threw the relative position of , that electorate out of balance, [n determining the enrolment of the proposed electorate of Bonython, the- commissioners have gone a good part of the way in favour of an electoral strength 20 per cent, below the quota. Doubtless, they had in mind that when the building of the town of Salisbury is completed, the numbers will be equalized within a relatively short period. I think that that was a correct approach to the matter. I support the motion.
– I feel it is rather a pity that discussion on the South Australian electorates has been characterized to some degree - whatever may be the force of the contention of my friend, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) - by the merits of the designation of the new electorate. I myself, as a small boy. remember Sir Langdon Bonython, who was, without doubt, a venerable and kindly man and, for South Australia, a generous and public-spirited citizen. It is true that his connexion with politic? was not a very sustained one, but, nonetheless, through the columns of his newspaper, and by other means, he supported the whole course of federalism when federalism was an incipient movement. He was also, as the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) has said, a member of the first House of Representatives for two terms, from 1901 until, 1 think, 1906, when he retired. Without question, he was a philanthropist in a big way, who donated, as my friend, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay), mentioned, £100,000 toward? the cost of the completion of Parliament House in Adelaide. He also made a munificent benefaction to the University of Adelaide, and helped many a cause, without his action being trumpeted about, in divers respects.
Rather than have these arguments a? to whether electorates should be called after one man or another - in this case both of the men are dead - and trying to make an assessment of what was their relative worth, or their place in history. I think it would be better to depart from personal names. The suggestion has been made by the honorable member for Port Adelaide - and I think I am right in saying that this is a view with which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) sympathizes - that our electorates for the most part should be given territorial designations, as is done in Great Britain.
That would overcome this controversy once and for all and avoid feelings of bitterness and embarrassment among families.
This redistribution is unfavorable to the Government, as far as South Australia is concerned. It does not matter what honorable members from the other side of the House may say, when one looks at the electoral map one can see that no particular good will flow to the cause of liberalism in South Australia as a result of it. But we accept the proposed redistribution. In accepting it, I hope the House will forgive me for yielding to the temptation to refer to the attitude of the Labour party during the debate yesterday and this afternoon. Because some honorable members opposite did not like the proposed redistribution in New South Wales and Victoria, they castigated the commissioners and voted against the respective motions. I shall contrast that attitude with ours. Although we dislike the proposed redistribution and regard it as unfavorable to us, we are prepared to accept the umpire’s decision, because that is what it amounts to. The Government appointed the commission, and the commission has submitted its recommendations. It is an open secret, as was announced in the House this afternoon, that the Liberal and Country League of South Australia objected to the proposed electoral demarcations, but the commissioners refected the league’s submission in toto. Having gone that far, we are not prepared to go any further. We are prepared - as honorable members opposite evidently are not - to accept the umpire’s decision, without patting ourselves on the back, although I believe that this is the principle on which public life in this Commonwealth should he conducted.
Nevertheless, I feel that I must join with my colleague, the honorable member for Boothby, in pointing out that the decision of the commissioners is open to serious objections, which I classify as two-fold. First, although I know that honorable members opposite will strongly disagree with what I am about to say, from the way we see it and from the way a great many people in South Australia without party allegiance see it, the commissioners have virtually equalized the metropolitan and country electorates.
Whatever may have been said here this afternoon, this is contrary to a practice that has. been observed in South Australia for decades. As recently as 194S, when the electorates which we now represent were propounded, an allowance of 8 per cent, was made by the then commissioners between town and rural constituencies; the present commissioners have reduced this disparity to a mere 1 per cent., which is virtually erasing it. I would say that the previous disparity of S per cent, was justified for these reasons: It is false to argue this matter in the abstract by, in effect, putting oneself in a vacuum and looking at the matter only from a theoretical point of view.
I ask honorable members to recall thai South Australia, in terms of area, is a very large country. It embraces more than 380,000 square miles, which make? it territorially the third largest State in the Commonwealth. Five-eighths of the population of this large State is concentrated in the metropolitan area of Adelaide. Furthermore, the foundation of South Australia’s wealth, in spite of the great industrialization of the State under the present Premier, still rests on its primary industries. If we get away from that, we neglect at our peril some thing which is fundamental in our State. In the few rural electorates of South Australia the distances are immense, sometimes to the point of being fantastic. The gargantuan electorate of th, honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) immediately comes to mind. Mr. Justic,Nicholas, in his report of two or three years ago, classified it as a Grade V. electorate. My own electorate is a very considerable one. It extends over abou! 400 miles from north to south and about 200 miles from east to west, and it is classified as a Grade IV. electorate. Your own electorate of Barker, Mr. Speaker, which, if I may be permitted to say so, you have represented with such credit and distinction for so many years, is also one of great magnitude. I think that honorable members generally and any dispassionate student of politics will agree that, however eminent a man may be, and however assiduous in the discharge of his duties to his constituents, it is virtually impossible for any one of us to represent these vast tracts of country adequately and in the way we would want them to be represented. Any country member of this Parliament knows, especially those who come from these large stretches of land, that there is a much greater diversity of interest in an electorate such as mine, which covers half the size of Victoria, than in a metropolitan electorate which embraces five, ten, or perhaps 50 square miles. So I would say that the commissioners have been at fault in South Australia in ignoring those considerations, and it is interesting to observe that in some of the other States, notably New South “Wales and Victoria, the commissioners have combined rural and metropolitan districts.
My other criticism of the commissioners concerns the new metropolitan electorate of Bonython. They have adhered to their reasoning, in spite of the protests of the Liberal and. Country League in South Australia, by establishing this new division with a mere 35,000 votes, which is considerably below the quota figure for this State. They justify their decision, sir, as you very well know, by the projected satellite town of Salisbury, which it is believed will be well under construction in the next few years, [f we are going to be fair about this matter, we must agree that this is. just in the conjectural stage: This is only a project which has not materialized into reality. Therefore, we come to the conclusion that these boundaries are shoretermed, in a period of very rapid population and expansion all over Australia, and particularly in South Australia. Perhaps in five or six years Bonython may have reached the quota. It may conceivably have exceeded it somewhat, but it seems irrefutable that for the next few years the Bonython electorate will be under-populated, very probably during the greater part of the existence of these constituencies. As has been stated here this afternoon, the Liberal and Country League made these protests to the commissioners, but they were rejected summarily. I feel that I must say that the commissioners are wrong in persisting in their attitude, and I hope that on the next occasion the time-honoured principle, in South Australia at any rate, of fewer electors in rural divisions than in metropolitan divisions, will be observed.
.- I desire to speak for a few minutes on this proposal. First, I should like to reply tothe statement made by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) about the new division of Bonython. Anybody who faces up to this new division realistically can easily foresee that within the next three years the division of Bonython, on a population basis, will be on a par with most of the other divisions. It stands comparison with my own division of Kingston, which’, upon this redistribution, will lose 20,000 electors. The satellite town of Salisbury, where the South Australian Housing Trust has already started building, where schools are already built and people are already shifting in, will grow rapidly, and there is no doubt that the commissioners, were wise .in allocating such a quota to this new subdivision. The allegation that it is unfavorable to the Liberals makes one smile, because- at the present time the proportion in this is 6:4, and it will be 6:5 with the new boundaries. How it can be bad, I do not know, because whilst Labour will probably win the new seat, it seems that Sturt will be handmade for its former member, Mr. Wilson. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay) seems to infer that somebody told honorable members on this side, that it was the LiberalCountry party that had objected to the commission and as the Liberal-Country party was not named in the report we should not know who had objected.. Thepress; had informed us that it was the Liberal-Country party of South Australia that had made the objection. The greatest commendation on. the fairnessof this report arises from the fact that, the State boundaries are being redistributed at the present time. Two of these commissioners have been appointed for the purpose by Mr. Playford, but evidently he feared that it would not be correct to appoint to- the commission theCommonwealth Electoral. Officer in South Australia, Mr. Phillips, whoshowed he was not prepared to let this commission gerrymander federal electorates as lias been done with. State electorates. For some unknown reason, Mr. Phillips was not appointed to the commission effecting the State, redistribution. I think that it is to his credit that he was not appointed, because it shows he is not a man whom Mr. Playford could push about to gerrymander electorates. i have lost 20,000 voters in this redistribution, and some of them are good Labour voters, but it has been done fairly. The Government will get an additional seat in this House and I’ cannot understand the complaints of its supporters. They should be applauding the redistribution instead of complaining about it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) - by leave - agreed to -
That in accordance with the provisions of section 11 of the Australian National University Act 194G-1947, the House of Representatives elects Mr. Beazley and Dr. D. A. Cameron to be members of the Council of the Australian National University for a period of two years from the 1st July, 1955.
Redistribution of Western Australian Divisions
Debate resumed from the 31st May (vide page 1239), on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Western Australia into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs. J. M. W. Anderson, W. V. Fyfe and C. G. Friend, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their Report laid before the House of Representatives on the 3rd day of May, 1955, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted.
.- I! wish to say at the outset that the Labour party has no violent opposition to the report of the commissioners in connexion with this matter. Analysis of the new boundaries, however, discloses that they will favour, to some degree, the anti-Labour parties as against the Labour party. It is high time that the Common wealth Electoral Act was amended to give to the commissioners a wider discretionary power in dealing with various anomalies that arise in connexion with the redistribution of boundaries. I refer particularly to the electorate of Kalgoorlie. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) complained of the extensiveness of his electorate. It is estimated that thu electorate of Kalgoorlie covers an area of 900,000 square miles. It extends from the port of Esperance in the south, to the port of Wyndham in the north, of Western Australia. Local-governing bodies have been established throughout that area in order to provide the greatest possible degree of administration for the people domiciled in it. There are 26 country roads boards and municipalities in the electorate. It is represented in the Western Australian Parliament by no fewer than 22 members. That fact provides a comparison between the importance that the Western Australian Parliament attaches to the area, with the importance placed on it by this Parliament, in which it is represented by only one member. Because of the extensiveness of the Kalgoorlie electorate, as at present defined, it is physically impossible for the member representing it in this Parliament, and dealing with the problems of his constituents, to visit all the districts in the electorate as often as he would like to visit them.
Notwithstanding the vastness of the electorate, the commissioners have chosen, in this redistribution, to increase its size by including in it, from the existing division of Moore, the following subdivisions, as stated in Part 11 of their report : -
Irwin (part north of line just south of Yandanooka and Koolanooka coinciding with Morowa, Mingenew and Irwin-road Board southern boundaries).
The new areas to be included will not extend the existing area of the electorate by a great number of square miles, but their inclusion will add to the already existing difficulties experienced by the member who represents the electorate in this Parliament. When the framers of the Constitution based the division of electorates on numerical, strength they did not visualize that in 1955 the population in the northern part of Western Australia would be smaller than it was just after they made their recommendations. .The present position has arisen because of the neglect of successive Australian governments which failed to recognize their national responsibility for the development of that area. I have claimed in this Parliament time and time again that the development of the northern area of Western Australia is beyond the capacity of a State government and, therefore, that, in the interests of this nation as a whole, it should be accepted as a national responsibility. The sooner we can convince a Commonwealth government to take its fair share of the responsibility for developing and populating that area, the sooner we shall have in it the numerical strength of electors required to enable the electorate to be split into more than one division.
I consider that the commissioners, in extending the electorate, have cut across the principle, by which they should have been guided, of community of interests, by including in it rural areas which have nothing in common with the major portion of the electorate. I have nothing to fear, politically, from the inclusion of the new area, because for at least eight years that area, including its agricultural and rural districts, was associated with the first Kalgoorlie electorate when I entered this Parliament, and I received very substantial support from the rural areas on that occasion. So I can look forward, with a certain amount of confidence, to support in those areas, the people of which I already have had the honour to represent here.
I have little more to say on the matter because, as I said at the outset, the Opposition has no violent reaction to the proposal. However, I repeat that the act should be amended to give the commissioners wider power so as to allow them to take into consideration the physical Usabilities associated with a. member’s task in representing his electorate. If that was done I believe that this electorate would be cut in half and we would then have an additional member to represent in this Parliament part of the area at present covered by the electorate. I think that a reasonable and fair argu- ment could be advanced for giving the people of that area more substantial representation in this Parliament, because that country must be developed. As I have told this Parliament on many occasions, if we are not prepared to grapple with the problems that exist there, and to use the potentialities for development that exist on the Ord, Fitzroy and other rivers in the area, we cannot blame people abroad who may cast their eyes on that land. I issue that as a warning.
– A.far as I can see the pattern of the debates on the various proposals for redistribution of electorates throughout the Commonwealth has followed closely the pattern of other debates on electoral redistribution. In other words, it is quite obvious that no redistribution of electorates can please everybody. However, there is a regrettable tendency on the part of some people who are not entirely satisfied with a redistribution to suggest thai the reason they have not been satisfied is that there has been some foul play, somewhere or other, on the part of a commission or political party or somebody else. That seems to happen time and time again.
The electoral redistribution in Western Australia is not entirely satisfactory, for a number of reasons, which I shall discuss in a moment. I think that one thing becomes apparent, which has particular application to Western Australia, and that is that the commissioners in the various States, in which they operate under one act, are given a set of principles to guide them, but do not apply those principles uniformly. We have a glaring instance to which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) has drawn attention. His electorate has been enlarged, in area, yet it is to have only 32,159 electors, whereas the average quota in Western Australia is 37,000 electors. A few moments ago the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) pointed out that in South Australia there is an approximate equality in all the divisions. If there is a sound reason for a difference or equality in one State it is equally sound in other States. It if time that the Government had a look at the Commonwealth Electoral Act to see whether some of these very big differences can be ironed out.
Another aspect, which has particular application to Western Australia, is that a rigid line has been drawn around the metropolitan area. That has had the result of putting all suburban and metropolitan electorates in one group, and all rural electorates in another. That principle may be good; it may be bad. I. think that it merely creates additional problems for the commissioners. lt makes it more difficult for them to apply fairly the other principles laid down in the act, so far as the whole of the State is concerned. In effect, they have, in interpreting their duties,, created a principle that bas not been, laid down in the act. Whether the principle is right or wrong, it is not applied universally throughout the States. It is applied- to a. certain degree in South Australia, but it is not applied in the other States. These things should be ironed out and, if necessary, the act amended either to provide that one body shall look at all the redistributions in the States, or lay down additional principles as a guide to the commissioners.
Certain people, for very good reasons of their own, have lodged objection to redistributions. In every case but one, those objections have been overruled by cbe commissioners. A. great deal of the beat that is engendered during debate in this House, and many of the grievances that sometimes are quite legitimately complained of by honorable members, are attributable to a feeling that objections are not really given a fair hearing. I am quite satisfied that in Western Australia this plan of redistribution was formulated in the mind of the Chief Electoral Officer before the commission was ever appointed. I have been reliably informed that he actually drew all the lines on the map and justified his plan to the other commissioners. In view of the present constitution of the commission in each State, we cannot really complain about that. The Chief Electoral Officer lives with these problems year in and year out. He knows the position backwards, and if there is any fault to be found with that, it is simply that he cannot see the wood for the trees. The result is that the other two commissioners are more or les? figureheads, according to the degree of personality that they may have. Whatever the position, the Chief Electoral Officer in each State in fact draws the lines and justifies his proposals to tlxother two commissioners.
– Would the honorable member suggest that there should be a new set-up?
– I shall come to thai in a moment. The other two commissioners will, in normal circumstances, fall into line with the Chief Electoral Officer. We cannot overlook the importance of that gentleman in thismatter, but I suggest that other interested parties should have a better hearing before a more independent commission. M.v proposal to the Minister is this: as the Chief Electoral Officer knows the position backwards, and is aware of all the problems that it presents, he should be an advisory officer. In most cases he knows, three or four years ahead, the sort of thing that he will incorporate in his next plan of distribution. It would be desirable to call upon him to prepare a plan and present it to a commission of which he was not a member. The commission could then have a public hearing, and discussion of this plan. Every one would then be aware of the part that that officer had played in the redistribution. The coinmisioners would not be infected by the somewhat rigid attitude that all of us. being ordinary mortals, adopt in regard to our own ideas. The Chief Electoral Officer may, for a long time, have certain ideas about new boundaries in a State. He may have lived with those ideas for so long that he cannot see any merit in the objections that are put to him and hi? fellow commissioners. We all dislike being told that we are wrong when we have thought deeply on something. If there is to be a sense of fairness - whether fairness has in fact been exercised o-r not - about the redistribution in the minds of the public a new procedure should be adopted and the act amended.
Coming now to the redistribution in Western Australia, it is obvious when 09 looks at the metropolitan area that the new electorate of Stirling is merely an electorate of convenience. It is a dreadf ul electorate so far as every requirement in the act is concerned. It is long and narrow and takes in an area along the whole length, and down one side of, the metropolitan area. It has been made up from bits and pieces left over from other electorates. I am not suggesting that the commissioner has deliberately ignored the act in creating the electorate. I fully realize that in a State with only nine seats it is difficult to apply, with precision and accuracy, the somewhat vague principles that are laid down in the present act, but it should be quite obvious to any student of the position that the new electorate of Stirling offends most of those principles. The numbers in the metropolitan electorates are bad because they do not take into account population growth in some areas and the waning of population in others.
Turning now to my own electorate of Forrest, of which I have perhaps a more detailed knowledge, the redistribution is absurd when one considers the principle of community of interest. The eastern part of the electorate, the lower great southern, has been cut off completely from the port of Albany, with which it has a great and increasing community of interest. Some day I would like to take the Chief Electoral Officer to a lower great southern regional conference. He would then see that all the people in that area regard themselves as completely united with the Albany zone. For some reason, merely to make up numbers, the whole of the subdivision of Katanning was taken out of Forrest. All the lines of communication in the district are based on Albany. The distribution of superphosphate is based on the new works in that centre. The fat lamb trade is exported through Albany by way of the meatworks there. That centre also contains a newly-established organization for the bulk handling of wheat. There is an increasing community of interest in the area. A great deal of the wool from the lower great southern goes to the London wool market through this port. A special market was developed through it, and a unique position created. Also, the Albany area is separated from the remainder of Forrest by a few million acres of State forestry reserve. There is no direct linkage such as previously existed through the great southern. The whole of the intervening area, through Bunbury, Bridgetown and Kojonop, had a growing community of interest. From Bunbury southwards the dairying was based largely on the production of butter fat whereas, northwards, it is based largely on the production of whole milk. All those things indicate that the whole of that block had a great and increasing community of interest. But what has happened? It has been cut, and the half of it based on Albany has been put into the Canning electorate. The northern half of the Canning electorate has a greater community of interest with either Bunbury or Perth so far as marketing, lines of communication and other matter? are concerned.
I turn to another aspect of this subject which I think is of considerable importance. It has been suggested that the size of country electorates plays some part in the considerations of the commissioners. It is quite right that it should, because we cannot ignore the fact that people such as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) have tremendously large areas to serve. I suggest that it should be quite an important consideration, having regard to all other factors, that the sizes of country electorates should be kept approximately equal. The electorate of Canning has been practically doubled in size. The subdivision of Katanning has been added to it. Although that subdivision contains a mere 6,000 voters, it extends over a width of 180 miles or more from Kojonup to Ravensthorpe, and has a depth of well over 50 miles. That subdivision has been taken out of the electorate of Forrest and added to the Canning electorate. The Forrest electorate has been reduced in area, but with the big disability that one part of it is entirely divorced from the other. I suggest that if it had been practicable, as I believe it was, to tie the great southern area with Albany, it would have been better to keep those two electorates as they were, more nearly equal in area than they will be. That would have given the people of Canning an opportunity to see their member more frequently and would have distributed more evenly the duties of the two federal representatives concerned-
We cannot complain unduly about the redistribution, but I suggest that the principles applied by the Chief Electoral Officer were unduly rigid. Because he sits in judgment on appeals from his own decisions in these matters, we should examine the act with a view to arriving at a more easy method of dealing with objections and suggestions about redistribution. They are received after the Chief Electoral Officer has made up his mind, but we must all admit that he is bound to have the most firmly fixed ideas about these matters, because he lives with them from day to day. I suggest that it would be wiser to provide that he shall act merely as an advisory officer to the electoral distribution commission. Finally, I suggest that we should have a uniform set of principles which would have a better application throughout all the States.
.- There are three ways in which the redistribution of electoral boundaries can be approached. The subject can ,be approached from a purely personal viewpoint, from a party viewpoint or. from an entirely unbiased viewpoint. I suggest that because we are almost bound to approach it from either a personal viewpoint or a party viewpoint, this is the least likely place in which it will be approached from an unbiased viewpoint. . If it had been left to me to make the redistribution in Western Australia from my personal viewpoint, I could have made a jolly sight better job of it than the commissioners have made. I could have made a much better job of it from a party viewpoint than the commissioners have made; but I am not so sure that I could have done equal justice to a very difficult problem from an unbiased viewpoint.
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) has referred to the fact that the commissioners have separated metropolitan areas from rural areas in Western Australia. That is characteristic of Western Australia. The commissioners have applied a principle which is funda- mental to State legislative representation. The State laws with regard to electoral boundaries make a clear distinction between metropolitan and rural areas. They provide that the metropolitan areas shall be represented by so many members, and that the rural areas shall be represented by so many members. So, as I see the position, the commissioners have applied, in this redistribution, a principle which governs legislative representation in the State Parliament.
They were faced with a very difficult problem. In the period between the last redistribution and this one, enrolments in metropolitan divisions increased by 8.4 .per cent. The increase of enrolments in the extra-metropolitan divisions, or the rural divisions, in that period was 15.7 per cent. At first sight, those figures indicate that the rural areas are entitled to the additional seat which has been given to Western Australia. But the fact is that the whole of the 15.7 per cent, increase of enrolments in the rural divisions occurred in the metropolitan portions of those divisions. In fact, the number of voters in the truly rural areas is smaller than it was previously. The commissioners must have taken that fact into consideration. In doing so, they looked at the matter from an unbiased viewpoint. I think they acted wisely and did quite a good job.
The honorable member for Forrest has said that, in his opinion, the plan for the redistribution in Western Australia was prepared by the Chief Electoral Officer and that the other two commissioners, Mr. Fyfe, the Surveyor-General, and Mr. Friend, the Director of Posts and Telegraphs, were only “ yes men _ I have had a very long personal and official association with Mr. Fyfe and Mr. Friend. I assure the honorable member for Forrest and other honorable members that neither of those gentlemen lacks anything in personality, strength of character or ability to make a decision for himself. To my knowledge, they were the two people most unlikely to acquiesce in a plan submitted to them by the Chief Electoral Officer unless it were supported by sound and solid reasons. Two of the three commissioners were appointed by virtue of their official positions and the other was chosen by the Minister. The organization to which the honorable member for Forrest belongs welcomed the appointments, because it was well known that the three commissioners were above suspicion, had minds of their own, and would say what they thought without hesitation.
There are one or two matters connected with the redistribution in Western Australia to which I want to refer. First, I associate myself with the complaint that has been made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) in relation to the Kalgoorlie division. I do not believe this is a matter which can be corrected in the Commonwealth Electoral Act; I think an alteration of the Constitution must be made. It may be that, ultimately, the matter can be resolved, as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie suggests, only by the creation of a new seat in the north-west. The Constitution lays down the way in which a quota shall be established, and I believe that the Commonwealth Electoral Act has to comply with the requirements of the Constitution. In order to overcome the difficulty caused by the enormous area of Kalgoorlie, an alteration of the Constitution will be required. That matter might well be considered by the body which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is about to appoint to examine constitutional matters.
I agree with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) that it is impossible for the representatives of large electorates such as these to give that urgent attention to the wishes of the electors which can be given only by close personal contact. A closely settled area does afford a member an opportunity to make that contact. My own electorate of Moore comprises ten State electorates and 40 local government authorities. I leave it to honorable members to picture in their own minds the physical impossibility - even if one were not required to be in Canberra for a. considerable period of the year - of making personal contact, even only once a week, with each of the districts of those 40 local authorities. Obviously, this valuable personal contact with the individual electors is lost. Many of them have valuable suggestions to make, and that can best be done by personal contact. Unfortunately, those personal discussions are denied to honorable members who represent large electorates. The relationship of area to numbers’ does come into the picture.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has my deepest sympathy, but I assure him that he will not be detrimentally affected by the addition of a portion of my electorate to his seat. He represented it before it fell into my hands, and during my visits to that part of the country, I have found that he is held in high esteem by the people who have given me support no less than they gave to him. I say, most sincerely, that I am sorry to lose the people of that area. I am sorry to see them go, because during one’s association with a district, one establishes a close friendship with the people in it. I refer to the districts of Minginew, Morowa, Mullewa and Irwin, or the Dongara road board.
The people in those areas have no interest which is in common with that of the people in the remainder of the Kalgoorlie electorate. Kalgoorlie is essentially a mining area, except for the northern part, which is the forgotten area of Western Australia. The districts I mentioned are purely rural, primary-producing areas, and it will be difficult for the honorable member to give the people the adequate service that should come from the National Parliament.
However, one cannot blame the commissioners for that sort of thing. They are required to carry out the provisions of the act. If anything, I should be inclined to blame the commissioners in Western Australia for a too-rigid adherence to the provisions of the act. They followed religiously the State electoral boundaries, believing that there was a community of interest in those areas, and they also held to the local government authority boundaries, believing that they, too, were based on community of interest. That is not always so. If the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) is willing to receive suggestions about future determinations of boundaries, I offer the suggestion that the commissioners should in the course of their duties, personally visit some of the districts where they propose to effect a change. I do not say they should necessarily do so in order to communicate to the people their ultimate decision, but to ascertain from personal knowledge where the real community of interest in the respective districts lies.
In the redistribution, portion of the metropolitan area has been included in my electorate. It is purely a suburban area which, at the present time is certainly included in a local authority district, but it has no community of interest. It is attached to a district which is the main vine-growing area of Western Australia. This small suburban section has been added without any regard whatever to community of interest, simply because it came within the local government authority area which was set up many years ago at a time when that part of the metropolitan area was virgin country. It has since been developed, and houses have been built on it.
I am not objecting to what has been done. As I have said, the commissioners, if anything, followed too rigidly the requirements of the act. That is the position in Western Australia, and I commend the commissioners on the capable manner in which they have completed a very difficult job. They were confronted with this remarkable increase in population in the metropolitan area, but in rural divisions, they had, in addition, to find an area for a new seat. I believe they have balanced the ledger fairly evenly, giving all parties an equal chance under the new arrangement. I support the redistribution, and I again emphasize that I fully support the comments made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. I shall continue to give him my support in order to obtain a better and fairer deal for the people in his division, and, in particular, for the people in the northwest.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Redistribution of Tasmanian Divisions.
Debate resumed from the 31st May (videpage 1239) on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Tasmania into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs. E. W. Dwyer, F. Miles and E. C. Botten, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the House of Representatives on the 3rd day of May, 1955, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the map referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “Braddon” be substituted for “Darwin”.
.- Mr. Speaker, I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned. Sitting suspended from 5.54 to8 p.m.
– I lay on the table of the House a white paper which the Government has had prepared for the information of honorable members in connexion with the review of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and move
That this House approves the Government’s decision to accept the revised General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the proposed agreement on the organization for trade cooperation, subject in either case to prior acceptance by the Governments of the United Kingdom and of the United States of America.
This motion seeks the approval of the House for the Government’s decision in relation to therevised General Agreement on Tariffsand Trade, or G.A.T.T., as it is morecom monly known.
The GeneralAgreement on Tariffs and Trade represents an attempt to get the nationsofthe world to co-operate in avoiding, in the post-war years, the sudden and sharp disruptions of international trade experienced in the prewar decade. There were many examples then of steep increases in tariffs, of discriminatory import restrictions or exchange controlsofStatetradingpractices, and ofbilat eral trade agreements, all designed to tie up markets. Barter arrangements and extreme policies of exportsubsidyvan ished. Distortions of prices anduphe avals in traditional patterns of trade flowed. While World War II.wasbeing waged, the United KingdomandtheUnited States of America and some other countries, including Australia, laid plans to avoid in the postwar era at least the worst features of this pre-war experience. These discussions led to a series of international trade conferences, culminating in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which was reached at Geneva in 194’7.
The members of the present Government were critical of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1947, when the present Government parties were in Opposition. In office, our dissatisfaction was accentuated by the trade problems which confronted Australia in recent years. With the transition in the United Kingdom from the system of bulk trading and long-term contracts to a system of private or commercial trading, the measures adopted by competing suppliers, such as export subsidies or exchange rate practices, assumed new and very real significance for us. The accumulation in the United States of huge surpluses of agricultural commodities offered a grave threat to many of our exports. At home,. the tariff commitments entered into under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade became increasingly irksome.
There developed a strong case for reviewing the system of Commonwealth preferences with a view to restoring the value of certain preferences on Australian exports. The Ottawa Agreement became marked by a serious decline in its value to Australia compared with its cost in the form of benefits extended in our own market to the United Kingdom. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was directly relevant to most of these problems. The idea of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, a set of trade rules, is a good idea. But that is not to say that the particular set of rules that we found in the general agreement was necessarily better for us than no set at all.
We found that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade had been reasonably effective in certain respects, notably in inducing tariff stability and making possible some important reductions in tariffs against our exports, for example, wool in the United States. But, despite this, on examining the provisions and the omissions of the general agreement, the Government had very nearly reached the conclusion, a couple of years ago, that to have no set of trade rules at all would be better than to have that set of rules which bound us too rigidly in some respects, and at the same time completely failed to protect us in other important respects. However, in 1953, we demanded a review of the general agreement. Other countries also favoured a review. We wanted the whole agreement to be revised - if necessary, revised drastically - so that the problems which were fundamental to Australia would be adequately met. We put aside the suggestions from overseas. We took a clean piece of paper. We set down the things we wanted and the things that we wanted to prevent. We developed a genuinely Australian approach. Out of this, we wrote down our objectives in the review of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
Our export earnings being so dependent upon a few commodities, obviously it was imperative to seek measures to protect them in the world’s markets against unfair trading practices on the part of our competitors. On the other hand, our export income was vulnerable to sudden and great fluctuations. Our import bill was high and growing steadily as development proceeded. We must therefore resist encroachment upon the right of the Australian Government to make its own decisions on import restrictions. Ottawa preferences were a great issue. The rules of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade shut out any practical possibility of restoring the effectiveness of those margins of preference which, through price rises, had lost their effectiveness. So we had an amendment of these rules as a major objective.
Another main objective arose from the fact that to secure tariff concessions for its export products, Australia had bound, sometimes at reduced rates, a number of tariff duties against increase. We had found the old agreement procedures for negotiating release from a bound rate uncertain and irksome in Australia’s particular circumstances. Our objective was to secure procedures which would not frustrate any decision by the Government to raise a bound rate of duty in those cases where the Government adopted a Tariff Board recommendation for ahigher rate of duty.
– The Government was wise after the event.
Air. McEWEN. - I am merely mentioning the disabilities that were imposed on Australian secondary industry by the Chifley Labour Government. The objective to which I have referred had to be achieved without tearing down the whole structure of tariff stability under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. These, then, were the Government’s high objectives: to protect Australian exports against subsidies and surplus disposals; to resist encroachment upon the rights of decision regarding import restrictions; to obtain more flexible rules allowing some adjustments in export preference margins and to secure greater flexibility in adjusting bound tariff rates where shown to be essential.
British Commonwealth discussions were held in London before the review conference proper at Geneva. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) and I stated the firm views of the Australian Government on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade review in special talks with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade and with other senior United Kingdom Ministers.
At Geneva we won recognition of the fact that Australia had a special point of view. We had it accepted, not as an abstract principle, but as a practical feature governing Australia’s position in many fields, that Australia was in a category almost of its own. Many of the other industrialized countries had much common ground in their approach to the review. They sought lower or rigidly bound tariffs and tight trade rules on such matters as import restrictions to safeguard overseas funds. The other main group were the so-called economically underdeveloped countries. These are the countries characterized by a low standard of living for most of their peoples. They have great and complex problems in their attempts to improve the economic lot of their often very large populations. We established our claim that Australia was in neither of these groups. The Australian economy is a rapidly developing one, but still dependent on a few major exports for overseas funds. There is a fast-growing population, with commensurate growth in requirements of consumer and capital goods. For geographical reasons, security considerations demand- support of certain industries - a fact that ought to be clear to everybody.
Almost every country represented at the conference had its own objectives, and its own list of proposals. In such a conference, it is safe to say that no one country gets all it seeks. The final outcome is certain not to be completely satisfactory to any country. Nevertheless Australia’s efforts met with very substantial success’, as a brief survey will suggest.
One of the ways in which we sought to obtain a more balanced agreement for Australia was to press for a greater degree of safeguard for countries exporting mainly primary products - for provisions which would assure fair trading opportunities. There were two main types of action on which we took issue - disposals of agricultural- surpluses and export subsidies on primary products. The United States of America, with its huge surpluses, is the principal source of concern in this respect, and was under great pressure by those who shared our anxieties. In the outcome, the United States fully subscribed to a conference resolution recognizing that the disturbing effects of these disposals can be substantially diminished, and the risk of injury minimized through adequate consultation with the other interested parties.
The resolution sets out the consultation procedure to be followed. It represents, in effect, a commitment on the part of the countries concerned to dispose of their agricultural surpluses in such a way as to avoid unduly provoking disturbances on the world market that would adversely influence other members. It places upon them an onus to consult with other countries likely to be affected by the disposals. While not carrying as binding or as precise an obligation as we wished to see, the resolution does represent a substantial step forward.
With regard to export subsidies, we pointed out that while wes were building expensive storage to hold unsold wheat, wheat that was heavily subsidized to the extent, sometimes, of 8s. to 10s. a bushel was being bought in the world’s markets from Argentina and elsewhere. In the event we gained new clauses in the general agreement which now recognize that export subsidies may have harmful effects for other countries, and which provide that they are not to be used on primary commodities to distort the normal pattern of trade.
The traditional arrangements for Australian primary industries - that is, our internal stabilization schemes and twoprice schemes - which, in the main, aim at stability in price on the domestic market, are not affected by these new provisions.
Furthermore, we attacked this export subsidy problem on the importing country’s side. The existing text of the general agreement had permitted countervailing duties to be imposed only under very limited conditions. In layman’s language, countervailing duties are additional customs duties put on to offset dumping - resulting, for example, from subsidies in exporting countries. The new clause that we secured provides that, where material injury is caused or threatened by such subsidies, permission will automatically be forthcoming for the importer to levy anti-dumping duties to protect the interests of another supplying country. This I regard as a distinct improvement. It is particularly relevant for Australia in the United Kingdom, where so much of our exports are marketed. Hitherto, the United Kingdom Government has had no legislative authority to impose countervailing duties. This was one of the points we took up with the United Kingdom Ministers in London. Now I note with satisfaction that the United Kingdom Government officially announced in April last that the necessary legislative powers will be sought.
I now turn to the Ottawa preference issue. The General Agreement on Tariffs «ind Trade sets itself most strongly against discriminatory tariff arrangements such na the Ottawa preferences.
The 1947 agreement allowed then existing preferences, but barred any new ones or increases of the old ones. Members of this Government protested strongly when in opposition. We were unable to influence the then government to reject the agreement or to find any compensations for accepting this limitation on preferences. As a government, we have found that our criticism was well justified. The Government found that this rule of the general agreement - the socalled no preference rule - imposed an unreasonable restriction on countries which had entered into preferential arrangements before the general agreement was framed.
There have been steep increases in world price levels. But certain margins of preference enjoyed by certain Australian exports in the United Kingdom particularly, and also in some other preferential markets, are expressed in pre-war money values. Such preferences have therefore lost much of their effectiveness. For example, in 193S the butter preference of 15s. per cwt. was worth 14 per cent. To-day. due to the higher value of butter, it is worth less than 5 per cent. There are many other examples. We sought support for a measure of flexibility in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which would have enabled us to negotiate the re-adjustment of preferences which had so lost their value. From the beginning, we encountered opposition even from Commonwealth countries except from the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the new Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
We carried the issue from London to Geneva, where, besides lack of Commonwealth support, we faced strong opposition from non-Commonwealth countries. As the Dutch and the Danes saw it, for example, we were asking for agreement for increases in the United Kingdom tariff against their butter and bacon. From a different point of view, the Germans, the Belgians, the Italians and the Americans saw our request as a proposal that they should accept higher tariffs in Australia against their goods. Their goods were already handicapped in the Australian market, because of the existing preferences against them, although claimed to be often more cheaply produced at their source than are the favoured British goods. In the outcome at Geneva, because the no new preference rule was already entrenched in the agreement, we failed to get support other than from the same three Commonwealth countries, and France.
The no new preference rule therefore remains in the agreement, and it might be argued that this is sufficient reason for our withdrawing from the agreement. In fact, this is no solution, since, for example, it would not be possible for the United Kingdom to increase its preferences to us while it remained a signatory to the agreement, which it clearly intends to do. The determination to prevent preferential or discriminatory arrangements is absolutely fundamental to the trade policy of most signatory countries. This fact must be understood in any thinking about the need to correct the undoubted inbalance in the Ottawa Agreement as between ourselves and the United Kingdom.
I have referred to bound rates of duty in our tariff. “We regard it as essential to be able to modify these bound rates in order to implement Tariff Board recommendations. We wanted, at the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade review, to get enough flexibility into the agreement to permit independent modifications of our tariff when necessary. Our seeking the kind of flexibility I have described raised an almost classic case. A primary objective of the agreement, as conceived at Geneva in 1947, was to achieve tariff stability by countries agreeing to freeze or reduce tariffs, or limit the scope of increases. That objective was approved by the Parliament when the Chifley Government was in office. All the powerful oldestablished industrial countries which had influenced the general agreement to its original form in 1947 had everything to gain by promoting tariff inflexibility, even at the cost of rigidity. While we subscribed, especially for our exports, to the objective of tariff stability, our task was to gain recognition for the fact that we also needed freedom to use our own tariff as an instrument for developing our own economic resources, and our own secondarv industries.
To cut short a long story of difficult negotiation, we finally obtained agreement to a formula for treating bound tariffs which gave us considerably more flexible procedures than are available to the more advanced industrial countries. In particular, two modifications of high importance to Australian manufacturing industry have been secured. The first is that, in common with all members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade we would be able every three years to review whether we wish to extend our bound schedule of tariff rates or withdraw the schedule in whole or in part. In making a decision of this kind we would always watch what might happen to our exports, for others would be free to withdraw concessions we had been accorded by them. The second great modification is a new procedure, a vital part of which by definition is almost limited in its application to Australia. During the course of each three-year period we will be free under this new provision to re-negotiate cases of bound rates as they arise, such as, for example, when the Government accepts a Tariff Board recommendation for an increase in a bound rate of duty. Our particular entitlement to do this comes from a formula and which some one described as magic words that Australia had obtained, and for which our arguments won acceptance. The formula applies automatically only to those countries which for their export earnings - in the words of the formula -
Depend upon a relatively small number of primary commodities and which rely on the tariff as an important aid for the further diversification of their economies.
That is the definition. It is considered that those words have an almost exclusive application to Australia, and therefore it is under those words that we achieve this new freedom of re-negotiating the bound items of our tariff schedule. It was clearly conceded that this practically singled out Australia among the high-standard industrial countries.
But here is the point. Under this formula we virtually will not in future be denied authority to re-negotiate with bound rates. This provision is not available to the industrially advanced countries. Moreover, under the new procedure, delays which, under the old pro- cedure of negotiation, could have been unbearable or even literally interminable, cannot deny to us for longer than 120 days at the most the right to take essential protective action. Of course, we must avail ourselves of this opportunity only in good faith, but we cannot in future be frustrated in our genuine need to protect our own industries. It is important, too, that this vital concession to Australia has been gained without sacrificing the general principle of tariff stability in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade for the great mass of the 50,000 bindings of tariff rates resulting from past negotiation under the agreement, will undoubtedly be revised every three years.
I turn now to another great issue for Australia. This stemmed from the fear held by many major countries that import restrictions originally imposed by countries to maintain or increase their currency reserves would, in fact, be retained when these difficulties ceased to exist. This has a bearing on the success of a currency convertibility operation. While Australia could agree with major trading countries that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade should be strengthened to prevent abuse in the use of import restrictions, it could not agree to accept any limitation whatsoever upon its ability to impose such import restrictions which it considered necessary in the light of its - that is, our - overseas funds position. For instance, these countries sought to amend the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in such a way that we would have to seek approval of the agreement organization and even of the International Monetary Fund before imposing import restrictions. Likewise, such restrictions would have had to be removed within a fixed period of time,’ irrespective of the economic circumstances of the day. Australia’s attitude was that, in an overseas funds crisis, it must be able to exercise its own judgment on the need to restrict the flow of imports, and on the extent, of restriction necessary to protect its international solvency. This was a very clear example of refusal to sacrifice a vital Australian interest merely to facilitate agreement at an international conference. Our case prevailed.
However, having stated and safeguarded our vital interest, we recognized the fact that import restrictions practised by others, openly or covertly, for protective purposes could do great damage to Australia’s export interests. As a measure of protection against this possibility, Australia readily joined in supporting an arrangement which would make consultation under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade effective and avoid abuse.
Honorable members will be aware of the import restrictions which have prevented the entry of our dairy products into the United States. It was quite apparent that the United States Congress would have had the general agreement rejected by the United States Government rather than abandon the legislation under which United States agriculture is supported. But only with the United States in the general agreement do we have any real opportunity of influencing its policies and obtaining its co-operation in curbing those measures which hurt - or might hurt - Australian trade. The efforts of the delegation were, therefore, concentrated on imposing the strictest possible limits on action which might be taken by America to curb agricultural imports under this legislation. We pressed for and obtained an undertaking by the United States to report regularly and in great detail on this issue to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade organization. We attach particular importance to the provision which requires the United States to consult with us and other contracting parties before acting under this legislation, and to the provision which enables us to review its actions every year. All these requirements are contained in a special dispensation for America. If member nations are not satisfied with the position at any time, this waiver to the United States could be withdrawn. The fact that quite a few countries in Europe are close to being free from balance of payments difficulties meant that, at the review of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, these countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium and Italy, were anxiously exploring ways and means of making amendments which would permit importrestrictions to be used by them to protect industries incapable of meeting world competition. There were some countries which advocated that almost complete freedom should be given for import restrictions to protect agriculture, On the grounds that tariff protection Was unsuitable for these industries. This would have placed the predominant and vital section of Australia’s export trade at the mercy of import restrictions imposed in our principal markets without consultation with us, and without any possibility of real control or limitation by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Organization. Accordingly, Australia took a prominent role iri insisting upon a procedure under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which would require prior approval in the form of a waiver from the organization’s rules before recourse could be taken to import restrictions for protective purposes. * [Extension of time granted.]*
It is clearly stated that this approval will not be forthcoming unless applicant countries can satisfy very stringent conditions relating to the duration of the controls, the internal measures to be taken to make them unnecessary, and the manner of use of controls to ensure nondiscrimination. In addition, annual reporting is required, and 1957 has been set as a date for removal of all such restrictions. That the Australian views on these waivers were finally adopted offers some prospect of clearing away barriers to trade in agricultural commodities in a way that was seriously lacking in the old General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
Until now the management of the general agreement and the secretariat have had merely a temporary and not formally authorized basis. It is now proposed, without effecting any real alteration in the way the agreement operates, to establish a formal organization, which would be called the Organization for Trade Co-operation. This, is provided for in a quite separate agreement from the agreement embodying, the revised trade rules to which I have been referring. ; At an. earlier working session of the organization decisions were’ taken which would make it possible for Japan to become a member. However, Japan’s accession to the agreement is dependent upon it negotiating satisfactory tariff bargains with members. A government which has refrained from negotiating with Japan is under no obligation to extend to Japan its existing general agreement tariff arrangements.
At this point I must acknowledge fully the great assistance rendered to the delegation and to the Government by the industry consultants. To these gentlemen - to Mr. S. Powell, Mr. J. Tivey and to Mr. C. M. Williams - I express the Government’s appreciation of the great co-operation and industry with which they applied themselves to the task of representing” the viewpoints of their organizations. The National Farmers Union, the Associated Chambers o’f Manufactures of Australia and the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia were most ably served by their representatives.
I must put on record the value to Australia of the work done by the Very able and devoted public servants who accompanied the delegation. Mr. J. G. Crawford, the permanent head of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, was the leader of the officials, and after the departure of the Ministers, led the delegation. There was very wide acknowledgment of the outstanding value of his work to the Australian case and to the work of the conference generally. Dr. W. A. Westerman led the Australian delegation for a period when Mr. Crawford returned to Australia for consultation. He and the other able public servants who worked in the delegation are entitled to have recorded the great value of their contribution.
I have briefly outlined the objectives set by the Government for the review of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and I have indicated the major changes proposed in the agreement which are of interest to Australia. The statement I made on the 5th January last, on my return from Geneva, was interpreted by some as foreshadowing Australia’s withdrawal from the general agreement. At that stage such a possibility was still not to be ruled out. To have expressed myself otherwise at the very time when a number of major issues had yet to be finally settled would have jeopardized hopes of obtaining further concessions to Australia’s viewpoint in the delicate negotiations then in process. However, the document in its final form enables me to say that in respect of those rules that matter most to Australia, the revised general agreement is dramatically different. It has a quality of balance that did not exist before. It is not a perfect document for Australia, nor could this be expected. Yet it can be regarded as giving us more freedom to use our tariff policy to meet the real needs of Australia’s development and, at the same time, real prospects of preventing what might otherwise be serious and unpredictable^ - even calamitous - interferences with Australia’s export trade. The new prospect of security for our export trade has been largely secured by other countries accepting new restraints upon their policies. By way of contrast, these gains for our export industries have been achieved concurrently with gains in respect of our import policies. Not only will we now have greater flexibility in the use of the tariff but our right will still he unfettered to make the essential decisions on import restrictions ourselves - to choose when to impose or when to remove import restrictions necessary to ensure sufficient funds abroad to pay for our imports.
This, then, is the Government’s summation of the review of the general agreement - the review which it demanded in 1953 - the review which has now been parried through. The Government has closely weighed all the issues in Australia’s interests. It has taken into account the attitude of other governments, particularly of those countries which are our major markets and great friends. It has examined the alternatives open to Australia if it were decided to reject thu revised agreement. The Government’? decision, for which it seeks the approval of Parliament, is that it will accept the revised General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The Government will similarly accept the separate agreement on the organization for trade co-operation. That is the organizational body of the agreement. Australian ratification in each case will be dependant on prior ratification by both the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The United Kingdom has announced that it proposes to accept both the new organization and the revised trade rules. The United States Government has already accepted the revised trade rules but has submitted the proposed organization for trade cooperation to Congress. The American Government, having already accepted the revised trade rules - that is, the general agreement rules, the critical part - our acceptance is contingent upon the United Kingdom accepting them, because in our opinion it is essential that these two great trading nations should be operating these rules if we ourselves are to be satisfied that we should operate them. For the same reason, the Commonwealth will separately accept the organization when both the United Kingdom and the United States have done so. I commend the motion to the House.
Debate (on motion by. Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 2 - (2.) Paragraph (6) of section three of this Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the date of commencement of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948.
Senates amendment 3 0. 1. - Leave out subclause (2.).
Senates amendment 1YO. 2. - After clause 4, insert the following new clause:- - “ -1a. Section twenty-three of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-Section (1.) the words “ (in this Act referred to as the appointed date’) “.
– Both the amendment of clause 2 of the bill and the new clause proposed to be inserted after clause 4 are formal amendments of A drafting nature only and have no effect upon the substance of the bill. By virtue of the definition of “ the appointed date “ now inserted in section 4 of the act by clause 3 (b) of the bill, the words “ in this Act referred to as’ the appointed date’” which appear in section 23 (1.) of the act are no longer necessary. The new clause proposed to be inserted in the bill provides for the omission of the words. Clause 2 (2.) of the bill gives to the definition of “ the appointed date “ to whichI have referred retrospective effect to the commencement of the 1943 act. It has now been decided that there is no necessity for the retrospectivity, and clause 2 (2.) is therefore being omitted from the bill. I move -
That the amendmentsbe agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for anact to amend the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1948-1952.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the billbe now read a second time.
The Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1.948-1952 provides for retiring allowances to members of Parliament and their widows on a contributory basis. The present basic allowance is £8 a week to a member and £5 a week to his widow. The existing retiring allowances have not been varied since the measure was enacted in 1948, with the exception of additional allowances of £2 a week to a member who is 65 years of age or older, and £1 5s. a week to the widow of a member from the date he would have reached the age of 65. Under existing legislation the Government meets 60 per cent. of the cost of the basic allowances, and the balance is financed by the contribution of £3 a week made by each member. The cost of the additional allowance that I have mentioned is met by the Government.
The bill will increase the rate of contribution by members from £3 to £4 10s. a week. This higher contribution by the members, together with the Commonwealth’s subsidy of 60 per cent. of the cost of the retiring allowances, will finance an increase in the basic allowance to £12 a week for a member, and £10 a week for the widow of a member. The additional allowance of £1 5s. a week paid to the widow of the member from the date on which he would have reached the age of 65 will be discontinued, but the additional allowance to a member who is 65 years of age or older will be raised from £2 a week to £3 a week, making a total weekly retiring allowance to these members of £15. The cost of this additional allowance will be borne by the Government, as is done at present. The bill will also provide for the payment of these increased rates to persons at present in receipt of these allowances. It is not proposed, at this time, to provide for any additional payment by the Government to the fund in respect of the payment of the higher rates of allowance in relation to benefits which arise from periods of service prior to the date of commencement of this measure, namely, the 16th June, 1955. The bill will defer consideration of any such payment until the second actuarial report on the fund as at the 30th June, 1963, is received.
At the introduction of the scheme for parliamentary retiring allowances in 1948 it was recognized that a payment to the fund might be necessary in respect of benefits payable under the act in relation to earlier periods of parliamentary service. Consideration of this was deferred until the date of the first annual report of the actuary as at the 30th June, 1956. I might mention, for the information of honorable members, that an examination of the state of the fund at the present time shows that no payment of that nature is now required to be made by the Government.
The other amendment relates to the period of service which qualifies a member for a retiring allowance. At present, no allowance is payable unless a member has served in the Parliament for a period of eight years. In future, a retiring allowance will also be payable after a member has been affected for the third time by the dissolution or expiration of the House of which he is a member, or upon the expiration of his office. Whilst the period of eight years in normal circumstances would extend over this period, it has been thought desirable not to exclude from retiring, allowance benefits those who, in extraordinary circumstances, may have met these conditions of service under a lesser period than eight years. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1407.)
. Tasmania is the last State the redistribution of whose electoral boundaries now comes before the House, but Tasmania, although the last State in this respect, is by no means the least. The commissioners who were engaged in the redistribution of electoral boundaries in Tasmania are: Eric William Dwyer, of Hobart,. the Commonwealth Electoral Returning Officer for Tasmania; Frank Miles, of Hobart, the Acting Surveyor-General for Tasmania; and Ebenezer Charles Botten, of New Town, Tasmania, who is the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in Tasmania. Those three gentlemen are wholly dependable and reliable. They are, in fact, so reliable that not one protest about the proposed redistribution was made to them by any of the five federal members whose electorates, were the. subject of redistribution.
There is, however, one point to which I should like to direct the attention of the House in respect of the general programme, of variations of electoral boundaries, and the work of the. commissioners generally. All that honorable members have before them on such occasions as this is a list of the electorates, the number of electors transferred between electorates and, at the back of the report of the commissioners with which honorable members are supplied, a detailed report by the State Surveyor-General on the boundaries of each electorate. Some honorable members protest at the alterations that have been made, whilst other honorable members say that the alterations are excellent. I believe that we should be supplied by the commissioners in each State with their reasons for the variations of electoral boundaries that they recommend. A statement of their reasons would obviate a tremendous amount of confusion in the minds of members of this Parliament. We have talked around this subject all day to-day. Many honorable members have been treated very badly in respect of redistribution, but they do not know why they were so treated. No reason is given by the commissioners as to why they ran a boundary around a mountain, or over a river, or through some tunnels, as they have done in some instances. I suggest, for the consideration of the commissioners in all States, that they supply, in their reports, their reasons for the variations that they recommend. We should then have something of substance on which to base our arguments. The commissioners must have reasons, but they keep them to themselves and, as a result, we in this Parliament are left in complete confusion as to why this wriggly line has been made more wriggly or less wriggly.
– The commissioners would make good boundary riders.
– As the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) says, the commissioners would make good boundary riders; and some of them may have been boundary riders early in their lives. The average number of electors in each of the five federal divisions in Tasmania will be, as a result of the proposed variations, about 34,000. The number of electors in the Denison division will be increased from about 28,000 to about 38,000 at the expense of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) who, very graciously, has accepted the transfer of 9,830 electors from his division to the division of Denison., The divisions of Franklin and Denison lie side by side in the southern part of Tasmania. This transfer brings several more outer suburban areas into the City of Hobart area which is represented by the honorable for Denison (Mr. Townley). I think that the honorable member for
Franklin will have lost some ground politically as a result of this trans! er but he revealed his good sportsmanship by not protesting about it. Both of the honormembers concerned being supporters of the present Government, they must have come to an amicable agreement over the transfer. Franklin, which had 40,400 electors, had to be reduced and the fixed figure was 30,570. The electorates’ of Wilmot and Bass are side by side. Bass includes the north-eastern corner of Tasmania, Flinders Island and 98 per cent, of the City of Launceston. I may say that it is very well represented by the new member for Bass (Mr. Barnard): A few more voters had to be added to the electorate, and the only electorate from which they could be taken was Wilmot, which I represent. We had a little meeting and decided that we could straighten the electoral boundary of Launceston on the southern side. It was very crooked, awkward and unsound geographically, topographically and in every other way. We decided that a certain number of votes might be transferred to my electorate and sent the suggestion on to Hobart. I think that it was the only occasion, in any of the States, when two members made up their minds, and went before the commission with an offer that was accepted. As a result, I have lost 1,250 votes to my esteemed colleague, the honorable member for Bass, and the number of voters in my division has been reduced from 35,756 to 34,506. The number in the electorate of Bass has been increased from 33,927 to 35,177. Politically, I have lost a little as a result of that transfer. The electorate of Darwin has not suffered any alteration at all, and, doubtless, the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Luck) will have something to say about that later. My electorate takes in 13,500 square miles, which is roughly half the area of Tasmania. The redistribution has taken about two square miles from that area, so I still represent a tremendous tract of country.
I should like now to mention the names given to some of the electorates. I believe that the electorate of Darwin owes its name to. Charles Darwin, but no one has ever been able to tell me the connexion between that gentleman and Tasmania, except to suggest that he might have thought us to be the missing link, or part of it. Since 1901, the name has been very confusing to people who do not live in Tasmania. Many have thought that the honorable member for Darwin represented the City of Darwin in the Northern Territory. So, the commissioners, in their wisdom, have decided to change the name to Braddon. The origin of the name Franklin is obvious. Sir Benjamin Franklin was an outstanding Australian who perished, with his ship and colleagues, in the Arctic Circle. They were never found. Denison, which takes in most of Hobart, was named after MajorGeneral Sir William Thomas Denison, who was Governor of Tasmania in the late forties. Bass has obviously been named after George Bass, the famous explorer who accompanied Flinders on his journeys around our coasts. My electorate of Wilmot was named after Sir John Edrdley Edrdley-Wilmot, who was Governor of Tasmania in the early forties.
The boundaries of the federal divisions in Tasmania have been drawn on a principle different from that operating in any other State. The State electoral boundaries in Tasmania are also the federal electoral boundaries, because the proportional representation system operates in that State. Consequently, the alterations made by the commissioners will be applied for State electoral purposes also. Each of the five State electorates is represented by six honorable members, 30 in all, in the Tasmanian House of Assembly. I do not know whether the State authorities were consulted about the changes, but they appear to have been accepted by honorable members of all parties.
I should like now to say a word or two about the gentleman who has given his name to the new electorate of Braddon. He had the very imposing title of the Right Honorable Sir Edward Nicholas Coventry Braddon, K.C.M.B., P.O. So, when the honorable member for Darwin becomes the honorable member for Braddon he will be associated with a very distinguished name in Tasmanian and Australian history. Sir Edward Braddon was born on the 11th June, 1829, in Cornwall. He was educated privately and at the University College. London. In 1S47, when he was eighteen, he went to India to join his cousin’s mercantile house in Calcutta. He served in several responsible positions before joining .Sir George Yule’s Volunteer Force in the Indian Mutiny. In 1862, at the age of 33, he was appointed Commissioner of Excise and Stamps and,, later, Inspector-General of Registration and Superintendent of Trades and Statistics in a province. In 1878, at the age of 49, he retired on a pension and went to Tasmania. In view of another measure that has just been introduced in this Parliament, that fact is of some interest. He went to the beautiful island of Tasmania to spend his retirement. Because, in his wisdom, from all the world, he chose Tasmania, he lived until 1904. I doubt whether he would have done so if he had lived in the hotter northern parts of this country at places such as Brisbane. In July, 1S79, having arrived in Tasmania only the year before, he was elected to the House of Assembly as member for West Devon. He was then 50 years of age. He held that seat until October, 188S, when he was appointed AgentGeneral in London for the colony of Tasmania. Just before he left for London he became Leader of the Opposition, and on the defeat of the Agnew Ministry in March, 1887, was called upon to form a government. Amazingly enough, he declined to accept the leadership and gave the honour to the Honorable P. 0. Fysh, taking for himself the Ministries of Land and Works, and Education. The Honorable P. 0. Fysh later played a prominent part in Australian history. Sir Edward Braddon served with distinction in London for five years and on his return to Tasmania, in 1893 he went straight back into Parliament. It is much easier to get out of Parliament these days than it is to get in; and it is much easier to get, into Parliament than it is to stay in. Then he became the member for West Devon in the Tasmanian Parliament again. He also became the Leader of the Opposition again. In April, 1894, he became Premier of Tasmania and held that office until the 12th October, 1899, a period of five and a half years, the longest period of office of any ministry in Tasmania until that time.
He played a great part in the federal movement in this country. Before going to London, he was one of the representatives of Tasmania at the second session of the Federal Council of Australia held at Hobart in January, 1S88. He was in London when the 1891 council meeting was held. When he came back to this country, he was elected as Tasmanian representative to the 1897 convention and was responsible, by his activities at the convention, for the insertion of the famous “ Braddon clause “ in the Constitution. By his opponents, it was called the “Braddon blot”. It lasted for only ten years. It provided that the Commonwealth should return to the States three-quarters of all customs duties and excise duties collected in each State. There was a hot discussion about Braddon’8 motion before it was agreed to by the convention. Eventually a compromise was worked out, by which the provision was to operate for only ten years. It was superseded by the Surplus Revenue Act (No. 8) 1910. So the “ Braddon blot “ was removed from the Constitution in 1910, six years after Braddon died.
He was elected to the first Federal Parliament of Australia as a Tasmanian member. He was an ardent freetrader, so obviously he was not a Labour man. He joined Sir George Reid’s party, and during Reid’s absence he occasionally acted as the Leader of the Opposition. In reading his history, I discovered what to me was the most interesting thing about him. He was elected as the member for Wilmot in December, 1903, but he died suddenly at his Tasmanian home on the 2nd February 1904, before the new Parliament met. I do not know who took his place. Having been elected as the member for Wilmot, he passed away shortly afterwards at the age of 75 years. It is a good job that I have not followed in his footsteps.
– You will.
– Some one says that 1 shall. That is a terrible thing to think of.
– Later on.
– He was a scholarly and picturesque figure in Tasmanian politics. He was created a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1S91 and he was made a member of the Privy Council in 1S97.. He wrote a good deal for newspapers and magazines. He was the author of two books about life in India.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman has been wide of the motion for a long time.
– Another interesting thing about Sir Edward Nicholas Coventry Braddon is that the suburb of Braddon in Canberra was named after him. He was a very distinguished gentleman. The commissioners sort of dug him out of Tasmanian history and honoured his memory by naming a Tasmanian electorate after him. We are all in agreement with that. Braddon’s name is closely connected with the history of Tasmania. Braddon is a part of Tasmanian history, but Darwin has not the remotest connexion with it. We are not involved with his missing link. Darwin is a useless and confusing name for a Tasmanian electorate. On Wednesday morning, our caucus meeting approved of the name Braddon being used for this purpose. Therefore, we enter the new era for the old Darwin electorate, all agreeing with the new name that has been chosen for it.
.- At last there is some agreement in the Labour party. I thank the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) for giving the House Sir Edward Braddon’s record. The honorable member was a little astray when he said that the commissioners selected the name of Braddon as the new name for the ! Darwin electorate. The commissioners do not recommend names. We can thank the Minister for iiic Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) and the people of Darwin for selecting the name. It is an honoured Tasmanian name, and I arn certain that it will continue to be honoured.
The naming of electorates over the years has been rather interesting. We are likely to see many changes of the names of electorates as the years go by. The electorate of Darwin was named in
J903, when there was not likely to be any confusion with, so to speak, tha northern capital of Australia. But now, when I am introduced to people as the member for Darwin, I am asked, “Were you there when the Petrovs were dragged off the ‘“plane?”, “Is it hot up there at present?”, “Has the rainy season ended ? “ or “ Have they got the ships out of the harbour yet? “. Questions of that kind indicate very clearly that the majority of people on the mainland of Australia regard Darwin as the northern capital of Australia. It is the place of entry for international aircraft coming to this country. The discovery of the uranium fields at Rum Jungle has added to the importance of that part of Australia.
It is very difficult to find from the records the reason why the Darwin electorate was so named. The Acting State Librarian of Tasmania searched the State archives, and, after some time, gave me some information which I think will be of interest to the House, especially as it relates to the naming of other electorates in Tasmania. The information is as follows : -
In the ]800’s, the geologist and explorer Charles Gould named 6 mountains on the West Coast after leading English geologists and scientists of the time - Owen, Sedgwick. Jukes, Lyell, Huxley and Darwin. The story of this is told in Blainey’s The Peaks of Lyell, published by the Melbourne University Press in 1954. After the discovery of minerals on the West Coast, a town of this name-
That is Darwin - sprang up in the vicinity; in the early years of the present century, this town was abandoned, owing to the petering out of the ore in this region. But at the time of Federation, it was a thriving community and, at a meeting of the Labour Political League’ held in Hobart in 190,1, it sent its own delegates.
In May, 1903, E. A. Cousel, Secretary for Lands and Surveyor-General of Tasmania, was appointed, by the new Federal Government. Commissioner for Electoral Boundaries in Tasmania. He was aided in his work of dividing up the State into five electorates by R. M. Johnston, Government Statistician, and reported to the Chief Electoral Officer, Melbourne, on the 13th July, 1903, forwarding the map showing thu electoral districts, with these words - “ . . . the names are chosen with a view to avoiding clashing with those of State electorates and in keeping with the early history of Tasmania “.
The Electoral Bill was debated in Parliament in late August and early September, 1903, and Cousel’s division of ‘the State was accepted by both Houses. However, there was much comment on the choice of names for thu electorates. Consol had called them Denison, Darwin, Wilmot, La Perouse, and Flinders. Owing to the confusion of this last one with a constituency in Victoria, it was changed in the House to Northcote, and La Perouse was changed to Franklin. In the Senate, Northcote was again changed, this time to Bass, and apparently the House of Representatives agreed to this change.
In Ilansard of the 27th August, 1903, volume 16, page 4320, Sir Philip Fysh is reported to have said -
No doubt Mr. Cousel and Mr. Johnston, the statistician of Tasmania, have taken counsel together in the arrangement of the divisions proposed. Some alteration is suggested in the names of the electorates. I think I prefer some of those previously selected. We have Natone LA,na, and Pateena, and other native names, but in this instance we see the influence of the Survey Department upon the names selected. Some attempt has been made to follow the course by which Tasmania has honoured herself in utilizing the names of Lyell, Huxley, Murchison, and others of the celebrated mcn of old England. Here Mr. Cousel has endeavoured to perpetuate the name of Darwin. I can quite understand why lie selected Darwin as the name of one division, and Denison as the name of another, because Denison is the name of a former Governor of Tasmania, who, honorable members will remember, made a name for himself subsequently in India.
Mr. Wilks. ; Why did he select Darwin?
Sir Philip Fish. ; I presume it was because Darwin was associated with Lyell, Murchison, Huxley and other celebrated mcn whose names are perpetuated on the mountain tops of Tasmania.
That is the story of the name of Darwin, and since the honorable member for Wilmot has given the House a very clear picture of Braddon, and why the name of “ Darwin “ should be changed to “ Braddon “, I do not think there is any more for me to add. I commend the proposed redistribution to the House.
.- The House is discussing the report of the distribution commissioners on the division _ of the State of Tasmania. Tasmania, Mr. Speaker, is the best represented State in Australia. I say that for the following reasons: - Firstly, because of the calibre of its representatives; secondly, because of the extent of its representation; and thirdly, because it was the first State - there are still only two States - to base the representation in the lower House of the State Parliament on the representation in this House.
I say that it is the best represented State in the extent of its representation firstly because it is the smallest State, but has the same number of senators as the largest State, New South Wales, which has eleven times its population. I say it also because, being an original State of the federation, it cannot have fewer than five members in this House, although on the quota which applies to all the mainland States, it would have at the present moment, only four members.
When I say that a State is well represented, I refer to three principles. First, that all adults should be represented without a means test; secondly, that all electorates should have the same population; and thirdly, that the Parliament should have to face the electors at regular intervals.
The first principle, that all adults should have a vote without a means test, is necessary so that everybody shall be represented in Parliament. The next principle, that all electorates should have, the same population, is necessary in order that everybody shall be equally represented. The third principle of periodic elections is necessary so that the Parliament will be representative of the electors from time to time. The amazing thing about the Australian Constitution, which is so often regarded as the guardian of liberty, is that is does not guarantee the vote for all’ adults; it does not preclude a means test or’ any other test for the vote; and it does not ensure that all divisions will have, roughly, the same population or that a State shall he divided into divisions at all. Those things are provided by a statute of this Parliament, which can be altered by this Parliament. The only safeguard that the Constitution affords by way of representation is that the House shall continue for no longer than three years, and that the number of members for each State shall be in proportion to its population.
Tasmania, I said, was the first of the States which, for its lower House of Parliament, adopted the same principle of distribution as we have in this House,
All the seats there have the same name and the same boundaries as Tasmanian divisions in this House. I hope that the Tasmanian Parliament will adopt the new name of Braddon which the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) has suggested, instead of Darwin, since it is surely a more significant name in Federal and State political history than was the former name. It is true that in Tasmania, too, there is no constitutional requirement that distribution shall be on that basis, but it has been the practice for many years in the Tasmanian Parliament to adjust the distribution to bear the names and to conform to the boundaries decided for divisions in this chamber. Whatever may be said about the distributions discussed by this House yesterday and to-day, they are numerically, mathematically and statistically the best in the country, and the State parliaments would be much better representatives of their populations if they conformed to the same principles that our statute lays down.
– What about Victoria with two to one?
– Earlier, I made a remark about Tasmania still being one of the only two States which make their boundaries conform to the divisions for this House. Victoria has now adopted that system, having two State electorates for every one electorate for this House. The other four States do not enjoy the same advantages. New South Wales electorates, at the last State election, varied between 15,000 and 26,000. The country electorates varied between 15,000 and 20,000, and city electorates between 22,000 and 20,000.
Queensland, to take the next most populous State, is much less well distributed. At the last election, the electorates varied in respect of numbers on the rolls between 4,500 and 20,000. Admittedly, that may give some distorted idea of the representations. There were six seats with a population of under 5,000 and there were only four with a population of over 15,000. The rest of the 70 odd seats were somewhere between those numbers.
The next State, in order of population, is South Australia, which is much worse distributed again. It has achieved mal distribution by having no distributions since 1936, and population movements have produced a phenomenal distortion. If one wishes to refer to a gerrymander, one need only refer to the populations of electorates in South Australia. The smallest electorate has a population of 3,645, and the largest a population of more than 30,000.
– Does not the honorable member mean electors ?
– I must concede that I think that everybody over eighteen years of age should have a vote, but I am referring now to persons over 21 years of age. In South Australia, if I may give another illustration of gerrymander and distortion, there are five seats with fewer than 5,000 persons on the roll, and five seats with more than 25,000 persons on the roll.
Lastly, we come to the State of Western Australia, where the numbers on the electoral rolls in the State divisions vary between 1,010 and 13.500. Admittedly, if one excludes the three north-western electorates, the distortion is only between 3,000 and 13,500. The principle is openly acknowledged in the electoral statute of Western Australia that there shall be twice as many electors on the city rolls as on the country rolls. Even so, the Western Australian distribution commissioners are the worst mathematicians in the country.
– They happen to be members of the legal profession.
– I was aware of that fact, but I did not intend to refer to it because I think one of them holds a judicial position, and I do not wish to be charged, by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) or some other honorable member who is absent from the House, with attacking the judiciary. As the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) has brought the point up, I shall concede it. It is the best point that I have ever heard him make in this chamber.
For the reasons that I have given, it is necessary to adhere to the principle which the Commonwealth has always adhered to by statute, and which I hope it will some day adhere to by constitutional compulsion. That principle is to ensure that every electorate shall have approximately the same number of electors, so that the votes of all of the electors shall be equal in value. At least, the numbers should be approximately equal, within the perfectly reasonable latitude of 20 per cent, above or below the quota as allowed by the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Country members experience difficulties in representing their electorates. Those difficulties can and should be overcome by providing them with better transport, more assistance, and bigger allowances, and not doubling, quadrupling, or, as in South Australia, decupling, the value of the vote of the country electors.
– Does the honorable member mean quintupling?
– No. It is more than quintupling. As I pointed out before the honorable member returned to the chamber, the disparity in some South Australian electorates is between 3,500 and 30,000. I am speaking dispassionately and without party political bias on this matter. For that reason, I shall not mention the political complexion of the honorable members who represent the seats with 30,000 electors and of those who represent the seats with approximately 3,500 electors. One can only hope that there will be a split in the Liberal and Country League in South A.ustralia to achieve the result that was achieved by means of a split in the Liberal party, and by that means alone, in Victoria.
I shall -conclude my non-partisan remarks by making two suggestions. As the Minister for the Interior was gracious enough last evening to pay heed to several of my suggestions, I know that he will be impelled by the reason and the justice of the suggestions that I am about to make to accede to them also. First. I suggest that the constitutional committee which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has promised for several years to appoint and the appointment of which he has constantly postponed, be appointed and that it consider means of ensuring that the Australian Constitution is altered in order that no gerrymandering shall be possible and that the principles enunciated in our electoral act shall be preserved and enshrined in the Constitution.
– Would the honorable member make those principles binding on the States?
– I am coming to that matte]-. I would. Secondly, I suggest that it would be better to have a body, more or less in the nature of a standing commission, to determine distribution matters in the Commonwealth and in all the States. In every instance in which a redistribution of electoral boundaries takes place, suggestions are made - I do not know whether they are well-founded - that the commissioners appointed for the purpose are superannuated public servants or junior public servants and that, in the one case, they have a sense of obligation, and, in the second case, of impending preferment. If there were a body of permanent public servants with some of the quasi-judicial standing of the Tariff Board or the conciliation commissioners - if there were appointed people who have nothing to fear or to expect from any government, capitalist or socialist, there would be less criticism of redistributions than there always is in this Parliment and in every other Parliament in Australia. Furthermore, I suggest that the standing commission should make redistributions of the boundaries of State electorates as well as of federal electorates, in a manner similar to that in which identical officers, in all States except one, look after the electoral rolls that are used for both State and Federal elections. Nothing is more vital to the working of a democracy than the mechanism by which the “Parliament is elected. The manner in which the Parliament is elected, that is, the manner in which the people are represented, is better in this House, despite all of its shortcomings, than is the manner in which the people- are represented in most other Houses of Parliament in Australia, and the manner in which the people are represented in the lower Houses in Tasmania and Victoria is better than i? the manner in which they are represented in any other House in any of the State parliaments. I hope that the Prime Minister will refer the first of my suggestions to the proposed constitutional committee, and that the second suggestion’ will be referred to a conference of Commonwealth and ‘State Ministers in the near future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I believe that an honest mistake has occurred in the division lists for two divisions, which were incorporated in yesterday’s daily number of Hansard, at page 1334. In those division lists my name is shown as a teller, and appears also as a pair with the name of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin). As I have stated, I consider that an honest mistake has been made. I have checked with the pairs book and have found that I am recorded there as having been paired with the honorable member for Watson. The matter is not of great importance, but I mention it because, at some future time, a reader of Hansard may see that I have apparently been paired and, at the same time, voted in a division, from which circumstance it might be concluded that I had betrayed a promise and come into the House to vote when I had been paired with a member of the Opposition.
– If I may be permitted to do so at this stage, Mr. Speaker, I wish, following the personal explanation made by the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock), to mention that this matter brings up the question of the magnificent work that has been done by Hansard and by the Government Printer in the preparation and publication of the daily Hansard. You, sir, as chairman of the select committee that brought the daily Hansard into being, will realize, as we all do, that when permanent changes are made-
– Is this a personal explanation, or is the honorable member speaking upon a motion ?
– I think I might be permitted to make these remarks. Mr. Speaker has not objected, and I wa3 addressing myself not to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) but to Mr. Speaker. I was about to say that small errors will creep in under pressure. I think we all realize that, in order to publish daily, Hansard must work to a deadline as do the newspapers, and that sufficient time is not always available to correct every little thing. It is appropriate at this time for me to direct attention to the magnificent job that has been done in creating, from a slowly moving record of this Parliament, a lively and fresh record that is available to honorable members at noon, or a little later, every day following a sitting. I am sure that the honorable member for Lyne, to whom I spoke about the matter outside the chamber, appreciates those considerations. I am sure also that he has not raised the matter in order to criticize the new daily Hansard, and that he appreciates the difficulties under which Hansard is published and the magnificent work that is done in order to make it available to honorable members expeditiously. You, Mr. Speaker, are well aware that members of the select committee to which I have referred, and of which you were the chairman, were fully apprised of the difficulties that would be involved in the change-over to the new basis of publication. I am sure that you, sir, will readily agree with me thai those difficulties have been magnificently overcome by both the Hansard staff and the Government Printer. As a result, we are now able to obtain daily a fresh record of the previous day’s proceedings in this House. In the circumstances, 1 appreciate the reason why the honorable member for Lyne has corrected the record. The record now is fresh, and the honorable member wishes to keep his record clean as well.
– Might I be permitted to make one further point. The mistake that occurred had nothing to do with Hansard. Unfortunately, it was made in the pairs book, from which the Hansard staff noted the pairs recorded. As I have already stated, I believe that the mistake was an honest one. I do not accuse any cine of anything. I wish now to emphasize that the fault does not lie with the Hansard staff, which merely took out of the pairs book the pairs that were recorded there.
Debate resumed from the 1st June (vide page 1291), on motion by Sir ARTHUR Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill effects a number of administrative improvements, which honorable members who are especially well versed in the administrative machinery and its operation will doubtless wish to discuss in detail. The more important amendment deals with units of pension of contributors to the fund. Under the existing legislation the number of units of pension for which an employee has had to contribute to the fund has been fixed according to the actual salary that he has received. As the employee’s salary has varied, so adjustments have been made to his superannuation contributions. The amendment proposed has been designed to discontinue that adjustment and to provide for contributions to be payable for the number of units appropriate to the maximum salary of the position. That proposal will increase the contributions that have to be made by employees but, as the rate payable for each unit of pension is related to the age of the employee, there will be no increase in the total amount contributed.
It was pointed out by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that, except in very rare cases, no increase of pension will result from the proposed amendment and that any additional cost that will be incurred in respect of them will be offset by reduced costs of administration. Administrative costs will he reduced because the numerous adjustments which are necessary under the existing legislation will no longer be necessary. The bill provides for a convenient alteration in the administration of the act and the Opposition approves of it.
The other main amendment that has been proposed concerns the provision that is made, not by the Government itself, but by certain Commonwealth authorities for superannuation. The Auditor-General has pointed out that such authorities should make provision for their accrued pension liabilities, and’ this bill empowers the Treasury to makearrangements to that effect. The administrative changes which have been proposed are obviously advantageous and just, and. the Opposition accepts and supports the bill.
.- As theLeader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has mentioned, four amendments of theexisting legislation are proposed in thebill before the House. Two of these amendments concern matters of principle, and two concern minor matters of administrative machinery. The provisions relating to matters of principlewill not be of great benefit to Commonwealth public servants whom they effect.. At present, the employing authorities concerned are not required to make any provision for the payment of superannuation until pensions actually become payablewhen they are required to pay the employer’s share of the pension. Under theexisting legislation the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority is not required to make regular contributions to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund although its employees contribute to that fund. Under this bill that authority will have to make regular contributions to the fund. Of course, the more money that is paid into the fund the greater will be itsearning capacity, and if it can earn moremoney it will eventually be a better fund for the employees. The Commonwealth Superannuation Fund is only 33 years’” old, having been introduced in 1922. A period of 33 years is not a very longtime in the life of a superannuation fund. I hope that, in about 100 years’ time, the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund will be a really good fund and that itsearnings will have made possible the payment of increased benefits to contributors..
Another provision of the bill requiresemployees to contribute for a number of units appropriate to their maximum salary instead of contributing for unitsappropriate to their actual salary. The classification of public servants providesfor incremental advancement from a minimum to a maximum salary. In some instances, it takes officers ten years to rise from their minimum to their maximum, salary. Under the bill, officers will be enabled to commence paying for the number of units appropriate to their maximum salary before that salary is reached. For example, if an officer holding a certain classified office commences at 21 years of age to pay. for the number of units appropriate to the maximum of his salary range, at the age of 26 years he will only have to pay ls. 5d. for each unit whereas, under the old system, at the age of 26 he would have had to pay ls. lOd. for each unit. In other words, the proposed amendment will save him 5d. a fortnight for each unit. That saving, if applied to ten units and spread over a lifetime of service of 50 years, would save him more than £200. So, the bill is beneficial in that respect and provides an answer to the problem of paying a bigger pension at an earlier time.
The present value of each unit of superannuation is 17s. 6d., having been increased to that amount last year. The value of each unit when the superannuation scheme was introduced 33 years ago, was.-lOs. Units had a greater prospective value then than they have at present because the cost of living has increased to a greater extent than has the value of the unit. Most officers of the Public Service contribute for about eight units, and their average pension would be £7 a week. Thirty-three years ago £7 was £3 above the basic wage. At present, £7 a week is £5 less than the basic wage. So, the superannuation unit has lost the great value that it had for the employees when the scheme was first introduced. The cost of living has increased by about 200 per cent., whereas, over the same period, the value of superannuation units has increased by only 75 per cent. Thus, the standard of living of those who depend on superannuation payments for a livelihood has diminished considerably.
Another class of person who will be affected by this bill is the widow of a superannuated pensioner. The act provides that the widow of a contributor to the Superannuation Fund shall receive half the pension for which the husband was eligible. The widow of a man who had been paying for a pension of £7 a week would receive only £3 10s. a week, which is equivalent to the age pension. The officers of the Public Service believe it is time that the Government increased the amount of pension payable to the widow of a contributor to the fund. A Prime Minister’s widow, whoever she may be from time to time, is eligible to receive five-eights of the pension that would be payable to the Prime Minister. Yet the widow of a superannuated pensioner receives only 50 per cent, of the pension which he received. That is a matter which the Government should examine when considering further amendments of this legislation.
The people who contribute to the Superannuation Fund save the Government very much money, because by so doing they debar themselves from entitlement to social services payments. I understand that the Commonwealth superannuation scheme saves the Government about £6,000,000 a year in social services payments. In view of that fact, the Government could probably make the scheme more generous than it is.
Another aspect of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund in which public servants are interested is the exercise of an option in relation to the Provident Account. The superannuation scheme embraces two accounts - the Superannuation Fund and the Provident Account. A number of public servants would like to have the option of contributing to the Superannuation Fund or the Provident Account. Contributors to the Provident Account are able to receive their pension in a lump sum. The superannuation benefit is paid only fortnightly. The unions have referred that matter to the Government. The Provident Fund does not provide for all public servants, but is applicable only to those persons who are medically unfit when they join the service - mostly temporary employees - and to those employees who are over 45 years of age when they join. Contributors to the Provident Account pay ls. in the £1. Their benefit consists of a lump sum payment equal to two and two thirds times the total amount of their contributions, plus 3 per cent, per annum compound . interest. Public servants would like the option of contributing to the Superannuation Fund or to the Provident Account.
According to the last report, approximately 57,000 public servants contribute to the superannuation fund and approximately8,000 to the Provident Account. As I have pointed out, between them they contribute a large sum, and save the Commonwealth about £6,000,000 a year that would otherwise be paid in social services benefits. For that reason, the Government should consider increasing the value of the unit from 17s. 6d. to 20s. A large number of retired public servants depend on the superannuation pension for their livelihood. As a result of the rising cost of living, that pension rate is due for review, and I hope the Government will take it into consideration when formulating the next budget.
The Public Service organizations also intend to ask for an amendment of the provisions in relation to age-60 contributors. Those organizations have asked the High Council to make representations to the Government for an amendment of the Superannuation Act 1922-1954 to provide that age-60 contributors who continue in the Public Service beyond the age of 60 years shall be paid the superannuation fund share of their pension and shall, upon actual retirement, be paid the full pension. It is further desired that age-65 contributors who retire after the age of 60 years shall be granted the full Commonwealth share of the pension. I hope the Government will give favorable consideration to that request when it is submitted. I appeal to the Government also to consider an increase of the value of the superannuation unit from17s. 6d. to 20s. Apart from those matters, the Opposition agrees with the amendments that have been proposed. As I have stated, one or two of them are somewhat important, but the others are more or loss machinery amendments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma ; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Kent Hughes) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act toamend the Superannuation Act 1922-1954 and for other purposes.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Bill - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at9.53 p.m.
E asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
As thu construction and installation nf the high-powered transmitters involved is a project of some magnitude, have arrangements been made to enable the project to commence and proceed with all speed in order to provide without delay the urgently needed radio service to the midlands and north midlands area where radio reception from the existing services is unsatisfactory?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
A contract has been let for three 50,000- watt transmitters and one of these will be installed at CWA Wagin. Having regard to the claims of other parts of the Commonwealth, it was not practicable to allocate more than one of these three transmitters to Western Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
What is the freight rate on meat from thu Argentine to the United Kingdom compared with the freight from Australia to the United Kingdom?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following replies: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 June 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19550602_reps_21_hor6/>.