25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. COURTNAY presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Parliament will amend the social services legislation to make an immediate increase in the basic pension rate paid to all social service pensioners.
Petition received and read.
Mr. MORTIMER presented a petition from certain citizens of the Division of Grey praying that the Commonwealth Government will take immediate steps to provide high standard television reception throughout the entire far west coast and upper Eyre Peninsula regions of South Australia.
Petition received and read.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that the £13 million Tartar guided missile system to be fitted to the. three destroyers being constructed in the United States of America for us cost twice as much as the destroyers themselves and that electrical companies which supply such equipment in the United States are being prosecuted for conspiracy under the Sherman Act? In view of Australia’s experience with the Ferranti company over the Bloodhound missile will the Prime Minister take immediate steps to ensure that Australia is not being similarly overcharged for the Tartar missiles?
– Sir, I know nothing about this matter. The honorable gentleman was good enough to mention it to me a few minutes ago. I will certainly have a talk to my colleague, the Minister for the Navy, and obtain any information which can be got on the matter.
– My question refers to patrol vessels which, I believe, are to be built in Queensland for the Royal Australian Navy. Can the Minister for the Navy state whether these fast mobile units will be armed with missiles and how they will be used strategically? If they carry missiles, will they be capable of destroying larger units of any intruding fleet as successfully as more expensive and larger ships would be? If they are not to carry missiles, is there any reason why they should not? Does the Minister think that many more of these fast mobile craft should be ordered for the defence of the coastline of Australia and its Territories?
– First, these vessels are not to be armed with missiles. Secondly, they will be used in Papua and New Guinea and Australian waters, as has been stated, in a defensive role. I imagine that they will be used, if the need still exists, to perform the tasks that minesweepers are now performing in Malaysian waters. The third question, whether these vessels would be. able to engage larger units, is covered by the first answer, that the vessels will not be fitted with missiles. I am not aware of any missile in the Western armoury which can be fitted to a vessel of this type. As to whether there should be more of these vessels, this is a policy matter and is not a subject to be dealt with at question time.
” FUN IN THE SUN” FESTIVAL.
– Can the Prime Minister recall being invited to officiate at the “ Fun in the Sun” festival being held in Cairns at the present time? I remind the Prime Minister - without alluding to the honour bestowed upon him recently - that the organisers of the festival, knowing his interest in sailing, asked him to start the international sailing race from Cairns to Green Island and back to Ellis Beach. Owing to commitments the Prime Minister was unable to accede to their request. Will the Prime Minister give this festival his blessing and congratulate the convenors for encouraging international yachtsmen to visit Australia? The world champion 4-metre yachtsman, Gorin Andersen from Sweden, as well as the 18 year old Netherlands champion and two top New Zealand yachtsmen will be competing in this race.
– I am very happy to do both. I am sorry that I was not able to be in Cairns to open the festival.
That was certainly no fault of the honorable member, who exercised all his advocacy on me for this purpose. I know the interest that he has in the matter. I really hope that the festival is a great success, and I admire enormously the enterprise of the convenors.
– I ask the Minister for the Army a question. During a recent public debate in the University of Sydney I was asked about the issue of the Armalite rifle to Australian troops. It was alleged that this rifle contravenes international conventions because of the effect its bullets have on a target. Is there any substance in these allegations? How effective are the Geneva Convention and other conventions in controlling methods of mutual destruction in modern warfare?
– I can answer the honorable gentleman’s question by stating quite categorically that the Armalite rifle does not infringe the Geneva Convention in any way. In answering a previous question in the House on this matter I said that very exaggerated claims had been made for the Armalite rifle and its destructive capacity. No doubt these exaggerated claims gave rise to suggestions that in some way this rifle does not accord with the Geneva Convention. These claims are just not correct. The lethality of this rifle is no greater than, if as great as, that of the normal rifle issued to our troops and other troops in the western world, and then only up to a range of 300 yards. On the general question of the Geneva Convention, I cannot speak for other Armies but I will say that the Geneva Convention is clearly explained to all Australian troops. It forms part of their instruction during recruit training. It is printed prominently in the Soldier’s Handbook, the troops are constantly reminded of it throughout the whole of their service, and it is scrupulously abided by at all times.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the Postmasters Association has issued a white paper warning of a serious decline in the efficiency of the postal service? The Association claims that the Public Service Board’s economic policy, involving depressing the salaries and con*ditions of postal staffs, has led to inability to attract the right type of employee to the service. I ask the Postmaster-General: Will he. confer with the Public Service Board with a view to seeing that proper salaries and conditions are offered in the field of Post Office employment, in order to attract the right type of employees and to retain the efficient officers already in the service?
– I am not aware of a white paper from the. Postmasters Association being in existence. The honorable member will appreciate that the question of salaries is under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister, who is responsible for the Public Service Board, but I can say that at the moment discussions in relation to salaries and emoluments of non-official postmasters are being held. I think I need make no further comment.
– Is the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry aware that following an increase in the price of rock phosphate, the price of bulk superphosphate has increased by 18s. a ton and the price, of superphosphate supplied in new jute bags has increased by 30s. a ton? I refer to prices in Victoria. Can the Minister inform the House whether jute prices have increased to this degree? Is the Minister also aware that already a superphosphate shortage is being forecast for the autumn in Victoria? Can the Minister assure the House that every endeavour will be made to meet requirements?
– Matters relating to the supply of superphosphate engage the attention of several Ministers. My colleague, the Minister for Territories, i9 responsible for the operation of the Phosphate Commission, which supplies phosphate rock and also is the purchasing agent for sulphur; my colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise, who is in another place, administers the superphosphate bounty; and, of course, the Minister for Primary Industry has a dominant interest in this subject. In reply to the last part of the honorable member’s question, I can assure, him that my three colleagues and myself will give close attention both to the sufficiency of superphosphate supplies in Victoria and to any questions of price that may properly come under our notice. I understand that prices have gone, up in the way in which the honorable member’s question indicated, but my Department has no information - I stress that I am not suggesting that there is information; we just do not have information - which shows any relationship between jute prices and the recent increases.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that £1 million will be spent on developing water mains and reservoirs for the Army in Townsville? Has the Townsville City Council asked for a Commonwealth subsidy, payable over five years, amounting to £150,000? If the Government refuses this subsidy, will it expect the people of Townsville to foot the bill? Has the Government refused to pay for water and sewerage extensions to land for Army homes, and does it expect the people of Townsville to foot this bill also?
– When the honorable member asked me a question along these lines a few weeks ago I explained at some length the normal procedures which are followed in these matters and the relationships between the Commonwealth, the States and local government authorities. I have really nothing to add to what I said then, except that discussions are at present being carried on between the Commonwealth departments involved - and there are five of them - and the Queensland CoordinatorGeneral of Public Works.
The honorable gentleman appears to imply by his questions in this House that in some way Townsville and the Townsville area and North Queensland generally will be disadvantaged by the Commonwealth’s decision to put a large army complex at Townsville. This decision was taken by the Government on defence grounds, but also as a deliberate act of northern development and decentralisation. Far from putting Townsville and northern Australia at a disadvantage, the Commonwealth will spend a good deal more than £10 million in the Townsville area in the next three years. It will station 4,000 soldiers and their dependants in the area and the Townsville economy will have the benefit of the pay and allowances received by these 4,000 soldiers. I would have thought that the honorable member, instead of being the agent for raising obstacles in this matter, would have welcomed the Government’s decision.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Army. By way of preface I refer to the fact that more often than not Press reports of Army casualties state that a certain number of casualties has been sustained in a particular operation in, say, Vietnam, but that the names of the personnel involved will not be released until the next-of-kin have been informed. This means that every parent, wife, child or friend of a man serving in Vietnam is cast into anxiety. Is it practicable, through an appeal to sheer decency on the part of the Press or by the application of sanctions to Press reporters, to ensure that numbers of casualties are not reported until it is also possible to release the names of those involved?
– As I am sure the honorable member knows, this is a very complex question to which considerable thought has been given. In general the. arrangement now is that the number and type of casualties which have been sustained in Vietnam are not announced and not published in the Press in Australia until the nextofkin of those involved have been informed and ‘the names are issued at the same time. This was not the case originally, but now, as a result of arrangements made by the American authorities in South Vietnam, which apply to our Press correspondents in that area, it appears that we achieve what the honorable member obviously desires. However, I will have a look at the specific suggestion he has made and see whether anything can be done along those lines in relation to voluntary restraint by the Press.
– I ask the Minister for Territories a question. I trust that the Minister noticed that the Public Accounts Committee, in its report tabled 13 days ago, found that no fewer than 21 matters required urgent attention by the Northern
Territory Administration or by Commonwealth departments and authorities represented in the Territory, and in particular that there was still an urgent need for a formal authentic statement to be published in the Northern Territory “ Gazette “ setting out the structure of the Administration and listing the Commonwealth departments represented in the Territory with their functions under both Commonwealth and Territory law. Since the Committee made the same recommendation for a Northern Territory administrative arrangements order in its report to the Parliament eight years ago, I ask the Minister how he can explain or justify the failure of himself and his predecessor to comply with the recommendation of the Committee and to report on the matter in any of the annual reports made to the Parliament on the Territory in the intervening eight years.
- Mr. Speaker, what the honorable member said is quite true. I would point out to him that the Administration, over recent years, has been under a great disability. We have been short of staff. It is not easy to recruit all the people we require. We are conscious of the report and the items brought under notice by the Public Accounts Committee and we welcome this sort of thing. I assure the House that these matters are now being studied with a view to meeting the complaint made, by the honorable member.
– The Minister for Housing will have noted that advances to the States for housing from loan fund expenditure for the three months to 30th September amounted to £5,649,000 as compared with £9,791,000 for the same period in the previous year. Does this indicate a considerable reduction in housing construction in the States?
– This year the States will probably construct somewhat fewer houses than they did last year. In part this will be. because funds available to them from their own resources will be down a little this year. But mainly it will be because of the increase in the. cost of individual houses. They will not be able to build so many. But this would not account for the particular circumstance mentioned by the honorable member. The usual prac tice is that, after loan funds for housing purposes have, been made available, as requested by the States at the Australian Loan Council meeting, they are then drawn upon over the year by the individual States on their own initiative. In practce, the State Treasuries also draw temporarily from funds of their own which they jugle around in ways which can hardly be interpreted by outsiders. They ask for loan funds from the Com*monwealth as and when required. It has been known for a State not to make any drawings under this arrangement until as late as January. It could be that the States are more flush with funds this year than they were this time last year but, in itself, this has no significance as far as their housing construction programmes are concerned.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air in his capacity of Acting Minister for Supply. Are reports correct that it is the intention of the Government to hand over to private control the administration of the two tracking stations that will soon become operational? Is this policy of giving control of such stations to private enterprise contrary to accepted practice in other countries? Is it the intention of the Government publicly to invite tenders for the control of these two stations, or are they to be allocated at the discretion of the Government? If the. latter policy is to be followed, can the Minister inform the House of the names of the private companies that have been allocated control of these two tracking stations?
– It is the policy, of the Government to call for tenders for the operation of these tracking stations. The Department of Supply acts, at the moment, as an agent for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States of America. This has been our policy with the stations at Orroral Valley, Tidbinbilla, and Woomera. They have, been operated for some time by private enterprise. These, two new ones will be operating under the same system. Tenders are being called and when they have been examined contracts will be allocated in the same way as previous ones have been.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that the rifle is playing a significant role in jungle warfare and that enemy snipers have been active in causing confusion and disaster? If so, will he ask the Government to give further consideration to fostering, by finance and supplies of ammunition, rifle clubs throughout Australia so that the art of the skilful use of this effective weapon will not be lost as a means for our defence?
– Very careful and prolonged consideration was given by the Government to the question of the military value of rifle clubs. As a result of that careful consideration the Government came to the conclusion that the support that it had previously provided on defence grounds to rifle clubs should be withdrawn over a five years period which ended in June of this year. Therefore the answer to the question as to whether the Government will re-examine the matter is “No”.
– I direct a question to the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry in connection with the duty free import of pig meat from New Zealand, permitted under the new trade agreement recently concluded with that country. Can the Minister say whether imports of this item will be confined to fresh pork in the form of whole carcasses, or will the pig meat be admitted in any form? For instance, could it all be in the form of cured hams?
– The details for which the honorable member asks are not in my possession. I will make inquiries for him and communicate the result of those inquiries to him.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister as Acting Treasurer. In negotiating with the Queensland Government a new savings bank amalgamation agreement has the Commonwealth Bank required a monopoly of savings banking in government schools as being essential to completion of the new agreement? Was the Treasurer requested by the Queensland Treasurer to intervene in this matter so that an agreement could be completed without this monopoly clause? If this request was made, did the Commonwealth Treasurer refuse to intervene in such a manner that his refusal would ‘be regarded as tacit approval of the Commonwealth Savings Bank monopoly?
– The honorable member was good enough to drop me a hint that this question might crop up, and I have ascertained a few facts. I understand that a new agreement, to replace an agreement which was made in 1920 and which expired on 30th June last, is under negotiation between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Savings Bank. Very briefly stated, the new agreement would operate to require the Commonwealth Savings Bank to share, with the State, profits earned by the bank in its Queensland business - this is an arrangement of old standing, of course - and to give the State certain special rights to obtain loans from the bank. For its part, the State would undertake to assist the bank in every possible way in the conduct of its business in Queensland. I understand that the State Government accepts that the latter provision would oblige it to continue to give the Commonwealth Savings Bank sole rights to conduct savings banking in Queensland State schools.
Contrary to the honorable member’s understanding, my colleague, the Treasurer, was not requested by the State Treasurer to intervene in the school banking rights matter. The State Government is a free agent in the matter and it would not make sense for the State, as one. of the parties to the proposed agreement, to make such a request, having regard to the nature of the agreement. The Treasurer did, however, receive representations on the matter on behalf of the private banks. In reply he pointed out that the question of school banking rights in Queensland is entirely one for the State Government and that, if the State Government wishes to continue to give sole rights to the Commonwealth Savings Bank in return for the financial benefits that will accrue to the State under the proposed agreement, it would be quite improper for him, the Treasurer, to seek to intervene.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service.
By way of explanation, may I say that recently 1 asked him, in a question on notice, to supply details of fines imposed on trade unions by the Commonwealth Industrial Court. The reply which I received yesterday from the Minister shows that 194 fines totalling £46,050 were imposed on 19 unions during the past two years. Of this amount, the Waterside Workers Federation has paid only £4,500, for offences committed in 1963. In view of the fact that the Amalgamated Engineering Union incurred fines totalling £7,550, that the Federated Ironworkers’ Association was fined £4,050, and that the Australasian Society of Engineers was fined £3,500 for 12 offences, will the Minister state whether the Government is planning oppressive legislation against these unions similar to that which was directed at the Waterside Workers Federation and pushed through this Parliament a fortnight ago?
– I went to great trouble to explain in the second reading speech that I made in this House that there are overwhelmingly good reasons why special legislation should be enacted to cope with the activities of the Waterside Workers Federation, which has been guilty of creating a state of anarchy on the Sydney and Melbourne waterfronts and, to a lesser degree, in other ports of Australia. I also attempted to explain that the powers which were exercised against the Federation were exercised not only under the provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act but also under the Commonwealth’s power in relation to interstate trade and commerce and probably also in relation to defence. It must become obvious immediately that there is little or no ground on which an assumption can be made by the honorable gentleman that we, as a Government, are contemplating action against any other union.
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport will remember that in reply to a question from myself last month he indicated what special arrangements had been made for the shipment of steel to Hobart. Can he inform the House of the present arrangements and say whether there has been any evidence of the serious interruption to shipping between Tasmania and the mainland predicted by the Premier of Tasmania on 29th September after the introduction of the Stevedoring Industry Bill?
– On the last occasion when the honorable gentleman raised this matter I advised him of a programmed lifting of steel from Port Kembla to Hobart. My recollection is that some 1,800 tons were being taken by the ship “ Poolta “ from Port Kembla to Hobart. The “ Poolta “ is now planning another voyage. It will be lifting about 1,100 tons of steel from Newcastle and will then call at Port Kembla to lift about 730 tons out of a backlag of about 1,000 tons. It will be sailing for Hobart, 1 think, about the end of this week or early next week, assuming that there are no unexpected delays. I think it can be said that steel is being carried to Hobart in reasonable quantities and that there have been no unexpected delays.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware of the grave dissatisfaction which exists over the fact that two single pensioners living in the same house and paying rent are entitled to receive a maximum weekly pension of £14 a week between them, whilst a married couple - both pensioners - living together and paying rent, are entitled to receive only a maximum of £11 a week between them? Is the honorable gentleman also aware of the severe criticism being levelled at the proposal to pay the new funeral benefit of £20 only to a pensioner who is responsible for the funeral costs of a spouse, a child or another pensioner, and not to all persons responsible for the burial of a pensioner? If so, will he inform the House what action is to be taken to remove these causes of dissatisfaction and criticism amongst pensioners all over Australia?
– During the debate on the Social Services Bill there was considerable discussion of both matters referred to by the honorable member. As to the introduction of the standard rate of pension, I regard it as a notable contribution to the particular needs of single individuals who are naturally responsible for more personal expenses than would be the usual responsibility of a married couple. Consequently, this type of benefit has been adopted by many western countries, and the Australian standard rate of pension follows in line with the practice adopted almost universally throughout the western world.
The honorable member referred to the extension of the funeral benefit. The Government considers that this benefit, like most other benefits, should be applied where there is an area of relative need. Pension benefits are paid to persons who are in a greater area of need than other persons in the community and, similarly, the extension of the funeral benefit has been applied in this direction.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Now that the legislation in relation to a ballot of wool growers is completed, is the honorable gentleman in a position to say when the rolls will be available for inspection and when the ballot papers will be sent out to those persons eligible to cast a vote? Can he also inform me of the date on which the ballot will close?
– Copies of the basic roll prepared by my Department from information obtained from wool selling brokers, wool dealers, and other sources concerning growers who sold or delivered wool for sale during 1963-64, have been dispatched to the electoral office in each rural electorate. These rolls are available for inspection by any interested person. It should be understood that the basic roll will have to be amended by the Electoral Office by deleting the names of persons who have left the industry since 1963-64, and adding the names of persons who claim and qualify for enrolment.
The ballot papers and various forms and documents required for the referendum are now being printed. The printing of this material will take some time because of the large volume involved. The physical amount of work to be undertaken by the Electoral Office in the distribution of ballot papers and accompanying material will also be considerable. However, it is expected that the mailing of ballot papers and other documents will start about 5th November.
Under the Wool Reserve Prices Plan Referendum Act, the closing date of the poll must be prescribed by regulation. Having obtained the views of the Chief Electoral Officer, I propose to recommend to the Governor-General in Council that voting in the referendum should close at noon on 9th December 1965.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Treasurer. I refer the right honorable gentleman to literature being distributed by the Decimal Currency Board wherein two cents is stated to be the equivalent of three pence. Are members of the Australian public to deduce from this statement that articles now procurable for three pence will cost two cents? If so, may they rightly consider any increase in price of such articles to three cents between now and C Day as being pure profiteering, similar to the retail price increases that occurred in addition to the increases in excise duties announced in the last and previous Budgets, and which were denounced by honorable members on both sides of the House? Will the Prime Minister denounce those who seek to use the changeover to decimal currency as an opportunity to gain additional unwarranted profits?
– The Decimal Currency Board, of course, is not a price fixing body. The fixing of prices is not its function. We have some reason to believe that the retailers, who mostly are concerned in this matter, will be quite co-operative. In other words, the price of some items may rise slightly and the price of others may fall slightly just as, in relation to our own Post Office activities, we try to strike a reasonable balance. We will not be able to get 100 per cent, accuracy. But, if there are any signs of profiteering as a result of the introduction of decimal currency, I would certainly be prepared to say something about the matter very plainly in public.
– I address the following question to the Acting Minister for Health: Is it a fact that the Federated Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia has protested about misleading Press accounts of the combined Government and Guild survey of chemists’ dispensing costs? Will the Minister dispel any suggestion of a probe due to excess claims, and will he put the survey into its correct perspective?
– I am not aware of any protests by the Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia in relation to Press reports about the proposed survey. The survey was agreed to by representatives of the Government and the Guild with the idea of investigating the costs, earnings and profits of members of the Guild so that a firm basis could be established for negotiations in relation to costs incurred by chemists in dispensing prescriptions and so on in accordance with the list of benefits prescribed under the National Health Act.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that the International Olympic Committee decided last week to allow East Germany and West Germany to participate in future Olympic Games with full and independent status? In view of this high level reflection of international public opinion, will the Government set aside its political prejudices and make it clear that Australia will issue visas to athletes from all countries to enable them to attend the Olympic Games, the table tennis championships, and the pentathlon championships?
– Yes. I am quite aware of the decision because I am following these matters with great interest. Whether the Department of Immigration will issue visas comes back to the attitude of the Allied Travel Board which, in its wisdom, will need to issue travel documents to teams that wish to attend international contests. It also comes back to the policy of this Government which I cannot stipulate here.
– I address to the Acting Treasurer a question relating to the impending use of decimal currency and the implications of this change for blind people. Will it be possible for braille libraries in particular, and other centres that are educating the blind, to obtain samples of all ranges of decimal coinage in the near future so that the blind may be trained in the use of the new coinage? Is it correct that the $1, $5 and $10 bills will be of the same size? How will blind people be able to assess the difference if this is so?
– The Decimal Currency Board is aware of this problem to which the honorable member properly directs attention. The Board has been in touch with the Blind Association and various other societies for the blind to work out ways and means to overcome the problem effectively. It is very active in that field and I have no doubt that it will achieve some success. As far as the coins are concerned, they are marked on what a layman would call the tail - I never can remember whether it is the reverse or obverse - in bold relief with the value of the coin, the number of cents. Blind people will, more than most, be sensitive to that. The notes will all be of different sizes. It is not correct to say that they are going to be identical. There is a variation in the size of the notes through all the various note values. This, of course, again will be identifiable by blind persons whose sense of touch is usually very much more precise than that of people with sight. In addition, it must be borne in mind that 5 cent, 10 cent and 20 cent pieces will be not only of exactly the same value as the present sixpence, shilling and two shilling pieces but will be also precisely the same size as those coins. This ought to be of considerable assistance in the field to which the honorable member has directed his attention.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over genera] business tomorrow.
Bll - by leave - presented by Mr. Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to increase the salaries of Her Majesty’s justices of the High Court of Australia. The present salaries, last dealt with in 1960, are - Chief Justice £10,000 a year, and each puisne justice £8,500 a year. It is proposed that these salaries should now become - Chief Justice £12,000 a year and each puisne justice £10,500 a year. The Government has recently reviewed the salaries of all the Commonwealth judges but the present Bill, in recognition of the special position occupied by the High Court in the Australian judicial system, deals separately with that Court. The High Court is, unlike other Courts, established by the Constitution itself. Not only is the High Court entrusted with the special task of interpreting and safeguarding the Constitution, but it is also the supreme court of appeal in Australia from all courts, including State Supreme Courts, in matters of State or Federal Law. There is no doubt that the High Court is the most important court in Australia and indeed its eminence is not merely national. Its decisions are internationally recognised, particularly in other countries with federal constitutions. It is beyond question that the High Court bench must be able to attract the most able and most learned jurists in the country. There is no justification for the members of the High Court bench being remunerated at a standard below that of the courts whose judgments they review.
The Government does not desire that there should be frequent changes in the judges’ salaries but five years have elapsed since the salaries were last reviewed. When, in 1960, it was decided that they should be increased, two considerations particularly influenced that decision. They were the increases, in the same year, in the salaries of senior Commonwealth statutory office holders and increases that had been taking place in State judicial salaries since the previous increase in Commonwealth judicial salaries in 1955.
It is these same two considerations that led the Government’ to review the judges’ salaries this year. In 1964 the salaries of the senior permanent heads of Commonwealth departments and of the senior Commonwealth statutory office holders were increased from £6,900 to £8,750 a year. Moreover, the salaries of the judges of the Supreme Courts of the States have been substantially increased since I960, par ticularly in New South Wales, as is shown by the following table - lt will be seen that, since the increases in recent years in New South Wales, the salaries of the judges in that State are higher than those of the justices of the High Court with the exception of the Chief Justice of the High Court. The Government has decided that the position of the High Court of Australia requires that parliamentary approval should be sought for fixing the remuneration of the justices of the High Court at the figures I have already mentioned, with effect from 1st July 1965, and the Bill provides accordingly. I commend the Bill to the House.
– The Opposition would like to reserve its decision on this matter. Accordingly I move -
That the debate be adjourned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is complementary to that which deals with the salaries of the judges of the High Court. Its purpose is to increase the salaries of the judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court, the Federal Court of Bankruptcy, the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory and the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory and the presidential members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and
Arbitration Commission. It will alter the basic judicial salary of the judges and of the Deputy Presidents of the Commission from £7,000 to £8,500 a year and that of the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court and the President of the Commission from £8,000 to £9,500.
When the Government reviewed the salaries of the justices of the High Court, it also looked at the salaries of other Federal judges and found the same disparity between the present salaries of those judges and the remuneration payable to other public officers of the Commonwealth and to State judges, to which I referred in my second reading speech dealing with the salaries of High Court judges. The disparity is shown by a table which compares the salaries of the judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court, which is a Federal superior court having jurisdiction comparable with that of a State Supreme Court, with those of the judges of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The table also compares the salaries of the presidential members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which is the national industrial arbitration tribunal, with those of the judges of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales. The table is as follows -
The table shows that all members of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales are now considerably better remunerated than any member of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and that the puisne judges of the Supreme Court of that State receive considerably more than any of the judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court. The proposed increases will remove most of this disparity whilst maintaining a proper relationship with the salaries of the High Court judges.
The Government believes that the salaries fixed for the judges of the Industrial Court and the Deputy Presidents of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should also apply to the judges of the other Commonwealth superior courts. These judges perform functions broadly comparable with those of the Supreme Courts of the States. Several judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court at present also hold, without additional salary, appointments as additional judges of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory and the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, and the permanent judge of the latter court is an additional judge in the Australian Capital Territory. These arrangements, which have considerable practical advantages, point up the desirability of the various judges being remunerated at the same level. Clause 2 of the Bill provides that the new salaries will take effect from 1st July last. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 22nd September (vide page 1127), on motion by Mr. Barnes -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– In the words of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes), this Bill seeks to do two things: One is to grant a further measure of constitutional reform with respect to the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, and the other is to amend the provisions of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act dealing with the Aborigines Benefits Trust Fund. The latter amendment follows action which was taken recently in the Legislative Council when certain amendments were made to remove restrictions on the rights of Aborigines. There is no quarrel with this proposal, although exception can be taken with respect to moneys paid into the Fund. I will have more to say about that matter at a later stage.
Let me turn to the constitutional provisions of the Bill. This amendment purports to make a particular reform of the functions of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. The Minister for Territories, in his second reading speech, said -
The Government did, however, consider a number of specific requests from the Legislative Council delegation. One of these, on which the delegation placed a good deal of emphasis, was that the Administrator should withdraw from the Presidency of the Legislative Council and that an elected or non-official member should be elected to that position. The provisions of this Bill, other than those which I have already explained which relate to the Aborigines Benefits Trust Fund, give effect to this proposal.
If we accept those words, it would appear - anybody could be pardoned for accepting this - that the amendment had been brought forward only in response to a request from a delegation of Legislative Councillors who met the Minister and his advisers in Canberra in July 1964 - only 15 months ago.
The facts are vastly different. I quote the following passage from a speech that I made on a previous occasion on which amendments to the Northern Territory (Administration) Act were before the Parliament, as reported on page 1110 of “Hansard” of 9th April 1959, when the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) was Minister for Territories -
I would like to refer also to the election of the Speaker. At the time when the representatives of the Legislative Council and the Government met in July last, both the Minister and the Administrator agreed that it was undesirable for the Administrator to act as President of the Council, as he does under the existing set-up.
– I agree.
– The Minister agrees now?
– I still agree.
– Notwithstanding that, this measure seeks to perpetuate the same injustice or anomaly. This is a matter that could quite easily have been covered by the legislation. I believe it is a glaring anomaly. The Minister himself admits that it is wrong, and the Administrator agrees that it is wrong. Nevertheless, the situation is to be perpetuated.
I ask honorable members to be honest with themselves in answering this question: Is it any wonder that there is continual agitation and a continual feeling of complete frustration among members of the Legislative Council when it is admitted that this request by a deputation of Legislative Councillors was right and justified, but it has taken this Government from July 1958 until October 1965 - a period of nearly eight years - to get around to rectifying the injustice? Can any honorable member, or even the Minister for Territories when he replies to this debate, defend or justify that shocking dedelay? Is it any wonder that from time to time elected members of the Council walk out of it in disgust? On the last occasion a nominated, non-official member, Mr. Murray, walked out and gave complete support to the action of the elected members in walking out.
This is the only reform, among the dozens which could safely be granted, that the Minister can grant in the fond hope that it will keep members of the Council quiet for another five years. The myth that this reform has been asked for only recently is completely destroyed. Is it surprising, then, that members feel that it is useless to spend further time in seeking to negotiate with the Government? If it takes nearly eight years to secure a simple reform such as the one that has been agreed upon now - and I agree that it is desirable - how long will it take to secure a major breakthrough in reforms? A while ago, in desperation, the Council took the unusual and drastic approach of petitioning the then Administrator of the Commonwealth in an effort to draw attention to the problem. So as to place the words of the petition on record, I shall read it to the House. The petition was signed some time in July of this year after the last abortive conference with the Minister for Territories and his advisers. It reads as follows -
To His Excellency Sir Henry Abel Smith, Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, Administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia.
May it please your Excellency:
We, the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, in Council assembled, respectfully pray that Your Excellency request Your Advisers in the Commonwealth Parliament to appoint a Committee of Inquiry to inquire into, determine and make recommendations concerning -
whether or not the present constitutional arrangements in the Northern Territory -
provide the citizens of the Northern Territory with political rights in any way inferior to those of other citizens of Australia; and
are the most efficient, bearing in mind the expressed aim of the Federal Government that the Territory should eventually become a State;
whether the political, economic and social advancement of the Territory might be hastened by some alternative constitutional arrangement;
whether a plan is possible for the advancement of the Territory’s political development in stages until the stage of full sovereign rights as a State is reached;
the circumstances of population increase and economic development upon which such a plan might depend.
We further suggest that Your Excellency recommend to Your advisers in the Federal Parliament that such a committee might comprise -
Professor Geoffery Sawer of the Australian National University;
Professor David Derham of the Monash University;
Professor Heinz Arndt of the Australian National University;
One Member of the House of Representatives representing Her Majesty’s Government; and
One Member of the House of Representatives representing Her Majesty’s Opposition in the Parliament.
In the event that any of these gentlemen should decline such an appointment it is suggested that Your Excellency recommend another suitable person in his stead.
We further suggest that Your Excellency recommend to Your Advisers in the Federal Government that the Committee should be appointed without delay and that the report and recommendations of the Committee be tabled in both Houses of the Federal Parliament. 1 do not know whether a reply has been received to that petition. A statement which accompanied the petition read -
The following statement supporting the motion for the presentation of the address to His Excellency represents the views of the elected and non-official members of the Council.
The Council was unanimous in expressing these views. The statement continued -
For a considerable time there has existed a dispute between the Legislative Council and the Federal Government concerning the matter of constitutional advancement.
The last advance in the constitution of the Northern Territory occurred in 1959 as a result of a conference held in July 1958 between the Council and representatives of the Government. At that conference it was accepted that “ irrespective of any changes made in the near future, the subject of constitutional progress in the Northern Territory should be reviewed at least every five years so that political development will keep pace with other development “. Seven years have now passed and the only constitutional change which the Government has agreed to is the removal of the Administrator from the Legislative Council. Since the expiry of the five year period three delegations from the Council have met representatives of the Government with proposals for constitutional reform without any result beyond that previously mentioned. On the last occasion the present Minister for Territories stated quite plainly “ I do not see any purpose in discussing the details of your proposals”.
An impasse now exists and the Committee of Inquiry proposed in the Address to the Administrator of the Commonwealth is suggested as a logical solution to the problem. The next meeting of the Council will be held on August 10th which is approximately nine weeks from today and we consider that in that time the Goverment should be able to decide whether the proposal is acceptable or offer some alternative proposal.
That was the statement which, with the petition, was sent to the Administrator. I do not know whether there has been any reply to it. Certainly, a satisfactory reply has not been supplied. The councillors on that occasion asked for a committee of inquiry. I do not know whether that is the best type of committee. I do not think it is. But it is the type of committee which they envisage might meet their demands. I have an alternative proposal which I will put up shortly. It will be moved in the form of an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
What were the recommendations of the select committee that the Government would not accept? The Government met the committee before the Administrator was petitioned. I shall now read and explain to the House, so as to put the record straight, the recommendations of the committee. The document reads -
Your Committee therefore recommends that by motion of this Council His Honour the Administrator of the Northern Territory be requested to submit to the Honorable the Minister for Territories the following proposal: -
Council be reconstituted to comprise approximately eighteen elected members or fifteen elected members and three members nominated by the Administrator from among Northern Territory electors who are not public servants;
That recommendation has been granted in this legislation. The document continues -
Council the Administrator should appoint an Executive Council of at least five;
that a field of Territory legislative, execu tive and financial control be established within which -
Northern Territory Public Service; and
the Territory government so established would have power to raise and expend moneys without being answerable to the Federal Authority, or the Federal Parliament would appropriate annually sufficient funds for the operation of and expenditure by the Territory government, subject to the usual public safeguards;
I emphasise those words -
that outside the Territory field of control -
Northern Territory should be the subject of regular periodic review until fully representative and responsible government, and even statehood, are attained.
I want to point out the difference of these proposals from the proposals of the Minister as set out in his statement. The Minister said -
In considering whether the Northern Territory has developed to the stage where a form of government which transfers to members of the Territory legislature all the authority which is necessary to constitute self-government could be introduced, there are certain factors in the Territory situation which must be taken into account.
There has never been a request from the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory for full status All that it has asked for is a field of power in which it can operate and exercise full authority.
The Minister would have us accept the proposition that the delegation from the Council was asking for full statehood status. That is not the case. The delegation asked for a gradual working up to that position. It asked for negotiations in the meantime to explore the field of powers that the Council could exercise without veto by this Government. The powers might be limited and the field might be limited. All that the delegation asked for was negotiation, but even any form of negotiation was not acceptable to the Government.
The Minister then went on to excuse the Government’s lack of action and sympathy by trying to shift the blame for any delays onto the shoulders of residents of the Territory. He stated that any measures to enlarge local autonomy should begin with the extension of local government in the Territory. This is nothing less than a subterfuge, a method whereby the Government can unload an additional financial burden onto the shoulders of the Territory’s taxpayers. The answer is that local government is not a trial gallop or a qualifying test for citizenship rights. It is part and parcel of citizenship. When the Government realises this basic fact, and gives some definite guarantee about the larger issues, the people in the North will be quite ready and quite eager to accept this responsibility, together with the other responsibilities that go with it. That people must qualify first is something that I will not accept. Did the Government insist that the Territory of Papua and New Guinea accept local government before it was granted a much greater degree of political reform than ve in the Territory enjoy? Did the Government insist that the Nauruans accept this responsibility when they were offered a fully elected legislative council? Has the Government ever insisted that the Australian Capital Territory accept local government? No. Then why impose this condition on the residents of the Northern Territory?
What condition does the Government insist on, apart from the acceptance of local government? Would it not be right, for instance, for the Goverment to state that when the electorate of the Northern Territory reaches, in terms of numbers of electors, the size of the smallest Federal electorate, the member in this House will have full voting rights? What yardstick does the Government intend to lay down for representation in the Senate? If the standard is related to numbers, let the Government say so, and let it specify the numbers. If, on the other hand, other factors, such as economic factors, come into consideration, let the Government say so, and let it say to what extent they come into consideration. Surely it is not unreasonable for the people or their elected representatives to ask for some such statement from the Government. AH that the Government has done up to date is to pick out a few items from a list of requests and refuse to negotiate on anything else. The last delegation was a case in point. The Minister said that the Council was asking for too much, but he refused pointblank to come up with proposals of his own. Who can deny that since this Government has been in office - a period of 16 years - it has not even suggested of its own initiative one single minor or major reform? Any advances that have been made have been the result of argument, agitation and downright rebellion on the part of honorable members. Is it not time that the Government made a gesture in this regard? It could afford to be. generous. It cannot for much longer put off granting many of the demands made. Mining development alone within the next five or six years will attract up to an additional 20,000 or 30,000 people. So, by the very weight of numbers, the Government will be forced to act eventually.
In the face of these facts is it not time that responsibility for the running of the government of the Territory started to shift more rapidly from Canberra to the people themselves? Why delay the inevitable? I say that a start should be made on this programme now. Because of the Government’s failure to do anything, and in order to allow an impartial investigation of these grievances, I intend to move the amendment that has been circulated. The appointment of a joint select committee to inquire into the problems of the people has been long recognised as a method of approach, and this House itself has appointed select committees to investigate such matters as Aboriginal voting rights, the grievances of Aborigines at Yirrkala and constitutional review. This form of investigation is completely democratic. It allows an unbiased approach on the spot by members of the Commonwealth Parliament to grievances and problems that exist. I urge that this practice be followed again for the purposes that I shall indicate in my amendment.
The amendment will propose an approach different from that of the Legislative Council. Whereas the proposals submitted by the Council may not be practicable, surely there can be no reasons for not appointing a select committee of this Parliament, the members of which have shown time and again that they are quite capable of giving non-party, detached consideration to proposals put before them. All of the select committees appointed by this Parliament in recent times came to virtually unanimous decisions, showing that they were completely impartial in their approach and completely dedicated to the task of finding a solution to the problems referred to them.
The Bill proposes an amendment to change the name of the Wards Benefits Trust Fund to “Aborigines Benefits Trust Fund.” This action has to be taken to allow royalties received from mining on Aboriginal reserves to be kept apart from the old fund. The fund will be used for the benefit of Aborigines generally in the Northern Territory. An argument may develop around the proposition that the fund should be used for the benefit of Aborigines in an area or place in respect of which royalties are payable. The Aborigines of Yirrkala are strongly demanding that all of the royalties paid as a result of the winning of minerals at Gove in their tribal area should go to them. They point out - and rightly so - that it will be a long time before they can acquire, purchase or build the amenities that will be required to advance their status in the general community. This is a matter that will be raised on some future occasion, but this is the sort of problem that will have to be determined sooner or later.
In respect of the constitutional aspects of the Bill, I formally move -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill, the House is of opinion that a Joint Committee of Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives should be appointed to investigate and report on constitutional reform of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory so as to provide a greater measure of self-determination by the people of the Territory.”
I seek support for that amendment which, if carried, will serve a very useful purpose and could bring about some very significant reforms for the people of the Northern Territory.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve the right to speak later.
– The Northern Territory (Administration) Bill seeks to make two major amendments to existing legislation. First is the matter of substituting the word “ Aborigines “ for “ Wards “ in the name of the trust fund applicable to those people in the Northern Territory. This is a purely machinery measure but it is made more topical by the reference in the Press yesterday to the visit of His Honour the Administrator to the Yirrkala people in connection with the royalties that may be involved in the leasing to Nabalco Pty. Ltd. of bauxite de posits in the area. It is an interesting fact, and one worth recording in this place, that - or so the newspapers have said - this is the first time that an Administrator of the Northern Territory has taken the step of consulting the native people on a problem which concerns their future. I am sure that all of us in this place have a great respect for His Honor the Administrator and for the work he is doing in that area.
The amendment referred to the constitutional issue. I listened with great interest to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) and his recommendations. Some of them, I find, meet with a considerable amount of sympathy in my own mind. I believe that in some way the problem has to be solved to the satisfaction not only of members of this Parliament but also of the members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory and all the other people in the Territory itself. After all, the Legislative Council is not a body set up purely for the glorification of the members of the Council themselves. I say this without any idea of criticism, because 1 personally have a great admiration for anybody prepared to take up the work of a member of the Legislative Council in the Northern Territory. But we must remember that the issues involved concern not only the rights, privileges and powers of the Legislative Council; they concern vitally the people now living in the Territory and those who will live there in the future, and they concern the question of how the progress of those people may be assisted by some form of local administration. As I have said, I do not wish at this stage to reflect in any way on the sincerity or objectivity of the members of the Council. I have a great admiration for them. I know some of them personally. I believe these matters have to be discussed from a disoriented standpoint in a manner that will permit of our coming to a logical solution.
It is quite natural to expect the members of the Legislative Council to want some authority. This is only human nature. It is quite obvious that they would want both executive and financial authority. On this feature of the issue, I am quite sympathetic to the wishes of the members of the Council. To give a show like the Legislative Council no more than the limited powers that it has today is rather like handing a person a late model high powered rifle and only blank ammunition to use in it. The position is not a very satisfactory one and could bring about trouble. The members of the Legislative Council have a definite desire - I believe, not unnaturally - for some executive authority. They would like to see their decisions carried into effect.
The actual constitutional amendments in the Bill, which were detailed in the second reading speech of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes), do not touch on any really major problem. Clause 9 provides for the selection of an elected member or a non-official member as President of the Council. This changes the old system under which the President was always the Administrator. It also provides for the selection of an Acting President. It provides that in an emergency, if there has not been an opportunity for the Legislative Council to make its own selection, the Administrator may appoint an Acting President until the next meeting of the Council.
There were also, I think, two other matters of a similar nature raised by the Select Committee of the Legislative Council, and these are in the form of recommendations to the Government here. First, the Minister referred in his second reading speech to the appointment of two of the non-official members to the Administrator’s Council. In the past members of the Administrator’s Council have been nominated by the Administrator, and I know that there is a strong body of opinion that the elected members should choose their own representatives on the Administrator’s Council. There is a reference in the second reading speech to the fact that the Administrator will consult the non-official members about the selection of the two persons to be appointed to the Administrator’s Council, and 1 have no doubt that while the present Administrator remains in office he will fall in with the wishes of the majority of the elected members. However, I agree in theory that the general majority of the nonofficial members should have a chance to nominate the people whom they would like to see on the Administrator’s Council. I believe this to be a common prerogative of people who represent a number of electors on a body like the Legislative Council.
There is another matter that has not been mentioned but which, I understand, is in the minds of the elected and non-official mem bers, who believe that the system of appointment of non-official members should be done away with; in other words, that all the non-official members should be elected, and there would be no appointed members. I believe there is quite a lot to support this argument. First, as matters now stand, the appointed members are not in fact acting in any way as yes-men for the Administration. This was demonstrated quite clearly in the recent trouble that occurred in the Legislative Council, when there were several walk-outs. I regret the fact that such action was taken, but if the men concerned were hot enough about the issues involved I suppose they would think that walking out was one way of bringing the matter to the attention of the powers that be. But the point I am trying to make is that in actual fact the appointed members have followed in these issues the elected members, so that the idea that the nonofficial members who are appointed would follow the general direction of the Administration has fallen down. The idea that those members were just following unswervingly in the path of the Administration is exploded. In these circumstances, it is hard to justify the continuation of the nomination system, although I quite realise that there might be circumstances in which a particular skill or knowledge was required, and for this or other reasons it might be advisable to have on the Council a certain member who might not have sufficient political appeal to be elected. But we seem to be able to overcome that sort of problem in our own place, and I do not really think it is an argument that can stand up in the light of modern conditions.
Although I am sympathetic to the claims of the Legislative Council, particularly the non-official members of it, I cannot justify in my own mind the handing over to the members of that Council of such enormous powers as are visualised in the recommendations of the Select Committee, particularly when we consider the number of people that the members of the Council actually represent. Those of us who have given some thought to this subject will realise that, as the Minister said in his speech, the total electorate of the Northern Territory is just over 16,000 people. This is less than half the average of even the smallest electorate represented by members of this House. In addition we should consider the financial position, which I will mention again a little later. The people of the Territory could not exist without considerable subsidy or assistance from the Commonwealth Treasury.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory made one other point in his speech that I think should be referred to. He suggested that in this place the member for the Northern Territory should have full voting powers. In this connection it should be remembered- that the honorable member for the Northern Territory represents an electorate of not more than 16,000. Admittedly it is growing, and in fact it has grown fairly rapidly recently to the present figure of 16,000, but it has a long way to go before it can be said that the honorable member for the Northern Territory represents in this place anything like the number of electors that other members represent.
– What about the Australian Capital Territory?
– I am not discussing the Australian Capital Territory at this stage, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I think that is a horse of a different colour. However, with your indulgence, I shall spend a minute to deal with the interjection. As you yourself, Sir, are probably well aware, and as you will have read in recent cables of world news, an interesting question was raised in Washington in the Congress of the United States of America. It was decided that the people of Washington would not even have representation in Congress. While everybody might have his own ideas on this subject, there is at least some established and significant precedent to work on when we say: “ If it is good enough for the United States of America then possibly it is good enough for Australia”, and we should continue to exclude the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory from having full voting rights in this place.
The question of finance for the Territory is a point which we must keep clear in our minds. Even if the Commonwealth made available a per capita grant, on the same basis as special grants are given to the State Governments, of approximately £150 per head of the population of the Northern Territory, and this amount was combined with the local revenue, which is estimated at about £3 million in this financial year, there would still be a shortfall of about £12 million from the total of £22.8 million required to finance the ordinary expenditure in the Northern Territory this year. These are pretty significant figures. In other words, if this Parliament were to decide to make a special grant equivalent to the substantial sum of £150 per head of population, and if this amount were added to the revenue raised within the Northern Territory, the sum total would be still less than half that required to finance the estimated expenditure of the Territory for the current financial year.
When I was in the Territory recently, it was said that a lot of the Commonwealth’s expenditure was committed for Aboriginal welfare. That is so. in my own estimation, but it is not terribly easy to work out the exact amount spent on Aborigines, lt is difficult to isolate money spent on education within the general public education system and the sum spent on ‘he Aboriginal portion of the population. But if the subtraction were made, we would find that about £2.5 million would be devoted purely to problems of Aboriginal welfare, health and education. That is quite a substantial sum but it is not large in relation to the £22.8 million which is required to finance the whole of the year’s work in the Territory.
I mentioned earlier the voting rights of the honorable member for the Northern Territory. I think it is undeniable that when the number of persons in his electorate who are eligible to vote becomes comparable with the numerical size of the average electorate represented here, he will be given full voting rights; but I could not recommend that such a right be given to him at this moment. I believe that he himself understands the position. A suggestion was also made - and I think it was mentioned in the recommendations of the last Select Committee - that the Northern Territory should be represented by a senator who would have full voting rights. I consider the arguments in respect of the voting rights of the honorable member for the Northern Territory in this place apply equally to any proposition regarding the election of a senator to represent the Territory in the other place. In my opinion, those points are so practical and realistic that they convince honorable members of their value.
It could be said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that at the moment the Northern Territory is almost over-governed in relation to its population. It has a Legislative Council, and there is a substantial municipal council in Darwin. Attempts are being made also to institute a municipal council at Alice Springs. Those bodies deal with an electorate of about 16,000 people. It will be readily realised that, in relation to municipalities in other parts of Australia, particularly rural areas, a top-heavy administration and electoral organisation could be placed on a comparatively few people.
This brings me to my next point. I believe there is a lot to be said for the division of the administration of the Northern Territory and Pap:a and New Guinea for departmental purposes, or, at least, there should be two separate watertight divisions within the Department of Territories for them. I am tempted to accept the idea that the Northern Territory might be looked after better if it were placed under the Department of National Development and administered through the Northern Division. What I say is in no way any reflection on ministerial activity in regard to the Territories. I have a great admiration for the energy, foresight and intellect of the present Minister for Territories. He has a very big task, particularly regarding the future of Papua and New Guinea. In some ways, it is possible that within the Department too much attention is devoted to Papua and New Guinea at the expense of the Northern Territory. This thought might be of advantage to the Northern Territory in the future. It might eventually have its own watertight section perhaps within the Department of National Development.
At the same time I want to stress the fact that there is a vast’ difference between the problems of Papua and New Guinea and those of the Northern Territory, and this is not only in regard to the nature of the country and population. One is a wet country, and one is very dry. If only the rainfall in the Northern Territory could be increased the area would probably be very valuable. But while the present climatic conditions exist it is almost impossible to see how the Northern Territory could carry a large pastoral population. I do not want to be a knocker in any way about the future of the Northern Territory but I think we have to face up to the fact that many people have tried to improve conditions there in many directions and they have not been notably successful in a lot of them.
I look to the future of the Northern Territory, from the economic viewpoint, as being more in the direction of mineral development and isolated developmental schemes rather than in a general overall improvement of this huge area. 1 now wish to refer to the legislatures of the two areas. The members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory are mostly men of considerable experience, particularly of the problems of the Territory. They are men of considerable force of character, as has been seen on a number of occasions recently. They do not require direction. They do not need to be wet-nursed or led along the garden path. In fact, they are quite capable of looking after themselves. In comparison, the problems of the House of Assembly of Papua and New Guinea are completely different. We have undertaken to bring the people of Papua and New Guinea to some form of political maturity which will give them sufficient background to enable them, at some time in the future, to take over and look after their own affairs. But in the formative processes at the moment it is necessary to have in the Assembly men who are capable of advising and assisting its members in connection with their problems. Another problem arises from the fact that representatives from different parts of Papua and New Guinea speak different languages.
Therefore I think that the problems of the Northern Territory are entirely different from those of Papua and New Guinea. It is possible that within the Department of Territories - I am not criticising anybody but this is an attitude of mind that could exist - people are inclined to think of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory as they do of the House of Assembly of Papua and New Guinea, and consider that the type of representation in one legislature is related to the type of representation in the other. I feel that this type of thinking could get into the departmental mind to the disadvantage of the development of the Northern Territory. It is a difficult country, and noone will try to say it is anything but difficult. I can remember speaking to the manager of a property at Beswick and he said: “You know, Mr. Mackinnon, the cattle here look pretty rough, but by goodness they have to be tough to survive these conditions.” I can assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that included in his herds were some of the worst cattle I have seen in my life. One does not realise the conditions that exist until he has an opportunity to see them.
The Northern Territory is a challenge. I do not think it will ever be a Garden of Eden. Any honorable member who tries to describe it as a land flowing with milk and honey is either a clown of a knave, and he is doing his country a disservice to let rubbish of that type proceed from this Parliament into the world news. The Northern Territory is a hard country. It has an unreliable rainfall that falls within a few weeks in each year, and drought conditions persist for the remainder of the year. The centre of Australia is experiencing conditions that are not uncommon in that area, although since World War II it has been blessed with a succession of remarkably good seasons until the present drought. I close on this note: The Northern Territory represents a challenge. We are having trouble with its Legislative Council at the moment, but I believe that with good sense we can overcome this problem. People who are elected to a body like the Legislative Council are inclined to view their responsibility with some degree of respect, and they feel that, as they represent the people, they should have some authority. In actual fact, when we work out the numbers represented in that place and the financial responsibility for carrying on the affairs of the Northern Territory it is hard to arrive at any satisfactory scheme whereby we could say: “ We will give you some limited financial and executive responsibility”, without cutting across the whole of our administrative system. I am sure that the Minister would be the first to see eye to eye with a practical proposition which would work out to the advantage of the Northern Territory in the future.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). This is one of the rare occasions in the Parliament when the honorable member for the Northern Territory is permitted not only to speak but also to vote, because this legislation deals exclusively and precisely with the Northern Territory. It is to be regretted that on all other major issues affecting the Northern Territory in a general way, and this nation in particular, the elected representative of the people of the Northern Territory is denied the right to record a vote in this place on matters of supreme importance to the future of his area and the future of this country.
– Where does the honorable member stand on the question of one vote one value now?
– I support the amendment because I believe it is a logical and reasonable proposition. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) wants to know where we stand. We stand for democratic selfgovernment in this country, and these principles are expressed in the amendment submitted by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. For the benefit of the Minister, who either has been dozing on his work or has just come into the chamber, I shall read the amendment. It is as follows -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof - “whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill, the House is of opinion that a Joint Committee of Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives should be appointed to investigate and report on constitutional reform of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory so as to provide a greater measure of self-determination by the people of the Territory “.
This proposition is one that should attract the support of all members of the Parliament. It asks that the members of the Senate and of this place should appoint a number of members thoroughly to investigate the problems of the Legislative Council and to go into the future of the Northern Territory. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has continued to advocate reforms for the Northern Territory. He has continued to advocate and plead the cause of the Legislative Council, of reforms it has submitted in the course of frequent deputations to the Government, and of proposals that have arisen from a select committee of members of the Legislative Council which were recently brought to the attention of the Government. The honorable member deserves the thanks, not only of the Parliament, but of the Legislative Council and the people for his valiant fight on their behalf for reforms so urgently required.
This Bill only tinkers with the major problems. It is necessary that we should go into this matter in a thorough, workmanlike way. A mere debate of this kind can touch only the fringe of the question. The sort of constitutional reform that is required for the Northern Territory is so great, so vast and so extensive that a discussion of this kind on the Bill submitted by the Minister touches only the fringe. The delay in initiating reforms is to be condemned. As the honorable member for the Northern Territory has pointed out, on each occasion reforms have been granted they have been wrung from the Government. Never once has the Government willingly come forward with reforms and said: “ The Territory is growing up. It is becoming more important in various ways. Consequently we will adjust the Constitution in accordance with its development.” When, in a few days time, we are discussing the Estimates for the Department of National Development we will hear paeans from members on the Government side in praise of the magnificent development of the north of Australia - of beef roads and of minerals. Yet while Government members proclaim these magnificent developments in a physical sense they deny to the people who live in the Northern Territory their elementary right as citizens to govern themselves - not interfering with the people who live in the south - to spend their money and to determine how the Territory should be developed for the people of the Territory. This is the sort of thing to which we have become accustomed. I recall the 1959 debate on this matter.
There are a thousand and one subjects that might be discussed. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) made a reasonable and fair approach to this matter. One of his suggestions was that the ministerial administration of the territories of Australia might be separated. I agree wholeheartedly with him. I think the administration of our external territories ought to be separated from that of our internal territories. There is practically no relationship at all between the problems of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and those of the Northern Territory, Nauru or Ocean Island. The external Territories are areas that could perhaps be better referred to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck). They certainly do not belong to the internal administration of Australia. If the Government would accept the proposal of the Australian Labour Party and establish a Minister for Northern Development perhaps the Northern Territory could come within the compass of the Minister for Northern Development who could assist the rapid onward growth of this area both by way of constitutional reform and by way of the development of the area. This is a logical and reasonable proposition. Of course, there is no great relationship with the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
There is no doubt about it, the Northern Territory has remained in many senses the ugly duckling of the Territories; not because of any lack in the valiant though unsuccessful cases which have been advanced by the honorable member for the Northern Territory and his colleagues but because the United Nations Organisation, through its Trusteeship Council, asks questions relating to Papua and New Guinea and does not ask questions relating to the Northern Territory. That makes all the difference. That is why the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory is so restricted and limited in its activities that justice is hardly done to the term “ Legislative Council “.
If I remember rightly, there are eight elected representatives on the Council, three nominated non-official members who represent business, pastoral, mining and other interests and six nominated official members. The whole setup is a travesty and a mockery of democracy. It does not make sense. If we are to proceed with the development of the Northern Territory we must allow the people there to have a say in matters of such importance to their progress and their welfare. This is not the case at the present time. In my view, one of the outstanding requirements is a separate Public Service for the Northern Territory. Canberra is far too remote to deal with the intimate affairs of such a vast tract of country as the Northern Territory. There is a conflict of views. Although there is no universal agreement on this, I hold the definite view that we should be promoting a Northern Territory Public Service. These days many public servants go to the Northern Territory to mark time so that they will rate promotion down south. Some regard their trip to the Northern Territory as a form of penance while awaiting promotion.
– That is an unfair comment.
– I am not applying my remarks to public servants generally, but some of them have gone to the Territory merely for the purpose of filling in time while awaiting promotion. They are not there as dedicated officers. However, as I have said, I concede that the vast majority of the public servants in the Territory are dedicated officers trying to do a good job of work. In addition to my own point of view, let me bring as a witness in this matter none other than the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver). When presenting the seventy-first report of the Public Accounts Committee relating to the Northern Territory Administration he said in the Parliament on 23rd September 1965-
In this report, the Committee has sought intentionally to provide honorable members with a comprehensive record of the general improvements which have occurred in the development of the Territory’s resources and government in recent years. The report shows that, while much has been achieved since 19S7, some problems to which the third Committee directed attention urgently are as yet unresolved and new problems have emerged to confront the Administration as the pace of development in the Territory has quickened under stimuli provided by both private enterprise and government. The Committee found no fewer than 21 matters requiring attention urgently either by the Northern Territory Administration or by Commonwealth departments and authorities represented in the Territory. The Committee found, for example, that there is still an urgent need for a formal, authentic statement to be published in the Northern Territory “Gazette”, setting out the structure of the Northern Territory Administration and listing the Commonwealth departments represented in the Territory with their functions under both Commonwealth and Territory law. We believe that the Commonwealth Administrative Arrangements Order provides a ready precedent for such a statement. There is still an urgent need for the establishment of a Public Service Inspector’s Office in Darwin and there is still an urgent need to improve office and hostel accommodation in the principal centres of the Territory.
No fewer than 21 matters require urgent and immediate attention. Some of these problems have been in existence for a lengthy period and they still remain unsolved. This is an indication to me, as it was to the members of the Public Accounts Committee, that something should be done relating to the Public Service in the Northern Territory. This is not a satisfactory state of affairs, and this canker, which affects financial matters and the Administration, must not be allowed to continue. This is one of the subjects which should be investigated by a joint committee, as has been mentioned by the honorable member for the Northern Territory.
The Northern Territory Legislative Council unanimously accepted the report of a select committee which it had appointed. Reasonable proposals were advanced. Members of the Council are not asking for complete government in every form, but they want to control those matters which are close to them, the immediate problems affecting the Territory and affecting them as citizens of this country. They want their rights to be protected, and for my part - I speak only for myself - I should think that if a Northern Territory Public Service were established, public servants transferring to the north would require to have their rights safeguarded by legislation and their conditions clearly defined.
The gradual development in constitutional power and responsibility in the Territory has been slow, feeble and unsatisfactory. This has caused discontent throughout the whole Territory. That is not a wholesome thing. Darwin is Australia’s front door, yet it is, in the constitutional sense, the capital of an area which is seething with discontent, from the Legislative Council through to the various sections of the community. The Minister and the Government may say: “ Well, we are looking after the people “; but that brand of paternalism is not good enough. The people who live in the Northern Territory are adults. They have come of age and are entitled to an effective say in the management of the Northern Territory, some 500,000 square miles of Australia.
The old adage that good government is no substitute for self government is as true today as it was when it was written. The people are entitled to self government. They want to control the expenditure of money raised in the Territory. They have always been prepared to negotiate on the form of powers that will be transferred to them. Surely it is not wrong today, in this year 1965, that these negotiations should be entered into with the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory and that the Parliament should appoint a select committee to investigate these matters. I bring to the attention of the House the 1963 report of the Select Committee on Political Rights which was appointed by the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. Part VI, Recommendations of the Committee, is in these terms -
Your Committee therefore recommends that by motion of this Council His Honour the Administrator of the Northern Territory be requested to submit to the Honorable the Minister for Territories the following proposals -
that provision be made for representation of the Northern Territory by a member in the Senate with full voting and other rights;
That proposal deserves investigation as the honorable member for the Northern Territory has suggested. The report goes on -
That is a matter that should not require investigation. The honorable member for the Northern Territory was elected by the people there and should be entitled to a vote in this Parliament on matters affecting this nation. Matters affecting areas in the south also concern , the north, just as much as matters affecting the northern areas concern the south. In my belief, the honorable member for the Northern Territory should be entitled to full voting rights in this Parliament The report, in listing the recommendations of the Committee, continued -
Council be reconstituted to comprise approximately eighteen elected members or fifteen elected members and three members nominated by the Administrator from among Northern Territory electors who are not public servants;
That is another proposal which seems eminently fair and reasonable and deserving of the consideration of a select committee. I sec no reason why the Government should not have given very favourable consideration to it. The next recommendation stated -
Action in that respect is being taken, but it has been pointed out by the honorable member for the Northern Territory that some of these proposals were submitted eight years ago. It has taken eight years to win these reforms, but the Government should have conceded them eight years ago. Consequently, there is little merit in the Government’s tardy recognition of the rights of the people of the Northern Territory. The next recommendation is in the following terms -
Council the Administrator should appoint an Executive Council of at least five;
An advisory council is being appointed. The next recommendation stated -
that a field of Territory legislative, ex ecutive and financial control be established within which -
That is another recommendation worthy of consideration by a select committee. The recommendations continued -
That is another reasonable proposal. The recommendations continued -
I have already referred to that proposal. The final paragraph in recommendation (vi) stated -
When we consider the difference in treatment of Papua and New Guinea and the Northern Territory, it is clear that a lesson has to be learned. That is another recommendation worthy of consideration by a select committee. Recommendation (vii) stated - that outside the Territory field of control
Surely the authority in the Northern Territory should not be obliged to ask for consultation with the Federal Government. Consultation should be continuous. Relations should be fluid and consultation should occur day by day so that the Territory may evolve from its present position as a depressed area constitutionally to the full flower of democracy. This is 1965, and it is shameful to think that the people of the Northern Territory should have their Legislative Council unanimously in agreement that it is necessary to ask for consultation on this matter. Consultation should be continuous with the object of achieving full self-government for the people of that area. I am pleased to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. I hope that a fair and reasonable attitude will be adopted by the Parliament and that support will be given to him.
.- I am drawn into this debate in an attempt to put this matter in perspective. It was interesting to hear the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) commence his speech by referring to the need for democratic selfgovernment in the Northern Territory. I am quite sure that every honorable member has some understanding of the problems of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) in this respect, but by saying that he supports the suggestion that the member for the Northern Territory should have full voting rights in this Parliament the honorable member for Macquarie and his colleagues show that they act completely in the interests of political expediency. Only a few weeks ago we heard honorable members opposite supporting the principle of one vote one value, so it is surprising to learn now that they have had a change of heart. Let us look at the facts. The number of electors in the Northern Territory is 16,160, as against the Australian average of 48,000 for an electorate. I simply lay the figures on the line. Although the honorable member for Macquarie today speaks in support of full voting rights in this Parliament for the member for the Northern Territory, only a few weeks ago he was advocating the principle of one vote one value. How does the honorable member reconcile his support for full voting rights for the member for the Northern Territory with the figures I have just cited?
The honorable member for Macquarie says that this Bill only tinkers with the problem. I think he is being very unfair to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) and the Northern Territory Administration. I believe that government starts at the local level. Without an interest in local government, it is not possible to have interest in State or Federal government.
– Try us out.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory says: “Try us out “. The fact is that although the Federal Government has tried to advance local government throughout areas of the Northern Territory, those areas have not shown any desire to institute it. The honorable member for the Northern Territory may have referred to this matter in his speech. The reason for the failure to institute local government is, of course, that the introduction of local government is followed immediately by the charging of rates. The people living in the area say: “ Why should we pay rates when we can get a handout from the Commonwealth Government?” We cannot have it both ways. Either the people have an interest in government or they have not. The honorable member for the Northern Territory put forward an argument about Nauru not needing local government. He should examine history. Nauru has had local government for many years, and has advanced from local government to a form of legislative council. In discussing local government, comparisons cannot fairly be made with the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, where there is a communal land system. It is a completely different system of land tenure to that in Australia. The people of the Northern Territory are completely responsible. They should know exactly what they want and where they are going. If they do not want to accept local government, they must accept the disadvantages that go- with that decision.
The honorable member for Macquarie attacked the Government by saying that no changes have occurred in the Administration of the Northern Territory in past years. He attempted to make political capital out of a subject about which he knows very little. I shall tell honorable members of some of the changes that have occurred in the administration since 1957. In 1959 a separate Harbours and Marine Branch was introduced. This was previously a unit in the General Services Branch. In 1960 came the introduction of a second position of Assistant Administrator. The responsibilities of the two positions were divided between economic and social affairs, and administration, services and finance. In 1960 a District Office was established at Tennant Creek as a section of the Administrative Branch. The functions of the Administrative Branch were divided in 1962 by introducing separate branches for stores, transport and finance.
I hope that I am not boring honorable members with this information. I am seeking to show that a great number of changes have occurred in the Administration in recent years. In 1962 the Administrator’s Branch was introduced, embracing the Administrator’s personal staff and the staff of the Northern Territory Legislative Council. In the same year the Northern Territory Housing Commission was set up as a statutory body under Northern Territory legislation. In 1963 a District Office was established at Katherine. In 1964 the Northern Territory Port Authority was established as a statutory body under Northern Territory legislation, to take the place of the Harbours and Marine Branch. In the same year, the Prisons and Fire Services Branch was amalgamated with the General Services Branch.
I have indicated some of the changes that have occurred in the Administration in recent years. Nobody can say truthfully that the Northern Territory has stood still from an administrative point of view. Its forward move will be assisted by this legislation. Further proof of the Government’s interest in advancing the powers of the Legislative Council is to be found in the following passage of the Minister’s second reading speech -
The Government has also offered to consider any request by the Legislative Council for the transfer of business undertakings, such as the electricity and water supply now operated by the Commonwealth, to either local government or specially constituted boards of commissions.
So nobody can say that the Commonwealth Government is not interested in improving the powers and functions of the Council. Anybody who says that the Government is not so interested is only trying to play party politics.
The honorable member for Macquarie mentioned the Public Accounts Committee. I am a member of that Committee, and I. have visited the Territory in company with, other members of the Committee. The honorable member for Macquarie made great play of the fact that 21 matters in the Northern Territory required attention. I could take the honorable member to his own electorate in New South Wales and’ show him more than 21 matters that need attention even after 40 years of Labour administration in that State. In any area there are always matters that need attention, and there always will be. When the Public Accounts Committee visited the Northern Territory in 1957 it found many more matters of a much more serious nature that needed attention than it did on the occasion of its last visit. Many of the 21 matters referred to are local matters and could be handled locally. Housing is one of them. The honorable member for Macquarie made a good political speech in his usual gloomy fashion.
I agree with the honorable member for Corangamite when he says that the Northern Territory is a hard region. But proof that the Northern Territory is moving forward is to be found in the development of its agricultural and mineral industries and in the increase in population. It is interesting to note that since 1958 - that is not many years ago - the population has risen from 39,000 to 51,000. People would not be going to the Territory unless they were encouraged to do so by the development that is taking place. I recall an occasion when I visited a little place on the north coast of Tasmania which was very keen to attract tourists. I was the guest speaker at a particular function. I was asked why Lakes Entrance, which is in my own electorate, was such- a wonderful resort and attracted many people. I said that I would try to ascertain how many people went to Lakes Entrance in the tourist season and that I would send back the relevant figures. I went to Lakes Entrance and said: “Lakes Entrance has been said to be the be all and end all of the tourist industry. How many people visit here?” I was told that more than 20,000 people visit Lakes Entrance over the Christmas season. I sent those figures down to Tasmania. The local progress association, the Chamber of Commerce and other local bodies at Lakes Entrance think that that centre is well behind in the race to attract tourists. The people there compare Lakes Entrance with Surfers Paradise, and the subject of development is very much in their minds. The point I am making is that this matter of development must be kept in perspective.
The improvement in land settlement is another fact which proves that the Northern Territory is moving forward. In 1958 there were 110 million unoccupied acres in the Northern Territory. Last year only 80 million acres were unoccupied. Let us not forget that much of that area of 80 million acres is very difficult to populate or to use for any purpose at all. In 1958 only 749 acres were under crops of all sorts, but in 1964 a total of 2,519 acres were under crop. All these facts prove that there has been some development in the Northern Territory even though that development may not be as fast as we all would like to see. At the present time we are able to grow rice, peanuts, tobacco, grain sorghum, bananas, pineapples, citrus fruits, cashew nuts, mangoes, papaws, vegetables, fodder plants and improved pasture crops in many areas. All this development is of great assistance to the Territory.
Let me take the minds of honorable members back to 1946, when the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation made a survey of many of the regions of the Northern Territory: The Organisation completed surveys in the KatherineDarwin area, the Barkly Tableland area, the Victoria River area, and the Alice Springs region. The CS.’I.R.O. later established a research station at Katherine, and in 1956 the Administration established an experimental farm near Berrimah in the Darwin area and began investigations into the growing of fruit and vegetables. Pastoral production is being carried out under both dry land and irrigated conditions and there has been much experimental work on the growing of rice. The Humpty Doo rice growing experiment was a failure, but rice growing itself is not necessarily a failure. The C.S.I.R.O. has conducted a lot of research into the varieties of rice that might be more suitable for the Northern Territory. Recently when I visited the rice institute in the Philippines I was delighted to learn that many of the varieties of rice that have been grown in the Northern Territory have been found to be very suitable in the Philippines. Indeed, there has been an interchange of varieties between the Philippines and the Northern Territory. I believe that this co-operation will help to improve the rice industry and that in the years to come a suitable variety will be found for use in the Territory. It is interesting to note that in 1964 the Agricultural Branch, which has undertaken its own experimental work, harvested 160 acres of rice with a yield of approximately 22 cwt. per acre. The C.S.I.R.O. harvested an additional 50 acres with a higher yield still.
The claims that nothing is being done to develop the Northern Territory are like the arguments that have been advanced by the Labour Party in respect of northern development generally. Members of the Opposition put their heads in the sand and do not see what is being done. The Minister for Territories and the Government have shown great sympathy and understanding of the problems of the Northern Territory. I oppose the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, because I believe that the Minister and the Government are more responsible judges of what is happening in this area.
.- We are debating a measure which deals with the welfare of the Northern Territory and its people. In this area there are between 16,000 and 18,000 electors and a total population of 53,000 people. In other words, there is one person to every ten square miles. I suppose this is one of the most sparsely populated parts of the world. A number of honorable members have made contributions to this debate. Some of those contributions have been constructive, some have been enlightening, and some have not been as good as they ought to have been. I was struck by the fact that the. honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) continually expressed his sympathy for the people of the Northern Territory. On the other hand, he made some constructive suggestions. Before dealing with those suggestions, I wish to point out that the people of this area want, not sympathy, but support. The honorable member for Corangamite advanced only one measure of support that I could recognise. That was when he suggested that the administration of Papua and New Guinea should be separated from the administration of the Northern Territory. That suggestion was, I think, supported by my colleague the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), and I am sure that it might have the support of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) himself. I think that there is a wealth of wisdom in it. After all, when we are considering Papua and New Guinea we have the United Nations looking over the shoulders of the Parliament and its Ministers all the time. For that reason there is a very admirable tendency in this Parliament to. fall over , backwards . in an endeavour to do the right and proper thing so far as Papua and New Guinea is concerned. There is probably a reluctance on the part of the Parliament and the Commonwealth Government to be as progressive, anxious and constructive in regard to the administration and development of the Northern Territory.
I could not help but note from the speech of the honorable member for Corangamite, that he was inclined to look upon the Northern Territory, to a degree more than I would, as a country of rather barren potentialities. I have had a look at the Northern Territory. I do not profess to be an expert on it. I do not profess to know enough about it, but on the occasions of my visits there I could not help but notice that, right from the borders of Queensland around to Western Australia there is an area of about 400 miles in depth that has a rainfall at the coast of approximately 40 inches per annum and 400 miles inland there is still a rainfall of 20 inches per annum.
– It is 60 inches on the coast.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory tells me that it is 60 inches on the coast. That is more generous than I had thought. Around that length of coast - and I have seen some of the coastal areas - are estuaries, rivers and water galore and timber. It is one of the potentially richest areas in the Commonwealth of Australia. lt is true that from 400 miles from the coast south to Oodnadatta and further, there is a vast area which, perhaps apart from oil and minerals, has no great future. However, for the sake of the area in which most of the people are to be found, including, of course, Alice Springs, there is a need for the institution which governs the Northern Territory to be treated in a much more serious manner than we have treated it in the past in this Parliament. What have we got? After a long battle the people of the Northern Territory, aided by the efforts of the honorable member for the Northern Territory who has not yet been given a vote in this House, succeeded in having legislation enacted in this Parliament setting up a Legislative Council. It is some years since that Council was set up and we find inevitably that dissatisfaction has arisen. That is nobody’s fault; it is a feature of social evolution. But, having arisen, it is high time that steps were taken to remove the causes of that dissatisfaction. We are an educated and literate people. Most people are reasonable when’ treated reasonably. The Legislative Council includes nonelected members. This authority has been granted certain jurisdiction and given certain powers over a vast area of 530,000 square miles in which there are approximately. 53,000 people. This body with the authority that it wields under the power of this Parliament - which is quite inadequate, of course - has non-elected members on it.
Furthermore, the members of the Council are paid for their services the miserly pittance of £500 per annum, notwithstanding the vast area of the Territory. I do not know whether the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) will contradict what I am about to say but I would imagine that a member of the Legislative Council, despite its inadequate powers, would be charged with the responsibility of knowing all about most of this vast Territory. There is no doubt in my mind that he would be required to give most of his time to his duties as a councillor. Some members of this Parliament have large electorates. Perhaps the honorable member for Corangamite would consider that he has his hands very full in dealing with the problems of the people of his substantial electorate in the western district of Victoria; but imagine a member of the Northern Territory Legislative Council with almost as much responsibility as the honorable member for Corangamite, desiring to become properly informed on the requirements of the Territory, and being paid a miserly sum of £500 per annum.
– It is shocking.
– It is absurd that members of an administrative authority, inadequately equipped as it is, should be paid such a small amount. I wish now to consider the position of the nominated members. In the States of the Commonwealth we have the State Parliaments, the councils of provincial cities and the municipal governing bodies. In none of these bodies do we find non-elected members. Imagine what the shire of Colac or Campberdown would say if the Parliament of Victoria required that on those bodies there should be nominated members. Imagine what any other shire council in this country would say if it were in that position. These bodies in the States have been created by their respective parliaments in the same way as the Legislative Council in the Northern Territory has been created by the Commonwealth Parliament, and severe and substantial limitations have been placed upon their authority. Why? Because a great deal of the money that flows through their hands comes from country road boards, from Federal grants for road purposes or from some other governmental grants. Consequently the State Governments do place some limitations on the spheres of influence of these bodies. But they do not say that because a certain sum spent by a municipal body has come from a Commonwealth grant or a State grant, the council has to include non-elected members. These representative bodies have the right to appoint engineers, shire secretaries, clerks, surveyors, rate collectors and so on. In due course, their powers are restricted by local government legislation. Everybody in this Parliament realises that, in the same manner, some restriction has to apply to the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory.
We find these conflicts, but we find that there is a failure on the part of this Parliament adequately to understand the problems of the Northern Territory. Indeed, we find a tendency to stress the fact that if this Parliament were to give too much authority to the Legislative Council and were now to make it truly representative, the financial interests of the investors in the Territory might be endangered. That is stated in the Minister’s speech. The Government fears that if the Legislative Council were a body of representative men, the safeguard that the Government now has - unfortunately an improper one, to my mind, of having non-elected members - would be removed and that that might endanger the investments of particular people in the Northern Territory. It would appear that the Government is more concerned about investments than it is about human beings. I shall read the part of the Minister’s speech to which I have referred. The Minister said in his second reading speech -
A major consideration with development is security of investment. Substantial investors are always concerned about security and want assurance that laws concerning leases, for example, would not be changed during the currency of the leases.
There is concern for the security of the landholders and the great overseas companies, such as Vesteys and Swifts who, when their capital was in danger due to a variety of causes, withdrew it. Vesteys shifted its capital to the Argentine. Recently it has had another look round Australia to see whether it would be worth while to invest its capital here again. The company believed that it would be able to impose on Australian labour the conditions that it was able to impose on the native labour in the Argentine and other cheap labour countries. However, we are not discussing that matter at the moment. If a wealthy investor invested great sums of money in the establishment of an industry at Bathurst in the electorate of the honorable member for Macquarie the State Parliament or this Parliament would not take power away from the local municipality because it might endanger the security of investors or potential investors in that area. I think that the Minister, when he drafted this part of his second reading speech, overreached himself and did not realise what he was doing.
– I shall deal with that matter when I reply.
– I do not want to put words into the Minister’s mouth, but is he going to suggest that if the Legislative Council was constituted in the manner advocated by the most responsible member for the Northern Territory Swifts or Vesteys would withdraw their cattle and close down their meat freezing works and leave the country? Of course he will not suggest that. I ask him to reconsider the Government’s attitude in this matter. I know that the Commonwealth Government’s expenditure in the Northern Territory is enormous when compared with the local revenue, which is a mere drop in the ocean. But, after all, this vast amount of money is not being spent by the Commonwealth Government because it likes the people of the Northern Territory. It is being spent because the Government realises that the development of the Northern Territory is vital not only to the local residents but also to the future development of this great country of ours. No responsible Government could help but worry when it sees the accumulation of population in the coastal cities and in the southern parts of this country. We must ask ourselves the question: How, when and by what means are we going to increase the population of the north in order that this country may fulfil the great destiny that is planned for it and adequately protect itself? After all, we are spending money in the north so that we can protect ourselves in the south. In addition, we are adding to our national revenues. The money that is beginning to flow from the recent discovery of vast mineral resources in the north is increasing our national exchequer. Under those circumstances, surely the people who. go to the Territory and those who are born there are entitled to a more ample share, to say the very least, of representation and power.
A good friend of mine, a man with a great knowledge of the Northern Territory and of northern Australia generally, a man with a great constructive mind, once said to me: “ There is no solution and there will be no fair play for the people of the north until they can land the requirements of civilisation in the form of food and household requisites on their doorstep at the same price as the articles can be landed on the doorstep of the residents of Sydney, Perth, Melbourne or any other part of Australia.” I believe he was right. Action along those lines could be taken to encourage people to go to the north. People are wanted there in their thousands to help in the development of the oil and other mineral resources and in the great agricultural wealth there. This is assuredly not very far off. It will happen when a government which realises the enormous wealth, apart from the mineral wealth, that resides in the 400 mile strip of land in the Territory from the coast inland, is vigorous enough to appoint a Minister for Northern Development and an authority, such as the Snowy Mountains Authority, to carry out the work. The country is rich in natural resources. Nobody knows that fact better than does the Minister. He was a pioneer in the north himself, and he can speak on this subject with authority.
I went to the Humpty Doo area some time ago. It is true that trice cultivation there failed when it was undertaken by American interests. Rightly or wrongly, I was given to understand that there was an element of bad luck in the failure of the crop. The people put their main plant down where the ducks usually landed. There were other areas of land along the river at Humpty Doo where, if rice had been planted, a different result might have occurred. While I was there I saw experiments being carried out with new types of grasses from South America that remain relatively green. They could be cut and baled as hay and fed to cattle in the area, and they could be sent inland to feed the cattle there. This was a most promising feature. I saw other areas where people were growing satisfactory legumes, which put nitrogen into the soil. These particular grasses were growing to a height of about 4 ft. They could be cut and baled. All that the people had to do to sow the grasses was to drop the plants in six inch furrows. No doubt the Minister has seen these experiments. This area is only a fragment of the excellent country which is’ situated around thousands of miles of the’ coast and which is due for development in the future.
Among the authorities which can give great service in the future development of this area, this Parliament stands paramount, and another body that has an important responsibility is the Legislative Council, the governing authority in the Northern Territory, which is democratically elected and vested with sufficient power by this Parliament from time to time, in the same way as State Governments vest powers in municipalities. But it is most important that we have the good faith and the confidence of the people who are living there if we are going to achieve this development. What could be a better start than to adopt the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, which seeks the setting up of a select committee. To get members of this Parliament interested in any particular subject - this has been my experience - all that is needed is to appoint them to a select committee on that subject. They put their shoulders to the wheel and work like tigers. They forget party affiliations. In most instances they come along with a unanimous recommendation to the Parliament. If there is one important problem that confronts us, it is the development of the north. If there is one problem that we want members to this Parliament to interest themselves in more than they have in the past, it is northern development. The Opposition has been conscious of the problems confronting northern development for a long time. We have suggested that the Snowy Mountains Authority, which has the plant and equipment and the results of research, should be warned now that it might have to shift into this area. We do not mean that it should root up all its research and other buildings at Cooma, but it should be ready to take an active part and a responsible interest in northern development. Let us have a select committee composed of members of both sides of the Parliament so that they can visit the area, meet the people and come into the Parliament and talk about this question.
Everyone wants more and more oil and more and more gas. This Government has handed over our potential gas and oil riches to foreign interests and to the gamblers and speculators on the stock exchanges of this country. I suggest that the Government say to a man like Sir William Hudson: “You have at your disposal one quarter of the cost of the Snowy Mountains scheme. Go to the United States of America and Great Britain; buy 200 or 300 of the best drilling rigs that can be bought; bring in some brains to assist you; use the knowledge that is available in the Bureau of Mineral Resources; pick out the sedimentary basins in the same way as the foreign investor does.” The foreign investor does not do much search. He goes to the Bureau and gets the maps, surveys and available information. Then he says: ‘* Let us put a plug in here, a plug in there and a plug somewhere else “. If my proposal cost £25 mil lion in the next 10 years, it would probably return hundreds of millions of pounds to the people of Australia, without the necessity of exporting the profits on the investments of the foreign companies which are digging in all over the place at the present time.
I have gone a bit away from the matter before the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You have been very patient. All I can hope is that the Minister for Territories will be impressed with the case that has been put by members of the Opposition and backed up, to an extent, by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon). I hope that the Minister will agree to the appointment of a select committee. I hope that he will agree to the amendment moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). I hope that he will agree, within a measurable period of time, to give the member for the Northern Territory full voting rights. I hope that before the Minister leaves this Parliament or before this Government falls - I trust that that will not be long - he will have the gratification of seeing greater progress being made in the Northern Territory and a greater peace in mind among the residents of that Territory.
.- I remind the House of the sentiments expressed by my colleague, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), and of the materialist approach that the Government has adopted to this problem. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) said in his second reading speech that a major consideration in development is security of investment. I wish to direct the attention of the House to the security of a sort of investment different from that to which the Minister referred - that of a people who have 12,000 years of investment in the Northern Territory, who live on the Gove. Peninsula, who were the subject of a select committee of this House a couple of years ago, whose land is under consideration in connection with bauxite development and who will benefit from part of the trust fund which is referred to in clause 13 of this Bill. I shall direct my attention, the attention of the House and, I hope, the attention of the Minister to the significance of this trust fund. In the last few weeks, since the Minister made his announcement in this House about the granting of mining leases in the Northern Territory and particularly on the Gove
Peninsula, and about the trust fund, a good deal of congratulation has been offered to the authorities. People have said: “Isn’t this wonderful? Look at what these Aboriginal people are receiving.” I believe that we should also look at what the happy players or the lucky investors are receiving in the form of the opportunity to develop our bauxite deposits.
Let us look at this trust fund which is the subject of a new definition in the Bill before us and into which will be paid the royalties charged on bauxite extracted from these deposits. In the first instance, who will administer the fund? The Minister will administer it. It will be a very important fund, although it will be meagre in the present circumstances. Therefore, the administration of the fund ought to be considered. I am sure that honorable members would hope - or demand, if possible - that there will be no reduction of the amount of money spent on Aboriginal welfare in the Northern Territory because of the money that is received from the trust fund. It is likely that under the terms that have been announced a royalty of about ls. a ton will be charged on the bauxite that is extracted. The agreement provides that by 1971 the company will establish a plant that will produce about 500,000 tons of alumina. That means that between 1,000,000 and 1,200,000 tons of bauxite will be extracted. At the rate of ls. a ton, the royalty revenue would be between £50,000 and £60,000 a year. That is a miserable amount. The royalty payment is inadequate, as I will demonstrate by giving an example from Jamaica.
But the money in this miserable fund will not be applied exclusively for the benefit of the people who we might say are the rightful owners of or heirs to these bauxite deposits. Admittedly, in the Northern Territory and elsewhere the people who live on the land are not the owners of the mineral deposits. However, there is a special case in respect of the people of Arnhem Land and particularly of the Gove Peninsula. At Yirrkala about 500 people still live in pretty miserable circumstances, although for the last 30 years the mission there has done a first class job. I believe that it would cost the best part of £1 million just to rehouse those people adequately. To develop a town of ordinary Australian standards would probably cost a couple of million pounds, or almost 40 years’ royalties. But the money in this fund will not be spent exclusively on these people. It will be spread over the whole of the Northern Territory, in which there are 17,000 or 18,000 Aborigines. So let people disabuse their minds of the idea that this trust fund will bring a new look in the administration of Aborigines in the Northern Territory. The responsibility will still lie with us.
What about the royalty itself and the basis on which this trust fund will be established? This is an important point. There are these bauxite deposits in the Northern Territory. It is important that the people of the Territory have more say in the way the Territory is developed. It is absolutely essential that the member for the Northern Territory have a full voice in this House. The world’s known deposits of bauxite amount to about 10,000 million tons, and about 3,000 million tons, or 30 per cent., of them are in Australia. We are busy alienating the whole of our deposits. That is a fundamental error in national development. I .believe that it would be better to develop our deposits one at a time; to develop one and retain the others in reserve. We do not want this generation to be known as the pillaging generation.
We are faced with a contest involving the whole world. The merchant adventurers of centuries ago were just pale pink compared with the mineral companies in the world today. The Northern Territory is a hunting ground for the world’s mineral companies. Australian companies are running a bad second. They are not even participating in the development of the Gove Peninsula bauxite deposits with any certainty. They have to be guaranteed a 7i per cent, return on their capital investment; otherwise they will not participate in the development. One of the companies concerned is Swiss Aluminium Ltd. As far as we can tell, its motives are good. I have heard that it has given an undertaking that it will do the best it can for the Aboriginal people. But it is only one of the companies in the field. The others include the Pechiney Company of France, the British Aluminium Co. Ltd. and the Reynolds Metals Company of the United States of America. Australia, and particularly the Northern Territory, has become a battleground for the mineral companies of the world. It is our job to see that the future of this country and of its people is protected.
This is my first point. The trust fund is meagre in the extreme. The royalties are miserable in the extreme. It would appear that the trust fund will receive nothing until about 1971. I point out to honorable members that Jamaica, which exports a lot of bauxite to the United States, charges a royalty of 3s 6d. sterling a ton on its bauxite. At the moment we are charging ls. Australian a ton. The Jamaicans have a sliding scale. Once the quantity extracted is more than one million tons the rate of royalty is a little less. If the bauxite is processed inside Jamaica the royalty is 2s. 6d. sterling a ton. Neither Australia nor this Government ought to undersell itself.
Let use examine who will contribute to this trust fund. At the moment the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. is mining on Aboriginal reserves in the Northern Territory. The new company - Nabalco Pty. Ltd. - consists of a number of Australian giants. There is the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd., which has a paid-up capital of £24 million. In 1957 its fixed assets were £23 million; now they are £72 million. Sir James Vernon has done much better with that company than he has with the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). It would be interesting to add up the assets of the companies involved in these projects. The Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. has a paid-up capital of £113 million and assets of £265 million. Mount Isa Mines Ltd. has a paid-up capital of £22 million and assets of £42 million. These companies are rich enough to be able to rebuild the areas where Aborigines live. Mount Isa Mines Ltd. issued a three shares for two shares bonus in 1963-64. Elder Smith Goldsborough Mort Ltd., of which a former Minister for Defence, Sir Philip McBride, is Chairman, has fixed assets of £13 million which are backed up at a rate of 25s. for every 10s. share. The Bank of New South Wales Ltd-
– Order! I think the remarks of the honorable member for Wills are a little wide of the provisions of the Bill before the House.
– Clause 13 of the Bill confers a title upon a trust fund which is to be established from the royalties paid on bauxite mined by those companies. I am pointing out to the House that I think the companies are capable of paying more substantial royalties because they are some of the wealthiest companies in Australia. They are some of the giants of Australian industry and we do not want to see them shortsell the people of Australia in their ownership of the bauxite or the people of Arnhem Land who are to benefit from the trust fund. I believe that this trust fund is a very significant aspect of the Bill. Honorable members will find these companies mentioned on page 925 of “ Hansard “ in the report of the second reading speech of the Minister on 15th September 1965. Honorable members will find that the Mutual Life and Citizen’s Assurance Co. Ltd. and the Australian Mutual Provident Society are mentioned. All the people who arc shareholders in those companies should be concerned with what is going on.
Now, I want to refer to the other aspects of this Bill. The functions of this Parliament are not applied to the development of the Northern Territory. I support completely the amendment moved by my colleague the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). This Parliament has to establish its authority and its responsibility in the Northern Territory. It can do so only by having a full examination of this matter made by a joint committee of this Parliament. As the honorable member for Lalor has pointed out, this is the one way in which we can get the whole Parliament committed. In the history of select committees and standing committees of this Parliament, there has not been absolute or continual unanimity, but the way in which members on both sides of both Houses and of all parties arrive at substantially the same conclusions when faced with a national problem has been quite remarkable. I believe that the Minister for Territories could take some of the burden of decision off his own mind and remove this matter from departmental consideration. To place it in the hands of this Parliament would be doing the right thing.
I am concerned with the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory itself. It has inadequate power, I believe, despite the questions which have been raised by honorable members opposite of financial capacity and so on. No local government body in this country has completely sovereign powers as far as government money is concerned. They all receive grants-in-aid whether they be the giants such as the Melbourne City Council and the Sydney City Council or a local municipality which receives its grant from either a State Government or the Federal Government for libraries, baby health centres, roads and so on. No municipal government in this country has complete financial sovereignty. I believe that the argument is invalid to that extent and that, therefore, the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory should be clothed with more adequate powers. I believe also that this Legislative Council is the only Legislative Council which is based upon a democratic franchise. Victoria has adult franchise but unequal electorates. Most of the other States have either restricted franchise or non-existent franchise as in New South Wales. I direct the attention of members of this House to that section of the Act which excludes public servants from serving on the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. As the honorable member for Lalor has pointed out, the allowances for the members of the Northern Territory Legislative Council are completely inadequate. I know that, in connection with the forthcoming election in the Northern Territory, one Aboriginal leader has been excluded from standing as a candidate because he is a public servant. We should turn our attention to these matters before the next election for the Legislative Council is held. We should certainly call upon the resources of this Parliament to examine the whole question and support the amendment moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. I believe that the problem of the future of the north will be resolved only when we apply to it parliamentary attitudes based more upon the security and advancement of the people there and less upon the attitude of the materialists and the Department which the Minister so continually brings to this House.
.- First, I wish to deal with the amendment proposed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) that a select committee be appointed to examine factors relating to the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. The appointment of a select committee is usually considered when the House is unfamiliar with the circumstances of the matter before it. In this debate this afternoon and in many other debates which have related to the Northern Territory, honorable members have indicated that they have travelled extensively and observed the situation in the Northern Territory. It is pleasing that this has happened because it is important that members from both Houses of this Parliament should travel as much as possible in the Territories of the Commonwealth in order to familiarise themselves with the situation in them. I point out also that there are two statutory committees of this Parliament which regularly visit the Northern Territory. Members of those committees have a considerable knowledge of operations in the Northern Territory, as the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon) indicated today. Therefore, in my view, the circumstances do not warrant the appointment of a select committee. The Government will not accept the amendment moved by the honorable member.
I should now like to deal with some of the matters brought up by honorable members in this debate. The honorable member for the Northern Territory mentioned that the Legislative Council was not asking for full powers of statehood for the Territory. This is perfectly true. I think the honorable member seemed to imply that the Commonwealth was not interested in the promotion and gradual development of the Northern Territory towards statehood. This is incorrect. As the honorable member for Gippsland indicated, great progress has been made in granting local powers to the Legislative Council. This is a progressing factor. In fact, the Legislative Council has practically the powers of a State parliament now. It has powers to make laws relating to all matters which concern it locally. These include land, agriculture, animal industry and all those sorts of things. The only power lacking, of course, relates to its Budget. The Legislative Council is not responsible for its own Budget. I think honorable members need to appreciate the fact that, as the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) mentioned, we have . a great responsibility in the development of the Northern Territory. The honorable member indicated that this was not an easy place to find the answers to progressive development. This is a hard factor in the north. Continuing massive Commonwealth financial aid is required to find the answers to this problem.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) quite rightly pointed out the unfortunate losses that occurred at Humpty Doo where people engaged in rice growing without knowing the local circumstances. I believe that we have to go steadily in our actions. The reason why the north has not been developed is simply that we have not found all the answers yet. But we are making great progress in finding the answers. Australia has a great record in overcoming difficulties. We started in the south with great difficulties and we have extended to the north in a gradual progressive movement which has brought development to various areas. I believe that the suggestion made in articles by people - not in this Parliament, but outside - that the north is being neglected is a reflection on the early pioneers who went there. It is suggested that they missed out on their opportunities. But even those very experienced men were not able to adapt to the circumstances of the Northern Territory.
Thanks to science, we are finding the answers, and great progress is being made in pasture development and mining development. In my view, with which, I think, the honorable member for the Northern Territory might agree, in the top end, heavy rainfall area which the honorable member for Lalor mentioned, we shall fatten pretty well all of the cattle in the Northern Territory in a few years and provide great prosperity, simply because of the findings of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation at Katherine. This is very heartening. I think that honorable members who have been in this area will admit that in its natural state it is probably some of the poorest country that one would get anywhere, running about two beasts to the square mile. On the experimental farm, the Administration is running about a beast to five acres. This is a remarkable reflection of what can be done. What is most important is that local graziers and farmers have been attracted by the findings of the experiments there lately. They are embarking on pasture improvement and will be able to carry and fatten greater numbers of cattle and keep them during the presently unproductive dry portion of the seasons of the Northern Territory.
We are fast finding the answers but, in the meantime, massive government assistance is required in this direction. These figures will give some idea of the increase in government financial assistance: Expenditure has risen from £900,000 in 1946-47 to £22.8 million this year. This is a tremendous advance in our assistance for the Northern Territory. Local revenue in that time has risen only from £148,000 to £3.05 million, so there is still a very considerable gap. Honorable members must remember that it is the Australian taxpayer who is providing the massive proportion of this money. It is not being raised locally. Undoubtedly, in view of the pace at which the Northern Territory is going, the amount raised locally will increase. The spectacular mining development has been alluded to today. The Gove enterprise, to which the Government agreed recently, will mean an investment of £50 million and bring a great industry to an area which previously had no possible hope for development, pastoral or otherwise.
At Groote Eylandt the operations of the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. on manganese deposits are progressing. This brings a very valuable industry to an area which from the point of view of pastoral or agricultural development is hopeless. Prospects exist in the McArthur River area. As honorable members will have read recently in the press, if hopes are realised we shall have mineral development there in a very remote area which at prsent provides a livelihood for only a few people. There will be a town probably of the size of Mount Isa or Broken Hill, with a railway line and port, which after all will bring great opportunities to the local people in a very remote area. In the meantime, private industry has been attracted to the Northern Territory. The Shell Company of Australia Ltd. has started a bitumen works worth £500,000 which will supply the material for sealing the roads of the Territory. This sort of thing is snowballing. I mentioned earlier the great cattle production. Although this will be a great industry it will not bring the population that we hope for in the Territory. We need mineral development and in the meantime we must give tremendous financial support to the Territory.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory mentioned local government. The Government believes that first the Territory should progress to the development of local authorities. I believe that this is the proper approach because, after all, we have a strange situation there which I think most Australians do not appreciate. As has been mentioned here today, in an area of 523,000 square miles, which is larger than the combined areas of the States of New South Wales and Victoria, there is a population of only 50,000 people, and two-thirds of those people live in Darwin and Alice Springs.
– That applies to the States.
– We must remember the area. 1 have given the House particulars of the amount spent in the Northern Territory. After all, there are only 16,000 electors in the whole area. Do honorable members think it reasonable that the rest of the taxpayers should provide these funds and not have some say in how the money is to be spent? Undoubtedly the Northern Territory will eventually attain statehood. It is going very fast in that direction. But the important thing is that we must provide the people with local government in the sense that I mentioned earlier. The Territory has power to legislate on all state-type matters. The only thing missing is a local budget. The vast proportion of the amount spent in the Northern Territory is earned in other parts of Australia.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory and the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) mentioned the Aborigines Benefits Trust Fund. I think both gentlemen indicated that they hoped that royalties would, be greater. At present the royalty is ls. a ton. We have not finalised negotiations with Nabalco Pty. Ltd. on royalties, but I want to answer the suggestion that this money should be spent locally in the Gove Peninsula area. It is completely contrary to the policies that we have in Australia that money should be spent only where it is earned. What on earth would happen to the remote parts of Australia if we as a Government adopted that policy? It is suggested that we spend the money from this trust fund in the Gove area. What about the people living on the Hooker Creek aboriginal reserve? This is a completely ridiculous idea. I might add that the Administrator of the Northern Territory visited Yirrkala the other day, when this matter was brought up by the local Aborigines. He explained this very point and the people saw the reasons why it could not be done. lt has been suggested that instead of nonofficial members there should be elected members in the Legislative Council. Difficulties arise as soon as we start to increase the number of members in the Council. I have mentioned the sparse population of the Northern Territory. Let me read the figures applicable to some electorates. I think it is important that honorable members should know the position. These are the eight electorates which return members to the Legislative Council, and the number of electors in each: Alice Springs, 2,345; Arnhem, 1,808; Barkly, 818; Elsey, 1,596; Fannie Bay, 2,524; Nightcliff, 2,579; Port Darwin, 2,620; Stuart, 1,194. The total number of electors in these electorates is 15,484. If, as has been suggested, we start by increasing the elected members from 8 to 18, what sort of electorates will we have? We will be giving more and more representation to the areas in which the greatest number of electors reside, namely, Alice Springs and Darwin. What about all the vast areas about which honorable members are so concerned?
In this transitional period I believe it is very important that we should have nonofficial members. The Governor-General appoints as non-official members men of standing in the area, representative of important industries in the area, who can go into the Legislative Council chamber and give a completely independent view on matters that come before the Council. They are not beholden to electors and they do not have to travel to remote areas, but they are responsible men with completely independent views. I think honorable members who have followed the proceedings of the Legislative Council will agree that these members have been completely independent in thenviews and that they have given excellent service to the Territory as members of the Legislative Council.
A suggestion was made that we should have a separate Public Service in the Territory. The situation in this regard is extremely difficult. There was at one time a separate Public Service in the Northern Territory, but on the advice of the PayneFletcher Committee the situation was changed and from that time onwards the administrative work was carried out by Commonwealth public servants. Obviously the Committee bad a very good reason for giving this advice.
At this stage I must comment on the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), who made some most unfortunate reflections on the public servants in the Northern Territory, although I admit that he later retracted to some extent. I would like to express my praise for the very devoted people we have up there, working in most difficult circumstances and commanding the respect of the local people. I do believe that before, we could have a State-type government, a fully responsible government in the Northern Territory, it would be necessary to establish a separate Public Service. It has been suggested that we might take certain sections of government and provide for local executive ministerial responsibility for those sections. With the present setup there would then be the difficulty of a public servant owing allegiance, to a Commonwealth Minister and being in an unfortunate position if he also had to support another Minister in the Northern Territory.
I think that practically covers what 1 wanted to say, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There was one other point I wished to make. I want to indicate the massive support given by the Commonwealth to the Northern Territory. The subvention of the Commonwealth for the Northern Territory per capita amounts to £365 per annum. This is the difference between local revenue and the expenditure required to administer the Northern Territory. This compares with the amount of £99.8 per head in Commonwealth grants spent on Western Australia, which is the largest of the claimant States. There is a tremendous difference and I simply remind honorable members of this position because some of them obviously have not given consideration to it. I support the Bill, Mr. Speaker, and I oppose the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Nelson’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clauses 1 to 6 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed new clause 6a.
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill- “ 6a. Section 4ka of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from paragraph (c) of sub-section (3.) the word ‘ Administrator ‘ and inserting in its stead the words ‘Legislative Council’.”.
This amendment becomes necessary because of the withdrawal of the Administrator from the Legislative Council by virtue of the passage of this Bill. I think the amendment was overlooked by the Department of Territories. I understand that the Government is prepared to accept the amendment and I will not argue the case for it.
– The Government accepts the amendment.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Barnes) - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Consideration resumed from 12th October (vide page 1710).
Clauses 1 to 6 - by leave - taken together.
.- I direct the attention of the Committee and of the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. Hasluck) to proposed new section 10a (2.) concerning the business of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. It states -
The Corporation has power to do (whether in Australia or elsewhere) all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connexion with, or as incidental to, the carrying on of its business and, in particular, power -
to acquire, hold and dispose of land, goods or other property;
to make contracts:
to appoint agents and attorneys;
to institute and defend legal proceedings;
to advertise its services; and
to obtain and pay for information necessary for its business.
This particular provision appears in the principal Act as, I think, section 15. However, the Bill inserts the provision after section 10. The point I make is that by this provision power is to be vested in the Corporation to acquire land, apparently without limit, without the consent or approval of the Minister for Trade and Industry, provided, of course, that the Corporation requires the land for its business. If I am wrong, well and good, but it appears to me that there is no qualification of the power of the Corporation to do this and I think the attention of the Committee should be directed to this provision in the principal Act. In many other provisions of the Bill there is specific limitation on the powers of the Minister. Regarding the extent and type of insurance in which the Corporation may indulge it is directly stated in the legislation that the consent of the Minister is required.
It is true that the Corporation, as it grows, will probably find it necessary to purchase land - this should be with the approval of the Minister - and, no doubt, to erect buildings. I hope that it will become necessary for the Corporation to require land and buildings. It is a bad policy to lease buildings in which to carry on business. To acquire ownership of a property, by purchase, is a very good method of investing money, if the Corporation has reserve funds to invest at some time or another. I should like to see this insurance business develop into ah insurance organisation that in due course, either under this Government or some other government, will undertake insurance of all types. All I seek now is information from the Minister as to whether my interpretation is correct that the Corporation can, without the consent of the Minister, purchase land and other property - “ acquire “ land is the expression used in the Bill.
I point out that as a Parliament we should be very guarded in giving power to an instrumentality to acquire people’s land. After all, the Corporation is one man. My interpretation of the Act is that the Commissioner is the Corporation. It is true that he has a consultative council of 10 or 12 people to advise him, but he is not required to obtain the consent of the council, although he may consult it on any matter affecting the Corporation, to purchase land.
There is no specific requirement that if he wants to buy land he needs the Minister’s consent. I should like the Minister to explain whether my interpretation is correct.
– The present Act relates only to export insurance. The Bill proposes to expand the Act so that it relates also to investment insurance. As a consequence of those amendments it is necessary to transpose from one part of the Act to another part of the Act a section which will have relevance both to the activities of the Corporation in respect of export insurance and the activities of the Corporation in respect of investment insurance. Hence provisions which previously were in section 15 of the Act are now being brought forward and incorporated in a part of the Act which will apply to all the activities of the Corporation.
I come now to the second point which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) mentioned. He paid particular attention to the power that is given to the Corporation to acquire, hold and dispose of land, goods or other property. I point out, first of all, that this power to acquire land is certainly not compulsory acquisition. It is acquisition in the normal way by which any person acquires land with the consent of the purchaser. It is not a power of compulsory acquisition, but a power of acquisition. Then this power to acquire, hold or dispose of land is limited by the words that go before it. The whole of the present section of the Act, which is the same as the proposed section 10a in the Bill, provides that the Corporation has power to do all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connection with, or as incidental to, the carrying on of its business and, in particular, power - among other powers - to acquire land, etc. So the Corporation can acquire land not in an absolute sense but only in order to do the things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connection with the carrying on of its business. It cannot acquire land in an absolute sense. It can only acquire land, hold land or dispose of land as is necessary for the carrying on of its functions and the discharging of its functions as a Corporation.
I assure the honorable member that this is not a general’ power to engage in land dealing or land holding. It is a power to discharge certain functions, and if the discharge of those functions of insurance requires it to hold land it can hold land. But if its functions as an insurance corporation do not require it to hold land it cannot hold land.
.- I cannot accept the Minister’s explanation. I am not a lawyer, but I read that the Corporation - has power to do (whether in Australia or elsewhere) all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connexion with, or as incidental to, the carrying on of its business and, in particular, power - (a) to acquire, hold and dispose of land, . . .
I suggest that, in the absence of a qualification, “to acquire” is a point blank power. I suggest, too, that in the carrying on of an insurance business there is no recognised insurance company of any standing in this country or anywhere else that does not make it its business, as an adjunct to the carrying on of its business, to acquire property on which to build its offices. This is very sound business. I am not suggesting that power to acquire land, buildings or anything else as an adjunct, as the Minister calls it, to business is not necessary. All I am suggesting is that this power ought to be limited to a survey by or the consent of the Minister.
I think it is an exaggeration for the Minister to say that this does not involve a compulsory acquisition. If I say to the Minister: “ I authorise you to acquire on my behalf a parcel of land,” I suggest he is entitled to enter into an arrangement with someone to buy the land outright by common consent and common agreement. But if, as a representative of the crown or as the controller of a semi-governmental instrumentality I authorise the Minister to acquire land, he naturally would have resort to the compulsory powers vested in the Government by the Constitution. If he did not, I would not think much of him as a Minister.
– There can be no compulsory acquisition without the approval of the Minister. It would have to go before the Executive Council.
– It does not say so in the Bill. Where in the legislation is that indicated?
– The honorable member knows from his own experience that there is no acquisition of land except by the recommendation of a Minister to the Executive Council.
– In what act does that appear?
– I cannot quote the act but that is the custom.
– The Minister is very experienced and I ask him in what act does it appear that no Minister-
– Is the honorable member doubting him?
– The Minister is causing me to doubt when he cannot refer to the act which vests in the Minister the right of veto on the compulsory acquisition of land. Which act of Parliament, piloted through this place by the Minister, gives the Corporation the power to acquire land? The Minister cannot tell me. Perhaps I can help the Minister. It may be in the Acts Interpretation Act.
– I think, subject to correction, that it is in the Lands Acquisition Act. My colleague, the. Minister for the Interior, who administers that Act tells me that it is.
– The Committee is entitled to know where the authority lies. Where is it set out that the Corporation, which is given a blanket power by this Bill to acquire land, cannot acquire land compulsorily?
– It can only acquire for the purposes of this Act, and it can only acquire in accordance with the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act and the Constitution.
– For the purposes of this measure I think the Minister will agree that a decent insurance company - we all hope that this will be a decent insurance company - will acquire land instead of paying rent and whittling away its funds and reserves. It will acquire land and erect a stately building which it will sublet and bring in revenue for the people of Australia. That is unexceptionable. It is the right thing for an insurance corporation to do. All I am trying to do is to protect people from, perhaps, suffering the indignity of some instrumentality vested with power by the Government acquiring their land without the consent of the Minister. I want some proof before I withdraw my contention that this can be done.
– My difficulty is of a different kind from that of my colleague. What intrigues me about clause 6 is that it is, in effect, in two parts. The second part of clause 6 is identical with existing section 15 of the Act. Turning to clause 12, we see that it will repeal section 15 of the principal Act. I can understand the reason for proposed new section 10a, sub-section (1.), but what was the necessity to include in proposed subsection (2.) what is already incorporated in the Act in section 15 and then separately repeal section 15? I cannot see that words contained in clause 6, which are already contained in existing section 15, have any more or any less force because they are combined in proposed new section 10a, subsection (1.). I do not think the Minister has given any explanation of that. This seems to me to be a very confusing device to adopt.
While my colleague was reading from the Bill I carefully checked the words in existing section 15 and I repeat the point for the benefit of honorable members that every word that is now in section 15, which will remain the law if the Bill before us is not carried, is now to be re-enacted in proproposed section 10a, sub-section (2.), and the existing section 15 is to be repealed. What is the reason for that rigmarole? Why not leave section 15 as it stands? I think the House is entitled to an explanation. I am not debating at the moment the kind of issues that have been raised by my colleague because they are implicit in some of the things I want to say when the next clause is being dealt with. But I find great difficulty in understanding why the Government wishes to re-enact a provision identical with that in the existing statute as part of a new section, and then separately excludes the provision that it now proposes to re-enact. I want only a simple explanation. There seems to be no relationship whatever between this provision and proposed new section 10a, sub-section (1.). I cannot see that the words have any more or any less meaning because they will be in a different section of the new Act. I should like the Minister to throw at least a little light on this problem.
– I repeat that when the Corporation had the single activity of export payments insurance the provisions of section 15 applied to that .activity. If this Bill is passed and becomes law the Corporation will perform functions in respect of both export payments insurance and investment insurance. The transposing of these provisions in an identical form to another part of the Bill-
– Word for word.
– Word for word. This has been done so that these provisions will apply to the activities of the Corporation in respect of both export payments insurance and investment insurance. That is the only purpose in moving them from one part of the Act to another. Having moved them from former section 15 to new section 10a., one then repeals section 15 so that there will not be any repetition.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 7 (Relations of Corporation with Minister).
– This, again, is a peculiar clause. I hope that when these amendments are passed something will be done to consolidate the Act. We are in some difficulty at the moment in having to read the terms of the existing Export- Payments Insurance Corporation Act 1956-61 in conjunction with Act No. 104 of 1964. Clause 7, with which we are now dealing, seeks to amend section 11 of the original Act. Section 11 of the original Act has been amended’ by section 6 of Act No. 104 of 1964. I can well see the difficulty that it was thought would be overcome by the amendment of section 6 of Act No. 104 of 1964, Clause 7 of the Bill arises out of this kind of ambivalence which, perhaps, occurred because the Government set up the Corporation originally in the form of a statutory corporation - something distinct from the usual departmental organisation. The Government thought that it had carefully provided in section 1 1 that the Minister could not tell the Corporation what to do; in other words, that the Corporation was independent to a degree. I think that is borne out by the -wording of sub-section (4.) of the original section 11, which states -
Nothing in this section shall be construed as requiring the approval of the Minister to the enter ing by the Corporation into a particular contract of insurance, or as empowering the Minister to determine that the Corporation shall or shall not enter into a particular contract of insurance. . . .
In other words, the Government was trying to make sure that it would be unnecessary for an individual contract to have the sanction of the Minister, and thought that to be the purity of the difference between departmental control and this odd form of statutory corporation.
In 1964 the Government introduced a new type of insurance called national interest insurance, and it was then found that some types of policy had to be vetted by the Minister. A further step is now to be taken and a new form of insurance called investment insurance is to be introduced. In this instance the Minister virtually has to vet every case. Last night the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) referred to what seems to me to be a laughable feature of the legislation. Initially two or three firms, at most, are likely to require investment insurance, but the Government will go through all the rigmarole of a notification in the “ Gazette “ that a certain consent is to be given, without stating the name of the firm concerned. I am sure that most people who are aware of the nature of the interest involved will know the name of the firm. I differ from the honorable member for Mackellar only to the extent of saying, that the procedure is a rigmarole. If General-Motors Holden’s Pty. Ltd., or. another company, engages in something that ultimately necessitates ministerial control, and a notification is to be made in the “ Gazette “ indicating the nature of the contract but not the name of the company, that seems to me to be mumbo jumbo, to say the least of it. I believe that in the long run these things are better done by normal departmental control, with proper ministerial authority, than in the name of a separate independent statutory corporation.
At this stage I simply point out the nature of the difficulty the Government has got itself involved in by introducing new branches of insurance activity in this corporate form and providing that ultimately the Minister will have some say on whether policies of a certain type are undertaken. Probably the difficulty would have been seen more clearly if Act No.’ 104 of 1964 had been consolidated with the original Act and the whole of section 1 1 had been drawn together. Then it would have been clear that whilst the Government had tried in the original section 11 to show that in respect of individual policies the Corporation was supreme over the Minister, in respect of national insurance it was necessary to breach that provision. With the introduction of investment insurance, that provision is breached even more openly.
What sort of animal is the Corporation? It is rather a hotchpotch when nobody knows how independent is the Corporation and how significant is the control of the Minister in respect of some aspects of insurance. It would be a more honest device to have brought the provision we are now discussing into the new Act,’ altogether independent of the Corporation. The machinery of the Corporation could have been used, but the hocus pocus of suggesting that the power lies with the Corporation rather than with the Minister could have been avoided. I think the intention is clear. I have no objection to the power lying with the Minister but, as the Bill reads now, it is a very peculiar administrative arrangement. The so-called independent Corporation is no longer independent.
National interest insurance has hardly got off the ground to date. As I remember the last annual report of the Corporation, only one national interest policy had been concluded, although three were pending. The policies are small in number, but not necessarily small in significance. It will also be quite a while before investment insurance begins to get off the ground.
That is why I believe that some of the clauses we are discussing will act as a subterfuge, rather than as reality. Although almost everybody will be aware of the name of the company in respect of which notification is given in the “ Gazette “ - it will be almost a unique case - the Government will not publish the name. That practice seems to me to be humbug and we will discuss it further when we come to discuss the new section 16H.
.- Clause 7 of the Bill can rightly and strictly be called a procedural clause. Under the existing Act the only insurance provided for is the insurance of export payments. The business is conducted by the Corporation, subject only to the direction of the Minister in respect of the general policy which the Corporation is to follow. The Act is to be expanded, by the proposals in this Bill, to cover investment insurance. In respect of investment insurance, as distinct from export payments insurance, each insurance contract will require the approval of the Minister. The provision which previously stated that the Corporation had to seek the approval of the Minister before adopting policies is not relevant to the new form of insurance - investment insurance. There is no need for the Minister to give the Corporation direction on general policy, because the Minister approves each insurance contract. That is the only reason why in this procedural amendment the present provisions of the Act, which are quite proper for export payments insurance, are excluded from applying to the new investment insurance.
– But it breaches the idea of an independent corporation.
– It does so for reasons which become clear under later clauses of the Bill and are not in issue in this clause. It does so because in the application of investment insurance the national interest is being directly served, according to the judgment of the Minister, speaking on behalf of the Government of the day, as to what is the national interest in respect of overseas investment. Two distinct and separate types of insurance are involved. I suppose if one were to follow a completely logical course it would be necessary to have two entirely separate instrumentalities engaged in two separate types of activity; but because the Export Payments Insurance Corporation is already in existence it is a matter of convenience, economy and efficiency that it should act as the agent of the Government in carrying out national policy in respect of investment insurance.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 14 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
After Division 2 of Part II of the Principal Act the following Division is inserted: - “ Division 2a.- Overseas Investment Insurance. “16c……. “ 16e. Where a person carrying on businessin Australia has, on or after the first day of January,
One thousand nine hundred and sixty-five, and before the commencement of this Act, entered upon, or, after the commencement of this Act, proposes to enter upon, an overseas investment transaction, he may, by application in writing made to the Corporation in such form and containing such particulars as the Corporation directs, request the Corporation to enter into a contract of insurance insuring him against monetary loss or other monetary detriment in respect of the transaction, being loss or detriment resulting from such approved cause of loss as is, or such approved causes of loss as are, specified in the application.
.- I have a small drafting amendment to make to the proposed new section 16e.
Proposed section 16e. provides -
Where a person carrying on business in Australia has, on or after the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-five, and before the commencement of this Act, entered upon, or, after the commencement of this Act . . .
We want to replace the word “Act” with the word “ Division “, because strictly speaking this provision does not apply to the whole Act; it applies to proposed Division 2a. Accordingly, I move -
In proposed section 16e., omit “Act” (twice occurring), insert “Division”.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– The question now is: “That clause 15, as amended, be agreed to”.
.- I refer to proposed section 16j., which provides -
The Minister shall not approve the entering into by -the Corporation of a contract of insurance under this Division under which a person is insured -
in respect of risks that are normally insured with commercial insurers or, in the opinion of the Minister, are normal commercial risks;
It is quite apparent to me that the type, of insurance referred to is investment insurance. At the present time there are private insurance companies which undertake investment insurance, but obviously some people seek investment insurance which no private insurance company would undertake. That being so, the Commonwealth, in order to facilitate export trade, is indicating that, although some forms of insurance are not profitable or safe enough for an outside private insurance company, the Export Payments Insurance Corporation is to be vested with authority to risk the loss of the people’s money by undertaking them. Certainly part of the loss would be offset by premium money, which would be paid in any case. But in addition, there will be a risk of the loss of portion of the investment capital which the Commonwealth has put at the disposal of the Corporation.
How will the Minister determine what is a risk that no private insurance company will undertake? Will the Corporation be required to canvass all the private insurance companies to ascertain whether they would like a bite at the cherry and, having ascertained that they do not want to undertake the business, be required to undertake the risk itself? No doubt the Commissioner would have a fairly accurate knowledge as to whether insurance company A or insurance company B would be likely to accept the business and would advise the Minister accordingly. Under the terms of the legislation, the Minister would be required to make a decision.
In these circumstances, surely the Corporation ought to be entitled to take on any ordinary, profitable business as well. If it is good enough for the Commonwealth to invest up to £2 million as working capital with the Corporation, surely it is good enough for the Corporation to have access to any profitable business that is now carried on by the private insurance companies. If ever there was a racket in the world, it is insurance. Like water, insurance ought to be managed by public authorities in the interests of the public. When the Bill was introduced I outlined my views on this sort of thing. The Commonwealth does not insure one penny piece worth of the vast amount of property that it owns. Its risk is spread over so many items of property that it would not be worthwhile for it to insure that property. It is better for the Commonwealth to carry the risk. In the case of fire and marine insurance - I exclude life insurance - the Commonwealth ought to be progressive enough, as it was in 1910 or 1911 when it established the Commonwealth Bank, to invite people to place their business with a government instrumentality which would deal fairly with them and make profits that would be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
I leave the matter there. I have uttered those few words mainly to indicate to the people of this country that this Government is prepared to accept the risky business that private enterprise will not touch but that it is not willing to take on profitable business. If it undertook profitable business, costs to industry and the people generally would be reduced and ultimately we would have a great instrumentality, owned by the people, working in the interests of the people and lightening the burden that now rests on their back as a result of the activities of the private insurance companies.
– 1 shall not weary the Committee by repeating what I said at the second reading stage. I should think it would be an improvement if the excellent sentiments that were expressed on pages seven and eight of the roneoed copies of the Minister’s second reading speech were incorporated in this clause. I should think that it would be a good thing also if the individual contracts were named. In view of the fact that the Government proposes to accept an amendment of clause 17, the modifications that’ I have in mind are not now of such great importance. Nevertheless, the Government would do well if, without entering into any commitment now, it were to consider whether they could be given effect when the Bill is before the Senate.
Although the modifications 1 have in mind would be an improvement, because of the amendment to clause 17 which the Government is prepared to accept they are now of less importance - -perhapse even of minor importance. I do not intend to press them now because the amendment to clause 17 to which I have referred seems to me to provide the majority of the necessary safeguards. I ask the Minister to consider having these modifications made when the Bill is in another place.
.- I am sure we are relieved at the fact that we do not have to decide whether to support the amendment that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has in mind. I draw attention to proposed section 1 6f. and the nature of the decision that will have to be made by the Minister. The proposed section reads - (1.) Subject to the next succeeding subsection, where the Corporation receives an application . . .
In other words, an application must still be submitted to the Corporation, but if it is of. a certain kind it will have to be referred to the Minister for consideration. It is he who ultimately will have to decide whether the contract in question will or will not be accepted. I subscribe to the view expressed by the honorable member for Mackellar that there is some difference between the wording of the Minister’s second reading speech and the provision which sets out the grounds on which the Minister is supposed to accept certain applications. Those grounds are set out in sub-section (3.) (b) of proposed section 16f. When the Minister made his second reading speech he said that two principles were involved. Referring to the insurance of an investment he said - we will need to be satisfied that it will bring to Australia either current or potential export benefits.
That objective may vaguely be encompassed in sub-section (3.) (b) of proposed section 16f, but the second principle definitely is not. The Minister said -
The second principle we intend to apply is that there must be direct participation by the Australian investor in the overseas enterprise.
There is no specific mention of that in the Bill in relation to the conditions that the Minister must observe. The first is that- it must be in the national interest that the Corporation should enter into the contract of insurance of the kind referred to in the application, but nowhere is it said that it is intended to be made obligatory for Australia to participate in overseas investment. Perhaps the Minister will show us how this objective is, in fact, to be attained.
I should also like specifically to direct attention to the wording of proposed new section 16h to which I referred when discussing clause 7. Proposed new section 16h(2.) provides -
Where a contract of insurance is entered into in accordance with the approval under this division, the Minister shall notify the fact in the “ Gazette “ (without reference to the names of the parties to the overseas investment transaction to which the contract relates), together with particulars of the nature and extent of the liability under the contract.
It is my opinion, rightly or wrongly, that in. view of the nature and extent of the liability under the contract, and because relatively few contracts will be involved, we might for all practical purposes include the names of the people concerned. I cannot see any valid reason why resort should be made to this sort of subterfuge. I can understand, in relation to some Acts which deal with thousands of cases - such as births, deaths and statistics generally - that certain people might not like the details of their business to be divulged, but I am sure that in this case the number of people involved be relatively so few that everybody who matters will know who the persons are. Whether or not the information is made available to the public at large, this provision seems to me to be a narrow sort of refuge. I simply say again that it seems to me to be a rigmarole rather than a very practical device. 1 should also like the Minister to explain, if he will, for the information of the Committee, how the two principles that the Minister for Trade and Industry adumbrated when he introduced this Bill are being carried out in the terms of this clause.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) seemed to me to be putting forward a proposition that is really foreign to this Bill. He put forward the proposition that the Government, or the Corporation which has been created by statute, should engage in general insurance business. That is a thesis which may be held by some members of the Opposition - that there should be nationalised insurance - but it is not a view that is held by this Government. In introducing the Act originally in 1956, and in introducing the amendment now, the Government certainly has had no intention of creating some form of nationalised insurance or that the Commonwealth, and this Corporation in particular, should engage in general insurance business. The only reason for this Corporation is. to promote exports, not that the Commonwealth should engage in the insurance business.
Where the promotion of the export trade of Australia requires some insurance against risk, either of payment or of loss of investment that is not covered in normal insurance business, this Bill proposes that the Corporation, with Government encouragement, shall engage in that form of insurance and in that form of insurance only. The. Government has no intention of intruding into the general field of insurance conducted by private companies. If the honorable member for Lalor expects me to agree to a proposition to amend this Bill so as to introduce nationalised insurance I am afraid he will be disappointed.
The other points raised by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) seem to me to overlook the point that the whole idea of this legislation is export policy. Behind this proposal is the implementation of Government policy, decided by a Government with the authority that that Government has as a result of its election and its responsibility to Parliament. If it were not for the Government’s interest in exports, and its wish to promote exports, to encourage and make possible the entrance of Australian exporters into overseas markets and to make it certain that Australian exporters, having entered into certain overseas markets, can hold those markets, there would be no reason for this Bill at all. The whole purpose behind this Bill is export policy. Because there is this element of governmental policy in the national interest it becomes necessary for political decisions to be made by the Minister on behalf of the Government. The Minister is answerable through the Government to this Parliament and to the electorate. These policy decisions are not decisions to be made by an insurance corporation. I think that is really the answer to the suggestion that we should attempt to spell out in detail in this Bill every type of situation, and surround every type of situation with safeguards, rather than leave to the Minister and the Government of the day - they are answerable to this Parliament - the decisions to be made from time to time on action that serves the objectives of policy. That clear fundamental distinction has to be made in relation to a bill which is not in itself a bill designed to conduct insurance but is a bill to promote export policy. I submit that point to both honorable gentlemen.
It might have been possible to attempt to spell out in this Bill various guide lines for the Minister to consider, but the difficulty about following that procedure and writing into this Bill the sort of statement that the Minister made in his second reading speech is that either we have to make a complete list from which we can never depart - and if a new situation arises we find ourselves incapable of dealing with it - or we have to make a partial list and end up by saying in effect, “ or any other purpose which the Minister thinks is necessary to serve the ends of policy “. If we. choose the latter course we are back exactly where we commenced. After very carefully considering the possibility during the period of drafting of writing into the Act more than is written into the Act, the Government and its advisers came to the conclusion in this case - as in so many other cases - that the only possibility was to leave the matter to the judgment of the Minister, knowing that the Minister in making a judgment on policy would have to give an account of his actions to this House and through this House would eventually have to account for his actions to the Australian electorate.
This point is also relevant to the proposed new section 16h, which provides that when, as a result of a decision by the Minister, a contract of insurance is entered into, that contract of insurance shall be notified in the “ Gazette “ together with the particulars of the nature and the extent of the liability under the contract. Simply by watching the publications in the “Gazette” every member of this House will be in a position to keep himself fully informed of what the Minister is doing and, if necessary, either by motion or at question time, to make sure that he understands what the Minister is doing and to call him to account in this Parliament for his action in pursuit of export policy. The Government believes that it is necessary, and in keeping with general political and commercial practice, not to publish the names of individuals. In banking transactions as between banker and client, in insurance contracts as between insurance company and client and in confidential transactions as between the Commissioner of Taxation and the taxpayer, it has always been customary that we do not divulge the name of the individual who enters into the contract or is liable for payment or has taken part in the transaction. In this Bill we want to maintain that position. So, I cannot accept any suggestion to delete that part of the proposed new section which says that when publication of the details of an insurance contract is made in the “ Gazette “ we should omit reference to the names of the parties.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 1 6 agreed to.
Section 28 of the principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (1.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-section: - “ (1.) Subject to the next succeeding sub-section, the Corporation shall so carry on its business that the contingent liability of the Corporation under contracts of insurance entered into under section thirteenof this Act, and under guarantees, does not at any time exceed One hundred million pounds.”.
Section proposed to be amended - “28. -(1) Subject to the next succeeding subsection, the Corporation shall so carry on its business that the contingent liability of the Corporation under contracts of insurance and under guarantees does not at any time exceed Seventyfive million pounds. -
. -I move -
At the end of proposed sub-section (1.) add “ and the contingent liability of the Corporation under overseas investment insurance contracts does not at any time exceed Twenty million pounds “.
I thank the Government for accepting this amendment. I am not going to repeat the argument that I used in this House last night during the second reading debate regarding the desirability of the amendment. I think that it is a vital and substantial amendment. It does not entirely remove, but I think it very largely removes, some of the dangers which I believe were inherent in the Bill in its earlier draft. I am not going to say any more. For the reasons that I gave in my speech in the second reading debate last night, I believe it is a good amendment. I thank the Government for accepting it.
.- It seems rather odd to me that the Government which says it is going to encourage this great Corporation now wilts at the revolution that has been staged.
– There is no wilting. This will be a sufficient amount.
– If it is a sufficient amount, why did the Government make it £100 million in the first place?
– That applies to export payments. This applies to investments.
– The Government is now deleting Clause 17.
– There is no deletion.
– What is the amendment? I think the Minister might explain this.
.- I inform the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that the Act provides that the contingent liability in respect of export payments insurance shall be £75 million. By an amendment in this Bill, we propose to raise the £75 million to £100 million. That will stand. That contingent liability of £100 million will apply to export payments insurance. At the beginning of the scheme of investment insurance, we are content to accept the maximum contingent liability of £20 million which, so far as we can foresee, will be sufficient for the next four or five years. If experience proves that we need a larger contingent liability, we will come back to the Parlament and seek it.
– This is to be the new subsection?
.- This has been a very convenient runaway for the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). It is not unusual for him to run away. I listened to the honorable member yesterday, and he clearly voiced his objection to the £100 million contingent liability.
– I did not at any time so do. The honorable member for Lalor simply has not understood this. He has not followed it. He is just being stupid.
– Order! The honorable member for Mackellar will withdraw that remark.
– Very well, Mr. Chairman. The honorable member is very confused. I withdraw the word “stupid”.
– What I said was that, as I understood him, the honorable member for Mackellar yesterday objected to the £100 million contingent liability.
– That is wrong.
– I shall check on it. If I am wrong, the honorable member will hear more from me.. The amendment that has been accepted by the Government from the honorable member for Mackellar places a limit on the contingent liability of investment insurance. My recollection is that he mentioned £100 million. I shall check on it. If I am wrong, that is all right. My refer ence did not justify the honorable member saying that I was stupid, but coming from him, I felt honoured.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
.- Clauses 18 and 19 simply demonstrate what we said earlier - what a peculiar sort of animal the Corporation is now becoming. What is supposed to be an independent body now has to have two sets of accounts, one of which is its own and the second of which is indulged in subject to ministerial authority. I should like that point to be noted at this stage.
.- I support what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has said. As a concluding remark, I point out that the Corporation has a consultative council. No doubt it comprises a very excellent body of citizens. But I would say that, overall, it is a thoroughly conservative body. In the main the people on it are directly interested in business, and I think that one of them is the general manager of the Australian and New Zealand Bank Ltd. I have not any doubt that the Australian and New Zealand Bank has some links with private insurance companies, either of a direct character or of a business character. This point probably would apply to many of the other members of the council.
The Corporation has reached the stage where it has matured. The Commissioner and the executive officers are fully equipped to carry on with the job without having the so-called consultative council. If the Corporation has to have a consultative council, surely the Government could appoint men to it who have no business link with banks or commercial institutions of any kind. I just pass that comment as something that I think should be said, without reflection on the gentlemen concerned. They have been invited by the Government to sit on the council. There is provision in the Act for their appointment. I do not see why they should be hung around the neck of a governmental business institution by statutory legislation of this Parliament. In some cases, quite unconsciously and quite honestly, they may give advice and impose advice on the Commissioner or the Corporation of a most objectionable character which might be deleterious to the general overall welfare of the Corporation and the business that it is endeavouring to get.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 2nd September (vide page 801).
Proposed expenditure, £1,706,000.
.- I wish to make some observations about the discussion which will take place during the next few weeks on the departmental services, : which is better known as the Estimates de- : bate. I believe that my remarks should be made in the debate on the estimates of the Parliament because if any alteration is to be made in the procedure adopted in this place, only the Parliament can make that alteration. I believe that the present system of discussing the Estimates does not produce the best results or provide the best opportunity for a close examination of departmental expenditure. As you know, Mr. Chairman, the expenditure under the Appropriation Bills has already been determined by the Government and, during this debate, the responsibility of the Committee will be to accept that expenditure or to reject it, and by that decision the Government will stand or fall. All of this seems to me to be very ridiculous, in view of the fact that we may object to certain minor portions of the Estimates.
The other matter to which I want to refer is the lack of information and research services available to members of the national Parliament to enable them to make a thorough examination of the Estimates or of any other legislative matter that may come before the Parliament. I will say something on that subject in a few minutes. You will recollect, Mr. Chairman, that the
Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in his Budget speech, made the following remarks -
When the increase in Commonwealth expenditures in this financial year is added, the total rises to £2,667,000,000. On several occasions members of the Opposition have claimed that in the Estimates debate there is insufficient time for them to make a satisfactory contribution on this part of the Appropriation Bills. I do not believe that the real problem lies in that quarter. I believe that it is the method of examination that is at fault. As I have said, the Government has already made the allocations of money and there is no opportunity to examine closely either the Minister or the departmental head concerned on the figures in the Estimates. I believe that that is wrong. I do not believe for one moment that such an examination could be made in this chamber, but there are places in which it could be made. As honorable members know, our method is not the method that is adopted in other countries. I refer to Great Britain and the United States of America in particular. I believe that in view of the magnitude of Commonwealth expenditure today the present system should be replaced by an examination more in accordance with modern procedures for the discussion of estimates. .
I notice that about one-third of my time has expired. I should like to have developed this subject; but I want to say something about a complementary subject upon which all my earlier remarks depend, that is, the need for a comprehensive legislative reference and research service associated with our Parliamentary Library. I submit that, if the taxpayers’ interests are to be served best in a country in which an enormous expansion of expenditure is occurring and in a world in which international changes are occurring almost overnight, we must have a reference and research section of the Library which is capable of classifying and analysing relevant data from all available sources in the most useful forms for members of this. Parliament. Such a service would go beyond the ordinary reference service that we have in the Parliamentary Library at present Many honorable members have seen the libraries in Washington,
Tokyo and Westminster in operation, as I have. They will agree with me that the library of a national parliament - 1 emphasise that this is a national parliament - should be a unique organisation capable of rapidly providing members of the parliament with the precise and detailed information that they are likely to require in carrying out their duties in the parliament.
When I was last in Washington the legislative reference section of the Library of Congress employed more than 200 people, including all types of specialists, such as economists, political scientists, lawyers, historians, librarians and people who did nothing but research work. I am not suggesting that our own Parliamentary Library should be as extensive as that. However, it is interesting to know that the complete staff of our Library consists of between 15 and 20 experienced officers and miscellaneous “assistants, if I may so describe them. I was also interested to learn during Library Week in Victoria last week that the La Trobe University, which is to be built in 1967, already has 10 librarians. I want to make it abundantly clear that if members are to engage in a systematic discussion in a meaningful way, without being obstructive, they must have available to them a well developed information service in addition to the sources of information within the various government departments. It is completely wrong that private members should have to rely heavily on government departments, whose information could be either incorrect or slanted in the direction of the departments themselves. If we have to depend on information from government departments, very often it arrives too late to be useful to us.
It is no reflection on the staff of our Library when I say that I believe they are ill-equipped to provide members with the information service that they require today, in view of changing world conditions. I believe that specialisation is the most important feature of the library arrangements that I have seen overseas in the places that I have mentioned. We have officers in our Library who give excellent service, but not in one particular field. Many of them, in these days, have to try to be expert in many fields, and I think that is asking far too much of them. We now have a statistical service in addition to the services which have been available. This will be helpful. The Library
Committee, which controls the affairs of this section of the Parliament, has a very big job before it. I believe that it has some ideas of making alterations and improvements to the present service. May I remind the Committee of what has been done at Westminster? A Select Committee of the House of Commons was set up some 20 years ago to consider the things that I am suggesting, and that I know others have suggested, should be done here. May I read a few lines from the report of the House of Commons Select Committee on this question? The report stated -
Your Committee felt that the Library of the House of Commons can, and should, be made into a unique organisation … it should aim at providing members rapidly with precise and detailed information on subjects connected with their duties … if information and service are to be readily available on subjects likely to come before Parliament a highly trained and qualified staff will be essential.
Following the recommendations of that Select Committee, both the collections and the staff of the House of Commons Library were greatly strengthened, and a small group of research officers and statisticians, since increased, was employed. The duty of these officers is to keep abreast of the current literature in their respective fields, but not to carry out ordinary library routines. In other words, a considerable number of years ago a research section - a section of the type that I suggest should be made available in a library such as we have - was established in the Library of the House of Commons.
I believe it is the intention of the Library Committee to extend the present services. May I remind the Committee of the remarks with which I commenced my speech? Commonwealth Government expenditure in this country has doubled in 10 years. If we are to look at the Estimates objectively, not only must we reform our methods of dealing with them, but also we must have adequate information to deal with them. We must have a research service to support members in order that they may discharge their duties properly and adopt the objective approach to debates that I believe they should adopt.
.- Mr. Chairman, I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth). 1 will mention the Parliametary Library in a moment. I think that the matter that should concern most members of this Parliament is the way in which the Parliament is handled as a body of people. I believe that the Government - not all members of it, but most of them - has reached such a state of arrogance that Ministers are completely thoughtless of and discourteous to other members of the Parliament. Last night, at 10.5 p.m., the Opposition Whip came to me and said: “The Parliamentary Estimates are on tonight. Will you be ready?” I said that I would, having noticed that the honorable member for Isaacs appeared to be in that position also. As 1 have said, that was at 10.5. 1 did not particularly want to speak after 10.30. 1 do not believe the Parliament ought to sit after 10.30. I think that sitting late at night is a piece of nonsense which has no relation to the duties we have to carry out. If the Parliament sits late, however, we will stay and do our duty. At 10.25 or thereabouts, without any byyourleave or suggestion that anybody else was concerned in the matter, the Minister at the table, on whatever whim took him, adjourned the House. As far as we were concerned, the decent orderly thing to do was to go home at 10.30, but it would be hard to pick a piece of thoughtlessness and discourtesy of a higher order than the Minister’s action. This is the way in which the Government’ has been conducting the affairs of this House for the last three or four years in particular. I, for one, speaking as an individual and not as a parliamentarian, take a very dim view of that state of affairs.
This attitude carries over into the way in which all the ancillary services of the Parliament are treated. What happens when the Government, at the whim of the Minister at the table, decides that the House will sit until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m.? Every member of the ancillary services has to dance to the tune of the inconvenience that is caused. What happens to the Library staff, about whom the honorable member for Isaacs has been speaking? They have to wait here patiently until the House adjourns. That is the case with everybody else who works in the Parliament. Is it not time that the business of running the nation and its affairs was conducted in the same orderly and courteous way as the ordinary business of the community is conducted? We have reached the stage where the Ministry is discourteous in the extreme in the personal relations which are involved in the parliamentary system and regardless of the ancillary services of the Parliament. I voice my protest. I wait for the day when honorable members opposite, such as the honorable member for Isaacs, the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) - who will probably speak about the ignoring of the Parliament, the Executive rubber stamp and all the rest - and some of the other revolutionary members take up the cudgels on behalf of the Parliament and demand their rights in their party room in such a way as will bring this Parliament to proper order. That is my first point.
My second point is that some Ministers seem to take the view that everything connected with the public affairs of this country is their private property. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) thinks it is preposterous that a man who is in a senior position in a department should have access to Cabinet documents when he is going to stand for Parliament at some later stage. For whom is the Government conducting the affairs of this country? It is conducting them for the people of Australia. The Prime Minister is the member for Kooyong. For the time being, while he is the leader of the Government parties, he is also the Prime Minister of the country. But he has no other charter but that conferred upon him by membership of this Parliament. He has no more rights as a citizen than has any other member of this place. Membership of this Parliament confers upon each one of us duties, privileges and obligations. There are very few things in public affairs which are secret. I would say that only those which concern the private affairs of the people, for instance, the promotion of a public servant, private reports upon them, and so on, are confidential and should be treated in that way. But what is there in national development, except perhaps the letting of a tender, which is the concern only of the Minister and his Department? Why should these other things be secret matters? I believe that there is much too much secrecy in public affairs and that it is time these things were brought out into the light.
The Ministers and departments are acting on our behalf. The oddity of it, of course, is that some honorable members on this side of the House will, after the next election, almost certainly be Ministers with access to all this information as a right. Let me speak in terms more appropriate to the mental attitude of honorable members opposite and look at the past. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) was a Minister of some distinction in the Federal Parliament. Yesterday he asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) to make available to him some files upon which the Minister had based many public statements. The Minister sneered at the very idea. He acted, I believe, as if he could not trust the Leader of the Opposition. This was an insult to the Leader of the Opposition and an insult to the Parliament. Most certainly from the next election the Leader of the Opposition will be the Prime Minister of this country. In this relation we must realise that in the passage of time and politics each one of us is equal. For the time being, some persons occupy executive positions. Members of the Ministry are only members of this Parliament. I think it is time that they came back to the crowd and regarded us in the proper light.
The next step that we must take is to rationalise both the number of meetings of the Parliament and the length of its sittings. I think it is irrational behaviour, only likely to come from such people opposite as I hear interjecting, that we should act in this fashion. Let us go to the statistics which I had incorporated in “ Hansard “ only a week or so ago at page 1503 and following pages. These show the hours of meeting of the Parliament since Federation, the number of public servants since Federation and the sizes of Budgets since Federation. The number of public servants at Federation was 22,000. In 1904 the Commonwealth Budget was about £4 million and in that year the Parliament met on 102 days. Currently, the Public Service runs at about 176,000 persons. The Budget is about £2,600 million. This year we shall probably meet on 60-odd days; last year the number was 65.
This Parliament meets less, deliberates less, and places less faith in members than does almost any other similar assembly of which I can find the measure. Even the House of Lords - not a notably democratic organisation and not one upon which we would base most of our procedures - has in the last few years met on more days and for longer hours than we have. For instance, in 1960 we met for 575 hours and the House of Lords met for 601. In 1962 we met for 529 hours and it met for 587 hours. In that year we met on 53 days and the House of Lords met on 127 days. So we find that the whole of the relationships of the Parliament are frustrated on this account. Let us consider the House of Commons. We always turn to these dear inherited advantages for our guidance. The House of Commons treats its membership in a much different way. It has about 170 sittings a year. I suggest that honorable members obtain a copy of the Report on Procedure prepared by Mr. Tregear, dated 1951-52-53.
Private members in the House of Commons have available to them much greater facilities to bring matters before the House. The Select Committee on Procedure of 1946 recommended that in each session 20 Fridays should be allotted to private business, motions and bills being taken on alternate Fridays. This proposal has been adopted. I suggest that honorable members interested in statistics turn to the number of grievance days and the number of private members’ bills. We have reached the stage at which hardly any member in this place brings forward a private member’s bill because of the examples of the past. There is very little chance of getting them discussed. There is very little opportunity to have them brought before the Parliament. I refer honorable members to that document so that they may, perhaps, take heart in the revolutionary ardour that they will probably express later in dealing with their own Ministry. We meet less than the House of Commons. We meet less than the House of Lords. We meet less than the Congress of the United States. Fewer facilities are available for private members than are available in the House of Commons at Ottawa, which meets on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and has 40 onehour periods in every year for private members’ bills. Even the Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly, which is in Bombay, allows 2i hours every Friday for private members’ bills. Every parliament with any sense of its obligations pays much more respect to its private members.
So we come to the question that the honorable member for Isaacs has raised, in relation to the Library and committees. 1 believe that we ignore the resources, intellectual and otherwise, available in this Parliament, by refraining from using the committee system to the proper extent. We even ignore the committees which do meet and bring down recommendations. Take, for instance, the committee on the grievances of the people of Yirrkala, which reported two years ago. Not a thing has been done, as far as one can determine, to implement the recommendations of that committee. What has been done about the recommendations of the Senate select committee on the encouragement of Australian television productions? The Parliamentary and Government Publications Committee brought down recommendations on the printing of records of the Parliament and of public records. What has been done about that? As a matter of interest to those members who were on that Committee, I mention that most libraries in Australia are concerned with this, because it is upon the size of the public documents that this Parliament and the Government produce that they base their shelving. So we have to remember that even the smallest incident in our parliamentary life has an impact on the community. It may be a chain reaction that often reaches much further than we think and certainly into wider areas of public activity than those of which we are customarily aware. I should hope that in the future we shall use the committee system more.
If honorable members refer to the directory of the United States Congress, they will find listed some 20-odd standing committees of the House. Some have upwards of 40 or 50 members. The honorable member for Isaacs will agree that the Appropriations Committee, for instance, which meets upon the call of the chairman, is an example to follow. This, of course, is an important function of the Congress. It examines very closely all public accounts. We are here as the recording angels, one might say, of things that have gone in the past. We are asked to put the seal of pur approval upon things that have been decided and often promulgated before the Parliament met. This is again, I believe, a case of discourtesy to the Parliament. I hope that we will place more faith in the members of the Parliament and realise that the committee system, as has been pointed out in debate only today, provides an opportunity for members to sit around a table and arrive at conclusions in the public interest. As has been pointed out on so many occasions, a remarkable level of unanimity prevails, when people examine the same subject and the same evidence; they often arrive at the same conclusion. Usually, of course, we find that honorable members opposite become a little more radical when they really sit down and look at the evidence.
Finally, there is one inhibiting factor upon the deliberations of this chamber. It is the ancient and archaic doctrine of the financial initiative of the Crown. Section 56 of the Constitution provides that a vote with reference to money shall be made only upon a message from the GovernorGeneral. This belongs to the past. It is not easy, of course, to change the Constitution, but there is just no reason for the message to come to us in this fashion, having been designed by a Minister - a member of this Parliament - who tells the GovernorGeneral to tell the Parliament. It is time that we designed some standing orders whereby the 104 private members, the ordinary body of non-Ministers in this Parliament, would be able to tell the Minister to tell the Governor-General to come and tell us. If we have to be archaic and roundabout there are plenty of ways to get around this constitutional problem, but I believe it is against the facts of political life and suggests a dereliction of our responsibility to imply that we, as a body of members of this Parliament, cannot move a resolution which extends the eligibility for pensions or changes in any way the financial structure of the country. I believe that the right to do this belongs to the Parliament.
As to the matter of the Library I agree completely with the honorable member for Isaacs. I hope that members of this Parliament will take the opportunity to tell their colleagues on the Library Committee exactly what they want. It only needs the people concerned to make clear what they desire and I am sure the Library Committee will try to carry out their wishes. The Library is the most important instrument that the Parliament has for placing its members in a position to give proper public consideration to the nation’s affairs.
.- The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) commenced by launching an attack against the Government for its conduct of the affairs of this Parliament. I do not dispute the right of the honorable member for Wills or any other member to express criticism. The expression of criticism is the honorable member’s privilege, as it is the privilege of people outside this Parliament. But I believe that criticism, to be worthwhile, must be constructive, accurate and informed. I am prepared to go some small distance with the honorable member in relation to his criticism of the conduct of the Parliament because I feel that our sessional programme could be much better planned than it is. I think it is very bad for the Parliament that a lot of criticism should be expressed, not only by people inside the Parliament but also by others outside it - and quite rightly so. This is due to the way in which we frequently rush legislation - very often important legislation - through the Parliament in the closing weeks or even the closing days of a session. I believe that in this respect we need co-operation from both sides of the chamber. I stress the words “ both sides “ in view of the remarks of the honorable member for Wills who tried to lay all the blame on one side. I suggest that the fault lies on both sides and I believe that it is up to both sides to co-operate and try to make the Parliament function more smoothly and more efficiently and render itself less subject to criticism particularly in relation to the end of session rush. I believe that bottlenecks which occur can be obviated if efforts are made to do so, and that in this way we can ensure a smoother flow of legislation.
I believe that every member of this chamber, regardless of political colour, would agree that all night sittings, or sittings lasting until two, three, four or five o’clock in the morning, are thoroughly bad. As individuals, we cannot possibly give of our best or be at peak form at such early hours of the morning, especially after we have been through a sitting all the previous day. I would point out to the honorable member for Wills that a good deal of time has been wasted on occasions - on some quite recent occasions - by tactics employed by honorable members on his side of the chamber in an endeavour to embarrass the Government. I believe that this has not been in the best interests of the Parliament. If the honorable member was genuine in his suggestion - and I believe he was - that this Parliament should try to function more efficiently, then he should appeal, as I do, to other honorable members on his side of the chamber to play their part and co-operate with the Government in matters affecting the conduct of the affairs of the Parliament.
I should like to put forward a suggestion designed to help avoid late night sittings. We know that we have a very extensive business sheet facing us, and I think it would be fairly generally welcomed by honorable members opposite as well as by those on this side of the House if it were decided to sit, if necessary, on Fridays rather than to have sittings continue until two, three or four o’clock in the morning. We have previously sat on Fridays, of course, and I believe that all honorable members will be sensible in their approach to this proposition.
In many ways, we are very fortunate in comparison with private members in some other parliaments if we consider the facilities that are made available to them. We have regular adjournment debates, although I agree that sometimes they go on for too long. When an adjournment debate continues until midnight or 1 a.m. I believe it is getting a bit too late. We also have fairly regular grievance days and we have regular periods of questions without notice. I can think of a number of parliaments in which members are not so fortunate as to enjoy these privileges.
I suggest to the Committee that the comparisons made by the honorable member for Wills of this Parliament with the United Kingdom Parliament and the United States Congress were unreal, for two reasons in particular. The first is that, in size, our Parliament is not in any way comparable with the Parliament of the United Kingdom or the Congress of the United States, or, for that matter, the Canadian Parliament. Again, the procedures adopted are different in many respects, although I agree with the honorable member with regard to the committee system. I believe that the Commonwealth Parliament might well consider developing the committee system to streamline and improve the efficient conduct of its affairs. I do not think it is generally realised, particularly by people outside the Parliament, that all of us serve on some committee or other. Perhaps some of us may serve on rather too many committees because it is very easy to diversify one’s efforts when one is interested in a number of subjects. We have in Parliament various standing committees - statutory committees and joint committees. We have Government members’ committees and opposition members’ committees. I believe that some closer integration of the committee system could produce better results, particularly in relation to the consideration of legislation before it is brought into this chamber.
I would like to make a passing comment on the Foreign Affairs Committee which, as we know, is listed as a joint committee. It was the original intention - and I understand it is still the wish of the Government - -that honorable members opposite should participate on this committee. Unfortunately, however, since its inception a number of years ago the Foreign Affairs Committee has consisted solely of members from the Government parties. My feeling is - and this is just my own thought on the matter - that it is somewhat anomalous to have a joint committee listed on the business sheet which continues, month after month and year after year, to consist only of Government supporters. I hope that honorable members opposite may change their minds and nominate members for this committee, but if they remain adamant indefinitely I would urge the Government to reconsider, the whole position and decide whether it is proper, in the circumstances, to continue to list this committee as a joint committee.
I want to congratulate the Government and the Parliament on the better working conditions that members now enjoy. I do not want to dwell on this, but I believe we are all appreciative of the fact that we are now more comfortably housed and have better offices and working conditions than we ever enjoyed before. 1 personally am grateful to the Government for taking the bull by the horns and arranging for this additional accommodation to be provided. At the same time, we must all give thought to the ultimate planning and building of a new Parliament House. Undoubtedly it will not be built for quite some time yet. It may be argued - indeed, it can be argued effectively - that with the new wing making members very much more comfortable than they were before, me provision of a new Parliament House might be postponed. I do not propose to argue that point but I do urge that the utmost thought and care be given to every detail of the new Parliament House when it is ultimately being planned. The proposed select committee to investigate the siting of a new Parliament House has, as I see it, a very big task ahead of it.
One matter which I think should be considered is the provision of improved facilities for the increasing volume of visitors to the Parliament. I am sure that every honorable member welcomes visitors, whether they sit in the Speakers gallery or in the visitors gallery upstairs. We are glad that the people of Australia are interested enough to visit this Parliament and to observe proceedings from the gallery. I believe that true government of the people for the people involves participation by the people and an interest by the people. This year, 1965, is a very important double anniversary for parliamentary democracy. We would do well to remind ourselves, and place on record, that this is the 750th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta, the basic document of our liberties - the charter of liberties that we have inherited. It is also the 700th anniversary of the summoning of Simon de Montfort’s parliament, which is generally accepted as being the mother of parliaments from which our Parliament derives. 1 have said before in this chamber - and I make no apology for repeating my belief - that parliament and the law courts are the two principal institutions in a democracy; the two principal institutions which stand between the people and the law of the jungle, a state of anarchy. If it were not for the Parliament and the law courts the state of affairs would be a very unhappy one. As Kipling said: “What stands if freedom falls? “. The parliamentary system, like the law courts, upholds, and should continue to uphold, the rights and liberties of the citizens. We must be conscious of our responsibility as members of this national Parliament to do our best. We all have faults and we can only hope to do our best. But there, is a responsibility on us, and we do well on an occasion such as this, when debating the estimates for the Parliament for the current financial year, to remind ourselves of our basic responsibilities to the people and to the Parliament. Only quite recently we were privileged to be present at the swearing in of a new Governor-General, a very distinguished Australian. I think we probably all reminded ourselves of the constitutional fact that the Parliament consists of the Queen, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Government should also remember that it is Her Majesty’s Government and the Opposition should always remember that it is Her Majesty’s Opposition.
I shall quote a few words from “ Current Affairs Bulletin”, issued by the tutorial classes department at the University of Sydney. This extract appears under the heading “ Parliament Today “. I believe it summarises very well the thoughts that I have been trying to express in relation to the value of Parliament and to the basic need for a proper perspective. The article states -
To be sure of good government one needs so many things; good sense in the electors, human understanding and zest among the experts, a sense of responsibility combined with vigor in the political parties and in the ordinary member of Parliament, a sense of responsibility in the Press when it is reporting political events. These things lie outside the machinery of Government though it may be true that one parliamentary system encourages them more than another.
I believe that the system of parliamentary democracy which we enjoy does basically encourage these things, in spite of some faults. I think that if we all try we can eradicate at least some of the faults.
I want to pay a tribute to the valuable work done by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and its officers and the Inter-Parliamentary Union and its officers. I know that the secretaries, particularly, of those two very important institutions do tremendous work for the Parliament and we are indebted to them. Most honorable members, if not all honorable members, at some time or another, have had an opportunity to make an overseas visit to a parliamentary conference, thus having the chance of broadening their horizons, meeting and talking to members of other parliaments, seeing how other parliaments work and how people in other countries live. I think that this is very important for members of this Parliament.
Finally, may I pay a tribute to the officers of this Parliament - Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees, the Clerk and other House officers. the “ Hansard “ staff, the Joint House Staff, the Library Staff, and the attendants. I probably have left out someone but I am anxious to place on record that we, as members of Parliament, appreciate, what all the officers of the Parliament do for us. I have not mentioned the transport officer. He does an important job. There are lots of others and I cannot mention all of them individually. However, we are very much indebted to all the officers of the Parliament. I would say, let us not be too sensitive about criticism. I think it is healthy that there should be criticism. We read criticism almost every day in the Press, and I suggest that provided-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman, I join with the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) in making a plea for the more .effective working of the Parliament. Before proceeding on a critical note I too would like to pay a well deserved tribute to the officers of the Parliament, to Mr. Speaker, the Chairman of Committees and the temporary Chairman, to the Clerks and all those responsible for the operation of the Parliament. I think it is only fitting that we should acknowledge the services that are rendered to us by these gentlemen, and the grand assistance given to all members of this Parliament by the “ Hansard “ staff. My remarks would not be complete without referring to the whole of the officers of the Parliament and to those engaged in the Library. When mentioning the Library, once again I make a plea for further consideration regarding the staffing of the Library. We have travelled quite a distance over the last few years in improved services, but there is still need for further improvement in regard to research. We need trained personnel in the Library and the only way to get them is to pay the salary requisite to attract people with the proper qualifications. I may have an opportunity in a subsequent debate on the Public Service to say something further about this. But I think it is important that the Library should be provided with funds so that it can go on to the market for people of the highest possible standard, because undoubtedly the Library plays a most important part in providing information and assistance to members of Parliament.
I commenced by saying that I want to make a plea for the more effective operation of the Parliament. I want to condemn in the strongest possible language the type of conduct that has occurred in the past when members of this place have been obliged to sit throughout the night attending to important matters affecting this country. No organisation, progress society or town or shire council would think of transacting business in this way. Yet this, the national Parliament, considering matters of grave concern and of supreme importance to this country and to our position in world affairs, has, in recent times, sat right through the night dealing with matters that could have been dealt with after Parliament’s reassembling on another day. Only quite recently - on 25th May - the House sat throughout the day, continued through the night until 4.32 a.m. on 26th May, adjourned until 5 a.m., reassembled and continued until approximately 8 a.m., transacting most important business for the nation. This state of affairs ought to be stopped. How is that to be done? It can be done only if honorable members are prepared to play their part. We on this side condemn the present state of affairs in the strongest possible language, and we look to members on the Government side to join with us in taking appropriate measures to put an end to it.
While honorable members opposite may not feel inclined to rebel against the control and direction of the Government in the House, they have their opportunities at their Party meetings to express themselves. I would suggest to them that they go into their Party rooms and say something about this matter. What is happening is not in the best interests of the nation, and certainly is not in the interests of the good health of honorable members. It is a travesty when the Parliament sits throughout the night and a new sitting commences at 5 a.m. On that occasion I was in a sick bed and missed a sitting that I considered to be of the utmost importance. I have missed only three sitting days in the more than 14 years that I have been a member of the Parliament. To miss a sitting day was, to me, a matter of very great concern. It was only because I was at my hotel in a sick bed that I was not in attendance on that occasion. To correct this situation it is necessary to have fixed and regular days and hours of meeting of the Parliament. The Parliament should not sit after 11 p.m. unless there are compelling reasons for it or matters of urgency that necessitate a change. If honorable members knew on what days the Parliament was to meet, and if sessional periods were worked out in advance, something could be done. The time is long overdue for the Parliament to have a proper basis of meeting.
The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) has drawn attention to the fact that the Parliament is not meeting as frequently as it should meet. I suggest that there is an urgent and imperative need to look into the matter of regular meetings of the Parliament, and that it is necessary for us to meet more frequently in order to discharge our responsibilities to the people of this country. An examination of the records indicates a diminution in the number of sitting days of the Parliament. In 1949 the Parliament met on 80 days, in 1950 on 83 days, in 1951 on 56 days and then on 74, 61, 48, 52, 79, 63, 48, 71, 74, 55, 66 and 53 days in each succeeding year until 1964, when it met on 65 days. Many important matters need to be discussed, including the Vernon report, restrictive trade practices legislation, the Martin report on the future of tertiary education in Australia, national development and our defence requirements. All these are compelling matters which require the sober and thoughtful attention of members, yet they are not being discussed because the Parliament is not being assembled for the purpose of dealing with them. I put it to the Government that there is a need to work out the number of sitting days required. This idea of sitting throughout the night is a hangover from the days when parliamentarians attended to their professional affairs and private business during the day and attended Parliament at night. The present situation is not good enough and I hope that the Government will set about putting its house in order and correcting the situation.
Another matter that I want to refer to in the few minutes available to me this evening also concerns the position of members of the Parliament. A member comes into this place to perform a service for his electorate and to play a part in the work of running our country and in nation building. It is necessary that he should be able to make personal representations to Ministers. He should be able to speak to a Minister quite freely and easily. The Minister’s door should be open to him. He should be able to write letters to the Minister. He ought to be able to discuss matters affecting his electorate on Grievance Day or at any other time, and he ought to be able to avail himself of all of the forms of the House to do this. But what do we find? What respect has the Executive today for the average member of the Parliament? The Executive is becoming increasingly strong and powerful. With the growth of the Executive there has been a corresponding growth in the Public Service and quite frequently there is a domination by top public servants of the structure of Government. This is inevitable when the Parliament is not meeting. It is inevitable, too, when Ministers of the Crown are absent. I protest this evening in the strongest possible language at the absence from the Parliament of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) and the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz). If any honorable member wants to ask a question affecting any of their Departments, he cannot speak to the responsible Minister. The Ministers are all absent from Australia.
Someone might want to speak to the Minister for Trade and Industry about our trade problems, which are growing to frightening proportions, or they might want to discuss the future of the Department. Some member might want to speak to the Treasurer on finance for development, long term finance for rural industry or finance for drought relief, but the Treasurer is not here. Someone might want to speak to him about how prices »~e spiralling in Australia, but he is not in the Parliament. With regard to the Minister for Supply, there is an insistent demand that he should be here to answer questions such as the one asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) this morning on the cost of the defence equipment being bought by the Government. He is not here to answer such questions. There are members like myself who would like to know what is being done for the self-sufficiency of this country in respect of arms that we require for our defence. We hear talk of the Armalite rifle being used by our troops. If it is a successful weapon it ought to be manufactured in this country. The Commonwealth Small Arms Factory at Lithgow could do the job, given the opportunity. These are the sort of questions that can be posed. Members would like the Minister for Health to answer questions affecting the health requirements of pensioners and to explain why there are no doctors to look after pensioners in country towns.
– No dentists, too.
– Yes, and there are other problems related to dentists. The absence of these Ministers is to be deplored. It is true that, of necessity, some Ministers go overseas from time to time to attend to important matters affecting their portfolios, but it is indefensible that four senior Ministers should be absent from the country at the one time and therefore unable to attend to the requirements of the Parliament. If the Parliament is to be closed as frequently as it has been closed in the past, then Ministers ought to be out of this country only when the doors of the Parliament are closed. They have a responsibility to be here when the Parliament is assembled to transact the business of the nation. These are the type of things that are troubling members of this House and the community at large.
Finally, I join with honorable members who have referred to the value of committees. No-one can deny the great value of committees in bringing members of Parliament together to consider important matters. How frequently has it happened that, when a committee is formed, the views of members will be poles apart, but after discussion and consideration for a month or two of the subjects with which they are dealing and after expert witnesses have given evidence the area of difference has been whittled away until very often the committees present unanimous reports on perplexing and conflicting issues.
I had the privilege of serving on the committee which inquired into the question of the voting rights of Aborigines. The committee comprised seven members. When we commenced our deliberations five of us had completely different views, but eventually we reached unanimous conclusions. The proposal to publish the daily “Hansard” was another subject on which a unanimous report was submitted after widely differing views had been expressed originally. I mention these examples because I believe they are valid. 1 should like to think that a joint committee will be appointed to discuss defence preparedness and expenditure and thus serve this Parliament and the people of Australia.
– I do not think anyone in this Parliament has protested more against late sittings than I have, both while I was in opposition and since I have been on the Government side of the House. I do not believe in legislation by exhaustion. I believe that the work of this Parliament would run more smoothly if the sittings did not extend beyond midnight on any night. In any case, most honorable members are asleep if the sittings go beyond that time and the work of the Parliament is not handled satisfactorily.
– The honorable member has been saying the same thing for 20 years now.
– The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) has said that late night sittings are a hangover from other days. That is true. It is not right for the Labour Party, when it is in Opposition, to put all the blame on the Government for late sittings because there have been late sittings, to my knowledge, for the past 20 years and probably since Federation. When Labour was in office we had some extremely late sittings. As the honorable member for Grayndler has interjected, I have been speaking in these terms for years. That is right. I have been protesting at every opportunity against late night sittings. I well remember one occasion when the House sat very late, and as we were approaching the Hotel Kurrajong we could hear the breakfast bell. I have been making this protest for almost 20 years - in fact, it will be, 20 years early next year - and I have been protesting whether in opposition or in government.
– No-one takes any notice of the honorable member.
– Irrespective of whether anyone takes any notice of me, I can still protest. I believe that late sittings are unnecessary. The Labour Party blames the Government for late sittings, but I believe that this is something about which the Parliament as a whole should take action. It is up to the Parliament to get things moving. The blame lies with both sides of the House not just with the Government side. After all, on many occasions the speeches that we hear are only tedious repetition. I know that every honorable member likes to have his say about certain subjects and sometimes 15 or 20 members want to speak on a particular bill. I remember one occasion on which 90 honorable members participated in the Budget debate.
There has been mention of the House of Commons. If we cite the House of Commons as an example we must consider both sides of the question. During the Budget debate or when a bill is before the House of Commons, does every honorable member get the opportunity to speak? The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) did not tell us the answer, but all know that every honorable member does not get the opportunity to speak. Only those who the Whips know have a particular interest in certain subjects are permitted to participate in the debates. If every member of the Opposition who wants to speak to a bill is not given the opportunity to do so there is uproar and honorable members opposite say that democracy is at stake, but are we to be subjected to having virtually the same speech repeated tediously 70 or perhaps 90 times? Therefore I claim that the fault lies not with one side of the House but with the Parliament as a whole. The position should be rectified.
The honorable member for Wills complained that the Parliament does not sit often enough. He placed a question on the notice paper recently in which he asked for the number of sitting days each year since Federation. The answer appeared in “Hansard” of 30th September 1965. I studied the reply very closely and noticed that shortly after Federation there were up to 124 sitting days a year. Speaking from memory, I believe that the House sat for more than 100 days on only five occasions in any 12 months, and four of those occasions were very close to the time of Federation.
When a government has been in office for nearly 16 years, as the present Government has been, it would not be very efficient if it had to sit for as long as would a government in the first year after coming to office. For example, if the Opposition became the Government it would wish to change most of the legislation that the present Government had put forward, and therefore the sessional periods would have to be longer. After Federation the Parliament had to sit more hours and on more days than is now the case in order to place on the statute book much of the legislation upon which we still act. Once the foundation is laid the need does not exist to change things, and the longer a government is in office the more unnecessary does it become to have lengthy sittings. Nevertheless, the Parliament must be in session for a reasonable time. This Government is following that practice.
The honorable member for Wills said that there were not enough sitting days. Why, most honorable members are not here for all the sitting days that we have now. They do not come every day to sit in this place.
– That is not right.
– It is. They do not come every day and sit in this Parliament. Let those who want more sitting days come here on the days on which we do sit. When Labour was in office the Parliament sat for 16 weeks without a break. The things that tire a member of Parliament are late sittings - I have referred to those - and travelling. Certain honorable members can board a plane in Canberra when the House rises, fly to Melbourne or Sydney then step into a car and travel about five or ten miles to their homes. Let me cite my own case. Travelling by public transport, I must leave my home at a quarter to nine on Monday morning in order to be in Canberra for the Tuesday sittings. If the House sits until late on Thursday night or early on Friday morning and I use public transport on the Friday, I do not reach my home until about quarter past 7 that evening.
– We would not mind if the honorable member did not come here at all.
– I know the honorable member would not mind but my grade of politics is different from his. I know that I do not please him but one cannot please everybody. I have never tried to do the impossible, which is to please everybody. The whole point is that late nights and travelling tire a member of Parliament. For that reason, I very much appreciate the Government’s action in instituting a system, which the Opposition has approved, of sitting for three weeks and having one week off, then sitting for another three weeks and having another week off. This is a vast improvement on Labour’s practice when in office of sitting for 12 or 16 weeks without a break.
It is most noticeable that when Opposition members participate in a debate on the estimates for the Parliament they do not refer to things that are pleasing. Instead, they refer only to those things which are not in their own best interests. That is hardly fair because when we discuss the estimates for the Parliament we speak as Parliamentarians. We should not bring in party politics to any great extent. I hope I will not do so on this occasion although I have at times. We are dealing with the way in which the parliamentary business is arranged, and I repeat my appreciation of the present practice of sitting for three weeks and having one week off.
The honorable member for Macquarie asked why the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) are not in the Parliament. He said: “We would like to ask them questions on vital subjects “. I have listened to some of the questions that honorable members ask of these Ministers. They are not questions seeking information, but are directed, as a rule, to gaining some political advantage. Nevertheless, the system of Parliament is that the Ministers should be here whenever possible so that questions may be put to them.
What is the Minister for Trade and Industry doing overseas at present? What has the Treasurer been doing? The Minister for Trade and Industry is attending to the very matter to which the honorable member for Macquarie referred. The honorable member said: “ We would like to ask the Minister some questions about serious trade problems “. The Minister is overseas, at present dealing with matters involving serious trade problems for Australia. He is hoping to promote more trade for Australia. He cannot be in this Parliament and also overseas. I hope the old Labour policy of isolationism does not still persist. Once the Australian Labour Party was considered to be completely isolationist. If the present Government were to adopt the policy that Ministers must be here even though great conferences are being held overseas, it could be branded as an isolationist Government. It will not adopt that policy.
The Treasurer has just returned from a visit overseas on which he conducted important financial business. He cannot be here all the time. I thought that members of the Opposition would appreciate that Ministers must go overseas on important business and would not attempt to gain political advantage from their absence. Honorable members opposite are not playing the game. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine) is attempting to interject. He should realise that these important conferences must be attended. If something important happened at a conference overseas at which Australia was not represented, members of the Opposition would be the first to complain.
The other day a constituent came to me and said: “ I visited Parliament House recently. I was surprised when walking around the lobbies to see a notice.” I am not raising party politics now. My constituent went on: “The notice said: ‘Strangers are not allowed to remain in or about any of the passages between the Chamber and the various rooms set apart for the exclusive use of Members’.”. At first glance, the notice may seem to be all right, but he asked the question: “Who is to be described as a stranger at Parliament House at Canberra?” My constituent said: “ I am supposed to be a stranger and I have been paying taxes to Federal Parliament for 40 years. I am well acquainted with many members of Parliament. Just because some official at Canberra does not know me, am I a stranger?” My constituent appreciates that people who come to Canberra should not loiter in the passages. He does not object to that, but he suggested that it would be preferable to word the notice: “ Visitors are not allowed to remain . . .”, and so on. He does not think that the word “ strangers “ should be used. Surely any Australian of good reputation who comes to Canberra is not a stranger in the precincts of this
Parliament. I am aware that a standing order provides that if a non-member walks into this chamber, an honorable member may draw attention to the presence of a stranger and have the chamber cleared. But the notice in the lobby does not refer to this chamber and I suggest that its wording should be changed, so that it refers to “ visitors “ and not to “ strangers “. No-one here can tell me who is a stranger. I do not believe that visitors to Parliament House are strangers.
As to Grievance Days, this Government has allowed as many Grievance Day debates as other governments have done. Back bench members have taken part in those debates to the best of their ability and I believe that such debates are in the best interests of Parliament. Generally speaking, Grievance Day debates should be devoted to attempts to improve sittings and the methods of representing the people. I have spoken on two or three different subjects in this debate. I believe that members of Parliament appreciate many of the ways in which Parliament is conducted, lt is always possible to point out a few anomalies that could be corrected. I believe that the worst anomaly is the number of late sittings. The Government should on every occasion do all it can to overcome the need for late sittings. It may be possible to do so by sitting on an additional day. However, the moment that the Government decides to sit for an additional day, generally, there is an uproar. Honorable members say that they have certain commitments in their electorates. I have always said to honorable members: “ If you have commitments to attend anything at all in your electorates, you do not need to make an excuse for not being present, if the Parliament is sitting. You have only to send a telegram, in these terms: Regret unable to attend today as Commonwealth Parliament is sitting.” That is not an excuse but a reason. The late Mr. Chifley once said to me: “ I cannot understand why a lot of my members want to get away to some show or function. When Federal Parliament is sitting this is the most important place in Australia.” I support that view, and I hope that other members will support it with me.
– A feature that has characterised the debate so far has been the complete unanimity amongst members on both sides of the chamber in their opposition to the arrogant and outlandish way in which Cabinet treats Parliament and the way in which it calls upon members without notice to sit late at night to pass legislation through sheer physical exhaustion, rather than give to members the opportunity to debate legislation on its merits. Honorable members should be placed in a position in which they are able thoroughly to understand the legislation being debated.
I believe that honorable members should make or should be given the opportunity to make Parliament function in such a way as will enable them to give the best possible service to the people they represent. That should be our aim. Indeed, it is the aim of about 90 per cent, of private members on both sides of the chamber, who want to do exactly that. However, Cabinet, with typically arrogant indifference towards private members, will not allow them to do their work in the way they want to do it. That means, that Cabinet is refusing to let Parliament function in the way that its members want it to function.
I think the Australian public will agree with me that it is not proper that we should authorise the expenditure of £2,667 million belonging to the Australian people in a debate spread over nine or ten days. Cabinet seems to forget that the money, being spent is not money put in by Cabinet, but is the money of the Australian taxpayers. Cabinet expects Parliament to authorise the expenditure of the money of the Australian people at the rate of £750,000 a minute of debating time. It is not good enough.
I wish to object also to the lateness of the supplying of annual reports by departmental heads to members of Parliament. It is not possible to make an intelligent review of a department’s activities unless an opportunity is given to read that department’s annual report. At one time, annual reports from some departments did not reach this Parliament until the debate on the Estimates had been concluded. Even now, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), who is at the table, has just brought in the annual report of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. What opportunity have we to examine it properly and to make inquiries of people who are in a position to check the statements and alleged facts con tained in the report in the time at our disposal? It is even worse that some departments have not yet supplied their annual reports. It is possible, again this year, we will be debating the estimates of departments which have not yet furnished their latest annual reports.
In passing, I shall make a suggestion although I know it is a complete waste of time making any suggestion to the arrogant Ministry. However, I shall make the suggestion because some public servants who are listening might be kindly enough disposed to scribble a note of it. An instruction ought to be sent out to all departmental heads that their annual reports should be of uniform size. This is essential to enable people who want to stack their reports to stack reports of uniform size or, if they want to have them bound, to have them bound in uniform size. Some of the departmental heads do even worse. They submit reports that vary in size from year to year.
– A joint select committee made a recommendation on these lines a year ago.
– I am obliged to the honorable member for his comment. A joint select committee recommended exactly the same a year ago. Evidently the committee’s report has been completely ignored by the departmental heads. The Ministers in charge of the respective departments have allowed the departmental heads to ignore that report. It is about time that somebody got rid of the Ministers or the departmental heads if they do not intend to take any notice of reports that are submitted by joint parliamentary committees. Let the departmental heads be told that when a joint parliamentary committee makes a recommendation it is not the recommendation of some kindergarten but of a committee of this Parliament. The departmental heads ought to be made to understand in no uncertain manner that once recommendations are made they are expected to implement them and not to treat them with the utter contempt with which Cabinet Ministers treat the decisions of the Parliament and parliamentary committees.
The Parliament should have more sittings. lt ought to sit more regularly and at more sensible times. In this regard, I agree with the comments of speakers who have preceded me. It is not fair to members of the Parliament to force them to sit here until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. I sympathise with those members who are left to hold the fort until the early hours of the morning. On the other hand, 1 sympathise with those who, through exhaustion, sickness or tiredness, are unable to carry on as long as they might otherwise. When the Parliament sits late, tempers become frayed and friends become temporarily estranged. That is not good for the Parliament. But it is all brought about by the arrogant indifference of the Cabinet towards the Parliament, which ought to be the master of the situation.
It is not fair to the “ Hansard “ staff to have them sitting here until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning without even being asked whether they are in a condition to do the job. They are taken for granted. They are told, in effect: “ You are the mere servants of the Parliament. You are our slaves. You will stay here until daybreak if we decide to stay here. We will carry on and you will do the job.” That is not good enough. To have these late sittings is just not good enough for the messengers or any of the other staffs that are required to be present to keep the Parliament functioning. No consideration at all is given to their physical condition or their ability to carry on until these ungodly hours. They are treated as though they have no rights and as though they are not even ordinary human beings.
The Library staff has been referred to. I agree with the comments of my friend the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) who, I think, drew attention to the big turnover of staff. After every session there is almost a complete change of female staff in the Library. This is due, in part I think, to the fact that not sufficient inducement is given to them to remain here. The Parliamentary Library fs nothing more or less than a staging place where they save enough money to enable them to move on, or where they stay until they are married. That is not good enough. If we cannot devise some means of retaining female staff longer than we do now, we ought seriously to consider the employment of permanent male staff. But permanent male staff can be obtained only if we pay a higher salary than we are now paying.
Some library work can be properly understood and properly performed only by former members of Parliament, A member of the library staff of one of the State Parliaments is a former member of Parliament. He is regarded by all members of that Parliament, Liberal and Labour members alike, as being the best library officer they have ever had, for the simple reason that he alone of all the staff employed there understands intimately what is required by a member of Parliament. I can think of former members of this Parliament who could have been approached to ascertain whether they were prepared to take on such an important position. I think of John Armitage and Jim Monaghan, to mention two former Labour members of the Parliament who were defeated at an election. They would have made excellent research officers in the Library if given the opportunity. Peter Browne, from Kalgoorlie, and Malcolm McColm, both former supporters of the Government, are among the type of people who would have made excellent officers in a parliamentary library.
The Cabinet’s utter contempt for the Parliament is illustrated by the way in which it ignores the debates of the Parliament. Except at question time, when tradition requires them to be present to answer questions, rarely do we see members of the Cabinet in this chamber. One of the Ministers who is at present in the chamber - I shall not mention his name, because he is a reasonably decent chap - has just opened his eyes. Probably it is because he thinks another blast is about to be directed at him. Of all the members of the Cabinet and the Ministry only four are now in the chamber. Until a moment ago, there was only one here.
– They are socialites.
– Perhaps that is so. They do treat the Parliament with contempt. They are not interested in what we say or what our committees say. Nor are their departmental heads interested in what we say. But the time will come when members of the Cabinet will not be able to laugh off this matter any longer. They need not take much notice of the Opposition, but the time is coming - it is coming much more quickly than they realise - when members of their own parties, the so-called backbenchers, will take out the axe in their party rooms and cut into them if they do not smarten up. I have heard a lot of murmurings of discontent from honorable members opposite. They are no more happy with the way in which members of the Cabinet treat the Parliament than we are. The day will come when they will take vengence upon members of the Cabinet.
Private members of the Parliament should be shown much more courtesy than they are at the present time. I still have on the notice paper a question which is dated 27th October 1964. I have another one there which is dated 10th November 1964 and a second one which is dated 10th November 1964. The last two have been on the notice paper for nearly a year. They were addressed to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes), who is now sitting on the front bench. He is not even listening to what I am saying. The Minister has not answered those questions.
In addition to being supplied with answers to questions that are placed on the notice paper, members of the Opposition ought to be given every facility to introduce private member’s bills. In some of the State Parliaments, the introduction of private member’s bills is the most fruitful exercise of parliamentary power. For years the Opposition in this Parliament has been trying te obtain the services of the Parliamentary Draftsman to draft a new bill on Commonwealth employees’ compensation. We have been waiting for 10 years but we still cannot get the services of the Parliamentary Draftsman to complete the final draft of a model bill. I do not blame the Parliamentary Draftsman or members of his staff. I blame the Government for not offering sufficiently high salaries to attract men who can fill such positions. It is not easy to get draftsmen. A draftsman not only must be a lawyer but also must have a special knowledge of the drafting of laws. Such men are not easily come by, because if men are capable of doing this work they will normally go into private practice and be able to command a very much higher salary than we are offering them. We must look at this situation. The Parliament is entitled to the best legal brains that are available, because it is the Parliament which makes the laws that the courts administer. We ought to be offering far higher salaries than we are now offering.
There is a lot in what the honorable member for Macquarie said about joint committees. If we had more joint committees and if the public glare that surrounds the debates of the Parliament could be diverted to the deliberations of joint committees, we would get far better results than we do now. But what is the use of our having joint committees if departmental heads snap their fingers at the recommendations of those committees and if members of the Ministry completely ignore them? The recent Joint Committee on Constitutional Review was, I suppose, one of the most successful committees that has ever functioned on such an important matter. The Committee was unanimous on a whole host of things relevant to the Constitution, yet the Cabinet has seen fit to ignore its report, although the report was made, I think, eight years or even longer ago. That is typical of the way in which the Government treats parliamentary committees. I hope the time will come when honorable members on the other side of the chamber will rise up and demand from the Government the rights to which they are entitled.
Something has been said about Parliament House. 1 regret that time will not permit me to develop this theme as I should like. Any ordinary visitor to this building must be staggered by the lack of facilities for visitors. Members of the public who come here have no idea where to find a public convenience. This is an utter disgrace. Something ought to be done to accommodate the public in this place. I regret that there is no workers’ compensation for members of Parliament. If members are permanently incapacitated because of injury-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
, - As usual, we have had from the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) a bitter sort of speech. He made no suggestion whatever for the betterment of the Parliament and he did not discuss in any way the matter before the Committee. The whole of his speech was devoted to destructive criticism and to playing party politics at its lowest.
– When 1 was attacking Ministers, the honorable member laughed.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh said that the Ministry was ignorant. He lowered the prestige of the Parliament in the eyes of the public by the type of speech that he made, in which he contributed nothing whatever to the betterment of the Parliament. I take it that this is an occasion when we should make suggestions to improve the institution of Parliament.
Something has been said about the cost of the Parliament, but I do not propose to say very much about this subject. The total cost of the Parliament for this year is £1,706,000- an increase of only £143,000 on the cost of last year. It is interesting to note that the only item in which there is a reduction is the cost of conveyance of members of Parliament. It is expected that that cost this year will be £9,705 less than last year. However, I am not criticising the cost of the Parliament. As a matter of fact, I think the cost is very low in relation to the value of the Parliament to the community.
What is a Parliament? We are discussing Parliament as an institution. It is supposed to be an all-embracing deliberative assembly, including the Ministry, or the Executive, and the rank and file members of the Government parties and the Opposition. As has been rightly said by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), at the point of election every member of this House is equal. Each member is elected by a majority of the people in his electorate who are qualified to vote. He does not represent in this House only the people who voted for him; he represents all the people within his electorate. He comes here as their representative. In practice, however, this Parliament does not work in quite in that way. It is not a deliberative assembly in the ordinary sense. It operates - I believe for the benefit of the people of Australia - under a party system. The party system operates in this country as it does in many other countries. People seek election on the basis of belonging to and subscribing to a party. The party with the greatest number of elected members is asked to form a government, although there are a few cases where that is not so. The members of the successful party elect a leader, who becomes the Prime Minister. He then forms his government either of his own volition or, as in the case of the Labour Party, by the members of the party making their own choice. The party in power has been elected by a majority of the people on the policy placed before them. It is, therefore, the government’s duty to take such action as is necessary to give legislative effect to its policy, and it is clearly the duty of every member of the party in government to give active and loyal support to legislation when it is before the Parliament.
I propose to deal briefly with some practical problems which arise and to make some suggestions as to how the Parliament can be made more effective and efficient. I realise that there are many problems confronting the Parliament, but there are four that come to my mind at once. First, the volume and complexity of government activities are increasing year by year. They have already increased so much that no one man can understand the whole range of those activities. I think that proposition will be agreed to by most honorable members. My second point is that too great a strain is placed upon the Prime Minister and certain other key Ministers in the inner Cabinet. I believe that this strain has reached a critical point and that it is not good for the Parliament as an institution. Thirdly, I believe there is a feeling of frustration on the part of some members of the Government parties in particular because they are not made aware of some of the things that are going on in the inner circles of Government and they think they are expected to act merely as rubber stamps. This was stated by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner). Fourthly, I think there is some validity in the Opposition’s complaint that not sufficient information is made available to enable it to effectively oppose Government legislation.
Let us take these points in order. The first relates to the vast complexities of government. We now require diplomatic representation in every nook and cranny of the world because of our entry into foreign affairs and because of the fact that within a few short years many new countries have emerged. In this era more countries have gained their independence than in any other era in the world’s political history. Our difficulties are intensified because of the treaties we have entered into, because of our overseas commitments and because of the importance of SouthEast Asia in the scheme of things. Then there has been a change in the pattern of the Commonwealth of Nations as a whole. In the field of trade and industry, many countries are making a drive for external markets and this gives rise to questions of trade barriers and to tariff inquiries. Much could be said about the expansion of the Department of Primary Industry and of the Department of National Development, which is a Department that we have only recently established. The ramifications of the Department of Civil Aviation and of the Department of Supply have increased with advances in science, with space exploration, with the advent of nuclear weapons and so on.
Then there is the Department of Territories. We discussed recently in this House the problem of self-government for Papua and New Guinea. In relation to defence and defence preparations there are numerous complexities. It is almost impossible to keep pace with changes in weapons and methods of defence. On the domestic and social side, huge industrial problems have arisen. In the health field in recent years - and all these things have happened in recent years - Government participation has taken place in relation to hospitalisation, medical services and pharmaceutical services. The Government is being drawn into a continuous and increasing participation in all forms of education, and properly so. These matters show the complications that are arising in government. Year by year social service benefits are being extended into a vast network of needs for a welfare state. Although housing is a State responsibility, the Commonwealth Parliament is becoming more and more involved in this field. We are also becoming more involved in the television, radio and communication services that are provided by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. How can anyone - be he the Prime Minister, a Minister or a private member - know intimately all these avenues of government? In my opinion, this is the day of the specialist in government. One has to be a specialist to be fully aware of the ramifications of government. It is better that members should concentrate on certain matters than be master of none, as can well happen in the scheme of things.
Let me deal with the second problem that I mentioned. I believe that the Prime Minister is called upon to deal with too much detail. Whilst his capacity is unsurpassed - nobody in this country can deny that fact - this requirement to deal with so much detail is not fair to him. I believe that this matter needs revision by the Prime Minister himself. Cabinet Ministers are cluttered up with too much detail, in my opinion, not only in administering their own departments, but in respect of decisions that they have to make in wider fields. Junior Ministers are loaded with a great deal of matter. They have their own departments to attend to, but in addition they are required to know many things upon which they are never called upon to make a decision.
– Is that so?
– That is so, because of the way in which Cabinet works. In my opinion - and I say this advisedly to the House, to the Prime Minister and to the Government - there should be more committees of the Ministry to bring matters to a final state of decision, and there should be more delegation of authority to carry out the investigations. It is, in my opinion, quite understandable that members get the feeling of frustration, as we have seen evidenced in this House. But I do not agree with all the criticism that has been voiced against the Government because I believe that it does its best. The Government is so snowed under at the present time that something has to be done to take the stress off it. I think, however, that because of the great stress under which Ministers work, they take the line of least resistance and thereby avoid imparting information that may be controversial. The more quickly and easily a matter is solved either in the party room or in this House, the better it is for the Ministers. In my opinion, this is not the best for government. 1 do not think that any real effort has been made to utilise properly and effectively the ability of many of our private members whose contributions could be of great value to the Government and to this country. I believe, too, that the Opposition’s complaint in relation to the non-availability of information is a real one. A first class research and information service should be set up. It is, I consider, absolutely essential for the Parliament to have one. It should be possible for every subject that is likely to be raised in Parliament to be available in concise and authoritative form, complete with the background history and up to date statistics, to any member of Parliament at any time. This service could be used and relied on by the Ministers and their departments as well as by private members. I believe that the establishment of such a service should be carefully considered. It could replace many of the piecemeal research activities which are now carried out by some departments.
In the short time that remains at my disposal, I would like to sum up the points that I have made. I believe, first, that the functioning of Parliament is not keeping pace with the growth and complexities of a modern world. I do not think that anybody can deny that fact. I consider, too, that the work load of the Executive should be spread over a wider range of committees of the Ministry and that there should be a greater degree of delegation of authority, which is not happening at the present time. I believe, further, that much greater use should be made of the committees of the Parliament and that encouragement should be given to members to specialise in certain fields of government undertakings. This matter cannot be advocated too strenuously. The committee system within this Parliament, backed up by a great research organisation, would create a greater degree of efficiency than we have at the present time. We must always remember that Government and Opposition supporters, it has an effective opposition. I believe that it is the salvation of our democracy to have a government properly informed and an opposition that is qualified to oppose, where it is necessary, and not to oppose for the sake of opposing. A research and information service should be established on a broad and complete basis for the use of the Ministers and their departments and both government cannot operate properly unless
.- Honorable members from both sides of the chamber who have spoken on the estimates of the Parliament have indicated that they oppose late sittings of the Parliament. Accordingly, to test the sincerity of those honorable members and of others who have expressed similar views both privately and in this House on previous occasions, I move -
That progress be reported.
Question resolved in the negative.
– This decision is an indication that honorable members opposite, who have expressed in rather strong terms tonight their disapproval of the way in which the affairs of Parliament are conducted, have no intention of endeavouring to alter the procedures that are adopted by Cabinet and those who run the affairs of the House. There is no doubt in the minds of the general public and of honorable members who bother to give the subject a moment’s thought that this Parliament is being run in an inefficient manner at the present time. It is being run without due consideration being given to members or to the important matters that we are called upon to discuss. Late sittings occur more regularly now than has been the case. We are sitting through until 2, 3, 4 and 5 o’clock in the morning to discuss matters of vital importance to our nation. Important bills are introduced into the Parliament late in the sessional period. We are expected, as happened earlier this year, to dispose of 19 or more bills in almost as many hours. We are given insufficient time to study the bills when they are introduced into the House.
I want to stress the point at this stage that the department or the Minister responsible for introducing a bill has been looking at the topic contained in the measure for months and in some cases years. Legislation is introduced into the House and the Opposition is expected to debate it after a week’s adjournment. We are not in a position to do so. It is impossible to give the necessary study to important items of legislation. If the Opposition endeavours to obtain information from the Minister during the Committee stage, the Minister uses the gag in order to silence criticism. If he does not use the gag, he allows the debate to continue into the early hours of the morning. So, by a process of exhaustion, because everyone wants to get home and because honorable members on the Government side wonder why members dare to talk at, say 2 o’clock in the morning, many members refuse to speak after midnight. Because of the use of the gag and because of legislation by exhaustion, the Government is putting through legislation which should receive much more consideration and much more debate than is given to it at present.
Another procedure that is being adopted by the Government is to make no attempt to answer the arguments advanced by the Opposition. In the debate on the Stevedoring Industry Bill recently, four members of the Opposition spoke in succession because members of the Government parties had been instructed not to take part in that debate. That happens time and time again. Labour speakers rise and express their points of view, but not one member of the Government parties rises to answer those arguments. In many cases, not even the Minister concerned rises to answer those arguments. Members of the Government parties are told that they are not to talk, and they obey their instructions. Debates on controversial issues quite often are held on days on which the proceedings in this chamber are not broadcast. Because of the lack of publicity of the views of the Labour Party in the Press of this country and because the proceedings are not broadcast, many of the arguments advanced by the Opposition do not reach the community. That is good work on the part of the Government, because quite often the arguments advanced by the Opposition completely destroy the proposals made by the Government.
No person inside or outside this chamber in his right mind could expect members of the Parliament to retain their good temper or their efficiency into the early hours of the morning. It is inconvenient and difficult for members of the Parliament to carry on into the early hours of the morning, but it is even more difficult and more inconvenient for the staff to do so. The Clerks have to sit here; they have to remain awake; they have to keep their records straight. The “ Hansard “ reporters have to report the various speeches and the typists on the “ Hansard “ staff have to type those speeches. The attendants in the building have to remain awake and alert in order to keep the affairs of the Parliament going. People are kept in the refreshment rooms to provide late suppers and general refreshments. Car drivers are kept waiting outside for hour upon hour until the Parliament adjourns. Nowhere in Australia would one find a more co-operative courteous and efficient officer than the transport officer. He is kept here, endeavouring to maintain his transport services so that members of the Parliament can be taken home.
In addition, overtime is paid to a great many of these people. The cost of running the Parliament becomes greater and greater because the Government is unable to coordinate efficiently the affairs of the Parliament. The staff are inconvenienced far more than we are. We are away from home. We do not inconvenience the other members of our families by arriving home in the early hours of the morning. During the following day we will be able to sneak a rest; but the members of the staff, from the Clerks down, have to remain at their posts and have to continue to perform their duties as if they had had a good night’s rest. It is far more difficult for the staff of the Parliament to work these long hours than it is for members of the Parliament themselves.
It does not surprise me in the least to see the Government adopt this attitude. Members of the Government are completely inconsiderate in their attitude to everything and everybody but themselves. It is always the workers who are to blame; it is always the waterside workers who cause the troubles on the waterfront, according to them. No consideration is given to the workers. No consideration is given to the staff when the Parliament is kept sitting until the early hours of the morning.
It would be very simple for the Government to alter this situation. It could be done simply by extending the number of days on which the Parliament sits. It would not cause any inconvenience to many members of the Parliament if the Government gave us a fortnight’s notice that the Parliament would sit on a Friday - a day on which the Parliament normally does not sit. For the Parliament to sit into the early hours of the morning night after night - perhaps I should say morning after morning - certainly does not increase its efficiency. It is up to members of the Government parties as well as members of the Opposition to express their disapproval of the way in which the Parliament is run. If members of the Government parties do not want to consider themselves, let them consider the men and women who work around this building and who are inconvenienced. Let them consider the inconvenience that is caused to the families of the staff in having to prepare meals at inopportune times or in being awakened in the early hours of the morning when the member of the staff arrives home.
If the Government were managing a business in industry, the attitude that it adopts to members of the Parliament and of the staff would lead very quickly to a strike. Unless greater consideration is given to the members and staff of the Parliament, I am afraid that one night there will certainly be turmoil in this chamber. It will not be glasses of water that will be thrown; it will be buckets of water. Tonight, until the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) protested, it was intended that this debate would continue until after midnight. Already it is intended that tomorrow night we will sit until midnight or even later. If this is to start on the first day of the Estimates debate, it will continue right through the debate. It is up to the Government to consider the protests that have been made by members of the Opposition, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) - the only member of the Country Party who has spoken in this debate - and the other members of the Government parties who have spoken on this matter. I hope that for once the honorable member for Mallee will be a man of deeds and not a man of words. I hope that for once in his lifetime he will stand up and be counted rather than run away when the pressure is applied to him.
A few years ago, in a similar debate to this one, I suggested that, because of the lack of facilities available to members of the Opposition to enable them to obtain information on legislation and other matters that come before the Parliament, consideration be given to the establishment of a research and reference bureau for the Opposition. In my speech I explained the idea that I had in my mind. Briefly, it was that the Opposition is as important a part of this Parliament as the Government is. Unless there is a strong, virile and active Opposition, our democratic system is liable to fail. Because we are unable to spend on research the amount of time that we need to spend on it, facilities should be made available to us.
I suggested that the bureau should be attached to the Opposition under the direct control of the Leader of the Opposition. Members of the Opposition could go to the officers of the bureau and obtain information on matters coming before the Parliament, be given suggestions about proposed legislation, find out the facts and figures involved in a matter or find out the cost involved in putting a piece of legislation into effect. That suggestion apparently fell on deaf ears. Two or three speakers tonight have made similar suggestions.
If the Government will not accept the establishment of a research and reference bureau for the Opposition then I make a further suggestion that the Government enlarge the staffs of the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House and of their counterparts in another place in order to provide for the appointment of research officers. I further suggest that in the main Commonwealth Parliamentary offices in each State one research officer for every 20 members should be made available, so that members in the. various States can approach the research officer for information and have that information obtained for them. As I have said, it is an impossibility for ordinary members of the Parliament to do the research that is required for Parliamentary debates and at the same time carry out their many and varied electoral duties. Unless the Government wishes to destroy this democratic institution it is essential that the research and reference services available to the Opposition should be enlarged. These are things that deserve to be looked at. They require the urgent attention of the Government. Ministers have hosts of research officers and departmental officers at their disposal. But the ordinary backbencher in this House has no-one to rely on but himself.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman, I relate my remarks to the task ahead of the Parliament in approving the appropriation of funds necessary for the services of the Government. 1 indicate some concern, as other honorable members who have spoken in this debate have, as to the degree of effectiveness or degree of capacity of the Parliament to carry out the responsibilities that it has at the present time. I would think that a great deal of common ground has been reached in this debate, although we might well differ on the causes that produce the problems which confront Parliament. To my mind, the problem can be attributed to two causes. The first, mentioned at some length by my friend from Bennelong (Sir John Cramer), is the increasing area of government activity and the increasing complexities within that area. The second and, I think, the more important, in its relation to the Parliament itself, is the increase that has taken place in the speed of calculation, communication and transport in the postwar years. This has been accompanied, and necessarily so, by a demand for speed of decision. In the old days, when that ornamental piece of jewellery which we have inherited from the past, the Mace, was first introduced, time permitted lengthy discussions by the Executive and by Parliament before a decision was made. Today, when news travels around the world in seconds and the effects of happenings 3,000 or 4,000 miles away from this country is felt here in hours, the need for speed in decisions has been increased. To meet that situation, I think it is true to say, the Government has increased the number of its advisers and public servants to provide it with the necessary information. However, those facilities, as my friend from Lang (Mr. Stewart) and others have pointed out, are not readily available to the Parliament itself. This is one of the primary problems to which consideration is quite rightly directed. Whether this problem rests principally in the field of research or not I am not inclined to argue. I think research could well be left to the members of this Parliament themselves provided the information was brought rapidly up to date day by day and was available to those who cared to look for it and knew where to look for it.
I want to make three practical proposals. While I do not profess that they provide the answers to the problems that confront us, I think at least they open the gateway to consideration of these problems. We are engaged now in the classic and fundamental activity of Parliament of retaining - or not retaining - power over the public purse. It is the traditional and ancient right of this Parliament to retain control of expenditure. We know, of course, that over the years and because of circumstances which, I submit, no longer fully apply, the tradition has grown up that a government, if it is defeated on a money bill or if a money bill is amended against its will, must resign. Now, in the days that this tradition was created, that attitude was understandable. But in these days when, as other speakers have pointed out, we deal with a total expenditure of something over £2,600 million, and when we deal, as in this Bill with 142 pages, with thousands of items, to say that Parliament as a whole is not capable to, nor should it, amend any one of these thousands of items, is the height of absurdity. I feel reasonably sure that I could put a case to the Committee which would justify a reduction of expenditure on a number of items. I confess that I have not a monopoly in this regard. I think it is evident that it is not right to assume that because a process of budgeting has been carried out, because departmental officers have prepared estimates, because Government sub-committees have looked at them and because the Government has finally adopted them and translated them into the Appropriation Bill, every item in the Appropriation Bill is right. To accept that every such item is ipso facto right is to credit the Executive with something more than the divine right that the kings of old claimed. It would be absurd. But, on the other hand, it is equally true that no Government would permit the control of finance to be taken out of its hands. Somewhere between these two extremes, if the Parliament is to function effectively so that we can collectively discharge our responsibilities, some solution must be found.
I make in passing two suggestions merely to open up discussion on this. The first is that an estimates committee with a fairly carefully considered charter could make a contribution to the solution of this problem. The second suggestion - and, I think, the more practical one - is that a joint committee of the Parliament considering this problem could well come up with suggestions acceptable to governments of the day and to the Parliament which would allow the Government of the day to accept, as it must, responsibility for finance, yet permit the Parliament to discharge its fundamental right of retaining control of the public purse.
The second proposition is that while we should seek to bring forward, in these discussions that we have for the benefit of Parliament as a whole, all the information possible, we should at the same time seek to remove unnecessary material from the financial documents and the Appropriation Bill. I refer to the schedule of salaries and allowances, covering about 80 pages at the back of the Appropriation Bill, which in practical terms today is meaningless. Probably 40, 50 or 60 years ago it meant something but today - to speak in blunt terms - it has no significance and no meaning. Indeed, if one cares to compare this schedule with the Public Service Board he will get some very peculiar results. This schedule purports to show the approved establishment, in total, of the various departments and, finally, the total moneys payable for salaries and allowances. In every case there is a deduction finally for amounts estimated to remain unexpended. I can assure the Committee that if one looks at the establishment shown in the schedule and at the numbers shown by the Public Service Board as actually employed on 30th June, he will find some very interesting results. I do not propose to pursue this matter at present. I hope to develop the argument further at a later stage. This is just an indication of a carry over of tradition that is completely and utterly useless today.
My friend the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) spoke of reports. He spoke with fluency but, I think, without a complete knowledge of the reports that are presented to the Parliament. I have here all of the reports, so far as I know, that have been presented to the Parliament to date. My friend from Hindmarsh very rightly pointed out that a number of reports are not presented to the Parliament in time for them to be considered before we discuss the appropriation of moneys for the activities of the various departments. My friend from Hindmarsh put forward the suggestion - no doubt an admirable one - that all the reports should be of uniform size, but that did not seem to me to be a great contribution to the debate. I want to point out to the Committee some matters which are of vital importance. In the small handful of reports we already have the figures in some of the financial statements differ from the figures given by the Auditor-General. I referred to one instance last year and I hope, if time permits, to refer to quite a few more. These things, I suggest, are of great significance. If the Parliament is to consider these appropriations with any degree of effectiveness, the sources of information on which we rely must be reports from the departments and statutory authorities, which are partly public relations exercises. If the financial statements in those reports are not accurate, what means has the Parliament of assessing the realities of the appropriations sought?
This is of immense importance. 1 believe that it is not beyond the collective capacity of this Parliament to insist that the reports of all departments and all statutory bodies be ready in time to be considered before the Estimates are considered and that the financial statements included in those reports conform to a pattern laid down by a committee or representatives of the Parliament. Some of these admirable reports are in conventional commercial terms. I referred to one authority last year which had spent about £30 million and there was no mention of assets in its report. The Parliament was not and could not be informed on how much money had actually been lost over the years in the operations of this particular service. As I have said, in some of these reports the figures are different from the figures given by the Auditor-General and, in fact, different from the figures given by the Treasury in the summary of receipts and expenditure.
This is just not good enough. These are not high matters of policy. These are low matters of practical importance. It is just not good enough that when the Parliament is under pressure to deal with a great variety of subjects in the time in which it must deal with them the departments are not instructed to present financial documents in proper form and at the proper time for consideration. Finally, I say to the Committee that if this Parliament fails to discharge its basic responsibility - which is effectively to control expenditure - then it dooms itself to ultimate failure. If we fail in this, ultimately we fail in all things.
.- I listened very closely and attentively to the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) and
I agree with most of the points that he has made. I would say that the honorable member, as a former member of the Public Accounts Committee and having presided over that Committee, has as wide a knowledge as any honorable member has of what is contained in the Estimates and Budget Papers. We know from long experience in this chamber that Opposition members and even Government back benchers have no chance whatever of having accepted suggestions for amendment of the Estimates that appear before us. I congratulate the honorable member on the views that he expressed. I should also like to congratulate the honorable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) on his suggestion that more information as to what is going on in the Parliament should be made available to back benchers. I believe that that is a wise suggestion and every back bencher would appreciate its adoption.
I should like to devote most of my time in speaking to the proposed vote for the Parliament to the bias and prejudice exhibited by the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ against the Australian Labour Party. I endorse the words of one of the most famous of United States Presidents, Thomas Jefferson, who said -
Our liberty depends upon the freedom of the Press and that cannot be limited without being lost.
Any person who believes in democracy would endorse those sentiments. The Australian Labour Party recognises the right of newspapers - to express opinions in favour of the political party which they desire to support. However, I believe it is the duty of all newspapers to report fairly and accurately on all political matters. In addition, I believe, it is obligatory for a newspaper occupying room space hi the Parliament Houses of Australia, by grace of the various Speakers of the Parliaments, at least to publish the views expressed by Labour leaders on behalf of the Australian Labour Party. Let me cite a few illustrations of the bias of the Sydney “Daily Telegraph “ in its reporting of debates. Honorable members will no doubt recall that not so very long ago the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) went overseas in regard to one of the most contentious matters ever facing this country, when everybody assumed that the United Kingdom would join the European Common Market and that this would greatly affect Australia. On a Thursday night the Minister made in this chamber a far reaching statement on government policy and the Government’s thoughts on this particular matter. That statement was printed almost verbatim in tl-e Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ on the next day. On the following Tuesday night the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), giving the views of the Labour Opposition, spoke at great length on this matter, but not one word of what the honorable member said was published in the “ Daily Telegraph “ next day.
Only recently in the New South Wales Parliament Mr. Askin, the Premier, delivered his Budget speech which was reported almost verbatim in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ next morning. When the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Renshaw, spoke at great length - and I may say it was a great speech, accredited as such by everyone in the House - not one word of that speech was printed in the “Daily Telegraph “ the next day.
I believe it is incumbent on all newspapers that enjoy the privilege of office space provided for them free by the Parliament, through the courtesy of Mr. Speaker, at least to report what both political parties have to say on matters of great importance. As I said before and as I repeat, I know that it is the right of any newspaper to support the views of any political party. We do not object to that and we realise that newspapers can do so through their editorial columns. But I do object to a newspaper deliberately falsifying figures and reports in an endeavour to bolster the prestige of the Liberal Party. Let me give the Committee an illustration of this practice. I have before me a report that appeared in the “ Sunday Telegraph “ with the caption “ From Alan Reid “. This was a report on two by-elections, at Bendigo and Balaclava. I am going back now to 1958. This report, which appeared on 17th July 1960, said-
The Liberal candidate (Mr. Whittorn) will win easily. His majority will be higher than that of Mr. Joske when he held the seat for the Government at the 19S8 election.
Let me give figures regarding these elections, which 1 have obtained from the “Parliamentary Handbook”. At the 1958 general election Joske polled 24,722 votes. Rothfield for the Australian Labour Party polled 10,732. The Australian Democratic Labour Party candidate, Keane, polled 4,852 and Stratton, an independent, polled 626. Joske’s overall majority was 9,012. He received 61.144 per cent, of the total formal votes cast. In the by-election in July 1960 Whittorn polled 17,859; Smith, the Labour Party candidate, polled 9,519; Ryan for the Democratic Labour Party polled 4,672; and Murray, an independent, polled 865. There was the same number of candidates, from the same parties, on both occasions. In the by-election Whittorn had an overall majority of 2,474, compared with the overall majority of 9,012 obtained previously by Joske. Whittorn received 54.258 per cent, of the total formal votes, compared with 61.144 per cent, received by Joske. The Liberal percentage dropped by 6.886 per cent, while Labour gained 3.613 per cent.
I spoke about this matter in the House and I accused the person responsible of being incompetent, drunk or a deliberate liar - take your pick. In the “ Daily Telegraph “ the next day, 26th August 1960, a report of what I said appeared on the back page, whereas the article I referred to previously, captioned “ From Alan Reid “, appeared on page 3 of the “ Sunday Telegraph “. Let me read to the Committee the report of what I had said the night before. The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) and several of his colleagues are trying to interject, but we all know that they would be whingeing their heads off if somebody was getting at their Party. They have always had it very easy. This is what the newspaper article said -
Government members frequently used Telegraph articles by Alan Reid for attacks on the A.L.P., Mr. Cope (Lab., N.S.W.) said tonight.
Mr. Cope was speaking in the House of Representatives on the adjournment.
He said: “I want to show the reliability and honesty of this journalist.
This is what he said on July 17 after the Bendigo by-election and the Balaclava by-election.
The Liberal candidate (for Balaclava) Mr. Whittorn will win easily.
His majority will be higher than that of Mr. Joske when he held the seat for the Government in the 1958 elections.
Mr. Cope said Mr. Joske won by 14,470 votes and held 60.6 per cent of total votes.
Mr. Cope said: “But in 1960 Mr. Whittorn obtained 1*7,148 as against the A.L.I’, candidate’s 9,332.”
Mr. Cope said the Liberal share of the vole had fallen from 60.6 per cent in 1958 to 53 per cent, in I960.
Most of the “nonsense” brought up in adjournment debates) was based on Reids articles, he said.
Mr. Cope said: “1 would presume on these figures that when he said a better majority than Mr. Joske got he was either incompetent, drunk when he wrote it, or an unmitigated liar.”
Then followed a note from the editor of the “ Daily Telegraph “ in these words -
Mr. Cope presumably is referring to a report on the Bendigo and Balaclava by-elections which appeared in the Sunday Telegraph of July 17. Mr. Reid did not write the references to the Balaclava by-election which appeared in this report.
Mr. Reid, writing from Canberra, on the night of the election made some comments) on what seemed to be the trend in Bendigo,
Our Melbourne office made some comments on what seemed to be the trend in Balaclava.
For the convenience of readers interested in the political scene both articles were grouped as one with the Melbourne office comment following Mr. Reid’s comment.
Unfortunately, a subheading was omitted from the Melbourne office comment on Balaclava, thus giving the erroneous impression that Mr. Reid had written the whole article, including the comment on Balaclava.
But honorable members will notice that in that report the newspaper again did not say anything about the deliberate falsification, whether Mr. Reid or somebody else was responsible for these figures. There was no excuse in the newspaper at all. This is the kind of practice that the Labour Party is used to from this gentleman and this newspaper.
I can recall an incident that occurred a few years ago - Mr. Reid knows what I am talking about - when there was a little bit’ of a fracas involving some members on the Government side of the chamber. We did not bring the matter up in the House at all. Nobody brought it up in this place. Mr. Reid knew all about it but not one word appeared in the “ Daily Telegraph “ about it. Recently there was another little fracas - only a slight one compared with the one a few years ago involving members on the Government side - and Mr. Reid’s report of it was on the front page. Is that being fair? Is that honest reporting? These are the things we have to put up with. Liberal Party members can stab one another in the back, throw punches and blacken eyes, but if two Labour men happen to trip one another while going along the lobby, it becomes a front page story.
This is what we must expect from newspaper reporters who cover the proceedings of this Parliament. The honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp) is asking for names, if I understand his attempts at interjecting. If he wants to point at any particular person I will start pointing also. Let me suggest that he let that matter drop. I have never mentioned the names of the people involved in the earlier incident and I do not intend to do so now, but if the honorable member starts mentioning names I will also mention a few. Some of those who were involved in thai earlier fracas are still members of Parliament and the honorable member himself knows all about it.
I believe we are entitled to expect a fair go from the newspapers. At least wc should not expect newspapers to publish lying reports about happenings involving members of the Labour Party Opposition.
.- My remarks will be related to Division No. 109 of the Estimates, which refers to an amount of £17,900 for the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. At the outset I want to point out that honorable members from time to time have made most thoughtful proposals relating to the exercise by the Parliament of adequate control over the Executive. Scrutiny of departmental spending has been raised and many honorable members have had something to say on other occasions as well as in this particular debate on the value of using parliamentary estimates committees. It is interesting, I want to suggest, that quite recently one of the newspapers in Canberra ran a series of feature articles on parliamentary reform. One of these dealt with the subject “ Parliament: A Rubber Stamp for Ministers” - a very thought provoking contribution by my colleague, the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner). The other article* covered the subjects “ New Standing Committees “, “ Control of Finance “ and “ Parliament and the Executive”. One writer placed responsibility for inadequate procedures on people like ourselves, the parliamentary backbenchers. His claim was that whilst it was argued that there was an Executive dictatorship in Parliament, it was often forgotten that backbenchers get the parliamentary procedures and parliamentary committees that they deserve. Unofficial committees were recommended by another writer - committees, the writer suggested, at which Ministers would be expected to attend and yet they would still be unofficial.
There is something parallel in this suggestion with the excellent committee we have known as the “Foreign Affairs Committee “. Unfortunately that is not really a joint committee, as other speakers in this debate have reminded us. It is not supported by the Opposition and therefore it cannot truly be termed a joint committee. I find that several writers also referred to wartime committees which, of course, reported direct to the Government. These committees are appropriate, in my opinion, in emergency times, but it does not necessarily follow that they will thrive and achieve similar good results in time of peace. Professor Bland, one of the writers of these articles, who is esteemed for his work in this Parliament and who is steeped in a sound knowledge of public administration, as honorable members would know, pointed out that the most important permanent committee in the Parliament was the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. He went on to say that Parliament had not yet shown a capacity to get the best results from the activities of this Committee.
I personally was dismayed to note that one writer revealed less than a theoretical knowledge of the Public Accounts Committee and was, therefore, critical rather than being a supporter of the views advanced by Professor Bland. That writer was concerned over the non-appointment of an Opposition member as Chairman of the Committee. This point is of interest to us because in the history of the Committee since 1954 this has never been raised as an issue. I feel sure that the Opposition would do just the same as the Government if it were in power. It would expect that this joint parliamentary Committee would be chaired by one of its number. The same writer labours under a delusion that in Australia the services of the Auditor-General are not used as in the United Kingdom, lt is my responsibility tonight in this debate to point out that the Auditor-General in Australia is an observer at every public inquiry and the Public Accounts Committee has his enthusiastic support and advice throughout its entire programme. Of course, many speakers and writers fall into error, not only in this field but in others, through a lack of personal knowledge of this particular finance Committee, or perhaps through incomplete research or through the use of the wrong textbooks, as so often happens.
The advocacy of an estimates committee, which has again been raised, most genuinely in this debate - one similar to the Westminster committee - is a good example of the need to understand what are the objective to be achieved and the limitations of this type of committee. I want to underline, if I may, that estimates committees do not have access to proposed Estimates. Their task is that of an ex post facto committee and this does not seem to be understood by many people. In my opinion it is just wishful thinking to imagine that a government’s Estimates should be altered by any joint parliamentary committee. This would be taking away the authority of the government of the day. Its estimates are prepared in consultation with its advisors. The endorsement, of course, must come from parliament, but if any government - even a government drawn from the present Opposition party - would be prepared to allow us to take its Estimates apart and reduce them, I would be very surprised indeed. Not only would this be difficult from the physical timetable point of view but the intervention in government policy, which of course, is inseparable from the Estimates, would be resisted by any self respecting government. Turning to the Estimates Committee in the United Kingdom, which attracts the attention of many honorable members, we find that it consists of 43 members out of a very large House of Commons membership of over 600. The Chairman is drawn from the Government party. The sub-committee system is used for concurrent inquiries. This is admirable and is something we would like to see used more and more in our Parliament. But let us note that this Committee in the United Kingdom can only report on Estimates already approved by the Government, it can only report on the previous Estimates. Admittedly, its report and findings may influence the Estimates of subsequent years. This is our hope concerning our Public Accounts Committee, as I want to indicate. Paul Einzig, writing in “ The Control of the Purse “, as far as this British Committee is concerned, has said - it did fail to achieve the standing of the Public Accounts Committee. The Estimates Committee continued to labour under the lack of guidance from officials of the standing of the Comptroller and Auditor-General.
Einzig concluded with some helpful pointers. He mentioned that the Government was in a position to ignore the Committee’s advice. Since the Committee’s reports were never debated, the Government’s hand could never be forced. However, he said that the Government could be influenced to implement Committee recommendations by the establishment of a system under which departments had to answer criticisms contained in its report. Unless the answer was considered satisfactory the Committee drew further public attention to its former criticism in another report.
In another book dealing with Parliament, the author, Jennings, dealt with efforts made, due to what he said was the overlapping of duties, to combine the Public Accounts Committee and Estimates Committee in 1946. It is interesting, Mr. Chairman, to note that the Government refused to accept those recommendations but proceeded to enlarge the Estimates Committee to its present membership. If we turn to Canada, a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, we find interesting observations are available on its Committee of Estimates. Norman Ward, writing on this subject, dealt with the limitations which would affect us - the limitations on the time of members. He pointed out that a conscientious parliamentarian in Canada who was a member of two committees was a remarkably busy man. Ward moved on to summarise the experience of the Canadian House of Commons in this respect and he said -
The Canadian House of Commons has had experience with three types of estimates committees; the ordinary standing committees which have received estimates in recent years . . . die special committee on estimates of 19SS, which died in 1957 of malnutrition; and the standing Committee on Estimates created in 1958 which still exists.
Neither in the House nor in the separate committees has any firm conclusion been reached as to what the committees are supposed to do with the estimates once they get them; and so far no committee, though many of them have done extremely valuable work in other directions, has with one or two exceptions had much discernible impact on the estimates as such. Perhaps the most important change in the estimates has been not in the size of a vote or votes but in the breakdown of one huge single vote for national defence into nearly twenty votes, following a recommendation from the standing Committee on Estimates in 1958.
It was my privilege while overseas last year to make inquiries about public accounts committee activities in a number of countries. Observations were possible in Rhodesia, Kenya, and Israel. I wish I had time to talk about the finance committee of Israel. I observed activities in the United Kingdom, Jamaica and British Guiana. These contacts were extremely valuable. We saw in action in Japan, in a strange and different parliament from ours, an estimates committee or finance committee. My own conviction is that the charter of our own Public Accounts Committee was wisely framed to permit a broad review of accounts, estimates, administration and general efficiency, and that within the limits of time the Public Accounts Committee does embrace the responsibility in Australia of an estimates committee. A wide power is bestowed on it under our act. We have the task to report to both Houses of the Parliament, with such comment as the Committee thinks fit, on any items or matters in those accounts, statements and reports, or any circumstances connected with them, to which the Committee is of the opinion the attention of the Parliament should be directed. This power has been exercised quite widely by the Committee over the years since its inception. This is evidenced, I suggest, by the nature of the inquiries undertaken by the Committee, including general inquiries into departments such as the Department of Social Services, the Northern Territory Administration and the Repatriation Department, and specific inquiries in very important fields such as the Financial Statement, trust fund procedures and the like.
This year the Committee has developed a pro forma in connection with departmental estimating and spending. This is designed to show estimating and expenditure patterns over recent years. I believe this has helped members to form a judgment as to the validity of the methods used by departments in formulating their estimates. Of the types of inquiry conducted by the Committee, those relating to expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and from the Advance to the Treasurer probably have the most direct bearing on estimating and spending by departments and authorities under Commonwealth control. It is sometimes said that these inquiries lack force, as they are conducted after the close of the financial year to which they relate. This argument, of course, loses sight of the fact that departments know full well that unless their estimating improves following an examination by the Committee, their appearance before the Committee will became an annual occurrence. Moreover, there is no need for the Committee’s examination of estimates to be confined to the results of the previous year. In a current inquiry into expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer in the year 1964-65, the Committee has specifically questioned departments on the adequacy and reasonableness of their estimates for the current year, 1965-66. We have asked departments whether experiences and circumstances previously encountered, which resulted in overestimation of requirements in the previous year, have been properly taken into account. So I contend that, wisely used and appreciated by the Parliament, the Public Accounts Committee as we know it at present rightly exercises the responsibility of estimates committees which, we see and note with approval, operate elsewhere.
House adjourned at 11.45 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
i asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the total personal debt of the Australian people in each State and territory at 30th June 1965, in respect of (a) overdrafts with all banks, (b) outstanding accounts with hire purchase companies, (c) building societies, (d) small loan and credit unions and (e) other financial institutions.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
It is assumed that the term “ personal debt “ refers to debt owed by individuals in their personal capacity and that it does not include borrowing for business purposes.
Overdrafts with all banks
Major trading banks: Statistics of outstanding advances to persons by the major trading banks are not available as at 30th June 1965, but are shown below as at 14th July 1965 -
Savings banks: Advances by all savings banks at the end of June 1965 totalled £658.5 million. These advances are predominantly to persons, but the total also includes loans to building societies’, clubs and non-profit making organisations, for which separate details are not available. A dissection of savings bank advances as between States’ and Territories is not available.
Preliminary estimates of balances outstanding (including interest, hiring charges and insurance) in respect of all types of instalment credit financing of retail sales are shown below.
A relatively small amount of loans to businesses would be included in these figures. Information on personal loans by instalment credit companies other than in respect of retail sales is not available.
The latest statistics for outstanding mortgage loans by building societies relate to 30th June 1964 (unless otherwise indicated) and are as follows:
Figures are not available for the Territories,
Statistics relating to outstanding loans by credit unions in three of the States at 30th June 1964 are shown in the following table. Figures as at 30th June 1965 are not yet available. No information is available for the other States or for the Territories.
The only statistics available of loans to persons by other financial institutions relate to life insurance companies. Their loans outstanding in Australia (including Papua and New Guinea) at 31st March 1965, are shown below.
Both items include a relatively small amount of loans to businesses. A State and Territory dissection is not available.
d asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1 and 2. There is no statutory prohibition on the use of gold in Australian coins. However Part IV of the Banking Act 1959 requires, with certain minor exceptions, all gold including gold coins to be sold to the Reserve Bank or its agents. The Banking (Gold) Regulations made under this Act limit to £25 the total value of the gold content of gold coins which may be held by a member of the public. 3 and 4. The cost of gold would preclude the profitable manufacture of a 50-cent coin of practicable size with a substantial gold content. If the alloy previously used in gold sovereigns were adopted, a 50-cent gold coin would weigh less than half as much as the present threepence. Any gold coin of practicable size and weight would have to carry a much higher denomination than 50 cents and, for these higher values, it has been generally accepted that notes are more appropriate than coins.
b asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
I subsequently announced that, following discussions between the Minister for Health, representatives of the cigarette manufacturing industry and the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations, a voluntary code of cigarette advertising on television win be introduced by the Federation on 1st January 1966.
n asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable members questions is as follows -
Following the receipt of the report of the Committee appointed to review the Bills of Exchange Act 1909-1958, the report was printed and circulated to interested persons and organizations for information and comment and copies were made available for sale to the general public. From the comments which have been received up to the present it would appear that the Committee’s report has received general acceptance. Some suggestions have been made for changes to the Committee’s proposals. These are being considered. Further comments are still coming in and the stage has not yet been reached at which final decisions can be made with regard to the adoption of the recommendations in the report.
m asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What changes in (a) the beneficial ownership of the shares in television companies and (b) the memoranda or articles of association of television companies has the Postmaster-General (i) been asked to approve and (ii) approved since his reply to me on 13th August 1964 (“ Hansard “, page 270)?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The attached statement contains details of the applications made since 1st August 1964, for approval of changes in the beneficial ownership of shares in companies holding licences for commercial television stations and in the memorandum and articles of association of licensee companies.
m asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
For what crimes can the death penalty be imposed under (a) Federal, (b) State and (c) Territorial laws?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The death penalty may be imposed for the following crimes -
a member of the Defence Force may be sentenced to death by a court-martial only for mutiny, desertion to the enemy, traitorously delivering up to the enemy a garrison, fortress, post, guard, ship, vessel, boat or aircraft, or traitorous correspondence with the enemy;
grave breaches of the Geneva ‘ Red Cross ‘ Conventions; and
destroying an aircraft, or prejudicing the safe operation of an aircraft, with intent to kill persons.
I do not think I should attempt to give an exhaustive statement of the position under the laws of the States.
Australian Capital Territory (including Jervis Bay)-
piracy with violence;
certain attempts to murder;
carnal knowledge of a girl under 10 years of age;
breaking and entering a dwelling house and while therein assaulting with intent to murder or inflicting grievous bodily harm;
maliciously setting fire to any dwelling house, vehicle or aircraft, knowing any person to be in such dwelling house, vehicle or aircraft;
maliciously setting fire to, or casting away, or by any means destroying any vessel which is afloat, any person being then in such vessel;
maliciously masking, altering or removing any light or signal with intent to bring any vessel or boat into danger; and
Northern Territory -
m asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
What progress has been made towards introducing -
A new Acts Interpretation Act since bis speech on 13th May 1964 (“Hansard”, page 1857)?
A Cheques Act since the report of the Bills of Exchange Act Review Committee on 1st May 1964?
New Copyrights, Designs and Extradition Acts since his answer to me on 17th November 1964 (“Hansard”, page 3175)?
A uniform criminal code for the Territories?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
A committee has not been appointed to consider the Designs Act.
A great deal of work has been done in relation to extradition legislation, but further consultation with the States and with Commonwealth countries remains necessary.
Telephone Services. (Question No. 1295.)
r asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Telephone Facilities at Aerodromes. (Question No. 1297.)
d asked the Postmaster-General upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1. (a) Kalgoorlie
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable members questions is as follows -
The number of Commonwealth technical scholarships taken up in each State at 30th September 1965, and this information expressed as a percentage of the State’s allocation of scholarships, are given in the table below.
In answer to the honorable member’s question No. 1152 “Hansard”, 16th September 1965. I pointed out that the actual number of scholarships awarded in a State may vary from the quota since each State quota is expressed in terms of two-year full-time awards. In some States technical scholarships are awarded either for part-time or full time courses which may be longer or shorter than the equivalent of two years full-time study and the number of scholarships that can be taken up in a State is adjusted accordingly. The equivalent number of two-year full-time scholarships for each State expressed as a percentage of the State quota is also included in the following table-
The honorable member also asked the Minister for Labour and National Service without notice on 23 rd September for the reasons why only 60 per cent, of the 2,500 technical scholarships available for this year were actually awarded. These scholarships are available for courses at the technical and certificate level including approved courses in accountancy, art and at agricultural colleges. All eligible applicants who reached a satisfactory standard on the selection examinations at the end of 1964 were offered awards. The standards of selection were as recommended by the State Technical Education authorities and neither they nor the Commonwealth regard them as too stringent. Wide publicity was given to the new scheme and although it may well be that some qualified students did not apply through lack of knowledge of the awards, we have had no criticism to that effect.
In some States it will be some years before there is a sufficient number of applicants of suitable standard for the award of all technical scholarships available to that State. It is not unusual at the beginning of a new scheme for some scholarships not to be taken up, but we are confident that there will be increasing numbers of applicants and increasing numbers of awards for technical scholarships.
m asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Railway Maintenance Depot in Western Australia. (Question No. 1330.)
d asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
Planning of the requirements in the Kalgoorlie area, following standardisation, has not been finalised and, at this stage, I am unable to advise the extent of the facilities which will be available there. The Western Australian Railways Commissioner is primarily concerned with the railway facilities to be provided at different locations in Western Australia, and I understand that present proposals include the provision of a repair and maintenance depot to service locomotives and other rolling stock at Kewdale.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 October 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19651013_reps_25_hor48/>.