26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to. the Minister for Defence as the representative of the Minister for Supply. Will the Minister explain to the House the nature of the study being undertaken by thirty-six senior representatives of Victorian industry, officers of the armed forces and government agencies? Is it intended that similar studies will be undertaken in other States? Will the Minister ask his colleague in the Senate to prepare and present a paper on the role of government and private industry in the production and supply of our defence requirements?
– The conference that is at present being held in Victoria is called the Industrial Mobilisation Course. It is organised by the Department of Defence. It brings together leading representatives of the armed services and of a wide area of industry, for the purpose of studying the capacity of Australian industry and the possible integration of Australian productive capacity - power supply, transport and things of that kind - to meet our requirements in the event of war breaking out. In other words, broadly speaking, it brings private enterprise close to the armed services, and vice versa. A similar course will be opened on Monday - indeed, I will have the pleasure of opening it myself - at Richmond. These courses will be annual occurrences. It will be seen that every year about 100 Service and industrial personnel will get together to discover what will be their common problems in time of war. I can also tell the honourable gentleman that so valuable is this activity that those who indulge in it stick pretty closely together in what might be termed an Industrial Mobilisation Course club. There are refresher courses from time to time and these are very well attended. I think we should be extremely grateful to industrial organisations for making available some of their most valuable personnel, and to the personnel themselves for giving up their time to study what is in fact the public interest. 1 will refer the second part of the honourable member’s question to my colleague in another place.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. Which is the authority providing the Government with an analysis of achievements on the Ord River? Is it the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Department of National Development or an interdepartmental committee? So that private members may obtain the essential information to enable them to form a sound judgment on cotton and alternative crops, will the Minister provide those interested with copies of the latest documents which guided the Government in its decision to defer financial assistance for the main dam?
– The Northern Division of my Department provides, on a confidential basis for Ministers, an assessment of the results of the Ord River project, and it was on the basis of such an asssessment that the Government came to its decision last year. However, I shall be glad to provide information as to yields, acreages planted and matters of that kind. This is available either from my Department or from the Department of Lands in Western Australia.
– Last week the PostmasterGeneral told the honourable member for Kalgoorlie that Cabinet was considering a report from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board dealing with the extension of television. Will the Postmaster-General ensure that consideration is given to the extension of television to the Cobar and western areas of New South Wales?
– The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has constantly under consideration the possible extension of television throughout Australia. When each report is received from the Board it is considered by the Government. I can assure the honourable member that the Cobar area will receive equal consideration with other areas.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minitser. From time to time there have been considerable discussions on, and a great deal of publicity about, the question of daylight saving throughout Australia. Has the Government ever had a full investigation made of the matter to weigh the obvious advantages that would accrue from daylight saving against the disadvantages that are claimed by some organisations? What constitutional power does the Commonwealth Government possess to deal with this matter on a national basis? Will the Government give consideration to the question and announce its decision?
– I do not think that it would be appropriate at question time to canvass the constitutional aspects of this matter and, in any event, a matter which concerns the citizens of six States so closely should be resolved, I think, so far as is practicable with consultation between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments. With that purpose in view, I contacted the six State governments some time ago to see whether they had any well developed views in relation to daylight saving. The answers while not conclusive were not in my judgment encouraging. The effect on farming communities and also the effect on children were mentioned as reasons why it was desired to avoid a change in our present arrangements.
I have a private view on this matter which is not necessarily the view of the Government. That private view is that much of the Australian community, particularly those of its citizens who live in the thickly settled cities, would be advantaged by having more hours of daylight for their leisure in which they could take healthful recreation at the time of the year most suitable for these purposes. But I do recognise that this view is not by any means a unanimous view. The reaction I received from the Premiers confirmed that suspicion on my part. However, I have not abandoned my own private view. As matters stand, I am not able to report any positive results to the honourable gentleman.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration: does the Commonwealth Government differentiate between North Vietnam, China, Russia and other Communist countries, when issuing passports to Australian citizens to visit these countries? If so, to what extent and in what ways is this differentiation exercised? Do Australian visitors to China such as officers of the Reserve Bank of Australia and officers of the Department of Trade and Industry have their passports marked in the way indicated by the Minister in respect of visitors to North Vietnam? What is the reason for the differentiation, if any? Is it possible for an Australian citizen to use his passport to visit North Vietnam in a way that suits him best if the government of that country is prepared to admit him? Lastly, if any Australian citizen visits North Vietnam against the wishes of the Australian Government, will he suffer any disability when he returns home?
– All passports issued by the Australian Government have on them: Not Valid for Travel in North Vietnam’. This is the only endorsement which appears on them in relation to geographic limitation. The honourable gentleman’s question proceeds on questions of difference. That is the difference as I identify it. As to the major part of the honourable gentleman’s question, whether a person is able to travel in North Vietnam with an Australian passport, the answer is that the person can travel there but he will not in fact have an Australian passport while he is there. The honourable gentleman also asked whether a person would suffer any disability when he came back. If the honourable gentleman is asking whether the person would have committed an offence by going to North Vietnam in those circumstances, the answer is that he would not have committed an offence. Any other question of disability would depend on the circumstances.
– Could the Minister for External Affairs give the House any information about a so-called government in exile for Vietnam which is said to have been formed in France?
– It was reported to us that a statement had been made to that effect in Saigon, and that such a government had been set up in Paris. We made inquiries in Paris through our own mission and we could find no indication that any such government in exile existed. When we came to examine the original story about this so-called government in exile I must say that 1 formed the conclusion that if it did exist it included within its ranks quite a number of contrary and even antipathetic clements. So, broadly speaking, we not only could find no evidence of the existence of such a government, but on the face of it the story is scarcely credible.
– Did the Postmaster-General inspect the Redfern mail exchange on Monday last? If so, was his inspection made after the mail had been cleared for the day? Will he say how much the installation of the sorting machines has cost so far, and would he deny that the figure is mote than $30 million? How many articles were damaged at the exchange on Monday last? Would the Minister say whether a special team of women workers was engaged in repairing articles that were damaged? Will he comment at the same time on a report that postal workers have earned $4ni in the past year because of overtime incurred through the deficiency of the sorting machines?
– I am sorry that the honourable member did not give me a copy of the question. I do not know that my memory can hold all the various questions which he has asked. As to the first one, I did not visit the Redfern mail exchange on Monday as was suggested in the Press. However, as some newspapers have indicated this morning, 1 will be there on Friday next. I am unable therefore to answer some of the questions which the honourable member asked. Yesterday I indicated that only two letters had been destroyed on Monday at the Redfern mail exchange in the new equipment. The honourable member asked about cost. I have not the precise figure in my mind, but I think it is nearer 10% of the amount he mentioned - approximately $3m rather than $30m. That perhaps is an indication of the type of exaggeration in which people have been indulging over the past week or so in relation to this operation. I cannot be certain just who in fact attends to mail which may be slightly damaged. My belief is that mail of this type is more likely to go to the dead letter office than to be dealt with by women specially trained in relation to the coding” machines to do this particular type of work. I do not think there were any other matters raised by the honourable member.
– I asked about overtime paid during the last twelve months.
– I mentioned exaggeration previously. I am sorry I have to continue to mention it. It was reported that overtime payments were double the normal amount of pay. I believe the amount stated is substantially incorrect. In addition, the coding machines did not commence operations until last November, so the additional overtime cannot be related to the operation of the machines over a period of twelve months. When the Post Office has a big build-up of mail, people in the sorting area are employed on an overtime basis. This is a normal part of the operation. I would not believe that, as a result of the payment of overtime, anybody had received a wage anywhere near double the ordinary rate.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. I ask whether the Government has any target in mind for the introduction of colour television in Australia?
– The Government does not have any date in mind for the introduction of colour television. Technical standards are the first consideration and the determination of these is the responsibility of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Last year certain countries met in conference in Europe and tried to determine one overall standard. This was not achieved. We in Australia did not introduce black and white television until other countries had done so and we benefited from their experience. I believe that we will also benefit by waiting to see what happens when colour television is used in other countries. I would mention that the investment in black and white television in Australia amounts to many hundreds of millions of pounds and 1 believe that the investment in colour television would be considerably larger. The Government is therefore justified in going carefully before it decides on any date for the introduction of colour television.
Mir HAYDEN - I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. I call his attention to the recent stop work meetings of airline clerks who sought to have their salaries increased above the extremely low level they now receive. The Minister will recall the very generous increases that were granted to high salaried pilots and executives recently. Is he aware that in Brisbane Trans-Australia Airlines used executive officers in fill-in capacities during the stop work meeting but that Ansett- AN A refused to allow this to be done and closed down operations? Is it a fact that AnsettANA is willing to negotiate and has tentatively made certain pay offers but TAA has adopted a hard, inflexible line, with a miserably small pay offer, and that negotiations are bogged down through TAA’s intransigence? As TAA has so often in the past been forced by Government pressure to follow the lead of Ansett-ANA, will the Government see that it does so on this occasion by having it adopt a more realistic and co-operative attitude in negotiations with the airline clerks?
– I certainly have been taking an interest in this matter and I have read some of the information that the honourable member has provided. However, this matter does not come within my personal jurisdiction and I cannot give him direct answers. I will see what information can be obtained from the Minister who is directly concerned and will have the information passed to the honourable member.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. Is he aware that a new post office is being built at Werribee, Victoria? Are there any plans to provide an automatic telephone exchange within the building, particularly in view of the growth of the area and its location between the large centres of Melbourne and Geelong?
– It is the intention to erect a new post office at Werribee, but this building will not house the new automatic exchange, which will be placed in a building to be commenced in approximately two years time.
– I ask the Minister for Health: will he consider deferring any decisive action on the Government’s proposal to sell the Government owned Canberra abattoirs to private enterprise until such time as the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council has been enabled to complete its investigations into the proposal? I understand that those investigations are now well advanced. Further, will the Minister use his good offices to secure a reversal of the decision of the Government denying to the Advisory Council the funds necessary for the Council to employ a qualified consultant?
– Answering the last pari of the honourable member’s question first, may I say that I am sure he will appreciate that this matter is not within my jurisdiction. As to whether I will defer or arrange for the deferment of the calling of tenders, I point out that this, again, is not within my jurisdiction but is within the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Minister for the Interior. I shall be glad to talk to him about the matter. However, I should say that the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council has had considerable time in which to express any views it may have on the question of the abattoirs. The Council has not done so although, as I understand the position, it was informed by my colleague some weeks ago that it would need to express its views in a very short space of time if there was to be time for those views to be considered before arrangements for the calling of tenders were completed.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has his attention been drawn to an observation made last week on the ‘Four Corners’ television programme that trade unions in the old sense were declining? Has the Minister any information on this subject which he could convey to the House?
– I would certainly say that, in the Government’s view, there is no diminution of the importance of trade unions, particularly those of the traditional type. At the moment, apart from anything else, an acute shortage of skilled people in the electrical and metal trades is causing one of the serious bottlenecks which holds up our development. We are working with the trade unions to overcome this situation. Trade unions are deeply embedded in and are an indispensable part of our institutional life. They are led by men, many of whom work long hours for the good of their members, and many of them, although not all, perhaps, have the interests of Australia solidly at heart. They are probably among the most hard working and lowest paid men anywhere in Australia. I would deplore any suggestion of denigrating their importance. 1 watched with interest the programme to which the honourable member has referred and I heard the remark by the Leader of the Opposition. It seemed to me that, quite naturally, he is burning to become Prime Minister and is a bit light on for support. This is understandable, and he feels the need to peddle his charms in other quarters.
– What does the Minister mean by that?
– We have a rising intellectual snobocracy who tend to think that they are not quite as other men are and I suppose they are increasing in numbers. I presume that these are some of the people he had in mind. Let me repeat that the trade union movement of this country is essential. Its members, like the members of this House, are a mixed bag. In the Government’s view the importance of the trade union movement is far from diminishing. It is a highly important movement. In fact, without its co-operation with us and the rest of industry this country cannot prosper as it should.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that employees of the South Australian Government who are members of the South Australian Superannuation Fund and who received refunds of excess contributions were treated for income tax purposes differently from
Commonwealth employees who are members of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund and who recently received refunds of excess contributions? If so, what is the reason for the discrimination?
– I am not aware of discrimination of the kind mentioned by the honourable gentleman. I shall make inquiries from the Department and let him have an answer as quickly as I can.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. In view of the intense interest of many private members of the Parliament in the progress of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East throughout its existence and, indeed, in Australia’s relations with al] countries in the Asian region, will the Minister seriously consider arranging for some private members to be present at the forthcoming ECAFE conference in April?
– I point out that the meeting to be held in Tokyo in April is an annual meeting generally described as a ministerial meeting. It will deal with a range of subjects and undoubtedly private members of the Parliament could take an interested part as observers though they would perhaps not have opportunities for the same degree of participation as is available to private members at, say, meetings of the General Assembly of the United Nations. The Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East is very largely a technical and highly specialised body. In consultation with the Prime Minister I shall certainly give careful consideration to the honourable member’s suggestion.
– I also ask the Minister for Territories a question which refers to the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. What steps have been taken to rectify the oversight of the Government four years ago in failing to include the Territory of Papua and New Guinea within the terms of reference of ECAFE? In particular is the Minister able to say, now that the Asian Development
Bank is open for business, when it will be made possible for the Territory to receive loans from that Bank?
– The answer to the first part of the question is that what happened was due not to an oversight but to policy. The Government’s policy has changed in a new situation and we are negotiating for assistance from the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. Turning to the Asian Development Bank, I point out that this institution has only just begun to function. I am not able to tell the honourable gentleman when the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is likely to be able to obtain loans from the Bank, but we are very hopeful that it will be able to get them.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question. Is he aware of the present difficulties in maintaining supplies at Alice Springs and elsewhere in Central Australia because of heavy flooding and the cessation of rail services? Can he give any indication when rail services will be restored? In view of the fact that the present railway line from Marree to Alice Springs is frequently damaged by washaways, thereby causing serious difficulties in the transport of passengers and goods, can the Minister say what steps are being taken to reconstruct the railway?
– 1 am aware that rail traffic has been dislocated. I understand that eight inches of rain fell at Finke, which is equal to several years’ normal rainfall in that region. The bridge across the Finke River is damaged. How far the damage extends I do not know. The engineers are examining the bridge, and I should know later today exactly what the extent of the damage is and whether the bridge can be repaired or will have to be by-passed. The expectation is that it will not be possible to restore normal rail services to Alice Springs for about a week.
The honourable member will be aware that the line passes through a very difficult terrain and that further difficulties arc caused by flooding, which occurs whenever one or two inches of rain fall in the area. The Commissioner of Railways has been examining possible ways of reconstructing the track and also is examining alternative routes for the line. A very extensive survey is required. The economics of an alternative route have to be examined carefully. This work is in progress at the moment. Exactly when it will be completed, 1 cannot say, but I repeat that work is in hand to see whether a better line should be constructed on a different route or whether the present line could be strengthened sufficiently to make it proof against this kind of flooding and consequent washaway.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation: has he seen or heard of the statement made on Monday last by his colleague, the Minister for Works, that Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport will need a longer runway to cater for the supersonic jets which Qantas Empire Airways Ltd proposes to introduce into Sydney in the early 1970s? Will the runways currently under construction be long enough to cater for these supersonic jets? In view of the fact that the present extensions to the north-south runway will take four years to complete, has the Minister any plans for extending the existing runways to cater for these aircraft or for an alternative airport or runway which will be ready by the early 1970s?
– 1 made a statement on this matter in the House during the life of the previous Parliament and gave an explanation of the position as it was then. On my last visit to the United Kingdom and France I had discussions with the manufacturers of the first supersonic transport aircraft which we expect will be operating in this country. At that time the manufacturers were unable to give any accurate estimates of runway requirements from the point of view of loading and length. The situation has not changed since then. We cannot obtain any accurate assessments from the British-French project or from the American project until such time as the prototypes have been completed and are flying. In the case of the British-French venture, we expect that the prototype will be flying next year and that then we will be given some reasonably accurate estimate of runway requirements. According to the information that we have at present about the British-French project and the American jumbo jet aircraft, the runway requirements in each case will not vary from those of the Boeing 707-338, which can be met fully by the international airports in Australia at present. However, I am very doubtful about that assessment. Until we can get an accurate assessment we will not know what the position is.
I told the House previously that the Government is aware that at some point of time in the future we must consider moving into the supersonic field and also into the field of the larger jets, and that at that point of time we will see that the runway requirements are met.
– Are there any plans for an alternative site?
– No, not at present.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy a question. Conscious of the fact that he has just taken over his portfolio, I nevertheless ask whether he has read the book entitled ‘One Minute of Time’ dealing with the ‘Melbourne’-*Voyager’ collision and written by Vice-Admiral Harold Hickling, CB., C.B.E., D.S.O., who is a distinguished and experienced English sailor, retired and now living in New Zealand. Admiral Hickling has studied all the papers and other evidence connected with the collision. His book has cast into my mind - if the Minister has read the book, I ask whether it has cast also into his mind - the gravest doubts about the proceedings in the royal commission and the conclusions reached. I further ask whether the Minister is aware of the Archer Shee case when a mere midshipman had redress after many years for a wrong done to him. Does the Minister consider that the book of moral justice should be closed simply through lapse of time, it now being almost exactly three years since the ‘Voyager’-‘Melbourne’ disaster?
– I have twice read Admiral Hickling’s book. I did so with great interest. I think it would be improper of me in the short time available at question time to give any personal opinions I might have on any section of the book. All I can say in direct answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is that I have nothing further to add to what my predecessor said on the occasion of the royal commission or events thereafter, to what the then Prime Minister said or to what the present Prime Minister has said on the subject.
– 1 ask the Minister for Health a question. Is he aware that a paper written by Dr E. Thomson, Chairman of the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee and read by Dr T. Robertson, a member of the Committee, at the final meeting on 1 0th November last of the Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association conference stated: ‘The incidence of toxic reactions from drugs is not accurately known and between 5% and 10% of patients admitted to hospital suffer from toxic reaction to a drug’? Is the Minister aware that Dr Thomson asserted that his Committee could not ensure the safe use of drugs by testing and warned those concerned with the handling of drugs of their grave duty to protect people from the harmful effects of drugs? Does the tone of Dr Thomson’s remarks reveal alarm at the effect which the indiscriminate use of drugs is having on many people? Does the seriousness of the doctor’s statements warrant a full and thorough investigation into all aspects of the drug industry? Finally, will the Minister make available to the House the paper issued by Dr Thomson so that all honourable members may be informed on this matter?
– I have not read the paper to which the honourable gentleman has referred but I would be glad to obtain it and make it available to honourable members who may be interested. I know Dr Thomson, who has just ceased to be Chairman of the Drug Evaluation Committee following his appointment’ as General Secretary of the Australian Medical Association. His views are worthy of the most serious consideration. I do not think it would be proper for me to give a detailed reply to the honourable member without first reading what Dr Thomson said. I will say, however, that the Drug Evaluation Committee was set up because of the difficulties associated with the toxic effect of some drugs. The particular occasion was the thalidomide disasters. The work of his Committee has been invaluable in warning the people responsible - particularly the medical profession and the pharmaceutical companies - of the possible side effects of the action of the drugs. The Drug Evaluation Committee has the job of considering matters referred to it either by my Department, by the public or by doctors, evaluating drugs and taking appropriate action. This action may be a warning published in the ‘Medical Journal of Australia’, it may be directions to a drug manufacturer to change the instructions that he issues with a drug or it may be a warning to drug manufacturers to impose various restrictions on the way a drug is used. As far as I am aware the system that exists in Australia for controlling the position - not only through the Drug Evaluation Committee but also with the testing of standards and so forth - is comparable with any that exists anywhere in the world. However, I agree that the problem which he points out is an important one and I do not think we can ever rest’ in our efforts to find new and better methods of meeting that problem. It seems apparent that the only way to be absolutely certain that there are no ill effects from the use of new drugs would be, in effect, to ban the use of the drugs altogether. Any decision in a matter of this sort is a question of striking a balance between the great value done to a majority of people who take a particular life saving drug and the harmful or toxic effect the drug might have on a few.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration, as Leader of the House, whether during the next six or seven weeks it would be possible for time to be set aside under standing order 108 for discussion of the question of new Australian States, with particular reference to the impending referendum in the northern part of New South Wales, so that the views of honourable members on this question might be known.
– I do not claim to remember exactly what standing order 108 says. If my recollection is correct it relates to the manner by which a Minister may introduce a matter of importance.
– That is correct.
– The standing orders of the House which I know better are those that relate to private members bringing up matters of business. I have no doubt that during the currency of the session opportunity will be given to those members who have given notice in accordance with the Standing Orders for private members’ motions to be moved. The Government will, of course, allow private members’ business to proceed on each alternate Thursday as is provided. As for making available some time for this question, it is a matter for the honourable member to use the forms of the House.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the United Kingdom Government will from 1st April this year pay full rates to local authorities for land used by national undertakings? I understand that some Commonwealth departments already make an ex gratia payment in such cases. What government or semi-government departments pay rates in full to Australian local government authorities? Will the Prime Minister be prepared to introduce similar legislation in Australia to provide for the payment of rates?
– My attention has not been directed to the particular action that the honourable gentleman states has been taken in the United Kingdom, and any suggestion that similar action be taken here would raise a matter of policy. In practice payment is made in respect of certain Commonwealth undertakings, particularly where commercial services are provided. But I think it proper that I should supply the honorable member with a fully detailed statement setting out the circumstances in which these payments are made, the reasons for such payments and the general policy which is followed by the Commonwealth at this time.
Bill presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to $6,750,000 for war service land settlement in the States of Western Australia. South Australia and Tasmania. This provision for raising $6,750,000 will permit the carrying forward of appropriation to 1967-68 to meet expenditure under the scheme after 30th June 1967 until Parliament approves the further raising and expenditure of loan moneys for this purpose.
As honourable members will recall, the Commonwealth is responsible for the provision of the whole of the capital moneys required for the scheme in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. It is anticipated that the amount of $6,750,000 will be made available to these States in the following amounts:
Of the total, $26,000 will be required to pay for the Crown’s interest in land in Tasmania, the survey of which is expected to be completed shortly, $874,000 for development mainly on farms on King and Flinders islands in Tasmania and on the drainage of horticultural and viticultural farms at Loxton in South Australia, and $5,850,000 for the making of advances to settlers. The need to provide advances to settlers arises very largely from the fact that lack of capital did not debar an otherwise eligible ex-servicemen from participating in the scheme. Indications are that it will still be quite a few years before the settlers who borrowed all their financial requirements can be expected to have stabilised their position to the extent that, for future borrowings, they will be able to offer acceptable security to those institutions normally operating in the field of rural credit. In the meantime the Commonwealth will virtually continue to be their banker.
War service land settlement expenditure by the Commonwealth in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania to 30th June 1966 amounts to about $195m. Interest on the funds employed for acquiring and developing land amounts to an addi tional $17m making a total of $212m. I would like to take this opportunity of giving honourable members a brief resume of what has been achieved in these States for this expenditure.
In Western Australia, where development work has been completed, 1,011 farms have been provided at a cost, exclusive of interest, of approximately $46m. In South Australia there were 1,021 farms which, including the Loxton pumping station and supply mains and the comprehensive drainage scheme but exclusive of interest, cost approximately $36m and in Tasmania 552 farms for approximately S39m. About $121m of the $195m I mentioned was spent on acquisition and development, the balance being used for advances to settlers. Including interest the $121m is increased to SI 38m. I feel I should stress here that the majority of the farms in these three States were developed from land which previously contributed little, if anything, to the national economy.
Some of the main projects are worth mentioning. First, I shall deal with the position in Western Australia. It is: at Gairdner River, 90 sheep farms; Jerramungup, 30; Corackerup, 11; Bokerup. 15; Denbarker, 39; South Stirlings, 24; Rocky Gully, 62; Perillup, 26; Mount Many Peaks and North Many Peaks, 40; and Eneabba, 36. In South Australia, the position is: Kangaroo Island, 174 farms for wool and fat lambs; Eight Mile Creek, 32 dairy farms from drained peaty swampland; and Loxton, 253 horticultural farms under irrigation. The situation in Tasmania is: King Island, 154 dairy and fat lamb farms; Flinders Island, 78 dairy and fat Iamb farms; Waterhouse, 23 fat lamb farms; and Togari, formerly Montagu Swamp, 45 dairy farms.
As I mentioned earlier, settlers were not required to have any capital. The scheme provides for holdings to be valued having recognition of the commitments to be met in such circumstances. It follows, therefore, that the charges made to settlers for the structural improvements on their farms, which were sold to them at 1946 values, and for the rent of the land were lower than applied to other leases of Crown land or to freehold land held under lease. It is estimated that approximately $61m of the expenditure and interest totalling $138m which I mentioned previously will not be placed on charge to settlers and the loss will be shared between the State and Commonwealth on a two-fifths three-fifths basis. Up to 30th June 1966, an amount of $25,106,000 had been so shared.
The original concept of the scheme envisaged that losses would occur but, quite likely not that they would be so large. However, the high cost of freight on the island projects in Tasmania, the extensive drainage work that had to be undertaken before land was fit for development and the continued rise in costs generally may not have been foreseen at the outset. I can only express my confidence that the contribution these war service land settlement farms can be expected to make to the national income over the years will more than recompense the governments for the losses sustained in providing them and I remind honourable members that it is hardly an economic proposition to make a successful farmer of a man starting without either a farm or money. However, that was the charter set out in the War Service Land Settlement Agreement Act 1945 and carried forward in the conditions attaching to grants made under the States Grants (War Service Land Settlement) Act 1952. In other words. w;ir service land settlement was a reestablishment scheme for ex-servicemen following the 1939-45 war and was not put forward at any time as the economic way of achieving an expansion in the farming community.
There have been many testing problems. One I recall very well was that at Loxton when the expert technical advice given some years before that extensive drainage would not be necessary was proven wrong. 1 visited the area in which we had developed about 250 farms, and was appalled to see so-called drainage sumps full of water and overflowing, and plantings being seriously damaged. I immediately approved the construction of a comprehensive drainage scheme then estimated to cost about $2. 6m. This scheme has been completed for a little over SI. 4m. Extended assistance has also been necessary to enable the settlers to have their block drains installed. The Commonwealth and the State of South Australia quickly faced up to the financial responsibility for providing the drains as rapidly as possible to avoid further damage to plantings and to permit necessary rehabilitation work to be put into early effect.
Farms on King Island have also presented a number of problems, some associated with the technical means of development and others with the economics of farming under war service land settlement and island conditions. We did not hesitate to undertake extensive and costly redevelopment to ensure that the farms were capable of the planned level of production. On the economic side considerable research has been undertaken into evidence collected by independent bodies and the conclusion was reached that the margin in productivity allowed in excess of mainland standard is adequate to offset the effect of island conditions on farm costs. I stress farm costs, as there is certainly no intention to provide an avenue for additional income to finance, for example, education expenses at private schools on the mainland. Settlers must meet such personal expenses in the same manner as the other people on the island.
In respect of the advances made to settlers totalling $73m dollars at 30th June 1966, there are in addition the valuations of structural improvements on the farms totalling $18m, so the amount to be repaid was $91m. An amount of $61m has been repaid and just over $500,000 has had to be written off as irrecoverable. In addition to this $29im still to be repaid there is an amount of nearly Slim due but unpaid in respect of rent and interest charges. Officers of my Department, in conjunction with those of the States, are keeping a close watch on the arrears position and are taking appropriate action. This usually takes the course, provided the settler’s prospects are considered to be reasonably sound, of some funding . of arrears for payment over an extended term, some writing back of principal calls unpaid and the settler then being financed for his working expenses and being required to pay all proceeds from the farm to the authorities. This scheme has proved so successful in educating settlers in the management of their finances that some have asked for it to be continued after the necessity, so far as the Department was concerned, no longer existed. It will be interesting to see the results of the first year’s trading at 30th June this year of the first few King Island settlers who are operating along these lines.
There is one problem which many settlers under war service land settlement face which it has been outside my power to resolve. I refer to the problem of the owner-operator who, with advancing years, can no longer undertake farm work and the net income from the farm does not permit the employment of full time labour. Whilst I appreciate this problem and sympathise with those so affected the remedy is outside the sphere of war service land settlement. Although it is outside the scope of the Bill now presented, I feel sure that honourable members will be interested to know that New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland provided the capital funds for the scheme in those States and between them placed over 6,500 ex-servicemen on farms. So, all told, this scheme has been responsible for developing more than 9,000 farms for ex-servicemen - a very creditable effort, I feel sure honourable members will agree.
I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beaton) adjourned.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Erection of a new Exchange Building in Pitt Street, Sydney.
The proposal involves the erection at an estimated cost of $7.2m of a building comprising two basements, ground floor and fifteen upper floors on vacant land adjacent to the existing City North telephone exchange building. The building, which will be of steel and concrete construction, will be faced externally with precast concrete panels and stone. It will accommodate automatic telephone equipment to meet the growing demand for telephone facilities in the city. I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 28 February (vide page 216), on motion by Mr Munro:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May rr Please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
- Mr Speaker, firstly I want to offer by meed of congratulations to you on your elevation to the very high office you now command in the Parliament. Secondly, I want to congratulate all those honourable members who have delivered their maiden speeches. They made very fine contributions. During the course of my speech, I will criticise one or two of the remarks of one of the new members. None the less, the congratulations I offer are sincere; criticisms are the food and drink of the Parliament
The responsibility of drawing up the document referred to as the ‘Speech by His Excellency the Governor-General on the occasion of the opening of the First Session of the Twenty-sixth Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia’ is that of the Government. Honourable members who have already spoken in the debate have called the speech a bits and pieces speech. If it is to be regarded as a directory of action that the Government intends to take on many problems affecting the lives and well being of thousands of Australians, I am afraid that many people will be led up the garden path. Referring to Vietnam, the Governor-General said:
My Government will persist with its search for the attainment of a just and enduring peace.
This to me is an extraordinary statement. By no stretch of the imagination can any honourable member on the Government side claim that the Government has taken any initiative - not even the remotest initiative - to bring about peace in Vietnam. If searching for peace means the blatant announcement that the Government supports the escalation of the bombing of North Vietnam, the Government pursues peace in a very strange way. In fact, the only reason the Government has put forth and continues to put forth for our involvement in Vietnam is that it is to check Communist aggression. The Government fortifies this statement by saying: ‘Australia has a commitment’. It is hard to find out to whom we have this commitment. Was there a letter or were documents of any kind drawn up? If so, where are they and where can they be seen? Referring to America’s involvement in Vietnam, Professor Hans Morgenthau said:
One should not overlook the fact that it was we-
That is America - who installed the first Government in Saigon, the Diem Government. In other words, the Stale of South Vietnam is, in a sense, our own creation. Without our support the regime in Saigon could not have lasted for any length of time. In a sense, we have contracted with ourselves and I do not regard this as a valid foundation for our presence in South Vietnam.
So much for commitments, but what of Communist aggression? Let me say at the outset that those who advance this theory do little or nothing to eradicate or combat the real causes of Communism. I seldom hear honourable members on the other side refer to the plight of the Indian peasant. ls it not true to say that the pattern of poverty, disease and degradation in India can be found in most of the Asian countries or the under-developed nations, as we call them? Is it not true to say that the results of the election just concluded in India, with the loss of support for the Congress Party, is directly the result of the poverty, disease and degradation in the country? Is it not a warning that this state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue and must be improved? We hear nothing from honourable members on the Government side that reveals how it should be improved; they do not promote any scheme to improve the situation.
None can deny that the Vietcong effort began as a rebellion against an oppressive and hated government in Saigon. Nor can it be denied that the war in South Vietnam was a civil war and nothing else until America, and now Australia, chose to make it an international conflict. None can deny that the conflict stemmed entirely from the oppression that had been suffered by these people down through the years. Freedom from exploitation, adequate housing, food, education, land and better health facilities were the demands that created the hostilities, coupled with the demand of the people to be allowed to elect by democratic processes and without victimisation their own government representatives. If demands for these improvements can be called Communist aggression, let me say that an ideology - that is precisely what Communism is - cannot be destroyed by bombs, napalm and the killing of thousands of innocent men, women and children. Nor can shot and shell destroy the hatred that has been generated in the hearts and minds of millions of Asians by the horrors of the conflict in South Vietnam.
The French tried to defeat this ideology but were themselves defeated after seven years of senseless slaughter. Now, ten years afterwards, most probably the Vietcong are still able to wage an effective war against the world’s mightiest power even though that power is supported by other countries. The end of this carnage seems to become even more remote day by day. If burning villages and killing innocent civilians without discrimination is the Government’s idea of persisting with the search for the attainment of a just and enduring peace, perhaps the kindest thing I can say is that these actions are not calculated to win us friends in Asia. Indeed, a just and enduring peace will not be obtained by winning the war; it will be obtained only by winning the hearts and minds of the people of these unfortunate areas. To achieve this they will have to be given some of the decencies of life: food, land, education, housing and freedom from exploitation. Give them hope for themselves, for their children and for the generations to come. Do this and the attainment of a just and enduring peace will be realised. I say, too, that if the people, or should I say the peasants, of South Vietnam are prepared to fight and bear all the horrors that have been perpetrated on them in their struggle against the bad things, it needs little imagination to visualise their attitude to being deprived of the good things. I feel sure that if they were given good conditions, a decent standard of living and a faith in the future, no ism, whatever it may be, would ever wrest these privileges from them.
However, I return to this directory of progress, as I have called the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. It says:
Australia’s ability to grow is considerably greater than its present growth rate reflects.
That statement, taken literally, means that this Government is deliberately holding back the growth of this country. Therefore, it is no wonder that the new member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), referring to northern development, said in his maiden speech:
For twenty years I have watched one move after another reach a climax and then die. Morale is shattered and the great agitation fades away. On reflection I must conclude that these wellintentioned moves lacked substance. But of recent years a new look has appeared in the organised forces that are planning the future of these areas. Reasonable investigations are being carried out by local research bureaus and so the whole approach has become far more constructive. When we people in these areas now cry out for development we will have our arguments well prepared and fully and properly documented.
In referring to those remarks I would say for the benefit of the new member for Kennedy that in 1949 there was a plan which was well prepared and fully and properly documented by the Chifley Government. The same plan was pigeon-holed by the Menzies Government. Since 1949, on matters affecting northern development, we have heard and read volumes of words. In fact, if words meant anything, there would be no reason to complain about northern development. But words have achieved nothing. The commodity which is lacking is action and this Government has not produced it. The honourable member for Kennedy also said:
There is hidden wealth in the form of nickel, phosphates, coal and copper being discovered in vast quantities and about to be exploited.
The fact is that our mineral resources have been exploited and are still being exploited by overseas interests and, out of the huge profits that these people are making, they are not required to put back one cent to develop the north. To coin the words of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), the sum total of Australia’s reward from this exploitation will be a hole in the ground. That is quite true.
Referring again to this directory of progress, I find that unemployment, the effects of automation, health, education, the crisis in the building industry, hospital fees and prices are a few of the problems that the Government conveniently overlooks. There are 80,000 unemployed. This means that most probably 240,000 people are affected by unemployment. Only last week in this
House 1 heard the honourable member for Batman (Mr Benson) bewail the fact that during the 1929-30 depression our Service personnel felt deserted because they had been placed under the authority of one Minister. Let me say that in those days there were thousands of good Australians, many of them returned men from the 1914-18 war, walking the streets of this country. They were deserted, and the 80,000 persons to whom 1 now refer feel just as deserted as the unemployed of the depression. In these days when we so glibly refer to the affluent society I can feel for just one person being out of work. But 80,000 is an indictment of this Government and a disgrace to the society to which we belong. Summed up, what can virtually be said is that 80,000 unemployed is the potential on which the Communist Party can base an increase in its membership.
Reverting to our mineral resources, 1 think it is time the Government had a good look at the results of oil search in Australia. In the last few days we have heard demands for an increase in the price of petrol. One does not need much imagination or to be a Rhodes Scholar to realise the impact that an increase in the price of petrol will have on the already aggravated living standards of the people. 1 can remember the excitement that followed the first find of oil at Rough Range in Western Australia in December 1953 and the disappointment at the announcement that the well would be sealed because the flow was not a profitable commercial project. We have heard the same excuse given on a number of occasions since. I often wonder what would happen if, for some reason or other, the world terminal for petroleum products - I refer to the Middle East - was closed to us. I venture to say the wells so conveniently sealed off and labelled stockpiled for future use if and when needed’ would soon become productive. I suggest to the Government that it is high time that action was taken to make this country self-supporting in the product which, in my opinion, we have in abundance, that is, petroleum.
I turn now to the drug industry and I relate my remarks to the question which I asked the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) this afternoon. I think all people should be concerned - deeply concerned - with the statement which has emanated from the Chairman of the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee, Dr Thomson. He has said that the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee had discovered that only a proportion of harmful side effects from drugs are reported to doctors and hospitals. He went on to say:
It has been estimated that between 5% and 10% of patients admitted to a hospital suffer some toxic reaction to a drug.
The safe use of a drug cannot be ensured by any committee on process of testing.
This is the responsibility of all doctors who decide on the treatment of patients.
The remarks of Dr Thomson were supported by Sir Derrick Dunlop, Chairman of the British Ministry of Health’s Safety of Drugs Committee. An article headed ‘Doctors blamed in drugs misuse’ expresses Sir Derrick’s views. It reads:
Doctors are largely to blame for the misuse of drugs . . .
We are over-prescribing drugs. There is no use pretending otherwise’, he declared.
A great many beds in British hospitals, and here, too, are filled by people suffering from the efforts of doctors to treat them. The toxic effects of drugs are very serious and are not to be taken lightly.
I have been in charge of drug safety in Britain for almost three years now, and in that time we have managed to persuade the pharmaceutical industry not to sell any drug without our consent.
The Safety of Drugs Committee was formed after the thalidomide disaster.
The committee’s task is not only to combat the ill effects of drugs but to make sure that nothing like thalidomide ever gets on the market again.
These are pretty strong words in anybody’s language. I raised this matter with the Minister for Health by way of a question as far back as the middle of October last. I appreciate the letter which the Minister sent to me in which he said that because of the question I had asked he had referred my question to the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee. He said that the Committee had issued specific warnings to the medical and dental professions on the adverse effects and contra-indications in the use of monoamine oxidase inhibitor drugs of which Nardil and Parstelin were examples. Those are the drugs to which 1 had referred. Whilst I appreciate the Minister’s letter and his action in keeping me informed on what had been done, I should like to say that that is not good enough for me. I am quite convinced after listening to the answer that he gave me this afternoon that he has not done his homework. Much has been said about the issue since last October when I asked about the drug situation. I think it is time the Minister looked at the facts. I have here a newspaper report which appears under the heading ‘One tenth of patients suffering drug effects’. It states.
About 10% of beds in general hospitals were occupied by patients suffering from the effects of drugs used to treat them, Sir Derrick Dunlop, the chairman of the British Ministry of Health’s safety-of-drugs committee, said last night.
Speaking on ABC radio, Sir Derrick, who has just completed his second Australian visit, said ill health due to drugs had become a new dimension in disease.
I should like to know the economic loss to the nation caused by 10% of the beds in hospitals, not in Great Britain but in Australia, being occupied by people suffering from the effects of drugs used to treat them. I am prepared to bet that the loss would prove to be staggering. In view of the seriousness of this situation, I demand that the Government appoint a royal commission to examine all aspects of the drug industry. I ask further that the paper written by Dr Thomson be made available to all members of the Parliament for their perusal. The Minister for Health, as I have mentioned, intimated that he would make the paper available to members of the Parliament. The appointment of a royal commission is essential, as it appears that the drug manufacturers are more interested in profits than in the complete safety of individuals. Patients and doctors are merely being used as guinea pigs for the experiments of the drug manufacturers.
I know that without question in this modern age the use of drugs has been of tremendous benefit to thousands of sufferers, Mr Deputy Speaker. As S;ir Derrick Dunlop has pointed out, the saving to national economies alone in reducing the number of days off work on account of illness, for example, is simply fantastic. I repeat, however, that the cost to national economies must be fantastic also if 10% of the beds in general hospitals are occupied by patients who are suffering from the effects of drugs used to treat them, particularly in these days when there is such a shortage of hospital accommodation. In this House we have asked questions about the high-power salesmanship of representatives of the pharmaceutical industry. When these complaints are coupled with the statements by Dr Thomson and Sir Derrick Dunlop that I have mentioned it appears that the drug industry is more concerned with profits than with safety and lives. The introduction of thalidomide is an example of what can happen. Sir Derrick Dunlop went on to make some comments, which were reported in these terms:
Sir Derrick said the irresponsible use of drugs was widespread in the UK, in which the cost of drugs under the national health service had gone up from $38m in 1949 to well over $100m now. “This great sum is exclusive of the fantastic amounts of money expended by the public in purchasing patent medicines, which do not have to be prescribed, over the counter,’ he said.
If that is the state of affairs in the UK, surely it indicates me situation in Australia. If this is the situation as it applies to the drug industry in Australia, surely there is need for a high level inquiry into this industry. Are we in this country to see headlines such as appeared in last evening’s issue of the Melbourne ‘Herald’: ‘Drug war- UK police put 30 in dock’? The report under that headline stated:
Britain’s drive against drug taking swung into full stride today with court appearances throughout the country of suspects arrested in weekend raids.
Three hundred detectives - many of them specially trained in anti-drug work - had pounced on cafes, bars and rooming houses.
At least sixty people were taken in for questioning, and nearly half of them wound up in court.
Under the headline ‘Archbishop hits at drugs in Britain’, yesterday’s issue of the ‘Daily Telegraph’ carried the following report:
A new crusade against authority could leave Britain a nation of drug addicts, sex maniacs, abortionists and criminals . . .
The Archbishop of Cardiff, the Most Reverend John Murphy, made this protest in a letter read at all Masses in his diocese. Surely headlines and reports such as these are sufficient to indicate that there is need for an investigation at high level.
We all agree that the use of drugs has given immeasurable benefit to many thousands of persons throughout the world. But I believe that experience generally and the circumstances that I have disclosed today are sufficient to require the Government to appoint a royal commission as I suggest. I was astounded this morning when, in answering my question, the Minister for Health admitted that he had not read the paper by Dr Thomson. Apparently, too, he was not aware of the statements that had been made by Sir Derrick Dunlop. In other words he had not done his homework on this matter. He was entirely unaware of what was being said about the drug industry by eminent medical authorities, for he was complacent and apparently satisfied with what was going on. I say again, Mr Deputy Speaker, that a royal commission represents the only means of cleaning up what I consider to be a racket that is causing many people needless suffering and costing this country many thousands of pounds. In the words of Sir Derrick Dunlop, ill health due to drugs has become a new dimension in disease. It is the duty of this Government to prevent this new dimension in disease from increasing in magnitude.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, at the outset I join with those who have expressed their thanks to His Excellency the Governor-General for his Speech on the occasion of the opening of the First Session of this Twenty-sixth Parliament last Tuesday, 21st February. I want to say how much I enjoyed participating in that occasion, knowing full well that we as a government will be here for the next three years. I also congratulate the twenty new members on this side of the House who have joined us as a result of the recent general election - seventeen being members of the Liberal Party of Australia and three being members of the Australian Country Party. Having already heard the maiden speeches of some of them, I agree with the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) that some real talent has recently come into this Parliament. We are particularly pleased to be able to say that it belongs to this side of the Parliament. I congratulate especially the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro), who moved the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), who seconded the motion, on the contributions that they made in opening this debate.
I congratulate you, Sir, on once again holding the high office of Chairman of Committees. I consider that you are really an institution in that position, for you have held it ever since I became a member of the Parliament. I would like you to convey to our new Speaker my congratulations and good wishes on his having attained that high office. 1 am sure that he will preside over the affairs of this House with honesty and purpose, both these qualities being needed in a chamber of this nature. 1 believe that I would be remiss if I were not to mention his predecessor, Sir John McLeay. He also was an institution in this place, perhaps to a greater extent even than you, Sir. He held an office higher even than your own and he presided over the affairs of this House with honesty, purpose and great impartiality. We enjoyed his company here while he did so and also on the occasion of the opening of this Parliament. I am sure that we all hope to see him in the Speaker’s Gallery at least, if not in some other position, whenever a new session of the Parliament is opened in future.
My contribution to this Address-in-Reply debate will take the form of an expression of my continuing and increasing concern at the spiralling of prices that has occurred in Australia in recent years. 1 propose also to make some, observations about the need for the Government to support both primary and secondary industry and in some instances tertiary industry by increasing subsidies and bounties and by increasing tariff protection for secondary industry. The problems that we now face in Australia were faced by the Socialist Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr Harold Wilson, last year when he instigated what he described as the wages and prices freeze plan This plan was not in itself Mr Wilson’s plan. It was forced on him, the United Kingdom Treasury and the British people by the Bank of England and international bankers who, over the years, had been supporting the British economy by massive loans. To avoid economic disaster and bankruptcy in Great Britain the Prime Minister of that great country had to introduce what he was pleased to describe as his wages and prices freeze plan. The nub of the situation for Britain was stated by Mr Wilson when he addressed the United Kingdom Trades Union Congress early last year. This is what he said:
Increased money wages without increased productivity are a hollow mockery. Worse, they increase industrial costs, exports are priced out of the markets of the world, and rising home prices mean that British products yield place to imports and disaster follows.
That is the summing up by the Socialist Prime Minister of Great Britain of the economic position of that country. As I have said, he expressed those views at the United Kingdom Trade Union Congress last year. There was nothing new in what Mr Wilson said. It was merely a restatement of normal economic laws which have been understood since Roman times by people who want to understand them, lt will be noted that Mr Wilson did not concentrate on the things that our friends opposite usually talk about. He did not mention profits or exploitation - words which seem to have a shameful meaning. He concentrated on wage increases without increased productivity. In Australia we have seen two increases in the basic wage since 1964. There was an increase of $2 in 1964, when there was only an increase of 0.7% in the Consumer Price Index for the preceding three years, and last year there was an increase of $2. In addition, there were increases in the margins offered to tradesmen throughout the country.
It seems to me, from the attitude adopted by our present arbitration system - and also from the attitude of the commissioners, if they are involved, as I am sure they are - that the economic laws I have mentioned have escaped scrutiny, but these laws operate in Australia with the same deadly certainty as they have operated in Great Britain in recent years and as, apparently, they are operating now in New Zealand, where an economic squeeze has been applied. These economic laws will affect the economy of our country to the same extent as they affected the economy of Great Britain unless this Government and this Parliament take some steps to curb spiralling costs and prices. So far as the validity of these laws is concerned, the only difference in Australia’s position is that we are bulging with plenty. Because of our vast mineral resources and our ability to produce primary products comparatively efficiently and cheaply, these economic laws do not appear to have any real effect on us. The effect will not be seen until we price ourselves out of export competition with other countries.
There is obviously a belief in the minds of trade union leaders in this country that when a basic wage increase has been granted by the arbitration system they must immediately go back to their offices and set about preparing another log of claims for further wage increases.
– Because the employers bump up prices straight away.
– Management accepts these wage increases because it can increase prices, as the honourable member for Stirling has just said. Whenever there is an increase in the cost of producing an article, the standard practice is to add that increased cost to the price charged to the unsuspecting public. The trade union leaders seem to have no regard for the workers, the people under their jurisdiction. They arc the people who are affected by spiralling prices, not managements or the big institutions to which, no doubt, the honourable member for Stirling refers.
The State Premiers seem to think they can come to Canberra at any time and get more money for this or that project, without regard for the economic structure of Australia. The arbitration commissioners are not economists, and I do not think they should be. Whenever there is a dispute between unions and management, they seem to think that they must set themselves up as a wages tribunal and increase the basic wage throughout the country. In other words, they feel, as do the State Premiers and the union leaders, that it is possible to go on increasing wages and prices ad infinitum without draining the economic resources of Australia. What we are doing, and apparently doing deliberately, is pricing the products of this country out of the export markets of the world.
During the last election campaign, and subsequent to it, we all saw the advertisements relating to the battle between margarine and butter products. I have a copy of one of those advertisements. It states: Meet the lady who puts money in your pay packet’. It is true that the dairy industry does contribute to our overseas exchange earnings to the extent of $100m a year, but, in common justice and in the name of good sense, we should point out that $27m of this $100m is given to the dairy industry in the form of a subsidy. I do not argue about the need for a subsidy for this or any other industry at this particular time, but I do say that we should tell the people of Australia what is happening. When the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission or any other such body increases wages, which in turn increase prices, we in this Parliament should be able to make up our minds whether, instead of paying a subsidy of only $27m to the dairy industry, we should say that the subsidy should be increased to S30m, §35m, $40m or whatever sum is commensurate with the increases in prices and wages.
The dairying industry is not the only industry that is affected by increased costs. In my short term in this Parliament, we have seen the wheat industry stabilised. As most honourable members will know, there is a wheat industry stabilisation scheme. Even as recently as three years ago, the wheat industry stabilisation fund was in balance. It had been in credit in some years and in debit in others, but finally the fund, which is contributed to by the primary producer himself, came into balance. Now the experts tell us - I am inclined to believe them - that the wheat industry will need to be subsidised to the extent of $100m in the year 1966-67. Is this a good thing for Australia? Can we continue to compete with overseas countries if we add to production costs by increasing wages, prices and subsidies of this nature? 1 feel that as a government we have been using only palliatives against the effects of price increases resulting from wage increases granted by the Arbitration Commission. As I said earlier, we have in this country industries that can obtain increased subsidies by way of approach to the appropriate Ministers. We saw an example of this only the other day with the wool industry, which approached the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann). That industry now, instead of getting $4m for wool promotion and research, is to get $14m. Gone are the days when this country could live on the sheep’s back. I say to the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), who is seeking to interject, and to other honourable members that $14m is to be given to the wool industry for promotion and research and that this money will come from Consolidated Revenue. I am not saying that the wool industry does not contribute to Consolidated Revenue in a wonderful way. All I am saying is that subsidies for primary industries, tariff protection for secondary industries and bounties for other industries are continually being increased because of continual increases in wages and costs. In the last Parliament we provided a bounty of $4m for the cotton industry to make sure that it would make the grade. I do not cavil at giving such assistance to a new industry but I feel sure that each of us should pay regard to what happens to the $4m. To express the situation in simple terms, the cotton farmers of the Ord River each received in the last two years $20,200 in the form of subsidy. So SI 0,000 or, expressed in the old currency, £5,000 went to each farm each year in the form of subsidy. I am not sure whether we can continue to pay a subsidy of $10,000 a year to each farm that has been set up on the Ord. I would prefer a committee to look into the economic conditions that prevail on the Ord and elsewhere in Australia and assess whether it would be better to do as is done in America and say to the farmer: ‘We do not want you to farm any longer, but for each year that you live and while you own the property we will give you $10,000.’ At least that would ensure that there would be no increases when basic wage increases were imposed on the community and spiralling costs caught up with the cotton farmers.
What we are doing with our present arbitration system is depleting our bulging mineral resources. We are depleting them by the very instrument that should be helping us, namely the worker. It is the worker who produces the goods we sell in Australia and overseas, but we are depleting our mineral resources and our primary products by adding to their cost to such an extent that we have no resources for any other effort. We all should think sympathetically about the problem of the British today and their wage and prices freeze plan. We should take our minds back over the last 200 years when Great Britain was the country responsible for the maintenance of goodwill throughout the world. We should realise that it was Britain which, because of her economic resources, saved not only Australia but all of the world before the Second World War. We should consider that it is
Britain’s defence commitments over the years and even now in the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean that are keeping Australia safe. Notwithstanding the goodwill we have built up with America, we in Australia should give sympathetic consideration to the possibility of diverting our economic resources towards taking over some of these defence commitments in the Pacific and Indian Oceans which are now Britain’s. I have a tremendous regard for the work Britain has done in the last 200 or 300 years and I feel that we as a rich junior partner of the group should do more economically than we have done hitherto.
It is impossible for the Minister for Defence or the Minister for External Affairs to do much more than is being done already in providing aid to countries of South East Asia because we have been diverting our resources from these worth-while efforts into increasing our price structure in Australia. As I see it we are setting up tariff barriers against our own production so as to ensure that our competitors overseas will be more competitive with us and it is inevitable that we must lose the markets of primary production and in some cases secondary industry if we are to continue this mathematical madness of economics. We are raising the unit cost of all of our production on every occasion on which the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission meets. We have the spectacle, on the one hand, of the unions endeavouring to apply duress to the arbitration commissioners when they are about to give a judgment. This is fundamentally wrong. I find it repugnant to read in the newspapers that union members have stormed into the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in whatever city it may be meeting in an endeavour to make sure that the commissioners accede to the demands of the unions. I feel it impossible to continue to express my views in this regard because they are so strong.
Australia is one of the first ten trading nations in the world. We have achieved this position since the Second World War and we can continue to improve our trading position if we use a little logic and commonsense. We have had the ability to compete with overseas countries since the Second World War and we will continue to compete with them provided we do not price ourselves out of the field. We should realise that we are now competing with low wage countries in many of the products that we are trying to produce. If we do not take some action with regard to our arbitration system I am sure that we as a government or the Labor Party if it be in power will have to take steps similar to those now being taken by the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Why do we not sit down and look at the economic set-up in Australia and use our bulging resources, by legislative machinery if you like, to provide against future droughts?
Last year there were difficulties of production in the north west of New South Wales and the western parts of Queensland. The Government had to grant certain amounts of money to ensure that the people in those areas could start again. Why do wc nol use our bulging resources to provide against disastrous fires? We all know of the fires that occurred in Tasmania but we did not have any special funds to ensure tha* catastrophes of this nature were taken card of by the Government. Why do we not use our bulging resources to increase our defence commitment in lieu of the work that is being done by Great Britain in the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean areas? We have vast mineral resources. We have the ability to help this country, Britain, to a much greater extent than we have in the past. It is our responsibility to do just that.
Why do we not use our bulging resources to build highways and freeways, thus putting an end to the clamouring by the Premiers for more money for this and that? Why do we not use our bulging resources, particularly our mineral resources and our primary production resources, to build bigger and better ports and ensure that we maintain our present position as one of the world’s first ten trading nations? Why do wc not use our bulging resources to establish a truly national shipping line - national in character and national in effect? We have the resources to do this work. I am sure that in the new Ministry some good thought will be given to the need for Australia to maintain present prices rather than continue to increase prices and set up tariff barriers against our own production to the advantage of our competitors overseas.
– The Governor-General’s Speech is always accepted as a presentation to a new Parliament of the Government’s policy. The Speech is accepted also as an outline of legislative proposals to be brought forward early in the life of the Parliament. If We accept, as we must, that on the occasion of the opening of this Parliament the same custom has been followed as has been followed in the past, we can come to the conclusion only that the Government has no policy of any real purpose and certainly has no new ideas. We must conclude that there will not be any progress of real moment during the life of this Parliament. As a document, the Speech made dull and dismal reading. Strange to say, it gave more importance to what has happened in the past - sometimes in the dim past - than lo what could happen or should happen in the future. The main feature of the Speech was the reference to our mineral deposits and to the value of the mineral output from our mines and quarries, lt seems to me that the Government is” endeavouring to take credit for this expansion when in actual fact it has played a very minor part, and in some cases no part whatsoever, in either the discovery or the development of these resources. As a matter of fact the Government must stand condemned for its attitude in relation to our mineral resources by allowing so much of our natural wealth to escape from this country, lt should have taken immediate steps to ensure that Australia, and not some foreign country, received the major benefits from our natural resources.
Practically all of our mineral deposits are located in areas where climatic conditions are very tough and where isolation, living costs, lack of transport, lack of communications and certain taxing methods pose real problems. We owe a debt of gratitude to people who in the past went to work and live under these conditions, and we owe a debt to those who are still prepared to do so. While the GovernorGeneral’s Speech refers to the value of our mineral output and mineral expansion there is no suggestion whatsoever that the Government intends to do anything to relieve any of the problems associated with the expansion of our mineral fields or wilh northern development generally.
The Speech indicates that the Government intends to increase the maximum permissible income in regard to certain pensions, and this has been referred to as a liberalisation of the means test. Of course, this is a complete misinterpretation of what the Government really intends to do. By no stretch of the imagination could we say that this is a liberalisation of the means test, because if we relate it to money values we find that the pensioners, after this proposal is put into operation, will certainly be no better off than they were in 1954 when the pension and the permissible income were identical. What has happened over the years is that this Government has imposed a more restrictive means test by refusing to increase the permissible income in relation to money values as the cost of living has increased. 1 hope that no-one will fall into this trap and accept the claim that the Government’s action is a liberalisation of the means test.
I notice also that the Government proposes to extend the scope of the Aged Persons Homes Act by making local government authorities eligible for subsidies. This of course should have been carried out long ago. One need only refer to Hansard’ to find that members from this side of the House, including myself, have been advocating this for some time. We have pointed out that in country districts local organisations like the Returned Servicemen’s League find it extremely difficult, and in fact impossible, with their small and changing numbers to enter into this field. As a result many aged people have been denied any benefit that could flow from this Act. I feel sure that local authorities and local residents in most country centres will be pleased to learn that at long last the Government has recognised the wisdom of Labor’s proposals in this regard.
It has become obvious, over recent years anyway, that Government members are deliberately pursuing a line of inaccuracy at every possible opportunity when they endeavour to take credit for projects or concessions in which they have played little or no part. They go so far as to seek credit for measures which, when they were introduced, were bitterly opposed by members of both the Liberal Party and the Country Party. For instance, the Governor-General’s Speech refers to the Snowy Mountains scheme and there is the implication - in fact, there was a suggestion by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro) the other night - that the project was of this Government’s making, that the Government was responsible for this important and valuable undertaking. Of course honourable members know differently. Unfortunately many people outside the Parliament, particularly younger people, do not know that it was a Labor Government which introduced the project and commenced it operating efficiently and on a sound basis. It is important to note that the Liberal Party was so bitterly and completely opposed to the project that its members went so far as to boycott the opening ceremony.
I want to examine a little further the line of inaccuracy developed by Government members. I have in my possession a document containing part of a speech delivered by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) when, as Minister for Territories in 1962, he addressed a public gathering at the opening of the Darwin power station. I will quote a couple of passages that illustrate how even Ministers will try to create a false impression in the minds of the people. He said:
Over recent years increasing attention has been given by the present Commonwealth Government to northern development and I want to trace the pattern of its measures for northern progress. Because of the variety of measures, the fact that there is a pattern is often overlooked.
I draw attention to the words ‘over recent years’ and ‘the present Commonwealth Government’, because he went on to say:
Mining in general has been assisted by decisions on taxation and on the gold subsidy.
Here we have the suggestion that it was the present Government which, in recent years, relieved the gold mining industry of the gold tax. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that in 1939 a Liberal Government first imposed the tax. It was a very vicious tax and had it not been for the strong opposition of the Labor Party the tax would have been much more severe than it actually eventually was. The Liberal Government introduced a Bill whereby it would have taken 75% of the amount by which the price of gold exceeded £9 per oz. At that time the price of gold was £10 10s, so the Liberal Government intended to take 22s 6d of the 30s by which the price exceeded £9 per oz. It was most unfair legislation. It was unsound legislation because it would have reacted unfairly against small producers, prospectors and low grade mines. Not only that, but it was to apply whether or not a profit was made: it was a tax on price and not on profit. Owing to the strong opposition of the Labor Party the Bill was defeated in the Senate. Subsequently the Liberal Government brought down another Bill in which it reduced the tax from 75% to 50% on the price over £9 per oz and prospectors were allowed to recover 25 ounces of gold before any tax was imposed. In 1947 a Labor Government removed the tax completely. It was completely inaccurate for the Minister to suggest to the people at Darwin that the present Commonwealth Government in recent years had anything to do with relieving the gold mining industry of the gold tax. The Minister also said:
The Zone A taxation concessions, particularly those which through the allowable deductions give concessions of special benefit to the wage and salary earner, have helped to support a more stable population and to mitigate some of the disabilities.
It may be open to argument whether or not the benefits received from this wide variety of measures should be increased in value, but let us recognise that this policy of encouragement for northern development by concessions and subsidies of various kinds has been put into force.
Here again we have the suggestion that it was the present Government in recent times which introduced zone allowances when in actual fact it was a Labor Government in 1945 which introduced the legislation. The present Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, were loud in their condemnation of Labor’s proposals at that time. Sir Robert Menzies, in speaking to the second reading, spent practically all his time attacking Labor for introducing the measure. He concluded his speech by saying that if the proposal were carried it would be the most retrograde step that any national parliament could take. The present Prime Minister said at that time, in his speech on the subject, that he questioned whether a more unsound principle had ever been introduced into our taxation methods. Now we hear, seventeen years later, a Minister of this Government endeavouring to create the impression that it was the present Government that intro duced these zone allowances. Members on this side of the House have frequently asked the Treasurer to amend the income tax legislation with relation to certain anomalies flowing from the zone allowance provisions, but the Treasurer has consistently refused to take any action. The present Prime Minister admitted, when he was Treasurer, that the anomalies existed, but he refused to do anything at all about them.
But of course we have become accustomed to this kind of attitude on the part of Ministers. It is just another illustration of what the Government really intends with regard to the development and the population of the north. The Government’s attitude towards the north is exactly the opposite of what people have been led to believe. This Government does not want the north to progress to any extent and it certainly does not want to see a largs increase in the population of the northern areas. As a matter of fact it would prefer the north to remain in isolation. It favours the view that it is better for Australia if the north continues to be sparsely populated. Were it not for the fact that it would obviously constitute political suicide, this Government would refuse to put one brass razoo into the north.
The Governor-General’s Speech contains a reference to finance for beef roads, but actually it is not the policy of this Government to provide a good road system in the north, as was made clear some time ago. Honourable members who were here at the time will recall that early in 1963 the former Postmaster-General, who at that time was the honourable member for Dawson, a northern electorate in Queensland, said in this House that it would be wrong to provide good roads and communications in the north, because this would assist peoples of other countries who one day might invade Australia. I well remember, Mr Deputy Speaker, how honourable members on the Government side applauded the Postmaster-General for his contribution to the debate at that time. Of course the press and radio did not report what he said, and so the people outside remained ignorant of the Government’s attitude. But no one would be silly enough to suggest that the Minister was not voicing Government policy. Surely no responsible Minister would have stood up and condemned the provisions of communication facilities in the north if it were not in accordance with his Government’s policy on the subject.
More recently we have had further proof that the Government does not support any further progress in or population of the north. This was made quite clear by a Government member during the last election campaign, when he told a public meeting that the Government’s decision not to go ahead with the Ord River project was sound. He did not say simply that it was sound to await further experience, which was the reason given by the Prime Minister for the Government’s decision; he said it was sound not to go ahead, and when we consider this in conjunction with his remarks on cotton production and markets we can come to no other conclusion than that he meant it was sound not to go ahead at all. But he went further than this; he expressed the view that it was unwise to populate the north to any extent, and he said in support of this viewpoint that he had been told by a defence expert that it was better from the defence angle to have an empty north than a full north.
It is no use suggesting that these remarks were made by an irresponsible or inexperienced Government member of the back benches, because they were made by a member who has now been elevated to the Ministry. Surely such a person could not be accused of misrepresenting Government policy. What disturbs me further is that as Minister for Works he is unlikely to recommend anything worthwhile for the northern areas of Australia.
If we compare the views of the Minister for Works (Mr Kelly) with those expressed by the former Postmaster-General we can reach no other conclusion than that this Government is not interested in either developing or populating the north. The former Postmaster-General said:
Nothing is more dangerous than to provide an efficient transport system for our enemies to get 1o our heart without having a proper defence force to ensure that we can use that transport system.
The Minister for Works supports the view that from the defence angle it is better for the north to be entirely devoid of population. The acceptance of this proposition, of course, renders it simple to carry out the policy. If we accept that the north should be empty, what is the purpose of having a good transport and communication system? Conversely, if we do not provide a reasonable transport and communication system we are not likely to be faced with the problem of large numbers of people in the north. It is as simple as that. Although this aspect of Government policy was omitted from the Governor-General’s Speech, there can be no doubt that it is one that the Government pursues in an undercover manner.
– One of the members of the Country Party says ‘Rubbish’, but I am giving the House the facts. I am supported by a newspaper article which I can show the honourable member if he wishes to see it. The real attitude of the Government towards the people of the north was highlighted recently by the closure of the blue asbestos mine at Wittenoom in Western Australia. Wittenoom is situated in the north of the State, some 1,000 road miles from Perth. It has had a population of about 1,000, and the mine provided a livelihood for a number of other people at various centres in the north such as Roebourne and Point Samson. One would have expected that because of its situation and its population it would have rated a fairly high priority for Government consideration, but this it has not received. Without a shadow of doubt it was the Commonwealth Government and the Western Australian Government, and not the company itself, that decided when the intention to close the mine should be announced. I say this because the Minister for the NorthWest in the Government of Western Australia said he knew early in November that the mine would close, and the Minister for National Development in this place (Mr Fairbairn) subsequently told me that the Government was informed by the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd, the parent company, of the decision to close some time before the announcement was made. But neither of those Ministers and neither of the Governments was concerned about the effect that the closure would have on the people working and living in Wittenoom.
The public announcement of the closure of the mine was made on 1st December, only three weeks before Christmas. It was a time when some employees were on annua] leave, when some had just returned and would therefore have been short of finance, and when some were about to go and so had paid deposits on accommodation. Certainly it was not a very convenient time for the people of Wittenoom. It was not a very convenient time for the workers and their families, but it was a very convenient time for the Federal Government, the State Government and the company. It was five days after the Federal election, it was immediately after the rising of the State Parliament, and it was twenty-four hours after the signing of a contract for Japanese steel interests to import iron ore from the Mount Newman deposits in which the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd holds a third interest. The timing of the announcement meant that the closure of the mine had no effect on the Federal election in the State of Western Australia. It also prevented State Labour members from asking awkward questions in the State Parliament, and it could have forced many of the men from Wittenoom to accept employment at Mount Newman, whether they liked it or not. From the point of view of the State and Federal Governments these matters were much more important than the inconvenience and suffering caused to the workers and their families. It may not do any harm to place on record the callous views of the Minister for the North-West in the Government of Western Australia, who had this to say about the short notice -
When the time came to close a mine it was impracticable to give long periods of notice. The position would be chaotic. There would be an immediate exodus of people who wanted to get into employment in other areas quickly, leaving the mine and town to dwindle away instead of allowing for an organised changeover in the type of industrial and town operations.
In a mine such as that at Wittenoom there could be a total collapse of operations if key skilled men left.
Let me point out that the company owned the store. It also owned the hotel. Apart from the mine there was nothing else that was likely to suffer. So it becomes quite obvious that the only concern of the Minister was from the point of view of the company - the company’s angle - and that the Minister was in no way concerned at all about anybody else who might be associated with its operations.
All we heard from the Minister for National Development about the matter was contained in an item in the ABC news service. The Minister was quoted as saying that it was fortunate that employment was available on iron ore projects in the north. To show the further disinterest of tha Minister for National Development and the disinterest of another Minister in this House, let me point out that it took the Minister for National Development three weeks to reply to a telegram that I sent to him on behalf of the people of Wittenoom. My telegram asked whether anything could be done to keep the mine in operation. Also, it took the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) over two months to reply to a letter that I sent to him on behalf of the people of Wittenoom asking whether any financial assistance could be provided to these people.
– He could not have cared less.
– That is right. The letter that I received from the Treasurer states that he could not see anything wrong and that the information he had received was that only eight people at Wittenoom were in receipt of the unemployment benefit. This was two months after the mine closed. What did the Treasurer expect? Did he expect these people to stay in the town? Of course only eight people were receiving unemployment relief. Everybody else had left the town and was seeking work elsewhere. I do not think that these people should have been the only ones to suffer as the result of the closure of the mine. Surely this attitude does not indicate any great desire on the part of the Government to keep people in the north or to increase the population of that area. A New Australian said at a public meeting at Wittenoom: ‘Governments tell us that the north is on the move. The newspapers tell us that the north is on the move. They are right. We are on the move. We are going south.’ That is what happened at Wittenoom.
I noticed in Monday’s Press that the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) appealed to the people generally to assist migrants wherever possible. I go along with that appeal. But I suggest to the Minister that he should get the governments of the day to give a lead. I point out to the House that of the 1,000 people affected by the closure of the mine at Wittenoom, two-thirds would have been migrants. Certainly, the negative and disinterested attitude displayed by the governments of the day gives the plea by the Minister for Immigration a very hollow ring. Some of these migrants have been in Australia for a fairly short time only. One had been there for a fortnight only. As a matter of fact, the company was still continuing to recruit labour a fortnight before it announced the closure of the mine. Some of the men had been working underground for years. Others had been working underground for a few months. Certainly most of them would not have been able to measure up to the demands of work on the surface on the iron ore projects at that particular time of the year in that area. Yet the Minister for National Development said that plenty of work was available on the iron ore projects.
In conclusion, let me say to the new members of this House who have temporarily taken the places of Labor members who were defeated at the last election that they will find it extremely difficult to measure up to the very efficient standard of the members who held the seats immediately before them. I wish them all the best. 1 hope that they will derive some satisfaction or pleasure during the short time they will be here.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 commence my remarks by congratulating Mr Speaker on his elevation to the high office that he now holds. 1 congratulate the Chairman of Committees, the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) who is no stranger in that position. I ask you, Sir, to pass my comments on to them. To all the new members I extend congratulations also. I refer particularly to the new honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro) who so ably proposed the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General, and the seconder of that motion, the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) who gave this House an indication of what we are likely to hear from him in the future. Both honourable members gave excellent addresses. No doubt, there are other people to be congratulated in this House. Firstly, I feel that I should congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) who secured a record majority at the last election at which he led the Government parties for the first time as Prime Minister. I extend congratulations also to the new Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). I wish him well in his venture. Also I think that this would be an appropriate time to congratulate all the members who retired at the end of the last Parliament. May their retirements be long and happy.
As the representative of the people of the electorate of Wimmera who have returned me for another term, I say ‘thank you’. I assure them that I will endeavour to serve them again to the best of my ability while they give me their confidence. On their behalf, I wish to extend our deep sorrow to the victims of the disastrous bushfires in Tasmania. 1 assure the people of that State that the people of Wimmera are certainly doing all that they possibly can to help the situation by contributing freely to the various relief programmes that are in hand at the present time.
I wish to refer now to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) and to the remarks that he made in an earlier debate when he attacked, I should say rather childishly, the Government, Cabinet and various Ministers. I merely wish to say, in answer to his suggestion that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) is only a rubber stamp for the department that it would be a tragedy if through a change of government the honourable member for Hindmarsh became the new Minister for Repatriation. Under his interpretation of the Minister’s responsibilities, the Minister for Repatriation would become all powerful and by so doing would override all decisions made by his department. Does the honorable member for Hindmarsh mean by his remark that the Minister should have the right to decide whether an individual case should be accepted by the Department or otherwise? If so, it would mean that as long as an individual could convince the Minister regarding his case any decisions that the Department might make could be overridden.
I am sure that the honourable member for Hindmarsh has been in this place long enough to know that, under the Repatriation Act, the Minister for Repatriation has no discretionary powers. If an exserviceman disagrees with a decision he has the normal avenues of appeal open to him. In this regard, we must be ever mindful of the independent appeal tribunals that are in operation and which so often find in favour of appellants. Generally speaking, 1 have a great admiration for ‘he Repatriation Department and its officers. I would strongly oppose the removal of any of the powers or responsibilities of those officers. They co-operate in every way. After all, who are we as politicians, or who even is the Minister, to say what an individual should or should not have. My friend from Hindmarsh may have some medical background. I certainly have not. I have no desire to dictate to the officers. As a layman, I am prepared to assist an exserviceman with his claim, but I will certainly not have a bar of any proposal for ministerial dictation to the departmental officers. I am sure, Mr Deputy Speaker, that there are many thousands of ex-servicemen throughout Australia who will agree with me on this issue. I also firmly believe that most people recognise that our repatriation system is one of the best in the world. However, that does not necessarily mean to say that we cannot make improvements. I wish to mention some matters which do come within the jurisdiction of the Ministers and Cabinet.
Firstly, for many years the payment known as the funeral grant has remained at £25, or $50, and 1 feel very strongly that it should be increased. I urge the Minister to take some action on this point, ever mindful of the fact that this is one expenditure that we could say is a non-recurring allocation and that the total cost, even if this grant was doubled or trebled, would have little effect on the Treasury. The next point that I want to make concerns the comparison of increases in the various rates over a period of time. Since 1949, 1 believe, we have had a very good record in respect of increases of rates of pension and extra classifications. By way of example, I refer to the intermediate rate pension. Time will not allow me to enlarge on all items; I want to make just a few comparisons. Since 1949 the total and permanent incapacity rate has increased by about 184%. The war widow’s pension rate, which includes the domestic allowance, is now 197% above the 1949 figure. The service pension, which incorporates many other advantages such as free hospitalisation, has risen by 205%. But the general rate pensioner has had his rate increased by only about 118%. This to my mind is just not good enough. Why the figure is so low I do not know. Again I appeal to the Minister to give this group further consideration. I raise this matter at this time because I believe that our next opportunity to have a general discussion such as this will be after the Budget is presented, and we all realise that it would bc too late then to have any effect on the rates.
Rarely do we have a debate such as this without some mention being made of the economy and its future. The honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) referred to this matter in detail. I compliment him on his contribution. Rarely do 1 meet groups of my constituents without some mention being made of costs in the economy. I remind the House that while we are chiefly an agricultural country and rely heavily on agricultural products to keep our balance of payments in order we must view with caution any movements on the financial side which would either directly or indirectly affect primary industry adversely. I remind the House also that prices for our agricultural exports are based on world priority rates and that any increase in costs in this country could have the effect of pricing these goods out of the world market. The new honorable member for Kennedy referred to economists. I agree with him that a high percentage of economists are not ‘with it’ in relation to the practical side of many situations. That noted gentleman at the University of Melbourne, Mr E. J. Donath, who continues to spread the story that wheatgrowers are living off the taxpayer, is an example. I say to Mr Donath that industry stabilisation is a form of insurance, and not too many people in this place are prepared to criticise the principle of insurance.
The wheatgrowers took out their policies some years ago, and now they are receiving only their just entitlements. The honourable member for Balaclava a few minutes ago said that he read a statement that it could cost the Treasury something like $100m to keep the present stabilisation fund intact because of the record harvest. I point out to the honourable member that that statement is a long way from the truth, because under our stabilisation plan only 150 million bushels of wheat are guaranteed plus an amount used for home consumption of approximately 60 million bushels. One might say that a total of only 210 million bushels is guaranteed. If it were going to cost the Treasury $100m to cover this amount of wheat that would mean that the fund would need to put in about 50c per bushel, and we know that that is a long way from the true situation. If I dared to forecast what will be the cost to the Treasury this year I would say that it will be a very low figure. I am ever mindful of the fact that in previous years the highest cost to the Treasury in any one year was about £12m.
The Australian wheatgrower is playing a very important role in our economy by accounting for a large percentage of our exports. To me the possibility of seeing wheat exports rise to a value of $500m is now almost realised. During the life of this Parliament, providing it completes its threeyear term, the present wheat stabilisation plan will expire and I assume it will be renewed. Although I represent a large number of growers I do not wish to plead with the Government at this stage a case for a new plan. That is up to the industry itself. All I want to say is that when the recommendations are presented by the industry they will be presented only after a thorough investigation has been made. What the industry will submit will be in the best interests not only of the growers but of the economy as a whole. At present the future of the wool industry is, to my mind, in doubt. If our returns from this industry fail we must look for a replacement, or n supplement.
This year’s record wheat harvest of some 450 million bushels, allowing for 50 or 60 million bushels to be consumed locally, will make available approximately 400 million bushels which could be valued at S500m to S600m. It is true that difficulty may be experienced in securing markets, but the Australian Wheat Board has never failed before and I have complete confidence in it, believing that it will continue to be successful in the future, but I am ever mindful of two things. Drought can very quickly change the situation, arid ways and means should be found to see that any wheat surplus can be used for the betterment of the millions of starving people in the world.
I want to speak briefly on the subject of finance, taking the risk, as a Victorian, of being called parochial. In 1965-66 the Victorian Budget showed a deficit of some $8m. I am informed that this year the deficit could amount to a similar figure. Over the last ten years the State has had an aggregate deficit of something like $30m. Victorian expenditure per head of population is running at about $122, the lowest in the Commonwealth, with Tasmania having the highest expenditure per head of approximately §206. Victorian revenue per head, which includes Commonwealth grants, amounts to Si 19.5 which is the lowest in the Commonwealth. Victoria has increased its revenue considerably over .recent years by such things as increased stamp duties, hospital fees and railway charges, just to mention a few. No doubt this has been done in an attempt to get as close to balancing the Budget as possible.
Of the Commonwealth grants Victoria receives $61.5 per head, the lowest amount in the Commonwealth, while Tasmania receives $137 and Western Australia $122. Victoria has complained from time to time about Commonwealth aid roads grants. What is Victoria’s future? ls this a case of a State spending beyond its means? Just where are we going? Does this mean that eventually Victoria will be compelled to tax itself out of business or will the Commonwealth come to its aid? Financially Victoria is sick - very sick indeed - and something must be done to rectify the position. 1 sometimes believe that there could be some truth in the statement that the Commonwealth is nationalising financial distribution rather than allowing the States the right to finance their own affairs.
I fully appreciate the importance of helping the smaller and less developed States, but certainly riot to the complete detriment of the more populous and more developed States. It is true also that Victoria’s population is increasing rapidly. In the last ten or twelve years the population has increased by about 800,000, which is almost as much as the increase in the bigger State of New South Wales. I repeat that we must consider the future of Victoria from a financial point of view.
On reading again the speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General , I was surprised to note that not one word was devoted to the important PostmasterGeneral’s Department. This would suggest to me that no legislation effecting a major alteration is proposed at this stage. It could be said that many areas and many electorates have few worries over Postal Department matters, but as one who represents a country electorate I unfortunately cannot say this. I agree that much work has been done in recent years in the installation of television, improved trunk dialling, improved trunk services and increased telephone connections. This is all good. The Department is proud of the fact that some 97% of telephones today are fully automatic. But what of the other 3%? Where are they situated? They are all in the country areas and it would seem that a very large number are in western Victoria. This certainly does not make me very happy.
It is also said that a large percentage of the people have a very good television coverage. But what about the outlying areas? I refer to two areas in western Victoria, the townships of Nhill and Kaniva, which are only 250 miles from Melbourne. These areas have only a very mediocre reception, although the population distribution is still fairly dense. I remind the House that, despite the poor reception, the residents of these areas still pay the full licence fee. A move was made many months ago to have a translator station installed here, but this has not yet been done. I am not too sure who is at fault, whether it is the Government, the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) or the Department. I am not sure whether the delay is caused by cost, a shortage of materials, lack of interested stations or even a surplus of stations creating some form of competition. But I am sure that the people resident in the areas are not at all happy and unless something is done in the not too distant future, I see trouble.
Speaking of trouble, I draw the attention of the House to an article which appeared recently in a Wimmera paper. I certainly cannot vouch for the accuracy of the statement, because I was not at the meeting. The article is headed:
Arrogant, inefficient’ claim.
Ag. Society men hit department on RAX.
Wimmera Agricultural Societies Association will ask the Federal Government to pass new legislation to improve rural automatic telephone exchanges.
The article then gives some of the details. 1 cannot give all the details or in ormation on all the matters that were discussed at the meeting but 1 can assure the House that the remarks that were made were not complimentary to the Government or the Department. The meeting dealt with inefficiency in the installation of the few automatic telephone exchanges that had been approved. I understand that the Postmaster-General now has a copy of the article and I do not wish to labour the point. Suffice it to say that I believe it most unfair to some subscribers that they must spend many hundreds of dollars to obtain an automatic telephone service while others just a few miles away have the service connected almost free. This is brought about just because of a decision made by the Department to put the exchange in this place or in that. I do not believe that any one section of subscribers should be penalised. These are the issues on which the Department should concentrate, because if we want people to reside in country areas we must do something to help them. I support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.
– I desire to say a few words about repatriation pensions. The honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), who has just resumed his seat, is apparently satisfied with the pensions that are being paid to ex-servicemen. This is not the view of the Returned Services League, which is very critical of the raw deal that ex-servicemen are getting from the Government. I received a letter from a State councillor of the League. He is also Secretary of the Far Southern Metropolitan District. He gave me some figures. The honourable member for Wimmera referred to the increase of pensions in terms of money, but he did not say how much the pensions would purchase. The League points out that the special rate TPI pension in 1949 was 84% of the basic wage and that in 1950 it was 101%, but it dropped to 93% after the Budget in 1966. The general rate pension - that is the 100% pension - was 43% of the basic wage in 1949 and 51% in 1950, but after the Budget in 1966 it dropped to 37%. The pension for war widows was 47% of the basic wage in 1949 and 55% in 1950, but after the Budget in 1966 it dropped to 40.5%. The returned servicemen of Australia are very critical of the poor attention they are receiving from the Government.
I have read the Governor-General’s Speech several times. The Speech does not pay very much attention to the real bread and butter affairs of the nation. More than half the Speech is devoted to Vietnam and similar matters. I wish to comment on one passage in it. In making this comment I do not want people to think that I am a Communist; 1 am 100% anti-Communist. The following passage appears in the Speech:
My advisers are closely watching developments in China. The outcome of the crisis there will have profound implications reaching far beyond Asia. The greatest impediment to any general relaxation of existing tensions in Asia, and indeed throughout the world, is the attitude of the Communist regime in China.
I believe that we have no chance of ever achieving disarmament or peace in the world until every nation is part of the United Nations. The United Nations is similar to a world government. If we keep some nations out of it we are really setting up a permanent opposition to world government and to the nations that are a part of the United Nations. It is childish for any nation to be kept out of the United Nations. If it is wrong to have a Communist government represented in the United Nations, it is wrong for Russia and the other thirteen Communist nations to be represented there. If we are ever going to bring China into line, we must bring it into the United Nations and make it accept responsibility for disarmament and peace throughout the world. We cannot expect China to accept the principle of disarmament while it is outside the United Nations. 1 wish to refer also to roads, which is not mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech but is a very important national matter. We know what the Labor Party’s policy is in respect of roads, as it was mentioned in the last general election campaign. The Labor Party believes that the whole of the petrol tax should be returned to the States for road building and road maintenance. I understand that when this tax was introduced many years ago its main purpose was to finance road construction and maintenance. However, since the Liberal-Country Party Government has been in office a considerable portion of these funds has been diverted to other uses. At least S200m has been diverted from the purpose for which the tax was first imposed. The Ministry includes a Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth), but his department is concerned mainly with shipping and railways. I believe that he should pay equal attention to roads because more than 75% of Australia’s goods and passengers are conveyed by motor transport. If the $200m to which I have referred were used for roads we would be able to improve them greatly.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport introduced legislation in this place a considerable time ago to establish the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, but so far we have heard little of the work performed by that body. I believe that one of its functions should be to plan, co-ordinate and supervise a national system of highways. It should establish uniform traffic laws in an attempt to reduce the number of fatalities. Further, it should co-operate with the State Ministers to make road safety a national responsibility. We see what is happening day after day on the roads. In New South Wales last year and the year before more than 1,000 people were killed on the roads. I presume that in the Commonwealth of Australia at least 3,000 people are killed each year and many thousands are permanently maimed because of road accidents. I believe that we should have a ministry of roads which could concentrate on improving the roads. Experts advising the Automobile Association of Australia have said that by 1970 Australia will have only 322 miles of expressways. Seeing that there are 380,000 miles of road in Australia, according to these people, our efforts are paltry.
Next I should like to comment upon housing. The mention of housing by the Governor-General in his Speech was very mild and, in my opinion, will not alter the situation very much. I wish only to point out that in 1967 the provision for war service homes is $58m, which is $12m less than the provision for 1966. In explaining the reason for the reduced appropriation the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) said that the demand for war service housing had fallen. I believe that the sensible thing would have been to have diverted these funds for use under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. In the Budget last year grants to the States for housing were as follows: New South Wales S41m; Victoria $31m; Queensland $8m; South Australia $21m; Western Australia S8m; and Tasmania $7m. The total grant was SI 20m. This sum would build, at the most generous estimate, only 8,400 houses. We know that we shall require more houses than that in Australia. These grants are the only means by which some people can get a home of their own.
The Commonwealth Statistician has shown that about 90,000 marraiges occur in Australia each year and that last year there was an additional demand for 10,000 houses because of slum clearance. There are thousands of sub-standard houses in Australia which have been condemned by local governments, State governments and health departments. Slum clearance is important, both for health reasons and because of the environment that slums create. Many houses in the cities and suburbs are unfit for human habitation. Experts advise that effective slum clearance schemes are in operation in other countries. Although these schemes tackle the problems in different ways, they have one thing in common: each depends on strong financial aid from the central government. Why does this Government not do something similar instead of diverting from war service homes to other uses $l2m which could have been spent on slum clearance?
The figures I stated earlier show that the expenditure by the Commonwealth Government on war service homes this year will be reduced by $12m. I consider that this is a very foolish and unwise act. Instead of reducing grants for home building by $1 2m, the Government would have been wise to add that sum to the amounts made available to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Funds made available to the States in this way are not given away, as the States in due course must repay principal and interest to the Commonwealth. From this arrangement the Commonwealth makes a profit. Each State must repay the principal over a period of fifty years and pay interest at 3i% or the Commonwealth bond rate.
Since the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was initiated by the Chifley Labor Government in 1945, in addition to the principal which has been repaid to the Commonwealth by the States an amount of $330m has also been paid in interest. So, although the Government speaks about all that it is doing for housing through the war service homes scheme and under the Commonwealth and State Housing arrangement, in reality it is not doing very much after all because the States have to repay the money. If the Government really wanted to treat the housing problem seriously it would allow the amount of interest and the repayment of principal each year to flow back to the States for building more houses. A home for every married couple, right from the beginning of their married life, is a very important national requirement. What appears to be a happy marriage is often broken up because of lack of accommodation. Too many couples begin married life in favourable conditions, but unfortunately some have to live with inlaws or in rented rooms, caravans, motor garages, tents, etc. Raising a family under those conditions is impossible and eventually a couple squabbles and, finally, the marriage ends in divorce. Last year 8,000 marriages ended in divorce and at least 50% of them certainly were brought about by bad home environment.
It is the responsibility of the Government to devise a housing scheme so that every newly married couple can start off by owning a home. The Labor Party put its policy to the people at the last general election. The Labor Party’s housing scheme provides that every family shall obtain accommodation of its own choosing appropriate to its needs. Labor undertook that if it were successful at the poll it would establish a homes finance division of the Commonwealth Bank to provide up to 95% of the value of a couple’s first home to a limit of $10,000 at 3i% interest.
– That would help young couples.
– It certainly would help them. Labor promised to help them in another way too - by reducing home mortgages by a Commonwealth grant of $200 for each child born. That is the kind of thing which ought to be done and which
Labor promised to do. We want to encourage the growth of population. Labor’s plan would do so. A Labor government would remove from the homes savings grant scheme restrictions such as the thirty-six years age limit and the exclusion of widows and widowers and of credit union and superannuation savings. I believe that it is quite unfair to impose an age limit under this scheme. After all, it is not always possible for a married man to save enough to put a deposit on a house by the time he is thirty-six. I consider that there should be no age limit. I am glad to see that the Governor-General’s Speech indicates that the Government intends to improve the scheme by extending it to widows and that the operation of the Aged Persons Homes Act is to be extended to cover accommodation provided by local government bodies. I heartily approve of those proposals.
– Credit unions represent a useful savings agency.
– Yes, they do.
I would like to discuss local government finance in relation to the total national debt. The latest figures obtainable from the Treasury with respect to the national debt show that the Slates and local government authorities are drifting into a debt situation in which they will eventually go bankrupt. The Commonwealth’s share of the national debt amounted to S3,892m in 1953. In 1963 it had fallen to $3,12lm- a decline of 19%, or almost 2% a year. The States’ share of the national debt was S3,288m in 1953. It had jumped to $6,3 14m in 1963 - an increase of about 92%. It nearly doubled in ten years. The position of local government authorities is even worse. Their share of the national debt was S286m in 1953. By 1963 it had jumped to $690m - an increase of 140%, representing 14% a year. The category described as semi-government authorities includes organisations such as the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board in Sydney and the New South Wales Maritime Services Board. There is a wide variety of semi-government bodies. Their share of the national debt was $684m in 1953. By 1963 it had risen to $l,949man increase of 186%. So we can see that somebody should review the financial situation of the States, ‘ local government bodies and semi-government authorities. I believe that the Commonwealth Government has a responsibility for co-operating with local government organisations more than it is doing. We recall that at one stage representatives of municipalities and shires got together and formed a Commonwealth association of local government bodies. They subsequently petitioned the Prime Minister of the day seeking to discuss this serious matter with him. He did not want to enter into discussions with them. The circumstances that I have ment.tioned outline the predicament in which local government bodies find themselves today.
There are two municipal bodies in my electorate. One is the Bankstown Municipal Council and the other is the Hurstville Municipal Council. I have obtained from them some figures showing the contributions that they must make in various fields quite apart from undertaking the expenditure that is their direct responsibility within their own areas. Councils have to contribute so much in the dollar of their revenue to the Main Roads Board to help pay for the construction of main roads. This year the Bankstown City Council has to contribute 5430,000. It must also pay half the cost of any secondary road. In addition, it pays to the Commonwealth $65,000 a year in payroll tax. Local government bodies do not operate for profit. Their purpose is to render service to the community. I consider that, like schools, which were exempted from payroll tax by an amendment of the law last year, local government organisations should be exempt. The Bankstown Municipal Council pays one-ninth of its total rate collections to the various bodies to which it is required to contribute. The Hurstville Municipality is not so large as that of Bankstown. The Hurstville Municipal Council has to contribute $162,000 to the Main Roads Board this year. In addition, it has to pay $22,000 a year to the Board of Fire Commissioners of New South Wales for fire brigade services. It has also to pay $30,000 a year to the State Planning Authority. I point out that local government bodies, in addition to making these contributions to other authorities, extend rate rebates to age, invalid and widow pensioners who cannot afford to pay rates on their- properties. We have almost reached a situation in which the need to increase municipal rates is virtually pricing people out of their homes.
I want to make a few observations also about unemployment and sickness benefits, Mr Deputy Speaker. The legislation that provided originally for the unemployment benefit was introduced by a Labor government on 1st July 1945. There has been virtually no change in the rates of benefit since. Naturally, they are very much out of date and completely inadequate today. The rate of unemployment is fairly high at present, with 89,000 workers unemployed. In this situation, the rates of unemployment benefit on which these people are expected to survive should be reviewed. A person may become unemployed through sickness or because there is no place in industry for him. The present weekly rates of unemployment benefit are $14.25 for a married couple - I point out that this is £7 2s 6d in our old currency - SI 5.75 for a married couple with one child, $17.25 for a married couple with two children, $18.75 for a married couple with three children and $23.25 for a married couple with six children. These weekly rates of benefit are totally inadequate at the present time when the basic wage is $32.80 a week. Indeed, the unemployment benefit payable for a married couple is less than the age pension payable for a married couple. These out of date rates of unemployment benefit should be increased as soon as possible.
I turn now to the sickness benefit. Under the present provisions of the law, it is quite difficult for some people whose circumstances justify payment of this benefit to obtain it. There are in the community many epileptics, mentally retarded persons and asthma victims who are unable to fit into industry.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, allow me to express my pleasure at seeing you in the chair. I ask you to convey to Mr Speaker my congratulations upon his appointment to that high office and to tell him that I look forward with confidence to kindly firmness and very impar- tial rulings from him. The appointment of a new Speaker marks a change. We had all grown very fond of the new Speaker’s predecessor, but the old order changeth, yielding place to new. This change is symptomic of the many changes which are being experienced in the government of this country. I should say that one very important change is the increased realisation of the significance of Australia’s geographical position.
– The biggest change will be in 1969.
– There is a little wishful thinking by the Opposition’s ragtag and bobtail. However, we can let the honourable members opposite indulge in their pipe dreams. I want to deal with important subjects, not to engage in infantile exchanges.
Our geographical position is of twofold significance. Firstly, we are on the south eastern edge of the great Asian continent. The second point of significance, which is perhaps more frequently overlooked, is that we are also on the south western edge of the Pacific area. This is a matter of great importance. The worlds most powerful countries form the littoral of the Pacific Ocean, yet we seem to be insufficiently aware of their proximity. With our neighbours directly across the Pacific in South America we have very few contacts. In fact we know very little of the countries concerned and they know very little of ours. I am sure that this will be corrected because, as I set out to say, we have an increasing awareness of our geographical position. The importance of South East Asia has been realised, perhaps belatedly, and 1 wish to express my admiration of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) for his indefatigable efforts to promote friendship where possible, and, in any case, to promote a wider mutual understanding of the problems of the peoples of this area.
There is another nearby country with problems very similar to ours, a country which has a very similar outlook and which only now is beginning to realise that its geographical position probably is more significant than the emotional ties which have held us both to Europe in the past. I refer, of course, to New Zealand. The development of New Zealand has been influenced by many different factors from our own country, not the least of which is the greater number of its indigenous people. They were more highly developed culturally than our own indigenous people and played a more active role in modifying the history of their country. New Zealand is smaller in size than Australia, and therefore many of its problems are not the same as ours, but the broad development of the two countries has been very similar. Acting independently, we have developed similar attitudes to, for example, immigration and industrial arbitration. There is no doubt that, although separated governmentally, the two peoples are very close to one another in spirit. They showed this very clearly in the last two great wars which afflicted the world.
We must remember that, from the point of view of our present civilisation, New Zealand began as a colony of New South Wales and remained so until 1840. After that the New Zealanders retained the closest of ties with Australia. A Governor of South Australia became, shall we say, the first really effective Governor of New Zealand. 1 believe he had two terms of office in that country. Colonisation was carried out in part, and probably in its most effective part, by Wakefield. This is another cultural and historic link between the two countries.
New Zealand took an active part in the deliberations which led up to our federation. In fact, it was expected that New Zealand would federate with us. After federation, in 1901, a New Zealand commission came to Australia to study the problems involved. That commission was very largely influenced by a very colourful character, Seddon. But although he was a magnificent character and probably left an indelible imprint on the political life of New Zealand, I think no one regards him as one of New Zealand’s greatest visionaries. It was apparent from the outset that he was not in favour of federation, and so great was his influence in New Zealand at that time that what he thought was accepted. Consequently, New Zealand did not federate.
But if the reasons given, or the ostensible reasons, for New Zealand not federating with this country were ever valid, they certainly are not valid today. They have slipped into obsolescence. As a consequence, we must reconsider this problem. There is no doubt that New Zealand is at present experiencing some very serious difficulties. If we can be of assistance now, before these difficulties become too serious, before they become perhaps fatal and crippling to the New Zealand economy, I think we will do something worth while and very important. It is far better to meet trouble before it becomes an incurable cancer. lt is very pleasing to know that a free trade agreement has been in force between the two countries for twelve months. It is very pleasing to know also that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) is at present in New Zealand. I hope that his deliberations there will be fruitful and that they will result in an increase in the scope of the free trade agreement. It was very pleasing to see the great welcome that was accorded to our Prime Minister when he was in New Zealand recently, and to know how cordial still are the feelings of the people of New Zealand for us in Australia. This would indicate that there is great hope of increasing the understanding between the two countries. Therefore I urge the Government seriously to consider taking the first steps towards the amalgamation of Australia and New Zealand. We should consider taking the first urgent steps now, because these things must take time. There are difficulties inherent in any such proposal, and they take time to overcome. I think we should start to give urgent thought to the matter without further delay.
New Zealand has many problems. One is that there are many job vacancies in the country. The economists refer to the economy as super-heated or a pressure cooker economy or use some other gobbledygook term. In any case, the economy is under considerable stress. It is a rather artificial type of economy because New Zealand is, and always has been, entirely dependent for her prosperity on the good offices of Great Britain. If the price obtained for her exports is not high, New Zealand suffers a period of recession or depression. This has occurred time and time again. New Zealand is still almost entirely dependent on Britain as a market for her exports. This market is now in jeopardy because of the possibility of Britain’s entering the European Common Market. If Britain enters the Common Market it is obvious that she will not be able to retain intact the old ties with New Zealand. We do not know when Britain will enter the Common Market but it seems inevitable that she will do so. This is causing great concern, not only to the people of New Zealand, but to everybody who is interested in the prosperity of a very significant country in the Pacific area.
To highlight New Zealand’s position 1 point out that 67% of her gross farm income is derived from export trade only. In other words, the New Zealand farmers derive 67% of their gross income from the goods they export. Since New Zealand is predominantly a primary producing country one would not need much imagination to forecast what would happen if Britain were to enter the Common Market and New Zealand’s markets were to collapse. Twentytwo per cent of New Zealand’s gross national product is obtained from exports. Contrast that figure with the position in Australia, which derives only 13% of its gross national product in this way. Some people will say that even this figure is too high for safety. So I believe it is clear that New Zealand’s viability in the absence of support from Britain is very much in question. This problem must be faced here and now. One way of facing it and benefiting ourselves to some extent at the same time is by seeing that Australia and New Zealand become one nation. This obviously is a sensible thing to do. We have identical cultures and are close to one another. New Zealand is as close to Canberra as Perth is, so there is no insuperable problem of distance.
– Who would be Prime Minister?
– Not the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. If the two countries became one, the benefits to be derived in the field of defence are obvious. If we have one nation instead of two dealing with matters of defence, problems of redundancy will be overcome and there will be more effective co-ordination of military activity. Further rationalisation could take place in the Department of External Affairs, the Prime Minister’s Department and the Department of Territories. Such rationalisation would bring about certain economies in government, though of course these will not be very large. The main advantage would be that we would have bigger mutual
458/67 - R - -[ 1.1
markets. We would be able to assist New Zealand in this way and assist ourselves at the same time. As one nation, we would have greater bargaining power. This is a material factor because we both live in an environment which could be potentially hostile and the stronger we make ourselves the better it is.
I agree that the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement has been an excellent step in the right direction but it covers only a very small part of the trade spectrum of both countries. The Agreement would be virtually of little help to New Zealand if Britain were to cease to give the preferential treatment which she has accorded her in the past. We can safeguard New Zealand’s future and benefit ourselves at the same time by becoming one nation. Obviously there are virtues in my suggestion from the point of view of Australia apart from the ones I have mentioned. Firstly, we would have a slightly bigger market for our sugar. At present New Zealand imports some sugar from other countries. If we were to improve the market for our sugar it would be some slight help to an industry that is experiencing serious problems at the present time.
Dairying is one of the main activities to which we could give a good deal of useful consideration. In Australia dairying is a very composite affair. In some parts of Australia dairying is beset by almost insuperable difficulties, yet people persevere in endeavouring to produce dairy products. Other parts of Australia, such as Gippsland, Tasmania and some parts of South Australia, are becoming very efficient at producing milk products. However, the Commonwealth Government has found it necessary to bolster the dairying industry by means of very heavy subsidies amounting to perhaps $30m a year. It is questionable whether all this money is being spent to the greatest benefit. I am not knocking the dairying industry at all but I do ask whether the situation could be rationalised. It would seem sensible in this country, with our difficult problems of environment and climate to try to encourage efficiency in primary industry. May I point to the dairying industry in this regard: the various State governments and the Commonwealth Government have given very careful consideration to the encouragement of the dairying industry. They have supported it scientifically and in a manner calculated to produce the best results. This is exemplified by increased output and by increased income for the farmers. Yet we find that Queensland has succeeded in increasing the average production per cow by only 3% in the last twenty-five years or longer. This record contrasts with that of Tasmania which has succeeded in increasing production by 65%. South Australia and Victoria both have increased production by 32.8%. New South Wales has increased production by only 16% but this figure may be misleading because there are areas of New South Wales in which milk production can be carried out very efficiently. There are probably a very few small areas in Queensland where milk production can be carried out efficiently. But is the subsidy being usefully applied when there are areas in Australia which can compete even on a world market with very limited subsidies and other areas in which farmers have the greatest difficulty in breaking even notwithstanding subsidies? For example, in Western Australia about 30% of the farms producing milk earn no income or operate at a loss. This presents a considerable problem though no doubt many of those areas are being developed and the people farming them find that their efforts are worth while when income tax concessions are taken into consideration. But this does not seem to be a very promising situation for any industry. On the other hand, New Zealand, probably one of the most efficient milk and butter producing countries in the world, is experiencing grave problems in marketing her products.
I trust that my friends in the Country Party do not misunderstand me, but I believe that if we could divert to the production of other foodstuffs some of the subsidies that we pay to the dairy industry we might do better. We need more efficient production of foodstuffs, and the world needs more food. This is something that cannot be done overnight; it will probably take ten or more years to establish on a worthwhile basis, but this $30m could be devoted, for example, to financing more efficient ways of producing cereal foods, navy beans, soya beans and beef cattle in areas where production at present is inefficient. I remind the House that, despite the support of the subsidy, in the last few years 1,000 Queensland dairy farms have gone out of production. This indicates that despite the subsidy it was found uneconomic to continue milk production in that situation. There is much food for thought here.
New techniques are being applied to the preservation of milk. I instance the development of the not universally popular method of employing extremely high temperatures in preserving milk and making it suitable for consumption after long periods of time. Perhaps tankers could transport milk from areas where it is produced efficiently and at low cost to the whole of the north of Australia, where milk is produced very inefficiently, if at all. If this is found to be impracticable - as I do not believe it would be - then other methods for concentrating milk surely could be devised. The solution of such problems is obviously well within the competence of our present technology. There is much we can gain not only economically and politically but in other ways from an exchange of products across the Tasman. I know that a number of problems might arise. The timber industry is experiencing its difficulties, but this industry is presently covered by the free trade agreement so the difficulties obviously will not be insuperable. Special arrangements would have to be made for the steel industry, because New Zealand has made guarantees to bolster an infant steel industry. Something would have to be done about coming to an arrangement for the rationalisation of this industry. However, these are minor problems. I hope that in the very brief time at my disposal I have indicated at least that there is a strong and urgent need for these two countries to come together as one nation and that benefits can thereby be derived. Small sacrifices might have to be made by both sides, but we will not be showing any maturity if we let minor sacrifices stand in the way of what would be, and I hope will be, to the great benefit of the people not only of the two countries concerned but of the whole Asian section of the world.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beaton) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr Howson, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Customs Tariff Bill now before the House provides for amendments to the Customs Tariffs 1966. The amendments include those changes made by tariff proposals that were introduced into the last Parliament from 16th August, 1966. As that Parliament did not have time to debate the measure, the collection of Customs duties in terms of the proposals was validated by the Customs Tariff Validation Act (No. 2) 1966. The Bill now before the House will enable the debate on the tariff alterations to take place and will. when enacted, constitute the enabling bill on a long term basis. This Bill also covers certain changes made during the recess by ‘Gazette’ notices and which have been introduced into the Parliament as Customs Tariff Proposals.
In the main, the tariff alterations proposed by this Bill arise out of Tariff Board reports and reports by the Special Advisory Authority. The subjects comprise - from the Tariff Board - coffee, industrial chemicals and synthetic resins, vanillin and ethyl vanillin, candles, clothes pegs, footwear, glassware, hollow bars, tubes and pipes of iron or steel, motor vehicles; and. from the Special Advisory Authority - butyl alcohols and butyl acetates, ethylene oxide derivatives, PVC products, metalworking sawing machines, and coated fabrics. For the guidance of honourable members I shall set out at some length the background and facts associated with each report.
The Tariff Board’s report on coffee covers the question of assistance to the production of coffee in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and the effect of imports of coffee and coffee products on the sale in Australia of coffee produced in the Territory. In a report in 1962 the Tariff Board found that the coffee industry in Papua and New Guinea materially aided economic advancement and assisted the Commonwealth in the discharge of its responsibilities in the Territory. The Board has found that the industry’s contribution is even greater now, measured in terms of capital invested, income and employment, to the Territory’s export earnings.
One of the methods by which assistance is to be given to Territory coffee is that persons who obtain at least 30% of their total requirements of raw coffee from PapuaNew Guinea can obtain refunds of the duly paid on imports of raw coffee from other sources. Acting upon the Board’s recommendations it is proposed to continue this arrangement. A concessional rate of duty of. 2.5c per lb, which previously applied to those persons who obtained between 25% and 30% of their raw coffee requirements from the Territory will however be discontinued. The Tariff Board reported that, in practice, few manufacturers have difficulty in meeting the higher quota.
As before, the arrangement will be based on payment of duty and subsequent refund when it has been established that 30% of requirements have been obtained from Papua-New Guinea. The Board has recommended that steps be taken to reduce the delay in making these refunds. To this end existing methods have been examined and a revised procedure has been introduced. This has minimised the time required to verify the usage of New Guinea coffee and has enabled refund of duty claims to be processed quickly when submitted by the persons taking advantage of this scheme.
In respect of consumer products it can be said that the demand for coffee products in Australia has been rising. The main commodity is instant coffee and local manufacturers have obtained a large and increasing share of this market. The Government has adopted the Board’s recommendations that the duty on instant coffee be reduced from 52c to 40c per lb.
Several years ago, immediately following the removal of import licencing, the Australian chemical industry found itself in the position where it needed to make frequent applications for assistance because of increasing competition from imports. In the three years after import licensing was lifted in 1960 there were twenty-seven separate Tariff Board references on chemicals and a further fourteen references concerning the need for temporary protection on such products.
The industry came to the Government with a request for an overall review of the level of protection it was receiving vis-a-vis imports. It stressed the complex integrated relationship of many of its manufacturing processes and the dislocation that had occurred when fluctuating imports of one product altered the balance of production and demand of other products made in the same production complex. The industry’s overall concern was to achieve an optimum level of throughput in order to keep production costs and prices as low as possible. In this highly capita] intensive industry, throughput, of course, is the key to cost economies. For these reasons, local manufacturers considered there were dangers and difficulties in assessing the need for tariff protection on individual products in isolation.
The Government accepted the need for such an inquiry. The Tariff Board was given terms of reference permitting it to hold a free ranging investigation into the particular problems of the chemical industry. The Board, on 13th April 1966, submitted a comprehensive report on this reference. It made an overall assessment that the sound development of the chemical industry should make an important contribution to our economy by widening the base for industrial growth. It also found that Australian manufacturers of chemicals have particular disadvantages inherent in the Australian economy.
The most significant of these is that local producers cannot achieve the same economies of scale as manufacturers in other countries. The Australian market, although growing, is small by world standards. Chemical plants in Australia, therefore, are smaller than those in North America, Western Europe or Japan. This is a serious disability for a capital intensive industry. High internal transport costs and high charges for electricity also add to the local industry’s cost disadvantages. The Board recommended a comprehensive scheme of assistance intended to offset these disadvantages. On a wide range of chemicals it recommended the alternative of either a duty-cum-bounty arrangement, involving bounty payments on seven basic chemicals, or of assistance by protective duties alone.
The Government decided to adopt the second alternative - that is, that assistance be given mainly through the Tariff.
Consequent on the implementation of the Board’s report, chemicals are divided into two broad groups, one requiring protection at rates of 40% general and 30% preferential and another at rates of 25% general and 15% preferential. The Board’s recommendation that four products - polyethylene, PVC - that is to say polyvinyl chloride - synthetic rubber and vinyl acetate monomer - should be accorded a higher level of protection has been adopted. All of these are vital to the economics of particular chemical complexes. Duties of 60% general and 50% preferential will apply to these products. A specific recommendation for a higher level of protection on hydrogen peroxide has also been accepted. However, in the light of the Board’s opinion that there is scope for future cost reductions in the production of these five products, these duties will be reviewed in three years.
In addition, the Government adopted the Board’s recommendations that bounty payments of $8 per ton on sulphate of ammonia and 5 cents per lb on cellulose acetate flake be continued and that a new bounty at the rate of $16 per ton be paid on urea. Bills enacting these recommendations were passed by the Parliament last year.
Due to the size of chemical plants overseas, further additions to such complexes often result in excess capacity which may be used in export markets. This has, at times, resulted in prices for imports which have had serious consequences for local industry. Existing normal counter measures by way of anti-dumping legislation have not always prevented disruption of local production. The Tariff Board therefore recommended, and the Government has agreed, that for certain chemicals which have been subject to disruptive pricing, additional customs duties designated as ‘support duties’ be established, and that any imports which fail to reach a determined value, known as a ‘support value’, when their cost, transport and insurance charges, and ordinary duties are totalled, should be subject to a further duty to bring their landed cost up to that support value.
These support values have been determined after comparison with the value of imports under normal conditions during the period of the Tariff Board’s inquiry. Such support values will, it is intended, be subject to annual review by the Tariff Board. The Board also recommended that fastmoving machinery be established for the application of support values when it can be established that normal duties are being rendered ineffective and local industry is suffering detriment due to disruptive low pricing. This action will be taken by appropriate references to the Special Advisory Authority. Indeed a number of commodities have already been reported on by that Authority and temporary duties imposed under the ‘Gazette’ notices I mentioned earlier and now incorporated in this Bill.
One of the main problems of the chemical industry is that substitution of one substance for another is relatively easy, although there are few chemicals which are completely interchangeable in all applications. The Board’s recommendations cover the problem of substitution as it affects the Australian chemical industry at present. However, new chemicals are continually being developed and undoubtedly new products involving substitution of existing Australian made chemicals will occur. Furthermore, new uses may be found for chemicals resulting from changes in technical qualities, and these too could lead to substitution for local chemicals. The Board is of the opinion that in cases of future substitution, the imported chemical should be made dutiable at the same rates as apply to the local chemical with which it competes. This action will be implemented, both in the specific cases covered in this report, and in future cases, by applying a protective duty through a change in the relevant legislation - that is, by amending the Customs Tariff Schedule. The Parliament will have an opportunity to debate any such tariff changes.
The Government will adopt the Board’s recommendations for a planned system of reviews. As already stated, there will be an annual reference covering all support values. A further reference in 1969 will call for a review of the support value system, of all chemicals subject to bounty payments, and of those chemicals having protection in excess of 40% ad valorem general. An overall review of all aspects of assistance to the in dustry will be held in 1972. The Board’s proposals for replacement of the existing drawback provisions by by-law procedures will be further examined by the Government in the course of a general review of existing drawback provisions now in progress.
Before leaving the subject of chemicals, I feel honourable members would want me to explain in some detail this somewhat new concept of duties based on price support value and the technical method whereby this Bill imposes the relevant price support duty. The concept of duties related to floor prices and ceiling prices is, of course, not new. Duties on paper depending on whether the free on board price was more or less than a specified figure were passed by the Parliament in 1954, and the sliding scale type of duty has been a not uncommon recommendation by the Tariff Board in recent years. Support duties, however, introduce a new point at which the value of the imported goods is compared with the value of the Australian product. Landed cost is defined in clause 8 in the Bill - new section 31 - as the sum of the free on board price of the goods, the freight charges, the insurance charges and the ordinary duties payable on the goods under the first and third schedules.
Next, the test of whether or not goods will be liable to pay support duty depends on whether the landed price is less than the support value. Support value is a value per ton which has been nominated by the Tariff Board for some forty-three commodities. These values are listed in column 4 of the proposed new fourth schedule opposite a description of the goods in columns 2 and 3 of that schedule.
To facilitate the preparation of the legislation it was necessary to coin several new terms and define them. Thus the Bill speaks of: ‘landed cost’ - defined as I explained earlier; ‘support value’ - a nominated value per ton as already explained; and ‘support value differential’ - the amount by which the support value exceeds the landed cost. Similar terms such as temporary support value and temporary support value differential are created and defined to apply to temporary duties recommended by a Special Advisory Authority. There are sixteen commodities listed as being subject to temporary duties based on temporary support values consequent on recommendations by the Special Advisory Authority. Such temporary duties are subject to the requirement that they cease to operate three months after the receipt of a final report by the Tariff Board.
In all cases in this Bill the rate of support duty is 90% and this rate is set out in column 6 of the fourth schedule. However the legislation is so designed that a different rate of support duty can be imposed if found necessary or desirable but such rate must be spelt out in column 6 of the fourth schedule. In practice, let us suppose a shipment of phenol is imported. From item 10 in the fourth schedule it is seen that phenol is specified and its support value is given as $405 per ton by reference to column 4. By reference to section 30 we see that phenol will be liable to support duty if, firstly, it is not admitted under Customs by-law or other concessional provision of the second schedule, and secondly the landed cost of the phenol is less than the support value stipulated above.
To ascertain the landed cost of the phenol add the free on board price, the freight and insurance of the ordinary duty payable under sub-item 29.06.1 as shown in column 2 in the fourth schedule which gives the relevant tariff classification in each case. It is 40% general tariff or 30% preferential tariff, this rate being specified in the first schedule of the Bill. If the landed cost is less than $405 multiplied by the weight in tons of the shipment then support duty at the rate of 90% is payable on the difference between the two amounts. If the landed cost is equal to or greater than the product of $405 and the weight of the shipment, no support duty is payable.
Concerning vanillin the Government has accepted the Board’s recommendations for reductions in duties on pure vanillin and ethyl vanillin. The Board believes that there is scope for reduction in costs of local production of pure vanillin and for negotiations with the overseas suppliers for a significant reduction in prices paid for crude vanillin from which it is refined. Ethyl vanillin is not made in Australia but is similar to pure vanillin and is used for the same purposes mainly in the food industry as flavourings, and will be dutiable at the same level as pure vanillin. The new duties are 25% ad valorem general - a reduction of 25% - and 15% ad valorem preferential, a reduction of 12*%.
Following inquiry into the protective needs of the candle making industry, the Board found that local manufacturers of coloured and beeswax candles have substantial disabilities against imports from Japan and Malta. Although the Board considered that the industry should have increased protection, assistance to producers of these candles at the levels necessary to offset these disabilities was not justified. The Board therefore recommended an increase in duties which should enable the industry to reorganise its activities to operate satisfactorily. The increased duties are 7.5c per lb general and 5c per lb preferential. Expressed in ad valorem terms, this represents approximately an increase of 10% general and 5% preferential. The Government has adopted the Board’s recommendations.
Turning next to clothes pegs: the Government has accepted the Tariff Board’s recommendations on these goods. The Board found that increased assistance for wooden pegs was not justified, and that there were no grounds for the present tariff distinction between spring type clothes pegs and other pegs. It recommended that the rate at present applicable to spring type clothes pegs of 20c per gross general, 12.5c per gross preferential be applied to all pegs.
On footwear the Board has found that a period of considerable change is materially affecting this industry. The number of factories has declined although employment has remained relatively steady. Developments in manufacturing processes and materials used, technological developments and major changes in the nature of demand for footwear have all affected the industry. The more efficient and adaptable units of the industry have benefited from these changes and from the new demands and styles generated by imports of new types and styles. The Board considers that it is now appropriate to treat the Australian footwear industry as one unit for tariff purposes. It finds that the industry is still labour-intensive, despite increased use of machinery and labour saving devices, and still needs assistance.
In the long term the Board considers that the Australian footwear industry should be assisted by duties of 45% general and 25% preferential. However it considers that some sectors of the industry require, for a transitional period, additional assistance to enable them to adjust to the industry rate. These sectors are those producing sand shoes and waterproof rubber footwear, where assistance alternative to the industry rate is recommended at approximately the same levels as now apply. For thong sandals and footwear with nonleather uppers the recommended rates are lower than those previously in existence. The Board considers that these sectors should be again reviewed in about three years. The Government has accepted these recommendations. However, international negotiations are necessary in respect of goloshes, sand boots and shoes, adult female and children’s all-leather footwear before the Board’s recommendations on footwear can be implemented in full.
On glassware the recommendations of the Tariff Board were partly implemented on 15 April 1966 in respect of certain glass ovenware and tumblers. These interim changes were enacted by Customs Tariff (No. 3) 1966. The balance of the Board’s recommendations were not implemented at that time due to international negotiations. However, the negotiations have now been completed and the report can now be tully implemented. In its report the Board found in relation to container glassware such as carboys, bottles and jars, that the duties - ranging from 22i% ad valorem general, to free preferential - could be reduced to a non-protective level, 7i% general, free preferential, as this portion of the industry is in a strong competitive position against imports. Non-protective duties are also being applied to lead crystal glassware and higher priced domestic glassware.
On lower-priced table, kitchen, toilet and office glassware, duties are being increased consequent on the Board’s recommendations, in the main, from 30% to 45% ad valorem general and from 5% to 35% ad valorem preferential. An alternative specific rate of $0.30 per dozen as recommended by the Board, is also being implemented to provide effective protection against’ low-priced goods. The Board considered that if the industry is to obtain a greater share of this market and so increase its throughput to an economic and profitable level, increased duties are necessary. The Government has accepted the Board’s suggestion that the local glassware industry be reviewed in three years time when the effect of these new duties should be evident.
On hollow bars, tubes and pipes, the Tariff Board’s recommendations are being adopted in full. Briefly, the existing duties will continue on welded tubes and pipes exceeding 3 in internal diameter, and there will be a reduction of 15% to 20% ad valorem general rate applying to other tubes and pipes. The Board was satisfied that the proposed rates will permit a reasonable return on funds employed. 1 turn next to the Board’s report on motor vehicles. The duties on assembled cars and station wagons are increased by 10%, that is to 45% general and 35% preferential. This action has been taken in accordance with the adoption by the Government of a recommendation that the duties be increased if import’s of such vehicles should exceed 7i% of total Australian registrations of new car and station wagons over the two-year period which ended on 30th June 1966. In the event, imports clearly exceeded this percentage.
I turn now to recommendations of the Special Advisory Authority. The recommendations of the Special Advisory Authority on butyl alcohols and butyl acetates and on ethylene oxide derivatives are, in effect, in the form of temporary assistance by means of support values. As 1 mentioned earlier in respect of the Tariff Board’s report on industrial chemicals and synthetic resins, fast-moving machinery by way of reference to the Special Advisory Authority would be established for the application of support values when it can be established that the tariff has been rendered ineffective by disruptive low prices of imports.
In respect of butyl alcohols and butyl acetates, the Authority found that imports are being made at disruptive low prices and have rendered the existing protective rates of 25% general and 15% preferential ineffective. To protect the Australian industry he recommended a temporary duty of 90% of the amount by which the landed price falls below $3 10 per ton for iso-butyl alcohol and acetate and $350 per ton for other butyl alcohols and acetates. This recommendation was accepted. On ethylene oxide derivatives, the Special Advisory Authority found that imports of ethylene glycols, ethylene glycol ethers, surfactants and triethanolamine are also being made at disruptive low prices. The local firm has been forced to make a series of price reductions to obtain its share of the market and the existing protective rates of 25% general and 15% preferential are ineffective. Temporary duties based on support values have been imposed. These temporary duties, together with those applying to butyl alcohols and acetates, are spelt out in column 6 of the proposed new ninth schedule to this Bill.
The Tariff Board has been asked to examine and report on the question of whether support value assistance to the production of these goods was necessary as a continuing measure, and if so the appropriate level of such support values. The temporary protection now applied is holding action pending the Government’s decision on receipt of the Board’s report.
The Special Advisory Authority has recommended varying temporary duties on certain polyvinyl chloride products - namely, sheet, film, textile coated or supported fabrics, curtains and tablecloths. Expressed on an ad valorem basis, the general rate on printed film or sheet is increased on average by 20%, on textile supported or coated fabrics from 40% against United States of America goods to 75% Japanese goods, and on curtains and tablecloths by 80%. These temporary duties are in addition to the normal duties and the Tariff Board has been asked to inquire and report on the long term protective needs of the industry. The temporary protection now imposed is a holding action pending the Government’s decision on receipt of the Tariff Board report.
In respect of metal-working sawing machines, the Special Advisory Authority has recommended temporary duties of 32i% ad valorem general rate and 27i% ad valorem preferential rate, with a reduction in duty of 2*% for each $5 by which the free on board price of the machine exceeds $550, in the case of friction circular sawing machines, and $300 for other circular sawing machines. When the Tariff Board’s report on metal-working machines was implemented in 1962 protective duties were applied on those machines which the Board found to be in efficient and economic production. However, no evidence was presented to the Board concerning the local manufacture of circular sawing machines. Consequently non-protective duties were applied. Imports since 1962 have adversely affected sales and profits of the local manufacturer to such an extent that the Authority considered emergency protection is required. The sliding scale duties recommended reduce the incidence of protection on those machines outside the range of the local product. The longer term protective needs of the Australian industry producing metal-working circular sawing machines have been referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report, and the temporary duties will operate only until such time as the Government takes action following receipt of the final report of the Board.
On coated textile fabrics temporary duties of 47* % ad valorem or $0.25 per square yard, whichever rate returns the higher duty, general, and 371% ad valorem or $0.25 per square yard less 10% ad valorem, whichever rate returns the higher duty, preferential, have been imposed on the recommendation of the Special Advisory Authority where the base fabric contains 20% or more by weight of man-made fibres.
The temporary duties, the ad valorem equivalent of which is approximately 60% against Japanese imports and 50% against United Kingdom imports, are in addition to the present ordinary duties of 7i%, general and free, preferential. They will bring the duties on the coated fabrics concerned to about the same level as those applying to the man-made fibres used in their manufacture. The Tariff Board is examining the protective needs of the industry under the general textile reference, and the temporary protection now imposed is a holding action pending the Government’s decision on receipt of the Tariff Board report.
The remaining tariff changes in this Bill stem from three sources -
Customs Tariffs 1966 which vary on a sliding scale depending on factors such as the free on board price, horsepower rating, weight or value of machines. Experience has shown that the mathematical formula for determining sliding scale duties as presently expressed causes some confusion at the working level and a simpler method has been devised.
An amendment to the second schedule to this Bill proposes the insertion of a new item for goods the produce or manufacture of New Zealand. Last year the Australian Customs Tariff was amended to provide authority for goods to be admitted at concessional rates of duty when imported from New Zealand, in accordance with the Free Trade Agreement between the two countries. The purpose of providing for concessional entry of goods from New Zealand is to facilitate the development of reciprocal arrangements, as provided for in the Agreement, between New Zealand and Australian manufacturers beneficial to the trade and development of both countries.
In brief, Customs duties on a large range of goods agreed to by the representative countries are being eliminated over a period of ten years. This elimination of duties is steadily proceeding. The addition of further goods to the range covered by the Agreement is at present being considered in consultation between the two countries. However, it has been found that further stimulation of this free trade area can be achieved if some flexibility is given to the Minister for Customs and Excise to grant by-law admission of goods from New Zealand. As an example of this, it may be that if certain New Zealand goods containing Australian-made parts are admitted free of duty into Australia, the New Zealand industry will increase its purchase of the Australian components. It is therefore proposed that the Minister for Customs and Excise shall have the power to admit New Zealand goods free of duty under by-law provisions whenever this situation arises.
Finally, in order that honourable members may be fully informed as to the nature of the clauses of the Bill, I will now deal with each provision. In addition the changes are also outlined in the Summary of Tariff Alterations just circulated in the chamber. The matters dealt with in the clauses of the Bill are: clauses 1 and 3, which are machinery provisions. Clause 2 fixes the date of operation. As to clauses 4 and 6, clause 4 inserts a new section 9a and, by clause 6, replaces existing subsection (4.) of section 17a. Whereas section 17a had application only to New Zealand goods, new section 9a has application generally and defines that where duties in the first schedule are stipulated to have effect from a specified date and cease after a specified date the duties will apply only for that period, The amendment is purely administrative. Clause 5 is a drafting amendment amending sub-section (5.) of section 17. This sub-section (5.) is intended to provide that if the ordinary preferential rate is lower than the New Zealand preferential rate, New Zealand goods do not pay more than the ordinary preferential rate. The existing sub-section (5.) while directed to this end is not as clear in its intentions as is desirable. Clause 7 repeals section 19 relating to temporary duties. The provisions are transferred to section 34. Clause 8 repeals Part IV - Miscellaneous and inserts two new parts, namely Part IV dealing with the support duties and Part V dealing with miscellaneous matters.
I have outlined the support duty provisions earlier and except in respect of section 34 the remaining provisions in clause 8 are merely a renumbering of the old provisions. Section 34, which was formerly section 19, makes the same provisions in respect of temporary duties except that its strictures extend additionally to a rate set out in column 6 of the fourth schedule, that is, to temporary support duties. Clause 9 lists the amendment of the various Schedules of the Customs Tariff and clause 10 inserts the new fourth schedule to the Customs Tariff. Clause11 is a drafting amendment to adjust a defect in the Customs Tariff (No. 2) Act 1966. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move:
As I informed honourable members in my statement in this House last week, the Government has decided to proceed with the referendum proposals that were embodied in the two Bills passed by both Houses towards the end of 196S and to add a further proposal with respect to section 31 (xxvi). Because of the requirements of section 128 of the Constitution relating to alteration of the Constitution, the Bills that were passed in 1965 with a view to their submission to a referendum have lapsed and fresh Bills must be passed before the alterations they propose to the Constitution can be submitted to the electors. The Bill now before the House is, in its substantive provisions, identical with the Bill on the same subject passed by both Houses in 1965, except in one significant respect. That is the substitution of ‘85,000’ for ‘80,000’ in sub-section (3.) of proposed new section 24. I will come back to this alteration later.
This Bill, as honourable members will be aware, is the Bill to break the present link between the size of this House and the size of the Senate. This link or nexus is provided for by section 24 of the Constitution, the first paragraph of which reads:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators.
Unless the requirement that the number of members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators, is deleted from section 24, any increase in the House of Representatives must be accompanied by an increase of half that number in the Senate. While this provision is not to be interpreted with exact mathematical precision - indeed the present House consists of slightly more members than the 120 that results from a strict doubling of the number of Senators - it is nevertheless clear, and it has been the consistent view of constitutional advisers over many years, that it is not open to the Parliament to increase the size of this House except by a very small number without at the same time increasing the number of senators. Such a limitation is not imposed on other parliaments, and it is, I believe, the view of a large majority of this Parliament that, whilst the substantial growth in population will make some expansion of this House necessary and desirable, it should not follow that the number of senators be increased proportionately.
Unless some measures are taken soon to increase the size of the House of Representatives, it will became impracticable for members adequately to perform the functions on behalf of their electors that are expected of them. As Sir Robert Menzies said when introducing the corresponding Bill in November 1965:
I shall illustrate the point a little further. If the Constitution remains unamended, by 1969 the existing number of members, or very close to the existing number, will have held for twenty years. The last change of significance was made in 1949. It is estimated that the population of Australia will have risen from just on eight million in 1949 to twelve million, or thereabouts, by the end of 1969. There will be this increase in population of approximately 50% since the last change was made. Anybody who has been in this place for any number of years will appreciate the force of what Sir Robert said as to the range of matters which have to be dealt with compared with the more limited jurisdicdiction which the Parliament took to itself in those earlier years.
As I mentioned in the House last week, there is, I believe, agreement among all members of both Houses that, because of the disproportion which has developed in the numbers represented in certain electorates, a redistribution should be made before the next general elections. Some electorates in the same State have less than 40,000 voters, while others have in excess of 100,000, and the disparity will have widened by the time of the next election, whenever that may be. It would clearly be imprudent to set in motion a redistribution until we had ascertained the views of the people on the question of breaking the nexus. Further, not only has the number of voters in some electorates now become very large but, as suggested by Sir Robert Menzies in the speech from which I have just quoted, the burdens of members have increased considerably. Government in Australia today is active in many more fields, and the range of problems which this has created has had a significant impact on the duties of the people’s representatives.
Additionally, our population contains growing proportions of young people and of migrants. The future of our country lies to a significant extent in these people, and they have therefore been the subject of special attention by the Government and its agencies, through social services and other means. The Commonwealth has increasingly been drawn by the will of the electorate into fields that were originally the province of the States. We have seen this occurring in health and education, to give only two illustrations. Although the young people and many of our migrants have no vote, their welcome presence in the community has the effect of adding significantly to the burdens of those who represent the electorates in which they live. I know that this strikes a responsive chord in the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), who has told me on more than one occasion not only that he has an electorate with a very large number of voters but also that a very considerable number of migrants have settled in it.
– He told the right honourable gentleman that in confidence.
– I do not think so. He has made no secret of the fact that he represents a substantial part of the Australian electorate, at least in his own constituency, even though I cannot attribute the same merit to him with respect to the electorate at large. I am sure that my colleagues, the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Lee), the Minister for Immigration (Mr
Snedden), who represents the electorate of Bruce, and the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin), will confirm the point that I have made. I have singled them out because they come readily to mind.
The points that I have mentioned all suggest the need not only for a redistribution but also for power to make increases deemed appropriate in the size of the popular House. Unless the nexus is removed, a significant increase in the size of the House of Representatives cannot be made unless the number of senators also is increased proportionately. To enable the Senate to continue to operate on a basis similar to that on which it is operating at present - that is, with an uneven number of senators standing for election on every occasion in each State - the minimum increase is twenty-four. This would mean increasing the size of the House of Representatives by some forty-eight members. No-one in this Parliament - nor any member of the public - would want this result. Nor do we as a government.
There have been suggestions - and no doubt they will be made again - that the object of the proposed changes in section 24 of the Constitution is to permit an excessive increase in the number of members in Parliament. Nothing could be further from the truth. The purpose of the proposal is to seek from the electors approval to alter the Constitution so that, as the growth of the Commonwealth’s population demands, this Parliament can legislate for a modest increase in the size of the popular House without having at the same time to increase the size of the Senate. If carried, our proposals will permit the smallest increase that we consider to be consistent with effective representation. Indeed, as I shall explain later, there will for the first time be introduced into the Constitution a provision which will have the effect of placing an upper limit on the number of members of the popular House.
The Government, I may say, has considered other suggestions that have been brought forward to effect an increase in the size of the House of Representatives and at the same time enable an increase in the size of the Senate, but without having the considerable jump in numbers that would follow if we maintained the present system of voting. However, we have concluded - as indeed Sir Robert Menzies concluded - that none of them offers a wholly satisfactory solution, under the system of proportional representation - a system which experience has shown to be the best that has so far been devised. We have looked in particular at a proposal that the Senate be increased by a total of six, with one additional senator for each State, making eleven senators for each State. This would mean that at alternate elections there would be six senators voted for on one occasion and five on the other. It might prove necessary to have six senators elected in some States and five in others at the same election. The possibility of a deadlocked Senate could be increased, and there are other factors which, in the view of the Government, make this a less desirable course than the more simple and clear cut proposal to increase the House of Representatives to the required extent without the requirement of a corresponding increase in the Senate. I think I should observe that, even if the proposal that the size of the Senate be increased by six were adopted - and this could be done without a constitutional amendment at all - the result would be that we would be faced with an increase of some eighteen members and senators in all. In other words, to provide for the addition of twelve or thirteen members of this House - if that were the number considered necessary - six senators would have to be added to the National Parliament, even though it might be generally agreed that at the time there was no adequate reason for increasing the size of the Senate.
There are two things that I want to say about the position of the Senate. The proposed amendments of section 24 of the Constitution will not, in the view of the Government, in any way erode the role of the Senate. Nor will they preclude a future increase in the size of the Senate, should that at any time be considered desirable. As to the first matter, we believe that the Senate, as at present constituted, is well able to discharge - and to discharge effectively - the role designed for it by the Constitution. We are well aware that some fears are held that the prestige and authority of the Senate may in some manner be diminished as a consequence of this proposal, and that the role it can perform as a house of review and custodian of the rights of the smaller States may be weakened. We do not accept these views as having practical force. The good sense of the electorate and of the Parliament will, I believe, provide effective safeguards against any such weakening of the position of the Senate.
Moreover, two protections of the position of the Senate will be afforded by the present proposals. Firstly, State representation will be protected by guaranteeing to original States - that is, all the existing States - a minimum of ten senators, in lieu of six senators guaranteed under the Constitution in its present form. Secondly, as a guarantee against excessive increases in the size of the House of Representatives, the Bill provides that the number of members of this House shall be ascertained by dividing the number of people of the States by a number determined by the Parliament, but not being less than 85,000. The 1965 Bill provided that the number of people was to be divided by a number not less than 80,000.
On reflection, the Government has decided that the minimum figure is to be preferred. Adoption of 85,000 as the population quota would permit a total increase of thirteen or fourteen members by about 1969. This, I stress, is a maximum increase, not minimum increase. I recall that, at the time of the First Parliament in 1901, the average population per electorate was about 50,000. By 1947 it had risen to over 100,000, and the size of this House was then increased from 74 members to 121 members. By the 1949 elections the average population per electorate was some 67,000; by 1969, we expect, the average would rise to a figure in excess of 94,000. 1 point out that, if the Government’s proposals embodied in this Bill become law, it will be the first occasion on which the Constitution has imposed an upper limit on the total number in the popular House.
I commend the Bill to the House. I believe that the proposals contained in it should be approved by the people, and that, if they are, this will constitute a significant advance in the efficient working of our parliamentary system.
Debate (on motion by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to make alterations to the two provisions of the Constitution which make explicit reference to people of the Aboriginal race. One alteration - that proposed by clause 3 of the Bill - is designed to repeal section 127. An identical proposal was passed unanimously by both Houses of the Parliament in November 1965. Section 127 provides that, in reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, Aboriginal natives shall not be counted. The Government continues to believe that this section should be repealed.
The principal reason for including section 127 in the Constitution was the practical difficulty of enumerating the Aboriginal population at that time. No doubt in 1900 this was a very substantial problem. It is, however, no longer a serious difficulty, and the basis for the existence of the section consequently does not now exist. I should emphasise that section 127 does not affect the qualifications of Aboriginals to vote at Commonwealth elections. Section 41 has always guaranteed an Aboriginal the right to vote at elections if he has a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State in which he is a voter, and this Parliament itself has removed all disabilities in respect of voting at Commonwealth elections so far as Aboriginals are concerned. They are now entitled to enrol and to vote and should, in the view of the Government, be counted as part of the population of the Commonwealth, or their State or Territory, for any purpose. The simple truth is that section 1 27 is completely out of harmony with our national attitudes and modern thinking. It has no place in our Constitution in this age.
The second alteration, which is contained in clause 2 of the Bill, is the deletion of the words ‘other than the Aboriginal race in any State’ from paragraph (xxvi) of section 51.
Section 51 (xxvi) of the Constitution reads: The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: -
Since the Government’s earlier proposals for constitutional alterations were put before the Parliament, a great deal of thought has been given, both inside and outside the Parliament, to the constitutional provisions relating to the Aboriginal people and there has been much activity by Government private members and organisations concerned with the welfare of the Aboriginals. In the light of this activity and the many representations made, the Government has reviewed the position and has decided that an amendment of section 51 (xxvi), as provided for in the Bill, should be put to the people, in addition to the proposal for the repeal of section 127. In coming to this conclusion, the Government has been influenced by the popular impression that the words now proposed to be omitted from section 51 (xxvi) are discriminatory - a view which the Government believes to be erroneous but which, nevertheless, seems to be deep rooted.
An effect of omitting these words will be the removal of the existing restriction on the power of the Commonwealth to make special laws for the people of the Aboriginal race in any State if the Parliament considers it necessary. As the Constitution stands at present, the Commonwealth has no power, except in the Territories, to legislate with respect to people of the Aboriginal race as such. If the words other than the Aboriginal race in any State’ were deleted from section 51 (xxvi), the result would be that the Commonwealth Parliament would have vested in it a concurrent legislative power with respect to Aboriginals as such, they being the people of a race, provided the Parliament deemed it necessary to make special laws for them. It is the view of the Government that the National Parliament should have this power. If the proposals relating to Aboriginals are approved by the people, the Government would regard it as desirable hold discussions with the States to secure the widest measure of agreement with respect to Aboriginal advancement.
I think I should say a few words about the suggestion that has been made that we should include a constitutional guarantee against discrimination on the ground of race. Such a proposal was put forward, in particular, by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) in a private member’s Bill. The recommendation to include such a guarantee in our Constitution has the obvious attraction of providing evidence of the Australian people’s desire to outlaw discriminatory practices of every kind, but the disadvantages of the inclusion of such a guarantee are so substantial that the Government does not believe that it should be pursued. Such a guarantee could provide a fertile source of attack on the Constitutional validity of legislation which we, at this point of time, would not consider discriminatory. The extent of litigation that has arisen from section 92 provides a serious warning of the ramifications of an apparently straightforward constitutional guarantee. Moreover, such a guarantee would operate only to limit government action, lt would not affect actions by individuals. Racial discrimination, if it exists in a community, is the outward manifestation of beliefs rooted in the hearts and minds of some men and women. I do not believe that such beliefs are to be found on any significant scale in this country; but even if it were otherwise, 1 do not think the position could be remedied in practice by a constitutional guarantee.
Accordingly, the Government believes that the best course, the most effective course, for the Commonwealth to adopt is to seek the amendments proposed in the Bill. It proposes to submit them at the same time as the referendum on the nexus provision - section 24 of the Constitution. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 262).
– The Opposition supports the Bill. It endorses the arguments put by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in moving the second reading of the Bill. I can assure honourable members and all our fellow citizens that my Party, in the Parliament and outside the Parliament, will support this Bill and the referendum without reservation, equivocation or qualification.
– There should be more of it.
– 1 hope the Prime Minister can give as full an undertaking on behalf of both the Government parties outside the House. It is impossible to emphasise too strongly that this is not a device simply to secure more politicians. It is a proposal for the better representation of the people in their National Parliament, a proposal for a more effective and representative National Parliament. An argument used in many newspapers and by a few members of political parties when a similar Bill was passed by this House unanimously in November 1965 was that this was a device to create more politicians, and that Australia already had too many politicians. The fallacy of this kind of argument has been exposed by the very people who make it. They now say that there is a way of achieving an increase in this House as long as there is half that increase in the Senate. The few opponents of this proposal say: We do not want more politicians’ and then say in the next breath: ‘You do not need to alter the Constitution because you can get the same increase in the House of Representatives as would be permitted by this referendum as long as you increase the Senate by another six’. They want it both ways. In fact, some members of one political party really wanted an increase in the Senate since that is the only place where they could secure parliamentary representation. Their prospects of securing representation would be enhanced, under the proportional system of voting, if the number of senators were increased.
Since then -they have been more explicit: they have come up with this idea of having eleven senators from each State. The system they propose is very complicated. Under the Constitution there has to be equal representation in the Senate from each original State and we still have only the original States. To minimise the chances of even division between Government and Opposition parties and thus a stalemate on all legislation in the Senate, an extraordinarily complicated system is proposed. lt amounts to maintaining the equal representation of the States by instituting a system of unequal terms of office for the additional senators.
Nobody really believes that it is necessary to have an increase in the Senate in order to make that chamber more effective. The United States Senate - the most powerful legislative body in the world and the only legislature which really, initiates legislation - has two senators from each of the fifty States. Some of those States, such as California, New York and Texas, each has a greater population than the whole of Australia. We all agree in this place that it would be easier for us to carry out the duties which our constituents expect us to perform and which governments still permit us .o perform if there were more members in the House and if we consequently represented fewer persons outside it. The Prime Minister made, as he often does, a gracious reference to my own situation. By the next general election I will represent 250,000 souls. Because of the attractions of my electorate for migrants and young married couples I would have in my electorate easily a larger number of minors and aliens than any other honourable member. We agree that there should be more members in this House. We agree that it is not necessary to have an increase in the number of senators from each State. Still less should it be necessary to have this cumbersome, intricate proposal that has been advanced by the opponents of the referendum for increased representation in the Senate.
At the moment there is no constitutional limitation on the number of persons in this House except that it must be as near as possible twice the number in the Senate. As long as we maintain this ratio we can increase our numbers by legislation without any reference to the people. For the first time the Australian people are being given an opportunity to put a ceiling on the number of members permitted in any of their legislatures. The ceiling which the Prime Minister has proposed in this Bill is 85,000 electors, on average, for the electorates in each State. No State Parliament has any limitation on its numbers in either of its Houses. I believe that no other national parliament has a limitation on its numbers. For the first time, there will be a limitation in the case of the Australian National Parliament
Perhaps we might compare our situation with that of other countries with which in other respects we often compare ourselves. I know it is not easy to compare the number of elected persons in a federal system with that in a unitary system but, of course, in a unitary system you very often have much more powerful local government bodies than is the case in federal systems. In the United Kingdom, for example, it is commonplace to have local government bodies with the great range of powers which in Australia we find in Brisbane alone. So I will confine myself to a few comparisons with other national parliaments. Already in this House we represent considerably more people than are represented by the members of the British House of Commons, the Canadian House of Commons or the Italian Chamber of Deputies. We represent, on average, almost three times as many people as do the members of the Parliaments of the Netherlands and Sweden and almost four times as many as do members of the Parliament of Norway. We should not believe that in Australia we are necessarily more effective in representing numbers than are our peers in those countries with which we compare ourselves.
I have said that my Party, inside and outside the Parliament, is wholeheartedly in support of this proposal. Firstly let me refer to the situation in the Parliament. In 1956 the former Prime Minister moved that the Constitutional Review Committee be appointed. That Committee comprised equal numbers of members from the Government Parties and the Opposition Party. It consisted of proportionate numbers from those Parties in each chamber. The Committee’s recommendation was in favour of the current proposal with the single exception that the minimum number of electors recommended was 80,000. Many other recommendations were made by the Committee in 1958 and the full reasons for all of its recommendations were given before the end of 1959. We would have preferred that some accompanying recommendations also be put to the people: in particular, in the light of legislation of a couple of years ago, the provision that would ensure one vote one value in the various electorates; that there should be not only a proper balance of representation between the States but also a proper balance of representation between electorates.
We would also have hoped that the people would have the opportunity of including in the Constitution a provision for solving deadlocks between the Houses by joint sittings before and without a double dissolution. Nevertheless if this referendum is carried it does not make it any more difficult to have these other recommendations put at a later time. These steps are supported by us on their intrinsic merits.
The Opposition members on the committee which recommended this alteration in 1958-59 were my predecessor and myself, the then Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, the former honourable member for Lalor and the late honourable member for East Sydney. It will be appreciated that all the Labour Party’s members on the committee held high office in the Party at the time. Four of them had held ministerial office in this Parliament and two had held ministerial office in the Parliament of Victoria. Mr Pollard in fact had held ministerial office in both Parliaments. It can be seen that they were men of considerable constitutional and political experience. They recommended this proposal back in 1958-59. On several occasions since then my predecessor, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), has moved, on behalf of the Party, resolutions which would in fact have given effect to this proposition, among others. Let me recall them to the House. On 13th April 1961 my predecessor moved:
That this House is of opinion that the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review … be submitted to the people for their approval.
On 12th April 1962 he moved an urgency motion on the Government’s failure to submit to the electorate any of the proposals of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. On 30th October 1964 he unsuccessfully moved two amendments to the Representation Bill to secure a referendum on the breaking of the nexus. On 1st April 1965 he moved:
That this House is of opinion that the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review . . . particularly those recommendations with respect to the . . . number of Senators and Members of the House of Representatives, the division of States into electoral divisions and disagreement between the Senate and the House of Representatives, should be submitted to the people for their approval.
In November 1965 the members of my Party in both Houses unanimously sup ported the Bill introduced in this place by the then Prime Minister. It will be seen quite clearly that in this Parliament, senior members of- my Party have supported, and all members have unanimously supported, the very referendum which is proposed in this Bill.
So far back as 1961 the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party resolved to support all the proposals of the Constitutional Review Committee and it also supported any such proposals to be submitted to a referendum by the present Government. There can be no question that we will do our best to see that the people know the arguments in favour of this referendum in which we strongly believe. Can this be said about the Government Parties? I believe that the Liberal Party will support this. One would hope that the Country Party would, too. I do not know who is to speak tonight on its behalf. When similar legislation was last debated the only Country Party speaker was the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan). He was not as enthusiastic as the Prime Minister or my predecessor, but he did support it and all the members of his Party supported it. On this occasion there are Country Party Ministers in the House. Two of them in fact were present at the recent meeting of the Country Party’s Federal Council which passed the resolution stating that it would be unwise to proceed with the referendum. I believe that the members of the Country Party who are in the Cabinet will show proper Cabinet solidarity. I believe that all members of the Country Party will support this Bill - will vote and be recorded as voting in favour of it. Can we be assured that the Country Party organisation will work in favour of this referendum as the Liberal Party organisation and the Labor Party organisation will do? I repeat, we are glad indeed that the people will be given this opportunity to make a more effective House of Representatives and that for the first time they will have an ascertainable ceiling on the numbers in their legislature. We believe, inside the House and outside the House, that this referendum should be supported because it will make for a more effective Parliament for this country.
– The House has witnessed tonight a very rare spectacle - the Prime Minister (Mr Harold
Holt) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) singing a duet. This is rare, and will never be seen again. Certainly the populace which sometimes listens on the air has been excluded. I have not heard loud cheers from the corner benches. I am sorry, in the midst of such unique harmony, to strike a discordant note. The first thing to which I want to object is that this matter has been brought on for debate tonight. Nobody on the Government side knew anything about it until this morning. I do not know how much the Opposition knew of it.
– 1 made a statement last week in which I said that it would be brought forward.
– I see. Well, 1 stand alone. It is not the first time I have stood alone and I am very happy to be in that position, because 1 have no doubt whatever that what ] have to say is worth saying and ought to be noted, lt is absolutely basic in the Standing Orders of this House, and indeed of any Parliament, that when notice is given of a Bill on one day and the second reading speech is delivered, that matter is not debated until at least the next day and usually, in the case of an important Bill, until the next week. There are few things that Parliament can do - almost nothing. The Executive controls everything, but the simple thing that the Parliament has sought to do is to be able to debate proposals brought before it by the Government. It can talk. It can do nothing else. Thanks to rigid party discipline a government can ensure that every i it dots and every t it crosses shall go through just like that. But Parliament can talk. In the past it has been able to talk and, as drops of water on a stone erode it away, if Parliament keeps talking and the government persistently does things that ought not to be done and does not do things that should be done, sooner or later that government goes out of office. The sole remaining right of Parliament is to talk. For this reason it is basic in the Standing Orders of this House that when a proposal is put before the Parliament it is not immediately debated. Members should have the opportunity to study it so that they may debate it, so that they may talk, so that they may do the only remaining thing Parliament can do - talk about something of which it has had some notice.
Tonight this Bill has been brought in and the debate has proceeded immediately. I want to register my protest against this procedure. 1 could have registered it in a rather effective way when Mr Speaker asked, as he was bound to ask, whether the House was prepared to go on with the debate tonight. I could have said no, in which case this debate would not have gone on tonight. I was persuaded - against my better judgment, I think - by the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) to content myself with the protest 1 am making now, but I have to make it clear that this matter is absolutely basic and that 1 will not be silent if an attempt is made again to adopt this kind of procedure, that is to say, to bring in a Bill and immediately debate it without the House having had an opportunity to study it.
I said I stand alone on this and 1 am very happy to do so. This is a basic principle, and I stand on it. Of course this is, as we have been told, only a little matter, a formal matter, a matter that has been before us on an earlier occasion. Indeed, there was unanimity some little time ago on a similar Bill. But in my view this is a Bill of some consequence. It is designed to amend the Constitution. If it succeeds in doing so - which I doubt - then this is something which will stay with us for a long time, perhaps for all time. So the Bill is not really unimportant. There was a party room debate on this matter this morning by those on this side of the House. I reveal no secrets when I say that it took an hour and a half to discuss various matters relating to this Bill. I put that in evidence to show that there are certain matters (hat could have been debated in connection with this Bill tonight. There are perhaps many more than were debated this morning, hut I repeat that it took an hour and a Iia If to talk about some of these things this morning in one quarter.
The alterations, of course, are just small alterations as compared with those in the previous Bill that was before this chamber - just one or two words. Well, some times one or two words can make a big difference. For example there is an injunction: ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’. Omit the word not’ and that does make some difference. Yet that is simply a change of one word. 1 also remind the House that some time has gone by since the last debate on this matter, and when time goes by public debate tends to ensue. Even if a proposition is in a certain form at one stage and then in the same form at a later stage - I say that in this instance there are certain differences - with the passage of time debate occurs and people change their views, so that it cannot be said that because there was unanimity at a certain time there will again be unanimity later. There has been some public debate and, if I may say so, I think that the result may be that this proposal will not be accepted.
We have among us a score or so of new members. It would not be casting any aspersions on them to say that perhaps they have not followed every detail and have not understood every facet of this matter. Indeed, I think there may be some older members who do not understand every aspect of it. Such members are at a grave disadvantage. Yet the matter has been proceeded with without any attempt to enlighten them. Why would they matter? They are all on the Government side of the House; they are all good votes. The attitude is: do not bother to explain it to them or to anybody else.
Then there is the question of public education. It is true that our proceedings tonight are not being broadcast, and to this extent there is a certain lack of public education. There may be plenty of public education necessary before this proposal is carried, and it would not have done any harm if we had provided a little of that education tonight. It could have been provided if we had been on the air or if this matter had not been rushed through in this fashion. ‘‘Twere well to be done quickly’ appears to be the slogan. Indeed I feel a little like Macbeth myself. I have lived too long; I have seen too much of this sort of thing. We use the Latin word ‘nexus’. It may be that some members would understand better the French word ‘liaison’ - we could refer to a liaison between the two Houses - but on the other hand they might misunderstand it. Now the Prime Minister comes along with another word - ‘link’. It reminds me of the Communist Manifesto. *We have nothing to lose but our link’ - I think it was ‘chains’ in the original. But again I say that some public education might have been provided tonight.
Far be it from me to enter into the intricacies of this matter, into questions of whether we increase the number of Senate members by six or by twenty-four. In the latter event, there would be another fortyeight members in the House of Representatives. Far be it for me to go into matters such as that. If I did I would be treating the subject seriously, whereas of course everybody knows that this is just one of political expediency. I think the Leader of the Opposition has made this very clear. There are party considerations connected with the size of the Senate. But let me pass on. I would not treat this seriously, athough it would be interesting to reflect on what would happen if this referendum were defeated.
I said before that there is one function left to the Parliament - or there was yesterday. Whether there will be tomorrow or after this, I do not know. That function is to talk about matters about which the Parliament has some foreknowledge. But besides that, what are the functions of the Parliament? Returning again to some remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, members have a very difficult task of representation. I think the population of the electorate of the Leader of the Opposition himself is about a quarter of a million. Other members have even larger electorates. Of course the Leader of the Opposition has a staff, as has the Leader of the House. They have large numbers of people in their electorates, but they have staffs to help them, and this is something denied to, say, the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin). But what I am concerned with is this: it seems to be accepted more and more in this community - and I am glad that my days in this House are numbered - that the sole duty of a back-bencher here is to make himself a front-bencher by a variety of means which it is not material to go into at the moment or, if he remains a backbencher, to see that poor old Mrs Jones has a pension form properly filled in. Indeed, when I first came from a State Parliament, where we dealt with little things, to this great Parliament where the great affairs of the nation are discussed, my first task was to make representations to the Minister for Trade about the importation of a prize Pekinese bitch. 1 assure honourable members that that is the fact. 1 am incapable of invention or telling an untruth, and that is the plain and simple truth. My point is this, and it is a serious point - 1 leave lighter matters aside: if this Parliament is to function effectively members must have something more to do than make representations about prize Pekinese bitches, or any other breed.
The whole purpose of this legislation is to increase the membership of the Parliament. If members were put to work to do a job worth doing, a job that ought to be done, a job that the people would expect them to do, then I would be entirely in favour of increasing the number of members. But simply increasing the numbers so that more members may sit here to have their votes recorded and attend to Mrs Jones’s pension form does not appeal to me in the least. I said I am glad that my days in this House are numbered, because [ would hate to see the Parliament descend to such a level. But this is the concept the public has of Parliament, it is the concept that the Government has, and, saddest of all. it is the concept that many backbenchers have. The concept is that this is all that back-benchers have to do, and this is the basis upon which an increase in membership of this Parliament has been sought. The Government has been most unwilling, and the Opposition front bench would be most unwilling, to see members put to work on parliamentary duties, making inquiries, informing their minds to the extent of being able to debate important matters ‘of policy brought before this chamber, of being able to make a real contribution to the establishment of policy for this nation. The Government does not want it. The Government knows everything. The Opposition front bench, expecting some day to be in government, does not want it either. Look after Mrs Jones’ pension; do not worry about matters of policy. So, I say with scepticism: ‘Yes, you may increase the number of members but I should like to see now how this Parliament will work when the number of members is increased before I can be satisfied that you have done anything of value for this nation’.
- Mr Speaker, I do support this Bill, but 1 must support to some extent also what my friend, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) has said especially in regard to the inadvisability of pushing this legislation through at the one sitting. I think that it would have been better to observe the forms of the House.
– It makes no difference.
– My honourable friend could not be more right. But there is something that I should like to say although I support this Bill. I want to raise what may seem to be a technical point in regard to it. Perhaps I am at fault for not having seen this technical point earlier, but it only came into my mind today. I think that it is a point of some importance at which, perhaps, the Government might have a look. I am not sufficient of a lawyer to say whether it is a completely valid point. But I believe that it should be looked at and, if necessary, a small drafting amendment might be made in the Senate.
What I have to say may seem small and technical but it goes to the root of the Bill. What is the proper meaning of the phrase the people of the Commonwealth’ and the phrase ‘the people of a State*? This might mean, of course, the whole of the population. But are we to consider for example a transient alien who is in Sydney for one night as part of the population of New South Wales? It might mean all the people who are customarily resident there. It might mean those who are qualified to be electors, or it might mean electors. I submit to the House that the quota provisions of section 24 of the Commonwealth Constitution - this is one of the sections that we are proposing to amend - do not help us in determining this matter. Section 24 provides:
A quota shall be ascertained by dividing the number of the people of the Commonwealth, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by twice the number of the senators.
But this section does not help us to determine what ‘the people of the Commonwealth’ are because statistics are published by the Commonwealth that would apply for example to the whole population; or which would show the population excluding aliens; or which would show by the age groups the number of people who are qualified to be electors; or which would show the number of people who are electors. These are all statistics of the Commonwealth. But section 24 does not say ‘published by the Commonwealth’. The section says ‘statistics of the Commonwealth’.
There may be some doubt in your mind, Mr Speaker, as to what the Constitution means in this section when it refers to ‘the people of the Commonwealth’. I think that doubt can be resolved if one looks at section 7 of the Constitution. I will read the first half of this section to the House. It provides:
The Senate shall be composed of senators for each State, directly chosen by the people of the State, voting, until the Parliament otherwise provides, as one electorate.
So, it is pretty clear that in this section of the Constitution - namely, the section which relates to the voting for the Senate - the phrase ‘the people of the State’ means the people who vote.
If honourable members will look at section 8 they will see that the electors are the people who vote for the senators. Now, it is quite clear, I think, that in this section of the Constitution the phrase ‘the people of these States’ means the people who vote. This is what the Constitution says explicitly it means in these sections which refer to the elections of the Parliament. If one looks at the first part of section 24 of the Constitution - again, this is one of the sections that we are proposing to amend by the legislation we are considering - one finds that it says:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth.
Then, in section 30, the Constitution gives some qualification as to how these electors are to be determined. But it is quite clear from section 24 that in the very section about which we are talking the phrase ‘the people of the Commonwealth’ means the people who directly choose the members of the House of Representatives. Therefore, they are the electors.
We may not like this. But this is what the Constitution says. I feel very little doubt that if this matter were brought to the High Court this is what the High Court would determine. It is perfectly true that the matter has never been brought to the High Court for the very good reason that up till now it has been of very little significance. If honourable members will look at section 24 of the Constitution as it exists today and not as it will be after we amend it they will see that:
The number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people. . . .
The proportions are for all practical purposes the same whether we are talking about the electors or whether we are talking about the whole population - aliens and everybody together. There may be decimal points of difference but, in point of fact, for a State it is more or less the same. This matter has never been of practical consequence until now. There was therefore no reason for anybody to take it to the High Court.
It is true that in the past the Commonwealth Electoral Officer has gone to the total population. But the results that he has arrived at would be exactly the same or almost exactly the same as he would arrive at if he had gone to the electors. So, there has been no practical consequence. But now we are doing something quite different. If we pass this Bill in its present form, we shall be importing into the Constitution the principle of dividing the people of the Commonwealth by a figure of 85,000 in order to arrive at the number of members of this House. Now, if the High Court should hold - as I feel on balance it would hold - that the phrase ‘the people of the Commonwealth’, as it exists in the Constitution and as it still exists in the proposed new part of section 24 that we are now about to pass, means the electors - and I think the High Court would hold this - then the application of that principle would mean that the number of members of this House would have to be reduced to seventy-five. Once a matter has been passed at a referendum there is no way of undoing it. It has been done.
I am not a qualified lawyer. 1 just put this point as something that lawyers should try to determine. I have tried to put the argument on as non-technical a basis as I can. I believe that if we pass this legislation in its present form and if it goes to the High Court, as it could on the motion of any elector, then the High Court would determine that the proper number of members of this House would be seventy-five. There are many members who would be unwilling to fight their preselection if the membership of the next House of Representatives were to be reduced to seventyfive. I can assure you, Sir, that it would be a most uncomfortable kind of performance for a large number of members, and I am not certain that I would be comfortable myself in these circumstances.
This is a risk we should not take. It has been put to me by the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) that any risk here is obviated by sub-section (4.) of proposed new section 24 of the Constitution. At first sight I was inclined to agree with him, but I ask honourable members to look at the meaning of sub-section (4.). The sub-section reads:
For the purposes of a law made by virtue of sub-section (2.) of this section-
That is, a law determining the number of members of this House - the respective numbers of the people of the States shall bc taken to be the numbers declared by that law to have been those numbers, according to statistics of the Commonwealth, at a date specified in that law, . . .
I think that the High Court - again I express some doubts about this - in looking at the application of this sub-section would ask, in effect: ‘What are the people of the States?’ And it would determine that, I feel fairly confident, on the principles I have suggested. The people of the States are the electors. The Commonwealth law must therefore declare, according to the statistics of the Commonwealth, what those numbers of electors are; and the Commonwealth law, purporting to substitute for the numbers of the electors the numbers of the total population would, I feel, run a very grave risk in the High Court of being declared invalid. These are all technical points. I put it to honourable members that 1 should perhaps have thought about them earlier; to my shame I did not. If we had had a little more time it might have been possible in conference to have resolved them with the officers concerned. As it is, all I can do is to put these points to the Government. I am not going to press them as an amendment here, because I do not feel qualified to do so, but I would suggest very strongly to the Government that when the matter is in the Senate it might consider making these small technical amendments in the Bill to put this matter beyond question. They are quite small amendments.
They are verbal amendments only, which do not go to the root of the Bill.
Could I suggest that they would be along these lines? In sub-section (3.) in place of the words ‘number of the people of the State’ one simply writes ‘the total population of the State’. If that is done then you get outside the provisions of the Constitution which refer - this is almost a phrase of art in this part of the Constitution - to ‘the people of the States’ and ‘the people of the Commonwealth’. A couple of small consequential amendments would be required in sub-section (4.). I am not suggesting anything which goes to the root of the Bill. I am not even certain of my law, but what I do feel certain of is that there is some uncertainty, and I do not think we dare take this kind of risk with the High Court. I do not think that we dare take this kind of risk when we have nothing to lose by following my suggestion. There is nothing to lose by making this small technical amendment which would simply make plain the purpose of the Parliament. This would give the undoubted force of law to the practice which has obtained in the past and which we all want to obtain in the future.
As I have said, this matter has come in with a rush. We have not had the opportunity to consider it at our leisure. I admit that this Bill in something of the same form was before us some months ago in a previous House. I admit that I should have seen these matters there, but I did not. If we had had another day to think this over perhaps I would not be speaking about these problems. Perhaps I would have come to some arrangement after argument with the staff of the AttorneyGeneral who would perhaps have set my mind at rest on this matter. But at the present moment I feel that there is a risk, lt may be a small risk, but it is a real risk, that if we pass this Bill in its present form, even with the safeguard which is put in in sub-section (4.) of proposed new section 24 of the Constitution, the High Court would determine that the membership of the next House of Representatives would be seventy-five under a law passed by this House, endorsed by the people at a referendum and put into the Constitution and therefore unchangeable without the mechanics of another referendum.
Is it worth while taking this risk? Would it not be better to make the thing plain by just that small change of phrase which, even if it gains nothing, at least would lose nothing and cause no embarrassment to anybody at all. I put this to the Government. I am not going to press the amendment here, because I feel that my mastery of legal technicalities is not sufficient for that. But I do ask the Government to have a look at the risks involved and consider the possibility of this small verbal amendment which would not affect the substance of the Bill - which I support - when the matter is being considered in another place.
– -The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) draws me to my feet when he challenges the loyalty of the Australian Country Party or the solidarity of the Government. Solidarity is no doubt a word that he dreams about when he lies in bed at night. Before answering some of the challenges of the honourable gentleman I would like to refer to some of the comments of the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner). He said that we have brought this Bill hastily into the House and that members have not had time to digest it and to deliberate on it. This Bill was brought before Parliament in 1965. It was debated and every member of this House accepted it. Last week the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) made a statement on this very matter. It has had a great deal of publicity during the past week. I think that any member should be ready and fit to talk about the Bill if he sees any points in it to which he objects.
The honourable member for Bradfield rose tonight and did nothing more than object to the procedure adopted. He did not challenge the content of the Bill whatsoever. It saddens me also when I hear him making critical remarks about the duties of private members of this House. I believe that the capacity that a private member in this House applies to his duty depends upon himself alone, and that if he gives all his effort and time to his constituents and to his duties in this House his time will be more than fully occupied. This is the very reason that this Bill is brought before the House. We believe that there is a need to increase the numbers of members of Parliament to try to ease the heavy burden on those genuine members who are trying to do their duty.
– Genuine members do other things besides looking after Mrs Jones, you know.
– The honourable member for Bradfield thinks that there is something belittling in a member looking after his constituents, in being what might be termed a social worker. I think probably the most honourable work that a member can do is that of looking after the little problems of people in his electorate. That alone is a very big job in itself.
I come back to the point. When the Parliament was last increased in 1949, the size of the electorates was about 66,000. I am just talking off the top of my head now. By the time the next election is held, the size of the electorates will be about 96,000, an increase of almost 50%. Surely this is justification for considering an increase of the size of the Parliament. Since 1949, the responsibilities of the Federal Parliament have grown enormously. The weight of work and the volume of legislation that has come before the House and is on the statute book has grown tremendously. This is why we believe that the size of this chamber particularly needs to be increased. How are we to do it? It has been fully explained that there is a link between the two chambers - the nexus which prevents us from increasing the size of this chamber without increasing the size of the Senate by half the number. This has been looked at closely and it is thought that the Senate can continue to do a satisfactory job in protecting the rights of the States if it is kept at the present level of ten senators to each State. However, the duty of preparing legislation and of looking after individual electorates’ has increased and there is a need to increase the size of this House.
The clean and satisfactory way of increasing the size of the House of Representatives is to break the nexus with the Senate. To do this we must hold a referendum to permit us to alter the Constitution. I have always supported the view that the nexus should be broken. The Australian Country Party has never had any firm policy on this matter. The platform of the Party does not express any policy as to what should be done on this point. However, the last time that similar legislation was before us, every honourable member of his own volition supported it, and I should think the majority would do so now. But honourable members are free to express their point of view however they wish. Only one other Parliament in the world has a nexus such as this and that is the Parliament of Norway. I do not know whether our founding fathers took the idea from Norway, but it is the only other Parliament in which a nexus exists. The nexus does not exist in other Parliaments where there is a federal system. Canada, for instance, has 102 senators and 265 members of its House of Representatives. The United States of America has a completely different system. The Senate there is restricted to two senators only from each State, but the size of the House of Representatives moves with the growth of population.
A lot of publicity has been given in the Press to this subject. Political writers have tried to read sinister motives into anything that the Government does or considers. The Federal Council of the Australian Country Party debated this subject at a conference. Some of those present were right against the idea of breaking the nexus. They thought that to do so would dilute the rights of the States. Others did not like the idea of increasing the number of members of Parliament. But the majority of delegates thought that the referendum had little chance of success and that it was unwise to spend money on it. Until that time, almost every major newspaper in Australia had opposed the referendum. The Council issued a statement; and it needs to be analysed closely to understand the full impact of it. The statement was that the Council considered it unwise to have a referendum to break the nexus as a means of increasing the size of the Parliament.
– 1 wonder what their real motive was.
– I know that the honourable member for Bradfield would not believe anything I said; he seems to want to run around with sinister ideas about political parties other than his own. The Country Party members of the Parliament arc not bound by the views expressed by the Federal Council of the Party. This is far different from the situation of honourable gentlemen opposite. The basic objec tive of this legislation is to increase the size of this House. On the last occasion a similar Bill was before Parliament, it was suggested that the only other practical way of increasing the size of the House of Representatives was to increase the size of the Senate by twenty-four. This would mean an increase of the size of this House by forty-eight. The Governor-General in his Speech said that the Government would look at this question again. It did so and it considered all the possibilities. As the Prime Minister has said, one possibility was to increase the size of the Senate by one senator from each State - that, is from ten to eleven. However, it was not thought that this was a very satisfactory method, because it would tend to create deadlocks in the Senate, lt does show that there is an alternative if the Australian people reject the idea of breaking the nexus. What are we to do in this chamber? Do we accept that there will never be any increase in the size of this chamber? Will the Australian people say that, even if the population of Australia increases to 25 million, there will never be an increase of the size of this House? Or must we increase the size of the Senate whenever we increase the size of the House of Representatives? I think the practical and sensible way to meet the situation is to break the nexus between the Houses.
The decision of the Government to alter the minimum number of people in each electorate, forming the quota, shows our sincerity. It shows that we do not want an extravangant increase in the size of the Parliament. We want the size of the House of Representatives to be increased by twelve or thirteen. When a similar Bill was before the Parliament on a previous occasion, the minimum number was 80,000. We have increased it to 85,000. This shows that we sincerely want only a small increase that will keep pace with the growth of population. 1 want to allay any thoughts that there may be in the minds of the public that members of the Australian Country Party, for devious or sinister motives, want to prevent the referendum being held or will vote against it.
– The fact that the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony) spoke shows that the Bill has the blessing of all parties in this House - the Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party and the Australian Labor Party. Tonight the House is deliberating a matter of fundamental importance to a democratic community. The Bill has two parts. It authorises a referendum to alter the Constitution so that the number of members of the House of Representatives may be increased without necessarily increasing the number of senators. In view of the way in which the population of Australia is increasing, surely nobody would maintain in 1967 that a member of the Parliament is able to represent effectively more people than a member of the Parliament represented in 1949. In that year the number of members was increased from 74 to 121, that is, by approximately 60%. There has been no variation since 1949 and in that time the population of Australia has increased by about three million people. At the moment we have an absurdity because there has been no redistribution. I do not propose to argue why there has been no redistribution in terms of the recent census, but in seats such as mine the member represents 33,000 people.
– With all respect the term souls’ sounds odd to me. I represent 33,000 people over the age of twenty-one years who are entitled to be enrolled, whereas the honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden), who sits opposite, represents nearly four times that number. He may think that he is four times as good as some other people; nevertheless he does feel some difficulty in representing that number. I believe that the average Australian has not the same sentiment for the Senate as he has for individual representation.
This Bill at least endeavours to get over this difficulty of trying to represent sensibly. I do not think anybody in a democratic community would try to specify how many people he can represent effectively. I believe that about 35,000 to 45,000 adults- rather than the term ‘persons entitled to be enrolled’ - is the ideal number that any person can effectively represent. I do not think that in 1967 the sentiment for the balance between the two Houses is quite the same as it was in 1901. After all, achieving federation is a difficult enought process at any time. It tends to be a compromise between all forces, and the solution in 1901 of the House of Representatives having as nearly as possibly twice as many members as the Senate was one of the compromises necessary to have the States enter into the Federal compact. In 1967 we have progressed somewhat further in thus process and the fact that all three political parties have joined together to support this measure is indicative of that progress.
I was rather surprised at the honouable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) who seemed to be against not only the Country Party but also the country. He is one whom I have admired in the past. This evening he has talked about a more effective Parliament. I suggest that he should weigh the consideration of whether the Parliament will be more effective if it has fifteen or twenty more members.
– It could be.
– I am glad that the honourable member admits that. I can agree wilh him to some extent that it is not a good thing that a Bill should be introduced and debated immediately. I think he has a point in what he has said in that regard, but I remind him that this is not a new Bill; it is one which was agreed to in principle some months ago by both sides of the House. I hope that tonight he has been getting certain things off his liver rather than raising any fundamental objection to a relative enlargement of the House of Representatives.
– It will take a long time before I get the reform of Parliament off my liver.
– That may be, but I hope the honourable member will live longer than he suggested this evening. I hope that we will be enlightened by his normally enlightened differences from the relatively unenlightened people with whom he lives most of the time. Be that as it may, it seems to me that this evening there is general agreement that the House of Representatives .ought to be enlarged. I suggest that it becomes an exercise in democracy. We have certainly progressed a long way since the time when a member could claim in any individual sense to represent a town, a city or a constituency. Whether the ideal number to represent is 35.000, 45,000 or 60,000 can be arguable, but I doubt the second principle, on which we have heard no argument this evening, that the Senate should contine to be as nearly as practicable half the size of the House of Representatives. The measure is a conjoint one which allows us to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives without increasing the size of the Senate. There seems to be general agreement that there should be an increase. If this proposal has the support of all the political parties in the constituencies, 1 hope that it will be successful. There seems to be a kind of cynical idea that Australia has too many members of parliament. I can suggest some other places to start when it comes to reducing the numbers of parliamentary members.
– Where would the honourable member start?
– I would start with some of the upper Houses in the States because I believe that they represent in 1967 entrenched resistances to the processes of democracy. Begin by abolishing the legislative councils, as Queensland did about forty years ago. These people who suggest that there are too many members of parliament could begin with several places that I can think of: the Legislative Council of South Australia; the Legislative Council of Western Australia; the Legislative Council of Tasmania; and, finally, in the State from which I come, the Legislative Council of Victoria. If those chambers were abolished at least 100 members of parliament would be eliminated without doing much damage to the process of democracy. In my view, we endanger the processes of democracy if we do not allow this House, which ought to be th: most significant chamber in the whole parliamentary system of Austraia, to grow progressively as the population of Australia grows. As I suggest, one can argue as to whether the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) can represent in 1967 fifty times as many people as his great great grandfather could represent 100 years ago. There are historical and other precedents but I suggest that anybody who is to represent in 1967 the constituency with even the smallest number of persons has problems. The member with the smallest number of constituents is the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). If he believes that it is an easy job to represent his 15,000 people, let him stand up and say so. I have one of the smallest constituencies in terms of numbers. This is one of the great problems which arises in our society because of urban development and for other reasons. There is no good reason why it happens, but it does happen.
I would not like to represent 100.000 adult persons. I avoid the word ‘souls’ which has been used here this evening. It is all very well to talk about persons, but to my mind the thing that counts is the number on the roll. I believe that once a member tries to represent more than 50,000 people he will be in some difficulty. All I hope is that the House will agree to this measure and that when the matter of a redistribution is raised honourable members will regard it as essential in a democratic community that one does not represent anything other than people. A member of the Parliament does not represent area. He does not represent cows. He represents people. Some members may be happy to represent cows, but I prefer to represent people.
– What about Tasmania?
– Well, Tasmania is an honest enough compromise. Again it is part of the original Federal contract that a member does not represent area.
– What about the Kalgoorlie electorate?
– I would be prepared to give full voting rights to the member for the Northern Territory, who sits almost directly behind the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten), who will have the opportunity in the next few weeks to support such a proposition. The member for the Northern Territory should have full rights :n this House and be able to vote for or against any proposition as readily as is any other member.
By and large, in a democratic community there is no argument against the proposition that one person, whether he lives in the country or in the city, has the same entitlement as anybody else. That is not the issue this evening. It is something that will come later and I hope honourable members will think about it. At least there is general agreement this evening that the size of the House of Representatives ought to be increased without necessarily increasing the size of the Senate.
– Mr Speaker, I rise simply to discuss shortly a point of interpretation raised by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). I always listen to his remarks on legal subjects with considerable interest, though not always with growing conviction. The present section 24 of the Constitution refers to the number of members chosen in the several States having to be in proportion to the respective numbers of the people of the Slates. The point made by the honourable member for Mackellar is that the word ‘people’ does not mean ‘population’, which 1 think everyone reading the section would think was its prima facie meaning. It means those qualified to vote - electors. Over the past sixty-six years this has not been discovered to be its meaning. We have always acted over the years on the other view. Indeed, in Quick and Garran’s work ‘The Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth’, which has been accepted as a work of some authority from the earliest days of Federation, in notes 110 and 111 people’ is clearly interpreted as meaning people, not electors. Honourable members may think that in adopting the old law and repeating it in a slightly amended section, we would bc taken to be adopting the previous interpretation which had been accepted for the last sixty-six years. Even though the Bill has been under the consider;! lion of the honourable member for Mackellar in one way or another since a similar measure was before the House more than fifteen months ago, this point, apparently, has not occurred to him as a possible interpretation until today.
May I just say that the interpretation of the word ‘people’ as electors would not be adopted unless there were some strong context to compel one to take the word in this rather unusual sense. I do not want to engage in a long legal argument. Let me just draw attention to two or three obvious points. If one looks at the immediate context one finds that existing section 24 of the Constitution states:
A quota shall be ascertained by dividing the number of the people of the Commonwealth, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by twice the number of the senators:
Surely the phrase ‘people of the Commonwealth, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth’ means ‘population’.
Again, in section 30, where the founding fathers meant electors they used the word electors’. That section provides:
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the qualification of electors of members of the House of Representatives shall be . . .
It then goes on to set out the qualifications. Where the founding fathers meant electors they used that world. Where they meant population they used the word ‘people’. One other section with which we may have time to deal this evening when the other Bill is before the House - section 127 - states:
In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not bc counted.
Does that refer to electors qualified to vote? Of course not. It refers to the population of the Commonwealth and excludes a section of that population.
There is one point of context to which the honourable member for Mackellar referred and which perhaps 1 should not sit down without mentioning. He referred to section 7 of the Constitution, where the Senate is described as having to be composed of senators for each State directly chosen by the people of the State, voting, until the Parliament otherwise provides, as one electorate. That is a rather loose context. The honourable member said that that section shows that when the founding fathers used the word ‘people’ they meant electors. May I point out that this is a general proposition which, as is explained in Quick and Garran’s work, was inserted in the Constitution to distinguish the method of electing the Senate - a method based on a vote by the people - from two other systems that were considered at the time of the Federal Conventions, namely, nomination by the Governor-General or election by an electoral college, or, if one likes, by both Houses sitting together. In contradistinction to the last two methods mentioned, section 7 asserts that the Senate is to be directly chosen by the people. I believe that in that context the section does not assist the honourable member for Mackellar in the argument that he put.
– I also referred to the first part of section 24. The Minister will see that his argument does not apply to that part.
– All that I would say, apart from throwing my own personal opinion into the scales for what it is worth against that of the honourable member, is that he suggests that in the existing section 24 it makes no difference at all whether one reads the world ‘electors’ or the word people’. Of course it does. On the question of the remainder, it would alter the quota at once.
-I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Speaker. If the Attorney-General (Mr Bo wen) will do me the kindness to look at the ‘Hansard’ proofs when they are available he will see that I did not say that reading the word ‘electors’ for the word ‘people’ in section 24 would make no difference. I said that it would make very little difference.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. 3. Aston)Order! That is a matter for the AttorneyGeneral.
– There have been said in this debate tonight some things which were spoken of by my colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony). I would like to say that certain things said in relation to the activities of members of this House are not statements with which I agree. My experience has been that a back-bench member of this Parliament is almost 100% occupied in the interests of his constituents while away from this place and fully occupied in the activities of this House while it is sitting and in committee work at other times. My own belief is that every member of this Parliament plays well and adequately the democratic role of representing the people of Australia. I hope that, so far into the future as we can see, the democratic process which we know and respect so well in this country will be maintained in this National Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Harold Holt) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– As this is a Bill to amend the Constitution, the provisions of section 128 of the Constitution must be observed. I therefore direct that the division bells be rung. (The bells having been rung)
– The question is: ‘that the Bill be now read a third time’. As there is no dissentient voice,I declare in favour of the Ayes. Although there is no dissentient voice and a division has not been called for, it is desirable that the names of those members present agreeing to the third reading should be recorded. I therefore appoint the honourable members for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin) and Wilmot (Mr Duthie) as tellers. (The following names were then recorded)
-Order! As 1 14 members have agreed to the third reading I certify that the third reading has been agreed to by an absolute majority as required by the Constitution.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 264).
– The Australian Labor Party supports this Bill. It will support the Bill in the other place and all members of the Party in both places and all of their colleagues outside the Parliament will support the referendum. In view of comments made earlier it seems that one should refer to the fact that on behalf of my Party I have facilitated all stages of the Bill being discussed today. Naturally an Opposition, consisting as it does entirely of private members of Parliament, is jealous of the rights of Parliament. But, frankly, we do not believe that our rights have in any way been infringed by this matter being debated through all stages today. We are well acquainted with its provisions. They are identical with those which passed through both Houses of the Parliament fifteen months ago. They are identical with those which the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) promised a year ago to bring to the Parliament. They are identical with those which the right honourable gentleman outlined six days ago to this House.
The repeal of section 127 of the Constitution was recommended by the Constitutional Review Committee in 1958 and J 959. The words concerning Aboriginals in paragraph (xxvi) of section 51 of the Constitution have been in our minds and have been brought by us before the House for many years past. We are not taken by surprise by the terms of this legislation. In one case we have had a decade in which to consider them. In the other we have brought them before the House and discussed them within our Party for seven years.
Let me put the record quite clearly. As I said earlier tonight, on 13th April 1961, 12th April 1962 and 1st April 1965 my predecessor, the honourable member for
Melbourne (Mr Calwell), introduced resolutions to put to a referendum all of (he recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee, including of course that portion of this Bill which provides for the repeal of section 127. Again, as far back as 8th August 1962 the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) initiated a debate, as a matter of urgent public importance, on the need for the Parliament to legislate for a referendum to delete the words ‘other than the aboriginal race in any State’ from paragraph (xxvi) of section 51 of the Constitution. Further, on 14th May 1964 my predecessor introduced a bill for a referendum to repeal both of the passages in the Constitution which are covered by the Bill now before us.
When in November 1965 the original referendum Bill to repeal section 127 was before the House we unsuccessfully urged that its terms should be widened to include the repeal of the words in paragraph 26 of section 51. When the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) had his Bill before the House on 10th March last year we supported it. We wanted to have a vote on it. It is quite clear therefore that as far as the Parliament and the processes available to parliamentarians, including debates on matters of urgent public importance, amendments to government bills, private, members bills and general business debates, are concerned, in all cases members of the Labor Party have used all the facilities available to private members to have the people of Australia given the opportunity to delete the references to Aboriginals in our Constitution. Therefore we are not caught by surprise.
We support this Bill in its entirety. We do not think that any honourable member, whatever his position in the House, can say that he has been caught by surprise, that his rights have been abridged and that as a representative of the people he has been denied his opportunities. The arguments put by the Prime Minister are cogent indeed. I agree in particular with his reasons for just deleting the words from paragraph (xxvi) of section 51 of the Constitution and not substituting other words for them. I agree with him that whatever form of words one inserts to guarantee what we may regard as human rights usually results in greater benefits to lawyers than to litigants. This has been the case in this country. It has certainly been the case in the United States of America. Powerful rights have been written into the United States Constitution since the eighteenth century: in fact they are still the subject of litigation. I believe that to keep the position simple as it is will enable members of the National Parliament to carry out their duties.
It is true that this may mean that they will pass laws inconsistent with State laws, and so I believe they should do, because whatever we may say about possible gerrymanders in this place and whatever we may think about the undemocratic basis upon which the Senate is constituted - one State having as many representatives as another State which has eleven times the population - the fact is that this Parliament is more representative of the will of the Australian people than any of the State Parliaments. Some of the State Parliaments are so constituted, because of the distribution of electorates, provinces or districts or in the case of some upper houses are so limited, that the rights of Aboriginals have been denied. In some States there are still laws which should be overridden, to put it bluntly. Since I want to be dispassionate on this occasion I do net want to specify the political party to which those obdurate members of State Legislative Councils give their allegiance. There are not only Acts of Parliament but also industrial awards, including awards of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which should be overridden. It will be possible for the people’s representatives in the national Parliament to see that in social and industrial matters Aboriginals are at least given an opportunity and that some of their disabilities are removed - that awards and State Acts are overridden by inconsistent and therefore dominant Commonwealth laws on concurrent matters.
I do not want it to be thought that we support this Commonwealth power purely from a negative or overriding point of view. The fact is that with the excision of the words from paragraph (xxvi) of section 51 the members of this Parliament will be able for the first time to do something for Aboriginals - Aboriginals representing the greatest pockets of poverty and disease in this country. The incidence of leprosy, tuberculosis and infant mortality is higher among Aboriginals than among any other discernible section of the world’s population and, as we know, the opportunities for Aboriginals even to have education - and certainly to pursue a calling after they have left school - to enjoy good housing conditions and to enjoy good public hygiene are less than those of other Australians. Hitherto it has been impossible for the Commonwealth to do these things directly itself. Hereafter it will be possible for the Commonwealth to provide the Aboriginals with some of that social capital with which most other Australians are already endowed.
– The Commonwealth wants lo follow the lead of the South Australian Government.
– My friend refers to the difficulties of the States. We know that Aboriginals are mainly to be found in Western Australia and Queensland among the States and after that in South Australia and New South Wales. One of the advantages of repealing the paragraph (xxvi) words will be that the Commonwealth will be able to assist those very extensive States - the three largest States in Australia - which have not the financial resources to deal with this problem. The Commonwealth can at least bring the resources of the whole nation to bear in favour of the Aboriginals where they live.
The other advantage as regards the States comes from the repeal of section 127 of (he Constitution. Hitherto it has been to (he disadvantage of Queensland and Western Australia on more than one occasion in their representation in this House that Aboriginals have not been able to be counted in the census upon which the number of electorates in each State is computed. Queensland and Western Australia more than once have been deprived of a seat in this place which they would have enjoyed if their Aboriginals had been able to be counted under section 127. There is apart from these internal matters - the question of the welfare of an identifiably deprived portion of our community, and the representation of the States equitably in this House - the very serious external matter of the attitude that other countries take towards Australia because of these sections in our Constitution.
It has been impossible on many subjects to convince international bodies that the Australian Government is genuine when it pleads its Constitution. In fact the Federal alibi is regarded as a joke in most international bodies. This has been the case in relation to Aboriginals as well as regarding many other matters which arise in international discussions. There are International Labour Organisation and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation conventions which we have not hitherto adopted and which we have said we could not adopt because the Commonwealth did not have the power to apply them itself and it had to wait until the States passed legislation or made administrative decisions. This is very doubtful: one would imagine that the High Court would effectuate Commonwealth laws under many of these conventions which the Commonwealth says it has not the power to implement itself. But hereafter there will be no such excuses because if any international convention touches the position of Aboriginals it will be possible for the Commonwealth forthwith and directly to implement the obligations which it has undertaken and which only the Commonwealth Government can undertake internationally. The States have no international standing at all. They do not even have any standing, usually, within the Commonwealth of Nations. In some respects they are British colonies, but as regards other members of the Commonwealth of Nations they have no standing. The Commonwealth Government has to negotiate on behalf of Australia in all these matters. Now the Commonwealth will, as regards Aboriginals, bc able to implement the undertakings that it gives on behalf of Australia.
This is a very valuable Bill. There can be no question of our attitude as a party in the Parliament or outside it. It is sufficient for me to say that back in 1 959 the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party made it Party policy to repeal both section 127 and the relevant words of paragraph 26 of section 51 of the Constitution. I apprehend that there will be no opposition in the Parliament to this Bill or to this referendum, and. while we can never take such things for granted, we will certainly hope that for the honour of this country and the welfare of the Aboriginal citizens of it this referendum proposal will receive overwhelming acceptance. I trust that all members of this House will fulfil their duty in the public arena by urging an overwhelming vote in favour of this referendum proposal.
– The last words of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) were well said, and I hope they will be echoed right around this House and, indeed, right around this country. He is quite right when he says that this Bill has bi-partisan support. I think we should acknowledge the long-standing support that the principles embodied in this Bill have received from members of the Opposition. I refer particularly to the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) who have - I think not alone in their Party but perhaps most prominently in their Party - supported the principles of this Bill. I find myself very strongly in support of it. As the House will remember, the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin) and I introduced into the last Parliament a private member’s bill dealing with these matters. I believe that our drafting was perhaps better for the Aboriginal people than is the present drafting. But I think the present drafting gives at least three-quarters, and probably more than three-quarters, of the substance that we were seeking for the Aboriginal people, and I for one will most certainly give it in the country and in the House any support that I am able to give.
I think we in this Parliament should realise our responsibilities to the Aboriginal people. If the referendum proposal is adopted and this Bill becomes law we will have to realise that responsibility even more fully. When the Leader of the Opposisaid that this measure would give us powers to do things for the Aboriginal people we should have reminded ourselves that we have for long had the power to do these things for about half the Aboriginal people of Australia, namely those of the Northern Territory. I think it would be right to say that the policy of the Federal Government in regard to those Aboriginals in the Northern Territory has on the whole been at least as beneficial as, and I would think more beneficial and more substantial than, the policies adopted by any of the States.
That is not to say that our policy has been perfect. Indeed, there are many aspects of it in relation to which I should think that we are not yet taking a sufficiently far sighted view.
Some people say - I think wrongly - that no discrimination is necessary in regard to the Aboriginal people. I think that some discrimination is necessary. But I think it should be favourable, not unfavourable. 1 am speaking not so much about the problem in Sydney as about the problem in the far north as it relates to those people whom 1 have come in contact with and who are living in much more primitive conditions. I believe that these people need some discriminatory legislation which is in their favour. It is not right to say to these people: ‘We will treat you as we would treat any other Australian’. To do this would submerge and destroy their culture. It would throw them as individuals into a maelstrom in which they are still incapable of swimming. I do not mean to say that they are worse people than we are. What I am saying is that they have a background which is different from ours. Ours is the dominant background in Australia and they are compelled, as it were, to fit into it. However, this objective cannot be achieved in one generation, or perhaps in even two or three generations.
These people need help. They need a secure title to their lands. Here I think the Commonwealth could give a lead. In Arnhem Land we still have tremendous reserves. I was up there recently; I spent five or six weeks going through that country. There is great wealth there potentially. There is sufficient to provide adequate permanent land for the Aboriginal people. I hope that this land will not be alienated from them. Proposals have been advanced which would enable this alienation to take place in perhaps five, six or seven years time. In my view, such proposals are still out of place. It is still necessary to secure lands for these people in such a way that it cannot be alienated from them or their descendants for at least some time and certainly not until they are more ready than they are today to survive the stresses of our type of economy.
These are observations which perhaps it would be better to make at another time. So I do not intend to detain the House any stricted or inhibited the Commonwealth’s port the Bill and that in the electorate I shall give the proposal all the support that I can when it is submitted to a referendum.
Mr BRYANT (Wills) (11.7]- Although there are some points in relation to which congratulations should be offered tonight, we still ought to steel our resolution. When all is said and done, this is only the first of three steps that will have to be taken. The proposal must first be passed by the Parliament. Then we must get the support of a majority of the people in a majority of the States. Then we as a Parliament and as individual members must take up the challenge on behalf of the Aboriginal people and recover the last 180 years. Tonight to a certain extent we have taken the first step towards carrying out an instruction that was issued 180 years ago. This instruction was given to Governor Phillip in the commission of 1787:
You are to endeavour by every possible means to open intercourse with the natives and to conciliate their affections.
Then, in relation to the taking of a census he was told:
You will endeavour to procure a count of the numbers inhabiting the neighbourhood of the intended settlement and report your opinion to one of our Secretaries of State.
But for 180 years the Aboriginal people have been pushed into the background. None of us has a clear conscience in this matter. No political party, no parliament and no government is able to say it that it has performed its duty in the way an Australian government ought to do. Tonight therefore this is an historic time for many of us. I came across the problem of the Aboriginal people not long after I entered this Parliament. Tonight is the culmination in a large measure of a campaign that was started here some ten years ago. I am not going to complain of delays or to be presumptuous enough to say that the campaign started with the arrival of people like myself or with the establishment of the organisation of which I am an executive officer and which has taken up this case.
To most people the Aboriginal people have been on the edge of the nation. Most people are quite unaware of the position in which the Aboriginal people find themselves. Because the Constitution has restricted or inhibited the Commonwealth’s activities there has been an almost unavoidable tangle of State laws which, to the credit of the country, have been amended over the last eight or ten years. It is interesting to note that in all the social legislation in Australia this was the field in which there was the least amendment. If honourable members look back over the Acts that were passed in South Australia they will find that nothing has been altered for twenty years. In Queensland the position was much the same. Ten or fifteen years ago the only State in which there were no restrictions placed on Aborigines was Victoria; and I think it was a conservative government which amended the law and brought about that position.
The position had been reached where an Aboriginal in Australia almost needed a stall of three to travel around the country wilh him. He needed a geographer to tell him in what State he was, an anthropologist to tell him whether he fitted into the definition of Aboriginal, and a legal retainer to tell him what was his position under State laws. This situation, fortunately, has been gradually remedied by State governments, but by bringing the Commonwealth into the field we shall be able to get greater clarity on the matter. Australia, I suppose, established the egalitarian nature of humanity and equal rights before almost every other country, yet a large section of the community - those of Aboriginal ancestry represent almost 1% - has been placed in a position of complete inequality, whether in respect of housing, administrative attitudes or education. There are about four or five Aboriginals in the universities of Australia. During the last year or two the number might have increased a little. That represents one in every 20,000 of them, I think, whereas in the community at large the figure is one in every 180 or 200. In other words, the average white citizen has had 100 times the opportunity of getting to a university than has an Aboriginal person.
The Bill will give us the opportunity to amend this position. I believe that it is only from the Commonwealth - even with a government such as this - that benefits are likely to flow from the wealth and prosperity of this country. As has been pointed out. the inequalities are largely attributable to the fact that the bigger States with the smaller populations have the greatest burdens to bear, whereas Victoria, which on statistics has been the wealthiest State most of the time, and has the greatest density of population, has the smallest financial burden as far as Aboriginals are concerned to impose upon its Treasury. So Aboriginal people will have a greater measure of equality in future.
This has always been a field of good intention. There are many people who have been doing great work and have had a great feeling for the Aboriginal ‘ people. Recently, when doing some research into this question, I was directed to see what the position has been in Western Australia. In the 1890s the British Government, which had always had a greater care for the aboriginal peoples of the various territories of the British Empire, insisted that a certain proportion of the revenue of the State be put aside for the Aboriginal people. The Government of Western Australia objected to this, and in 1897 presented a memorial to the government in Britain in which it said: ‘We feel confident that Parliament will cheerfully provide any funds which might be found necessary for the support and welfare of the Aboriginal community in this colony’. 1 do no think that any State of Australia has done that satisfactorily yet. The Commonwealth has been continually inhibited. The States have been reluctant or have not had the resources.
In my research I found the answer to a question which I put in 1959 to the Minister for Social Services. His reply to my question was:
The honourable member will know that there are constitutional limitations on the power of the Commonwealth Government to deal with this question.
It is interesting that only a few months afterwards a way was found around it. Here tonight we are bringing to a culmination, one might say, a campaign which started, so far as I am concerned, in May 1957. The first record I could find of a definite attempt to get the Commonwealth to accept responsibility through this Parliament was a petition presented to the Parliament by Mt Haylen, the former member for Parkes, on 4th May 1957, from certain electors of New South Wales praying for legislative action to amend the Constitution to remove the political, social and economic disabilities of Aboriginals. That was almost ten years ago.
A few days after that I proposed an urgency motion, bringing forward the need for the Commonwealth to take action, or deploring the failure of the Government to care for the wellbeing of persons of Aboriginal ancestry, and so on.
Subsequently, there have been other motions and petitions. Similar petitions have been presented almost 100 times. I suppose there have been more petitions on this subject than on anything else since the Commonwealth came into being. There have been motions raising matters of public importance in relation to the subject. The Labor Party adopted the principle as national policy in, I think, 1959 and has subsequently campaigned vigorously for it. I am Vice-president for the Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement, which has brought to this Parliament on a number of occasions during the last four years leaders of the Aboriginal community in Australia who were cheered by the reception that they got in this House. As a personal observation, I would say that the reaction that flowed from their activities was increasingly favourable over recent years. In 1963 a delegation was brought here to see the former Prime Minister, who treated its members very graciously and listened to them very courteously, but we still did not get very far, although I do believe that the matter came into the forward end of his consciousness at that time more than at any other stage of his career.
To the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner), who seems a little defeated at the position of back benchers in this Parliament and the failure of our endeavours to produce any great result, I would say that I think this at least is a case where the activities of people mostly from the back benches of the Parliament - sometimes some of them have sat on the front benches and have then come back, and so on - have borne fruit. Mostly the efforts have flowed from people in my area of parliamentary activity; we have brought this forward. The Government can rest assured that the organisations that have been campaigning so vigorously for this for many years will now put their shoulders to the wheel. There is at least a ready made organisation to take up the campaign. This is the point that I intended to make to the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) last Thursday when I rose to ask for leave to make a statement. I was about to say that I was gratified on behalf of all these people, that I would like to call them into action with the resources of the Parliament behind them, and that I would guarantee that the organisation would be ready to roll the moment the legislation was passed through the Parliament.
I hope honourable members will realise that it is not sufficient just to hope and pray that this referendum will be passed. We ought, in honour bound, to campaign with the full vigour with which we campaign to return ourselves to the Parliament. 1 hope that this is a demonstration to the rest of the world that we mean business. It will not be sufficient just to pass the referendum. Eventually responsibility for the housing, education and so on of Aboriginals will lie with this Parliament. I hope that we shall see created something like the Repatriation Department for this purpose. That is, I suppose, Australia’s most experienced social services organisation, with its education scheme for soldiers’ children, its rehabilitation system, its hospitals, its pensions, its land settlement and so on. That is what I foresee will be the position when eventually we get this through and the people have supported us. I hope that the Prime Minister will be gratified at the fact that at least for once in his long political career he is on the side of right and truth and justice. We will be with him ali the way.
– I rise to support the Bill. 1 mentioned the Aboriginal problem in my maiden speech yesterday, but I should like to make just a few comments now. I congratulate the Government on the step it is taking to remove discrimination against Aboriginals. The anomaly is that, though they have a vote, they are not counted in a census. This is a most peculiar situation. For this reason and for many others I support the Bill. Many of the coloured people really do not understand politics. At an election they vote fifty-fifty. The Government is to be congratulated on the work that is being done amongst them and the efforts that are being made to convey knowledge to them. Having spoken on this subject yesterday, I will resume my seat. I support the Bill wholeheartedly.
– The words ‘other than the people of Aboriginal race in any State’ must be deleted from the Commonwealth Constitution because under our Constitution very few rights are intrinsic. Unless these words are deleted, the Commonwealth cannot deliberately enact rights for Aboriginals. As a member of the various select committees considering this subject I was constantly confronted by witnesses who insisted that Aboriginals were Australian citizens. We have encountered the confusing words ‘Aboriginals are Australian citizens within the meaning of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948-1960’. Citizenship’, if it is a modern way of referring to British subjects resident within the Commonwealth of Australia, is a permissible usage. But the witnesses use the word as if we had in our Constitution the American conception of intrinsic rights.
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution says that all persons born in the United States or in any State of the United States are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside, and there are intrinsic rights attached to that status. But citizenship was deliberately excluded from our Constitution. If there were such a thing as intrinsic citizenship rights in Australia, it would be impossible for most people in the States of South Australia and Tasmania to be excluded from voting for the Legislative Council. If we had the American conception of citizenship, which we sometimes use in relation to Aboriginals, it would be impossible for most residents of Melbourne, Hobart and Perth to be excluded from the civic franchise. It is vital to realise that the basic conception in our Constitution is really monarchial. The theory underlying our Constitution is much more akin to the idea that rights are graciously conferred by the Crown than to the republican idea of intrinsic rights. So anything that the Aboriginals are to get must be deliberately enacted by this Parliament. We had to enact deliberately that they had voting rights. If we want to give them land rights or many quite important rights, those rights must be deliberately enacted. If the Commonwealth is prohibited from enacting anything for Aboriginals, the process of conferring the rights cannot continue.
The honourable member for Wills (M; Bryant) referred to certain historic facts.
One saw on the select committee which considered the grievances of the Yirrkala Aboriginal people the collision of two myths. When Cook proclaimed the sovereignty of George III over this country or when Phillip reinforced it with later proclamations, this mystical process of saying that George III owned the country created Crown land. On the Yirrkala grievances committee we encountered the idea that the Aboriginals on their reserves were on Crown land and that it was perfectly competent for the Commonwealth Government to alienate to a company the land on which these people lived. Of course, they themselves had a concept of land ownership which related to their creator heroes - to the fact that people were believed to have been conceived by the earth spirit in certain pieces of land and that all these sites were sacred to them.
So here was the white man’s myth that the King owns all this land in collision with their conception of their own origin. Of course, I have no doubt that in both sets of concepts the ultimate theory is that something is owned by God. The King was King by the grace of God, and these creator heroes in the Aboriginal myths went back to the original creator spirit. That gave them, they thought, some rights to land and, in the evidence that they gave before us, they desired, among other things, the preservation of their sacred sites.
Of course, the Commonwealth can enact rights in the Northern Territory and its other Territories, and has done so. But we should recognise that the Commonwealth cannot reach into a State. If a State continues to exclude Aboriginals from voting rights, the Commonwealth cannot do what has been done by the United States Government in relation to States that have attempted to deprive American citizens who happen to be coloured - Negroes - in the southern States of the right to go to universities and so on. It was under the Fourteenth Amendment that Eisenhower and Kennedy moved troops in relation to discrimination against Negroes. We have no power to deal with discrimination against Aboriginals.
I believe that the deletion of these words will increase the Commonwealth Government’s power in relation to State Aboriginal policies. The question may well be asked: should this be done? I believe that there is a world conscience on these issues. It will not be the same in the future as it was in the 1960s. I believe that more and more the independent coloured republics of Africa are being put on trial in respect of their own treatment of one another and that people are beginning to see that what is really involved is not the colour of the skin but the type of conduct. Nevertheless, very few people in the world regard Australia as having a good record in respect of its Aboriginals. They would be very ill informed if they did so because one can almost take it as axiomatic that in what we used to call the British Empire the more self-government advanced the lower the status of the native people became. The present conflict in Rhodesia is a repetition of the old conflict between the white man on the spot who always claimed he knew the native and the government at home.
At one stage this concept of a Crown authority was sufficiently protective for the Red Indians of the western United States to desire to migrate into Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were responsible to the Crown. Unlike the sheriffs of the American wild west, they were not the instruments of the local population in seizing Indian land or in the maltreatment of Indians. Because this conception of the Crown’s responsibility to its subjects existed in Canada, Indians tried to mass migrate to Canada. The United States authorities regarded this as a tremendous and unintelligible insult and sent the cavalry to divert the Indians from migrating to Canada.
We have the problem that as selfgovernment has advanced in this country, there is no question but that the status of Aboriginals has declined. The original constitutions of the States regarded Aboriginals as British subjects and in all the original constitutions which were conferred upon the States male Aboriginals - and only men of European race had the vote in those days - voting rights in the more popular chamber. In Western Australia when the State Government took away those voting rights in 1904 the Governor, as the representative of the Crown, reserved the legislation for the consideration of the United Kingdom authorities, but found that they no longer claimed responsibility. I have tried at various times in articles to cite the Aboriginal cricket team which in 1867 defeated half the first class counties of England. They played the Gentlemen of England at Lords, a situation which today is quite unthinkable. That is a measure of the decline of the status of Aboriginals in this country as self-government has advanced.
The Commonwealth should have this power because it is the Government which is confronted with the conscience of the world on this issue. 1 believe that we ought to transform our Aboriginal policies because it is right to do so. I am not speaking about a lot of sentimental policies; I am speaking about policies which are right. There must be some kind of recognition of land rights where people still live in tribal states, for instance. Until last week when the Commonwealth took action in the Northern Territory we were almost the only country in the world which acknowledged no land rights for the original inhabitants. We have the effrontery to stand here and criticise South Africa. I am no apologist for South Africa, but at least the South Africans acknowledged the ownership of 400,000 square miles of South Africa by the original native inhabitants. We would regard Smith as going entirely berserk in Rhodesia if he acknowledged no native land rights at all. But the position in Australia is that we acknowledge no native land rights whatever. We took the lot with our proclamations of sovereignty. The same George HI whose sovereignty was proclaimed in what is now called the United States and Canada, at the same time as Cook was proclaiming sovereignty here, was making arrangements where Red Indian tribal titles to land were acknowledged. 1 believe that the Government of the Commonwealth, which is exposed to the conscience of the world and must answer to the world on these issues, should have this prohibition on legislating on Aboriginal affairs which is implicit in the words in section 51 (xxvi) deleted from the Constitution. I hope we are not going to get the usual kinds of confusion that occur with referendums. The great hope is that the parties are unanimous on this question. Historically, no referendum opposed by a major party in Australia has ever been carried. When people speak about the social services referendum as having been carried in 1947 they should remember that this House, except for the late Archie Cameron, was unanimous, so far as the parties were concerned, that the referendum should be carried, but even then 46% of the people voted against it. But I hope that we can form a united front on this question so that the usual confusions of State authority being challenged or the usual kind of argument which is advanced about transference of power to the Commonwealth and the power being dangerous will not be advanced.
I say that the Australian people must be deliberately responsible. I believe their very security is involved in their being able to say to the world that this community will ensure sane and just race relationships. I hope we will not confuse ourselves with other words which have come up in relation to the Aboriginal people. If ‘citizenship” is a confusion word and ‘reserve’ is a confusion word, because the Aboriginals do not own the reserves, another confusion word is ‘assimilation’. If an Aboriginal wishes to remain an Aboriginal I hope we are not going to say: ‘Without consulting you we have decided that assimilation is the policy’. Actually the only protagonists of apartheid I have met in Australia are the Aboriginals themselves. I do not say all of them are. ‘Aboriginal’ is another dangerous word and it is one of our words. They do not think of themselves as Aboriginals. They think of themselves as Arunta or Tiwi and all sorts of separate tribes. I remember when we were away with one select committee. Aboriginals brought from central Australia to Melville Island and Bathurst Island were utterly homesick because they were quite isolated from the other Aboriginals there. But assimilation is our word. Many Aboriginals take it as meaning they are to be bred out. They wish to remain a distinctive people. After all, apartheid is always the policy of the minority race that does not wish to be absorbed. In Australia the minority race that does not want to bc absorbed is the people we call the Aboriginals. Some of them desire that their reserves be inviolate, that their way of life be inviolate and they be allowed to continue as a separate community. This is apartheid without the emotional overtones for which we attack South Africa. Here there is no superior race connotation.
The desire of the Aboriginals to be a distinctive people is something we should respect wherever it exists. We should acknowledge the economic basis of such a distinctive existence or in other words that they might have some title to the remaining reserves. This is important. There are many things that future Commonwealth Governments may do if these prohibitory words are eliminated. We are grateful that the House is unanimous on this measure. We hope that there will be unanimity in the country and that everybody will put his weight behind explaining to the Australian people the need for this legislation.
– 1 warn briefly and simply to express my appreciation of the proposal before the House. I am perturbed at the various ways people approach the Aboriginal question. 1 rise tonight not to sing any sanctimonious hallelujahs, but merely to say that at long last another step is being taken to give these people appropriate status. In my town we simply live with these people. I am 48 years old and I have been associated with them all my life. I have been to school with them, grown up with them and mixed with them. Psychologically we can never see any difference. This may sound a little silly to people who live in the cities but it is perfectly true. At long last they are to be given the dignity of coming at least a little closer to being full citizens of this nation.
I have often wondered about the publicity that is given when an Aboriginal comes before the courts. The offence seems to be something a little worse than when a white person is charged. But in my electorate we think of Aboriginals quite differently. Over the years we have detected in them qualities of comradeship. We see in them a simple loyalty that is always beyond question. They can be very good humourists. I have been a sort of Dorothy Dix to these fellows - and to some of the females at times. It is amazing when you get beneath the skin what lovable qualities they have.
There is consideration of international importance in this legislation. This Bill will do something to counteract the very bad reputation we have among people overseas who have heard of the white Australia policy. If the white Australia policy were applied in my town, we would be segregated. This is true. We, the white people, would be segregated. So, in effect, discrimination does not really exist. Yet the idea that it does exist is given a lot of publicity. We are showing here tonight that it does not exist. I join with other speakers who mentioned the unanimity of feeling on this issue. We are showing tonight in a very decisive way that we are doing something about the matter. I am very proud to be associated with the House in what it is doing on this issue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
I believe that this House can take pride in the quality of the debate that has taken place on this measure this evening.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! As this is a Bill to amend the Constitution, the provisions of section 128 of the Constitution must be observed. I therefore direct that the division bells be rung. (The bells having been rung)
– The question is: ‘That the Bill be now read a third time’. As there is no dissentient voice, I declare in favour of the Ayes. Although there is no dissentient voice and a division has not been called for, it is desirable that the names of those members present agreeing to the third reading should be recorded. I therefore appoint the honourable members for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin) and Wilmot (Mr Duthie) as tellers. (The following names were then recorded) (Mr Speaker- Hon. W. J. Aston)
– Order! As 113 members have agreed to the third reading I certify that the third reading has been agreed to by an absolute majority as required by the Constitution.
Bill read a third time.
The following answer to a question upon notice was circulated:
The question whether there is to be complementary State legislation is one for the States themselves. Tasmania has, by the Commonwealth Powers (Trade Practices) Act 1966, ‘ enacted an appropriate constitutional reference. The South Australian Government has advised that it proposes to introduce appropriate legislation.
House adjourned at 11.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 March 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670301_reps_26_hor54/>.