27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr BENNETT presented from certain citizens of the Commonwealth a petition showing that the Commonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacies in the Australian education system; a major inadequacy at present in Australian education is the lack of equal education opportunity for all; more than 500,000 children suffer from serious lack of equal opportunity; Australia cannot afford to waste the talents of one sixth of its school children; only the Commonwealth has the financial resources for special programmes to remove inadequacies; and nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that the chief impetus for change and the finance for improvement come from the national Government.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives make legal provision for a joint Commonwealth-State inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evidence on which to base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities the immediate financing of special programmes for low income earners, migrants, Aboriginals, rural and inner suburban dwellers and handicapped children and the provision of pre-school opportunities for all children from culturally different or socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Petition received and read.
Mr ENGLAND presented from certain electors of the Division of Calare a petition showing that in the national interest, it is essential that there be an effective and respected Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration system; that the decision given by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the professional engineers’ case of 3rd December 1969, which has followed to the letter in both magnitude and date of operation the salary increases for engineers employed in the Commonwealth Public Service which were announced before the arbitration hearing had concluded, has given rise to utter dismay and has indicated a lack of independent assessment; that recent statements made at the Australian Workers Union conference and by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions have indicated disillusionment with the federal arbitration system and have particularly referred to the professional engineers’ case; and that an unacceptable arbitration system must inevitably lead to industrial unrest throughout Australia.
The petitioners pray that the Australian Government take positive action as soon as possible to re-establish confidence in the Commonwealth arbitration system.
Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES presented from certain residents of the State of Victoria a petition showing that because of the uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes the population of kangaroos, particularly the big red species, is now so low that they may become extinct. It is an indisputable fact that no species can withstand hunting on such a scale when there is no provision being made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of kangaroo products be banned immediately and that the Commonwealth Government take steps to bring control of wild life under its jurisdiction. Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos.
Petition received and read.
– The Minister for Defence will recall a question asked of the Prime Minister earlier this week by the honourable member for Stirling about naval exercises in the Indian Ocean. I ask the Minister: Did his predecessor announce last year that extensive naval exercises would be held this year in the Indian Ocean? If so, when will these exercises be held and what are their scope and objectives?
– I will see what information I can get concerning an announcement by ray predecessor. I would mention, however, that there is quite a considerable naval element involved in the major 5-powcr exercise, Bersatu Padu, in Malaysia which will culminate in June. There is a significant Australian naval element involved in that. I will see what I can get concerning any announcement that might have been made by my predecessor.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Because of the growing surplus of foreign exchange being accumulated by Japanese interests and their need to invest this surplus overseas, to what extent has the Government considered whether Japan will invest this surplus where it trades? Is the Government doing anything to make certain that our trade with Japan is not only continuous but also increased on a permanent basis by encouraging Japan to invest its surplus here? What safeguards if any would be needed to protect Australia’s interests at the same time?
– Japan’s expected very large surplus on international account in the near future has given the Japanese policy makers a good deal of scope for new moves. In fact, when I was in Japan recently, I discussed a move which was then being foreshadowed. The Japanese Government was considering allowing for the first time Japanese interests to make portfolio investments on outside stock exchanges. Naturally I expressed the hope that these might include Australian stock exchanges. Since then - I think it was on 1st May - a policy has been announced which will allow Japanese trust companies, which are holders of enormous funds, to invest SI 00m on overseas stock exchanges. The honourable members who have seen the reports on this will have noticed that the stock exchanges specified include New York, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, maybe one or two more in Europe, Toronto and Sydney. Following this announcement, it is to be hoped that with this extra scope they will invest some of their funds in Australia.
The indication I received from the various bankers and folk I met in Japan in the short space of time that l was there was that most of the funds were likely to go to New York and London. But now that the process has started it is to be hoped that it will expand. Japan may, of course, invest funds in Australia along the same lines as any other overseas investors. We have quite a governmental machine in Japan to open the way for this process. Apart from bodies such as the Japan-Australia Businessmen’s Association there are institutions like Partnership Pacific, which is a private banking combination. In Tokyo itself the Department of Trade and Industry has a large establishment. Recently a senior Treasury officer was also established there and he has built up quite a network of connections with the Finance Ministry and various banking and other official institutions.
– Can the Attorney-General inform the House how many Commonwealth public servants have received gaol sentences, firstly, when the defalcation from the Commonwealth has been less than $5,000; secondly, when they have made full restitution; and, thirdly, when they are first offenders? Will the Attorney-General consider adjusting the penalty scale for those who defalcate up to $250,000 and escape with penalties not greatly exceeding 6 months hard labour?
– The honourable member’s question is of such a detailed character that not even he in his wildest expectations could expect me to answer it. If the question were intended to be other than a rhetorical one, which I doubt, J shall endeavour if practicable to obtain the statistics.
– Does the Minister for the Interior recall his own and his predecessor’s assurances that something would be done to prevent the postal voting racket which makes a farce of Commonwealth, State and local government elections in Australia, particularly in Queensland? Will he discuss the matter with the Prime Minister and explain the situation to him so that high legislative priority is given to this matter, thus preventing a situation whereby the next Senate election will be held with the system still needing urgent attention?
– The honourable member has been very persistent in relation to this matter of electoral changes. All I can say to him is that there are about 57 Bills and ministerial statements on the notice paper. Therefore, I would need to have urgent discussions with the Leader of the House to see whether it would be possible to have the proposed electoral amendments introduced into the House and debated during this session.
– I ask the Minister for Education and Science: In view of the fact that all of the other States have this year increased the fees charged in universities and colleges of advanced education, can the Minister say why Victoria, alone of all the States, has deferred for the time being its projected 20% increase in university fees and the still larger increase which is contemplated for fees in colleges of advanced education?
– As is implicit in the question, the honourable member appreciates that the question of fees is essentially a matter for the universities, which we hope to keep as autonomous bodies - at least, this government does. Of coarse, the State governments contribute very substantially to the running costs of the universities, as does the Commonwealth Government. The honourable member will appreciate that the Commonwealth Government contributes $1 for every $1.85 which is contributed by the States. It is true that in calculating the contribution ot a State there is a credit for the amount recovered in fees. To this extent it might be said that the States have some interest in the level of fees because it follows that the higher the revenue from fees the smaller is the direct contribution from the States, lt also follows that the Commonwealth’s contribution would be greater because it pays by way of scholarships about one-half of the fees.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Immigration. I refer to the importance of Australia’s immigration programme and to a recent Press article concerning migrant departures from Australia. I ask the Minister: What is the present posi tion concerning departures? Is the Minister concerned at the number of departures? What are the reasons for the departures and what studies have been carried out into them?
– It is true that this year there will be an increase in the number of former settlers returning to their homelands. Departmental estimates place the number at approximately 27,000 which is 3,500 more than for the preceding year. However, I do emphasise to the honourable gentleman that this number of returning migrants must be seen against the record number of migrants who will come to Australia during the course of this year. As I mentioned in the House yesterday at question time, the number of new arrivals is confidently expected to be 184,000, which well exceeds the target of 175,000. This means that the achievement during the course of the current financial year will be 8,000 migrants more than last year’s record total and 9,000 more than the target at which we have been aiming for the present financial year. After allowing for the increase in the number of returning settlers, which is estimated at 3,500 there will still bc a net gain of 5,000 over the preceding 12 months.
I and my Department are concerned at the returnee rate, and every effort is being made to ensure that it is kept at a minimum. At the same time, all honourable gentlemen will recognise that some degree of returnee rate is unavoidable. As the migration programme continues to attract increasing numbers in future years it is expected that that returnee rate will continue. In relation to the reasons for migrants returning to their homelands I point out that the studies which have been taken out indicate that rarely can these reasons be put down to single identifiable causes. Oftentimes the reason which is seen by the migrant to precipitate his return is simply the product of a number of general factors. In looking at this question one must appreciate that a number of people today recognise that we live in a time in which there is unparalleled mobility between countries, that a number of migrants do come to Australia without the intention of permanently remaining here, that some do pass on to other countries and that there are many migrants who return to their source countries for reasons which may be personal or related to their employment.
Our studies indicate that these reasons account for a substantial number of returning migrants. As to the balance - that is to say, those who return because they are dissatisfied with life in Australia - we know that a number, not long after returning home, seek again the opportunity to come to Australia. I can assure the honourable gentleman that this is not a matter which I or my Department regard with complacency. Regular studies are carried out on the returnee rale by the Immigration Advisory Council. These studies which date back to 1966 and which will continue next year indicate that the returnee rate, having regard to the experience in other countries with large migration programmes, is extremely satisfactory, lt compares favourably with the experience of other countries and it will continue to receive our particular attention.
Against this general background I conclude by saying simply that in future years no longer shall we be able to regard the story of migration with any degree of complacency because the bonus years of migration are over. It therefore behoves the Commonwealth and other sections of the Australian community, against the background of the increasing economic buoyancy of so many of the source countries which have produced our traditional numbers, to do more to ensure that we maintain the figures and increase them in future years. The Commonwealth Government is doing more, but this is a responsibility which is shared by the Commonwealth and the States, employers and employees, and the general community.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. In view of the intended phasing out of the use of the Woomera Rocket Range by the European Launcher Development Organisation can the Minister gave an indication of the future effect on the Woomera Rocket Range and the effect on the people now employed on the project?
– I know that my colleague the Minister for Supply has been vigorously considering the future of the Woomera Rocket Range to try to maintain a work load there for a facility which has its own importance for a number of areas as the honourable member would well know. The facility will remain. The extent of the future work load is very difficult to predict but it is worth noting that the new joint station being built close to Woomera will have some impact on the general work load in the area. This will, to some extent, compensate for any run down in the Woomera Rocket Range. I will ask my colleague, the Minister for Supply, whether more precise information can be provided.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. Is his Department considering installing air-conditioning in the new black cars to be bought for use in Canberra? Would it not be far cheaper and achieve the same end by buying white cars without air-conditioning? Will he inform his colleague the Minister for Supply that the opinion commonly held in the bush is that anyone who voluntarily drives around in a black car is soft in the head?
– I would be prepared to convey that message to my colleague the Minister for Supply but for the fact that many of my friends living in country areas in the electorate which I represent of their own free will choose to own black cars. V am sure they are not soft in the head. When 1 am buying cars for use in Canberra the first thing I take into account is the economics of the deal. If a manufacturer places before me a proposition which incidentally includes the provision of air-conditioning in the car and it is an attractive proposition which means that at the end of the car’s departmental life I can sell it at a higher price than I otherwise would. I am interested in the deal. The Department is buying 37 new cars and they will bc equipped with air-conditioning, lt so happens that I am making a better deal for the taxpayer in this way.
As far as the colour is concerned, it seems to me that around the world, including every tropical country I have visited, ceremonial cars used by governments are black. The basis on which the honourable member makes his judgment that there is some advantage in not having black cars cannot altogether stand up. I am sure that people who live ia the tropics are equally as sensitive to driving conditions as people who live in the bush from where the honourable member comes. I think honourable members will agree that in Canberra we are very fortunate in having a good team of Commonwealth drivers. Having regard to the shortage of labour and the difficulty in obtaining good drivers I must consider not only passenger comfort but also the comfort of the drivers if we are to maintain a good driving force.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that 22nd April was celebrated by millions of Americans as Earth Day and that this massive protest was against the poisoning of the atmosphere, pollution of rivers and streams, destruction of wildlife and the total rape of man’s environment? Is he aware that vast numbers of Australians are similarly concerned with the growing evidence of despoliation of Australia’s environment? Would he support such a demonstration by a protest movement or a moratorium if one were to be organised in Australia, or does he agree with the delegate at the Continental Congress of the Daughters of the American Revolution who said: ‘Subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them’?
– The answer to the first question - was I aware that 22nd April was dedicated to protect the riches of the earth - is yes. The answer to the second question is yes. The answer to the third question - would I support a moratorium or demonstration to do the same thing in Australia - is no. What I would support is the motion proposed by the honourable member for Henty which suggests that this House should appoint a select committee to go into the problem in order to solve it. That appears to be, from the legislature, the best way to solve these problems rather than marching in the streets.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service will recall that last week he announced that arising out of discussions between unions and employers a dispute settling procedure had been evolved for adoption in industry. 1 ask the Minister whether this procedure related to the penal clauses of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, whether those clauses were discussed by the parties in relation to dispute settling procedures, and if so with what result.
– Last year there was a circumstance in which a trade union leader was placed in gaol as a result of proceedings for contempt before the Commonwealth Industrial Court. Following that event there were widespread stoppages of work. Following that the Government, the trade union movement and the employers’ organisations came together for the purpose of discussing the penal clauses. My colleagues, the then Minister for Labour and National Service and the then Attorney-General, had discussions with the employers and the unions. Discussions continued for a period of time about what I would term sanctions but what are normally called penal clauses. In early December last year it became apparent that there could be no further discussions on the penal clauses because in the interim period the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress had reached a conclusion that the trade union movement would have nothing to do with penal clauses. Thereafter the discussions continued solely on dispute settling procedures. They are quite unrelated.
I would hope that the dispute settling procedures will be endorsed by the interstate executive of the ACTU which meets next Monday. I expect they will be, because the negotiating team comprised the President, the two Vice-Presidents, and the Secretary of the ACTU, plus another very senior member of the trade union movement, Mr Devereaux of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. If they are adopted as dispute settling procedures they are quite separate. I think action will have to be taken in relation to the penal clauses or sanctions. I have reached the point where I have concluded my own thinking about them and I now have before the Government recommendations as to certain amendments to the sanctions clauses. Essentially there are two difficulties about the sanctions at the moment, and they are interrelated. One is the immediacy of their availability and the other is that merits cannot be considered. What we should attempt to do is to cure these two vices.
– I ask the Minister foi External Territories whether he will obtain and table the text of the statement made al the Waigani seminar by the ViceChancellor of the University of Papua and New Guinea, formerly the Assistant Administrator of the Territory, concerning the interference by the Administration with the proceedings and deliberations of the House of Assembly select committees, the present one and the last one, on constitutional development. Will the Minister also make a ministerial statement on the matter so that before he introduces the legislation forecast in his ministerial statement on 4th March honourable members may discuss these disturbing allegations by a man of Dr Gunther’s exceptionally long experience and high position?
– In answer to the question of the Leader of the Opposition about the reported statement of Dr Gunther at the Waigani seminar, yes, I will be very happy to make a statement next week provided that I have the permission of the House to do so. I have a full recollection of the first time I met that first select committee. [ think it was in 1965, at a preliminary meeting at which Dr Gunther was present. Mr Guise was chairman. The first thing the chairman asked me was: What form of constitutional advancement or procedure would the Commonwealth accept? My answer was: ‘It is not for the Commonwealth to say what form of constitutional development you require but for you to tell us what you want’. My recollection of the reaction of the committee was: ‘Well, we would like you to give us some sort of guide lines as to what you feel would be a satisfactory operation’. I would refer the Leader of the Opposition to a statement made in this House on 21st April 1966 following the preliminary meeting and after I had made a submission to Cabinet on possible guide lines for the proceedings. That statement is probably available in the Library or wherever these statements are kept. It shows that Ministers of the Government met and discussed with the committee the various aspects of future constitutional change. Yes, Mr Speaker, I will be very happy to make a statement when I get the full facts of the case.
– 1 direct my question to the Prime Minister. 1 draw his attention to the announcement in the daily Press that Mr Hermes, the Liberal candidate for the Australian Capital Territory electorate at the coming by-election, has pressed for a separate Minister of State for the Australian Capital Territory. When considering this proposal will the Prime Minister give similar consideration to appointing a separate Minister for the Northern Territory as the two Territories have nothing in common but the names?
– I think the honourable member is slightly wrong. They have something in common besides the name - they have the same Minister. For the rest, these are clearly matters of policy which I could not attempt to answer at question time.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. 1 ask: Has he received reports that a leading university physician has recommended regular psychiatric examination of politicians? Has Australia signed a document which states that war begins in the minds of men and it is in the minds of men that peace must be constructed? In conformity with this does be agree with historians and psychiatrists that the expressed motives for war policies are inaccurate and that sterotyped attitudes to unfamiliar groups of persons are the cause of prolonging war and making war? Will he seek a report from psychiatrists regarding the advisability of Australia’s foreign policy makers including in their councils one or more persons with psychiatric training?
– I have over the years been most interested in the types of theories about the causes of war which have been alluded to by the honourable member. I have myself, however, never been able, although I have studied them, to take them very seriously. I agree that they must be given some weight but as single causes of war I do not attach very much importance to them. However there is a very able psychiatrist attached to my Department and if his services would be useful in relation to the honourable gentleman I would be glad to make him available.
– Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been drawn to the fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission frequently has committed a breach of the Broadcasting and Television Act by granting free advertising time during ‘This Day Tonight’ and ‘Four Corners’ programmes? Is he aware that over a period many business organisations have been getting free plugs on these programmes to the detriment of their competitors? Is he aware that this procedure is considered dishonourable by the people affected and that it creates suspicions of irregular practices?
– I have not had my attention drawn to the matters to which the honourable member refers, but it would seem to me almost impossible to produce certain television programmes without some public advertisements appearing. I think particularly in terms of the sporting programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission which are telecast from showgrounds and sporting grounds and which cover national championships of one type and another. As an illustration 1 mention the national tennis championships. Obviously around the courts are advertisements relating to tennis racquets, tennis balls and similar articles. I do not know how it would be possible to televise such an event without these advertisements being seen on the screen.
Many people commend public affairs programmes on television. I appreciate that there are others who have extreme views about various types of programme, but it would be impossible to give a proper coverage of the programme content without some advertisements appearing on the screen. The honourable member has been, to me, a frequent protester about the ABC. I felt that it would be desirable that he, and others who are greatly critical, should have a discussion with the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I endeavoured to arrange such a discussion and I understand an invitation was issued to the honourable member but that he was not prepared to accept it. While there is criticism of the ABC, I feel that much of it flows from some of the proverbial hares which are released by members of the Press gallery. Sometimes they are picked up by other members. Sometimes they are released to many newspapers in Australia and much of the criticism that flows, flows because of that criticism. I am reminded that recently there was a complaint by Mr Cowan, who is the Director of FACTS - that is, the Federation of Australian Commercial Telecasting Stations - in relation to a programme on Fiji which apparently advertised some overseas airline. The suggestion was that the ABC crew had used that airline to get to Fiji. In fact, it did not. It seems to me that in much of this particular area there is unjustifiable criticism. I am always prepared to take a matter up with the ABC. I am prepared to discuss any aspect with any honourable member, not on the basis of interfering with the ABC but at least asking for explanations which I believe the community is entitled to have.
– My question to the Prime Minister is apropros the question asked earlier by the honourable member for Robertson. Would the right honourable gentleman agree that politicians could make a worthwhile contribution to the elimination of air pollution by limiting their speeches to 5 minutes?
– I think it depends entirely on the politicians.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Education and Science been directed to a letter in the ‘Canberra Times’ this morning and to an article in that newspaper several days ago referring to an alleged rejection by Cabinet of a request from the Australian National University Council for increased student membership of that Council? Can the Minister say whether there is any basis for such a conclusion to be drawn?
-I did see the correspondence in the newspaper and the prior article as well as a statement by the President of the Students Representative Council suggesting that the Government had rejected completely out of hand a request for an increase in student representation. This is not quite a correct statement of the position. A large number of suggested amendments to the statute of the University were put forward to the Government by the Council of the University. I restrict my remarks to those dealing with student representation. In the result, the Government decided to bring before the Parliament amendments which would liberalise the conditions on which undergraduate students could go on to the Council, and to increase the representation. In particular it was decided to reduce the age of a person eligible to sit on the Council from 21 years, as it is at present, to 18 years and also to eliminate another existing requirement, namely, that a representative of the undergraduates should himself be a graduate. This will permit undergraduates to sit on the Council. It was decided also to increase the student representation by appointing the President of the Students Representative Council ex-officio to the Council of the University in addition to the existing elected member that the students have. This means that they would have 2 representatives.
It is true that in the recommendations of the Council there was a suggestion for a further elected member. This would have made a total of 3. That recommendation was not accepted by the Government. On the other hand, I would point out that in a Council which, if these amendments are accepted, will number 41 people there is no question of voting blocs or anything of that kind. I suggest that the strength of representation will depend upon the calibre and quality of the representatives of the undergraduates. I have no reason to suppose that they will not be very strongly and well represented.
– Is the Treasurer aware that recently a working housewife was fined for leaving her children unattended while she worked in industry? ls it a fact that section 51 of the Income Tax Act prescribes that all losses and outgoings to the extent to which they are incurred in gaining and/or producing assessable income are allowable deductions? Is the honourable gentleman aware that where a spouse works and employs a domestic servant the outgoing is interpreted as being an expense of a private and personal nature? In view of the magistrate’s action in the case to which I have referred, will the Treasurer amend section 51 of the Act to provide that outgoings of income in the employment of domestics will become an allowable deduction for taxation purposes?
– This suggestion does open up the wide field of established income tax law practice. If the honourable member will submit to me the details of his suggestion and the changes that he would propose, I will have his suggestion examined in detail and also will submit it at the appropriate time with other recommended changes in taxation law in connection with the Budget. 1 would ask the honourable member, if he intends doing this, that it be done with expedition.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that a taxpayer who receives only, say, 20% of his income from primary production is regarded for taxation deduction purposes as a primary producer and receives primary producer taxation deductions calculated on his total income, irrespective of its source? If so, I ask: Will the Treasurer investigate means of correcting this anomaly?
– As with so many other matters, this matter is not quite as simple as it appears on the surface. It so happens that a good many primary producers do have a taxable income from their non-farming activities that is greater than their taxable income from farming activities. Their farm income in the first place is written down considerably for taxation purposes by very numerous deductions for primary production which the Government has built up over the years in the taxation laws.
In many cases, people whose whole lives are spent on farms and farming properties do gain greater income out of some outside investment than they do out of farming income per se. This is particularly so at the moment. A large number of people who may be thought of nominally as Pitt Street farmers are in fact genuine full time primary producers who have been unfortunate particularly in the last few years not to earn as much income from this strenuous activity as they have from a perhaps limited number of investments which they have been able to acquire.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration a question arising from the clause in the migration agreement with Yugoslavia which provides that Yugoslav migrants will not be called up for military service in Australia if they are 20 years and 1 month or more at the time when they arrive in Australia. I ask the Minister: Is this clause to be inserted in future migration agreements which his Department makes, for instance, as a result of his own pending visit to some of the migrant producing countries?
– In answer to the question posed by the Leader of the Opposition, I can tell him that the clause to which he refers relative to the obligations in relation to national service of Yugoslavs coming to Australia under the assisted programme, is the same in terms of scope and intent as that which appears in earlier migration programme agreements which would be well known to the honourable gentleman. In fact, the same type of provision could be included in future agreements made with countries concerning immigration. It is the same type of agreement. There is nothing new in it whatsoever.
– ls the Minister for Primary Industry aware that considerable unrest exists among Commonwealth meat inspectors owing to the heavy demands being placed upon them to cope with meat exports to the United States of America? Are these conditions of overwork the cause of the decline in the standard of inspections referred to by the Minister in reply to a question last Tuesday? Is the Minister aware that many Commonwealth meat inspectors are being denied their annual leave, sick leave and long service leave owing to this labour shortage? At the request of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union. I ask the Minister whether he will invite a representative from that un on to attend any further conferences on this crisis. Finally, what action is contemplated to give employment to the hundreds of people facing dismissal as a result of this breakdown in killing centres in my own electorate and in centres such as Ballarat, Geelong, Portland, Wodonga and Shepparton in Victoria?
– What the honourable gentleman says about the inspection staff at meat works is quite true. There is a severe shortage of inspectors. They are required to work overtime. In many instances I have not been able to give them their annual leave to which they are entitled because giving it to them would have meant meat works having to close down because they would not be able to operate to the standards that are necessary to meet export requirements. So we have a major problem. We have been desperately trying to recruit more inspectors. We have recruited more, but we seem to be losing them as fast as we recruit them. All I want to tell the honourable gentleman is that this is a matter that gives me great concern and we are doing all we can to try to cope with it.
In the second part of the question the honourable member asks whether this is the reason for the rejection of certain Australian meat going into the American market, namely, mutton. It is only mutton on which there is a total embargo. In answer lo that part of the question I would say no. This situation has been aggravated by the fact that a large quantity of Australian mutton going onto the United States market has beer rejected. Almost 1 million lb was rejected up until the middle of April. This rejection has been on the ground that the mutton is not meeting the standards laid down under the United States Wholesome Meat Act. lt has been rejected because it has been unclean. Particles of foreign matter have been found in the meat and there have been certain organisms which are objectionable to the United States authorities.
But I would like to make it clear to the House that our inspection standards are high. They were laid down originally to meet the British requirements. Any talk that the meat is not wholesome or that it contains organisms which arc harmful to human beings is not correct. There has been quite a lot of talk about caseaus lymph adenitis and cysticercus ovis which have been detected. These are not harmful to human beings. However, the United States Administration will not allow any meat with evidence of them to enter the country. The main problem we have with our mutton chains is trying to correlate the viscera with the carcass. Many of our abattoirs are not geared to do this. Yesterday there was a meeting in Canberra of the Meat Industry Advisory Committee in an endeavour to overcome this problem. Frankly, it said that some of the requirements that have been asked of us are almost impossible to meet. But we propose to try to find some sort of compromise between the standards that the United States Department of Agriculture wants and what we are able to prescribe. 1 conclude by saying that I am very conscious of the inspection problem and will do whatever I can to solve it.
– I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper - in limited numbers.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. At least 5 journalists from as far as Griffith, New South Wales, have informed me that the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) has issued a Press release stating that in the House of Representatives I challenged him to debate. This, Mr Speaker, is the complete reverse of the truth, as Hansard will confirm. I now quote the following from my speech, as reported at page 2112 of Hansard of 13th May 1970:
The honourable member for Riverina said, in one of his flamboyant moments: 1 do not mind who disagrees with me, Mr Speaker.
He does not mind at all. He went on:
I will debate wilh them at any time and at any place.
I ask the honourable member whether that is true. Will you debate at any time in any place?
– Why not?
Mi TURNBULL- That is not the question.
Will the honourable member for Riverina stand by what he said as reported in Hansard? Will he debute wilh them al any time in any place?
– All right.
Mi TURNBULL- All right. 1 accept the chal lenge. I name the place as outside the office of the ‘Bridge’ newspaper in Barham, New South Wales, and the time as 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 26th May 1970.
In the terms of the honourable member’s challenge to debate ‘at any time and at any place’ 1 was able to decide when and where the debate would be held. Finally - I would suggest that this is very important - it is known that the challenger’s opponent is nearly always the champion.
– Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance. Is this a rematch of the TunneyDempsey fight?
-Order! No point of order arises.
– by leave - This is not a statement on the control of off-shore minerals or on the need to decide where proper legal authority for that control should lie. That is best left for a discussion of the Bill. But last Friday the former Minister for National Development, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), placed before the House his interpretation of meetings with the States and his belief that the Commonwealth Government had broken commitments which he had made with the States. I think that that interpretation is mistaken and 1 believe 1 should put on the record the Government’s interpretation in this matter. In February 1969 Cabinet decided that the Commonwealth should legislate to assert total rights over the seabed outside the 3-mile limit. It deputed the Minister for National Development to inform the State Ministers for Mines of this decision. This, Sir, was not an offer to the States. It was not an approach which said: ‘If you agree to us legislating for control outside the 3-mile limit we will agree to you controlling inside the 3-mile limit’. It was simply a clear and unequivocal statement of intention on the part of the Government.
At the Australian Minerals Council meeting of 3rd March, the Minister made a statement setting this out very clearly. The statement begins on page 39 of the transcript and the significant words are on page 41. They are:
As to off-shore minerals other than petroleum, the Commonwealth is of the view that it should proceed on the footing that it enjoys total rights outside the three-mile limit, lt proposes to legislate in pursuance of this position.
On page 44 of the transcript the Minister was asked:
When do you intend to legislate?
And he replied:
No date has been set but I assume it will be done as soon as is reasonably possible.
From that time forth all the discussions and all the proposed arrangements were held against the background that the Commonwealth had announced its intention to legislate and to legislate as soon as was reasonably possible. The Minister undertook at that meeting that there would be further discussions wilh the Stales before the legislation was actually introduced. But those discussions were not to be on whether the Commonwealth would legislate, or when it would legislate, because clear statements of intention had been made on that. They were to be discussions on consequential matters which would arise as a result of the legislation we had announced - matters of administration, royalties and things of that kind. Such discussions were in fact held in September 1969. The March 1969 meeting closed with the ordinary, normal, machinery provision that the next meeting of the ^Minerals Council, to discuss these matters, would be held in Perth in February 1970. [hen on 30th July the former Minister for National Development wrote to me. He said that he wished to write to the States and indicate that he was unable to hold a meeting before the one scheduled for February 1970, and he also wished to write to them to tell them that the Commonwealth would not legislate unilaterally until there had been an opportunity to discuss fully and frankly the views he had expressed to them at the March meeting. I replied on 18th August raising no objection to his writing to the
States on the general matter of the meeting. However, I said:
I would want to avoid if at ali possible a situation where the Commonwealth became committed to long drawn out discussion or consultation with the States on this matter. For this reason I would prefer that you eliminate from your proposed letter the suggestion that the Commonwealth will not legislate unilaterally until after the completion of full and frank discussions with the States on this matter.
I think the Minister fully understood that I did not want to give any assurance to the States that we would defer legislation, for after receiving my letter the Minister did not write to the States in the terms he had proposed, or, indeed, write to them at all. Further, I think the Minister was in no doubt that the introduction of legislation did not depend on prior agreement with the States, for his quotation from his letter lo me of 30lh July is immediately followed by a paragraph in the same letter, which reads:
In the meantime my Department ia pressing on with the basic work necessary for the preparation of legislation. This will be of value whether or not we eventually succeed in achieving an amicable arrangement wilh the States.
The ‘amicable arrangement’ referred to was on the regime - not on whether we should legislate. The Minister then arranged, or agreed to, a meeting of the Minerals Council to be held on 26th September 1969. That meeting was held against the background I have just outlined. That is. the State Ministers had been told by the Minister that we proposed to legislate as soon as possible. The discussions which had been suggested were not discussions on whether or when we should legislate, but discussions on the administrative and other consequential effects of our legislation on what is called the regime. And the Minister was proceeding on the basis that the introduction of legislation did not depend on agreement being reached with the States.
I can see no evidence in the records before the House that in the September transcript there was anything to show that this position was changed. The Minister does not retract his previous statement that we intended to legislate. Nor did he retract the statement that we intended to legislate as soon as possible. He did agree that there would be further discussions. There have been further discussions and I have no doubt that there will continue to be more discussions. But I can see no commitment that he would delay our legislation until after those discussions had been held. In short, Sir, it seems to me that the transcript shows that wc were committed to further discussions but not to prior discussions.
What happened was that the State Ministers, through Mr Griffith, made an opening statement expressing the view that the petroleum legislation should be taken as the model for further legislation. That is, it was suggested that no attempt should be made to discover where sovereignty and responsibility in this matter legally reside - which was the object of the Commonwealth Government’s legislation. The Minister undertook to place these views before Cabinet and, Mr Speaker, he had verbal authority to say that he would place those views before Cabinet. This was done by the incoming Minister. Cabinet considered them carefully, but it decided that the question of legal responsibility should in the national interest be determined.
That meeting of 26th September then discussed, from page 6 of the transcript until page 39, the method by which new titles should be granted in what was called the ‘interim’ period, or the ‘interregnum’. That is, I take it, the period between the date of the discussions and the date when Commonwealth legislation was to be introduced. That discussion on the method of issuing titles arose because the Minister had told the States in March that pending the introduction of the legislation he had announced to them he did not wish the States to issue new titles outside the 3-mile limit unless the Commonwealth had first concurred.
The States did not wish to accept this. They wished to issue titles themselves out to the continental shelf, with the Commonwealth merely having the authority to object if there was a Commonwealth head of power involved. It was this matter with which the discussions of 26th September were concerned, from, as I have said, page 6 to page 39 of the transcript. I can see in them nothing to substantiate the claim that they contained any commitment, or any agreement, as to whether or when the Commonwealth should legislate. But the former Minister thinks he does see in them passages which show he entered into a commitment. So I will examine these passages which he quotes, for while I do not for a moment reflect on his own beliefs, I do not think that the passages he quotes support his own beliefs. He quotes a passage from his letter to mc, which reads:
I will suggest that the matter be taken up at the next scheduled meeting of the Minerals Council, which is set down for February 1970.
And he says rightly that I did not object to this. But this means merely that the Minister had written to me saying he did not feel that he could propose a firm date for a meeting before February and the matter’ referred to is the discussion on the administrative arrangements consequent on the Minister’s announcement that we intended to legislate. Next he quotes a passage from page 18 of the transcript in which he agrees to hold a meeting in December, instead of February, if the States wish. This is evidence that there was to be another meeting or meetings, but that question was never in doubt. In fact there have been meetings and there will, I am sure, be more, but it is not a commitment that nothing would be done by the Commonwealth before there was a further meeting or meetings. After all, we had already announced our intentions to legislate as soon as possible and discussions had to be held on matters flowing from that discussion.
The former Minister next quotes Mr Griffith on page 24 of the transcript:
I have pressed you to a meeting in December and with this in mind - the possibility of the status quo arrangements being continued until Iiic Commonwealth and the States come to a mutual arrangement - I would gladly withdraw and suggest you call the meeting when you are ready.
The former Minister asks: ‘Are not those the words of a man who believes he has entered into an agreement?’ But the transcript shows that the answer to that question must be no, because what Mr Griffith was saying to the Minister was: ‘Let us - the States - continue to issue titles as we are doing at present. Do not change that during the interregnum. If you will agree to this I will not press for an early meeting.’ But the Minister replied that he could not agree to the suggestion as put and that if the States issued titles without first conferring with the Commonwealth - ‘It is on your own head.’ Mr Griffith at once replied - page 26 of the transcript:
It looks to me as if you will not come our way at all. You are not proposing to budge an inch from the March statement. You are not prepared to give us anything.
Mr Speaker, those are not the words of a man who believes he has entered into an agreement. The next passage quoted, from page 30, is an exchange between Mr Griffith and Mr Bowen which shows nothing except that Mr Griffith was asking what would happen under the legislation which the Commonwealth had said it proposed to introduce to assert control outside the 3-mile limit. The last passage quoted by the Minister arises in this way: The Minister stated on page 36 that in the interim period the Commonwealth could not go further than to say that it would support titles issued by the States if there had been consultations with the Commonwealth, but he would not guarantee to support such titles if there had not been consultations. Mr Griffith said he was prepared to leave that matter on that basis and suggested not that the States would accept a later meeting to meet the convenience of the Commonwealth but that they wanted a later meeting - in May - so that there would be an opportunity for some of the members to visit the north of Western Australia at that time. To this the Minister replied:
All right, and we would have an interim meeting as soon as we are ready to discuss this particular matter.
Since the particular matter discussed for the last 30 pages of the transcript had been the method of issuing titles in the interim period I think it is difficult to think that this particular matter can refer to anything but that.
Sir, I have spent some time on these excerpts quoted by the former Minister because they are the evidence he produces to suggest a breach of commitment by the Commonwealth. I do not think that they support that charge. They do show a commitment to further discussions. But the Government does not think they show a commitment to refrain from announcing legislation before those discussions. Mr Fife, a member of the Council, summed it up on page 39 of the transcript when talking about the Press release which might be made. He said:
I think all we need to say is thai we have asked the Commonwealth to agree to a proposition similar to the off-shore petroleum legislation. Secondly the Commonwealth has agreed to consider this proposal.
That was all. Yet I do not believe the honourable member for Farrer would make the statements he has made unless he thought he had a basis for them. We have only the transcripts to go on. It may be that there was an impression not shown by the transcripts. Maybe there was an impression left around the table that there would be discussions - not just discussions but discussions before the Commonwealth proceeded on the course or announced again the course which it had previously announced, with additions. But the records do not show it. All they show is that while there was an undertaking for further discussion - which has taken place on some matters - there was no undertaking recorded by the Minister on behalf of the Commonwealth that that legislation would be deferred until after those discussions.
But, even assuming that there was an impression, an understanding, a feeling in the minds of the people around the table, which does not appear in the records of the meeting - let us assume that that is so - what in fact flows from that? lt would mean, on that assumption, that there was an impression in the Minerals Council that before further discussion the Minerals Council would be informed of the Commonwealth’s decision on their proposals to it. Well, the Minerals Council was not so informed, lt was not called together. Tt was not so informed although each individual member of the Council was individually informed. So I suggest that even if that impression was there - and this is not evident in the transcript - that is the most that can be made from that approach. So 1 believe that the records sustain no charge of ill faith. I think the most that can be said of any impression, if there was any, was that the Council was not called together to be told of the Commonwealth’s rejection of its proposals for petroleum legislation.
I think that all these papers arc before the House for analysis by each honourable member. I believe that that seems a flimsy ground on which to accuse the Government of dishonour and it is not supported by the record. I do not doubt for one moment that the former Minister has given his interpretation with sincerity and that he has expressed his views of the feeling of the meeting at which he presided - and he could well be supported by others. I do not doubt that he has given that interpretation with sincerity. But, Sir, so has the Government on the record which it has placed before these Houses of Parliament. 1 present the following paper:
Off-shore Legislation - Commonwealth-State discussions - Ministerial Statement, 15 May 1970
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– I have listened carefully to every word that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has stated in an endeavour to justify his attitude, and that of his Cabinet, for a breach of faith - which is crystal clear - on an undertaking given by the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), the previous Minister for National Development, to the States and which was accepted in good faith by those States. The Prime Minister has set out to confuse the issue, to play with words and to deliberately try to misinterpret, by words, the aims and objectives and undertakings given by the former Minister for National Development and accepted by all State Ministers.
The Prime Minister’s whole case rests on his statement that the previous Minister for National Development did in fact commit the Commonwealth to further discussions but did not commit the Commonwealth to prior discussions. How absurd and naive. Does the Prime Minister really believe that we are going to swallow that? The Prime Minister is trying to tell this House that the former Minister for National Development did not know the meaning of the undertaking which he gave. More absurdly, he is trying to tell the House that the 6 State Ministers also did not understand the undertaking given - the undertaking which they accepted. The Prime Minister’s attempt through stubborness and, I think arrogance to justify his extraordinary behaviour, and that of his Cabinet in a deliberate breach of confidence, of faith, is schoolboyish. It is a disgrace.
Motion of Censure
Accordingly, there is no alternative but for me to move an amendment of no confidence in the behaviour of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet on this matter in a deliberate and flagrant breach of a serious commitment entered into between the Commonwealth and the States by a responsible Cabinet Minister, acting in good faith, and accepted by responsible State Ministers. Accordingly I move, as an amendment:
That the following words be added to the motion: ‘and that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet lack the confidence of the House because they failed to honour a commitment made to the States by the previous Minister for National Development, acting for and on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, that there would be further consultation with the States before the Commonwealth Government introduced any legislation on the territorial sea and continental shelf.’
– ls the amendment seconded?
– Yes, I second the amendment.
– Mr Speaker, this motion, if it is now in order - it has been seconded - would be accepted by the Government as a motion of censure which would supersede all other business.
– Since becoming the Prime Minister of Australia the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has exhibited a sort of cavalier, contemptuous arrogance for those who disagree wilh his convictions. He seems to believe that he is always right. A Prime Minister has the right to do so if he wishes but he docs so at his own political risk. Despite the powers of a Prime Minister of this nation, the person who holds that position has never possessed the right, nor will he ever possess the right in a democracy such as ours, to break and dishonour undertakings given or made for him or for his Government.
An intensive study of the official evidence on off-shore matters which is now available reveals that an unqualified and unambiguous agreement with the States was entered into by the previous Minister for National Development, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), acting on behalf of the Commonwealth Government and with the authority of the Cabinet. This undertaking, which committed the Commonwealth, was unreservedly understood and agreed to by every State Minister acting on behalf of his respective government. The essence of this undertaking was that before any legislative action would be taken on this matter the Commonwealth would consult with the States. The commitments entered into by a responsible Cabinet Minister were, firstly, that the Minister for National Development would arrange for the views of the States as expressed through the State Ministers to be considered by Federal Cabinet, and secondly, a meeting would be convened between the Commonwealth and the States to consider further the Commonwealth proposals because of the serious Commonwealth-State relationships in this proposition.
The proof of the Commonwealth’s pledge is revealed by the official records of the meeting held on 26th September, the letters exchanged between the Prime Minister and the previous Minister for National Development, and the subsequent bitter statements made by State Premiers and responsible State Ministers, all in condemnation of the Gorton Government for an inexcusable breach of faith. To argue that no breach of faith occured in the face of the official evidence, in the face of the State Ministers and State Premiers, is nothing more than a stubborn refusal to listen to the truth. The charges simply enunciated by the exMinister for National Development last Friday in this House when he condemned this Cabinet are true. They are fully substantiated by the official facts at the Commonwealth and State levels. They are fully substantiated by every State Government in this country. No person in this House should say that the words are not true. The words cannot be twisted to devise ambiguous meanings, as the Prime Minister has attempted to do. Six State Ministers and a former Federal Cabinet Minister have revealed the unpalatable facts that not only have the Prime Minister and his Cabinet breached a serious agreement, but the same Government has continued to maintain this attitude of Commonwealth infallibility. This type of behaviour and abuse of power is degenerating the national Parliament to a level where it is being openly treated with contempt by the State Governments and in fact by the people who elect us.
The evidence shows clearly that not only was a serious undertaking given by the Commonwealth to consult before any legislative action was taken but also the actual dates of the proposed future meetings were considered in detail by the Ministers present. It is patently clear that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet have been guilty of gross incompetence in the manner in which this high handed action has been conducted. Even if the Cabinet admitted that it was unaware of the firmness of the commitment until after the unilateral action had been taken by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, the inescapable conclusion to be reached is that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet are guilty of neglect and incompetence. This incompetence is illustrated further by the attitude to this whole affair of the former Attorney-General, now the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Bowen), who has adopted a rather strange silence in this matter. The former Attorney-General was present at the meeting between the Commonwealth and the States. He was present when the ex-Minister for National Development unreservedly committed the Commonwealth to this meeting prior to legislation. The former Attorney-General is a Cabinet Minister. Surely he was fully aware of the serious complications which would arise with the States at the time when Cabinet was considering its decision.
If the former Attorney-General did not warn the Prime Minister and his Cabinet of the undertakings to the States then he is guilty of incompetence. If he did in fact warn the Prime Minister and the Cabinet then the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, by ignoring the warning by the former Attorney-General, have shown a dictatorial and inexcusable abuse of power. I shall now deal with the new Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) who seems to be an uncomfortable pawn in this whole game. I find it incredible that the new Minister for National Development did not become aware of this undertaking until after the Cabinet had made its decision to legislate, that is, towards the end of February. In the words of the Minister for National Development uttered in Parliament last Friday:
The full details referred to by the honourable member for Farrer did not come to my knowledge until well after the Cabinet meeting . . .
He went on:
It was not until some time after that meeting that I realised that the previous Minister for National Development had firmly believed that an undertaking to discuss this matter further with the States had been given.
One would have thought that the Minister for National Development would at least have made himself familiar with the records of this most important meeting. The only excuse that can be offered on the part of the new Minister for National Development for this very curious and staggering omission of ministerial responsibility is that in this ruthless game of politics, of ministerial sackings, reappointments and new appointments, and reshuffling of portfolios, the new Minister had not time to do his homework. One must have grave doubts also whether the Minister for National Development had actually studied the official records before he made his statement in the House. If he had read them and digested their contents, why would he make the admission, after the document had been tabled, that he was not aware of the undertaking to the States until after the Cabinet decision had been made. The proof of the commitment is in the very documents which he tabled. If the Minister is telling the truth, then by his own admission he has clearly stated his neglect in not familiarising himself with the facts.
But let me say this: As a former senior public servant whose job it was to advise Ministers, I find it completley unacceptable to believe that officers of the Department of National Development did not acquaint the new Minister for National Development of the undertakings given by the previous Minister for National Development almost 5 months before this fateful Cabinet decision. I have not attempted to quote from the official records; this was done at length by the ex-Minister for National Development in this House last Friday. The evidence is there for all to see. In addition, last Friday I revealed the contents of a letter from the Victorian Minister for Mines, Mr J. C. M. Balfour, which completely substantiated the undertaking given by the previous Minister for National Development. The letter appears in last Friday’s Hansard in full, but I repeat thi.s part of it:
Is there any need for me to belabour to this House the mistrust that is presently being felt by State Governments on this matter, the bitterness towards the Prime Minister and his Cabinet because of this arrogant abuse of power. It is there in full to be seen in the minutes of the March meeting this year. I do not have time to quote those minutes now. Is it any wonder that the State Ministers treat this high handed attitude with some contempt?
Let me dwell on the position of the States in the matter because this is most important. Every State Government knew, after 26th September, that before any legislative action would be taken by the Commonwealth the States would be consulted in order to achieve maximum co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth. This undertaking was given by the former Minister for National Development. Because of this unqualified Commonwealth assurance the States did not engage in any public controversies or criticism of the Commonwealth along the lines expressed by the Ministers at the meeting of 26th September. They did not engage in lobbying or pressure tactics with the Commonwealth because they respected the views of the Commonwealth and they respected the undertaking entered into between them and the Commonwealth. But the Prime Minister and his Cabinet nevertheless, taking advantage of the truce, seized the opportunity to go the whole hog by making a Cabinet decision to legislate for the ownership and control of all resources below the low water mark. Perhaps the Prime Minister thought this was a smart political move which would catch the States completely asleep. But responsible governments do not adopt such dishonourable tactics. They do not act in this way. In effect, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, through what it was evidently believed was smart politics, scuttled the States. They ratted on promises made by a responsible Cabinet Minister and accepted by the States. Is it any wonder that the State Ministers treated this dishonourable action with dismay and contempt - contempt expressed publicly.
Let me quote just one reaction in the time that I have left. The Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in Queensland, Dr Delamothe, who is the Queensland Minister for Justice - and this is recorded officially in the minutes of March this year - said:
There has been an arrant and, I believe, considered breach of faith on the part of the Commonwealth.
Mr Speaker, by continuing with this display of stubborn, unrelenting arrogance, by refusing to admit that he was wrong, by refusing to admit that the former Minister for National Development is right, the Prime Minister is denigrating his Cabinet, his Party and this Parliament to an intolerable situation. This is a Cabinet of dishonour. It cannot be trusted. The Prime Minister, by his dictatorial and unrelenting action, which has been backed by a subservient Cabinet, has revealed to the nation and the Parliament, including members of the coalition Liberal-Country Party, that he and his Cabinet are not fit to honourably govern this country. How can any person, let alone a State government now, ever trust this Cabinet when serious promises which have been made have been so flagrantly dishonoured? This Cabinet cannot be trusted. It is unfit to govern this country and the Prime Minister, the principal actor in this sorry, sordid affair has shown that he should not be the Prime Minister of this nation.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Speaker. I would just like to clear up a point made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). During his comments he made a statement which would indicate that I had given an impression to the House that I had not received all the necessary information from officers of my Department. This is entirely incorrect, Mr Speaker. The officers of my Department who attended the meetings concerned did at all times carry out their duties and provided the information that was required both to my predecessor, to the best of my knowledge, and, certainly as far as I was concerned, they provided the information that I required. The statement that the honourable member quoted from Hansard was taken out of context. It was following on a series of statements that I was making in explanation at that time. I point out that my statement was being made without any previous preparation and without reference to other documents at the time. It was a recountaI, to the best of my recollection, of the incidents as they occurred.
The honourable member for Dawson raised the question about whether or not I was in possession of full detailed information until after the Cabinet meeting. The reference I made is quite correct. I did indicate that it was not until after I had been meeting some of the State Mines Ministers that I became aware of their strong feelings on this matter. I took advantage of the opportunity at that time to study the minutes of both meetings - the meeting in March as well as the meeting in September - in addition to the extracts which I had previously used for briefing material when the matter had been discussed in Cabinet.
The other reference I made, as far as the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) was concerned, was also entirely correct, because I had not seen or spoken to the honourable member at all until I met him at a Party meeting well after the Cabinet meeting, when I became aware from what he said then, of his very firm feelings in relation to this matter. I repeat again that what was quoted today was perhaps taken mistakenly out of context. But the statements I made were entirely correct at the time.
– Mr Speaker-
-Does the honourable member desire to make a personal explanation?
– The immediate question is that the words proposed to be added be so added.
– We have listened to the usual exaggerated language from the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). His speech, of course, was based upon the assumption that the undertaking was in fact given and he proceeded from there with his usual kind of slightly inaccurate diatribe that we have become accustomed to in this House. Of course, one would expect him to endeavour to screw the maximum political advantage for his Party out of this matter. But I think the House is entitled to a more objective debate on a matter of this kind. It is true that I was present at the meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers on 26th September 1969 in my then capacity of Attorney-General. To this meeting the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) has asserted he gave an undertaking on behalf of the Commonwealth. He now claims that that undertaking has been dishonoured. I think the House is entitled to know my view, as one present at that meeting, as to whether such an undertaking was given. I want to say at once that 1 do not believe it was. Not only was it not my impression, but I have read and reread, with anxious care, the transcript record of what was said at that meeting and I cannot find anywhere in it any such undertaking.
It is. of course, clear that if a Commonwealth Minister dealing with State Ministers does give an undertaking on behalf of the Commonwealth within the scope of his portfolio, then the Government is bound to honour it, I do not think any Minister or any member of this Parliament would dispute that position. And of course, it is not a question of whether there is an agreement which is enforceable in the courts.That does not arise in that type of case. It is simply a question of honourable dealing between governments. So we come down to the real question - and really the only question in debate here - which is whether in fact such an undertaking was given. What is it that the honourable member for Farrer asserts as the undertaking? He says that at this meeting on 26th September 1969 - and I quote from his statement as reported at page 1897 of Hansard of 8th May 1970- he undertook that:
Since this matter has been raised, as I have said, I have been through the transcript to find any such undertaking, and I can find nothing in the record which could be read that way. I am not speaking in any narrow sense; I am not looking for precise words or anything of that kind. I cannot find anything in the record of that meeting, nor can I recall anything which in the circumstances and in the context in which we were talking could fairly be interpreted as giving any such undertaking. Honourable members must accept that that is my recollection and my considered view. Of course, I do not know what was in the mind of the honourable member for Farrer at the time, and I do not question that he now honestly holds the belief that he did give such an undertaking. That is apparent, I think, to all who know him. But I can say only that I myself know of nothing in the objective facts and in the record which would support that view. Indeed, quite apart from the fact that there is nothing in the record which would support that view, there arc a number of indications in the facts which point in the other direction.
Honourable members have heard the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) record the history, to some degree, of this matter. There was the meeting of 3rd March 1969 which I did not attend but of which I have read the transcript. At that meeting the honourable member for Farrer, then the Minister for National Development, presented a written statement which is in the papers tabled, in which it was made quite clear, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, that the Commonwealth proposed to legislate, and discussion was to take place with the States on what would flow from that. At page 3 of the statement which he issued to that meeting, the honourable member for Farrer stated:
As (o off-shore minerals other than petroleum, the Commonwealth is of the view that it should proceed on the footing that it enjoys total rights outside the 3 mile limit. It proposes to legislate in pursuance of this position.
He later said - and I quote from lower down on page 3 of his statement:
However, as in petroleum, we feel that it would bc a pity to have separate administrations over territorial seabed and the outer continental shelf. We would hope that the States would be willing to administer the area beyond 3 miles from low water mark on behalf of the Commonwealth and that this administration might run concurrently with identical State legislation operating in the area from low water mark to the 3 mile limit. The competence and expertise of the State Mines Departments and their officers would be of considerable help in this matter.
He later went on to discuss the question of royalties. But the proposal put then was that the Commonwealth had decided to legislate outside the 3 mile limit. It was prepared, if the States legislated from low water mark to the 3 mile limit, to discuss the question of a regime for the administration of off-shore exploration for minerals other than petroleum, and this might take the form of a designated authority who might be a State officer deriving authority from both sets of legislation. The then Minister for National Development also said that royalties would be a matter for discussion, as with oil. The States took away that statement from the meeting of 3rd March 1969, and when they returned to the meeting of 26th September 1969, the first thing that occurred at the meeting, as honourable members will see from the transcript, was that they announced that the whole position which had been put in the statement on 3rd March was unacceptable to them. They used some quite strong language about it. They were shocked. It was unacceptable to them. The second point which they made was that they asked whether the Minister would take back to Federal Cabinet a proposal by them, a counter suggestion by them, that similar legislation should be passed by the Commonwealth and State Governments for exploration on off-shore minerals other than petroleum as had in fact been passed for petroleum.
There was some debate as to whether any undertaking would be given, whether there would be any agreement to take that back to Federal Cabinet. It is clear from the transcript that the then Minister for National Development gave such an undertaking to take it back to Cabinet. As the Prime Minister has said, that has, in fact, gone back to Cabinet, a decision has been given and the States have been notified of that decision, which was a rejection. That agreement was made and that agreement was carried out. The transcript then shows that they went on to a second matter, and that was what would happen to the grant of titles while there was no legislation of any type operating? There was a discussion, a very lengthy one which took up most of the meeting, on the procedure which would operate if the States granted titles, and, provided they referred the titles, before they granted them, to the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth stated it was prepared to agree to confirm them, whatever the regime ultimately established. That also was a matter finally agreed upon.
The rest of the meeting, one could say, was occupied to some degree by a discussion as to the date of the next meeting. We have all attended these meeting of Commonwealth Ministers with State Ministers. I have attended many meetings at which Mines Ministers were present to discuss off-shore oil legislation, meetings of Attorneys-General and meetings of Health Ministers, and I cannot recall one at which this type of discussion about the time of the next meeting did not take place. But it took place in the context rather of the machinery for getting together than in the context that there was any stipulation that nothing should be done until the next meeting time - which was then being discussed - arrived. That question was never raised. The State Minister: did not insist on it. It was never explicit. Indeed, I do not think that the honourable member for Farrer suggests that it was explicit. Rather it is his impression of the effect of talking about meeting.
I should have thought that had there been such a stipulation required by the States it would have been of some importance to them. But it is quite apparent from the record which has been tabled that the last thing which was done at that meeting on 26th September was to determine the communique. This is quite common at these meetings - to settle the communique, to be published to the Press, of what that meeting had in fact done. This took place; the communique was settled and has been published, and it is in the record of the papers tabled. The significant thing about this is that after some narrative, the communique recorded these understandings, it recorded the agreements that had been arrived at. It recorded the agreements I have mentioned and that there would be a reference back to Cabinet of the proposal of the States. It recorded the agreement for the interregnum period - because that was an agreement; it was an understanding; it was recorded.
But honourable members will see that the communique is strangely silent about this important suggested undertaking. It is not in the communique. Is this because it wai regarded as so unimportant, if it existed, that it was not worth mentioning in the communique? Is that the fact? I do not believe it. Or is it the fact that at that time, before the honourable member for Farrer had had this notion and communicated it very widely throughout the Commonwealth, that is at the end of the meeting, nobody believed that this particular undertaking had been given? It was a vitally important undertaking to the States if it was given. There is nothing expressed in the transcript suggesting that it was given. There is nothing in the communique which was prepared and published at the end of the meeting, and agreed on by the States and the Commonwealth, which contains a word of reference to it. My recollection, as 1 say, is that it was not given.
There is one other slight indication again as to the mistakenness of the honourable member for Farrer in thinking that this was given. In his statement to this House he referred to the correspondence between himself and the Prime Minister. It was made quite clear in the reply given by the Prime Minister that he did not wish if at all possible any undertaking such as has been suggested to bc given. The honourable member for Farrer perhaps thinks that he has breached those instructions. I am not suggesting that we would not be bound if he had, because the States did not know about the restriction on his authority. There was in fact this restriction on his authority. I do not believe that he did breach the instructions. Alternatively, can it be said that because there was in this instruction from the Prime Minister the words ‘Do not give this undertaking if at all possible’ that he was driven to the point where it no longer became possible to hold the position, so he whs compelled to give the undertaking?
If that is the position - and 1 understand from his statement in the House that it is his view of the position - I would think that somewhere in the transcript there would be a suggestion from the States that he ought to give the undertaking, that he was resisting it but finally was driven to the position where it was no longer possible to comply with the instructions. There is not one word in the transcript which suggests that he was being driven to that position. How on earth the honourable member could think that it had become impossible for him to carry out his instructions, I am completely at a loss to understand. Indeed, 1 do not believe that he did fail to carry out the instructions of the Prime Minister.
If the honourable member, who was then the Minister for National Development, did have to resile from the instructions and either because he was driven to it or considered himself driven to it then clearly this was an important matter. It was the one matter that the Prime Minister had thought was sufficiently serious to make the basis of his letter of instructions to the then Minister. I might add that the then Minister remained Minister for National Development for 1 day short of a month following this incident.
There is not the slightest suggestion that he ever told the Prime Minister that he had had to depart from the instruction or had had to give way. There is not the slightest suggestion of that in his explanation. Surely that is because, in fact, no such undertaking had been given and it was not necessary for him to tell the Prime Minister. Of course it was noi necessary. I know that after thinking about the matter the honourable member for Farrer subsequently came to his present beliefs. I repeat what I have said before: I myself believe that he honestly holds his present view. But I believe that he is entirely mistaken and I believe that this charge of dishonourable conduct against the Government is entirely without foundation.
– The Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen) assured the House that he had looked at the documents tabled last Friday wilh anxious care. I can well believe it. The documents show that at the second minerals conference which was held in March last year undertakings were given by the then Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn). The minutes also show that at the third minerals conference, which was held on the last day on which the House sat before the last general election, 26th September, there was no change made in the assurances - the undertakings - which had been given at the March meeting by the Minister for National Development. At that third meeting, the one on 26th September, the Minister for Education and Science was in atendance. He went along with the whole proceedings and agreed that the whole matter had to be put off because the election was pending. He also agreed that the matters which had been discussed at the meeting in March would have to wait until after the election had been concluded. There were 7 Liberal Mines Ministers in attendance at that meeting. All of them were under the very clear impression - and the minutes bear this out - that the undertakings given in March last year would govern the conduct of the Federal Government if it was returned in the forthcoming election.
It is true that at that time the Minister for Education and Science was not a member of the Cabinet. But he was the Attorney-General. He was a man trained to understand and to use words. He is the most experienced counsel in this Parliament. He knew what was happening. He must have read the minutes from the meeting of March last year. He knew the undertakings that were given at that meeting. There was no quibbling, no prevarication. They were quite clear. Every State and Federal Liberal Minister who was at thai meeting could have come to only one conclusion as a result of the words recorded - they were not challenged - at the meeting of March last year. The then AttorneyGeneral accompanied the Minister for National Development to the meeting on 26th September. He went along with their understanding of the position. The Attorney-General took part in the discussions which proposed that the legislation forecast at the previous March meeting would still be the basic form of the legislation. lt was also proposed that there be another meeting and that everything should be put in cold storage in the meantime. Well might the honourable member say that he has looked at these minutes with anxious care, because he went along with what had been decided at the March meeting although he was not there. He fully collaborated in the proceedings of 26th September. Now he is in the Cabinet and this censure motion is directed at the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and his Cabinet. The Minister for Education and Science is one of the guilty men in that Cabinet. He is one of the men who has been shown to have brought dishonour on this Government.
There should be no quibbling about the fact that there was no undertaking to nofity the Slates instead of consulting them. The undertaking was to consult with them before the Commonwealth introduced the legislation. The consultations were not just to be further consultations, as the Prime Minister now asserts; they were to be prior consultations. There is no escape by the Minister for Education and Science through the unworthy subterfuge that the Minister for National Development was exceeding his instructions. After all, the Attorney-General was in attendance at the meeting of 26th September. He may be presumed to have known what the Prime Minister’s instructions were. Even if one assumes that the then Minister for National Development exceeded his instructions, these instructions came to light not in any of the documents tabled last Friday but in the speech made by the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), as he now is, last Friday. He quoted a letter which he sent to the Prime Minister and he quoted the reply which the Prime Minister sent to him. There is no assertion that the Prime Minister’s reply came to the notice of any of the State Ministers at all. lt was not referred to at the meeting on 26th September. The Attorney-General, as he then was, did not warn the former Minister for National Development that he was exceeding instructions. This meeting on 26th September to put off all discussions until after the election - this purely provisional meeting - proceeded throughout on the basis that the undertakings given in the preceding March would be honoured if the Gorton Government were re-elected in October. To quote a letter now which nobody knew about is no excuse at all. The Attorney-General was there on 26th September. He participated very fully in the discussions. He bore out everything that the Minister for National Development did at that time. He went along with everything that his Liberal colleagues, the State Ministers said.
Let me refer to the papers tabled last Friday to see exactly what was said. First of all, the Minister for National Development expressed the hope that the Commonwealth and the States could work together and establish a co-ordinated arrangement to operate both within and without the 3-mile limit. The whole of the projected legislation then was on the assumption that the 3-mile limit from the low water mark was the dividing line between the Commonwealth and State jurisdictions. Then the Minister for National Development said:
There will be further discussions with the States before any legislation is brought in.
The New South Wales Minister for Mines said:
We would like your assurance, if it is possible for you to give it, that there will be further consultation with the States before the Commonwealth legislation is introduced.
The Minister for National Development said: 1 have no difficulty in giving that assurance. I can certainly give an assurance that the States will be consulted again before any legislation is brought in.
The Minister for Education and Science would have given anxious care to these proceedings at the March meeting. The Minister for Education and Science accompanied the Minister for National Development to the meeting on 26th September. He would have read the minutes and the transcript which I have quoted. The Minister for Education and Science, then the AttorneyGeneral, would have read these minutes. He would have read this transcript. He knows what the assurance and undertaking given then were. He, in fully participating in the proceedings on 26th September, never cast any doubt on the projected legislation and the form of the undertaking given at the meeting in March. The silence of the Attorney-General, as he then was - now the Minister for Education and Science - is one of the most sinister and ignoble features of all these proceedings. It will be noticed, from the proceedings of March last year and of September last year, that this undertaking was never modified. It was never withdrawn at the meeting in September attended by him as Attorney-General and by the Minister for National Development. In Sep) ember, when both Ministers were in attendance, the Minister for National Development said this:
At the present moment our plans are to have a Minerals Council meeting sometime i’n February. This would mean that we would have an opportunity of further discussion of this matter.
The Attorney-General, as he then was still, said: 1 would say we can not resolve those sorts of questions today and it seems to me inevitable that they will have to go into cold storage for the moment as far as we . . .
That is, the Commonwealth -
Quite clearly the former Attorney-General meant that the meeting on 26th September was not final or conclusive. It was interim. It was preliminary to another meeting to be held the next year to carry on the projected legislation and the undertakings described at the meeting of March last year. Then the Minister for National Development said, at the September meeting:
Obviously it is going to take some short time after the elections before this can be considered by the Federal Government. I am prepared to meet the Ministers for Mines as soon as possible after we have bad an opportunity of discuss ing this in the Cabinet but it would obviously be essential before that Mines meeting that we should have had this opportunity of some discussions and, as you all know, you cannot always get an immediate decision. Perhaps we could have a meeting just before Christmas, but I don’t see much chance of anything before that.
The Western Australian Minister suggested a meeting concurrently with that of the Attorneys-General in December. Our Attorney-General said:
What date is that?
And so on. Clearly our Attorney-General was discussing possible arrangements as to time and place. He certainly did not discount the idea of further meetings before the Commonwealth introduced the legislation. Then the Minister for National Development said: 1 will do my utmost . . .
To get a meeting in December. The New South Wales Minister said:
Would you like us to hold ourselves available for a meeting on, say, 15th, subject to events at the Commonwealth level?
– Yes, 1 think this would be the best.
The Queensland Minister asked whether the Commonwealth would consult with the States on the continental shelf boundaries because he said -
After joint off-shore mineral legislation has been introduced’. Our Attorney-General said:
We will give you that assurance.
All the proceedings went ahead on the basis that the undertakings of March last year would still be kept, that the September meeting would be only a preliminary interim meeting, that there would be another meeting and that the legislation to come in would be on the basis of the dividing line at 3 miles from the low water mark. Since then, relying on High Court decisions and Sir Percy Spender’s view, the legislation is to be from the low water mark. That was never discussed at these meetings - completely new legislation, one would have thought. Then again our Attorney-General had something to say, in answer to the New South Wales Minister, who said:
But your legislation will only apply outside the 3-mile limit.
The Attorney-General said:
Yes, but it will be on the stipulation that you have similar identical legislation within the 3-mile limit. We will promise you that we will have it in this form outside the 3-mile limit.
It is quite clear from this transcript that the Attorney-General, the present Minister for Education and Science, was continuing the discussions which the Minister for National Development had initiated in March last year. There is no escape for our Attorney-General on this at this stage.
Now, Sir, the matter boils down to this: Every Minister who was at the September meeting - Federal and State - and who has recorded a view on the matter, except our Minister for Education and Science, is firmly of the opinion that a commitment was entered into by the Commonwealth. The Minister for Education and Science, as Attorney-General, went along with everything they said. The nature of the legislation, the boundaries between Commonwealth and State jurisdiction, the joint legislation, a further meeting, what date it was to bc, who would attend it - he was party to the lot. But before today he had never expressed any doubt that there was this understanding, this undertaking, that the Commonwealth would have further consultations before it introduced legislation. Any but the most legalistic reading of the transcripts will bear out the belief of every Minister who had spoken before today, and the transcript gives the lie to what the Minister for Education and Science has said in his first statement on this matter immediately before I rose.
The Prime Minister today has merely said: ‘They were not justified in holding such a belief. Indeed, in other parts of his statement, he said in effect: ‘They did not hold such a belief. He quotes the honourable member for Farrer and the Western Australian Minister for Mines to assert that they did not in fact hold a belief which they now insist they did. By his statement this morning the Prime Minister is giving fair warning to any person or body with whom his Government enters into discussion or negotiations that they must exercise extreme care and caution, take witnesses and get everything in writing. Otherwise not only will the ordinary meaning of words be twisted but you will have your own statement turned against you and brought in evidence against you. That is the standard of honour, good will and commonsense that the Prime Minister has announced for his Government as of today.
If plain English means anything, some simple facts emerge from the tabled documents and from subsequent statements made by members and Ministers involved. Firstly, it is beyond dispute that Ministers acting under and with the authority of the Government - 2 Ministers - promised that further consultations would be held before any legislation was presented to the Parliament, lt is equally beyond dispute that that undertaking was dishonoured and that no further consultations in any meaningful sense were held between 26th September, when the promise was made, and 3rd March, when the Governor-General announced the legislation.
Every Minister - State and Federal - who was at the meeting on 26th September clearly believed that there would be a further meeting of the Mines Ministers with the Commonwealth. The State Ministers pressed for such a meeting. Two Commonwealth Ministers undertook that it would be held. They discussed where and when it would be held and by whom attended. It would be futile for anyone to quibble on whether an undertaking was made. There was an undertaking and there was an understanding on the part of every Minister present, Federal and State - all Liberals. One could cite quote after quote from the minutes, including statements by the Minister for Education and Science, that verify and underline this. The official Press release from the meeting contains this implicit understanding. No man of commonsense or common understanding of the meaning of English can dispute it.
The present Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) seemed to imply last Friday that his meetings with some of the individual Mines Ministers during his familiarisation tours after he succeeded the honourable member for Farrer constituted a sort of honouring of the undertaking. In fact, he instanced only the South Australian and the Western Australian Ministers and he placed some emphasis on his talks with the latter gentleman who is the doyen of the State Ministers. It is absurd to suggest that these talks constituted any kind of discharge of the Commonwealth’s undertaking and the States Mines Ministers, including th: Western Australian, in their comments at the meeting of 13th March in Melbourne show how completely they reject any such suggestion. Even more absurdly it has been suggested that the Prime Minister’s letter and telegram of 2nd March this year, the day before the Governor-General’s Speech, constituted some sort of consultation. It was a notification at best.
A further claim is that undertakings by a Minister in the Second Gorton Ministry are not binding on the Third Gorton Ministry, of which the honourable member for Farrer is no longer a member. The honourable member for Farrer dealt very succinctly with this casuistry. The undertakings given by the honourable member for Farrer as Minister for National Development were clearly made on behalf of the Third Gorton Government on the assumption that the Second one would in fact win the elections which were then pending. Indeed, the Canberra meeting was held on the last day of the sittings. There was considerable amount of discussion about this very fact. It was conceded on all sides at this one Party gathering that the Commonwealth Government faced certain political difficulties because of the imminence of the election. All the discussions were based on the assumption that the Gorton Government would be returned.
The honourable member for Farrer also dealt with the suggestion that his undertaking was a personal one - the minutes bear out what was said on this - and that it could not bind a successor in his portfolio. As he himself asserts, he had made it not as David Fairbairn but on behalf of the Gorton Government, with whose authority he was acting, and indeed on the basis of an exchange of letters between the Prime Minister and himself on this very matter. The then Attorney-General was with him throughout that meeting, and indeed, quite apart from the special political circumstances which led to the honourable member for Farrer’s resignation from the Ministry after the elections, there was no certainty that he would remain Minister for National Development in a re-elected or re-shuffled Gorton Ministry. In fact, he mentioned this very possibility at the meeting in September. Nor. of course, was he the only Commonwealth Minister present. Did the Minister for Education and Science inform the post election Cabinet of the undertakings to which he had committed the Government in company with the honourable member for Farrer? Did he inform the new Minister for National Development of the agreement? Did he inform the Prime Minister? The Minister for Education and Science is as deeply involved in this matter. His honour and his word are at stake just as much as those of the Prime Minister.
It is true that the States could have no illusions about the Commonwealth’s ultimate intentions. As early as the meeting of March last year the then Minister for National Development did make it clear that the Commonwealth proposed legislation on offshore mineral rights beyond the 3-mile limit and that such legislation would not follow the lines of the off-shore petroleum legislation. The point at issue is not the merits of that legislation, nor is it whether the States were misled as to the Commonwealth’s wishes and the Commonwealth’s view of its constitutional powers. The sole point at issue is whether the Commonwealth gave undertakings that it would not proceed in the way that it has now chosen to proceed. Those undertakings were given. They have been dishonoured. They have been knowingly dishonoured, at least by the Prime Minister, under whose authority his Ministers acted and in the name of whose Government those undertakings were given, and by the Minister for Education and Science, who was a direct participant in them. If the present Minister for National Development was not aware of the undertaking, it sheds further light on the strange workings of this very strange Government. The honourable member for Farrer asked the 2 pertinent questions: Was there a commitment? Has it been broken? The answer in each case is yes. Our federal system will bi- unworkable if the Gorton Government is nol defeated on this question.
– Order! The honourable member’s lime has expired.
– I appreciate the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in his statement said:
Yet I do not believe the honourable member for Farrer would make me statements he has made unless he thought he had a basis for them.
I realise, of course, that the Prime Minister sincerely believes the statement he has made, but I feel completely unconvinced by this explanation from the Prime Minister. I have already made my statement in the House, and I do not want to elaborate at any great length on what I have said; but I do want to reply to some of the questions that have been raised by the statement of the Prime Minister. First of all, it is remarkable to note that this statement of the Prime Minister does not anywhere say that there has been a change of the basis on which we and the .Stales were getting together. It is acknowledged by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen), who was then the AttorneyGeneral, that when we met in September we were discussing Commonwealth legislation beyond the 3-mile limit and State legislation up to the 3-mile limit. There has been a complete change in this; yet it has not been acknowledged by the statement.
We were told by the Prime Minister that there was a promise that the State Ministers would be informed, and he said that each individual member of the Australian Minerals Council was informed. How were they informed? I, have already drawn attention to the Mines Ministers meeting, which was held in Melbourne on 13th March. It is quite obvious that only 1 of the 6 State Mines Ministers had any intimation or any information at all that there was to be a change and that we were to legislate from the low water mark. This was the South Australian Minister, who said that the only reason he received that information was that he had raised the matter himself. So the only alternative way in which the State Ministers could have been informed was by a telegram that was sent out the day before the Governor-General’s Speech, and I understand that not every Minister received his telegram before that Speech was made. So it cannot really be said that each individual member of the Council was informed.
The Prime Minister said of me that I had agreed to further discussions and that there have been further discussions. I honestly believe, with great deference to the Prime Minister, that it is a quibble to say that there have been further discussions.
There has been one further meeting of the State Mines Ministers. It was held in Melbourne on 26th March, long after the decision had been taken by the Commonwealth to legislate unilaterally on a different basis to the one that it had been discussing with the States and long after the announcement by the Governor-General that this was proceeding. Really, is it not just a fourth form debating point to say that I had said further discussions’ and that I have not said ‘prior discussions’? Does anyone believe that when I said ‘further diversions’ I meant further discussions after the Government had made up its mind?
Then we are told that when on one occasion I said ‘this’, it did not refer to off-shore mining legislation, but that what it referred to was administrative arrangements or the issuing of titles. Could anyone think that when J said: ‘We will have a further meeting’, I would have called together the 6 State Mines Ministers, who are very busy men, only to discuss the issuing of some title. Does anyone think that I would have taken it to Cabinet if what I meant by this was only the issuing of a title or further administrative arrangements? Of course not. lt was perfectly clear in my mind, and I believe it was perfectly clear in the minds of the State Mines Ministers, that what I was referring to was further discussions on off-shore oil legislation, and there was a need for further discussions because, as the then Attorney-General has said, we were hoping for a joint arrangement under which we would legislate from the 3-mile mark and the States would have a similar type of legislation up to the 3-mile mark. We were told by the Prime Minister today that 1 had said there would be further meetings and that there have been further meetings.
Surely no-one believes that a meeting of Ministers after the Government has made up its mind, after it has committed itself, to talk about some administrative procedure fulfils that commitment. As a matter of fact, they were most unproductive meetings. The Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) has circulated among Government members a copy of the notes taken by the Government at the meeting. These show how unproductive the discus^ mons were.
The transcript reads:
. Is there objection to officer discussions proceeding?
Mr FIFE 1 cannot commit NSW officers to discuss until we and our Cabinet have seen the legislation
Mr SWARTZ 1 will refer the Slates’ document to the Prime Minister for information. I have said the position is irrevocable.
On this basis I cannot agree that my officers would take part in discussions.
Mr DEGARIS 1 cannot give an undertaking.
Is not the Bill the end of the road and the point beyond recall?
It finishes with the Minister for National Development saying:
We have reached a point where we cannot achieve anything by further discussion. I will let you have the Bill as quickly as possible. I assume that after this there would be some discussions.
If that is what is meant by further discussion with the States, I reject the suggestion that anything is achieved by holding a meeting of that sort. It is quite obvious to me that there are 2 points that this House has to decide on. Firstly, was a proposal made to the States? Secondly, was a commitment given to hold further discussions? On the first question of whether a proposal was made to the States, I think it is perfectly obvious that it was. If one looks at the transcript of the meeting of 26th September last year one will see on page 2 that Mr Griffith said:
The State Ministers note that the Commonwealth proposal envisages State control of territorial waters.
At page 30 Mr Fife is reported as saying:
But your legislation will only apply outside the 3-mile limit.
Mr Bowen replied:
Yes, but it will be on the stipulation that you have similar identical legislation within the 3-mile limit.
Mr Griffith then said:
But under this proposed legislation who would have the legal rights within the 3-mile limit?
Mr Bowen replied:
Probably a designated authority who would derive his authority in the case of up to the 3-mile limit from the State legislation and outside from the Commonwealth.
I believe it is quite obvious that a proposal was made to the States. Of course, the States did not accept it immediately. They did not reject it or accept it. They put an alternative - an alternative they strongly believed in - that there should be similar legislation to the off-shore oil legislation. I promised to take that to the Cabinet and to report bask to them. I do not believe that the Prime Minister or anyone else believes that I did not have the authority to make this offer. It is quite obvious to anyone who knows anything about the workings of Cabinet government that I did not write the speech; it was prepared by my Department and the Attorney-General’s Department on the basis of Cabinet’s decision. If there is any suggestion that I had no authority the decision should be produced.
The extraordinary thing is that the fact that I believed that there had been a commitment apparently was not realised by our Government. I realise that my friend and colleague the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) had only just come into this portfolio. It would have been quite imposible for him to have read the minutes. One would not have expected him to have done so. He had an enormous amount of work to do in learning about his department and in visiting the State Ministers. Nevertheless, it seems extraordinary to me that at a meeting of this size, which was attended by 14 Commonwealth representatives, it was not reported fully to Cabinet that I, as Minister, had given an undertaking that there would be further discussions and consultation. I have no doubt whatsoever that a commitment was given. 1 shall bore the House briefly by quoting from the transcript of the meeting to show why I believe this happened. I said:
I am prepared to meet the Ministers for Mines as soon as possible after we have had an opportunity of discussing this in the Cabinet–
By ‘this’ I was not, as I have already said, referring to the issuing of leases but to the off-shore mining legislation. I went on to say: but it would obviously be essential before that Mines meeting that we should have had this opportunity of some discussions and as you all know you cannot always get an immediate decision. Perhaps we could have a meeting just before Christmas but I don’t see much chance of anything before that.
The transcript continues:
– We have a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Attorneys-General fixed, in anticipation, for 1 1th December. Could we not meet a day or two before that, in Adelaide?
– What date is that?
– I think the date is 11th December-
So there is no doubt that there was a commitment. Later Mr Griffith said:
The transcript continues:
– I will do my utmost. Let us set the meeting for December 11th.
– lt would have to be earlier, make it the 8lh or the 9th.
MB FAIRBAIRN- This is going to be a very difficult timetable to get anything to Cabinet which will not be announced until, 1 think, the 24lh November. So a day or two after that would be better.
– Would you like us to hold ourselves available for a meeting on, say, 15lh, subject to events at the Commonwealth level?
– I think this would be the best.
So there we set the date. It is true that at a later stage the Western Australian Minister for Mines and Minister for Justice. Mr Griffith, said: ‘We realise this may be a difficult timetable for you. We have agreed that, subject to the Commonwealth’s accepting the titles that we issue in the meantime, we can go on until such agreement is arrived at. Therefore, we would not press you to hold that meeting exactly on that date’. This was the situation at that time. I was staggered when the Governor-General announced in his Speech that the understandings I had with the States and the undertakings I had made were to be completely abrogated. J did everything within my power to see that the Government realised that I believed 1 had made this statement and this commitment and that many others also believed I bad made this statement and this commitment, f did everything possible to see the Prime Minister. I saw him on a couple of occasions. I saw the Deputy Prime Minister. I have taken this matter to the Party room on 2 occasions. I have discussed it with the person who recently retired as the State President of my Party. I have discussed it with the chief organiser of my Party in New South Wales and with the national development committee of the Government Parties when the Minister for National Development, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Hughes) and a senior State officer were in attendance.
I believe I made this commitment and I have tried to convince everyone that I made it, but I have just run into a wall of resistance. I have been told: ‘You are quite wrong. You may have thought you did it, but we know better’. A whispering campaign has ensued with claims that so and so is said to have had a look at these minutes and he believes that what the honourable member for Farrer has said is not right. So, having finally exhausted every process available to me and the legislation having been introduced in this House and the documents having been tabled, I felt that it was encumbent upon me. having exhausted every other alternative, to say in this House that 1 believed a commitment had been made. That is what I am now saying. 1 beleieve it would be very easy for the Government, given a little bit of goodwill and commonsense, to overcome this problem. 1 believe that it should withdraw the Bill which has been introduced. There is no urgency about this matter. To the best of my knowledge the only off-shore mining which is being undertaken anywhere n Australia is in relation to a very small amount of coal which is being mined under the sea off the coast of New South Wales. So there is no immediate urgency. There are 40 or more Bills on the notice paper. The Government should temporarily withdraw this legislation go back to the Stales and negotiate with them. It should say to the States: ‘If we bring in this Bill and if, by litigation, it is proved that we have authority over these areas, we will hand back to you, as has been done in the United States, control of the territorial waters’. Surely the matter could be resolved upon this basis? Unfortunately, it has been completely impossible for me to get anywhere in relation to it.
I conclude by saying that I believe that these machinations have brought about an enormous amount of ill will between the Commonwealth and the States. This may be considered a small matter by some people, but I do not believe that it is. It is a matter of the Government’s integrity. I believe that what I have said is correct.
If I were the only one to think this way I would have some second thoughts about the matter. I would think that perhaps English does not mean what I think it means. But I am not the only one. Every Minister for Mines in Australia believes that I made a commitment. I think it is virtually true to say that every State AttorneyGeneral believes this, but I would not be certain because I have not checked it with them. But one of them has said that there was an arrant and considered breach of faith in this matter. The Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in one of the States said this. Therefore, I am not the only one who thinks there has been a breach of faith.
The Opposition has considered the matter and it believes me. Of course the unfortunate thing is that the Opposition is playing politics. We should recognise this fact. The hyenas on the Opposition side of the chamber are just sitting there waiting for blood. This places any honourable member in a most awkward position. Many people have run away from what they thought was their duty in a parliament just because they have been able to say: Perhaps we do not agree with what the Government is doing, but just think what a dreadful thing it would be if the Opposition were ever to come in.’ I agree. I can think of no worse fate than for the Labor Party to be on the treasury bench. But I believe also that there is the matter of my honour and that I must support the amendment that has been brought in by the honourable member for Dawson.
– I hope that my friend, the honouralbe member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), does not regard me as a hyena. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) indicated, what is involved here at the moment is not the constitutionality or otherwise of the Commonwealth within and outside the 3-mile limit. It seems to me - the honourable member for Farrer, a former Cabinet Minister, underlined the fact - that 2 very important principles are involved here. I submit that they are important to members on both sides of the House. The first is the collective responsibility of a Cabinet. I have no doubt that it could be said that there is nothing very collective about the Government at the moment, and I submit that there is a great deal of irresponsibility in some directions. Collective responsibility is enshrined as part of the workability of a Cabinet system. 1 will say a little more about that subject in a moment.
The second point that is involved, and which ought to be important to all honourable members, is the working relationship between the component parts of our federal system. Each of these matters is of considerable significance to this Parliament in a constitutional sense. I want to reinfoorce to some extent the idea of collective responsibility by quoting from a book entitled ‘Cabinet Government’ by Sir Ivor Jennings, which used to be the standard work on Cabinet government. In the edition published in 1961 the author goes back as far as the time of Lord Salisbury and says:
It is only on the principle that absolute responsibility is undertaken by every member of the Cabinet who, after a decision is arrived at, remains a member of it, that the joint responsibility of Minister to Parliament can be upheld, and one of the most essential principles of parliamentary responsibility established.
At all times the honourable member for Farrer was, in this consideration, a member of the Cabinet. He committed the Cabinet in the terms of his ministerial responsibility. I have read some of the correspondece but I have not had a great deal of time to digest it. The Prime Minister said in his statement today:
On 30th July the Minister for National Development wrote to me.
He said that he wished to write to the States and indicate that he was unable to hold a meeting before the one scheduled for February 1970. He also wished to write to them to tell them that the Commonwealth would not legislate unilaterally until there had been an opportunity to discuss fully and frankly the views he had expressed to them at the March meeting.
Apparently nothing took place between 30th July and 18th August, a span of almost 3 weeks. The Prime Minister’s statement continues:
I replied on 18th August raising no objection to his writing to the States on the general matter of the meeting. However, I said ‘I would want to avoid if at all possible a situation where the Commonwealth became committed to long drawn out discussion or consultation with the States on this matter. For this reason -
I ask honourable members again to weigh the words because, as the honourable member for Farrer implied, it seems that one can almost put one’s own meaning on words if it suits one’s case -
I would prefer that you eliminate from your proposed letter the suggestion that the Commonwealth will not legislate unilaterally until after the completion of full and frank discussions with the States on this matter.’ 1 suggest that it was not mandatory but that the Prime Minister said he would prefer the Minister to eliminate certain suggestions from his proposed letter, ft seems clear enough to me that the former Minister made commitments as a responsible member of the Cabinet negotiating with the States, and he may not have been able to do simply what the Prime Minister said he would like to be done. The Prime Minister goes on further to say:
I think the Minister fully understood that I did not want to give any assurance to the States that we would defer legislation.
As 1 see it. the honourable member for Farrer suggested that he did not think the Prime Minister meant any such thing. It seems to me to be clear enough that the honourable member was still acting as a fully competent member of the Cabinet and, as such, the Cabinet collectively was responsible for actions that he took in his position as a Minister.
A statement written as long ago as Mr Joseph Chamberlain’s time on the subject of collective responsibility reads:
Absolute frankness in our private relations and full discussion of all matters of common interest . . the decisions freely arrived at should be loyally supported and considered as the decisions of the whole of the Government.
It seems to me that here there were not the apparent inter-relationships within the Cabinet that there ought to have been. I suppose that reflects upon the efficiency of the Cabinet system as it has been carried out by the present Government. One cannot evade the constitutional situation that when a Minister is still a Minister and is acting within his department negotiating with people, he ought to have the full backing of his Cabinet. They are collectively responsible for what he has done. That seems to be the stand that has been taken by the honourable member for Farrer. He could have said, if he liked: ‘If the Prime Minister thinks I was too stupid to understand the meaning of certain words, that is fair enough’. Nevertheless, the action took place. What has been hurt here, it seems, is the sense of proper relations between the Commonwealth and the States as part of a working federal system. Surely this sort of thing cannot be lightly breached. A federal system is always a difficult mechanism to work. It is becoming increasingly difficult in Australia to make it work by reason of the preponderant financial superiority of the Commonwealth. One of the most prolific writers on the subject of federalism is Professor Geoffrey Sawer of the Australian National University. He concedes that the only way we can maintain the system as a working institution is by means of what he calls co-operative federalism.
To me co-operative federalism implies that there must be sympathy and understanding between the Commonwealth and the States, the other constituent parts of the federation. Surely this has been severely breached in this instance. I think the Government ought wisely to take the escape door which the ex-Minister has just, thrown open. Why not defer this whole matter and let it go back to the States. Let us see who has understood and who has misunderstood and then try to repair the breaches that have taken place between this Government, as the central government, and the various States about whether words mean certain things and whether certain promises were given or whether certain undertakings were implied.
– What is the law?
– I should say that the law is commonsense in this particular instance. lt is a law that the Government is reluctant to invoke. 1 submit that another incident which happened in this chamber a few weeks aso could have been avoided if there had been a little flexibility and commonsense at the centre. I do not presume to go into the fine nuances of the meanings of words, as the Prime Minister did regarding the exMinister. I think every honourable member is impressed by the stand which has been taken by the ex-Minister. We might not have regarded him as the most brilliant member of the Cabinet, but personally I have always had a high regard for him. Nobody doubts the integrity of his action on this occasion. I hope that some honourable members on the other side of the House are going to support him in the stand he has taken. Someone on the other side of the chamber has mentioned centralism. It is all right being centralist when you have the sort of legislation which is brought down here. I think there is a little confusion among honourable members opposite as to what is centralism and what is co-operative federalism. All I am submitting is that the co-operation that is necessary for the smooth working of our federation has been severely weakened by the action that has been taken in this matter.
It seems to me, as my colleague the honourable member for Dawson suggested this morning, that we have heard a clever statement and word splitting, the sort of stuff a schoolboy would put up as a rebuttal in the second issue of the school magazine if he did not like an article in the first issue. Surely honourable members expect a better example than this from the Prime Minister in the national Parliament? 1 want to read again the words which the honourable member for Dawson suggested should be added to this rather foolish and futile statement. Nevertheless it is because of its foolishness and futility that we have hung upon the statement the amendment which, if carried, will bring down the Government. It does not seem to me that the amendment is being considered in quite that serious light by the group of Ministers on the front bench, particularly those who wanted to talk while the debate was going on. They have not taken the situation very seriously at all. These are the words that the Australian Labor Party has proposed should be added to the motion: and that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet–
It is a collective assault - lack the confidence of the House because they failed to honour a commitment made to the States by the previous Minister for National Development–
Now the humble honourable member for Farrer - acting for and on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, that there would be further consultation with the . Statesbefore theC ommonwealth Government introduced any legislation on the territorial sea and continental shelf.
I ask that those honourable members on the Government side who claim they believe in a working federal system and who claim that they give observance to proper constitutional proprieties should consider very carefully what is involved in those words moved by the honourable member for Dawson this morning. Two sacred constitutional issues are at stake. The first concerns the collective responsibility of a Cabinet, so that when a Minister still clothed with his full ministerial powers does certain things and after consultation - whether it be effective or ineffective - with the rest of the Cabinet he commits the whole of the Cabinet. The honourable member for Farrer believes he did this. The second thing which is significant is that because we have a federal system this ham-handed sort of play that has been allowed to continue has breached the relationships that ought to prevail between the centre and the component parts of a federation. There has to be a great deal more co-operation and discussion with the States in the future on this and other matters.
– Because of the volume and complexity of the evidence relating to the matter before the House time will not permit me to refer in detail to all the points made by speakers on the Opposition side of the House. It is not my purpose to treat the matter in the emotional manner chosen by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). I was shocked to hear the Leader of the Opposition try to give the impression that the undertaking given in March and honoured and discharged by the September meeting was an automatic undertaking for further meetings after September. This I consider a flagrant misrepresentation of evidence. But, I suppose, having been in this place for some years now I should be familiar with the use of these tactics by the Leader of the Opposition. What is being considered in this debate is whether, as alleged by the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), the Commonwealth Government failed to honour a commitment entered into with the States. In order to answer this question it is necessary, as the honourable member for Farrer himself pointed out, to determine firstly whether, in fact, a commitment was entered into. It is my intention to examine as objectively as I can these 2 questions.
Let me make one point quite clear from the start. I am in no doubt that the honourable member for Farrer honestly and sincerely believed that, acting on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, he entered into a commitment with the States and that subsequently this commitment was not carried out as he expected it would be. I point out that however sincere the honourable member may be in his belief, this does not prove he is right. It may be argued that as the honourable member for Farrer was personally concerned in these matters and was present at the relevant meetings he is in a better position than I am to give the answers to these questions. To this argument I reply that in a court of law neither the judge nor the jury are expected to have been involved personally in a case which conies before them. Indeed, the fact that they were directly concerned would be sufficient grounds for them to be excluded from hearing the case or being responsible for assessing the evidence. 1 have considered with the greatest care the evidence in the form of the tabled documents and the speech given by the honourable member for Farrer. I have drawn my own conclusions from them, completely free from any personal involvement. However, I do not press the legal analogy because I have tried to avoid making my assessment on legal grounds. Not being trained in the law I am not competent to do so. I have not been concerned with determining whether, if any agreement was undertaken or made, it was - to use the phrase of the honourable member for Farrer - ‘legally enforceable’ but in determining whether it was a firm commitment in the sense in which these words arc used in these circumstances.
Unfortunately, time will not permit me to deal in detail with what I believe are relevant matters concerning earlier meetings, particularly the March meeting prior to the meeting of 26th September, but I shall, because of the limitation of time, have to confine my assessment largely to the transcript of that meeting. At the meeting of 3rd March the honourable member for Farrer, as the Minister for National Development, was authorised by Federal Cabinet to make a specific offer to the States; that is, that the States should control mineral resources out to the 3 mile limit and the Commonwealth from the 3 mile limit to the end of the continental shelf. He made this offer and the States rejected it and came up with a counter offer at the meeting on 26th September. As I understand it, this automatically negates the original offer by the Commonwealth. The States having rejected this offer and having put forward an offer of their own, the original Commonwealth offer could only be reconsidered if it was put forward again. As far as future discussion was concerned the honourable member for Farrer said, according to page 3 of the transcript of the meeting on 26th September: tt would be quite impossible for me lo say what the Government is likely to do not knowing, firstly, whether we will be the Government after the election and. secondly, whether I will be the Minister.
Whatever the honourable member might have said subsequently - and I will come to that later - 1 find it impossible to read into this statement a commitment on behalf of the Federal Government to hold prior consultations with the States on the subject of respective legal rights and responsibilities in this matter. The honourable member makes it quite clear that the uncertain circumstances at the time in view of the approaching election made it impossible for him to give any firm undertaking. Later, according to page 3 the honourable member for Farrer said:
At the present moment our plans ure lo have a Minerals Council meeting sometime in February.
Here again is the implication that obviously things could change and he could not give a firm undertaking. In his speech on 8th May the honourable member for Farrer said:
I undertook . . . that before me Commonwealth took any action there would bc further consultations with the States.
This, of course, is the crux of the matter. I put it to the House that in view of the honourable member’s earlier statement - and it is so important that I shall give it again: ii would be quite impossible for mc to say what the Government is likely to do not knowing, firstly, whether we will be the Government after the election and. secondly, whether I will be the Minister.
I think it is, to say the least, extremely doubtful whether the Minister, as he then was, considered he could give such an undertaking.
But let us examine exactly to what the then Minister was referring when he gave that undertaking; that is, assuming he was in a position to give it. From his speech in the House today it is obvious that the honourable member for Farrer considers that the undertaking referred to the legislation before this House. This interpretation is not shared by the other Federal Minister who was present and this was apparent also in that Minister’s speech today. The interpretation of the honourable member for Farrer is not borne out by the transcript. I refer now to the last sentence on page 3 and the first half of page 4. I assume that this is the part of the proceedings referred to by the honourable member in which he says he gave the undertaking. On page 3 the honourable member said:
One thing of course is that there were a great many permits allocated by the States for oil before any sort of agreement was arrived at and the same situation docs not apply at the present moment so far as off-shore minerals.
I assume the words ‘are concerned’ have been omitted in error. The quotation continues:
What I would seek to do is to take this matter to Cabinet and have further discussion on it. We will look at the proposal which you have brought forward. The difficulty of course from your point of view is how iO proceed in the cases where we have applications. There are a number of applications for permits before the States. Regarding the applications before the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth certainly would not intend to take any action on any of these before it has further discussions with the State Ministers.
It is perfectly clear from this quotation that in referring to further discussion with the State Ministers the honourable member for Farrer was quite specifically referring to further discussions on applications for permits - not the matter of prior consultation on Federal/State jurisdiction.
In his speech in this House on 8th May 1970 the honourable member quoted Mr Griffith as saying:
The State Ministers note that the Commonwealth proposal envisages State control of territorial waters, but the Ministers believe that a cooperative scheme extending to both territorial waters and the continental shelf and based on a pooling of legislative competence is desirable in the national interest.
The honourable member for Farrer then said:
This statement, of course, arose from an offer 1 was authorised to make by Cabinet to the State Governments. I now ask honourable members to look at page 3 of this document. I - not David Fairbairn but the Minister for National Development - accepted the proposition that there would be further discussions on this matter.
I stress again that ‘this matter’ was not that referred to by Mr Griffith; it was the matter of permits. 1 remind the House that the matter of permits is to be dealt with in a separate Bill which has not yet been introduced to this House. On page 6 of the transscript of the meeting of 26th September Mr Griffith clearly accepts that the honourable member for Farrer was referring to the matter of permit applications and, indeed, every State Minister comments confirming this fact, as does the then Attorney-General in his comments appearing on page 11. The then Attorney-General said:
On page IS of the transcript the honourable member for Farrer again refers to leases when he says:
For the present 1. think the situation is: Do you believe that between now and when any further action can be taken by the Commonwealth in this no leases should be granted? If you don’t then there are only two ways in which they can be granted. One is with the co-operation of the Commonwealth after consultation between the two of us in which case we would do our utmost to pick up the tab afterwards whatever the system is.
On page 17 the honourable member returns to this problem of making commitments pending the results of the Federal election and he says:
One of our difficulties in ‘.his is the time-table. The writs are nol returned until 1 think November 24th so no new Cabinet can be announced until that date. After that undoubtedly I will put your representations to the Government - if I still happen to be the responsible Minister. Obviously it is going to take some short time after that before this can be considered by the Federal Government I am prepared to meet the Ministers for Mines as soon as possible after we have had an opportunity of discussing this in the Cabinet but it would obviously be essential before that Mines meeting that we should have had this opportunity of some discussions and as you all know you cannot always get an immediate decision. Perhaps we could have a meeting just before Christmas but I don’t see much chance of anything before that.
In my view anyway this can hardly be interpreted as a firm commitment, although subsequently 15th December was set as a tentative date for the meeting. I now draw the attention of the House to the bottom of page 1 8 where Mr Griffith says:
Bearing in mind Mr Chairman that you have got the next 4½ weeks very fully occupied and there is not much time after that before this proposed meeting would it not be just as well to come to an understanding that the Sates should be able to continue to issue these permits without having to confer with you upon the point? What is the purpose of conference on this?
On page 19 Mr Fife says:
Further to that is the purpose for legal reasons or for policy reasons?
The honourable member for Farrer then said:
No, I think the purpose is to see that the Commonwealth has a responsibility in this area just as every State has. We have certain guidelines which we want to see applied. We would not want to see areas which we felt were too large.
Clearly this is the question of permits and leases to which he is referring. The quotation continues:
You may have exactly the same view there. We would want to see if there was a selection, for example, between a wholly owned overseas company and a company which had some Australian content.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting [ was making detailed references to the transcript of the meeting of 26th September. At the bottom of page 18 I was referring to a passage where Mr Griffith said:
This being the matter of the issuing of permits. On the top of page 19 Mr Fife said:
Further to that is (he purpose for legal reasons or for policy reasons?
Mr Fairbairn replied:
No, I think the purpose is to see that the Commonwealth has a responsibility in this area just as every State has.
I continued that quotation for a little longer prior to the suspension of the sitting, but I repeat only a portion of it to give some continuity to what I have to say now. Obviously the tentative December meeting was to discuss this matter of permit applications. I now turn to page 22 where Mr Fife says:
I think that as it is an interim period we want to keep it as streamlined as possible. It might only work for3 months.
Here there is a clear assumption that Commonwealth legislation will have been passed and that the matter to be negotiated related to the permits. However, on page 36 in reference to the possible meeting on 15th December Mr Griffith said:
I think it should be off.
On page 37 he suggested that the Mineral Council should meet in May. The honourable member for Farrer said:
All right. And we would have an interim meeting as soon as we are ready to discuss this particular matter, and have a later meeting in May.
From a study of the pages preceding this quotation it is absolutely clear that the particular matter referred to by the honourable member for Farrer for discussion at an interim meeting is that of permits. The conclusionsI have reached after a most detailed and exhaustive study of the relevant documents are as follows: In my opinion the honourable member for Farrer when acting as Chairman of the Australian Mineral Council at the meeting of 26th September expressed the view that because of the impending election it was impossible for him to know what the Government would do or whether he would be in a position to influence its actions or decisions. In full realisation of the limitations imposed on him by this situation - that is, the limitations on making commitments either on behalf of the Government or himself as Minister - he made tentative arrangements for a CommonwealthState meeting in February for the specific purpose of discussing the problem of off-shore mineral leases and permits. I emphasise again that the legislation referring to this matter has not yet been introduced into this Parliament. In the circumstances I do not consider that a firm commitment was entered into by the honourable member for Farrer on behalf of the Government for Commonwealth-State discussions prior to the introduction of the present legislation. It follows therefore that the Government cannot be held to have dishonoured a firm commitment. What I do believe is that this matter has provided a classic example of how different but honest interpretations can be placed on a given body of facts and evidence and I repeat what I said at the beginning, that my conclusions have been reached after an objective study of the material before me. May I also add one final point: Despite the nature of these conclusions my researches in this matter have given me a new appreciation of the negotiating skill of the honourable member for Farrer and have increased the high regard which I have always had for his integrity and personal qualities.
– I was in the House last Friday when the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) made his statement on the negotiations between the States and the Commonwealth on the off-shore minerals legislation. 1 heard his speech and I heard the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) in reply. I was in the House today when the Prime Minister (Mt Gorton) come in to refute the accusations that had been made by the honourable member for Farrer last Friday. I have heard them, 1 have read them, and judging on what I have seen and heard I come to the conclusion that the honourable member for Farrer is stating the absolute truth in this matter. The honourable member for Farrer as Minister for National Development was commissioned by the Cabinet to negotiate with the State Ministers on off-shore legislation and in the statement that the Prime Minister made today he said in the opening paragraph:
In February 1969 Cabinet decided that the Commonwealth should legislate to assert total rights over the sea-bed outside the 3-mile limit, lt deputed the Minister for National Development to inform the States Mines Ministers of this decision.
First of all, the then Minister was sent to negotiate and inform the States Mines Ministers that the Government intended to legislate to assert total rights over the seabed outside the 3-mile limit. Since then the Government has decided to legislate to assert total rights over the off-shore limits from the low water mark. The discussion today arises from the want of confidence motion that the Opposition has moved by way of amendment, that is: and that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet lack the confidence of the House because they have failed to honour a commitment made to the States by the previous Minister for National Development, acting for and on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, that there would be further consultation with the States before the Commonwealth Government introduced any legislation on the territorial sea and continental shelf.
No-one in the Opposition doubts the Government’s right to bring in the legislation.
We do not claim that the States Mines Ministers were not told that the Government intended to bring in this legislation, but we do claim that the Government has dishonoured a contract entered into by a Minister deputed to act on behalf of the Government, a man who enjoys a wholesome reputation in this place, a man of great integrity, a man who none in this place would ever doubt and a man whose word has always been his bond. To the Ministers for Mines in various States he gave an assurance. It was he speaking and nobody can impute motives to him but himself. He is the man who knows what he meant when he gave those assurances to the States Mines Ministers, and now for the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes), the Prime Minister and others to assert that they know better than he what he meant and what was implied in what he said shows a total disregard for the honour of the man who they are criticising. The Minister for National Development in the House the other day showed quite clearly that he was convinced that the honourable member for Farrer had indeed given an assurance to the States Mines Ministers that further negotiations would take place with them before legislation was introduced. In his speech the Minister for National Development - after giving an outline of what he did when he became Minister for National Development - went on to say:
The full details referred to by the honourable member for Farrer did not come to my knowledge until well after the Cabinet meeting al which the Commonwealth, after carefully examining the submissions from the States, gave a firm decision in relation to the matter in the Bill which is now before the House and which I introduced, lt was not until some lime after that meeting that I realised that the previous Minister for National Development had firmly believed that an undertaking to discuss the matter further wilh the States had been given. I am merely trying to explain the problem of lack of time at that particular stage.
After the decision was made by the Government there was a matter of only a few weeks before Parliament sat. The best that I could do in the circumstances was to inform the States by telegram before any public announcement was made as to the future intentions of the Government in relation to the matter.
The Minister sent the telegrams before he realised that the Government, in having taken its decision without previous and further consultations with the State Ministers for Mines, had broken the pledge given on the Government’s behalf by the former
Minister for National Development. The present Minister for National Development is also a man of honour and when he was speaking last Friday he indicated clearly that he was in an embarrassing position as a result of the decision that had been taken without further consultation and negotiation with the States. In the quotation I have just read the following appears:
The full details referred to by the honourable member for Farrer did not come to my knowledge until well after the Cabinet meeting.
However, in the Prime Minister’s statement today, he said:
The Minister undertook to place their views -
That is the views of the State Ministers for Mines - before Cabinet. This was done by the incoming Minister.
Last Friday the incoming Minister said that he did not know the full details of the situation until some time after the decision had been taken by Cabinet. This is now clearly a matter of public morality. It is a question of whether a Minister who acts on behalf of the Commonwealth Government in negotiations with the States and gives his word can have his word broken by the Cabinet.
When we examine the quotations that have been read from the minutes of the meetings of March 1969 and September 1969, and look at the contradictory statements that have been made by the Prime Minister in his statement today and by the Minister for National Development last Friday, we can come to the conclusion that there has been a broken pledge. The honourable member for Farrer would not have taken action unless he firmly believed that he was now in a position where his good word was being broken by the Government. Since the last election the honourable member for Farrer has been intensely worried about the morality of the Cabinet and of the Government. He refused to serve under the Prime Minister in his Ministry. He is deeply concerned about the behaviour of the Government in respect of many matters. If he were prepared to break the pledge of Cabinet secrecy, and if he were prepared to be disloyal to his own Party, I am quite certain he could give many more instances of the lack of moralitybyCabinetandofthe Government in respect of public questions.
Over the past few years there have been a number of incidents when members of the Government Parties have accused the Prime Minister and other Ministers of breaking pledges and not upholding the dignity of their offices or of the Parliament. Some come readily to mind. One concerned the accusations made by the previous member for Warringah, Mr St John.
– You would not take his word on that, would you?
– Accusations were made by Mr St John and in some instances they were shown to be absolutely correct. If we recall back a little earlier to the time of the ‘Voyager’ disaster, we know that 2 royal commissions had to be appointed before the real truth of the matter came out.
– Order! I would draw the attention of the honourable member for Lang to the amendment that has been moved and which is before the House. The matters he is raising now are completely outside the ambid of the amendment.
– The matter now before the House is whether this Government is capable of controlling the affairs of this country with honour and dignity.
– It is the credibility of the Government.
– As the honourable member interjects, it is the credibility of the Government that is under attack. The Prime Minister has denied the statements made by the honourable member for Farrer and I think that I should be entitled to quote obvious examples where the credibility of the Government has been under criticism and under study.
– Order! I would remind the honourable member for Lang that the amendment is clear. In case he does not have a copy of it before him I will read part of it to him. It says:
That is a specific reason and therefore other matters are irrelevant.
– The want of confidence motion deals with the subject of the consultations between the States and the Commonwealth over off-shore legislation. The Opposition accuses the Government of having broken the word given by the previous Minister for National Development. Even in the Governor-General’s Speech it is admitted that there was some dispute between the States over rights in respect of off-shore legislation. In his Speech on behalf of the Government, the Governor-General said:
At present, the various State governments claim sovereign rights in respect of such resources from low water mark to the outer limits of the shelf. The Commonwealth believes that, except for internal waters as they existed at Federation, il has sovereign rights in this area.
It is the view of my Government that it would serve Australia’s national and international interests to have the legal position resolved. In order that this may happen, my Government will ask the Parliament to pass legislation to assert and establish what the Commonwealth concedes to be its legal rights.
Negotiations had taken place as late as September 1969. On 3rd March 1970 it was admitted that there were legal doubts and disputes between the State governments over the sovereign rights in respect of territorial waters. The Government, in the Governor-General’s Speech, at that time indicated that further negotiations had to be carried out with the States before the position could be resolved. The pledge that was given about legislation by the former Minister for National Development, and reiterated here today by the Prime Minister, was that the legislation would deal only with the area outside the 3-mile limit. Without telling the States that the Government was going to relate the legislation to the low water mark it went ahead and introduced the legislation that will be discussed by the House. The Government trod on the State Ministers for Mines. It broke the pledge that was given by the honourable member for Farrer, a man whose word T have said, anybody in this Parliament would accept.
The State Ministers for Mines were entitled to believe that there would be prior consultation before legislation was brought down. It is no good the Prime Minister coming in now and saying that this was not intended - that it was only consultation. It is pettifogging legality to argue that way. The clear understanding of the Ministers for Mines has been shown by quotations that have been read from the minutes of meetings. It was that no action would be taken in respect of legislation until such time as further consultations had taken place. Neither the honourable member for Farrer nor the Opposition have asserted that the intention of the Government to introduce legislation was not clearly known to the Ministers for Mines. But the honourable member for Farrer and the Opposition assert that the Ministers for Mines really believed that further consultations would take place before legislation was brought down in this House.
If in our federal system negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States are carried out by a responsible Minister of the Crown who has been given the authority by Cabinet to negotiate, and if he gives his pledge on any matter to a meeting of State Ministers, Cabinet then is duty bound to honour the pledge that has been given by the Cabinet Minister appointed to negotiate, irrespective of whether that Cabinet Minister might have overstepped the mark or might have misunderstood the instructions given to him by Cabinet. Once a pledge has been given on a ministerial level by the Commonwealth Government to 6 State governments that pledge should be kept.
The honourable member for Farrer has indicated quite clearly that he intended to imply - in fact that he did imply - that he agreed with the State Ministers for Mines that there would be further consultations with them before legislation was brought down. He was the man taking part in the negotiations. He was the man making those statements. He was talking to the Ministers for Mines from the various States. He knew what was behind the words that they were uttering. All of us who have taken part at any time in negotiations have often reached agreement with things not said, with a clear understanding of what was meant rather than what was clearly written. That is what has happened in this instance. As a juror in this place I can only come down on the side of the honourable member for Farrer. He has indicated what he meant and what he said to the Ministers for Mines.
He is regarded in this House as a man of the utmost integrity. He would not have taken this step had he not believed that the Government was breaking a pledge. No government oan break a pledge that is given. As the honourable member for Farrer said, if you need to have everything written down before a promise is binding, if you need to have a legal document, then it is not worth while being a member of this Parliament. It is a Government that cannot be trusted, and the State Ministers and the State Premiers are entitled to believe that in future negotiations with any member of the Cabinet or with any member of this Ministry they will need to have their legal advisers present, indeed they will need to have recordings taken so that the promises given by this Government will be honoured and not broken at the whim of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.
I come back to the point that I made earlier. The present Minister for National Development admitted in his statement last Friday that he did not know the full particulars and details of the situation that the honourable member for Farrer has given, until some time after Cabinet had made its decision. In order to try to recover face with the State Ministers before the Governor-General delivered his speech on 3rd March last the present Minister sent telegrams to them stating that the Government intended to introduce the off-shore legislation.
This Government now lacks the confidence of the House and, I think, of the people, because of its failure to honour this commitment and because of its failure in other instances to give to the House all the information . that the House has required. It is the Government which is charged with evasions, half truths and omissions. In this instance all the evidence and the truth of the situation are on the side of the honourable member for Farrer. For those reasons I support the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition, indicating want of confidence in the Government.
– The House is debating a want of confidence motion which has been brought about by the reply of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) this morning to earlier statements made by the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) on the off-shore mining legislation. The
Opposition has moved, as an amendment to the Prime Minister’s motion that the paper be noted, the following motion:
That the following words be added to the motion: and that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet lack the confidence of the House because they failed to honour a commitment made to the States by the previous Minister for National Development, acting for and on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, that there would be further consultation with the States before the Commonwealth Government introduced any legislation on the territorial sea and continental shelf.’
I, as Minister for the Interior, am a member of the Australian Minerals Council. I have been associated with the honourable member for Farrer at meetings of the Council for some 2i years. I do not doubt the integrity of the honourable member for Farrer one bit. What I do doubt is his memory of the events that have taken place. I think that time and events have moved in such a way since the honourable member for Farrer was Minister for National Development that his memory of these events is clouded. For that reason I hope to prove that the Opposition motion is quite fallacious.
The essence of the matter is as follows: In February 1969 Cabinet made a very clear decision that the Commonwealth would legislate to assert total rights over the sea bed outside the 3-mile limit. In that decision Cabinet specifically rejected a proposition in the paper brought up by the then Minister for National Development - the honourable member for Farrer - that the basis of this scheme should be the offshore oil agreement. The decision went on to request the Minister for National Development to seek to bring the States amicably to this arrangement. The Prime Minister is quite right. This is not an offer to the States; it is and always was intended to be a clear Government intention. I might say that the States reacted, as I think the honourable member for Farrer expected - I do not want to put thoughts into his mind or words into his mouth - certainly as I expected. They reacted with some display of shock and dismay. Nevertheless, they were completely and totally aware that the Commonwealth intended to legislate and in my view there never has been any misunderstanding on this vital point.
Let us look <it the other part of the decision, that is, the request to bring the States amicably to the decision, because I believe that this is the paragraph of the decision which has’ created the difficulty for the honourable member for Farrer. As I have said, the States displayed shock and dismay and it was quite apparent to me that they could never come amicably to such an arrangement. They said - they made it quite clear - that they wanted to base any arrangements on the off-shore oil agreement, a basis which had been specifically rejected when discussed by Cabinet in February, prior to the March meeting, lt was certainly obvious to me - I cannot speak for the honourable member for Farrer - that there was no chance of bringing the States amicably to such an arrangement. I think the attitude of the State Ministers since that time proves that point.
Another matter that arises is the reason for further discussions. There is no doubt in my mind that the reasons for further discussions related to the interim arrangements and the administrative arrangements to be followed during and following the legislation. The States were never given an understanding by the previous Minister that the course the Commonwealth wanted to take would not be taken. The proposition brought forward by the States at the 26th September meeting was based on the possibility of obtaining dual legislative content and a dual administrative scheme. But the former Minister must have had clearly in his mind at that time the Cabinet decision of February 1969 that the Common wealth was not interested in legislating on a similar basis for off-shore oil and had specifically rejected that proposition.
Let me turn now to the September meeting. Nowhere is there mention at that meeting of an understanding by one State Minister of a belief expressed that agreement was reached that the Commonwealth would not or could not legislate without further dicussions once the propositions put to the September meeting were dealt with by Cabinet. The understanding to hold further discussions given only at the March meeting and, I repeat, not repeated at the September meeting can be related therefore to administrative arrangements only. Before the September meeting, the honourable member for Farrer had this decision con firmed in a letter from the Prime Minister. It specifically said: ‘Do not reassure the States that legislation will not be introduced’. As a result, the honourable member for Farrer at the September meeting of the Australian Minerals Council did not do as he had sought to do in his letter and that was to reassure the States again that the Commonwealth would not legislate. He had to know that, when the propositions of the States put in September were discussed again by Cabinet, it was likely that the Commonwealth would reaffirm its previous decision to reject the off-shore oil legislation as a basis for the new agreement.
In my view, the honourable member for Farrer had a clear responsibility to convey the implications of the letter of the Prime Minister, written before that September meeting, to the State Ministers. If he was not prepared to do this, he, on receipt of the letter from the Prime Minister, should have gone back to the Prime Minister and informed him of any arrangements that he, the honourable member for Farrer, believed that he had entered into with the States. The fact that he did neither of these things confirms my own understanding of the events. Once Cabinet had considered the views put at the September meeting by the States as it did in February 1970 - this time with another Minister for National Development - the Commonwealth was immediately in a proper position to legislate. Further discussions, of course, can, must and will take place on the interim arrangements. So, I submit that the very point that the motion of want of confidence is based on is in these questions. There is no doubt that the position of the Commonwealth is proper and that its obligations have been met. I submit therefore to the Parliament that the Opposition’s case falls to the ground.
Mr CONNOR (Cunningham) [2.331- Mr Speaker, one of the most interesting features of the debate is not just who is here or what is being said but what is happening behind the scenes. I refer to the comings and goings of different Ministers. The movements of those within Cabinet have been duly noted by the Opposition. It is particularly obvious, right now, from the absence of a considerable number of the leading members of the Government, that something is being done in some way to try to compromise the situation. Those persons believe that what the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) has suggested might be their only let-out. There are desperate messages being sent out to ensure the return of members to the Government who have absented themselves. For that reason, the Government at this stage is not prepared even to precipitate a vote.
It is equally notable that the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon), who has just resumed his seat, sat down very abruptly because obviously he was given the tip that something was about to happen. Events will decide whether that is so. But it would appear that something will be concocted in the nature of a suggestion that the matter be stood over for a period of 6 months. In other words, the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen), the former Attorney-General, will be left high and dry. To use the vernacular the rug will be pulled right from underneath him.
This debate was precipitated by a statement made in the Governor-General’s Speech of the intention of the Government to legislate on the territorial sea and continental shelf. The debate is not one on the merits of that legislation. But it is worth noting that most vehement protests were made by the various State Ministers for Mines at the cursory, short notice given to them by the Government of its intentions to legislate. Those’ protests speak for themselves. Would the various State Ministers be protesting if they had not reason to believe that the Australian Minerals Council would have been continuing its discussions in February?
In this case, to put it in ordinary terms, it is a matter of Fairbairn versus Gorton. The honour of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and his Cabinet has been challenged. The indictment is contained in the terms of the statement made in this House on Friday last, 8th May 1970, by the honourable member for Farrer. He said:
I was authorised by Cabinet to make an offer to the States at that meeting.
He refers there to the meeting of 3rd March. His statement continues:
That offer was that the States should retain control of the mineral resources of the territorial seabed, that is, from low water mark to the 3- mile mark off-shore, while the Commonwealth legislated to take over total rights outside the 3- mile limit to the edge of the continental shelf.
The honourable member for Farrer goes on to say that he undertook to refer the counter proposals made by the States to Cabinet. He claims that he committed the Government. He did not speak as David Fairbairn. He spoke as the then Minister for National Development.
The scathing part of his indictment is to be found in these words:
I flatly refuse to accept that argument He refers there to the argument that no commitment was made. He continues:
Has public morality in this country declined to such a degree that an agreement entered into by the Commonwealth is not binding unless it is legally enforceable? If that is the position, we have come to a pretty despicable state of affairs. Is it believed in Australia today that the word of the Commonwealth Government means nothing unless those to whom this word is given have some legal means of enforcing it?
To back up the honourable member for Farrer, I quote the remarks of Dr Delamothe of Queensland. He is also a member of the Australian Mineral Council. Dr Delamothe said:
There has been an arrant and, I believe, a considered breach of faith on the part of the Government.
Who is the honourable member for Farrer? He took unprecedented action. Can it ever be said that it was not unprecedented, immediately after winning an election for a former Minister of the Crown, quite deliberately and sanely, to say that he was not prepared to serve in the same Ministry or in the same Cabinet as a victorious Prime Minister? It is unparalleled in the history of this Parliament.
– Who is this Delamothe? Is he a Labor Minister?
– He is a Liberal.
– A Liberal! Oh!
– He is the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in Queensland.
– Yes. I believe the honourable member for Farrer to be an honourable man. I know an honest and a frank man when I see one. I accept his statement without reservation. This is not merely a matter of my own personal judgment. The events that did take place ought to be considered. At the first meeting of the combined Government Parties which took place after the federal election, the honourable member for Farrer openly stated that he was not prepared to serve under the Prime Minister. He accused the Prime Minister of having repeatedly acted arbitrarily and without consulting Cabinet. Precisely that happened on this occasion as I will proceed to prove.
Since 1965, continuous discussions have taken place with the Australian Minerals Council and, before it, discussions between the various State Ministers for Mines and the Commonwealth Minister for National Development. In every case in those discussions the Ministers have been seeking to evade or to slide around the known constitutional position. Every possible artifice has been used to see that the deal that was made between the Commonwealth and the States would be continued and would be perpetuated.
At the time of the September meeting of the Australian Minerals Council something sensational had happened. It was this: The offer which had been made - which the former Minister for National Development had been authorised to make - in fact had been ruled unconstitutional by the High Court of Australia in the case of Bonser v La Macchia. That judgment, it should be carefully noted, was given on 6th August 1969. a matter of a month before the meeting of the - Australian Minerals Council. It is worth noting that the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen), who was then the Attorney-General, appeared on behalf of the Commonwealth. He was fortified by a colleague from New South Wales in the person of the Crown Solicitor, who also appeared and asked the Court not to decide on the legality or otherwise of the very offer that had been made to the March meeting by the Commonwealth. Chief Justice Barwick said quite frankly and forthrightly that he would not take any notice of the representations of either the Commonwealth or the States. He then proceeded to make a decision. The decision was that the Commonwealth had sole sovereign rights in respect of all the resources of the continental shelf right out from low water level.
That was the situation that confronted the Ministers and the other representatives when they met in the Australian Minerals Council in September. There had to be further negotiations. There was no conceivable alternative. The Commonwealth’s offer had been destroyed. It had been ruled out. A compromise had to be entered into. The compromise was to be an obvious one. The States had won. The States had wanted a continuation of the old deal which had gone on ever since the days of negotiations between the Premier of Victoria and the then Prime Minister, the late Mr Harold Holt. The deal was always this: We will not ever get to court; we will not challenge one another; we will pool all our respective sovereignties, all our claims; we will agree on a cut-up of the cake and the royalties; we will enter into contracts that are non-justiciable; we will be all pals together; but it will never hit the court.
This time, at the September meeting, the States had the Commonwealth over a barrel. They had it in this position: They could not do otherwise than meet again. They had to meet because otherwise the whole of their rickety structure of constitutional invasion would fall and collapse completely. In the light of that, can any member of the- Government suggest that there would not be another meeting; can any member of the Government suggest that it would not have been forced to meet the States?
Then what happened? The GortonHewitt axis sprung into action. This was not the only occasion on which this had happened. The honourable member for Farrer had had his corns trampled on before, when the Prime Minister deliberately usurped his function and intruded into the negotiations in respect of the pricing of oil and the arrangements between EssoBHP and the Government. On that occasion the honourable member had said - he made this charge and I respect him for making it - that the Prime Minister had intruded into the administration of hrs Department and had forbidden him to give any of the details of the negotiations to the Bureau of Mineral Resources. What a situation!
The same authoritarian, arrogant Prime Minister who was capable of doing that moved in again. He said: ‘I, Gorton, will provide a Gordian solution. ( will provide the solution. We will go right ahead. We have a judgment. To hell with the States. Let them rot. We will assert to the full our sovereign rights’. The Commonwealth has those sovereign rights. I said this in the House when the off-shore oil legislation was being discussed some 3 years ago, in 1967. The Commonwealth undoubtedly has these rights. I am not dealing with the merits of the legislation; I am dealing with the facts as they are. They are quite simple.
The whole structure is collapsing. The off-shore mining legislation has yet to be discussed in this chamber. I assume that the Government still intends to proceed with it. If it wants to save face with the people of Australia, that legislation will have to be proceeded with. When the States make their challenge, the sovereign rights of the Commonwealth undoubtedly will be upheld. That is the situation today, as I see it. The States need money. They are determined at all costs to proceed with mirror legislation. They are determined to maintain that rickety structure and to use it because, God alone knows, they need the money.
Behind it all is the fundamental conflict between the centralists and the federalists. The Prime Minister is a centralist, and the honourable member for Farrer is a federalist. 1 respect their viewpoints. On this occasion the Prime Minister is doing what he said long ago he would do. He said that where there was a conflict between him and the Cabinet his will would prevail. And so it. has on this occasion. A decision was made to anticipate, to sidetrack and to prevent any further discussion. There is no doubt in my mind, there is no doubt in the mind of the Opposition and there is no doubt in the mind of the people of Australia that the Prime Minister rushed in and hamhandedly. as he so often does, decided what was to be done. He provided the Gordian solution. He was determined to give the States the pill, and they had to take it and swallow it on the spot.
Hence the Government is in the dilemma in which it is at the present time, with Ministers rushing around trying to persuade the recalcitrant members of their own Party to support them, or at least not to abstain from voting, and sending out urgent messages for men who have gone off to other places to come back by air. This is a Gilbertian situation. It is one that J believe is a complete travesty of parliamentary procedure. This Government is not prepared at this stage to put this matter to a vote.
– We have heard a lot of argument from both sides of the House, both on Friday last and today, on what was said and what was done at various meetings with State Ministers and what has happened since. After listening to the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the statements made by the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), 1 feel that irrespective of words there has been room on both sides for an honest difference of opinion or interpretation as to what was said or what was intended by the words that were said.
Personally, I agree with the interpretation of the honourable member for Farrer; but that does not mean that I will vote for the amendment - the vote of censure - put forward by the Australian Labor Party. The Opposition, as a matter of tactics, has moved a vote of censure and has been loud in its demand foi State rights. But everybody in this House knows that the Federal policy of the Labor Party is to wipe out State parliaments and to put all power in the hands of the Federal Parliament. Therefore, it is almost a comedy to hear members of the Labor Party standing up and supporting State rights. They have no real sympathy with the States, (f this vote of censure were carried, it might well lead to a further erosion of State powers.
But this does not mean that I will vote for the Bill. I believe that the States should be consulted further on this matter and that there is room for considerably more discussion. I believe that, if that occurs, as the Prime Minister has now promised - I take it from his statement in the House today that there will be further discussions with the States - these matters, which are of great importance internationally and nationally, can be settled amicably and reasonably. Therefore, I reserve my decision on the Bill itself until the results of those discussions are known. In the meantime, if members of the Opposition think ! am a political donkey to be attracted by a bunch of their carrots, they have another think coming.
– I suppose that the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) would be the most reluctant rebel of our time. He consistently talks one way but votes the other. From the day I saw him come into this Parliament with a great reputation as a rebel, 1 have never seen him do anything but follow the band. Today he is doing precisely the same. I hope to live to see the day when some issue will force him to vote for the matters he espouses.
This is a matter of political integrity and honour, not of whether we believe in States. The honourable member for Chisholm knows that this amendment has been moved by one of the most reputable men in this Parliament and in Australian politics. Yet the honourable member, whilst he believes that what that man has put forward is correct, refuses to support him by his vote. But we on this side of the Parliament do not. We have the greatest regard for the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) for having principles that he espouses and supports, quite contrary to that of the honourable member for Chisholm.
It is interesting today to hear the Government saying how it has honoured its obligations to the States in this matter, but at this very moment in the Prime Minister’s (Mr Gorton) office the terms of surrender are being drawn up. Ere this day is over the Prime Minister and his Party will stand in this Parliament and capitulate in line and in proof of the statements made by the honourable member for Farrer. So little is known within the Government about what the Prime Minister is doing that not even the next Minister who is going to talk will know what is happening until he sits down and finds out that everything he said was wrong under the terms of surrender. From one end of this country to the other at this moment the telephone lines are burning and men are getting onto planes. Liberals are being recalled from everywhere because the Government is in danger. It has cancelled all pairs. Today it knows that the only way of getting out of this situation is to capitulate.
This is not a matter of policy. This is whether or not a government has honoured its obligations. Today in this Parliament the censure motion that I support was not brought on by members on this side of the House. It was raised by the honourable member for Farrer. The honourable member for Farrer has given the members of his Party who are consistently sniping at the Prime Minister and saying that they will bring him down the opportunity on a great matter of honour to stand in this Parliament with him today and bring down a Government that has forfeited the respect of the Australian people and the respect of all State administrators in Australia.
Let us have a look at the honourable member for Farrer. No man denies that he is a man of integrity and honour. Already he has suffered for his principles by refusing to serve under the Prime Minister and today he is prepared to risk his political future, because of honour and integrity, by voting against this Government on this well deserved motion. He is no friend of the Labor Party, as he said in his speech earlier today, but he is prepared to back his point of view and his honour by a vote which he knows must place in jeopardy his political future, and I hope the political future of most of those who sit opposite me. Let me make this quite clear: Let no honourable member who sits behind the Government treat this charge lightly. The honourable member for Farrer, respected and admired by friend and enemy, has charged this Government, which sent him as a Minister to give certain undertakings, with dishonouring them. In addition to that he not only says so but he supports the charge by reading from the minutes of the conference which was held and he quoted the names of every State Minister for Mines - every one a Liberal - and every State Attorney-General in support of the fact that this Government stands condemned in the eyes of the Australian people as one which will not support the views or the obligations which it enters into.
The Opposition supports the honourable member for Farrer, not because we like him but because we on this side of the Parliament are men of integrity and honour. The Labor Party, in government and in opposition, honours its obligations to the people of Australia. I for one regret to see this once great Party bickering in public on great issues. It is disturbing and sorrowful. Today the Parliament is held up for a full day because a dispute which should have been settled with honour and integrity in the Party room has been brought into the Parliament as the Prime Minister, too blind to see and to realise that his honour is at stake, refused to fight this matter where it should have been fought. Today we witness in public the spectacle of this once great Party bickering in a way that to some extent confounds us but at the same time distresses every true democrat in the place.
On this issue honourable members opposite know as well as I do that they have had Party meeting after Party meeting, and today the honourable member for Farrer has stated in this House that ali kinds of pressure has been exerted upon him to capitulate, that whispering campaigns were started against him. The Press has been full of headlines such as ‘Fairbairn may go overseas’ - anywhere to get the man of honour and integrity out of the Parliament. The Liberal Party does not want men of that type and that is why it wants to send the honourable member for Farrer to any post in the world as long as it is not here in Canberra - because judged on performances here today men of integrity in the Liberal Party are like lost sheep.
Why is this debate taking place? lt is not because of anything that the Labor Party has done. It is because the Prime Minister has said: ‘I do not believe the honourable member for Farrer. 1 think he was completely wrong, and so far as I am concerned you can take it or leave it and it is going through.’ Not only did he say that in order that he might get his own way on this issue; he was trying out the rebels in his ranks to see whether they would continue to snipe at him as they have in days gone by. Therefore, we are held up here on this issue by Government members, some of whom are at this stage hurrying back from all over Australia while in the Prime Minister’s room - drawn up like the capitulation of Japan, as it were - the terms of surrender are being written line by line. Ere this day is over I do not think that it will be the Labor Party which will triumph. The honourable member for Farrer will be proven in this Parliament to be correct despite what a Minister said not 10 minutes ago in this place, lt is a pity someone does not tell the
Ministry what is happening, because it is quite obvious from the way in which they talk that they do not know - and they certainly do not know in relation to this crisis that is before us today.
Let us again have a look at the position of the honourable member for Farrer. The most mysterious man in all these discussions has been the former Attorney-General. He was with the honourable member for Farrer, but today he more or less came quietly into the Parliament. He looked as though somebody had dragged him in because while all this discussion has been taking place we heard no mention of the former Attorney-General. On Monday, 1 1th May. the editorial of the ‘Canberra Times’ had this to say: . . Mr Bowen, then the Attorney-General and now Minister for Education and Science and a member of the Cabinet. Did not Mr Bowen inform his colleagues that Mr Fairbairn had given this undertaking, and if not, why not? In fact, who besides Mr Fairbairn and the State Ministers did know of the commitment?
Why did not the Attorney-General come into this Parliament previously. I would say that he was what might be termed a hostile witness by reason of the fact that today he was uncertain in his presentation. He is a lawyer of great eminence. He should have a very good memory. He is paid highly to have it, and he learnt at great expense to the Australian public, and probably others. But today he was uncertain. 1 think that the terms of surrender - if T might use an unfortunate term - will make a donkey out of the Attorney-General.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
– I meant the former Attorney-General.
-The former AttorneyGeneral is still a member of this House and I suggest to the honourable member that he should withdraw that remark.
– 1 mean the Minister for Education and Science.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member that he withdraw that remark.
– I certainly will, Mr Speaker. Not for a moment would I put you off-side at this stage. If the terms of surrender about which I heard are drawn up, I would say that the evidence today of the Minister for Education and Science will prove that he is not the only member of the Ministry who is completely wrong in relation to the interpretation of the situation presented by the honourable member for Fairer. The honourable member for Farrer made some statements in his speech on Friday, 8th March, which he has repeated today. Those statements should be read again by every person who believes in honour and integrity in this Parliament. Let me quote one or two, if not for members of this House, then for the huge listening audience that I know I have at this time: He said:
I was authorised by Cabinet to make an offer to the States at that meeting. That offer was that the States should retain control of mineral resources of the territorial seabed . . .
That is a pretty clear statement for a Minister of the Crown to make. He went on to say:
I undertook to refer this proposal back to Cabinet and also undertook that before the Commonwealth took any action there would be further consultation with the States.
That is quite definite and clear. I sec that the honourable member is leaving the chamber now to be consulted by Cabinet on this matter. He went on and said:
Two points emerge from this. Firstly, I did not commit the Commonwealth as David Fairbairn; I committed it as the Minister for National Development, authorised and instructed by Cabinet to act as the Commonwealth’s negotiator.
That is a very pertinent and definite statement to make. Will any honourable member opposite say today that the former Minister was thinking loosely on this matter? He was quoting from the minutes of the proceedings and from the documents. He is not only a man of integrity, he has more capacity than most of the present members of the Ministry put together. His memory is good and agile on these matters. He goes on to refer to the second question by saying:
If it was, was this commitment honoured? I have heard it argued that the undertaking I entered into was not legally binding on the commonwealth. I flatly refuse to accept that argument.
That is a devastating statement. He went on:
Has public morality in this country declined to such a degree that an agreement entered into by the Commonwealth is not legally binding unless it is legally enforceable?
Is that the attitude of the Ministry? Have we sunk to that low level? I have quoted the words of a member of the Government benches. I would say that he himself would have been fully entitled to prove his point by moving in this Parliament a censure motion of the Government. He went on to say:
If that is the position, we have come to a pretty despicable state of affairs. Is it believed in Australia today that the word of the Commonwealth Government means nothing unless those to whom this word is given have some legal means of enforcing it? How could anyone ever trust us again if that is the position?
That is the reason why a censure motion has been moved by the Opposition today. It has nothing to do with State Parliaments as such or with the provisions of the legislation, but rather with the questions of political integrity and honesty and whether a Government should honour its obligations incurred by a Minister at conferences with State Ministers. The honourable member for Farrer went on: 1 assumed that the State Ministers would accept me as a man of honour speaking on behalf of a government of honour.
We knew he was wrong on that a long time ago; but at the same time one would think that when he was a member of the Ministry he would have believed that the Government would honour obligations he incurred in his position. The honourable member went on to quote the words of various Ministers, each one of them a Liberal Party Minister. I appreciate that amongst Liberal Ministers in the States there are those who are not so bright, but do not tell me that every State Minister for Mines and every State Attorney-General misunderstood what the honourable member for Farrer was saying. Certainly not. The fact of the matter is that he has proved beyond doubt that he was completely right. I have quoted from the honourable member’s speech at some length because the honourable member himself again referred to it today and so did the Prime Minister. The honourable member said:
If the States cannot accept those kinds of assurances, government in this country is reaching a pretty low ebb.
They are the words of the honourable member for Farrer, a former Minister for National Development. Later in his speech he said:
Other suggestions try to say that the commitment has been honoured because the Minister for National Development has met the State Ministers after the decision to legislate unilaterally from the low water mark had been announced by the Commonwealth.
As the honourable member said today, the commitment was entered into but then the Gorton Government decided that it would have a discussion with the States again after they had decided what to do. That is like shutting the stable door after the horse is out. It was understood in all honesty by the former Minister that these obligations would be honoured. When Mr Griffith heard the Governor-General’s speech he said:
I was quite horrified to think that matters had gone that far and 1 thought this was an abrogation of the understanding that we had with the previous Minister.
The Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen), a Queenslander, is at the table. I wish to quote to him the views of one of his own Liberal Ministers. Whilst I appreciate that he is not quite one of the lovebirds of the Queensland Libera) Party I would like the Minister to comment on what Dr Delamothe said. He drew the attention of the meeting to a telegram sent by the Queensland Government after 2nd March. This is what the Queensland Minister said:
Such proposal would negate the firm understanding by State Ministers at their last meeting that there would be a further meeting or meetings before legislation.
I ask the Minister for the Navy whether he believes that the Queensland Minister was wrong. Will he believe the Prime Minister against the honourable member for Farrer? Will he say whether all these supporters of the statement by the honourable member for Farrer are completely wrong and that only the Prime Minister and Cabinet are right? The honourable member for Farrer concluded his speech by saying: lt is my belief that the honouring of Government undertakings is essential, and that if this is to be described as old fashioned morality all I can say is that the sooner we revert to a bit of obi fashioned morality the better it will be for Australia and for the governed us well as for those who do the governing.
All those charges were repeated today and they will be proved ere this day is out - under the terms of surrender. I suggest to honourable members representing the Country Party that they should not laugh about this matter. The Country Party is significant for contributing only one halfhearted speech on this issue. I do not blame them; for once they are showing a bit of sense. If they keep quiet nobody will know what they really think about this mess. Nobody will really know what they think about the mess that the Prime Minister has got them into. Everybody knows that at this moment the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), is outside the chamber whipping around amongst the Liberals and others trying to drum some sense into them. He has not got much sense to give away but he knows that they have less. I will say, with due respect, that the one time honourable members opposite look like a government is when he takes over. But he cannot take over long enough, unfortunately, probably, for the Country Party and other people.
I have mentioned the issues that we must look at in order to sum up this situation. Let us now reach a verdict as to whether the honourable .member for Farrer is right and whether the motion the Opposition has moved regarding the honour and integrity of the Government is correct, or whether the Prime Minister and his Government should continue in office. I remind honourable members opposite and the people of Australia that this is the opportunity to defeat a Government that has forfeited the complete confidence of a lot of its own supporters and undoubtedly the overwhelming majority of the Australian people.
The honourable member for Farrer has laid charges against the Government. He is accepted without challenge by every honourable/ member opposite and every honourable member on this side of the chamber as a person of honesty and integrity. His word is supported by facts from the minutes and by statements from State Ministers for Mines and Liberal AttorneysGeneral. That is the evidence on which he bases his charge. Against him we have the Prime Minister who said: You will take it or leave it. 1 have the numbers and we want the leases to be as we desire.’ We have heard the former Attorney-General, the Minister for Education and Science. As I said before, he fits into the category of a hostile witness. The new Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) has been holding that portfolio only long enough to read the papers so his evidence must be discounted. Then we heard other Ministers. They came in and supported the Government but they know nothing about this matter other than the information that the Prime Minister has given to them.
Against that you have the statement, backed up and supported by the honourable member for Farrer, that a promise was given and that the undertaking was not honoured. He has put his political future on the line. He has already suffered because of his political beliefs. The Labor Party says that if he is prepared to take this course there must be substance in his statement and therefore his action deserves to be supported by all who believe in political integrity.
I hope that ere this day is out the Government will be out of office following the carriage of a resolution that stands for the very principle of democratic government. A government ought to be out of office once it loses its honour and integrity, when it will not honour its obligations, when it endeavours to force legislation through in the manner that this Government does, when it throws out of office men of reputation and integrity because they differ from the Prime Minister and when its members and supporters bring the bickerings from their Party meetings into the public place. I hope this motion will be carried in order to vindicate the honourable member for Farrer - in order to vindicate all who support integrity and honesty in government - and, at the same time, for once in a while give this country a chance to get going.
– On 31st October last a quotation appeared in the national Press-
– What is going on here?
– The right honourable member for Melbourne has arrived at last. As 1 was saying when the honourable member interjected, having just arrived, I made a statement on 31st October last at the time when the then Minister for National Development, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), had indicated what was to me a staggering bombshell regarding his political future. L was quoted in the Press as having said this:
When a man of the integrity and experience of Mr Fairbairn makes such a statement it commands the attention and respect of the whole Party.
I believe what I said then to be true now. The honourable member for Farrer is a man of great integrity. He is a person of great experience. 1 believe that what I have said will bear any scrutiny if one considers the debate which has been going on in this House for the last few hours and the comments and discussions that have occurred in the last few days. Nevertheless, what others on this side of the House have said also indicates that the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) was correct in saying that there is a possibility of considerable difference of opinion regarding the same circumstances and the same words. What has been said about the honourable member for Farrer I believe can be said across the whole nation with regard to the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen). His integrity is beyond dispute. He is a trained Queen’s Counsel who was present at these same meetings and who has made statements to this House that were, without any kind of equivocation or desire to hide behind words, statements coming straight from his own depth of experience.
He said that as one who had been present at these meetings he had read and re-read the records with anxious care - not anxious in the petty way that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) suggested, that is anxious to find excuses, but anxious to discover whether, in the words that the honourable member for Farrer was using, there was not an interpretation that thus far had escaped him. His conclusion was: I cannot recall anything or find anything in the records to justify changing my opinion that no kind of commitment had been entered into on behalf of the Commonwealth by the then Minister for National Development that would justify the kind of censure motion that stands before us today in the name of the Opposition.
We have listened to some very intelligent and very capable debating and we have listened also to some arrant nonsense. The last speech that was heard from the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) made us aware of the deep concern that he has at the flight of the Government, of this once great Party, as he put it. Personally, however, I would prefer his anger, vituperation and scorn to the broad grins of bis bereavement, the sally of his sorrows and the giggles of his grief. So let us get back to the facts that have been put before us in this argument. First of all the Leader of the Opposition came in and tried to make a debating point without mentioning dates, saying that an undertaking had been entered into. He quoted words from the minutes of a meeting to indicate that the then Minister for National Development had undertaken to the State Ministers that there would be consultations before this legislation was brought down. He did not mention that the date of that meeting was 3rd March last year. He said that there was an undertaking in the words that he read. But as one studies the circumstances that follow this, not only were there consultations that did take place discharging such an undertaking subsequently, but also there was some correspondence between the Minister and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). The correspondence that took place several months - 4 months - later was to do with this particular point of whether or not the Minister in subsequent discussions should enter into any kind of undertaking. The Prime Minister urged that the Minister, if at all possible, should avoid doing so.
If the circumstances are these, how could it possibly be, if there was a binding undertaking entered into on 3rd March that was not to be discharged by the meeting about to take place, that the Minister was under any conception or misconception that in going to this meeting he was going there to avoid entering into any kind of commitment? It is my suggestion that he went to that meeting knowing perfectly well what the Prime Minister required, what the desire of the Leader of the Government was, and in this meeting he saw no reason whatever to inform the others that anything that had been said at the meeting of 3rd March was now to be vetoed or abrogated. The reason was, I believe, that he did not at that time understand there to be this continuing commitment that before the legislation was brought down there would be fundamental rediscussion of certain issues. That certain issues would be discussed it is admitted was agreed and they were actually subsequently discussed and this particular commitment was discharged. So I suggest that if the Leader of the Opposition had made the dates clear the point that he brings up. which in his presentation was one of his major issues, would indeed have disappeared.
We then heard from the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor). He told us that 2 of the bench of 5 of the High Court made comments at the time of a judgment in the case of Bonser v. La Macchia. This judgment did not extend to the entire court. Three of the judges did not comment but the Chief Judge did. He indicated that in his opinion the Commonwealth had sovereignty from the low water mark out to the end of (he continental shelf. The argument that is brought forward by the honourable member for Cunningham is that the Chief Judge having thus spoken a new factor now emerges. The honourable member concludes that thus there had to be negotiations. 1 suggest that while the honourable member may come to such a conclusion - and he is skilled in these matters - it is equally possible for others to come to a very different conclusion.
I suggest that it is possible that the Chief Judge having said such things and in the midst of all these discussions between the Commonwealth and the States, that is that in his opinion and in the opinion of one of his brother judges the Commonwealth had sovereignty from everything below the low water mark, this brought a new dimension into this matter. This could equally well have meant that the discussions or negotiations - to use the honourable member’s words - ought to halt at that point because there had now to be another decision made, a decision which the Commonwealth is seeking in this legislation, the final and irrevocable decision to be made by the whole bench of the High Court which is the supreme authority to determine who has the sovereignty over these territorial waters. So I suggest that there is indeed a different interpretation possible on this issue from that arrived at by the honourable member for Cunningham.
I do not want to take much more time in this debate but I must say one or two things. I believe that there are 2 sets of issues. Firstly, there are the issues of what was done in the circumstances, and - equally important in my book - how these things were done. In terms of what was done, I have presented in the last few minutes my view that the Commonwealth is under an obligation to have the High Court decide the sovereignty over this area. I believe it is proper in so proceeding. Personally I would like to have seen this achieved in harmony and goodwill with the States, with perhaps the Commonwealth paying the expenses of the court case because it is not possible under our Constitution, as I understand it, for there to be any kind of hypothetical judgment or hypothetical case presented for judgment by the High Court, and some kind of actual litigation must proceed. I would like to have seen every bit of skill brought to bear on the situation to bring about an amicable approach whereby the Commonwealth and the States would have agreed not to go as belligerent contenders but as honest seekers after the actuality. I am very sorry that it was not done in this way. Of course, these 2 issues are now past but there are other sets of issues.
The other matters we are discussing today also fall under 2 heads. There is first what the Government understood to be taking place. There is, as I see it, a distinct case to be made that in the mind of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), as he presented the matter to us today, there was his own consistent attitude through it all. Let us consider the circumstances. A Prime Minister is always busy with all the affairs of a vast number of portfolios. This was particularly so because of the advent of the elections and the political upheaval of the time. It is quite conceivable and I am going to give the Prime Minister the benefit of any doubt of this situation anyway. In this case he gave his instructions to the Minister for National Development to go as hard as he possibly could to avoid making commitments. He expected that this would be the situation - the actuality. He was informed of nothing to the contrary and indeed any ordinary examination of the transcripts reveal nothing to the contrary. So there is every justification in my mind for the Prime Minister to retain the attitude that no commitment had been entered into.
But on the other hand, of course, there is the position of the State Mines Ministers. The Australian Minerals Council at that time could have had a different understanding of the question, from the tone of conversations, the kind of asides that were made and the state of mind or, if you like, the atmosphere of the meeting. But, of course, one has to take into account the fact that the Minister for Education and Science was present at the meeting. He is a trained counsel, and he has informed this House - and I believe with great certainty and sincerity - that the meeting did not arrive at any such conclusion. But, nevertheless, there were also many incentives for the State Mines Ministers and their advisers to be of one mind, for their being interested parties in this whole affair. They were, indeed, fighting together for a status quo that was under challenge. They were fighting together for the whole quest:on of sovereignty which overlay the situation. Therefore, I believe that there is every reason to accept the view that there could be honest differences of opinion, and this is how I personally interpret the question.
One or two others matters have been brought up by way of criticism, concerning the method and the timing of this matter. For instance, it has been stated that there was no issue of urgency, so why could nol the question have waited for some months when the new government was in office and the whole thing could be negotiated at a more leisurely pace. Do not let us forget the circumstances applying in Australia at that time. There was a mineral boom. Company after company was beginning to talk about off-shore exploration. Advances had been made in technology in this field. Articles had been written and experiments had been made, for example, of actually bulldozing with diesel power under the waters of the continental shelf. Advances had been made in off-shore drilling and off-shore seismic and geophysical work. The situation was developing rapidly, and indeed the minutes of the meeting indicate that those taking part in the discussion expected increasing numbers of applications to be made for permits to explore for minerals off-shore. So there was a pressure of time to arrive at a conclusion. I set aside, therefore, the criticism that there was no need to proceed with expediency in this situation.
But one of the areas where criticism is valid and is also, I believe, possible of exaggeration is in the way in which each individual member of the Minerals Council was informed of the Government’s decision. There has been criticism of the Prime Minister’s statement that each individual member had been informed of the decision prior to the Governor-General’s Speech. We are told that a telegram was sent to each member of the Council on the day before the Government’s decision was announced. Was the receipt or non-receipt of that telegram a matter of great moment or consideration? In some circumstances in business affairs today the evidence that something has been posted is held to be evidence of the notice having been properly given. In other cases receipt of a registered letter is held to be proof of delivery. But what about a Minister of State? Surely a Minister of State, by virtue of his office, his equipment, his whole staff and all the rest, is the kind of person for whom a telegram sent to his official office should be adequate notice
Then, of course, there is criticism of the fact that a telegram was sent only the day before the decision was announced. This criticism is on stronger ground, but do not let us forget that this happened at an unusual time. It was a time of election. It was a time of the formation of a new Government. It was a time of considerable political stress. I believe that the more relevant question is: If there had been earlier notice, would it have achieved any purpose whatsoever? I think it was known that the matter was already decided, and that there was indeed to be a presentation of legislation on this point. It was not a matter therefore where there was the possibility of further negotiations. An offer had been made and then there was a counter offer, but the counter offer was rejected. It was then simply a matter of courtesy to inform the State Ministers prior to their hearing it from the official source of the Attorney-General’s Speech. I think this was discharged, although personally, in hindsight, one would have wished it to be done perhaps a little more graciously, a little earlier.
Much has been made about discussions between the Commonwealth and the States on the 3-mile limit, the authority beyond the 3-mile limit and the entire continental shelf below the low water mark. How vital is this consideration? There was to be a new type of legislation for minerals as distinct from petroleum. Sovereignty had been asserted by the Commonwealth over part of the shelf in any case. There was no question in this whole business - I will conclude on this point because I want to stress it - of the Commonwealth depriving the States of their right to administer the whole of the continental shelf as always. There was no question of the Commonwealth depriving the States of their right to collect royalties as always. What then was at stake? The only issue in the final result was that of sovereignty over the first 3 miles. This was the legal issue. It was not in the matter of administration or income; it was a matter which concerned only ultimate legal sovereignty.
I conclude by saying that this matter has not achieved the great storm that many of our opponents would like to have seen in perspective and in proportion. It has been opposed by the States for reasons that are easy to understand. The States, as we all know in these days of an advancing and growing Australia, with tremendous developments taking place in this very field of mineral development, have deep emotional feelings with regard to their own sovereignty. But my proposal is that there should be a joint approach to this litigation. I think we should have done this before. I hope the Commonwealth will see its way clear to establish an inquiry into what royalties the States might have expected and their right to administer them, so as to guarantee an economic return to the States. All this should take place within certain natural and agreed guidelines that have the national interest as a whole at heart. This amendment expressing want of confidence in the Government is totally unjustified. While 1 continue to have deep respect for, and I hope a continuing friendship with, the honourable member for Farrer, on this occasion I know that he will not resent the fact that we disagree over interpretation.
– For 20 minutes we have heard the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) dismiss with characteristic equivocation the charges laid against the Government by one of the most respected members of this Parliament
He spent 20 minutes defending the indefensible, explaining the inexplicible, and mutilating the immutable. He turned his great talents to arguments designed to confuse and confound. He comes into this House as one of the men with the greatest proven intellectual capacity. On every occasion I have listened to him on great issues in this place he has turned those talents to try to confuse and to explain that red is green and black is white. He avoided the issues completely. The charge here today is not that the 3 mile limit ought to be 300 miles or that it is a question of minerals or State rights. Charges have been levelled at this Government by a man who has held some of the highest offices in this country and who is respected as being an integral part of the governing political Party in this country. The issue here is that this Government has no honour. The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) said in the House last week:
That offer was that the States should retain control of the mineral resources of the territorial seabed, that is, from low water mark to the 3 mile mark off-shore, while the Commonwealth legislated to take over total rights outside the 3 mile limit to the edge of the continental shelf.
He said he made that offer. He outlined it exactly in the debate. We have seen the papers which were tabled. We have all been able to consider them. Finally, he stated to the House, in such a way that a large number of people are convinced, that these commitments were undertaken and that the Government has failed to honour that undertaking. These are hard words. They are not levelled at some private person in a private brawl. They are levelled at the Government of one of the world’s major democracies by one of its most distinguished citizens, a man who has held the office of Minister for many years. He said:
Mas public morality in this country declined to such a degree that an agreement entered into by the Commonwealth is not binding unless it is legally enforceable? … Is it believed in Australia today that the word of the Commonwealth Government means nothing unless those to whom this word is given have some legal means of enforcing it?
He has placed his political career on the line. That is the charge, and he is prepared to sustain it. Today we are not debating an ordinary issue. This is a challenge to the Government. The Government of Australia is indicted. The honourable member for Evans and the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) this afternoon have chosen to avoid the issues very skilfully, but they will have to answer to their consciences for it. As I listened to the honourable member for Chisholm, it seemed to me that he must have hobbled that great white charger he uses every week or so in this place on other issues. As far as I could ascertain, the honourable member for Evans charged every State Minister with dishonesty. He tried to cloud the issue with words to show that all they did was to misunderstand the situation, that this was something that flowed from their vested political interests in the situation, ls not that a charge of dishonesty against every State Minister involved in this? Are they all of that sort? Are they not all of the same political parties as the Government? That is what he has had to say.
We are charging the Government with failure to honour its commitments. We have moved that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and his Cabinet lack the confidence of the House because they failed to honour a commitment made to the States by the previous Minister for National Development, acting for and on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, that there would be further consultation with the States before the Commonwealth Government introduced any legislation on the territorial sea and continental shelf. As far as 1 can determine from the debate today and from a study of the papers, there is ample evidence that the honourable member for Farrer, acting in his capacity as a Minister in the Cabinet and in the Government, did make that commitment and there is ample evidence that the Government has failed to honour it. That is the way this Government conducts its affairs. It has become a one-man band in which 1 man makes decisions or is dilatory about making decisions and the rest of the country has to tag along behind.
We have been charged with all sorts of things. I thought the honourable member for Farrer did demean his own contribution to the debate by the way in which he referred to the Australian Labor Party. We are not concerned here this afternoon with State rights. That is a question that can be resolved in other fields. We are not concerned with sovereignty. But we are concerned with Australia, with the way in which it is governed, with its people and with the integrity of its Government. It is the integrity of the Government that is under challenge here today. Of course, as the honourable member for Farrer and, I think, the honourable member for Chisholm said, there is a possibility of considerable difference of opinion. The honourable member for Chisholm referred to the honourable the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen), formerly the AttorneyGeneral, as having had such and such to say of the discussions. The honourable member for Chisholm referred to the honourable member for Farrer, formerly the Minister for National Development, as having had such and such to say. What we have to say today is: Who is the more creditable witness?
The honourable member for Farrer has an enviable record in this place and in the public mind. I regard him as a very conservative man. I recall that on the very first night I sat in this Parliament in 1956 - honourable members can check this in Hansard - there was a discussion about how Parliament ought to be conducted. The Treasurer of the time had introduced a Ministers of State Bill upon which there had been no consultation. It was obvious that the Opposition had not been advised. It was obvious that the forms of the House would be used by the majority to put this through. After some discussion, which went on in accordance with the normal procedures of the Standing Orders and so on, 3 members of the Government voted with the Opposition on a procedural motion. One of those members was the honourable member for Farrer, another was the present High Commissioner in Great Britain and the other was the former member for Franklin. Does anybody challenge their integrity?
As far as I am concerned, following the 15 years for which 1 have been a member of this House, if I have to place reliance upon the judgment, the integrity, the sincerity and the keenness of observation of the honourable member for Farrer against that of the present Minister for Education and Science, my vote goes to the honourable member for Farrer because the Minister for Education and Science, during his time in this House as Attorney-General, continually associated himself with the
McCarthyisms and other matters which were associated with his portfolio. At no stage did I ever see him give any impression that he was concerned in any way with what I would call the real values of democracy or with anything else. This is not to suggest that he was insincere consciously.
But the facts are that in these matters about which I know something he was wrong. He was wrong in his judgment of the Australian Labor Party, its association with other political parties and the way we conduct our affairs. When the secondary school students came here a year or so back, he was wrong in his judgment of the situation on that occasion, as he realised when the evidence was placed before him. If I have to make a decision between the judgment of the honourable member for Farrer on the facts and the judgment of the former Attorney-General on the facts, I will support the honourable member for Farrer. I suggest that honourable members might take a look at the record of the honourable member for Farrer and the positions he has held in the Ministry and his offices in other areas. The honourable member for Farrer and the former Attorney-General are not equally good witnesses. But the issue, of course, is the integrity of the government of this country, and that is what honourable members have to answer for to their consciences and the country.
The Prime Minister has been charged with arrogance. Is there anyone who cannot produce plenty of evidence .to show that over the last 12 or 18 months, or even further back, the Prime Minister has been trying to run this country, his Cabinet and the Parliament as a one-man band; that he is amply supported in this by other members of the Cabinet; that in fact we have lost a great deal of the initiative to executive management, in this instance the Prime Minister himself? One only has to look through the debate here this afternoon on the matter that was originally raised by the honourable member for Dawson relating to Ministers and so on to see that In this instance we cannot place any reliance on the way that this Government is handling the affairs of this country. So the problem here today is how the Commonwealth is to be governed, the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States, and the essence of what one might regard as the Cabinet contract. Is the Cabinet committed when a Minister makes a decision on its behalf? The honourable member for Evans said: ‘Well, the Prime Minister is a busy man. He has a lot of things to do. He is handling all sorts of departments of State’. Does that not mean that he ought to rely more absolutely on the judgment of Ministers in charge of the various affairs? Of course he should.
The Prime Minister, I believe, is gradually dragging this country and not only his own political Party into disarray, as we see here today. We on this side of the House belong to a party which has a long tradition of solidarity and discipline. When we come to a stage where some members of a parliamentary party are prepared to vote against that party on some ground of issue and’ principle, it is a matter of high moment indeed. The Prime Minister is under challenge because this is happening here today to his Party. Then there is the other issue at stake-the collapse of the federal system as we know it. Everyone knows, of course, that we are not federalists as such, but we have to face the fact of life that Australia does not have 1 government but 7 governments.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)I suggest that the honourable member is now getting a little wide of the motion before the House. The wider issue of the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States is not the subject of the debate on the motion before the House. It is a subject matter in itself, and the honourable member for Wills may refer to it only as an illustration.
– With proper respect, Mr Deputy Speaker, our motion says:
So this is an issue of Cabinet integrity, but this is also a question which deeply involves the way we handle Commonwealth and State relations. This is the issue. The Governor-General in his Speech indicated a line of action upon which there had been no consultation, and therefore the position of the States was jeopardised. The whole question is one of Commonwealth and
State relations. I do not see that it is about anything else, because if the Prime Minister and his Cabinet have no duties to the States there is no need to consult the States whatsoever - and that was the point I was coming to.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock>Order! I point out to the honourable member that the point here is whether a prior commitment had been made, and the matter of Commonwealth and State relations is not an issue. The issue is whether a prior commitment has been broken.
– But surely this issue has been proven. During the course of the debate today and on the previous occasions the evidence of it has been laid before the House. I believe that this debate involves one of the fundamental issues of our time. This is not a debate on an Aged Persons Homes Bill; the fate of a government is being decided here today. The issues which are crystallised in this debate must be before the House or the debate has no meaning at all. We cannot indulge in abstractions hour after hour. The honourable member for Evans raised a multitude of questions. He raised the question of the way in which the States and the Commonwealth conduct their business. The Opposition has been challenged continuously today by the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and other honourable members on the other side of the House about its attitude towards CommonwealthState relations. I believe 1 am in duty bound to answer them.
In this instance we are faced with the fact that the relationships between the Commonwealth and State governments - there are 7 governments altogether - are crystallised in the dispute which is the issue before the Parliament. I could detail in- : numerable other issues which are in dispute. The fact that the Commonwealth and. the States have lost complete faith in one another is symbolic of the breakdown in their relationships. Another question which is in issue is the relationship between the parties which form the coalition Government. We have discussed during the day the question whether the Government was committed and whether the honourable member for Farrer can be relied upon as a reliable witness. The point I am making now is that Australia can no longer be governed in this fashion. The undemocratic leadership of the Government is being challenged. The Government has been charged with arrogance and showing a lack of consideration to the States. Furthermore, there are disputes within the political parties which form the coalition Government and there are disputes within the States.
Australia is being torn with discord because of this very issue. Great disputes within the political parties which form the Commonwealth Government and the 6 sovereign governments which make up the federal system of Australia are causing the whole system to collapse. The issues which are at stake are the integrity of the Government and the way in which the country is being governed. Another matter is whether we have a Government in which there is Cabinet solidarity and collective Cabinet responsibility. Australia’s minerals, its industries and laws and its social welfare are involved in the relationships between the Commonwealth and State governments. If they have been damaged irreparably, as it would appear, because of differences in the governing parties of this coalition Government and the governments of the States then great damage has been done to Australia and this House should reject the Government. Therefore, I should vote in favour of the motion of censure.
– To the motion that the House take note of the paper the Opposition has moved an amendment in the form of a motion of censure. The amendment is supported by 2 groups in the House. I may say, with respect, that one group supports it out of the simple prejudice of partisanship. The other group - which consists of at least one honourable member who has declared himself - is supporting the censure motion out of a spirit of simple conviction. The charge against the Government is one of dishonour, of failing to meet its obligation to honour an agreement. That is a shorthand account of the charge. The evidence falls within a very short compass. Let me assure the honourable member for Prospect (DrKlugman), who is trying to interject, that I have picked many juries in my lifetime and I always strive to keep people like him off them - and I have had 15 years experience. I repeat that the evidence falls within a very short compass. The only evidence upon which judgment is to be made is that contained in the minutes of the Australian Minerals Council. 1 understand that the only meetings of the Council which are relevant to a consideration of this matter are 2 meetings which were held in 1969. The first meeting was held on 3rd March 1969. At the beginning of that meeting the then Minister for National Development, the honourable member for Farrer, made a statement. In that statement he said among other things that in the case of off-shore petroleum both the States and the Federal Government asserted jurisdiction over the seabed beneath territorial waters and over the outer continental shelf. He continued:
The essential element in the petroleum arrangement is contained in the fourth recital set out at the beginning of both the Commonwealth-State agreement and the principal Act of the legislation itself. This states that the Governments decided, in the national interest that, without raising questions concerning, and without derogating from their respective constitutional powers, they should co-operate for the purpose of ensuring the legal effectiveness of authorities to explore for, or to exploit the petroleum resources of the submerged lands off our coasts.
The honourable gentleman went on: 1 think it is well known that it has always been the Commonwealth’s view that, were the matter to be litigated, the Commonwealth would be successful beyond the 3 mile limit.
Inside the 3 mile limit the issue is not so clear; although the Commonwealth felt that there were arguments in support of a decision for Commonwealth jurisdiction.
I have heard today charges about ambiguity of language. I think that is clear. I think it is pretty definitive. I would be interested to hear an argument to the contrary. Then my honourable friend continued:
As to off-share minerals other than petroleum, the Commonwealth is of the view that it should proceed on the footing that it enjoys total rights outside the 3 mile limit. It proposes to legislate–
This is the key to the honourable gentleman’s statement that he made at the meeting on 3rd March -
It proposes to legislate in pursuance of this position.
Then my honourable friend continued with his statement. After the statement had concluded I take it that there was argument around the table. The then Minister was asked a question by Mr Fife from New South Wales. The Minister replied, and then Mr Fife asked this question:
We would like your assurance, if it is possible for you to give it, that there will be further consultation with the States before the Commonwealth legislation is introduced.
The honourable and gallant gentleman replied: 1 have no difficulty in giving that assurance.
This was on 3rd March 1969. Mr Griffith from Western Australia stated:
One cannot be too forthright in a matter of this nature because there are other people around the table who have their own views, but 1 personally would like to be absolutely sure that there will be no legislation presented to the Commonwealth Parliament which would face us with a fait accompli as far as the continental shelf is concerned.
The then Minister for National Development, Mr Fairbairn, said:
I can certainly give an assurance that the States will be consulted again before any legislation is brought in.
It has been said on both sides of the House that the honourable gentleman’s honour is in no way being assailed, lt would be an impertinence on the part of anybody in this Parliament to seek to assail the honourable gentleman’s honour. I do not wish to offend him in any shape or form. I want to put a proposition to my honourable friend and to those who may be disposed to join with him - those who may seek to support him. They are the ones to whom, out of sheer honesty, I address my argument, because it is to no avail seeking to put an argument to people whose minds are already closed. My appeal to the honourable and gallant gentleman is this: Here is sheer prejudice. Here, as far as the honourable gentleman is concerned, is an honest and deeply held conviction that an injustice has been done. I seek to address my argument to the honourable gentleman and to those who may join with him to show, as one who read the minutes and looked at the evidence on the basis of sheer and utter neutrality, that the honourable member for Farrer entered into the obligation on 3rd March 1969 to consult further with the States on the issue of the search by the Commonwealth to assert its sovereignty in the matter so denned. When the meeting was held on 26th September - I would have thought, speaking for myself - that obligation had been discharged. I know this troubles my honourable friend because he lakes the view that the obligation was not discharged. Before I deal with his argument may I just turn to the highly fraudulent argument put by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam).
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister for the Navy a moment ago talked about prejudice from this side of the House. He is now talking about highly fraudulent arguments. Both those terms are offensive to me. 1 do not give him the right to say that I am prejudiced in a matter like this. I do not think he has the right to say that the Leader of the Opposition used fraudulent arguments. I ask for the withdrawal of both those statements.
– I suggest to the Minister that he might withdraw the remarks in relation to the argument put by the Leader of the Opposition.
– 1 will. 1 withdraw the description of the argument as fraudulent. When the Leader of the Opposition referred to the March meeting he made no effort whatsoever to say that there was a subsequent meeting on 26th September in the terms of the request by Mr Fife and by Mr Griffith. The then Minister for National Development had given an undertaking that there would be further consultation. 1 must tell the honourable gentleman with no acerbity at all that when I saw that undertaking given and then saw that the meeting was held subsequently on 26th September I for one took the view that any obligation was discharged. I put this argument with no heat at all. When one turns to the meeting held on 26th September I believe 2 conclusions are open. The first conclusion is that the Minister for National Development had some difficulty in giving an undertaking not because of personal views but because of the whole form of political events at that time. If one looks at the minutes of the meeting held on 26th September one finds that when the honourable gentleman was asked the position regarding any future consultations - and this point was brought out this morning in a most detached and sensible way by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) - he said:
It would be quite impossible for me to say what the Government is likely to do, not knowing, firstly, whether we will be the Government after the election and, secondly, whether I will be the Minister.
I have no wish to presume on an old friendship nor to be impertinent to the honourable member for Farrer, but the honourable gentleman will concede that 2 contingencies are contained in that statement. The first contingency is that the Government will be returned. The second contingency is that he would be the Minister. Could I, not from the viewpoint of wanting to take any fourth form debating points put this proposition to the honourable gentleman and to the House: What would have been the position of the States if the Gorton Government had not been returned at the last election. Am I to understand that the Opposition out of a willingness to meet what it describes as co-operative federalism would have sought to honour that obligation?
I put this to the honourable gentleman: This is a new government and governments have various ideas and attitudes. So even if, for the purpose of accepting my honourable friend’s argument, I assume that what he said is the only interpretation that is open, I put to the honourable gentleman that this being a completely new Government, new considerations could well arise. Now that the judgment of the International Court of Justice with respect to the North Sea continental shelf case has been given and the full significance of it is beginning to appear,I for one believe there are dramatically new and highly critical considerations to be canvassed. For example, if it were to be held that inmunicipal law the States did have sovereignty over the continental shelf, there are ample grounds for believing that an independent New Guinea could, as against the State of Queensland, lay claim to the sovereignty of the whole of the continental shelf stretching between the two countries simply because, as a geographic and geological phenomenon, the continental shelf there is unbroken.
The decision of the International Court of Justice goes straight to that point and says that, irrespective of theconvention on the continental shelf, since the beginning of time, where the continental shelf is appurtenant to a State, that State has sovereignty over the continental shelf. There is no difficulty where there is a prolongation of the continental shelf out into the sea, but the difficulty arises where 2 States face each other or are adjacent to each other. I put to my honourable friend that this is a new consideration which may or may not have influenced the last Government but it is a consideration which can and must influence this Government. I now take the next consideration which is surely highly relevant. There is a new conference on the law of the sea about to be summoned. Australia would be the only nation in the world to go to that conference with the units of its federation dithering on the point as to whether the States or the Commonwealth had sovereignty over these areas. I think this is a powerful and a persuasive argument for having the matter settled one way or the other and for not entering into such arrangements as may seem fit though they may not approximate the arrangements enteredinto by the United States of America with California and the other littoral States. This is a powerful consideration and it is highly relevant.
Is the interpretation that the honourable member for Farrer puts upon the conference of State Ministers for Mines on 26th September the only one which is open? As was pointed out by the honourable member for Corangamite this morning, the honourable member for Farrer had the greatest difficulty in giving an undertaking regarding further consultation. The minutes of the conference, at page 17, show that, when the honourable member for Farrer was asked about the difficulties of a timetable, he said:
The writs are not returned until ( think November 24th so no new Cabinet can be announced until that date. After that undoubtedly I will put your representations to the Government - if I still happen to be the responsible Minister.
With great respect to those who say that does not mean what it says, there is a plain contingency there and I canvass the contingencies that were open. It is my reading of the minutes of the conference on 26th September that the State Ministers rejected the Commonwealth’s decision to legislate unilaterally to determine where sovereignty lay. The minutes from page 5 to the end show that the discussions which ensued related to the regime. What sort of regime? What sort of administrative arrangements were to be made? 1 say to honourable members that this is a case where 2 individuals with the utmost of goodwill have simply misunderstood each other. I think this is the highest point that one can put to the honourable member’s argument. Two individuals with the utmost good faith have completely misunderstood each other. This would not be the first time that this has happened. How many honourable members in this place have, during the course of negotiations-
– Order! It being 4 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 16th April, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– 1 require that the question be put forthwith.
Question resolved in the negative.
– The last point I want to make is this: I think the highest one can put the argument of the honourable member for Farrer is that there has been a misunderstanding - call it a crude misunderstanding if you like - but I ask all honourable members in this House whether they have not at some time or another during the course of a discussion or negotiation with their best friend arrived at a conclusion when they have said one thing and they have taken the view that their friend has said something completely opposite? I do not believe that this is an occasion upon which this House should be called to censure the Government. I believe that the merits are wholeheartedly in favour of the Government’s stand and I appeal to those honourable members who may be disposed to support the censure motion to think earnestly and to think realistically about all the consequences.
– We have just listened to the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) enter a debate in a low key in which he used words like ‘ambiguity’ and ‘misunderstanding between friends’, made passing reference to what he called the Labor Party’s view on co-operative federalism’ and defended what happens when a government changes. He did not address himself to many people in the Parliament. In fact, he addressed himself to a small number in this House about whom he and the Government are concerned. But I want to say that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, gave a very wise decision earlier this afternoon when you dealt with the matter that exercised your mind and which was raised by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) because when he said that this was not just an issue touching on a technical or a constitutional matter you had doubt in your mind as to whether the matter was a broad one. I am pleased to say that you ruled that the honourable member for Wills was totally in order in pinpointing this issue today. The crystalisation of this entire matter is, in fact, not just good faith or bad faith on this occasion. lt is not just the matter of rae man of honour and of whether we stand with him or not, it is the matter of the whole performance of an administration in relation to the States. In fact, this is the point that I particularly want to refer to because I want to say at the outset that I did not come to Canberra to set a shovel and help the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), to bury the States and their needs. I came, indeed, to join with men of goodwill to strengthen the entire fabric of administration and upgrade it in the interests of the nation.
Having said that, we can go from there to have a look at this moment of quite historic importance. The issues, as 1 see them, are clear. They are neither technical nor constitutional. As I said, the honourable member for Wills and the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) particularly placed emphasis on the Commonwealth and State relations involved. The importance of this matter is that it is an important trial of the earnest of the Commonwealth Government in its relation? with the States. In fact, what we are. dealing with is a piece of bad faith. Lt might bc said that it is a double-cross of national dimensions because behind all the nice words this is surely what is involved. Let us strip away all the polite facade from it. What was said by the Prime Minister was that the honourable member lor Fairer (Mr Fairbairn) was wrong, that he had misinterpreted the issues or that he had deliberately, perhaps, misunderstood them.
If he is wrong he must have deliberately misunderstood them because as the responsible Minister dealing with his State colleagues closely and continuously - I will have more to say about them in a moment - he could not have had any doubt at all in his mind as to what they believed.
I want to draw attention to the fact - an important fact in this entire matter - that the honourable member for Farrer is the Federal member for the area represented by the New South Wales Minister for Mines. Mr Wal Fife and the honourable member for Farrer are close associates and close friends. They see each other with regularity, they discuss things in a close way because they are of the same electorate, the same part of the world and, indeed, are of the same Party. Surely it is not suggested thai the honourable member for Farrer should come into the House and say: “Of course, 1 and the State Ministers, including my close colleague from New South Wales, have all been wrong’? Are honourable members opposite asking that he come in here and say: ‘We were all wrong together’ and then go home at the weekend and when he sees his colleague in Wagga say: ‘I am sorry, I had to turn my back on all our discussions. I had to change my mind. I had to compromise my principles. I had just to stand in line because I was told to do so’? This is not going to happen and honourable members opposite would not expect it to happen.
This is an intimate matter touching on relationships with people as well as relationships between one Minister and another. I would expect the honourable member for Farrer to stand by what he has done and by what he has said, and also to stand with the State Ministers concerned. Let us be quite clear about this: If the honourable member for Farrer is wrong and the Prime Minister is right, then every State government is wrong and every Minis:cr lor Mines is also in error. This is a mighty error, is it not? It seems that the summation of the Prime Minister’s case is: ‘They are ail out of step except our John’. This is a very big claim to make even for a Prime Minister, and it will hot bear close examination.
The confrontation today is not a confrontation between the honourable member for Farrer and the Prime Minister - between Fairbairn and Gorton as it has been suggested in the headlines - it is a confrontation between capricious dictatorship and responsibility at various levels, particularly at the State level. I do not think there is anybody in the Parliament or in the Commonwealth today who does not feel that there is room - indeed, a great deal of room - for a revision of Commonwealth and State relations. There is no doubt about this at all. But with the structure that we have there is also very little doubt in anybody’s mind in State administrations that there has been capricious dictatorship and this is the culmination of it. So surely this is the time when we should say that it has gone far enough.
Perhaps 1 can illustrate some of the incidents which have led up to this particular confrontation. In the Parliament of New South Wales it has been known for a responsible Minister of State, calling upon the full panoply of power in his department and all its expertise, to formulate a submission which has gone to his appropriate opposite number in the Federal sphere. It has been a submission from one Minister to another, a submission between equals, but what has been the response? It has not been a response from Canberra by the Minister with the responsibility, but a response from a girl in the office who has signed it on his behalf. This sort of casual disdain is not good enough. This may be a small matter, but it is indicative of an attitude that has been growing. This is simply the tip of the iceberg, and that is all.
The mining dispute has been going on for some considerable time but there have been many other occasions that call for comment. We should look at this matter in the context that there is a growing restlessness about and a growing rejection of fiscal and physical dictatorship from the present Administration. This is obvious in respect of every issue that has been raised in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. This is not an isolated incident.
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Riverina that he also is going far beyond the subject matter that is under discussion. This is not a discussion about Commonwealth and State relationships. This is a matter primarily of a betrayal of faith by the Commonwealth Government, lt is related to legislation concerning the territorial seas and the continental shelf and a promise or an agreement made by a Minister of this Government at a particular stage. I do not want the debate to broaden out into a general debate on Commonwealth and State relationships.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance. Let me pose this to you: When you were dealing with the speech of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) he did point out that what he was trying to do was to put this entire matter in its proper context. It was not an isolated matter; it was part of a whole chain of events in Commonwealth and State relations. If I may explain, I do not intend to debate the subject matter of the various, shall I say, matters of concern to State Ministers. I did want to refer to the nature of the relations which I believe have given rise to this confrontation today. I hope I may be permitted to do that.
– Commonwealth and State relationships in general terms have no relevance to the subject matter under discussion.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. If you wish, I shall contract to the particular point. I say again that this has been simply part of a pattern. 1 also say that it is not a sufficient excuse for, for example, the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) to come into the debate as. I gather, the one dedicated sincere friend and father confessor of the Prime Minister because he was the only one who took upon himself that role today. He came into the debate with a defence which seemed to me to be the weakest defence of all. He told us that the Prime Minister was a busy man. He told us that the Prime Minister was concerned with the election. We were all concerned with the election; even I was. In addition he was concerned with the turbulence of that period. It seemed to me that in defending his leader on this occasion the honourable member for Evans may well have placed his finger on the essential weakness in this matter because the whole defence of the Prime Minister was that he could have misunderstood, the honourable member for Farrer could have misunderstood, everyone could have misunderstood.
In fact, what the Prime Minister has said is: T do not care who misunderstood what. I do not care what was done before. This is what I intend to do. That is the decision. I have Cabinet backing for it, or at least Cabinet has agreed with me. I intend to go ahead no matter what’.
Surely that is the issue and the defence of the Prime Minister that was put up by the honourable member for Evans was not, I feel, a defence but in fact an indictment because he placed the whole of the responsibility on the Prime Minister. It seems to me, then, that what he is saying is: ‘For goodness sake, do not blame the Government. Whatever you do, leave the Government out of this. If you must blame anyone, blame the Prime Minister but do not blame him too much’. This is an incredible situation in which the only firm defence of the Prime Minister has come from the honourable member for Evans in those terms. He knows, as I think we all know, that this matter is part of a pattern of casual disdain for State rights which has been growing. That is the feeling in every State of the nation. That is the feeling to which I, as a former member of the Legislative Assembly in New South Wales, can testify.
We heard the Minister for the Navy with his alibi doing his very best to say that it is all an awful and terrible misunderstanding, but if the misunderstanding is a misunderstanding of the meaning of honour, a misunderstanding associated with the breaking of solemn obligations, of understandings which were entered into freely and should be honoured, if this is regarded as being something of minor importance, then where do we go from here? It was stated by a member of the Opposition during the debate that if every discussion between Ministers and if every matter that has to be dealt with between the Commonwealth and the States must be set down in a legal document signed before a neutral witness, what kind of government will we have in the remaining period of this administration?
There has to be a certain amount of trust in government. Certainly if there is no trust between the Federal Government of one persuasion and every State Government of the same persuasion on a clear matter such as this, then we are running into a period of legislative chaos. We cannot continue on that basis. This is one of the major things before us today. The issue is broad and deep in its ramifications. It is an issue of power and the exercise of power. This is a matter which perhaps has been run away from. But 1 have not yet heard from any of the defenders of the Government’s action, and particularly of the Prime Minister any applications of their argument to the exercise of power in this matter.
An attempt has been made to make this a purely personal issue between 2 men. This has been the effect, or the intention - noi the effect certainly, but the intention - of every defending speaker. I come back to the fact that this is an issue of the wielding of power and the way in which it is done. If the honourable member for Farrer has the courage to come into the national forum and say that this is something that he must stand by, the least that we can do is to stand with him. The issue today, 1 feel, is of either standing with a man of honour or accepting dishonour as the price of power.
Mr SWARTZ (Darling Downs- Minister for National Development) [4. 16J - The debate has reached at the present time a stage of repetition, as you have probably noticed, Mr Deputy Speaker. Speaker after speaker on the Opposition side have quoted extracts from the papers which have been tabled and repeated what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and other speakers on that side. I do not doubt that for the time that we must wait for a few members to arrive we will continue to hear some repetition of the remarks of previous speakers.
I wish to refer to one or two points which have been raised by honourable members during the debate and then to try to get back to one or two points of major issue as far as the background to the present situation is concerned. I wish to refer to one or two points which so far have not been covered. First of all. I wish to correct what was said by the Leader of the Opposition and I think was not clearly answered later. I think that the Leader of the Opposition probably misquoted at the time when he quoted from the minutes of a meeting indicating quite clearly that an undertaking was given to hold a further meeting. He said that that meeting was not held. Then his attention was drawn to the fact that he was quoting from the minutes of the March meeting and not the minutes of the September meeting. In case this had not been elaborated clearly for the record. I wish to clarify this point now. The quotation by the Leader of the Opposition was from the minutes of the March meeting. The undertaking that was given then for a further meeting was fulfilled by the meeting that was held in September. I think that the Leader of the Opposition made an honest mistake by quoting as he did, but I think that the record should be clarified in that regard.
The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) referred to the fact that, in the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), no reference was made to the change in the proposed legislation prior to the September meeting, where at that point in time the reference was all to the ‘3 mile limit, and the low water mark’ decision was made subsequently by a Cabinet decision, and is incorporated in the legislation which is before the House at the present time. [ think that the honourable member for Farrer on reflection will acknowledge that the Prime Minister was not dealing with this aspect. He was dealing with the points which have been raised and which are confirmed by the amendment moved by the Opposition today, and which is in the terms of a censure motion in relation to the undertakings which were supposed to have been given and which the honourable member for Farrer believes were given. But the proposals at this time are not relating to the legislation. I will deal with one or two matters in relation to what I told the State Mines Ministers at the meeting that I had with them fairly recently. These matters deal with the situation in regard to the changed proposals for the new legislation.
The honourable member for Farrer also said that the telegrams which I had sent lo the State Mines Ministers had not been sent until a short time before the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was made. That, of course, is quite correct. He said that some Ministers did not receive their telegrams before the Speech was made. I believe that there was 1 Minister, namely, the Western Australian Minister, who, because there was a holiday in that State on the Monday and we here did not realise that when the telegrams were sent on the Monday morning, did not receive his telegram until the Tuesday morning. But my understanding is that he did receive it before the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was made in Canberra during the Tuesday afternoon. To the best of my knowledge, all the other State Mines Ministers received on the Monday the telegrams that were sent to them. In fact, they did not indicate otherwise when we were having discussions with them later.
The honourable member for Farrer also referred to the fact that he had stated that there would be further meetings with the State Mines Ministers. This was related to the minutes and transcript of the meeting in March 1969. In fact, as has been stated here today, additional meetings were held with the State Mines Ministers. There was a meeting of. the Australian Minerals Council in September, which is covered by the minutes and transcript tabled in the House, and there was a further meeting of State Mines Ministers which I called, which was also attended by the Attorney-General and which was held in Melbourne during March 1 970. 1 will refer more to that meeting in a few minutes.
The honourable member for Farrer also referred to the fact that copies of the Bill and the second reading speech were to be sent to the States, as I had indicated in the rough notes covering my meeting with the State Ministers. I do not know whether it has been stated in the House before, but that has been done. Copies of the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill and of my second reading speech were sent to all the Mines Ministers and ‘-hey all acknowledged receipt of those documents. When the second Bill, the one in relation to the mining code, is introduced - it should be drafted and available for presentation to the Parliament within the next few weeks - 1 will immediately send copies of it, together with copies of the second reading speech, to the Mines Ministers. I indicated to them that this would be done so that they would have the opportunity to study the 2 Bills and the second reading speeches before they met together again to discuss the matters and to decide on any future action that they wish to take.
The honourable member for Farrer also made reference to some comments that I made in the House recently after he had made his statement. He referred to the part of my speech in which I said that I had not realised that he, the previous Minister for National Development, had such firm views - or had firm views - in relation to the points he raised at a party meeting and subsequently, until after the Cabinet meeting at which the decision in relation to the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill was made. That, of course, is quite correct. But the point I would like to make is that after the submission had been made to Cabinet a Cabinet decision was made, and it was made on the understanding which had been given to Cabinet and which was confirmed by the previous AttorneyGeneral, who is now a member of Cabinet, that the accepted view of the Government was identical with that expressed by the Prime Minister today. So there was no reason for me and for other honourable members at that lime to suspect the strongly held views of the honourable member for Farrer. It was not until he expressed them at a Party meeting here and also in the House, and in discussions with me both privately and in Committee meetings later on, that I understood his feelings in relation to it.
That was the point I was making when I referred to it in the House. The honourable member for Farrer also confirmed this impression that I had when he stated today that he was staggered when he first learned from the Governor-General’s Speech of the proposed legislation to be introduced by the Government. At that time, he said, he approached many people in many quarters and clearly stated his position. Of course, we know that he did that and I have already stated that that is the action which he took, but this confirms what I said in my comments the other day which were queried by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) today, namely, that I had not realised the honourable member felt so strongly in relation to it until well after the Cabinet meeting. Indeed, as he has said today, he did not take action to stress his feelings in relation to it until he knew from the Governor-General’s Speech what action the Government contemplated and proposed.
There is one point borne out in this and that is that under normal circumstances when there is a change of Ministers within the same Government there is usually a handing over from one Minister to the other. Matters of importance, or matters that should be drawn to the attention of the new Minister, are normally explained at that time. But under the unusual circumstances whereby the honourable member for Farrer had resigned from the Ministry the usual type of changeover operation did not take place. As I said before, I did not have an opportunity of seeing the honourable member or discussing any matters with him subsequent to the first Party meeting in Canberra and when the House met. But 1 will say that subsequent to that I have had many discussions with the honourable member, who is the Chairman of the National Development Committee with which I work very closely; indeed I have attended most of the meetings which have been held since Parliament has been in session. I must say that since then and since I have had the opportunity of discussions with him he has gone out of his way to be helpful to me in relation to many matters concerning my Department.
I still reiterate what I said at the outset, that is. that we did not have an opportunity under the circumstances for any discussions prior to the first Party meeting here and the sitting of the new Parliament. I have stated and I reaffirm that 1 have already met the State Ministers for Mines to discuss matters which are pertinent to this debate. 1 am a firm believer in personal contact in these matters, as I am sure most honourable members are aware, and I will continue this type of contact with the States. T will very shortly be again in contact with the State Ministers for Mines. The next meeting of the Australian Minerals Council, which originally was to be held in May, is arranged to be held, provided Parliament rises in time, about the middle of June in Perth, at which time the opportunity will be taken with all the other Ministers for Mines to view the development in the north west. I merely refer to this to show that there will be continuity of contact through the Minerals Council. So far as I am concerned, as many other opportunities as possible will be taken to maintain the closest possible relationship.
The honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) during his speech today made some statements which 1 feel should be corrected.
He said that the comments I had made in this chamber the other day, and a reference I made earlier today, show that I was positively convinced that the commitment referred to by the honourable member for Farrer and refuted today by the Prime Minister and the previous Attorney-General had been made. He added that the telegrams I sent to the State Ministers indicated confirmation that I was so convinced. I can assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that that is not correct because, as I stated a moment ago, when the Cabinet meeting was held and the submission to honour the undertaking given by the previous Minister was brought forward by me for consideration in Cabinet, the whole of the discussion - of course, 1 cannot refer to the details of a discussion in Cabinet - revolved around the understanding which has been set out by the Prime Minister in his statement today and the opinions which were given by the previous Attorney-General and the present Attorney-General (Mr Hughes). 1 wanted to clarify that particular point in case the honourable member for Lang still misunderstands my position.
The honourable member also said that the Commonwealth went ahead with proposals for the new legislation without telling the States. As I have already said today, we did send telegrams to the individual State Ministers for Mines before the GovernorGeneral made a public announcement on the matter. This was done out of courtesy to ensure that they had the advice before the Governor-General made the announcement; but this was not the introduction of legislation. This was an announcement that the Government intended to introduce this legislation during this session of Parliament.
Before the legislation was introduced, and indeed before the Bill had been finally drafted, we met the State Ministers for Mines and indicated to them exactly what would be in the legislation when the drafting was finalised. In fact we had with us at the time a rough copy of the Bill. We discussed aspects of it with the State Ministers. They are the 3 occasions on which the States were advised that the legislation was to be introduced - not the 3-mile limit legislation but the proposals on the grounds which were stated by the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) a moment ago, and also have been mentioned in this House, and were clearly set out in my second reading speech on the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill. I repeat, it was not on the subject of the 3-mile limit but on the basis of legislating to take sovereignty from the low water mark across the continental shelf. This was clearly set out in the telegrams to which I referred. It was mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech and it was discussed at length - over a whole morning - with the State Ministers on 26th March 1970 in Melbourne. I have mentioned that again to point out the error of the honourable member for Lang in saying that the States had not been advised before we went ahead with the legislation. It is clear that they were in fact advised on 3 separate occasions.
As I pointed out, in addition copies of the Bill and my second reading speech were sent to the State Ministers immediately the Bill was introduced here. A copy of the second Bill and the additional second reading speech will be sent to them immediately they are available. As my time has nearly run out I will need to be brief. I had meant to deal with a few other points but 1 would like now to return quickly to the 2 points Which have been brought out and have been covered today in the alleged misunderstanding that has arisen. The first relates to what has been stated to be an agreement with the States regarding the legislation in relation principally to off-shore minerals. Of course, ali the evidence and the transcript show that there was no such agreement. Secondly the question revolves around arrangements for further discussions before the final decision was made by the Commonwealth. This point was dealt with extensively by the Prime Minister in his statement today. It was clearly covered. I refer to the statement merely because it deals at length with the various aspects of that point.
I again would like to emphasise that the vital undertaking given at that time to submit the States’ views to the Commonwealth Cabinet was honoured. I submitted their views, as arranged by the former Minister, at the end of January. Their views were considered very carefully by Cabinet before the final decision about the present legislation was made.
– The Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) prefaced his remarks by reminding us, in a most good humoured and delightful way, that there would be a great deal of repetition. In fact there has been a great deal of repetition in this debate. The only comment I want to make on this point is that the truth never can be repeated too often. I do not intend to weary the House with a tedious repetition, however tantalising and attractive that proposition might be.
The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) quite clearly enunciated in the most positive terms that he was of the opinion that the Commonwealth had abrogated agreements and promises entered into in good faith so far as he was concerned. He made that statement in the House last Friday. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) this morning had the opportunity to rebut the honourable member’s arguments, which were put so clearly and succinctly. I submit that the Prime Minister failed completely in the task that was set him. The honourable member for Farrer - the title honourable does not sit lightly upon his shoulders - clearly believes that an agreement was entered into. The six State Ministers for Mines clearly believe an agreement was entered into. One State Premier, Mr Bethune, from my own State of Tasmania, clearly believes an agreement was entered into. I propose to quote the remarks of the Premier about the statement made by the honourable member for Farrer in this House last week. I am quoting from the ‘Mercury’ of 12th May. Mr Bethune stated:
This merely confirms the State Government’s feeling that there has been a breach of faith by the Commonwealth. It confirms exactly what we have been saying.
That remark was made by the Premier of Tasmania who received from this Federal Government, free, gratis, and without any strings attached, a grant of SI .5m to balance his budget. Could he be described as a hostile witness prepared to compound an untruth? I do not think so.
Many top members of the Liberal Party clearly believe that an agreement was entered into. Many honourable members on the Government side of the chamber clearly believe an agreement was entered into. Honourable members on this side of the chamber believe the honourable member for Farrer when he says that it was his belief that an agreement was entered into.
In the present political alignment of this nation the national Government is a coalition of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party. Every State in the Commonwealth is governed by parties of similar political persuasion. I think it fair to put this proposition: Are all these Liberal colleagues throughout the length and breadth of this nation now compounding an untruth? I reject this as a possibility and I think the House also will reject it as a possibility. Are we to have a situation in this nation where, when any agreement or discussion takes place between the Commonwealth on the one hand and the States on the other, it will be necessary to have in attendance legal advisers in their battalions, suitably equipped with technical devices to record all the proceedings? Does a man’s word mean nothing any more? Does a Government’s word mean nothing any more? As a mere juror I cannot accept this proposition and I cannot accept that this is an honourable way in which to conduct the business of the nation. I suggest that the people of this nation will reject it on the same terms.
Everybody believes that an agreement was entered into. Many honourable members opposite clearly believe this. I repeat that it is both naive and, indeed, preposterous for the Prime Minister to say that all these people have been wrong in their sincerely held beliefs. Sir, one could develop protracted legalistic arguments; one could even engage in a prolonged semantic dissertation; but in the final analysis - this is what I want to underline - any government, not only this Government or some other government, must be a government with honour. Without honour there can be no confidence; without confidence there can be no respect. This is the very nub of the matter.
Governments are never elected to govern without due regard for the honoured place they occupy in the hearts and minds of the people who have sent them here. If that honour is swept aside lightly, if that honour is submerged for political expediency, then that government has become dishonourable. The honourable member for Farrer clearly believes that the permissive society - these are his words - cannot, indeed must not, invade or be able to invade the precincts of government, for if it does an intolerable situation will inevitably arise. If we value the democratic process - I think we do and I hope we do - and if we accept the benefits that flow from that process, this being the very reason for the existence of this House, we must fight to preserve these values because without values and without honour our society is empty. Without truth in the Parliament this House becomes shallow. Without honour governments surely are worth nothing at all. 1 ask the House to support the amendment put by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson).
– To anyone with even the slightest sense of history this is a momentous occasion in the annals of this Parliament, because for the first time in a generation a government is subjected to a censure motion in circumstances where the result is perhaps not entirely clear. So it is an occasion to be approached with due solemnity. On the whole I think it has been approached with solemnity by the House since this debate began at 11 o’clock this morning. With very few exceptions - if one says there are exceptions it is only a matter of subjective impression, anyway - the standard of the debate has been high and with very few exceptions the debate has been characterised with a proper sense of dispassion. I hope in the remarks I propose to contribute to the discussion, to keep to those standards.
I would like to preface what I say by asserting, as I think every honourable member who has spoken in this debate has, that I do not for one moment doubt the integrity or the sincerity of the beliefs held by my friend the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) - I hope I can call him my friend both now and hereafter - which he expressed last Friday and today. While I find myself in profound disagreement with him I do not for one moment doubt that what he has said he has said from a sense of full conviction. However, I would like to draw the attention of the House, if I may as it were draw the strings together, and examine just what it is precisely that is involved in this debate. It is essential to the case that is being made against the Government today firstly that there should be shown to have been a commitment given on behalf of the Government at the meeting held on 26th September 1969 that the incoming Government, assuming it were the same Government in political colour, coming into office after the election, agreed that it would not introduce unilaterally legislation with respect of off-shore minerals without, as a necessary pre-condition of introducing that legislation, first consulting with the States. That is the first leg of the case that has to be made, if any case is to be made against the Government this afternoon.
– What did the honourable member for Lilley say to you?
– I did not hear. The second leg of the case - and this, I think, is the leg of the case upon which the House, if it wishes to view this whole problem with any degree of impartiality ought to fasten its attention - is whether, on the assumption that such a commitment was given by the honourable member for Farrer when he was Minister for National Development, it was deliberately and in breach of faith dishonoured by the incoming Government.
The view I want to put to the House is first that on a fair reading of the transcript, although a different interpretation has been offered, one could not, I suggest, conclude that as a matter of reasonable probability, let alone certainty - and certainty would be needed on this issue if the Government is to fall - an undertaking such as is asserted was ever given. But more importantly than that, if one is to look at the second part of the case made against the Government, those who seek to press this attack must demonstrate, and demonstrate according to a pretty heavy burden of proof - because this is, as everybody agrees, a serious charge - that those members who took office in the Government after the general election of October 1969 knew that the honourable member for Farrer when a Minister had given this commitment, but proceeded to disregard it before, and at any time up to, the point when the Cabinet made its decision, I think in late January, to legislate.
For the purpose of examining this part of the problem I want to repeat, if the House will bear with me, the concluding words of the statement made by the Prime Minister this morning. This statement is contained in the very last paragraph of his speech. I then wish to go on to something that the honourable member for Farrer said in the opening parts of his speech in this debate today. The Prime Minister’s concluding words, in his statement, were as follows: 1 do not doubt that the former Minister has given his interpretation with sincerity. I hope that he will believe the same of the Government.
I ask the House to note that last sentence because, with the commendable forthrightness that we have come to expect from my friend the honourable member for Farrer, he - and I was listening to him intently as he spoke - opened his speech by saying that he accepted the sincerity with which the Prime Minister had put his interpretation upon the events. I think that is - and I hope the honourable member will agree with me - a correct repetition, in substance, of what he said this morning.
– I have the benefit of the approbation of the honourable member for Farrer in what I have just put to the House. May I ask the House to examine with some care the consequences of the very frank concession of the honourable member for Farrer. May I ask the House to examine those consequences bearing in mind that in the House today the interpretation which, by concession, the Prime Minister put upon the relevant facts and events was that the Government never at any stage before deciding to introduce this legislation or, for that matter, since that time, took the view - whatever other view may be open, and other views have been expressed here today - that the Government had been committed by the words of the honourable member for Farrer when he was Minister for National Development at the September meeting.
We are dealing with a charge of bad faith, and if bad faith is to be asserted, it has not only to be asserted but also proved, because that is the essential question. It is always easy to assert bad faith, as the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) does. Allegations drip off his tongue. The honourable member for Farrer makes allegations, I know, with sincerity and upon consideration. But what I want to point out to the House is that if the honourable member for Farrer agrees that the Prime Minister’s interpretation of the events is a sincerely held and sincerely believed interpretation, it disposes, I suggest, once and for all of any suggestion that the Government, which came into office in November 1969, deliberately - for that is what is involved in bad faith in this context - ignored or overrode or broke an undertaking, because essential to the proof of bad faith in this context is that the Government appreciated and believed that an undertaking had been given.
The next matter which I think ought to be mentioned in this part of the whole argument is that the gentlemen with whom the honourable member for Farrer was negotiating at the meeting held on 26th September 1969 were not - and I say this in no sense disparagingly - political babes in the wood. They were experienced, practising politicians used to negotiations, used to hard bargaining and versed in the art of negotiating on an inter-governmental level. It is very significant, I think, to compare the words that were used in the March 1969 conference. This has been referred to, but it is important in assessing whether a commitment has been given and, if given, broken. The words used by Mr Fife in the March 1969 conference were words in which that gentleman specifically requested of my friend the honourable member for Farrer an assurance that the Commonwealth would not legislate unilaterally until a further discussion had been held. It was apparently considered in July and August, when the correspondence took place between the honourable member for Farrer and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), that it was not an appropriate time to have another meeting with the State Mines Ministers, having regard to the busy programme in connection with the Budget and the forthcoming general election. So the honourable gentleman wrote to the Prime Minister and suggested that there be a letter sent. The honourable gentleman sought authority to say in the letter that the Government would not propose to legislate unilaterally until a further discussion had been held. The Prime Minister, as the House knows, put a very strong caveat or qualification upon that suggestion. The honourable member for Farrer very properly has not taken any issue with that caveat or qualification in his presentation of his case to the House.
The point is that when we come to the September meeting we find that there is conversation about other discussions being held. If these experienced Ministers from the States had wanted to insist upon a requirement or an undertaking being given by the Commonwealth that there should be no unilateral legislation until a further discussion had taken place, one would think that the request for such an undertaking would have been conveyed in the same plain and unequivocal words in which it had been conveyed during the course of the March discussions. I do not want to go through the transcript again. It has been gone through a fair bit during this debate. The transcript is innocent of any such proposal being put by the State Ministers. So the truth of the matter is that the undertaking given in March that there would be no unilateral Commonwealth legislation without further discussions was honoured in September.
I referred to the fact that these negotiations were conducted by experienced people. Honourable members know that at the end of a negotiation of this kind a communique or a Press release is usually issued. This case was no exception. One would venture to think that if the State Mines Ministers had really thought at the time, on 26th September 1969, that they had extracted, as it were - ‘extracted’ would be the right word to use in this context having regard to the Ministerial correspondence - an undertaking from the honourable member for Farrer that unilateral Commonwealth legislation would not be introduced without further discussion as a precondition, one would expect to find that in cold print in the Press release; because the other matter - we say the only matter that had been agreed upon firmly - was in the Press release, namely, that the Ministers representing the Commonwealth had undertaken to take the State Minister’s point of view or counter proposal - call it what you would - to the Cabinet.
There is one other critically important matter which I ought to mention to the House. Honourable members have heard today a clear assertion by my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen) that at the time he did not understand that a commitment had been given on 26th September 1969 of the sort that the honourable member for Farrer believes was given. I am sure that the honourable member for Farrer himself would be the first to agree that my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, would not make that assertion if he did not firmly and sincerely believe in it. The conclusion to which I have come, reading the transcript for myself with a great deal of anxious care, is the same as that of my colleague the Minister for Education and Science. The facts to which I have referred in relation to my colleague the Minister for Education and Science, I suggest, dispose of any suggestion that he has been guilty of a breach of faith in this matter.
The facts alleged today by the Minister for National Development and not contradicted prove, if they are believed - I believe them, and I think the House will believe them - that he was not guilty of any breach of good faith in agreeing to go along with the idea that Commonwealth legislation of a unilateral character should be introduced without a further full discussion with the States. Nobody on the Opposition side of the House has asserted that the Minister for National Development has acted in any way dishonestly or trickily in this transaction or in the whole series of transactions. They are 2 Ministers who must stand acquitted of any breach of faith in this matter. Against what other Minister can the allegation of want of good faith conceivably be alleged? I understand that the allegation is made against the Prime Minister. I stand here to refute it, and I refute it upon the simple ground that during the whole of this debate - when I say ‘this debate’ I include that of last Friday when the honourable member for Farrer first raised this question - the honourable member for Farrer has not asserted - and, I am sure, with complete truth he has not asserted - that he ever told the Prime Minister before the Cabinet discussions at which this decision now complained of was made that he had bound the Commonwealth or thought he had bound the Commonwealth by giving the commitment of the kind he now alleges.
This cannot but be a crucially relevant fact if we are to attempt any dispassionate survey of the history of this case. The only 3 Ministers against whom, on any even wild view, a charge of bad faith could possibly be levelled do not have it levelled against them. If those Ministers are, as I have shown, free of any taint of bad faith - and
I include the Prime Minister - who else? Nobody has suggested who else. I suggest, therefore, that on a dispassionate view of the whole of the evidence the Government ought to stand acquitted of the very serious allegation that is made against it in this House today.
– I rise, agreeing with what the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) has said about the way in which this debate has been handled. I hope to handle it in much the same way. However, I think he only needs to read the amendment moved to know against whom the allegations are made. For that purpose I shall read the amendment which was moved to the motion by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) mat the paper be noted.
The amendment reads:
That the following words be added to the motion: ‘and that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet lack the confidence of the House because they failed to honour a commitment made to the States by the previous Minister for National Development acting for and on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, that there would be further consultation with the States before the Commonwealth Government introduced any legislation on the territorial seas and continental shelf.
The opening words are the words which indicate who is being censured. Those words are: ‘that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet lack the confidence of the House because they failed to honour a commitment’. I believe that this question needs to be brought into context. I believe that, if we examine it as an isolated incident- as one occasion on which the veracity of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet has come into question - we fail to see the thing in its true perspective. I believe that one of the colleagues of the Prime Minister has been treated in exactly the same way as former colleagues and present colleagues have been treated in the past. I remember very well the way in which my predecessor was repudiated by the Prime Minister purely for the purpose of mollifying the opposition being received from the Democratic Labor Party and to gain the support of that Party in the last federal election. This was the way in which he treated a loyal and faithful colleague, and that was no isolated incident.
We remember that the former Minister for Defence, Mr Fairhall, found it necessary to resign and gave as his ground ill health. When pressed, he said that one has on occasions to tell slight untruths to save a cause. That man resigned because of the stand taken by the Prime Minister and because of the way in which he felt he had been affronted. He felt that he had been repudiated and not taken into the confidence of the Prime Minister. Then of course we had the announcement after the federal election in November last year that the Treasurer had been sacked.
– Order! I have allowed some latitude to the honourable member, but this debate has been kept on a very high plane throughout. All honourable members on both sides of the House have kept to the amendment that has been moved. I would remind the honourable member that the amendment before the House is specific and I suggest that he come back to the amendment if he wishes to continue speaking.
– Yes, Sir. However 1 believe that to get the amendment into context we need to see that this is not an isolated incident.
-Order! I again remind the honourable member that the amendment is specific. It says:
It does not deal with any other matter.
– Yes, Sir. We have had illustrated and demonstrated here throughout this day that the matter before us is one in which a former Minister has stated quite categorically that he gave an undertaking to State Ministers and Premiers and that he had no doubt that that undertaking was given and that it was understood. That has been supported by State Ministers and State Premiers. We have against that the explanation given by the Prime Minister in which he plays with words, takes sentences out of context, and tries to show by a close examination of the wording of those sentences that something was meant other than what appears even from a careful reading.
I believe that the Parliament has had demonstrated to it in this matter that is before the House the unfitness of the Prime Minister for the office which he holds. I find myself in rather strange company in asserting this. One would expect that the Australian Labor Party, the Opposition in this place, would make assertions of this kind and that the Australian Labor Party would be alone in supporting the amendment that has been moved; yet that is not so. I find myself in the same company as Mr Fairbairn, Mr Dudley Erwin, Mr Kevin Cairns and the State Executives of the Queensland branch of the Liberal Party of Australia. At one time or another those people and this organisation have said that they cannot serve under the Prime Minister because they cannot accept his word and he does not enjoy their confidence. If you had allowed me to continue along the lines to which I adverted earlier, Sir, I would have been able to show that the issue before the House is a further incident in a chain of incidents which are in keeping with one another and which deserve the support of honourable members opposite for the amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) on behalf of the Opposition.
I appeal to members of the Government parties to examine the statement made by the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) last Friday as well as the statement he made today. He said in quite deliberate terms that an undertaking was given to the States and that they understood fully that further discussions would take place before any legislation was introduced in this Parliament. That would be the understanding of anybody in this country. It has been pointed out that on other occasions the introduction of certain legislation into this Parliament has been delayed for 3 years because it has had to be hammered out between the States and the Commonwealth. The reason for the delay was that the discussions in connection with that legislation had to be brought to a conclusion before it could be introduced. It is only natural that before legislation which affects the States is introduced into this Parliament discussion would take place with the States in connection with it and that discussion would be carried through to its conclusion. What sort of situation would arise if legislation were permitted to be introduced into this Parliament upon which considerable and detailed discussion between the Commonwealth and the States had still to be had. This discussion could culminate in the need to introduce amendments to the legislation as different stages are reached in the discussion?
Is the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill to be passed by the Parliament and then a few months later when agreement is reached with, say, Western Australia about a particular point will an amendment be moved? When agreement is reached with, say, Queensland after further discussion will a further amendment be introduced? The Prime Minister and the Government know that these things are cleared up before the legislation is introduced. They would know also that this would be in the minds of the Ministers for Mines and the Premiers of the various States. Those people would know that if further discussions were foreshadowed they would take place before the legislation is introduced into the Parliament and becomes law.
I believe that the House is debating a matter of great importance. It is a matter which tests whether we believe as individuals and as members of the Parliament in maintaining what has been described by the honourable member for Farrer as standards of old fashioned morality. This debate will decide whether these standards are to be the hallmark of government or whether we will have to resort to the situation which has been referred to by some honourable members of taking along an army of lawyers to ensure that each word and each phrase is the cause of no doubt whatsoever. Each phrase and each word will have to be defined before any agreement can be reached and before any progress can be made. That would be a most regrettable stage to be reached in the public life of this nation. Honourable members opposite, especially those who pride themselves upon their moral standards, should think hard and long before they vote against the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson. What is required is not that they should abstain from voting but that they should support the Opposition. The Opposition stands to protect the morality of this country, to see that it is seen to be protected and honoured, and to see that we do not take yet a further step away from morality, integrity, truth and good faith. These things of which some honourable members opposite speak so often are now being put to the vote. Those members are morally bound to cross the floor and vote with the -Opposition on this occasion. I believe the people of Australia would expect their members of Parliament to support the amendment and to see that the Parliament is protected and that honour, integrity and good faith are maintained and carried forward in this nation.
In conclusion I repeat that I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson. I believe that in the circumstances he has had no choice but to move it. Honourable members ought to show that the stage has not been reached where we play on words to get ourselves out of situations but that we stand by the agreements that we make between one government and another.
– There is no motion presented to a parliament that is of greater significance than a motion involving want of confidence in the Government. That position pertains particularly in this case because the House is fairly evenly divided. On other days the burden of conscience and the burden of a judgment related to a conscience would not fall so heavily upon people. It falls a little more heavily upon us on this occasion because the House is fairly evenly divided. A motion which is to be submitted to this Parliament and which suggests that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet lack the confidence of the House has to be considered extremely deeply before one decides to vote. I do not intend to go into the details of the arguments that have been produced today. Some of the arguments have been produced very loyally by Ministers in this Government. Some very cute distinctions have been drawn. One has to admire the minds that have been able to draw those cute distinctions. Whether they are distinctions in truth or distinctions born of neccesity, I do not know. I do not want to infer which one of those they happen to be.
One or two simple points run through this debate and cannot be ignored. One was the relations between a Minister representing the Government and the States in the matter of off-shore mining legislation. Another was the nature of the discussions which were appropriate to legislation of a type which was foreshadowed. The foreshadowing of the legislation is not important. It is the nature of the relations between the Commonwealth and the States that is important. That is the only way in which I would look at this matter. It has been said, for example, that meetings had occurred between a Commonwealth Minister and the Ministers for Mines of the State at which undertakings were required for a conference and that this undertaking had some relationship to proposed legislation. To suggest that the undertaking for a conference on proposed legislation is immaterial, whether the conference is to be held before or after the legislation is introduced, is an absurd interpretation. One could not really support such a position. It is so absurd that no Minister could run his department on such a basis, no person could look after a family on such a basis, and no person could have relations with others in a community on such a basis. It is to be understood, I think, that a conference was to be held before the proposed legislation, not after that legislation. I am reinforced in this understanding by the fact that of 8 Ministers of the Crown throughout Australia at such a conference 7 considered that that was the interpretation. Surely that is not to be ignored? These are 7 men of at least some probity. Such an attitude is not to be ignored.
I come to the third point. It is clear that a moral obligation existed concerning conferences before the proposed legislation. The Commonwealth Government recognised a moral obligation. It recognised a moral obligation impliedly because the Prime Minister said in his speech earlier today that the Minerals Council was not so informed, but each individual member of the Council was. Somewhere along the line it was recognised that a moral obligation to confer was appropriate. The fact is that that obligation was not kept. The minutes of the meeting of the State Ministers for Mines held in the Premier’s office in Melbourne on 13th March indicated that that moral obligation was ignored. I do not think honourable members can ignore that position. One arrives at the conclusion that the consequence of this is that promises were not kept. The judgment of men of probity, of intelligence and of balance also is that promises were not kept. I believe so too. It is obvious that the honourable member for Farrer believes this. I know he feels so virtuous this afternoon. So many honourable members on the Opposition side of the House and so many honourable members on this side of the House have ascribed to him all kinds of virtue before, proceeding to denigrate his judgment; but I happen to believe that his judgment was correct and balanced. If one may refer to the virtue ascribed to the honourable member, his judgment was also the judgment of an intelligent virtuous man. So without equivocation I think that the honourable member for Farrer was correct and is correct.
– You will not accept the amendment?
– If the Leader of the Opposition will restrain himself for one moment he may obtain a reward. Let us go a little further with this matter. This motion then is directed to that situation, and in being directed to that situation one sees it for what it is. If I may read the motion and have a look at some parts of it which have significance and some which do not:
That the Prime Minister and his Cabinet lack the confidence of the House because they failed to honour a commitment made to the States by the previous Minister for National Development, acting for and on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, that there would be further consultation with the States before the Commonwealth Government introduced any legislation on the territorial sea and continental shelf.
A motion involving a want of confidence has substance of itself, but it also has great substance in its consequences. It is the consequences of that motion that one has to consider very deeply. There are honourable members in this House who can be dreadfully concerned about the affairs of government. There can be members in this House who are concerned at some of the affairs of government and who have not refrained from expressing this in such manner in appropriate places. There are members who have done this - and they are not on the Opposition side.
But a motion of a want of confidence has consequences that are extremely grave. No matter how truthful are the statements of the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), no matter how correct they are, no matter how balanced his judgment is, I find in looking at the consequences of supporting this motion of a want of confidence, that those consequences themselves are too dreadful to support and without drawing acute distinctions-
– You are twisting.
– If you are going to talk about twisting you have a great history of it. You should be an expert. Having watched your performance here over a period of time I say you should be an expert in recognising it when it does not exist in others. So I find myself in the position - even being greatly concerned about some affairs - that I am unable to support this motion of a want of confidence and I intend to vote accordingly.
– I am not in a position to decide who is giving the correct version of the undertakings, if any, which were given to the States concerning the legislation on the continental shelf and the mineral resources of the continental shelf. But the fact that the versions are contradictory is what merits censure. Also, what is patently obvious and has been patently obvious for some time is that certain members on the Government side hostile to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) are moving in for the kill in an effort to change the leadership of the Liberal Party and hence the Prime Ministership. In human terms my sympathies are with the Prime Minister, but the atmosphere of intrigue and undermining which has developed on the Government side means that sooner or later this situation must be resolved by the electorate. I believe that the matter of this dispute ought to go to the electorate. When a person as significant as the former Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) and other Ministers are in contradiction on a matter which relates to dealings between the Commonwealth and the States I believe the House should be dissolved and that this matter should be referred to the Australian people, and this is why I support the censure. We have seen the attacks on the Prime Minister going on over the last 6 months; in fact, since immediately after the declaration of the election results. The attacks on him have ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime. There were some who contended that he was not the sort of man who ought to lead the Liberal Party because he was not an establishment man. I do not know what an establishment man is. Some suggest that he is one who has the approval of Melbourne finance and others suggest-
-Order! During this afternoon we have had debate of a very high standard but I have pointed out to the honourable member for Lang, the honourable member for Forrest and others that the amendment to this motion is very specific. It states: and that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet lack the confidence of the House because they failed to honour a commitment made to the States by the previous Minister for National Development . . .
It does not canvass any other matter.
– I am, of course, debating the question of the charges upon which this matter has been based by the honourable member for Farrer.
– Provided the matter is relevant to this particular case the honourable member will be in order.
– Yes. In the course of this discussion on the relationship of the Prime Minister to the States many issues have been canvassed and I want to establish why the Labor Party supports the censure morion in spite of the fact that on this question the Prime Minister’s position over the continental shelf is identical with the attitude of the Labor Party which is that it supports the Commonwealth having the power to make the bargains concerning the mineral resources of the continental shelf.
I want to make perfectly clear where the Labor Party stands on this question of centralisation, which, from the point of view of certain Liberals, is supposed to be the weakness of the Prime Minister. Because he is supposed to have a centralising philosophy, it is charged that this has been the root cause of this breaking faith with the States. I want to make perfectly clear one or two things about our view on the power of the Commonwealth. The Labor Party does not start off with any philosophy of centralisation. We start off perfectly pragmatically in perceiving a fact and the fact is that State legislatures are rigged against the Labor Party.
Why on earth should we support matters being left in the hands of the States whether they are continental shelves or not when it is known that the States either have upper houses in which, even if we received the overwhelming support of the Australian public, we would have no majority or they have a legislature like the one in Queensland where with 2i times the vote of the Country Party we are battling to get as many seats. Now, the more matters that are transferred from the State sphere - where we have no chance of majorities because of malapportionment or because of upper houses and no chance of getting through the legislation in which we are interested - to the Commonwealth field the better as far as we are concerned. If the Prime Minister gave undertakings to the States from our point of view he should not have made undertakings to the States. These are national matters and they are matters which should be resolved in this Parliament. I have no mystique about the States. The manner in which the States have handled their mineral resources does not arouse my admiration. Some of them have handled their mineral resources quite disastrously and one of the things underlying this tension which has arisen between the Commonwealth and the States over whatever agreements the Prime Minister did or did not make with the States is that there are many sectors of business both national and international that have made their happy connections with the States. They know how to handle a State government. They know how to produce the kind of disastrous bargains that have been produced by State governments and the transference of these matters to the federal field is, from their point of view, a disaster.
But we are not in the position to judge whether or not the charges made by “the honourable member for Farrer are correct. We are faced with a complete contradiction in the versions concerning the bargain that was made, but behind all this is a state of tension on the Government side of the House which we believe must go to the Australian people. In any event we believe that now that this matter of the continental shelf and the mineral resources of the Commonwealth has become an issue of controversy within the Government, this issue is worthy of an election. Faced with the charges that have been made by the honourable member for Farrer and endorsed, to some extent anyway, by some of the Premiers, we believe that the whole matter should be resolved by the Australian people.
It is not a question of joining in any personal hostility to the Prime Minister. It is not a question of our declaring that we know for a certain fact who is putting forward the correct version. It is that we are confronted with a Government which on a very fundamental question - the question of the disposal of Australian mineral resources on the continental shelf - is in a state of argument, not only about what was actually promised to the State Premiers but also about what actually ought to be done with these mineral resources. On this basis I believe that a censure motion is merited against the Government, chiefly because it is a means of putting this vital question to the people. It is an opportunity to focus on the whole question of the disposal of minerals - a subject that has been a sideline in most elections while, disastrously, the ownership of the mineral resources of this country is passing, at very poor bargains, into the hands sometimes of outside interests. We realise, of course, that the dispute over the handling of the whole of the continental shelf does relate to some magnificent resources in the Barrier Reef.
We have had the Prime Minister charged by members of his own side with misrepresentation of the situation, with having permitted the honourable member for Farrer to go before the State Premiers to make promises on behalf of the Commonwealth Government to them and with having then repudiated those promises. In the whole of this question of credibility we are confronted with a number of disturbing features. I do not want to canvass the FI 1 1 aircraft decision, but we are being told that the Prime Minister is presented with the problems of a previous government. The Liberal Party is discarding its own past in this matter. The Prime Minister was a member of the previous Government. If members of the Government deny their responsibility in this particular matter it is quite probable that we are not going to be able to accept their credibility and integrity on the matter that is before us now - the question of the promises that have been made to the State Premiers. For a long time we have been getting confusion and contradictory statements in Government statements on all these matters. It is time that these matters were resolved.
My distinguished friend, the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham), who is shaking his head at me, is in exactly the same position as I am with respect to the conversations that passed between the honourable member for Farrer and the State Premiers. Neither of us was there. We are faced with these contradictory versions. We on the Opposition side, have been presented with the categorical charges of the former Minister for National Development and the reply of the Prime Minister, and bearing in mind how vitally important is the whole subject matter of this controversy over the mineral resources of the continental shelf, believe it is time that these matters were resolved to the satisfaction of the Australian people. When there is a dispute between ex-Ministers and Ministers on vital questions of promises it is time that this was put to the Australian people. There is only one way that this can be put to the Australian people and that is by the defeat of the Government. Whether people who made charges against the Prime Minister are prepared to vote against him is entirely their business. They may regard what he has said as being not accurate but not meriting a censure motion. I take it that the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) meant exactly that in the course of his speech. However, if an honourable member endorses the charges of the honourable member for Farrer and then votes that the Government should continue in office after having broken its promises to the States, he is in a very peculiar position. He may consider himself in a peculiar position if he overturns the Government. It is also a peculiar position to vote to sustain a government which he believes breaks its promises in vital negotiations with the States. That is a matter for him to resolve. We on this side of the House are confronted with a situation of specific charges having been made and not satisfactorily answered. In those circumstances these matters should be referred to the Australian people. That is why we are voting for this censure motion.
– We have spent most of the day debating an extremely important matter. I believe that at the time when the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) was Minister for National Development and was carrying out negotiations with the States, he gave a series of undertakings. I believe in his integrity and in everything that he has said to the House today. I believe also that subsequent to his ceasing to be Minister for National Development there was a change of policy by the Government and that that change of policy was not conveyed to the States at the time. As a result there occurred a lack of consultation and a failure of communication between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments. Flowing from that a lack of good relations may have grown up between the Commonwealth and the States. All of this has been rehearsed today on both sides of the House.
I am firmly of the opinion that it is vitally important that good relations should exist between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments, and that the Commonwealth Government should be seen to act in good faith as well as acting in good faith. Further I believe that there should be negotiations which will see an amicable settlement and a firm agreement in this matter and which will help us all to find the best solution to the problems associated with the use of our great natural resources.
Having said that, I believe that the time has come when I should move an amendment to the motion that is before us. My proposed amendment sets out the situation as I see it existing at this time. I move as an amendment:
That all words after ‘and’ be deleted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: that this House does not believe that there has been any failure on the part of the Government to honour any commitments. The House acknowledges that when the Government decided to change its policy on off-shore authority by legislating to take control from the low water mark to continental shelf the Government did not, at that time, inform the States of this change in the policy which had been the subject of consultations between the Minister for National Development and State Ministers. It is of the opinion that it is this fact which has led to the honourable member for Farrer feeling justified in believing that an undertaking that there would be further consultations which he gave to the States has been dishonoured.’
– Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
-The original question was:
That the House take note of the paper.
To which the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) moved:
That the following words be added to the motion: ‘and that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet lack the confidence of the House because they failed to honour a commitment made to the States by the previous Minister for National Development, acting for and on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, that there would be further consultation with the States before the Commonwealth Government introduced any legislation on the territorial sea and continental shelf.
To this amendment, the honourable member for Casey has moved:
That all words after ‘and’ be deleted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘and that this House does not believe that there has been any failure on the part of the Government to honour any commitments. The House acknowledges that when the Government decided to change its policy on off-shore authority by legislating to take control from the low water mark to continental shelf the Government did not, at that time, inform the States of this change in the policy which had been the subject of consultations between the Minister for National Development and State Ministers. It is of the opinion that it is this fact which has led to the honourable member for Farrer feeling justified in believing that an undertaking that there would be further consultations which he gave to the States has been dishonoured.’
The question now is: That the amendment to the amendment be agreed to’.
– I raise a point of order.
– I move: “That the question be now put’.
-Order! I will take the point of order.
– I am speaking from memory - I do not have before me the text of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson) and it would undoubtedly help if honourable members were to see it; until now it has been seen by only a small group in the Prime Minister’s office. It would appear that the amendment is a direct negative of the amendment moved by the Opposition. The core of our amendment is that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and his Cabinet failed to honour a commitment. My recollection of the amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Casey to displace the Opposition’s amendment is that the House does not think that any commitment has been dishonoured. Mr Speaker, may I see the wording of that amendment?
-Order! I can read it to you.
– Are we not entitled to a copy of it?
-I have only 1 copy of it.
– I saw that every honourable member had a copy of the amendment moved by the Opposition.
-I have only 1 copy. I can read this to you. The amendment reads in part: that this House does not believe that there has been any failure on the part of the Government to honour any commitments . . .
– This is clearly a direct negative. It says that this House does not believe that there has been any failure to honour any commitment whereas the amendment moved by the Opposition said:
If honourable gentlemen hold the view which the honourable member for Casey invites them by his amendment to express, they can express that view by voting against the amendment which the Opposition moved and circulated. The honourable member for Casey has moved a supplanting motion which is a direct negative of the amendment which the Opposition has moved.
-I have looked at the amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey. To my mind, it is not a direct negative and is not materially different in form from second amendments which have been moved and accepted in previous years.
– I move:
-Order! The question is: That the ruling be dissented from’. Those who are of that opinion-
- Mr Speaker, I understand that I am entitled to speak to this motion.
-If you wish to. (Mr Barnard having submitted in writing his objection to the ruling) -
– No-one regrets more than I do, Mr Speaker, having to move dissent from your ruling. No honourable member on this side of the House would want to take this course of action unless he was satisfied d that the amendment which has now been moved by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson) was a direct negative of the motion of censure moved the morning in the form of an Opposition amendment. I believe that what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has already said in relation to the failure of the Government to make copies of the amendment available to honourable members on this side of the House indicates quite clearly that the Government wanted to be in a position in which it could push this amendment through without any further discussion. Without arguing the merits of the case and without going over the ground that the Leader of the Opposition has already covered in order to show that in his opinion and in the opinion of honourable members of this side of the House this amendment is a direct negative of the amendment moved by the Opposition this morning, I submit, Mr Speaker, that you should reconsider your decision. Because you have given this ruling, we have been forced into the position of having to move dissent from your ruling.
We have had the opportunity to hear the amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey read on only 2 occasions - once by him and then by you, Sir. We have not been extended the courtesy of having copies of the amendment made available to us. Quite clearly, they could have been circulated in this chamber. The Opposition did not hesitate to make copies of its amendment available to members of the Government parties. They clearly knew the terms of that amendment. Yet we are supposed to accept a situation in which the honourable member for Casey comes into this chamber with an amendment which had been in the hands of the Government all the afternoon. There is no honourable member who does not appreciate that there has been great difficulty in the Government parties in getting honourable members to agree to accept the amendment. Earlier this afternoon the Deputy Government Whip presented the amendment to the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), hoping that he would change his mind. Of course no-one expected him to make any different decision from that which he made-
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– I rise on a point of order. I ask you, Mr Speaker, for a ruling. Is it in order for the motion that the question be put to be moved before the seconder of the motion has an opportunity to speak?
– I disagree with your ruling, Mr Speaker. I move that Mr Speaker’s ruling be dissented from-
– I beg the honourable member’s pardon. I am informed by the Clerk that I am in error. I call the honourable member for Hindmarsh.
– The Opposition has been asked to say that this House knows, firstly, what made the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) feel justified in believing that the Government had broken its commitment. How on earth can anybody present be able to say that we know what made the honourable member feel that he was justified in taking the action that he has taken? If I may while there is silence I want to deal with the main gravamen of the reasons for dissent against your ruling, Mr Speaker. Like the previous speaker it hurts me to have to do this. I do not relish it and’ I do not get pleasure from doing this but the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) is that we censure the Government ‘because they failed to honour a commitment made to the States by the previous Minister for National Development’. However, the later amendment which cannot be a negative says:
This House does not believe that there has been any failure on the part of the Government to honour any commitments.
The wording was ‘its agreement’ but on second thoughts that was crossed out and changed to read ‘any commitments’ to make the second amendment correspond even more closely with the verbiage of the first amendment. The first amendment was very carefully worded as ‘honour a commitment’. The second amendment would have us say that the House is of opinion that there has not been any failure on the part of the Government to honour any commitments.
If this is not a direct negative of the first amendment then I do not know what a direct negative is. It would not matter where one went or what sort of meeting one attended, be it a meeting of a tennis club or any other organisation, the most inexperienced chairman in the world would know that a direct negative is not permitted as an amendment to a proposition. Almost automatically by reflex action he would reject the proposition, as should be the case with the proposition which is now put to this Parliament. I think that it is a great tragedy that this Parliament has drifted into the position in which it is now put where the highest officer in the Parliament is forced to - I do not blame you, Sir, for I know your position and you have to get your pre-selection and all those things fixed up-
-Order! The honourable member will not reflect upon the Chair.
– I sympathise with you, Sir. I know what your problems are. We all have our problems but none of us has the same sort of problems as you have at the moment.
-Order! The honourable member may not cast aspersions on the Chair.
– I was not casting aspersions; I was trying to excuse your actions.
-Order! I can assure the honourable member that no excuses are necessary and I remind him of what I said a moment ago.
– What I am concerned about is that an amendment has been proposed to the motion that was moved by the Leader of the House. Then at the very last minute, after frantic hours of trying to reach agreement, with the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) rushing all around and, I understand, missing his lunch - and missing Trudeau - Mr Eggleton had to deputise for the Prime
Minister to meet Mr Trudeau on his arrival at Brisbane. Mr Peacock, who has some portfolio - I think he is the Minister for the Army - was to go there with his good wife to entertain. All those important arrangements-
– Mr Speaker, I direct your attention to the time - the hour at which it is customary to suspend the sitting.
– The time is now 6 o’clock.
– Oh no, Mr Speaker–
-Order! The Leader of the Government in the House is on his feet.
– So are you, Sir.
– I have not yet heard what he has to say.
– As I understand the Standing Orders, Mr Speaker, they do not require Mr Speaker to vacate the chair at 6 o’clock, they leave the matter in the discretion of Mr Speaker. I would like to indicate to you, Sir, that the Government has no intention of conducting any business other than disposing of this question. I therefore ask you, would you continue the sitting so that an issue of confidence against the Government can be resolved as soon as possible and also to meet the convenience of so many honourable members who wish to return to their families?
– What is the wish of the Opposition?
– The Leader of the House has said that there is a matter of confidence before the House. As I understand it, the Leader of the House is in fact supporting an amendment which will displace the motion of no confidence. While the Prime Minister, 7 hours ago, accepted our motion as one of no confidence-
– Order! I would suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that he answer the question whether the House should suspend at 6 o’clock. It is not a debate on the whole issue.
– In that case I would suggest that since the Ministry is now running away from the question of confidence it cannot plead that the House would in fact be determining a matter of confidence and therefore should remain in session after 6 o’clock. I would submit that you ought to follow the normal practice of suspending at 6 o’clock until 8 o’clock.
-The chair will be resumed at 8 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 6.3 to 8 p.m.
- Mr Speaker, before the sitting was suspended for dinner I was referring to the second amendment, which was moved by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson), and which stated in part:
I said that that was in contradiction of the first amendment which stated in part: . . that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet lack the confidence of the House because they failed to honour a commitment made to the States by the previous Minister for National Development . . .
Sir, the situation is that the first amendment means that we believe that the Government should be thrown out because it failed to honour a commitment made to the States’. I have used the exact words used in the amendment. Then there is the second amendment which states, I repeat, that this House does not believe that there has been any failure on the part of the Government to honour any commitments’. Surely, upon reflection, you must see that this is a contradiction of the first amendment. I would have thought that the contradiction becomes even more transparent when one reads further the verbiage of the second amendment and comes to the acknowledgment which the mover asks the House to accept. The wording is: . . that when the Government decided to change its policy on OS-Shore authority by legislating to take control from the low-water mark to Continental Shelf, the Government did not, at that time, inform the States of this change in the policy . . .
Prima facie, the second amendment admits that there has been a change of policy.
Sir, I invite the attention of the House to this point: What was the change of policy if it was not what the honourable member for Farrer said it was? Then we must consider the absurd conclusion of the second amendment-
-Order! There is far too much noise in the chamber.
– I think that if the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) would raise his point of order, if he has one, instead of trying to get the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) to make a fool of himself, we would get on a lot better.
– Mr Speaker, I am delighted to oblige the honourable member for Hindmarsh. I thought he had moved dissent from your ruling. I take the point of order that he is not speaking to the motion that your ruling be dissented from. In fact he is dealing with the original amendment and the subsequent amendment. He is debating both those amendments and is not dealing with the question of dissent from your ruling.
-Order! I think the honourable member for Hindmarsh is showing some relevancy to the subject matter.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker, for that wise ruling. It seems rather odd that a Speaker who is so wise on most occasions can occasionally lapse into this fault of not being able to see the difference between an affirmative motion and the negative of it. This is the thing which amazes me, Sir. I know how sage and wise you are on most occasions but here we have this inexplicable lapse on your part - a lapse I cannot account for because you are not a silly person. You do not look stupid. In my experience you have never behaved as though you had not your fair share of brain power. It seems to me extraordinary that you cannot see that the second amendment is a direct negative of the first amendment. This is no reflection on you, Sir, but the most stupid chairman of any kindergarten club would be able to see that my argument is valid.
-I would suggest to the honourable member that he should not cast any reflection upon the Chair.
– I apologise, Sir. I did not mean any reflection on you. But anybody, even one with a fourth form mentality, or even one in the fourth form, to use the expression we heard from the exGeelong Grammar School prefect, would know that my argument is correct. I cannot understand why it is that the 2 ex-Geelong Grammar School boys are not able to see-
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member that he come back to the point of order he raised and debate it with a proper sense of the rules.
– Yes. There is another part of the second amendment which I think makes it painfully clear that the second amendment is in direct conflict with the first. It is certainly out of order because it introduces entirely new matter. This is a point upon which we have had numerous rulings in the past. The second amendment continues in this fashion: That the House ‘is of the opinion that it is this fact which has led to the Honourable Member for Farrer feeling justified’ -
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member for Hindmarsh, knowing that he is beaten, is circumnavigating the globe of irrelevancy and is not addressing himself to the question of dissent from your ruling. He is making a monkey of the House-
– Order! I would remind all honourable gentlemen that throughout the day this debate has proceeded on a very high standard. It involves a very important matter. I would suggest that honourable members come to order and that they remember where they are. As members of the Commonwealth Parliament they are expected to behave as mature men. I would suggest that the House come to order.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) said that the honourable member for Hindmarsh was making a monkey of the House. Mr Speaker, that implied that you were responsible for making a monkey out of it. I think the Attorney-General should be asked to withdraw that remark.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I wish the Attorney-General would stop looking up at the Press gallery and showing off.
– Order! The honourable member for Newcastle wishes to raise a point of order.
– Mr Speaker, the point of order concerns the remark of the Attorney-General. His remark constituted a reflection upon honourable members of this House and upon you, as one of the honourable members present. I consider it a reflection on you. You do not look a monkey and I ask that the remark of the Attorney-General be withdrawn.
-Order! I suggest that frivolous points of order should not be taken. I suggest that the honourable member for Newcastle should think carefully about the action that he is taking.
– Mr Speaker, with due respect to the Chair, I-
-Order! Is the honourable member for Reid taking a point of order?
– I take a further point of order. Without elaborating on what the AttorneyGeneral said, I think that his remark was a reflection on the House. I believe his remark should be withdrawn. That is my point of order.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– Mr Speaker-
– Is the honourable member taking another point of order?
– Further to my point of order, Mr Speaker, I am seeking decorum in this chamber. I have not repeated what the Attorney-General said but I think that a Minister of the Crown is wrong in making such a statement about this House. It degrades the House. I believe that you, as Speaker of this chamber, should call for the Attorney-General to withdraw his remarks because they are a reflection not only upon you but also on all other honourable members.
-Order! The Chair has the sole responsibility for deciding these things and I do not believe that that phrase warrants a withdrawal at this stage. I call the honourable member for Hindmarsh.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the question be now put.
-The honourable member for Hindmarsh may continue. The motion “That the question be now put’ may not be moved before the honourable member who has seconded the motion being discussed has spoken.
– Are you ruling that the motion ‘That the question be now put’ is out of order?
– Yes. I am giving you permission to continue.
– Thank you, Sir. That wise ruling again makes it more difficult for me to understand the first ruling. As I said before, it absolutely amazes me that a person of your great wisdom on so many occasions - this recent decision is a further example of it - could not see what must surely be obvious to anybody who can read and that even a person with a fourth form educational standard could understand.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Hindmarsh. I have requested him on a couple of occasions to make his remarks temperate on the question before the Chair. I suggest that he do so.
- Sir, I am doing my best to be temperate and to put the point clearly. I am being aggravated by the frightened people on the other side of the House.
– I suggest to the honourable member for Hindmarsh that he come back to the motion that the Speaker’s ruling be dissented from.
– I would like to examine the motives of those who were responsible for the amendments. I shall read them again: that this House does not believe that there has been any failure on the part of the Government to honour any commitments.
Where does the honourable member for Farrer stand now on that question? Surely he cannot agree with that. Surely the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) cannot agree with that. If he votes for that because he fears that if there is a general election there will be a Labor Government in office, surely that is not sufficient justification for it. Then the amendment goes on to say:
The House acknowledges that when the Government decided to change its policy . . . the Government did not . . . inform the States. . . .
This is the very objection that the honourable member for Farrer has been taking. This is all that he has ever said - that the Government changed the policy without having the decency to tell the States about it. Now we are being asked in this Parliament to reject an amendment which complains about that very thing. The amendment complains that the Government has done precisely what the Government, in the second paragraph of the second amendment, admits and confesses to doing. Sir, I ask that you reconsider your decision in this matter. In order that you may have plenty of opportunity to do so and so that you may make your decision in the calmness of the quietness that now exists I resume my seat in the confident hope that you will announce that the second amendment is out of order and that you will allow the debate to continue on the first amendment.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to raise a point of order.
-Order! The question is that my ruling be dissented from.
– I think I should be entitled to state my point of order. I moved the motion of dissent. I was speaking to the motion of dissent when the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) moved that the question be now put. In view of the fact that I sat down to enable you to give your ruling, I submit that I should have been called to speak again to the motion, but you decided to let the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) proceed as the seconder of the motion.
-The honourable member should have risen at the time. If he did rise I did not see him. It is too late now. I have allowed the honourable member for Hindmarsh to deliver his speech.
– We would be quite happy on this side of the House for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to continue.
-Order! It is not a question of your side of the House being happy. The honourable member for Bass did propose the question and was speaking to it, and he did resume his seat hi accordance with the Standing Orders, but he did not rise again.
– With due respect to your ruling, Sir, I submit that you should have called me when you had made your decision not to proceed with the motion proposed by the Leader of the House.
-It is the duty of the Chair to call the honourable member who rises and you were not rising at the time.
- Mr Speaker-
– May I move that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Deputy Leader of the Opposition making his speech?
– I will not advise the honourable member what to do. 1 have called the honourable member for Wills.
– As has been pointed out in this House before, a motion for dissent from the Speaker’s ruling produces one of the most important discussions upon which we can embark. There are 2 ways in which we can decide whether the ruling is in order or is out of order. The first way is by reference to the Standing Orders, and the second way is by reference to the precedents that have been established. I believe that more or less the first precedent established in this field indicates that you should reject the amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson). It is our belief - this is confirmed by a study of the English language or any consideration of it at all - that the amendment put is a direct negative of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), which is in these terms:
The amendment proposed by the honourable member for Casey says: that this House does not believe that there has been any failure on the part of the Government to honour any commitments.
On any understanding of the English language as I know it and as it has been used here, and on any interpretation of its precision and the way in which it is used, those 2 sentences negative each other. On the one hand one says that the Govern- ment failed to honour a commitment made to the States, but on the other hand the other one says that the House does not believe that there has been any failure on the part of the Government to honour any commitments. One is the direct negative of the other. No matter what kind of padding is added to it, no matter what is added to it to expand the amendment or to bring in other matters, the facts are that these 2 sets of words are inconsistent. I am supported in my view in this matter by a ruling given in 1936.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order. The matter before the Chair is a motton of dissent from the Speaker’s ruling that the question be now put. The honourable member for Wills is not dealing with that question.
-Order! The honourable member for Wills cannot deal with that question because that is not the question before the Chair.
– In May 1936 a censure motion was before this House. On that occasion Mr Harold Holt, who later became Prime Minister, moved an amendment upon which a discussion ensued. I believe that the terms of the amendment, the terms of the discussion and the ruling by the Speaker are particularly relevant to the discussion before us on this occasion. The words, of course, are not identical. The motion from the Labor Party was:
That this House censures the Commonwealth Government for its failure . . .
It then refers to various sorts of things. To that motion Mr Harold Holt moved that the motion be amended by adding the words:
It commends the proposal for an inquiry into the application of this principle . . .
That amendment was immediately challenged by the mover of the original motion, Mr Curtin, who later became one of Australia’s great Prime Ministers. Mr Curtin, who rose to order, said:
I submit that the amendment is irregular in form and cannot be put from the Chair, because it is in substance a negative and contemplates what is an expanded negative. I refer to ‘May’s Parliamentary Practice’. 10th Edition, page 279 .. .
Honourable members opposite will find that reference at page 419 of the edition of
May’ on me table of the House, Subsequently Mr Speaker Bell, who was the Presiding Officer at that time, said:
In my opinion, the mere adding of words urging some one to take certain action does not put in order an amendment otherwise a direct negative.
He further said that a former Speaker of the House of Commons had ruled that an amendment was merely an expanded negative. This was bis ruling and 1 commend it to honourable members. This concerns all of us in the conduct of this House and in fact in the formulation of amendments:
This was said on 6th May 1936, by one of Australia’s most distinguished Speakers, I presume, the Honourable G. J. Bell. 1 believe that precedent is one which we ought always to consider when we are considering censure motions in this place.
– 1 think this amendment is clearly out of order for 2 quite distinct reasons. The first reason has already been indicated by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) when he argued that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson) was a direct negative to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). I think one has only to refer to the words in each amendment to see that this is true. The significant proposition in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson is: ‘. . . that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet lack the confidence of the House because they failed to honour a commitment made to the States
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The honourable member is indulging in tedious repetition. I have heard this over and over again.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– The significant proposition in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey is: ‘that this House does not believe that there has been any failure on the part of the Government to honour any commitments’. It is clearly and distinctly an opposing and contrary proposition. If the House is to vote on a proposition the simplest and most effective way to do that is to vote for or against the proposition, not to vote for or against a proposition that is put up as an amendment and presented to the House as an alternative to that. The amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey is quite clearly a proposition which is a direct contradiction of what we have been asked to vote for in the first place. Why complicate the procedure? What conceivable argument can there be that we should proceed to consider an amendment to get exactly the same result as we can get if we vote for or against the original motion? This is wasting the time of the House; it is confusing the issue. It is an unnecessary procedure and the House should obviouly agree to those propositions.
The second reason why this amendment is out of order is a much more fundamental and significant reason than that one amendment is contradictory of the other. The tradition of the House of Commons, which is the tradition of this House as is indicated by the judgment given by Mr Speaker Bell in 1936, has been that when a motion of no confidence is moved in a government that question has to be decided yes or no. lt must be decided. There should be no manoeuvre undertaken to avoid a decision being taken on this. It goes to the very root of the Government’s confidence in the House. The procedure in the House of Commons and the procedure here until recently has been in every case that that is so. The amendment procedure has been now twice adopted, although in the first case it involved only a motton of censure. This took place a couple of weeks ago when this amendment procedure was wrongly, in my view, adopted. We now have a motion of want of confidence. It is a much more significant motion than the one a couple of weeks ago. If we are to establish as a precedent that whenever a motion of want of confidence is moved the Government can come up with an amendment which avoids the issues on which that motion is based and diverts consideration to something else, this defeats the whole purpose of the basic motion of want of confidence - the most important one that can be moved in this House. The Government’s action is designed to avoid the question, not to decide it. Because it is designed to avoid the question it defeats the purpose of the House, it prevents a decision and that, of course, is precisely why the Government, in a desperate situation, has moved this procedure. It does not allow this subject to be adequately discussed.
The amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey has a number of points about it which have not been discussed so far and which in all probability the House will never have an opportunity to discuss. For instance, the amendment says:
It is of the opinion that it is this fact which has led to the honourable member for Farrer feeling justified in believing that an undertaking that there would be further consultations, which he gave to the States, has be:n dishonoured.
How do we know what the honourable member for Farrer feels about this? How do we know that this is his reason? It probably is not his reason anyway for feeling this way. If the Government has changed its policy, what was its policy before? Was that not a commitment? Was that not a commitment to the States? Was not the previous policy a commitment to the States? Now the Government says: ‘We did not break any commitment; we merely changed our policy’. But if your policy is not a commitment what is it? If you have changed your policy you must have changed a commitment; you must have broken a commitment.
It seems to me that the whole purpose of this jargon that has been designed somewhere in the Prime Minister’s office or in the Cabinet room during the course of a very desperate afternoon to try to get the Government out of difficulty avoids the whole question. Mr Speaker, when I say it avoids the question, this is a particular and special responsibility for you. If the position of Speaker is to appear to be in any way a partisan position, if the Speaker is to behave in such a way that it can be reasonably deduced that he is favouring one side or the other, then that puts the office you are occupying in question, Mr Speaker. It is most regrettable that this is so. It is most regrettable that for the second time in a few weeks we have had to move a motion of dissent from your ruling on this matter. I say that this is a much more important matter than the one we were discussing several weeks ago. Reference to May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’ remains completely uncontradicted from the other side of the House. A case has been put by the honourable member for Wills and myself that the procedure in the House of Commons and the procedure here - cases have been quoted to exhibit the truth of this - is that the House of Commons and this House have not been prepared to accept an amendment to a no confidence motion. As the Speaker in 1936 put it very vividly, the vote has to be aye or nay.
Mr Speaker, on this vote of no confidence the vote cannot be aye or nay. The amendment is going to be put first and honourable members can vote for or against the amendment. If the amendment is carried there will be no vote at all on the vote of no confidence. I submit, for you to give a ruling which allows this to happen is completely contrary to practice. Not only does it appear now to be contrary to practice but no-one on the Government side has been able or has seen fit to put a case to oppose this view. In the absence of any case to oppose this view I submit, Mr Speaker, that you have no alternative but to accept the case that has been put from this side of the House.
– The motion that the Speaker’s ruling be dissented from is, as has been stated, a very serious one. In this case it is a motion which has to be carried by this House for the protection of this House. Your ruling, Sir, that the amendment is acceptable, if continued as a precedent, will provide governments with an out every time there is a censure motion before the Chair. They will be able to produce an amendment of any description, substitute it for the censure motion, and prevent the Parliament from voting on the censure motion which is before it. I shall read the first portion of the amendment which was moved this morning by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr
Patterson), and I would hope, Mr Speaker, that you would take note of it. It states: and that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet lack the confidence of the House because they failed to honour a commitment made to the States . . .
Now 1 shall read the first portion of the amendment which was moved by the “honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson), lt states: that this House does not believe thai there has been any failure on the part of the Government to honour any commitments.
That is a direct negative of the first portion of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson. There could not be any clearer negative, lt is a negative in actual words. The first portion of one amendment quite clearly states that the Go- vernment has failed to honour a commitment, and the first portion of the other amendment states that the Government has not failed to honour a commitment. If your ; ruling is upheld, Sir, it will mean that this House will have 2 amend nients before it - one totally negating the Other.
The second point is that the proposition contained in the amendment moved by the “honourable member for Dawson would vindicate what the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) has said and it would indicate that this House believes that the honourable member for Farrer. acted in a proper manner and did hi fact give to the States undertakings which have not bean honoured. The amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey to the initial amendment, if carried, would in fact indicate to this House and to the public at large that the honourable member for Farrer did not know what he was talking about. I am interested to know how those people who support the honourable member for Farrer can now propose an amendment which indicates that the Government acted properly and that in fact the honourable member for Farrer acted improperly. I would hope that you, Mr Speaker, would consider that point. I would also hope that some of the hyenas opposite would keep quiet so that I can talk. On the basis of the first portions of both amendments I submit that under no rules of debate or any precedents that have been established in any democratic institution can the amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey be accepted as a proper amendment to the initial amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson. 1 shall repeat the first portions of the 2 amendments because I think that they are of paramount importance to the dissent motion. I believe that those honourable members opposite who wish this House to continue as a House of Parliament operating in a democracy in a democratic way should take note of what is contained in the first portions of the 2 amendments. The amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson states that the following words be added to the motion that the House take note of the paper: and that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet lack the confidence of the House because they failed to honour a commitment made to the States by the previous Minister for National Development. . . .
The first portion of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey states: that this House does not believe that there has been any failure on the purl of the Government to honour any commitments. 1 submit that those portions of the amendments are direct negatives. I submit, Mr Speaker, that even at this late stage you should withdraw your ruling and obviate the necessity for mis House to continue with the motion of dissent from your ruling which, if carried, I think would be a tragedy for this House. If you do not reverse your ruling and if the House does not carry the dissent motion, I can only suggest that politics have overridden democracy in this House.
– I want to advance the view that the matter before the Chair is of a nature that warrants the support of the House. The Chair has made a ruling, and there has been a motion of dissent from that ruling. The dissent motion is quite erroneous. A direct negative is not proposed in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson). I submit that if a careful analysis is made of precedent in this matter in this House and of procedure in the House of Commons, it will be found quite positively and clearly that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey is in no way a direct negative of the earlier amendment.
– lt is milking time.
– Honourable members opposite may laugh. They can deride what I am saying if they wish, but the facts are quite clear. This is not a direct negative. I speak with some experience in this matter as I have served in both State and Federal Parliaments. I can remember many occasions in my experience in the New South Wales Parliament when matters similar to the one we are discussing were considered, and the premise upon which those matters were advanced was in line with the premise upon which the matter presently before the Chair here is based. I want to say quite clearly from this side of the House that the Opposition’s proposition fails because there is nothing whatsoever to substantiate it. Let me take the simplest possible analogy. If the proposition was that a certain thing be done and if the amendment said that that thing should not be done, it would then be a direct negative.
But let me take the 2 amendments. The words in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) earlier today are quite clear and positive. They have been circulated in this House and 1 do not propose to read them. But the honourable member for Casey has submitted an amendment which is in no way a direct negative of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson. Mr Speaker, I submit that it is your right to rule the Opposition’s proposition out of order. I also submit that what has been proposed by the Opposition does not require you to rule that the second amendment is in any way a direct negative of the original amendment. Mr Speaker, if it is necessary to take this question to a division, I urge that the House should support your ruling.
You, Mr Speaker, are there as the custodian of the Standing Orders. You have at your disposal not only precedent but also the matters that are set out clearly in the Standing Orders. I urge that you, Sir, of course with the advice of the Clerk of the House, should have regard not only to what is set out clearly in the Standing Orders but also to precedent. If you do that, there is no question as to what your decision in this matter should be. You should rule that the proposition that you should regard the amendment to the amendment before the House as a direct negatitve is not in fact valid. Those honourable members who have already spoken could not advance 1 reason, in terms of precedent or rules of debate, why this is a matter in which you should reverse your ruling. Sir, they could not substantiate their claim. If we are to go into detail in this matter, I suggest that any honourable member opposite who supports the contention that your ruling should be dissented from should advance some substantive reason why you should do so. So far we have heard an expression of view based only on purely political grounds.
There has been a consideration of a matter that relates only to the amendment that was before the House earlier today. A very lengthy debate took place regarding that matter. At the end of that debate the honourable member for Casey moved a quite proper and precise amendment. It was not a direct negative of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson. Mr Speaker, I submit that you have no alternative but to rule that this is not a matter in which a direct negative is involved. I submit you should rule that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey is perfectly in order and that this House should forthwith proceed to deal with that amendment. Of course I realise that under the Standing Orders you cannot do that until the seconder of the motion for dissent has spoken. I now challenge the seconder of the motion to rise and give’ any evidence that he can produce to show why your ruling should be dissented from. I say quite clearly and positively that he cannot do that. If he thinks he can I challenge him to quote from the Standing Orders or to call upon some guidance from precedents in this matter which would substantiate such a claim.
– I have in my hand a book which is headed: ‘The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia’. The title of the book is: ‘Business and Procedures of the House of Representatives - A Short Description’. It is a third edition. There is a prefatory note in the front of it which reads:
The purpose of this publication, which is prepared primarily for distribution to and the information of Members of the House of Representatives, is to give a relatively short description of the ordinary business of the House and of procedures and practices followed in connection with its day to day proceedings.
It does not attempt to encompass all the procedures provided for in the Standing Orders of the House or by practice, nor does it, with some exceptions, deal with the more complex features of these procedures which are described, or with unusual events.
It is signed by A. G. Turner, Clerk of the House of Representatives. He is the Government’s chief adviser and he is also the Opposition’s chief adviser on procedures in this House. On page 24 of the booklet under the section headed ‘Amendments’ it reads:
The following amendments are out of order.
It refers to a few of them, and then at (e) states:
An amendment which is merely an expanded negative.
So that an amendment which is an expanded negative, according to this booklet, is definitely out of order. It is a book that is published by the Parliament for the guidance of members of the House of Representatives. The original amendment claims that the Government has ‘. . . failed to honour a commitment . . . ‘. The amendment that was moved by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson) reads: . . does not believe that there has been any failure . . . ‘. Mr Speaker, I submit that that is as good as saying:’You did; I didn’t’. It is as simple a proposition as that. We say there was a failure; the honourable member for Casey in his amendment claims there was no failure. I can stand here and say: ‘You did’; the Government can say: ‘We didn’t’. It is as simple as that. It is a direct negative. It is an expanded negative, because the second amendment has been expanded into many more words than we used in the original amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson).
Let me make this point: We moved a want of confidence motion in the Government. The second amendment is not a want of confidence motion in the Government. It takes away the whole import of the amendment that we moved. We took a stand on a matter of principle and morality. We moved an amendment that expressed a want of confidence in the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Cabinet. The amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Casey does absolutely nothing. It is an innocuous resolution that is the way out for certain honourable members on the Government side who are not prepared to support the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn).
Might I conclude my remarks by saying that it is your position in this House, Mr Speaker, to control the House. It is your position to interperet the Standing Orders. You have precedents to. follow. You have parliamentary practice in this Parliament and in the House of Commons which give you guidance on these matters. You also have this booklet ‘Business and Procedures of the House of Representatives’, which is published by this Parliament and written by your chief adviser and our chief adviser, the Clerk of the House of Representatives. I submit that unless you act with complete impartiality in every decision that you make this House will not function as it should. I submit that as soon as you are appointed Speaker you must forget that you are the honourable member for Phillip. As the honourable member for Phillip you can have your political biases; you can do and say what you like. But as Mr Speaker, if you expect our respect, you must forget that you are associated with any political party. You are there to uphold the practice and procedures of the British institution of Parliament, but particularly of the Australian institution of Parliament. There can be no other decision than that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey is a direct or expanded negative of the resolution that was moved by the honourable member for Dawson. I ask you for the sake of this Parliament to forget that you are the honourable member for Phillip - a Liberal representative - and to make a decision which upholds the prestige of the Australian House of Parliament.
– I rise to order. In view of the compelling logic of the honourable member for Lang and in view of the impact of your ruling on the future traditions of this Parliament–
– I ask the honourable member to come to the point. The honourable member will state his point of order.
– I ask, Mr Speaker, whether you can amplify to the House your reasons for your ruling?
-The honourable member will resume his seat. The point of order is not valid.
– The issue we have before us is an amendment moved to an original motion. The original motion is in accord with the normal practice of the House, that when a statement is made by a Minister a motion is moved that the House take note of the paper*. The question therefore before the House at that point of time was ‘that the House take note of the paper’. To that motion an amendment was moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson): that the following words be added to the motion’. The honourable member then went on to recite them. After the moving and seconding of that motion, there was before the House a motion: That the House take note of the Paper’, and That the Prime Minister and his Cabinet lack the confidence of the House because they failed to honour a commitment made to the States by the previous Minister for National Development, acting for and on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, that there would be a further consultation with the States before the Commonwealth government introduced any legislation on the territorial sea and continental shelf.
After that amendment was moved and seconded we proceeded during the course of the day to debate it. During the course of the debate it became perfectly clear to all people listening to the debate that the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) thought that he had given a commitment which had not been honoured. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) initiated the debate. He made it clear that so far as he was concerned the honourable member for Farrer acted sincerely and held a sincere belief. As the debate proceeded it became apparent that there was a different situation about which honourable members were speaking. One was a proposition about a certain extent of authority of the Commonwealth which had been outlined at an earlier point of time, whereas at the present time an entirely different proposition is contained in the legislation which has been introduced into the House. As the debate went on, views from both sides of the House were put. Late this afternoon the honour able member for Casey (Mr Howson) moved an amendment to the proposition that was before the House at that point of time. The amendment of the honourable member for Casey sought the deletion of all the words after ‘and’ in the Opposition’s motion and that there should stand in their place the words that the honourable member for Casey moved. The amendment of the honourable member for Casey, if carried by this House, would substitute the words contained in that amendment for the words proposed by the Opposition. The words proposed by the honourable member for Casey are these: that this House does not believe that there has been any failure on the part of the Government to honour any commitments.
In the midst of a barrage of interjections I will continue with my case and come back to that very point and argue it, because I want to put it in perspective. Members of the House, in the flurry of interjections and excitement, may have forgotten the amendment. The amendment of the honourable member for Casey would substitute these words for the censure motion moved by the Opposition: that this House does not believe that there has been any failure on the part of the Government to honour any commitments.
The honourable member’s amendment goes on to use these words:
The House acknowledges that when the Government decided to change its policy on off-shore authority by legislating to take control from the low-water mark to Continental Shelf, the Government did not, at that time, inform the States of this change in the policy which hud been the subject of consultations between the Minister for National Development and State Ministers. lt is of the opinion that it is this fact-
That is the fact contained in the second paragraph - which has led the honourable member for Farrer feeling justified in believing that an undertaking that there would be further consultations, which he gave to the States, has been dishonoured.
The matter before the Chair at present is a motion by the Opposition to disagree with your ruling, Mr Speaker. The ruling which you gave was that this amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey is in order. You ruled it in order. The Opposition, in moving dissent from your ruling, alleges that your ruling is wrong because the amendment is a negative of the amendment moved by the Opposition. So fat the Opposition has not quoted a standing order which prevents a negative from being moved.
My understanding is that the practice of this House follows the practice of the House of Commons - and it is a practice as distinct from a standing order - that the direct negative should not be moved as an amendment. I have not heard a member of the Opposition allege that there is a standing order that prevents this. If there be no standing order which we can turn up, look to and read, we must have regard to what the practice is. My understanding of the House of Commons practice, which we are following, is that . there are occasions on which a direct negative can be moved. As I. understand your ruling or as I put to you, Mr Speaker, this is not even a direct negative. I take the point that there could be occasions - and I want it to be understood that this is my understanding- when a direct negative could be moved. But’ I do not think that this is such an occasion, because I do not regard the. amendment as a direct negative.
I think that the amendment of the honourable member for Casey is in fact an alternative. If somebody moved an amendment that the table was black and if somebody wanted to move an amendment that the table was not black, quite clearly that a a direct negative. But if somebody moved that the table was black and if somebody else wanted to move that it was not black and that there was some reason why it may appear to be some other colour that is an alternative. The honourable member for Casey has put an alternative in his amendment. What the honourable member for Casey says is this: The honourable member for Farrer sincerely believes something. The Opposition, seeking to make political capital–
– What are you doing?
– I am sure that there would be no denial that an opportunity is being taken to make political capital. The Opposition then moved the motton. The amendment of the honourable member for Casey, 1 think, more accurately describes the position. It is an alternative. It does accurately describe the position and it accurately says: that this House does not believe that there has been any failure on the pvt of the Government to honour any commitments.
– We say that you do.
– You say that we do. I would like to try a vote on it and see bow the numbers go. It is perfectly apparent that honourable members opposite are prepared to go through all this performance. No doubt it is entertaining to those in the gallery and, for all I know, it may even be entertaining to those people listening on the radio. The reason why we are sitting here now discussing the motion of dissent from your ruling, Mr Speaker, is not that honourable members opposite have a real belief that they should dissent but because they are taking the point as a procedural matter waiting for some members to arrive. When those members arrive-
– I rise to order, ls this matter relevant to. the motion before the chair?
-Order! I would suggest that the Leader of the House confine himself to the matter before the Chair.
– I raise a point of order. The Minister has stated that the Labor Party is waiting for members to arrive. Was not the honourable member for Ballaarat brought here by special aeroplane to vote?
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) has complimented you, Mr Speaker, very warmly and I join him in the compliments upon your wisdom. You have had the wisdom to know that the amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Casey is in order because it is an alternative. It is not a negative. It is upon that alternative that the House will be asked to vote. The House will vote on the amendment of the honourable member for Casey. If honourable members vote as I confidently expect them to and support the amendment of the honourable member for Casey, that amendment, having been carried, will become the motion. We will then vote upon that. 1 expect in the course of the evening a number of divisions. I expect that until the members from the other side who are now winging their way here arrive there will be no possibility of co-operation from the Opposition in taking a vote. For that reason, if the Opposition chooses to spend its time debating a motion of dissent from your ruling rather than debating the issue, that is a matter for it. It will pursue its course, but I think that we would not want to see the forms of the House departed from in any improper way. The honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart), in the course of speaking to this amendment, referred to the Clerk of the House.
– I rise on a point of order. The Minister appears to be guilty of tedious repetition. Would it be because he is waiting for Mr McMahon to get back from Djakarta?
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– That has been answered by a prayer. The honourable member for Lang referred to the Clerk of the House. The Clerk of the House and his assistants are always at the service of every member of the House, and all of us lean very heavily upon their advice.
– The honourable member for Lang said so.
– Yes, he did indeed say it. We lean od them every day that this House is sitting. Mr Speaker, we have until 9.45 to go. The members of the Australian Labor Parly are leaving Sydney now, and they are duc to arrive at Canberra Airport at 9.45 p.m. The honourable member for Lang referred to the Clerks. They have a corporate experience covering the length of the Commonwealth Parliament. This experience is passed on from one to the other as they succeed each other. They devote their lives to their working career. There have been occasions when I have had disagreements with the Clerk of the House. He always seems lo manage to convince me of the Tightness of his view. He is the man upon whom you rely, Mr Speaker, for advice on these issues. 1 have no doubt that you relied on the advice of the Clerk when you accepted that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey was in order, and 1 have no doubt that you were right. The honourable member for Lang then said one other thing. He said: For the sake of this Parliament’ and he then made some appeal to you. For the sake of this Parliament I hope that honourable members of the Opposition will not proceed and pursue this debate on dissent from your ruling, Mr Speaker, because quite clearly you are right. If the members of the Opposition wish to return to the subject matter of the debate, the way in which that can be done is to accept your ruling. When that is accepted we will have a debate on the substantive issues before us and not on this charade.
Mr MORRISON (St George) 19.4]- My mind boggles at the tortuous paths along which the purported logic of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) has led us. An indisputable point has been made by my colleague the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) on the basis of the Standing Orders. I do not think that the Standing Orders rule out the application of commonsense to the rulings of this House. I want to examine the negative of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson) and to see where it leads us. Let us take the first sentence, lt reads: that this House does not believe that there has been any failure on the part of the Government to honour any commitments.
Let us take the direct negative of that. It would read: that this House-
We excise the words ‘does not’ because we are taking out the negative - believes that there has been a failure on the part of me Government lo honour a commitment.
That is the direct negative of the proposition moved by the honourable member for Casey. Where does that lead us? lt leads lis precisely back to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), which says:
The direct negative of the proposition put by the honourable member for Casey leads us precisely to the proposition put by the honourable member for Dawson. Mr Speaker, may 1 seek your guidance? If the
Opposition proposed the amendment I am about to suggest, would this proposition be a direct negative of the proposition put by the honourable member for Casey? To my mind the following is a direct negative of the proposition put by the honourable member for Casey: that this House believes that there has been a failure on the part of the Government to honour a commitment. The House acknowledges that when the Government decided to change its policy on off-shore authority by legislating to take control from the low water mark to continental shelf, the Government did not, at that time, inform the States of this change in the policy which had been the subject of consultations between the Minister for National Development and State Ministers, lt is of the opinion that it is this fact which has led to the honourable member for Farrer feeling justified in believing that an undertaking that there would be further consultations, which he gave to the States, has been dishonoured, and in these circumstances the House censures the Prime Minister and his Cabinet.
Mr Speaker, I ask for your ruling on that tentative motion.
-The honourable member has raised a hypothetical matter. It is not the function of the Chair, as I have said before in my occupancy of this office, to give advice to honourable members during a debate. My purpose is to interpret the Standing Orders and rule on points of order.
– I would like to take the House back to what happened early this morning. After the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) had submitted the statement which gave rise to this debate, my colleague the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) moved certain words as an amendment to the motion that the House take note of the paper. The Prime Minister from his seat - it was the only time that he has appeared in the House; he has not appeared since - said that he accepted as a motion of censure the words sought to be inserted in the motion by the honourable member for Dawson. To my mind this is the significant question, and it is the one that we raised on a previous occasion.
We have a great deal of argument in this House from time to time on whether the Executive usurps the functions of Parliament or whether Parliament still has in it sufficient residual initiatives of its own. A few of the -initiatives that still remain open to the Opposition relate to moves for the discussion of matters of urgent public importance, votes of no confidence and votes of censure. I submit with all respect that this initiative resides in the Opposition only, because surely it is futility to suggest that a motion of no confidence would be moved from the Government side. Surely a Government must think that it has confidence within itself, although I am sure that some honourable members on the Government side at the moment do not have quite the degree of confidence that would make for an ideal situation.
I repeat that the Prime Minister said this morning: T accept this as a motion of censure’. What has happened is that there has been a counting of heads. The Government realised that at least the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) was going to support my colleague from Dawson. There was a suggestion also that the honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson) and the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) would support it and that the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) was going to refrain. What sort of substantive action refraining is in a matter such as this 1 do not know. But by means of a contrivance - I submit that it is only a contrivance - another set of words has been substituted for those which earlier the Prime Minister was willing to accept as a motion of censure. I would suggest that in the context of all this the only way iri which the question should have been resolved was by honourable members voting aye or nay for the proposition. lt is true - and the Parliament has discussed this point on a previous occasion - that the Parliament has its own Standing Orders which are specific on particular propositions. Where there is doubt as to the meaning of particular standing order we invoke the great historical work of Erskine May, which has been the guide for British parliamentary institutions. Originally it was a guide for the use of the House of Commons, but it has subsequently become the vademecum of the other countries which have accepted the British parliamentary system. But I submit that as well as using our own Standing Orders as a guide and as well as invoking Erskine May we have also to place some faith in common sense.
Mr Speaker, lt seems to me, judging it on the basis of common sense, that we have twice accepted in the Parliament motions which have become negations of the original propositions. The way to deal with a proposition is to vote aye if you support it and nay if you do not support it. 1 submit to honourable members that they should look at the mathematics of this sort of situation.
– That is why we are here - the mathematics.
– I know it is. The Government has been seriously looking at the mathematics all day. By use of a contrivance it has bought off two or three honourable members on its side of the chamber.
-lair - lt was a legitimate contrivance.
– The Minister may regard it as a legitimate contrivance, Mr Speaker, but I am appealing to you to use your common sense. If 1 may 1 shall refer to a great historical observation which was made in the House of Commons in a day when things were not quite so good in that place - at the time of the Long Parliament, the time of the Lord Protector, Cromwell. He said to the Speaker: ‘Remember, Sir, from whom you get your authority’ - and I submit that this is important to you, Sir - ‘and for whom you exercise it*.
I suggest that here you exercise your authority. Sir, in the name of common sense and in the name of the right of this institution. Looking at it that way, it seems very difficult for me, on the basis of any sort of logical analysis, to arrive at any other conclusion either about this particular set of circumstances, or an earlier set of circumstances, than that the House is being asked to vote on two questions of which one is virtually the negative of the other. On the previous occasion the motion of censure was also initiated on this side of the House. The initiative should properly reside on this side of the House. This is where censure should come from. The amendment which was moved today by the honourable member for Dawson on behalf of the Opposition was accepted by the Prime Minister as a motion of censure.
On the previous occasion the Opposition moved a motion of censure against the
Minister in charge of the House. That surely was a question which should have been resolved on its own. But on that occasion too a clever contrivance was used to get around that by turning (he motion against the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) into one against the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). How can such questions be resolved simultaneously? I think that if honourable members have another look at the voting on that occasion they will find, oddly enough, that from a mathematical point of view as many people were in favour of the leader of the Opposition as were against him, because of the way the decisions were arrived at.
The second amendment on this occasion seems to be nothing but a negation of the proper processes of debate. When a proposition is put up one is either for it or against it. Sensible amendments to a proposition are permissible, but not the type of amendment which takes away the total element from the first proposition and substitutes something which is the direct opposite. It appears to me (hat in view of what is involved here honourable members opposite are running away from the only right which the Opposition has, the right to censure the Government. If the Government has the numbers why is it so fearful of the result? The only reason is that it knows that if the Opposition’s proposition were the only one available some of the Government’s devoted followers would not be quite so devoted on this occasion. I submit that the second amendment is a paltry contrivance. I think also that it debases this chamber from what it ought to be - the most important debating forum in the Commonwealth of Australia. I am sorry that we have bowed to certain devices in this respect, Sir, and I still appeal to you as the custodian of the chair to use a little common sense. You are not the honourable member for Phillip, as my colleague the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) properly pointed out; you are Mr Speaker - a term which has reverential overtones within it and which will continue to have reverential overtones only if it is felt that when you have to make a difficult adjudication you lean not on the side of the numbers - because the numbers will prevail eventually - but that you occasionally lean on the side of logic. I submit that if logic is leant on in this instance the second amendment, that which has been moved by the honourable member for Casey should be rejected by the House because it is a direct negative of the first proposition which was put up and which was accepted earlier in the day by the Prime Minister as being a censure of him and his Government - which, if carried, would mean the fall of his Government and which, if defeated, would mean that his Government had prevailed.
– I rise to support your ruling, Mr Speaker. This has been a very kaleidoscopic sort of day. We have gone from the high drama of the morning and the afternoon to this after-dinner period when the members of the Opposition are, by means of procedural devices, playing out time until they can build up their numbers to make the Government’s majority when a vote is taken a little less than it otherwise would be. The plain fact is that this is a charade that is being played by the Opposition. I except from that remark the contribution to the debate that was made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) who has just resumed his seat. He did try to make, quite exceptionally for his side, a serious contribution which I wish to answer. It is a good thing that somebody on the Opposition side has broken away from the game-playing to attempt to deal with the substance of the matter. The only principle that ought to be taken into account is that, according to the practice of the House of Commons - that being the relevant practice, there being no standing order of this House covering the situation - an amendment should not be allowed if it is merely an expanded negative of the motion. The principle is clear. The only question is whether the amendment that is proposed by the Government is or is not an expanded negative of the motion of want of confidence which was moved by the Opposition against the Government earlier today.
– It means that we cannot move another one now.
– I am sorry to hear the honourable member for Sydney unwilling as always to. listen to fair debate and making stupid interjections. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports who preceded me in this debate will not particularly thank his colleague for making stupid, frivolous interjections when I am trying to deal-
– Mr Speaker, why do you not keep him quiet, too?
-Order! The honourable member for Sydney will cease interjecting. I call the Attorney-General.
– Come on, stupid.
-Order! The honourable member for Bonython will withdraw that remark.
– Mr Speaker-
-Order! The honourable member for Lalor will sit down. He may make his point of order later. I have requested the honourable member for Bonython to withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw the remark.
– I now raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A little while ago the Attorney-General applied exactly the same term to the honourable member for Sydney.
-Order! That is not correct. He did not use it as a personal observation against the person concerned.
– He related it-
– He may have related it but he did not make it directly.
– I would like to return to answering the only serious contribution to the debate that has been made by a member of the Opposition. That was the contribution made by my friend, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports a few moments ago. The principle that he enunciated and upon which I am prepared to debate with him is that an amendment should not be allowed if it is merely an expanded negative of the motion. The Opposition this morning moved an amendment
– Mr Speaker, I do not see why, in view of what the Minister has been saying, we should not have the question put at this stage.
-Order! It is a matter for the Government. It is not in my hands at all.
– Mr Speaker, any honourable member may move that the question be put, and that is what the honourable member for Lalor has done.
– Order! He has not moved it
– I move:
That the question be now put.
– Order! The question is that the question be now put. Those in favour say ‘Aye’, to the contrary ‘No’. I think the ‘Ayes’ have it. Is a division required? The House will divide. (The bells having been rung and 1 member only having passed to the left of the Chair)
-I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I notice, Mr Speaker, that normally you appoint tellers for the ‘Ayes’ and the “Noes’. It appeared to me that I was the only voter against the motion, and it seemed that you appointed no tellers.
– Order! There was no need to appoint tellers. The question now is that the Speaker’s ruling be dissented from.
That Mr Speaker’s ruling be dissented from.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority .. ..10
Question so resolved in the negative.
– We now have a motion and an amendment before the House. The motion was moved by the Opposition as a motion of no confidence in the Government, the strongest and most fundamental motion that can he moved against a government in a parliament. We have an amendment which is presumably something less than that, and which was described by the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) a few minutes ago as not black but purple. The amendment is not a vote of no confidence in the Government hut it is a censure of the Government. The House has an alternative now, either to vote for no confidence in the Government or to vote for an amendment which is a significant criticism of the Government and a significant censure of the Government. The amendment was moved by the Government itself. We have had a very remarkable situation today. After a debate that has been over 12 hours in duration we now have the Government moving a censure of itself. We have the Government moving an amendment which is a very significant criticism of itself. The motion of want of confidence was accepted this morning by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) as a motion of censure against the Govern men t and he said he would meet it head on. It was a matter of whether the interpretation given to events by the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) or that given by the Prime Minister was correct. The Prime Minister accepted it as a motion which was to test that proposition. But during the course of the day there have been changes.
The Prime Minister no longer wants that proposition to be tested because it was obvious that the honourable member for Farrer was going to vote against him, probably the honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson) was going to vote against him and the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) was going to vote against him. Nobody was quite sure how the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) was going to vote although later he said that despite the fact that he agreed completely with the version of the honourable member for Farrer he was still going to vote for the Government. I understand that nobody at all m the House had the faintest idea what the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) was going to do. So in this condition of very great uncertainty in which the future of the Gorton Government was teetering on the brink conferences took place in the Prime Minister’s room and in the Cabinet room during the course of the whole afternoon. During the course of the whole afternoon today the Gorton Government was at the brink of disaster and was dependent on the votes of 3 or 4 people who were worked on in various ways during the course of the afternoon. We saw several versions of a motion brought in to the honourable member for Casey. We saw him shake his head and look unco-operative. We saw the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) go and speak to him. Then the honourable member for Casey went away with the honourable member for Chisholm. During the course of the whole afternoon the future of the Gorton Government was in doubt. Now we have the alternative of a censure which has been moved by the Government itself. How has this remarkable situation come about?
The discovery of oil and minerals off the coast of Australia created the necessity for legislation and a constitutional problem arose. It was a matter of whether the States or the Commonwealth should pass laws of certain kinds, which of the 2 sets of government was to have all authority in which areas, what were to be the limits and what Was to be the nature of the legislation. So it was obvious that discussions would have to take place between the States and the Commonwealth and those discussions took place. At first the position of the States was that they claimed to be responsible for the area from the low water mark to a position 3 miles out, leaving the Commonwealth responsible for the area beyond the 3-mile limit. Discussions have taken place. Mutual legislation was envisaged to take place between the 2 sets of government. There was to be mirrored legislation, and then something happened. There was the contradiction between the position of the States and the Commonwealth and that difference had to be worked out. From the very beginning until about, perhaps, November 1969 the control of the territorial sea was a matter that was to be shared between the Commonwealth and the States. That was the position that the honourable member for Farrer understood. That was the position that he put to the State Ministers in March and in September and that was the position that everybody in the Government understood. If that undertaking given by the honourable member for Farrer was not a commitment I do not know what a commitment is. That was the undertaking given by the honourable member for Farrer as the Minister for National Development to the State Ministers in those 2 conferences. I submit that that was done just as clearly in the second conference attended by the Attorney-General as it was at the first conference. This is borne out in detail by the speech of the honourable member for Farrer in this House last Friday. Of course that was the position, and everybody knew that was the position. If this is not a commitment - if this is not something that meets the meaning of that word in the Opposition’s motion of censure - then I do not know what a commitment would be. What was the position has been established by practically every honourable member who has spoken during the day, but the point that apparently is coming into doubt is whether this was a commitment.
What happened, of course, was that there was a change of policy. Somewhere about August of last year in a case that did not have anything in particular to do with this series of discussions - a case that was mentioned by the honourable member for Farrer last Friday - 2 judges indicated that the Commonwealth had authority from the low water mark out indefinitely. This, of course, established a position that the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) were able immediately to take advantage of, and there was a change of policy, as they call it. But the honourable member for Farrer, the former Minister for National Development, had given an undertaking to the State Ministers for Mines that was based upon a different policy. He had given what we claim to be a commitment. Then there was a change of policy. That is all. just a change of policy; not a change of commitment, not a breaking of any undertaking, not a breaking of any promise to the State Ministers - a change of policy. Some honourable members have been persuaded, because of the semantic twist that has been given to words, to change their attitude. Half a dozen of them were committed to the honourable member for Farrer because, they said, he was a man of integrity who would not tell a lie or give a false impression. And 1 believe that to be true. They were committed to him because they thought that what he said to the State Ministers was the Government’s policy at the time and was a commitment, surely, in anybody’s language. But then along came the clever men who suggested some semantic differences. They have moved an amendment and have said that this was not a change of commitment, it was a change of policy. The gentlemen who apparently were taking strong positions during the course of the day have gone to water. They have taken weak positions. But I submit that the situation has not changed. I submit that the former Minister for National Development made a commitment to the State Ministers, and this they understood. It was a commitment that there would be a division of responsibility between the 2 sets of government. That was the policy of the Government up to mat point. A commitment was made on that policy as clearly as a commitment has ever been made on any policy.
But then there was a change. Since November 1969 the position has changed fundamentally. The Commonwealth decided not merely to take control beyond the 3-mile mark and leave the innerwaters to the States, as it might have been proceeding to do up to that point, but to go further, and under the legislation that was introduced info the House by the present . Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) will take control of the lot. What a change in policy that was. How can anyone claim, in any degree of honesty, that there was not a change of commitment? How can anyone suggest that this is not a fundamental change of policy? The Commonwealth was going to share with the States control of the waters, but now the Commonwealth is going to take control of all the waters. This is not only a change of policy but a change of commitment - a twist, a breaking of an undertaking.
The significant factor really is: How did this come about. There was a change of policy. The Prime Minister may have been mainly responsible for this, but he did not go to the State Ministers and say: ‘Look, we have decided for very good reason that we are going to change our policy. The position is not the same now as it was when the Minister for National Development met you in September and March. The position now is not the same as it was then. It has changed’. He did not even do the natural thing. Certainly the honourable member for Farrer, as the Minister for National Development, must have given those Ministers an impression, an undertaking. I can quote his own words in September to the effect that there would be further discussions, and not only about policy as the Ministers at that time .thought it to be. Had the then Minister for National Development known that the Government intended to change the whole arrangement and take control of all the waters, what would he have said to those Ministers in September 1969? What would he have said if he had known that there was to be a complete change? This is the biggest piece of humbug and political dishonesty that I have seen during my time in this House, and I have seen a few instances of that from the other side of the House in that time.
The Prime Minister does not decide to have a discussion with State Ministers. He decides a couple of days or 1 day before the announcement is to be made in the Governor-General’s Speech to send them some telegrams. I understand that one of them did not even receive the telegram until after he had heard the statement in th Governor-General’s Speech. Is that the way to treat Ministers from the States? Is that the way to keep whatever it was that the Minister for National Development had established with them - this thing that the Government now says is not a commitment but merely the subject of a change of policy?
Then we have another series of remarkable events. There has been a stark fundamental change in policy. One would think that some attempt would have been made to explain this, if not to the Ministers directly, then certainly by the new Minister for National Development who apparently did not even talk to the former Minister for National Development until Parliament reassembled during the course of 1970. What kind of a breakdown in communications was that? Then the new Minister for National Development made a long speech which is recorded in Hansard of 16th April 1970. Not one word does he say about this. These are the opening remarks in his speech:
The object of this Bill is lo carry out the Government’s decision, concisely stated by His Excellency the Governor-General-
I interpose here, for the first time ever - in his Speech at the opening of the present session, to introduce legislation asserting and establishing the exclusive right of the Commonwealth to exercise sovereign control over the resources of the sea bed off the Australian coast, from the low water mark to the outer limits of the continental shelf.
There was a complete and fundamental change in policy, and the new Minister does not even consider it necessary to explain to the House that such a change in policy has taken place. He does not even consider it necessary to say in this speech whether he had informed the State Ministers that there had been this change. He does not even consider it necessary to make any reference to the position occupied by his predecessor - a position whether it was regarded as a commitment or not, a position that was diametrically opposed to this. Is that not so?
– Your two Western Australians have just arrived.
– We are concerned to win the debate and I think we are doing pretty well. We will leave the numbers to the Government because we know that it has enough people to win the vote irrespective of the arguments. We know that the Government has lo win on the numbers. 1 am speaking here for the purpose of winning the debate, not winning the numbers. The Minister can have his say in a moment and then we will see whether he can put up a better case in opposition to what I am saying than the case I am putting. He can leave the debating to me. The new Minister for National Development avoided the issue like the plague. Why did he avoid the issue if there was not some reason to want to avoid it? Not only that. The right honourable gentleman who by accident and fortune is at present the Prime Minister of Australia chose to make a statement in the House this morning in which he too chose to ignore the matter. He chose to make no reference this morning to a change in policy. He chose to make no admission that there had been a change in policy which could have misled both the Minister for National Development and the Ministers of the States. This was completely avoided and ignored.
Of course, the whole thing has come to the surface today simply because of our motion of no confidence in his Government. It is obvious not only that the right honourable gentleman and the new Minister for National Development had something to hide but that they deliberately chose to hide it. What they chose to hide was that their own then Minister for National Development had made a commitment or had given an undertaking - call it what you like - to the Ministers of the States.
It was the policy of the Government at the time, so it must have been a commitment. If it was the policy of the Government at the time to share control of these waters with the States in some way - a way open to debate and discussion - then the honourable member for Farrer must have put it to the Ministers of the States in his discussions with them. He had no alternative but to do that. Now it is admitted that since he did it there has been a change of policy or a change of position from the one that was occupied by the honourable member for Farrer. Everything that he has said in this House since he first spoke has been confirmed up to the hilt by the amendment that was moved this afternoon by the Government. 1 want to sum up what 1 have to say. Not only was this the dishonouring of an agreement made with the State Ministers by the honourable member for Farrer as Minister for National Development in this Government in March 1969 and in September 1969 to the effect that there would be a sharing of responsibility between the States and the Commonwealth. Nobody thought of anything else until the indication came from the High Court that powers were different. That was in August. Not only was this the dishonouring of an agreement for a certain kind of law or a certain kind of regime. It was also the dishonouring of an agreement to go back and discuss that - and, most vitally, to go back and discuss if there was to be a change of policy. If the Minister is going to preside over a government that will dishonour agreements in this way once, he will dishonour agreements again.
This was also the use of centralised power. It was an arrogant act by a man who has been responsible for several arrogant acts on other occasions. It was the act of a man who will come in and make a decision because he has become convinced that that decision is right, no matter what his colleagues - whether they be in his Government or in some of the State governments - might happen to say. He is priding himself upon this. He is priding himself upon being such a man.
Of course, the judgment has to be made on this matter and I would not expect political supporters whose retention of their seats depends upon backing their party to allow these things to have the faintest influence upon their decisions, even when they take self-righteous positions on moral grounds, or on always being independently minded men, as the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) does. But every time he has to put his vote up to test that, he goes to water. Not only do I say that this is the case-
– Order! The honourable members time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. The honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), who has just sat down, thought fit to suggest that nobody knew how I proposed to vote on this censure motion. I have never given any cause whatsoever for doubt as to how 1 propose to vote on this or any other motion. I want to add that I could imagine nothing more disastrous than to assist the honourable gentleman and his friends into office.
– Mr Speaker-
Motion (by Mr Hulme) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be omitted from the amendment proposed by the honourable member for Dawson stand part of the question (Mr Howson’s amendment).
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . ‘ 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr Howson’s amendment) be so inserted.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the amendment (Dr Patterson’s) as amended be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 2.45 p.m. on Tuesday next.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Today has been a day of crisis for the Government. I think it is right at this time that we should sum up the machinations and the sordid intrigue–
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.34 p.m. until Tuesday, 19 May, at 2.45 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
semi-governmental authorities in each State,
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will he bring up to date ‘ and consolidate the answers which his predecessor gave me on IS August 1967 (Hansard, page 92), 19 November 1968 (page 3007), 27 November 1968 (page 3387), 21 May 1969 (page 2097) and 26 September 1969 (pages 2122 and 2132) on the internal and overseas securities on issue, annual interest liability and capital repayments in respect of
local government authorities in each State and
each mainland Territory.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The information previously supplied on securities on issue, annual interest liability and capital repayments has been consolidated and brought up to date in the following tables:
The information in the foregoing tables has been taken from the White Paper Government Securities on issue at 30 June 1969, the Annual Reports of the National Debt Commission, and Finance Bulletins and the Bulletin on ‘State, Territory and Local Government Authorities’ Finance and Government Securities’ published by the Commonwealth Statistician.
Statistics relating to the total debt outstanding and the annual interest liability for local and semigovernment authorities at 30 June 1969 are not yet available.
Figures showing actual interest payments are not available on a comparable basis for all authorities. Figures showing the annual interest liability have therefore been shown.
Statistical data for local and semi-governmental authority debt was not collected during the war years and was resumed in 1946-47. Details for Commonwealth, State, local and semi-governmental authorities have therefore been shown for 1947 in lieu of 1945.
The table ‘Capital Repayments’ shows actual expenditure of the Commonwealth and the States on debt redemption from the National Debt Sinking Fund, Consolidated Revenue Fund and Trust Fund. It excludes redemptions from Loan Fund, i.e., where securities are issued and the proceeds used to redeem other securities. The figures shown for local and semi-governmental authorities are of funds provided for the redemption of debt. Unlike Commonwealth and State sinking funds, contributions paid into some local and semi-governmental authority sinking funds are not expended on debt redemption as they become available, but are accumulated until maturity of the loan for which the contribution is payable.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Papua and New Guinea Superannuation Board is presently constituted of -
asked the Minister for Im migration, upon notice:
What was the (a) male and (b) female migrant intake of each of the 6 Australian Slates over the past 5 years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The male and female migrant intakes of the 6 Australian States over the past 5 years were as follows:
Potato Products: Imports (Question No. 795)
asked the Minister for
Trade and Industry, upon notice:
What were the quantities, cash values and countries of origin of processed potatoes and potato products imported into Australia in the past 5 years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Acting Commonwealth Statistician has advised that details of processed potatoes and potato products are recorded separately only for the imports of (a) potatoes, whether or not cooked, preserved by freezing (b) flour, meal and flakes of potato (c) Potato starch. He has supplied the following table showing details of these imports for each of the years ended 30th June 1965 to 30th June 1969 and for the eight months ended February 1970. Values shown are values for duty, not cash values, and are calculated on a free on board port of shipment basis.
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
How many of th; persons enumerated by his predecessor on 13th August 1969 (Hansard, page 244) and by himself on 19th March 1970 (Hansard, page 721 J as having (a) applied and (b) been approved for entry from Southern Rhodesia travelled on a Southern Rhodesian passport or on a purported passport issued by or on behalf of the illegal regime in Southern Rhodesia.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 May 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700515_reps_27_hor67/>.