28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 2 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth humbly showeth:
That the undersigned believe that hunger, illiteracy, abject poverty and injustice areintolerable anywhere in the world; that the knowledge, skills and resources to change these unjust conditions now exist; that to obtain justice among peoples. world financial and trading systems can and must be changed; that Australia has the capacity to play a more significant part in enabling the developing countries to achieve improved social conditions for all their people.
Yourpetitioners most humbly pray that
Australia’s Official Development Assistance in 1972- 73 be increased to at least $240m;
Australia’s aid policies be reviewed so that aid given provides maximum benefit to the peoples of developing countries;
Australia’s trade policies be reviewed to provide more favourable conditions for developing countries. by Mr Hurford.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth humbly showeth:
That the undersigned believe that hunger, illiteracy, abject poverty and injustice are intolerable anywhere in the world; that the knowledge, skills and resources to change these unjust conditions now exist; that to obtain justice among peoples, world financial and trading systems can and must be changed; that Australia has the capacity to play a more significant part in enabling the developing countries to achieve improved social conditions for all their people.
Your petitioners most humbly praythat
Australia’s Official Development Assistance in 1973- 4 be increased to at least $240m;
Australia’s aid policies be reviewed so that aid given provides maximum benefit to the peoples of developing countries;
Australia’s trade policies be reviewed to provide more favourable conditions for developing countries. by Mr Lloyd.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth:
Your Petitioners most humbly pray:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Hewson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors in the State of New South Wales respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners therefore respectfully pray that your Honourable House will (i) make immediately a substantial Federal emergency grant to all State Governments for education services, and (ii) carry out a public national survey to determine needs of the States after 1975.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr James.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Considering the size of the recently announced increases in contributions to hospital and medical benefit funds and the impending rise in doctors’ fees, can the Minister guarantee that a levy of 1.35 per cent on taxable income will be sufficient to finance the proposed health scheme? Will he confirm the Australian Labor Party’s election undertaking that the maximum contribution for any family under the scheme will be limited to$1 35? Finally, will the recently announced increases in fund contributions enable the funds in Victoria to pay benefits to non-pensioner patients in nursing homes?
– I can guarantee that a 1.35 per cent levy on taxable income will be the level at which contributions will be struck when our health insurance proposals are introduced. I will be making an announcement on that within a matter of several weeks at the most. The maximum level at which the levy will be struck in money terms will be defined when our report is published. I am sure that the honourable member appreciates that these matters are related to movements in average weekly earnings and to earnings generally. The third matter which was mentioned by the honourable member concerned the attraction of benefits for non-pensioner patients in nursing homes in Victoria. I point out that already there is more than adequate money available in hospital funds in Victoria to provide these benefits. The funds have $25m in free reserves, without considering contingent liabilities for which they have set aside additional money. Every other State outside Victoria has arranged for these benefits to be provided. I have had discussions on this matter by letter and also personally with Mr Rossiter, the Minister for Health in Victoria. I hope that these discussions bear benefit for the community. In the final result the decision to effect these benefits for non-pensioner patients in nursing homes rests exclusively with the Government of Victoria.
– Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs prepared to release the hitherto secret
Scott Report on Aboriginal conditions on the South Coast of New South Wales? If he is, could he inform the House what infant mortality rate the report showed and whether he would be prepared to ask for another inquiry to check the accuracy of the figures?
– In accordance with Government policy all reports of this nature will be issued. I have the report before me and I am studying it to ensure thatno persons are named in it in such a way that they would be damaged by the issue of the report. In my personal view this is an attitude that one would expect to be adopted. The Scott report was commissioned in 1969 and it showed a high infant mortality rate and a high death rate among Aboriginal children under 4 years of age. It was only a small statistical sample, but the report does indicate a desperate situation as far as health is concerned. My Department and the Department of Health are examining the matter to see what further steps should be taken. We believe that there has been an improvement in the situation. We will take steps to find out the exact position. I will arrange for the report to.be made available so that honourable members may peruse it. It will be a matter for Mr Speaker whether the forms of the House, the Library or some other methods are used for this purpose.I do not believe a report of this nature warrants the expense of printing in large numbers. It will be available to the honourable member immediately after question time if he wishes to have a look at it.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I refer to his answer to a recent question asked by the honourable member for Cowper. I ask: Would the Treasurer confirm that it was inaccurate and misleading of him to attribute $170m of the projected increase in the Budget deficit to changes of mind of the previous Government between 17th August and 2nd. December last? Is it not a fact, as set out in the Treasury Information Bulletin’ to which the Treasurer referred, that nearly $150m of this increase is due to revisions of expenditure estimates having nothing to do with new policies or changes of mind by the former Govrnment, and that only $21m is attributable to new initiatives undertaken after the Budget by the former Government?
– I do not want to answer the same question again, but I repeat-
– Get it right this time.
– I will try to get it right and I hope the honourable member will read it right; I sometimes have my doubts about his capacity to do so. The figures showed a projected Budget deficit of $630m. After the Budget was written, certain other commitments that ought to have been foreseeable at the time of the Budget were introduced for reasons best known to the Government. These changes added substantial sums to the figure. In addition there were changes in the wage structure which inevitably added another $40m-odd. The point I made was that if the projected deficit is divided into 6 parts only one-sixth of it is due to the action of the new Government and five-sixths of it is due to the inheritance. I will not quibble about whether the amount is within precisely $10m or $12m or so. r do not have the exact figure before me at the moment. But the figure appears in that document. In my view it is beyond argument. We added to the sum because we inherited this state of unemployment. I do not know whether the impact of our measures has been full yet, but certainly there has been a substantial fall in unemployment figures between January and February.
What 1 find astonishing is that in all this talk about the first 100 days or, if you like, the first quarter of the life of this Government members of the previous Government which had been in power for the best part of 100 quarters- 23 years - seem to want to be consoled only about the figures of the last quarter. Had the honourable gentlemen been accurate in quoting some of these figures relating to an uprise in national production and so on and if they had looked at the absymal graph that accompanied them they would have seen that in the previous 3 quarters under the previous Government the performance had actually gone negative - that there had been a decline in the sum. Surely when you have had a great declension it is time for some sort of rise, and that rise is borne out by the figures for the last quarter. I hope that the additional stimulus that will be given to those who deserve it, namely those in receipt of social service benefits, will be reflected in a greater stimulus in consumer spending in the next quarter. One ought not to be dismal about that prospect; one ought to applaud it.
– Is the Minister for Overseas Trade aware that Canadian and United States manufactured carpets are being offered on the Australian market at prices below those for Australian manufactured carpets because of changes in currency valuation? Has the Minister had representations from the industry? Can he indicate any action which is being taken by the Government to protect the jobs of many thousands of Australians?
– I have had many representations from companies and unions concerned in the manufacture of carpets in Australia and it is clear that carpet manufacturers in this country have for some weeks been subject to very intense competition as a result of the importation of carpets at much lower than normal prices - 20 per cent, 25 per cent and 30 per cent lower. Undoubtedly prices have been significantly affected by changes in the value of the Australian dollar as against the American dollar. In addition to consultations between myself, members of the Department of Secondary Industry and those in the industry, an interdepartmental committee has been in existence for some weeks to examine these things and this is one of the cases that has been submitted in detail to that committee.
A set of criteria has been established which would allow judgment to be made about any form of assistance that might be given, any form of action that might be taken, to ensure that adjustments following currency revaluations will not have adverse effects on employment. It is expected that within a very short time specific decisions will be made about this industry. I assure the honourable member that, as indicated by these actions taken by the Government, we regard employment in Australia as of the first priority and we will be setting out to ensure that any changes that might be made as a result of unavoidable economic forces will not be mainly at the cost of people directly involved.
– I ask the Minister for Education whether he can give the House information regarding progress in moves to introduce legislation to assist pre-school kindergartens, especially in regard to the payment of salaries to the teaching staff.
– I draw the honourable member’s attention to the fact that on 19th February I announced the formation of the Australian Pre-schools Committee to make recommendations to the Commonwealth Government. The terms of reference were released on 2nd March. The Committee is having its first meeting today and tomorrow and after a reasonable time of investigation it will be bringing down recommendations to the Government. Normally I would expect that its recommendations would be operating from 1st January 1974. But this does not preclude the right of the Committee to make emergency recommendations to the Government for earlier action than that. All I can say to the honourable member is that this is an expert committee designed to make recommendations to the Commonwealth Government as to how it should exercise its powers under section 96 of the Constitution to make grants to the States and also as to direct action in its Territories. I believe that the Committee will necessarily have to make, recommendations concerning Commonwealth assistance for the employment of teachers. So far what has been done is to create a Commonwealth system of kindergarten teacher scholarships, which is already in operation. I am not yet in a position to inform the honourable member as to when the Committee will make recommendations about Commonwealth grants for the recurring expenses of kindergartens, pre-schools and child-care centres.
– I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General: Does the Commonwealth police force maintain liaison with the various State police forces? Can he confirm that at least one mainland State police force has for at least 6 years maintained a file on the violent activities of the extreme right wing organisation known as the Ustasha? Will he inform the House of the relevant details of any files held by State police forces?
– It is true that the Commonwealth police force takes very active steps to maintain a close association with State police forces. I am not aware of any State police force that has the file or the information referred to in the honourable member’s question. I will consult the Attorney-General and will let the honourable member have the details on that aspect.
– Will the ‘Prime Minister so arrange his program as to enable him to visit Thailand for the purpose of facing his accusers who have told him to mind his own bloody business? Given that the honourable gentleman has stated how -.important he regards Australia’s reputation .in. the nations of South East Asia, will he explain to the Thais what led him to make the statement which so embarrassed Australians and alienated the Thais? If he , does face his accusers will he upon his return to Australia make a statement in the House .so that it may be debated, in contrast to his failure to do so following his visits to New .Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia?
– The Thai Government has neither orally nor in writing made any representations to the Australian Government about the interview which I gave to ‘Newsweek’. I will be making a - statement on foreign affairs during the. present sessional period. How soon I can make it will depend on the progress of the Government’s legislative program. I am sorry to disappoint the right honourable gentleman about the Australian Government’s relations with the Government of Thailand. What arrangements Thailand and the United States make about their respective armed forces is for them alone to determine. Naturally there is an interest in Australia in the stability of the area. We believe that, as foreign troops are withdrawn from the various countries of the area, stability will be promoted. Australia herself made a contribution in this way when, at the end of July 1968, she took her air forces out of Thailand. I am confident that Thailand will continue the policies which for 100 years have ensured that, alone among the nations of South-East Asia, her identity and independence have remained unbroken.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the re-election , of a French Government pledged to perform further nuclear tests, can the Minister confirm reports that the French Government has invited Australian experts to check on safety precautions? If so, will the Government accept the invitation? In view of the Minister’s previous representations to the -Peking Government when he was Leader of the Opposition, will he ask the new Australian ambassador in Peking to raise at the earliest opportunity the question of Chinese nuclear tests? Finally, will he ask the Chinese Government at least to allow foreign experts to check on safety precautions in relation to its tests which, admittedly, are performed inside its own territory?
– The Australian Government received an invitation from the French Government to send some scientists to check on the safety precautions at Mururoa. Three scientists went there, and they have returned. The Australian Government’s attitude towards nuclear testing in the atmosphere by all nations is the same as it was when the Party constituting the Government was in Opposition. For years the Australian Labor Party has made it plain that it objects to the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. It did so when tests were carried out by Britain, by the United States and by the Soviet Union, and it continues to do so now that it is carried out by China and France alone. We deplore the fact that China and France have not joined the treaty banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere to which America, the Soviet and Britain long since subscribed. The Australian Government believes that it has the option of going to the International Court of Justice to gain an injunction against France carrying out these tests in our atmosphere. The physical features which give Australia that option of approaching the International Court of Justice against the French tests are not applicable against the Chinese tests.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence and Deputy Prime Minister. If he genuinely holds the regard for Sir Arthur Tange which he expressed in a television interview last week, particularly as the Prime Minister has since expressed the same high regard for Sir Arthur, will the Minister for Defence take action, which only he can take, to remove the cloud hanging over the reputation of Sir Arthur? Will the Minister state unequivocally what reservations he has on the, statement made by Sir Arthur which he tabled in the House, and will he grant Sir Arthur the same opportunity to provide a statement in the same form? Will he table that reply in the House or withdraw his reservations?
– In reply to the speech made by the honourable member may I point out that I believe that this country has been served very well by the public servants who accept responsibility in the various fields. I am asked a specific question in relation to Sir Arthur Tange. I thank the honourable member for the opportunity to place on record that I believe - I know this opinion is shared by the Prime Minister - that Sir Arthur Tange is a capable officer who has served this country extremely well in the past. He will continue to do so in the future. He has shown undivided loyality to whatever government happens to be in power.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer to the undertaking given in his policy speech that a Labor government would immediately ask the principal water and sewerage authorities what grants in the present financial year were required for their programmes. Will the Prime Minister say what action the Government has taken in view of the urgency of this need, particularly in regard to the Greater Brisbane area which is now in the vicinity of 95 per cent sewered, and will soon be past the need of such assistance?
– I think it was on 16th December that I wrote to all the Premiers in the terms of the commitment I made on behalf of the Government in my policy speech, namely, that we want to see, if it is at all possible, that by the end of 1978 all the urban areas of Australia are completely sewered and that before the end of the present financial year works are undertaken in such areas where they can be economically and uninterruptedly commenced. Four States, including Queensland, have replied. Queensland asked that semi-government authorities in Queensland should be able to raise $5,125,000 more to carry out loan programs for sewerage and such works in the present financial year. The Treasurer consulted all the States by telegram on that matter and that loan has been approved for Queensland. I expect that a great portion of it will be made available for the Brisbane City Council. It is apposite at the moment to refer to the fact that Brisbane may now be 75 per cent sewered but when Alderman Clem Jones was first elected Lord Mayor of Brisbane it was 40 per cent sewered.
– I direct a question to the PostmasterGeneral. In view of his statement to the effect that he is opposed to using departmental revenue for the development of his Department’s services, will he take steps to see that sufficient money is made available from outside his Department to make sure that the line policy as laid down by the previous Government continues and will be completed in a reasonable time?
– The honourable member is continually asking that money be made available for what he deems to be rural services. Money has always been made available for these services. Until 1970 they were running at an annual loss of $30m. As a result of the previous Government’s additional policy introduced in 1970 to provide for 15 miles free construction that loss will now go to $60m in the next 10 years. It is all very well for the honourable gentleman to represent an electorate in which he obviously just wants money pumped into a project which has no economic vitality. I can understand that it. could be acceptable for him that people, for example, have as much as $20,000 spent on providing one telephone service. In my opinion it would be far cheaper to buy the property than to have the results we are now getting, bearing in mind that the previous Government’s policy also was to pay interest on facilities of this sort. I will give no undertaking whatsoever other than to state that the priorities have to be met in the interests of the whole of the Australian people. There are many people waiting for telephones. It is in the public interest that they be satisfied as quickly as possible and that we should not merely cater for the interests of the Country Party.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education. In 1970 a survey of needs of the State Government Education Departments was completed. This indicated a shortfall of some $ 1,443m over the next 5 years. What progress has been made towards meeting that sum of money? What further steps are anticipated that will go towards meeting the shortfall indicated in the survey? How does the Minister relate the findings of the survey of needs to the areas of education not covered in the survey, notably, technical education and pre-schools?
– In 1970 the Australian Education Council, which then consisted of the State Ministers for Education, estimated that in the 5 years 1971 to 1975 inclusive it would be necessary to spend $7,960m on education. It estimated that the amount available would be $6,5 17m, a shortfall of $ 1,443m; but on present indications, because qf the increase in expenditure in education which has taken place, the amount spent in the 5 years would be not $6,5 17m but $7 ,827m. However, the target of $7,960m has jumped away because of increased salaries of teachers and other costs. I mentioned that, on the present trend, the expenditure would come near to the original target but there is no reason why the present trend should continue. The Government has established a schools commission which will be making grants ‘ to the States with the proviso that the money which is coming from the Commonwealth according to the recommendations of the States must be additional to what the States would be spending. Therefore, we can guarantee an additional expenditure and not a substitutionary expenditure.
There were weaknesses, of course, in the needs survey in that : it did not take into account technical education, which is surprising, and pre-school education, which is not so surprising considering that, in the past, the States have not necessarily taken responsibility for pre-schools. By establishing in the near future the technical education commission and having already, established at least an interim pre-schools committee, we will be ensuring that recommendations of Commonwealth grants to the States and general expenditure will be made in fields that the needs survey did not even consider. So, so far from burking the problems raised by the needs survey, our program goes beyond it. I might add that the needs survey also did not take into account the specific financial needs of children such as isolated children or Aboriginal children or grants that may be made in the future for children whose families are in need of financial assistance. In this respect also the Government has started to move into areas of education that the needs survey did not consider.
– Did the Prime Minister receive a request from the Labor Premier of Western Australia 3 weeks ago for the Australian dollar to be devalued because of the tremendous impact on the Western Australian economy of devaluation of the United States dollar, followed’ by the Australian Government’s revaluataion? Did the Prime Minister see a report of a statement by the Western Australian Premier last Saturday that he has been unable even to get a reply to his request? Finally, do his Government’s policies in favour of the big cities mean that the welfare of the small States which export much more than they import is to be sacrificed in favour of the most populous States?
– The Premier of Western Australia did write, to me a week or so ago about the effects on the mining industry in Western Australia due to the fact that so many of the companies there had written their contracts in United States dollars and had not anticipated that the United States dollar would be, devalued vis-a-vis the Australian dollar. I have naturally consulted my colleague, the Treasurer, on this matter, lt would be, to quote a phrase, an economic crime to speculate at question time on the valuation of our currency. The Australian Government is interested in people, wherever they live. In the honourable gentleman’s State a larger percentage of people live in the capital city than is the case in any other State. For the first time there is now an Australian government which is actively helping the Western Australian Government meet the demands of the populataion of its capital city.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Housing. Has Mr Quinn, Victorian President of the Federation of Co-operative Housing Societies, claimed that Victoria will build 1,500 fewer houses under the proposed Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement because finance to co-operative building societies will be cut from 30 per cent to 20 per cent of Commonwealth .advances? Can the Minister say whether this claim is true? If it is will he take urgent steps to ensure that such a drastic reduction in low income home building does not occur under (he new agreement?
– It is true that Mr Quinn of the Victorian Federation of Co operative Housing Societies has made such a claim. However, his claim can be regarded only as an assumption. As honourable members know, an amount representing 30 per cent of State advances for Housing has been diverted to the home builders account. It is now proposed that an amount equal to 25 per cent of the advances to a State housing authority be allocated also for utilisation by the terminating building societies through the home builders account. However no mention has been made of the total amount of money to be allocated.
I have been advising the State Housing Ministers, in my discussions with them in connection with the forthcoming Commonwealth State housing agreement, that while a smaller percentage is to be allocated it is likely that this will be a smaller percentage of a larger amount of money. It is presumptive to accept this as indicating that a lesser amount of money will be available for these purposes - that is, for the construction of housing through the terminating building societies. I have been indicating also that if there were to be a reduction in the flow of money through these particular channels, efforts would be made to encourage a flow of money from other channels, particularly from the life assurance societies. I have had discussions with my colleague, the Treasurer, for the purpose of contriving means by which that could be accomplished. At this stage it is too early to say what will happen and whether there is to be a taking up of the leeway by other institutions. The proposition that some consideration ought to be given to assisting with the interest rate so that low income people will not be handicapped in the provision of homes will certainly be taken into account.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is an effective parliamentary question time an important element in the achievement of open government? Will the Prime Minister allow the length of question time to be doubled in order to provide that openness of government which he promised to the Australian people?
– The answer to the first question is yes. The answer to the second question is that I shall be very happy to discuss any such proposals with the Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of the Australian Country Party. The Leader of the House has made arrangements to see that an ample regular period is available to honourable gentlemen to discuss matters on the motion for the adjournment of the House at night. The Government proposes, as far as possible, to see that general business proceeds on Thursday mornings and that when motions are moved the opportunity will be given to vote on those motions wherever possible. I have never given less than 45 minutes for questions without notice. I do not propose to give less than that time. I remember that in the 1950s the time allotted for questions was an hour on Tuesdays, three-quarters of an hour on Wednesdays and half an hour on Thursdays. Later an arrangement was made for three-quarters of an hour for questions each day. I am quite open to suggestions to vary the procedure in this way. From time to time there have been suggestions that time be provided for questions on notice to be answered and for supplementary questions to be asked without notice, as happens in the House of Commons at Westminster. I shall be happy to discuss any of these matters with the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country Party. The Leader of the House is ready to discuss them with the Whips.
– I ask a question of the Prime” Minister in his capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact that the report on foreign aid by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs was not released by the previous Government? Does the Prime Minister intend to release the report? If so, when will it be released and, if not, is there any reason why not?
– I did in fact table that report last week.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. The Labor Party election policy booklet ‘It’s Time - Rural* states that the Labor Government will provide long-term low interest loans for farmers. The honourable member for Riverina, who is Minister for Immigration, has stated that $500m will be made available for these loans at an interest rate of 3 per cent per annum. Furthermore, the Minister for Services and Property stated in the House last Thursday night that an inquiry was being held on this subject. As the Governor-General’s Speech contains no reference to long term loans for farmers, what is the position? Is an inquiry being held? If it is being held, who is conducting it? Will the delay of an inquiry prevent the specific allocation of $500m at 3 per cent interest as indicated by the now Minister for Immigration?
– The Minister for Primary Industry and the Treasurer have a submission on this matter before the Cabinet. I expect the result of Cabinet’s consideration of that submission to be announced within a week.
– I ask the Prime Minister what action he intends to take to protect the interests of Australian citizen, Alexander Mounbaris, who has been arrested in South Africa under the. Terrorism Act of that country for alleged smuggling of freedom fighters into South Africa.
– Mr Mounbaris was arrested last November under the Terrorism Act of South Africa, and I think will be tried next within the day or so. He has been in gaol since his arrest because there is no provision under the South African Terrorism Act for bail to be granted. The Australian Embassy in South Africa has been in touch with him. I understand that it was in touch with him within 2 days of his arrest last November. The Embassy was instrumental in putting Mr Mounbaris in touch with a lawyer who is skilled in cases under the Terrorism Act. Also, Embassy officials regularly make visits to Mr Mounbaris and take him letters and take letters from him. Everything is being done by Australian representatives in South Africa to assist him in his predicament.
– Did the Minister for Overseas Trade say last week that the Government would be depending partly on the idealism of the man in the street to invest in national development bonds, which he has in mind as a method of financing the. Australian Industry Development Corporation’s vastly increased activities? Might not the man in the street see the same sense of idealism in investing in housing through permanent building societies at interest rates higher than those of Commonwealth bonds? Has the honourable gentleman proposed also that tax deductions or rebates may be used to make national investment bonds more attractive, and is this not just another method of increasing the actual interest rate? Will the honourable gentleman explain why tax deductions should be allowed for the form of investment which he has in mind but not allowed for housing through permanent building societies? Is the proposal which he envisages supported by the Treasurer? If it is, will he, in the interests of open government, make available the documents which he and the Treasurer have drawn up in relation to this proposal?
– I notice an astonishing change in the attitude of the right honourable Leader of the Opposition to open government since he became the Leader of the Opposition. His attitude when on this side of the House was in very strange contrast to his desire for openness now.
– He has become more open as he has become more remote from Government.
– Yes, and his openness increases in proportion to his remoteness. However, the question which the right honourable gentleman asked me is an interesting question. First of all, I would have thought that he could have understood that Australians will have a sense of idealism in their desire to own their own country and to buy their own country back from the foreign corporations that the right honourable gentleman, when he was Treasurer, permitted to make inroads upon the ownership of Australia, very often in complete contradiction to what the Leader of the Australian Country Party, whoever he might have been, desired. I would think that that kind of problem is one that he would have to reconcile more with those on his side of the House than between him and us.
The matter of priorities - the Australian Industry Development Corporation as against building societies - is, of course, an important question. Housing is very important just as investment by the AIDC, for the reasons I have just mentioned, is very important. The Government will be taking properly into account the relative priorities that are involved and its decisions on this matter will reflect its judgment of those priorities. I would think that they will meet much more the desires of the Australian public than those that were established under the government of which the right honourable gentleman was a part.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Can he say whether the Government is providing aid for schools in exact accord with the program outlined in his policy speech? When does he expect to receive the report of the Interim Committee for Australian Schools Commission and to act on that report? Will he assure the House that this timetable will enable school authorities to complete their preparations for the 1974 school year before the beginning of the first school term?
– A week after I was sworn as Prime Minister, while I was still Minister for Education, I appointed an Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission to recommend the needs and priorities upon which the Australian Government could assist government and nongovernment schools in Australia to provide equal opportunities for all Australians of school age. I have kept regularly in touch with my colleague the Minister for Education in regard to the deliberations of the interim committee. I have met the Chairman, Professor Karmel, on several occasions since it was appointed. I can assure the honourable gentleman that it is expected that the interim committee’s report will be made available as requested before the end of May. This will mean that it will be available in sufficient time to be considered at the Premiers Conference which should be held in June or maybe, if the House gets up early enough, even in May. In those circumstances the State governments and the non-government school authorities will have ample opportunity to prepare for the 1974 scholastic year in the light of the additional funds which it is expected the Australian Government will make available for schools and which I expect the Australian Parliament will enact in about September next.
-I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– Mr Speaker, I am sorry to keep honourable members-
– In that case, I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– Order! Does the honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented.
– I do.
– I call the honourable member for Gippsland.
– Mr Speaker, last Thursday, in the course of the debate on a matter of public importance relating to the scandalous method of letting contracts by the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh), the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) alleged that I had some dealings with a firm known as Allen Constructions Pty Ltd. The firm and its members are completely unknown to me and I have had no contact with them. As this allegation was reported in at least one newspaper last Friday I ask the Minister for Labour to withdraw that statement and to apologise for this typical, slanderous and gutter like allegation for which the Minister is well known.
– Order! The language used by the honourable member is unparliamentary. He asked for leave to make a personal explanation. He has explained the situation quite fully. There is no need for the honourable member to use in this Parliament the language which he has just used.
– For the information of honourable members I present the communique and points of agreement of the Ministerial Council meeting held on 9th March 1973 between myself, Mr J. B. Fuller, New South Wales Minister for Decentralisation and Development and Mr Murray Byrne, Victorian Minister for State Development and Decentralisation, concerning Albury-Wodonga. Copies of this communique will be available to honourable members in the Parliamentary Library.
Dr CASS (Maribyrnong - Minister for the
Environment and Conservation) - For the information of honourable members, I present the text of a statement issued last Friday following the meeting of Australian and State Government Ministers responsible for wildlife conservation. Copies of this statement will be available to honourable members in the Parliamentary Library.
Address-in-Reply: Presentation to the Governor-General
– I have to inform the House that I have ascertained that His Excellency the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the Address-in-Reply at Government House at 5.15 p.m. on Thursday, 15th March. I shall be glad if the mover and seconder, together with other honourable members, will accompany me to present the Address.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. tomorrow or such time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the Chair.
Bill presented by Mr Whitlam, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In the early years after Federation, employees of the Commonwealth Public Service set a standard for the rest of Australia in conditions of employment. Their minimum of 3 weeks annual recreation leave gave them an advantage over most other employees in Australia. This advantage has long since disappeared, and my Government is determined to restore it. We want the national Government to continue to set the pace in improving the working conditions of Australian men and women. The purpose of this Bill is to amend section 68 of the Public Service Act 1922-1972 to increase the basic annual recreation leave entitlement of officers of the Commonwealth Service from 3 weeks to 4 weeks. It will be the first increase since 1901. The effect of the Bill will be retrospective to 1st January 1973.
The attitude of my Party on this question has been consistent over many years. In 1966 1 moved an amendment to the Public Service Bill in this House to provide 4 week’s leave. The effect of the present Bill is precisely the same as the amendment I moved at that time. My amendment of 1966 was defeated by the previous Government. Among those who voted against it were members of the present Opposition, including the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) and the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon). On several occasions since 1965, joint deputations from public service organisations have put forward proposals for 4 week’s leave. These proposals were made by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations, the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations and the Council of Professional Associations. They were specifically rejected by 3 successive Prime Ministers - Sir Robert Menzies in October 1965, Mr Holt in August 1966, and Mr Gorton in December 1969. The Opposition parties are still opposed to this reform. Only 2 weeks ago a spokesman of the former Government, said:
The Opposition criticises the granting of 4 weeks leave . . . (But) having regard to the Government’s election promise the Opposition will not seek to defeat legislation which grants 4 weeks annual leave to all public servants.
I remind honourable members that it was a Labor Government which introduced 4 weeks leave to public servants in New South Wales on 1st January 1964, and a Labor Government which gave effect to 4 weeks leave for South Austalian public servants from 1st July 1971. The reform has always come from the Australian Labor Party. The Government believes that as the largest single employer of labour the national Government has the duty to advance the cause of all employees by establishing new and improved standards of employment for its own employees. My policy speech made this intention clear. One of the first actions of the new Government was to give effect to it. On 20th December last year, Cabinet agreed to an additional week’s annual leave for the Australian Public Service. The additional week’s leave was to be implemented initially by determinations under the Public Service Arbitration Act. This was, of course, consistent with the principle I outlined in answer to a question without notice on 28th February 1973 - that those most deserving of this industrial benefit are those who, through their membership of organisations, have fought for it and secured it. The Gov ernment- has now decided that the only satisfactory way to implement our long-standing undertaking is by legislation. We have accordingly put this legislation before the House.
The Public Service Board has indicated that subject to the passage of this Bill, it proposes to amend the existing Public Service Regulations so that an additional week’s leave can be extended to temporary employees under the Public Service Act and to officers and employees who, because of the nature or location . of their employment, are currently eligible for more than 3 weeks leave. Consistent with the provisions of this Bill the Regulations will have retrospective effect to 1st January this year. Acts covering the employment of staff of statutory authorities, etc., generally give power to the authority to determine terms and conditions of employment. The Government is arranging consultations with these authorities so that the necessary arrangements can be made to extend 4 weeks leave to these employees. J commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Gorton) adjourned.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is; to obtain parliamentary authority for the appropriation of moneys for new and reconstituted departments as a result of the Administrative Arrangement’s Order of 20th December 1972. In addition, provision has been made for a further appropriation for the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account and for an increase is the level of the Advance to the Treasurer. The total appropriations sought in this Bill amount to $56,050,000. Although additional appropriations are being sought, actual expenditure will not exceed the amounts included in Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1972-73 by $56,050,000. Due to factors which I will explain it is expected that there will be savings of about $24.4m under previous appropriations which are no longer legally available. However, as a matter of law moneys appropriated by Parliament for specific purposes may be used only for those purposes, and savings under appropriations no longer legally available cannot be utilised to reduce to a net figure the appropriations sought in this Bill. Thus I am seeking parliamentary authority for additional expenditure in the divisions, subdivisions and items, set out in the schedule to the Bill.
The Appropriations sought for departmental salaries of $19,468,400 and administrative expenses of $10,731,600 arise from the establishment of new departments and the restructuring of existing departments under the Administrative Arrangements Order of 20th December 1972. It is expected that these expenditures will be offset by savings of some $24.4m in appropriations to departments now abolished or reconstructed. I should explain why the offsetting savings of $24.4m are so much less than the expenditures of $30.2m proposed in the Bill. In the first place, there are no existing appropriations to cover the costs of the central offices of several new departments. Their expenditures, which amount to a modest $572,000 are therefore additional to the 1972-73 Budget figures. In the case of those departments included in the Bills which have taken over existing services it has been necessary to revise their expenditures and include provisions for existing and additional staff at the latest rates of pay and to provide for an increase in their administrative expenses. These amounts, estimated at $4.5m, would normally be included in the additional estimates Bills to be presented to the Parliament In April.
A further appropriation of $10,850,000 has been included in the Bill for the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account. Of this sum, $7,500,000 will be made available to the States to supplement funds already provided by the Commonwealth to cover expenditures in such fields as housing, education and health. The remaining $3,350,000 is for expenditure by the Commonwealth on its own Aboriginal advancement programs. Eight hundred and fifty thousand dollars of this has been allocated to legal aid for Aborigines. Provision has also been made for an increase of $15m in the, appropriation for the Advance to the Treasurer. The Advance, for which $30m was provided in Appropriation Act No. 1, is to enable the Treasurer to make advances that will be recovered during the financial year or to make moneys available, particulars of which will afterwards be submitted to Parliament or pending the issue of a warrant of the GovernorGeneral specifically applicable to the expenditure. Twelve million dollars has already been issued out of the Advance to meet expenditures incurred both before and after the Government took up office. This leaves $18m for commitments which have to be met before the appropriations from additional estimates become available towards the end of May. I estimate that the requirements of civil departments in that period will be about $23m and, of defence departments, $8m. Details of these expenditures will be included in the additional estimates Bills to be introduced next month.
Since the revised Administrative Arrangements Order came into effect necessary expenditures for the new and reconstituted departments on salaries and administrative expenses were, as a matter of practical expediency and with minor exceptions, charged to existing appropriations including those provided for departments which were abolished. This ceased as at 28th February 1973. The Bill therefore includes clauses validating those expenditures which, for all legal and practical purposes, are deemed as expenditures for the services provided in the Second Schedule to Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1972-73. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Gorton) adjourned.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to obtain parliamentary authority for the appropriation of moneys for capital works and services for new and reconstituted departments as a result of the administrative arrangements order of 20th December 1972. In addition provision has been made for a special loan to New South Wales and for grants to the States for employment creating purposes. The total appropriations sought in this Bill amount to $67,944,000. Although additional appropriations are being sought actual expenditure will not exceed the amounts included in Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1972-73 by the sum of $67,944,000. It is expected that the appropriations of $21,124,000 sought for capital works and services will be offset by savings of some $21,750,000 in appropriations which are no longer legally available. However, as I explained in relation to Appropriation Bill (No. 3), it is not possible to utilise savings under an appropriation to offset additional expenditure in another.
The appropriation of $15m for a loan to New South Wales follows an undertaking of the former Government to provide special budgetary assistance to that State. The provision of $31,820,000 for employment creating purposes will enable the States to proceed with approved projects in accordance with agreements reached with the Commonwealth. As with Appropriation Bill No. 3 it has been necessary to include in this Bill a clause validating expenditures of the new and reconstituted departments since 20th December 1972 as expenditures for the services included in the Second Schedule to Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1972-73. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Gorton) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28 February (vide page 43), on motion by Mr Daly:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate on this Bill is resumed I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Australian Capital Territory Representation Bill and the Northern Territory Administration Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 3 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
– The Opposition supports the suggested procedure which has been mentioned by the Leader of the House, for the reasons that he has put forward.
-I will allow that procedure to be adopted.
quoted the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in relation to these aspects as saying:
By any standards men and women are as mature at 18 years now as they were at 21 only a generation ago. They are more mature intellectually, physically, socially and economically. They stay at school longer. They go on to tertiary and technical education in much greater numbers. They are physically bigger, stronger and healthier.
In fact the Prime Minister went to extraordinary lengths and used to the full whatever oratorical powers he has to point out how young people who have grown up under various Liberal and Country Party governments are superior in every way to those who were brought up under previous Labor Party Administrations. We agree wholeheartedly with the undeniable logic of those sentiments, while at the same, time noting that this was one of the rare occasions on which the Prime Minister has given credit where it was properly due, for it is without question that the period of successive Liberal-Country Party governments covered the entire lives of those people who are now to be granted the vote. These are the governments which established conditions which created a climate for intellectual growth and for physical, social and economic wellbeing unparalleled in our nation’s history. We accept the Prime Minister’s gracious tribute to the superior education facilities which former Liberal-Country Party governments made available to the young people of this country. His unstinted praise of conditions which have enabled youth to develop in this way makes us wonder why he ever thought that it was, in fact, ‘time for a change’.
The Leader of the House referred to our lack of social justice in not lowering the voting age, yet in his second reading speech, by quoting the Prime Minister’s words, he showed clearly that it was Australia under Liberal-Country Party governments which enabled young people to attain the all-round maturity and competence which now makes them eligible, arid rightly so, to participate more, fully in the democratic process. A generation ago, when Labor was in power, young people were considered unready to assume these responsibilities because they were not as well educated, not as mature, not as sure of themselves and not as richly endowed intellectually, physically, socially or economically. Now they are, and for this the Federal governments of the past 23 years can certainly take a major proportion of the credit. It is, of course., a relatively easy matter to introduce and pass a Bill which extends the franchise to every one aged 18 years and over. It is a far more difficult task, however, to create and maintain the necessary social conditions to advance a growing generation to the point at which its members can exercise responsibly this most important power. This we have done, and we thank the present Government for having the grace to acknowledge that performance of previous governments.
The Bills before the House today are the culmination of a generation of good government, because nothing else could have made them possible. They are the logical outcome of the creation of a society in which young people can grow to maturity faster, more fully and more confidently. In saying this I know that I will find no argument with the Prime Minister who has already gone on record as making the same point in his own eloquent way. We welcome these Bills not only as Labor’s acknowledgment of what former governments have achieved for the young people of Australia but also because they increase and develop the degree of democracy in this country and provide the ordinary Australian greater freedom of choice and more control over his own destiny. It should be made clear also that the Bills are not a response to what many people in favour of their introduction continue to claim is the wish of the overwhelming majority of the community. Between 1943 and 1970 gallup polls on the voting age showed that the percentage of electors in favour of giving the vote at 18 rose from 14 per cent to 51 per cent - the very barest of majorities. But the results of the 1972 gallup poll showed that those in favour of lowering the franchise age had fallen to 42 per cent. During 1972 a gallup poll was taken of persons aged 16 to 20 years. Only 51 per cent favoured the vote at 18 years of age, while 39 per cent favoured 21 years of age and 10 per cent had not formed an opinion about the most desirable age.
So far as the Opposition parties are concerned, the introduction of these Bills by a Labor government is not without its irony. What the Labor Party is saying to the youth of this country today, by the Bills which it has introduced, in effect is this: ‘Put your faith in the system. Democracy, as it has been known in Australia and in other countries with similar systems of government, can work. There is no need to operate outside the system or attempt to inhibit or to destroy it altogether in order to bring about social reform’. This is a refreshing change of attitude indeed. We on this side of the House have made the same point consistently. In fact we have created the conditions and made it possible for young people to respect the system and to work within it. We have been advocating this course while prominent Labor leaders have been adopting a greatly different attitude. I remind the House of the statement made by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns). In May 1970, when referring to what was an objectionable law, he said:
It is the citizen who decides. When he is deeply convinced that a law or an authorisation is contrary to the moral order, he has not just a right but a duty not to obey it.
Over the years the Minister and other members of the Parliamentary Labor Party have played prominent roles in organising demonstrations against policies of the former Administration. They have said, in effect, that if democracy does not work - which really means, does not work in their favour - it is acceptable for people to occupy the streets, to protest through sit-ins, to encroach on government and university property and to commit various other unlawful acts. Because of the rapid advances which have been made in the technology of communications young people today are much more aware than any previous generation of major issues, no matter where they happen, at virtually the moment they take place. They react to these situations abroad, and at home intensely and often emotionally. They feel part of a wider world than that of their forebears, though different young people hold noticeably different views and attitudes to it. Some endeavour to convince the community of the soundness and Tightness of their point of view by overt demonstration; others are just as concerned but remain silent. Now of course all will be able to express their viewpoint, though perhaps in a less dramatic way, at the ballot box on polling day. In this way they will feel a greater involvement with the Australian system, and people who are able to work within a system are much less inclined to seek to change that system by violence.
There can be no doubt that young people today are eager for change. They are more idealistic. They are not only eager to see a better world; they want to play a direct role in bringing that more perfect world into being. This of course is laudable; it is how it should be. But for years we have seen the spectacle of leading members of this Parliament - those who now sit on the Government benches - advocating rule by demonstration, rule by violent protest and in fact the circumvention of the democratic processes by which a government is elected and given a mandate to carry out its policies and by which the people can change that government if its actions no longer appeal to the majority. For reasons of its own the left wing of the Labor Party has contrived to persuade youth that its energies would be better applied in obstructing the system rather than seeking to work within it. In this way it has cynically sought to exploit for its own ends the idealism and the aspirations of many of the young people throughout this country.
Now, of course, that Labour Party is the Government. It seems that its members have decided it is preferable to have youth support the system than oppose it. They are saying to young people in effect: ‘We are now in power so it is only proper that you should now seek to work within the system. That system is only undemocratic when the other group, the group now represented by the Opposition, is in power’. The irony of being asked to work within the system by those who asked them only a few months ago to do just the opposite will not be lost upon them - or the wider Australian electorate. Nor will they fail to realise that it is only the Government which has changed, not the whole democratic process.
The Opposition parties recognise the great impact the 18-year old vote will have on future elections. The voters to be added to the rolls as a result of this measure will be of such numerically significant proportions that they will be able to determine to a large measure the political complexions of future governments. Part of the task of the Opposition parties will be to ensure that the philosophy, policies and programs of our parties are projected- in such clear and attractive terms that they will be eagerly embraced by these new voters. There can be no argument that the policies and the programs we put forward, within the framework of the Liberal and Country parties’ free enterprise philosophy, will be seen to be more in tune today with the aspirations of youth and their ideal ism. Today’s young people clamour for the best possible Australia that can be attained, and I am certain they will come to the view, along with the rest of the electors, that a socialist philosophy is no philosophy to take Australia into the exciting decade ahead. Only a free enterprise system, which puts the accent back on the person as an individual, not as a cog in a large government machine, can provide the impetus . and the initiative which this country needs for sustained, long term development in economic, social and political terms. The accent among today’s youth is very heavily upon the concept and philosphy of individuality. It is an inherent part of their beliefs that the individual should be free in the manner envisaged by the free enterprise philosophy of the Opposition parties. The encumbering embrace of socialism, the concept of the great and all-powerful State and the idea that man is on earth to serve the State is the antithesis of what young people in this country believe. When it receives the votes of some of the 18 to 20- year olds at the next election, will the Government respect their votes by insisting that youth has a real say in the running of this country? Or will it let the Labor Party machine - a group of people many young people have never heard of, and frankly do not care for, much less would be prepared to vote for - tell it what decisions to make? Will Labor Party members respect the trust which has been placed in them, and will they discharge the responsibilities to the Australian nation which have been placed in their hands and in their hands alone?
If the Government cannot make these pledges to the young and idealistic men and women of this country whom it is planning to enfranchise, its actions in giving them the vote will be seen by young people - and by the electorate at large - as a measure of hypocrisy. It will be asking them to work within the system in order to give the Labor Party the power to work outside the system. It will surely be one of history’s ironies that a government heavily influenced by the left wing forces should introduce a Bill which gave us ultimate proof of our young people’s faith in the democratic system and which indicated its acknowledgment that a LiberalCountry Party Government created the conditions necessary to give this responsibility to the young people throughout the country.
We strongly support the Bill which has been put down by the Government, not necessarily for the reasons which the Leader of the House has put forward. We believe that the time is appropriate and it is logical that young persons aged 18 years and over should be extended the franchise and that there should be a change in the age of candidature for parliamentary elections throughout this country.
– The comments of the Deputy Leader of the Oppostion (Mr Lynch) would have rung true and not sounded so hollow if his Party had passed this legislation during its term of office. I refer to the actions of the previous 2 Prime Ministers when the Liberals were in office. First of all, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) stated at one time that he expected the 21 years voting age would be reduced to 18 in a very short time, but in a duel of semantics he explained that ‘expected’ did not mean ‘promised’ although one would have expected that if a Prime Minister, particularly of the Liberal Party, was in control of his Party an expectation would have meant a promise. The last Prime Minister stated that he would not introduce legislation to lower the voting age before the last election. So I say that the words of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition were hollow and did not ring true. I feel that the Liberal Party’s lack of support for such legislation during its term of office resulted from its fear of loss of electoral support. Or does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition mean that the political climate which his Party wrought to maturity actually matured on the eve of the last election rather than going through a process of maturity during his Party’s term of office? This is in effect what the content of his speech amounts to. That is just as absurb as saying that the 21 years voting age rests on the notion that a person on the eve of his 21st birthday is not fit to vote but the next day he awakens full of knowledge and wisdom and entitled to vote.
I support ‘the lowering of the voting age to 18 years at federal elections. The Australian Constitution has been referred to by many as an anachronistic document and for many reasons. Just to mention a couple, section 92 has been said to be a barrier to the essential Commonwealth legislation in the fields of commerce. Section 51, giving specific powers to the Commonwealth, has allowed a hotchpotch of health and eduction systems to develop when it is increasingly obvious that we should be aspiring to a unified nation with standards that do not suffer by reasons of place of residence. Many of these anachronisms are tempered by High Court interpretations. Indeed, the Rocla Pipes case of 1970 would seem to indicate that a new avenue is open to the Commonwealth, such as a Companies Act, extending Commonwealth’s powers under section 92 of the Constitution. The. imbalance of finance and functions between .the 3 tiers of Government can be relieved of’ its distortion through the Australian Loan Council, the Premiers Conference and the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
But there is one section which has recently been debated. I refer to section 30 which deals with enfranchisement. The Federal Constitution - the overriding authority in the matter - provides by section 30 for the election of the Federal Parliament. It states:
Until the Parliament-
That is, the Commonwealth Parliament - otherwise provides, the qualification of electors- i-
For the Commonwealth Parliament - . . shall be in each State that which is prescribed by the law of the State.
Consequent upon this section in the Constitution, the Commonwealth Electoral Act of 191 8 provided: all persons not under twenty, one years of age . . . who are natural-born or naturalised subjects of the sovereign, and not subject to certain disqualifications not now material, should be entitled to enrolment.
This would be simple enough if all States were uniform in their laws for enfranchisement. But although all adult males were entitled to the vote in all States by 1900, female suffrage was accorded in only 2 States at the time of federation. These 2 States - Western Australia and South Australia - probably showed early signs of a progressive culture for they now both have Labor governments. Two other States, probably indicating their reactionary and conservative culture, did not introduce female suffrage until after federation. Both States now have conservative governments - Victoria, which introduced female suffrage as late as 1908 and Queensland, which introduced it as late as 1905.
These anomalies aside, the more recent debate has centred around the lowering of the voting age in several States, including once again Western Australia and South Australia. It should be noted that these States are leaders in extending voting rights in line with increasing responsibilities. These States, jealous of their State rights and justice, would seem justified in demanding votes at Federal elections for their enfranchised under their State laws, but section 41 of the Federal Constitution states:
No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State shall … be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting. . . .
They are prevented from voting at Commonwealth elections. This anomaly between State and Commonwealth voting laws and this anachronism of the Federal Constitution was tested in the High Court last year. The resolution of this case revolved around the meaning of the word ‘adult’ in section 41 of the Constitution. Taken together in the cases of King v Jones, McEwen v Hackert and James v Jones, it was held by the whole court that:
An ‘adult person’ within the meaning of s. 41 of the Constitution is a person who has attained the age of 21 years.
Four judges assumed, without deciding, that the words ‘acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parlia ment of a State’ in section 41 of the Constitution refers to a right given by a State law which came into force subsequent to the enactment of the Constitution before the framing of franchise by the Commonwealth. In other words, it referred to 1900 and, hence, the anachronism. It was so held by the whole court having regard to the nature and function of section 41 that the term ‘adult person’ in that section should not be accorded a vague and imprecise meaning such as ‘mature person’ but should be construed as a term of fixed connotation bearing the ordinary meaning - it possessed both at law and in common usage - that is, a person at the full age of 21 years as used in contradistinction to an infant at law.
It is this point on which I wish to expand. The Chief Justice also held that to change the franchise for Commonwealth electors it was not necessary to change the Constitution but only to change the Electoral Act as provided for under section 30 of the Federal Constitution. It is fortunate that this Bill we are now debating can remove the anachronism and the anomaly of depriving 18-year-olds of voting rights while demanding of them adult responsibilities,, rather than having to go to the people to change the Constitution. This debate and the passing . of this Bill centre around whether we should lower the age of qualification for enrolment, voting and candidature, for Commonwealth parliamentary elections to 18 years. Many countries have a lower voting age than has Australia. Fiftythree countries have a franchise age of less than 21 years. The 18-year-old literates of Equador and the 18-year-old male Jordanians - but not Bedouins - can vote. Where does that put us in comparison? Of particular relevance to Australia are those countries modelled on the Westminster model of government - the United Kingdom, New Zealand and, to a lesser extent, the United States In Canada the franchise age is 18 years, as it is in Ceylon and the United States. In New Zealand it has been reduced to 20 years. In Britain the voting age was reduced to 18 at the same time as the age of majority was reduced. In the discussion about the desirability of lowering the age of majority no document has had quite the impact of the report of the Latey Commission. The Latey Commission did not specifically look at the question of the voting age but argued very strongly for . the reduction of the age of majority to 18 - hence the tie up with the High Court decision. The Commission said:
What the history does show is that there is nothing particularly God-given about the age of 21 as such, and that things do change in the light of changing circumstances.
Those changing circumstances bring about changing responsibilities and a differing definition of what is meant by maturity. This arbitrary age of maturity did centre around that of the age of bearing arms - an historical one, it is true, but it has relevance today. Many people have said: ‘If you are old enough to die for your country, you are old enough to vote for your country.’ Yet the previous Government allowed voting under the age of 21 only to those who were serving actively overseas, most of whom were conscripts. It is an indictment against the previous Government that it did not lower the voting age so that the people could determine whether or not there was going to be a government that would send them overseas to fight for their country. It should be the right of all 18, 19 and 20-year-olds, who have physically matured earlier and who do bear arms in the historic and present sense, to have that vote.
– Would you give school children the right to decide to go to school?
– They are better educated, if you like. Children of 18 are going to school and with the rising school leaving age, it will become increasingly so. But with better education, which does not come entirely from the school but through the media, these people are better equipped to have a vote at that age. These are all reasons why we can regard people of 18 to 21 years as being as well equipped as 21 year olds to vote responsibly. But then, we already regard them as mature in commercial, legal and social spheres.
Even though there is no clamour for it from some 18-year-olds, a case can be made for giving them this right. Many of them work and pay taxes; thousands of youngsters have been conscripted at the age of 20 and in some areas 18-year-olds may, or soon will, be able to enter into contracts, dispose of property, take and defend legal actions, or front up to hotel bars, and more teenagers are becoming politically and socially aware. In Australia, we would have to agree with the Latey Commissioners who, in their conclusion, stated:
By 18 most young people are ready for these responsibilities and rights, and would greatly profit by them, as would the teaching authorities, the business community, the administration of justice and the community as a whole.
The Commission settled on the age of 18 years for several reasons, including greater maturity, the fact that by 18 most people are running their own lives, and the fact that people of 18 have other responsibilities and consider themselves capable of acting maturely, this being their own conviction.
It has been argued that young people are not interested in politics and that people who do not care should not vote, but in my opinion that is not an argument against extending the vote to 18-year-olds but against compulsory voting. Surveys show little or no difference in trends or interest in voting between persons under 21 years old and those over 21 years old. This is the conclusion of recent surveys of various public opinion polls. As well as revealing levels of interest in politics by Australians the surveys compared the results of similar investigations made in Britain. This destroyed the myth that Australians, in general, are less interested in politics than the corresponding social groups in the United Kingdom.
The principal argument on which to base a decision, to give people the right to vote before 21 years of age should be that, mature or not, they are in fact becoming increasingly involved personally in social, financial, industrial, cultural and political issues of importance and that to take a meaningful and responsible part in society they must have the right to vote. This would be to them a challenge to develop the awareness that is necessary to play an articulate political role in the community - responsibilities far too often shunned by people who have the vote solely because they are 21 or older. This might even apply to some of the under 18 year old schoolmates of the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland), who was trying to interject a moment ago.
Many States are waiting for this Parliament to extend the franchise to 18 years of age so that they can proclaim or enact similar legislation. Not only do South Australia and Western Australia provide for the franchise at age 18 but New South Wales has passed legislation to lower the voting age to 18 years although it has not proclaimed it. Victoria has announced its intention to lower the voting age before the next State election. In Queensland, Cabinet has approved the principle of votes for 18-year-olds and in Tasmania the lower House already has passed a Bill which includes provision for lowering the voting age to 18. The States recognise that youth is becoming a larger percentage of the total population and forms a distinct sector that needs representation. It has been estimated that with the voting age reduced to 18 years between 700,000 and 800,000 people will be added to the rolls. We are warned by 2 countries what to expect if the franchise is not extended to 18-year-olds. Those 18-year- olds will fee] that their rights are being neglected or ignored.
I am fortunate to have come across a speech by the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) who quoted from an article which appeared in ‘Playboy’ magazine. At the time he apologised to my predecessor, Mr Jess, who, he incorrectly had said, had lent him the magazine. The honourable member for Kooyong referred to events that took place in the United States Senate. Senator Jacob Javits, who is a well-known United States senator, wrote a very compelling article in this magazine. It was related to the age of majority. He said:
To me the most compelling reason for lowering the voting age ls that American politics needs the transfusion that younger voting could give it. Almost without exception, today’s 18. to 20 year olds - those of college age - are better educated and more highly motivated toward political action than were their fathers and grandfathers.
It is essential to our country that their idealism and activism find a genuine release within our established political framework. Unless young people know they are involved, idealism tends to turn to cynicism.
In New Zealand, a member of the Government, Mr Moyle, when in opposition, said that the most serious threat to New Zealand politics was the increasing level of nonparticipation. He said that youth was forced to move away from the normal democratic process and toward direct action when they did not have the vote.
This House cannot obstruct the desire of the people. The Government secured a mandate at the last election. It was plain to the people that the policy of the Australian Labor Party was to reduce the voting age to 18 years. As mentioned by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch), a growing percentage of people, according to the gallup polls, supports this proposal. However we should note from these polls where the opposition lies. It seems, from an analysis of these polls, to be well and truly rooted in the conservatism of the Democratic Labor Party and the Liberal and Country parties. Why are these parties frightened? Youth patterns, in their voting tendencies, are very similar to those of persons aged over 21 years. No real conclusion can be drawn, especially when the trends are related to State elections, because of the size of the samples. However, I suspect that an increasing number of young people support Labor. This is in line with a theory that support of youth groups tends to come in 20-year cycles. The Chifley Government enjoyed the support of youth until about the time of its demise. During their stronger terms, the Liberal governments enjoyed the support of youth. If we can take any indication from these imprecise gallup polls, Labor enjoys that support now, but even then it depends on where these people live and the size of the constituencies. I believe that such support will merely magnify the present majorities of all parties.
It is not a defence of the present position to give a point of view about the behaviour of 18 to 20-year-olds. It is a matter of recognising that this age group already has adult responsibilities which require the bestowal of adult privileges. It is not a defence to delay this Bill through an argument of costs in extending the rolls, although this excuse applies more at State level. The arguments for lowering the voting age are strong, be they based on social, legal or civil rights grounds. The arguments against lowering the voting age are based on fear of losing electoral support. I commend the Bill to the House.
– It gives me also pleasure to support the Commonwealth Electoral Bill and the associated Bills which provide for the lowering of the franchise age to 18 years for Federal elections. The inference in the second reading speech of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) and the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb) was that the former Government was opposed to the lowering of the franchise age. That is not true. The former Government at no time expressed itself as being opposed to the provision of voting rights for the 18, 19 and 20-year-olds. After the relevant High Court judgment I made a Press release on behalf of the former Government in which I said:
I want to make it clear that the Government is not averse to the lowering of the franchise age.
Indeed, it had not taken a decision on the matter for reasons which I intend to relate. In the debate, on the Electoral Bill, which was introduced by the then Leader of the Opposition, now the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), on 11th May last year I said:
The Government has not at any time taken issue on or implied opposition to the principle of a vote for the 18-year-olds.
I went on to say:
Indeed it might well be a proposal that has support from a great number of members on both sides of the House.
The issue at that time was whether it was necessary or practical to support the passage of a Bill at a time when the 27th Parliament was drawing to a close, leaving insufficient time to handle the changes comfortably. The former Government had established a committee to examine the age of legal responsibility and associated matters, but at that time it had not completed its consideration of that report. Although the franchise age issue could have been dealt with separately, a variety of other legal issues surrounding the rights of 18, 19 and 20-year-olds needed the closest scrutiny.
The report on the issues that I have mentioned was completed; so the socialist Government has inherited the value of an indepth research into these issues. I do not begrudge the Government its great inheritance but I know that it is a very lucky government indeed to have so much research behind it on these issues. The Government has been enabled to move swiftly at this point of time against a background of invaluable research and endeavour. Then there was the need to overcome a number of technical problems before we felt that we could move to lower the franchise age to enable 18, 19 and 20- year-olds to vote in the last House of Representatives elections.
One of the most important considerations was to maintain a uniform franchise for all State and Commonwealth elections. There was a need to reach uniformity to avoid confusion and misunderstanding. There was a need to reach agreement with the States, especially in regard to the joint roll States, namely, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. The need for a uniform timing of franchise legislation was essential. Until 30tb June last year only one State, namely, Western Australia, had introduced 18-year-old franchise legislation. I think it did so in 1970. The first Bill to lower the franchise age in Western Australia was introduced by a Liberal-Country Party Gov ernment. At that time Western Australia was the only State which had proclaimed such legislation. South Australia followed Western Australia and legislation was enacted and proclaimed, 1 think on 30th June last year.
The other States had approved of the franchise in principle, either at Cabinet level or in legislation, but had not proclaimed the legislation. The State governments were at varying stages of decision on this matter. In his second reading speech the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) gave a list which indicated the progress that has been made to date within the various States of the Commonwealth. I commend the Minister for having reached agreement with the States so soon after having assumed his portfolio, thereby achieving in practice the uniformity to which 1 have referred.
When consideration was given to this matter last year the Government was aware of the great confusion that would have occurred unless uniformity was achieved. This applied especially in cases where persons moved from State to State. Under the long-standing arrangements, with joint roll States, the submission of a single electoral claim by a qualified person would achieve simultaneous enrolment on the joint roll which is used for both Commonwealth and State purposes. This arrangement has many public advantages and offers considerable economies.- But it was essential that any change in age qualification for enrolment and voting should be effected concurrently by the Commonwealth and the joint roll States.
The most elementary consideration in any franchise system is that it should be clear and fair and that the circumstances in which the right to vote is to be exercised should be uniform. Franchise uniformity is, I believe, a most essential objective to avoid confusion State by State or between the Commonwealth and the States. I submit that if unilateral action had been taken by the Commonwealth considerable disruption among the joint roll States would have resulted. For the purposes of the last election it would have necessitated 3 special form or an enrolment claim card with a distinguishing mark on the electoral roll against the name of 18, 19 and 20-year- olds made eligible by this unilateral action of the Australian Government. As it was, unilateral action was taken by one joint roil State, namely, South Australia.
So it was against the background of this consideration and other considerations that the former Government felt that it was not prudent to rush franchise entitlements to the 18, 19 and 20-year-olds last year. Indeed, on 8th March last year, when the then Prime Minister was asked a question in this House on the matter, he told the Parliament that the law would not be changed in time to give 18- year-olds a vote in the then forthcoming elections. I doubt whether anyone, other than a few eager politicians, lost any sleep over that decision. Perhaps those few immensely egotistical politicians who believe they have some great attraction for young people could have suffered some anxiety as a result of that decision. But I think it was a good decision not to try to rush and steamroll the legislation through, thereby causing an air of confusion in some of the joint roll States. 1 believe that one matter mentioned by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb) was quite sound. I refer to his remark that there has not been any really emotional demand by the great body of the 18, 19 and 20-year-olds to have a vote. Such a demand has not been evident to me and I think the truth of the honourable member’s remark was proved to some extent as a result of the legislation that was introduced in South Australia. In spite of a very intensive education and publicity campaign encouraging young people to enrol, I understand that approximately 16,000. out of the 68,000 who were eligible actually enrolled. I think that to some extent this indicates that only a small percentage of our young people seek this entitlement at this stage.
The point of difference between this legislation and that of South Australia is that in South Australia the 18, 19 and 20-year-olds are free to enrol if they so desire; it is not compulsory for them to do so. Once having enrolled, of course, it is compulsory for them to vote. While I was the Minister for the Interior a number of parents made representations to me as Minister and also as the member for Gwydir, objecting very strongly to young people being forced to vote, in other words, being forced into a position where they would have to make political decisions as such. They feared that the young folk could be exploited by political organisers. But I am inclined to believe that with voluntary enrolment an even greater temptation exists to those who would want to marshall the sup port of youth than there would be if enrolment were compulsory. Now that the privilege has been conferred on this age group it is up to these young people to accept their full responsibilities. This is an historic occasion. I know that the Minister for Services and Property - who is father of the House and proud to be so - must be proud that he has the great privilege of introducing the legislation. This legislation was inevitable because this has been the trend throughout the world. Yes, it will introduce politics into our high schools. This is inevitable.
I hope that the unscrupulous political organisers to whom I alluded a moment ago will not feed their lust for power by insidiously campaigning among our young people. They may get away with it for a while, but not for long. I have a lot of faith and confidence in the sincerity and perception of our young people. I am sure they will not allow themselves to be used by one Party or another for that Party’s specific purpose. It is essential, however, for parents and children alike to be aware of the possibility of such insidious attempts developing inside our high schools in an attempt to mobilise young people for political purposes. Undoubtedly the 18, 19 and 20-year-olds will have a responsibility to inform themselves of political affairs and Party policies. I think this will apply also to 16 and 17-year-olds because people do not suddenly become informed and capable of voting on their 18th birthday, unless they have been interested in the subject for probably 2 years prior to reaching voting age.
In effect, not only are we giving 700,000 young people the privilege of franchise, but also we are giving them an enormous responsibility since most of the decisions made by any government of the day will have far reaching effects upon the future lives of our youth. It is right that they should participate in the political thought and activity of their nation. It is right that they should participate in choosing the Government which they think is best for their long term future and for the long term future of their country.
I have every confidence in the well informed idealistic youth of Australia. I believe that their full blooded participation in the political life of this country will make it a better place. Whilst there has been no obvious clamour amongst the young, or for that matter among the majority of parents of the 18, 19 and 20-year-olds, for this privilege, it was inevitable that the voting age should be lowered. I support the Bill and compliment the Minister for having introduced it so soon in the life of this Parliament.
– I sometimes think when I listen to the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) that the world he moves in and the world I move in must be different places. The reasons he gave for the difficulties, or the suggested difficulties, as to why this legislation had not been introduced for so long did not convince me. It is my understanding that the Government, when it was in opposition, endeavoured to introduce this legislation as long as 5 years ago. Its efforts to do so met with nothing but consistent opposition and hostility from the then Government which always had a million different reasons why it could not be done, the suggestion that some difficulty had arisen over uniformity or conformity with the States was put forward very late in the day. I do not think that any us was taken in because we knew at the time that the then Government had run out of steam, that it was in electoral trouble, as events subsequently proved to be correct, and that rather than take a chance or gamble on the unkown namely, whether the then Government would have any support from the young people df Australia, it shelved the proposal to give 18- year-olds a vote and put it aside as being not worthy of the risk. As I have said, that action should not really surprise us because other examples could be given of the same type of approach by the then Government.
One of the Bills we are considering is the Australian Capital Territory Representation Bill. Back in 1970 the then Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), said that the Australian Capital Territory was virtually ready for increased representation. I seem to recall the honourable member for Gwydir, who was then the Minister for the Interior, saying the same thing. But they deliberately did not give that increased representation because they could not work out how on earth such a move would return a Liberal member to this Parliament. As a result they put off the legislation. Notwithstanding the overwhelming claim of justice and righteousness and the fact that increased representation was correct because the Australian Capital Territory was hopelessly under-represented, the then Government refused to introduce this legislation. It is only under this Labor Government that increased representation will be given.
I suppose that one also could seek confirmation of the approach adopted by the other side of the House when we consider that, despite the difficulties that the previous Government faced during those 5 years, nothing really changed. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) who introduced this Bill, has been able to formulate the legislation in 3 weeks, yet the previous Government could not, or refused to do so in 5 years. The previous Government could have introduced legislation giving 18-year-olds a vote at any time during this 5-year period, but it chose not to do so. I do not think there is any real uncertainty about why it decided not to do so.
Legislation of this sort highlights the fundamental difference between the parties, not that all members who belong to the various parties are uniform in their approach. Naturally members of the Australian Labor Party differ among themselves. They represent a very broad cross-section of the Australian population, as do members who make up the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party. But if one looks at political philosophies in the sense of which parties advocate change and liberalism - I would suggest that this sort of legislation comes within that contextone will not find the conservative parties supporting it. I am not saying that all members on the Opposition benches are conservative, but the overwhelming majority of them are. I was hoping that the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) might have preceded me in this debate. I do not think he comes into that category. But the great mass of members of the so-called Liberal Party, with respect to him, are not Liberals. I often ask myself where are the liberals in the Liberal Party? There are certainly none.
– They are high tories?
– Not high tories, probably low tories. In my opinion there are certainly no liberals in the Country Party. This is certainly to be understood and appreciated when one looks at legislation like this which could be introduced very quickly by Labor governments in Labor States. As the honourable member for Gwydir pointed out, this was done unilaterally in South Australia. Indeed the legislation was introduced very quickly by the Minister for Services and Property in the Commonwealth sphere.
It is trite to talk about the increased maturity of young people because this is a matter of common observation for all of us. When members of the Opposition were in government they thought that young people were mature enough to be conscripted and to be sent to fight in a foreign war that was one of the most unjust wars of all time. Members of the then Government thought that young people were mature enough to be made pawns in the sense that they were used in certain earlier political campaigns and so divided the Australian population over the issue of Vietnam. The then Government was prepared to treat them as pawns and to regard them as being mature enough to fight but as not being old enough to have a political voice. The then Government disregarded these young people and refused to repeal conscription, something which the new Labor Government was able to do in a matter of a couple of days, to the great relief of the Australian population.
We should not really be surprised by these things. We know that 18-year-olds today want to be interested in politics. Anyone who mixes with young people has this experience. I know that on 2nd December, the election day, I was followed on my visits to polling booths by 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20-year-olds who could not vote but who expressed support for the need for a change of government. I do not suggest for one moment that they were all Labor supporters. Many of them were not. But they felt a complete and deep concern that something seriously had gone wrong with this country because they were not being taken into account. They believed that political consciousness had fallen to a level in this country that had not been seen for many years. They wanted to be politically conscious and to be aware of the issues of their time. They wanted to concern themselves about things such as Aboriginal land rights. They had a sense of injustice, and they wanted to see injustice remedied. They knew that this action would not come from the then Government, which the Australian people subsequently threw out, so (hey turned to the Labor Party to give them a chance.
We now face the situation in which this new Labor Government faces a great challenge and carries very great responsibility. This Government has to satisfy those young people - young people who live increasingly in the cities. I grew up in the country in the town of Dubbo which is in the electorate of the honourable member for Gwydir. It was said in those days that young people left the country to go to the city to find employment. People used to argue that young people could be kept from going to the cities if employment was provided for them in country towns. Because of a failure to provide employment and decentralisation in country areas young people have gone to the cities in increasing numbers. It is here that the crisis has arisen through a lack of sewerage, transport, opportunities and housing. It is because of these issues, apart from what I would call the civil liberty and idealistic issues, that young people have increasingly supported the new Labor Government.
A recent gallup poll suggested the same thing. It pointed out that the swing of 3 per cent which gave the Australian Labor Party SO per cent of the first preference votes in the Federal election held on 2nd December was caused mostly by a 6 per cent gain by the Australian Labor Party amongst voters aged 21 to 29. That is the reason, as I suggested at the outset, why the previous Liberal PartyCountry Party Government refused to give them the vote. That is why this Government pledged to do so. The Government is happy to be in the position of knowing that the 18- year-olds have supported it. The Government will make sure that they continue to support the Labor Party. We are pledged to build the sort of Australia that will make ample and proper provision for their needs, both material and spiritual, in the full recognition of the idealistic sense.
I wish to mention briefly now the effect that the Bill willi have on the number of people entitled to vote in the Australian Capital Territory. The enactment of this legislation will mean that if an election were held tomorrow the number of eligible voters in the Australian Capital Territory would jump from about 83,000 people - which is already by far the largest number of voters in any electorate in Australia - to approximately 93,000. The increase in the number of eligible voters in the Northern Territory would be about 6,000. A number of young people are affected by this legislation. I note that there is no real opposition to this Bill. Opposition speakers attempted only to provide an excuse as to why the previous Government did not introduce this legislation. Some valiant efforts have been made. The honourable member for Gwydir posed the thought of lack of uniformity or conformity. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggested that in some way a conspiracy existed; I am not sure how he would support that argument.
I will listen with great interest to the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock). I think that he probably will have a different approach to the problem. The simple fact is that this matter has been unfortunately interpreted in the past as politics at its lowest level; not politics as it should be and not politics in the sense that it is a democratic exercise of will or power to implement changes that are to the advantage of the great majority of members of our community, bringing into play a clash of ideas, a clash of ideologies and a clash of thoughts so that all people will benefit as they will by the passage of this legislation.
We represent different groups. Government supporters take the view - I hold it very strongly - that the Liberal and Country parties represent vested interests which are not synonymous with the interests of young people generally. Opposition members take the view that the Government also represents vested interests. Reference has been made by them to trade unions. Trade unions represent the interests of more than half the Australian population and the interests represented by the Opposition are not those of more than half the Australian population. There is no opposition to this Bill. The Bill could have and should have been introduced 5 years ago. The former Government chose not to do so It has now been introduced in the first 3 weeks of the life of this Parliament to the great credit of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). I support the Bill.
– As has already been stated, honourable members on this side of the House support the Bills before the chamber. May I say, viewing this legislation subjectively, that it gives me a great degree of satisfaction to know that there is such support, particularly for the Commonwealth Electoral Bill. When the former Leader of the Opposition, the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in 1968 introduced the Adulthood Bill, Mr Hughes, the then honourable member for Parkes, who later became the honourable member for Berowra, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) - though he did not have an opportunity to speak - and myself supported that legislation. I was not present in 1970 when the legislation came before the House. At that time the honourable member for Berowra was Attorney-General and for a variety of reasons could not find himself in support of the Bill. I always regretted that I was out of the country at that time. I reiterate today as I indicated in 1968 that I am in favour of the reduction of the voting age. In many ways - I know my colleagues will not mind me saying this because it is an historical factor - I wish that the legislation could have been introduced earlier. I believe that if the legislation had been introduced earlier the statistics which showed a diminution of support for my Party amongst those who were covered in his age group may not have occurred, but rather this would have been one of the factors which would have evinced the interest of the then Government in people of the age of 18, 19 or 20.
I said in 1968, among other things, that the Adulthood Bill did not go far enough and I think that very real and valid arguments could be made now for introducing legislation which will provide greater opportunities for 18-year-olds. Although we accept the premise contained in this legislation that a person is more mature and indeed is able to exercise full franchise rights at 18, we do not extend that to the whole, concept of adulthood. I know that discussions have already taken place for amending the Marriage Act. I urge the Government to look at this matter further and to introduce relevant legislation concerning this matter, soldiers’ wills, testaments, settlements, contracts and the like. Although many of these fields are legislated for by State governments the Australian Government also has power in certain areas. I do not think it is simply a matter of viewing this legislation on the basis of giving 18-year-olds the vote. It extends beyond that. The concept must be accepted that 18-year-olds are mature enough to take their place in the community as adults or we must provide on a conditional basis to meet their needs. This seems a strange approach to me because it is a conditional approach to the premise which we are accepting. The reduction of the age of majority and the age at which voting rights are gained is not the conscientious matter it was even 5 years ago when only a few honourable members this side of the House were prepared to support the matter. The seemingly natural human reaction in Australia of conservatism to reform does not prevail today. There was a time when arguments in favour of voting rights for women and Aborigines were also rejected. A similar situation used to exist concerning this matter.
This subject has been considered in Australia by the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral. The Law Reform Commission of New South Wales considered the matter fully and recommended that the voting age be reduced to 18 years. The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General accepted this and made a report to the Government which, I think, deliberated along the lines which the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) mentioned today. As I have said, apart from voting rights, the questions of the age of marriage without consent, the age to contract, and matters relating to interests under wills and settlements have all to be considered. I also mention a matter which I omitted before, namely, jury service. Clearly a uniform approach is preferable, although in the United States and Canada in certain States and Provinces different rulings apply.
The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb) referred to the Latey Committee. I think that that Committee issued a most readable report. It is one of the few governmental commissions that not only has produced interesting material but also has written it in an interesting fashion. It submitted a report on the age of majority. It did not deal with the question of the voting age but it did concern itself with the concept of the age of maturity and recommended that the age of adulthood be reduced from 21 years to 18 years. The evidence put to the Committee and its conclusions are a valuable guide to any person interested in this subject. I will quote later from the Latey Committee’s report and particularly I will refer to one remark by the honourable member for La Trobe. Apart from the Latey Committee’s report and some of the words used in its recommendations, in the United States of America in 1968 former President Johnson, shortly prior to his termination of office, requested Congress to examine this matter. He said then that he hoped to grant ‘to youth what we seek of them but still deny to them - full and responsible participation in our American democracy’.
The British Medical Association in its evidence to the Latey Committee supported the view that adolescents today mature earlier than in previous generations. Other experts have estimated that the age of physical maturity has been reducing by some 4 months per decade in Western Europe over the period 1830 to 1960. They are the latest figures available to me. The fact therefore is accepted that boys complete their growth on average at 17 years of age and probably earlier. That figure certainly can be compared with male maturity at 23 years of age at the turn of the century. The average age of female maturity is much lower than that. Consequently there is abundant evidence to prove - it does not need to be put in this House today as one felt it had to be put 5 years ago - earlier physical maturity. Similarly there is little doubt that young people today are better educated at corresponding stages than their predecessors. Not only do they stay at school longer and go on to tertiary and technical education in greater numbers but the basis of the educational process, placing as it does much emphasis on probing and questioning and analysing accepted concepts, brings about a greater degree of analysis and, flowing from that, a broader understanding of life and society.
The honourable member for La Trobe mentioned that young people earn more today and therefore contribute more to the nation’s wealth. They contribute more in taxes. This economic responsibility ought to be met by equal political responsibility. Youth today has more freedom and it conforms less. They have wider experiences in life. They can marry with consent; they can raise children; they can divorce. They can drive cars, kill or be killed. Their consumption and participation is greater in all respects than even a generation ago. I know that there are some in the community who are still to some extent reluctant to grant this reduction in the voting age; and they tend to do so on the basis that some young people participate in demonstrations to a greater extent than others, though on my own observations I have seen a broad cross-section of the community both by way of age and by vocational background in demonstrations before us. But in any case we cannot regard demonstrations, delinquency or civil disobedience merely as threats. They are signs that young people need more involvement and participation in society. If decisions are not being made, in the way they think they ought to be made, the situation is aggravated for them because they have had no say in that decision. If they are given the vote the decision itself may vary or it may not. But at least the opportunity is there for them to participate and a greater part of the population will have been considered in its formulation, and this surely is the aim of democracy.
I said that there was no need today to go Into the same detail about the concepts of maturity that there was some 5 years ago. I think that some of the arguments used last year before the High Court of Australia in the matter of King v. Jones and 2 other matters that were heard at the same time, and in which the present Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) appeared for the appellant, had some persuasion. Clearly they did not have persuasion to the Court and on reading the judgment this is understandable because the Court was concerned with the nature and function of section 41 of the Constitution and how the term ‘adult person’ in that section should be accorded and that it should not be, in their terms, accorded a vague and imprecise meaning such as mature person’.
The fact that the High Court was not prepared to accept arguments about earlier maturity today in no way changes the right or indeed the necessity for us to face the fact that younger people are maturing earlier today because these matters, as the Court deemed, could not be considered in interpreting the Constitution itself. It did not make the arguments invalid so far as this Parliament is concerned and so far as this Bill is concerned. It possibly was invalid - indeed the Court found that it was - to argue that way in endeavouring to ascribe a meaning to sections of the Constitution itself. There were those who said that the national Parliament might not be able to legislate in this way. For those who thought so. again in this instance the High Court would support the view that the Parliament could of course create a franchise which makes the attainment of some other age a condition of its franchise. Indeed Sir Garfield Barwick in his judgment set out at page 531 of the Aus tralian Law Journal Reports for September 1972 said:
Of course, the Parliament may create a franchise which makes the attainment of some other and lower age a condition of its franchise. If that age is less than twenty-one years, the restrictions on the Parliament’s legislative power implicit in the opening words of s. 41 would have no application.
He went on to say more in that paragraph. So, too, did Mr Justice McTiernan and so, too, did Mr Justice Menzies. So there is, of course, as the Minister said, no doubt that this Parliament can legislate in the matter of the Bill before it.
Before closing my remarks I want to mention a matter referred to by the honourable member for La Trobe, who quoted one portion of a speech of mine. I do not wish to do him an injustice but I do have the feeling that he plagiarised to some extent the lengthy material contained in my speech without attribution but saw fit to quote the latter portion of that speech which I recall was uttered when I was answering an interjection from one of my colleagues at that time. The honourable member also referred to the Latey report. I know he could not read all the details but he made some reference to the statement - I feel it is a hackneyed statement - that if you are old enough to fight for your country then you are old enough to vote. The Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) used the same argument. Both of them were impressed by the Latey Committee’s recommendations. Both of them used this phrase but both of them ignored the fact that the Committee put its mind to that argument and rejected it. It said:
The hackneyed ‘If you are old enough to fight and die for your country’ argument was put before us. Looked at in isolation this seems to us to be about as relevant to the problem in hand as was the equivalent military consideration of the weight of the armour in the 11th century-
And I would agree with those remarks - and indeed the frequency with which the young seemed to have swallowed this argument whole was one of the factors that almost inclined us to leave the age of majority firmly where it was - not that the young were alone in this. To start with, there is nothing in the military life which imposes responsibility on those not considered by their officers to be ready for it. To go on with, the sort of warfare we have nowadays ls quite as likely to compel a child of 3 to ‘die for his country’ as his elder brother in the army. And, finally, the age at which it is appropriate for the country’s welfare to call up young men or women could well vary; the military might decide that they needed them at 15 or at 20 or at 25. We can hardly imagine much enthusiasm for the idea that the age for marriage and mortgages should fluctuate according to such military requirements - yet that is the argument’s logical conclusion. This consideration only has force if it takes its place as one among many responsibilities which have come into being by 18.
In that section the Latey Committee dealt with the neatness arguments that ‘21 is too old and 18 is right because it falls halfway between the school leaving age and 21’ - that does not relate to Australia - ‘and anything less is not worth while’.
The crux of the Latey Committee’s report is contained in section 125 at page 39 wherein the Committee puts forward arguments to support the reduction of the age to 18. The report states:
The main arguments in favour of reducing the age to 18 we have already set out as arguments for reducing it at all. The age of 18 seems to us the most suitable because:
There is undeniably a great increase in maturity towards that age.
The vast majority of young people are in fact running their own lives, making their own decisions and behaving as responsible adults by the time they are 18.
Those of our witnesses who seemed most closely in touch with the young favoured 18 as the age at which it was not only safe to give responsibility, but undesirable, if not indeed dangerous, to withhold it.
The report goes on with other arguments which I have not time in this debate to read.
Australia, too, has a youngish population. That is to say that the proportion of young people in the population is increasing every year as it is in the rest of the world. Furthermore, some States have already legislated to provide voting for 18-year-olds. Each major party, as evidenced by the remarks by the Minister for the Capital Territory, feels that it would get more youth votes than the other. Both parties now support the move. It is important that both parties should be ever more conscious of the demands of young people and of their’ need as parties to appeal to that section of the community. We are formulating policies all the time, as members of parties, which are of interest and appeal to young people. Young people today are less interested in hard line ideological stances. They are more interested in soft issues such as social welfare, the environment and even inflation. It is in this direction that the political movement is heading today.
It is with great pleasure that I support this Bill. In conclusion let me put 2 matters to the Minister. The (first does not relate so much to his portfolio as to that of the AttorneyGeneral. When we talk about those people who are not adults perhaps we could use the term minor’ instead of ‘infant’. This may seem to be a matter of minor import, but the practice of addressing people who are almost at the age of maturity as infants belongs to a bygone era. I hope that we will refer to them as minors when we are contrasting them with adults. The other point I want to raise refers to the day on which a person can enrol. Originally at common law a person was said to reach a particular age on the day before his birthday because the law did not take cognisance of a part of the day. I cite the case of in re Shurey reported in (1918) 1 Ch. 263. As I understand it, the public tends to believe that a person attains a particular age at the moment the day of his birthday anniversary commences. If my recollection is correct, the High Court has given us some guidance and has indicated that the relevant date is the day before the birthday anniversary is attained. Perhaps the Minister could clarify this because where there is a cut-off point and where there is a date for enrolment, to be made when a person turns a particular age - formerly 21 and now 18 - on that particular day, there could be some confusion. Overall I support the Bill, as does my Party and the Australian Country Party. I look forward to the enrolment of those people between the ages of 18 and 21.
– This afternoon we have been treated to yet another example of Liberal Party hypocrisy: I have sat in this Parliament for 3 years and on many occasions I have seen the former Opposition propose a measure such as the one we are discussing this afternoon. I must say in fairness to the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) that his sympathy is in keeping with the terms of this Bill. In fact he and several of his colleagues are probably greatly relieved to see the responsibility taken by this Government to introduce legislation to lower the voting age to 18. This afternoon the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) closed his address on the Bill by saying that the Opposition agrees that the time has arrived when 18-year-olds should be given the right to vote and it supports the Bill. Surely he must have had his tongue in his cheek.
Honourable members on this side of the House who had the fortune to be here in the dying days of almost a quarter of a century of Liberal-Country Party administration will recall the futile efforts made on many occasions by the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when he was Leader of the Opposition during the last Parliament to force the then Government to agree to lowering the voting age. Successive Ministers for the Interior answering the requests made in this House by the Australian Labor Party always followed their unconvincingly expressed sympathy to the proposal by the ultra conservative approach which could be summed up as: Yes, we agree; but not yet.’ Even as late as the occasion when the parties were delivering their policy presentations to the electorate prior to the election held on 2nd December last the Australian Country Party failed to permit the Liberal Prime Minister to include in his policy a definite undertaking to lower the voting age for Federal elections. This was a very definite indication that should the Australian people have been cursed by another 3 years of that style of government nothing would have happened during the life of this Parliament just as certainly as we now know that nothing eventuated in the life of the last Parliament.
The fact that this Parliament is today considering the extension of the franchise to 18- year-olds is due to the decision of the Australian people to accept the Labor Party’s proposition at the time of the last election that ‘It’s Time.’ It surely was time. It was time for a new approach to many responsibilities of government, and this is certainly one of them. I congratulate the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) for bringing this measure before us for consideration so soon in the life of the Parliament. As was to be expected, in his policy speech, the Prime Minister gave a clear undertaking on behalf of the Labor Party when he said:
We will give the vote to men and women at 18 years of age, as is already done in all other federal systems and most English-speaking countries.
In presenting his second reading speech to the House the Minister provided a table for ‘he consideration of honourable members. It is now included in Hansard. The table shows some of the countries that have extended voting rights to citizens 18 years of age. This surely must mean that, in the eyes of the rest of the world, Australia has been dragging its feet to an extent that can no longer be permitted. The list contains names of countries not only that are insignificant in terms of major influence in our sphere of the world but also that lay claim to having a democratic form of government. Those countries have had such a provision in their electoral laws but that provision did not exist in the electoral laws for the election of Federal parliaments in this country.
Reference was made today to the fact that once this measure is put into effect we will see an intrusion into our high schools of party political influence. Recently the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) was reported by the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’, under the headline ‘Country Party will woo young voter’, to have said:
The Country Party expects to form political branches in high schools and universities when the 18-year-old vote is introduced.
He emphasised that the Party had to increase its appeal and sharpen its image with young voters. Certainly I cannot find any cause to disagree with that statement but, as my colleague the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) prompts me, that is certainly no different from the action that needs to be taken not only in relation to young voters but also in relation to older voters. The Leader of the Country Party went on to say:
It seems to me that the bulk of the Australian people and the other political parties want the age reduced to 18. We must be realistic and accept that this is going to happen.
What more reluctant acceptance could one find than that? Even as late as the last Federal election this influence prevented the Liberal Party from throwing out the bait to the electorate that it surely would have wished to throw out to match the promise that had been made by the Labor Party.
Let me remind honourable members once again that today this House is considering a measure which for years the previous Government had the opportunity to put into effect. For years the previous Government refused to accept the responsibility to put it into effect. The Labor Party has no intention of setting up branches in high schools. We certainly will encourage the political enlightenment of our young people, whether they are eligible to vote or simply approaching that eligibility.
I refer now to a survey which was conducted approximately 18 months ago in a neighbouring electorate of mine, namely, the electorate of Griffith. If the previous Government had grasped the nettle and had taken the progressive step of reducing the voting age to 18 years, the electorate of Griffith
Would have been represented much more capably in the Twenty-eighth Parliament than it is. The survey was conducted of 5,321 high school pupils in that electorate. The question they were asked was: ‘At what age would you prefer to start voting - 18, 19, 20, 21, any other?’ Of the 5,321 students 72.5 per cent indicated that they would prefer to see permission to vote granted to 18-year-olds. The next highest percentage - 18 per cent - indicated a preference for the voting age to remain at 21 years. The total percentage which indicated a preference for the lowering of the voting age than for it to remain at 21 years was over 80 per cent. By the next election the vote for 18-year-olds will be an accomplished fact. I have no doubt that the addition of votes of 18-year-olds in the electorate of Griffith will bring about a significant change in the result of that electorate, as I expect that there will be significant changes in the results in many other electorates. The young people who will be given the franchise by this Government certainly will take the opportunity to show their gratitude to the Labor Party for being prepared to accept the responsibility which the previous Government was not prepared to accept. I remind the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) that the previous Government had the opportunity to introduce legislation such as this.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Although I was absent from the chamber I was listening in my office, on the public address system, to the speech of the honourable member for Bowman. I heard him refer to a survey which had been taken in the Griffith electorate, the electorate which I represent. Mr Deputy Speaker, am I in order in asking him to tell us who conducted the survey? I conducted the survey, and the honourable member has told an untruth. He said that 5,000 were interviewed. Only 1,200 were interviewed.
Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– This afternoon the honourable member for Kooyong referred to the High Court decision last year in a case which was forced upon the High Court by the failure of the previous Government to accept its true responsibilities. In the decision of the
High Court the Chief Justice Sir Garfield Barwick said, in part:
The selection of a minimum age for voting was a legislative matter and clearly not a judicial function.
Of course, we support that opinion of the Chief Justice. That is one of the reasons why it is fitting for me to congratulate the Minister for Services and Property this afternoon for having the foresight to introduce this measure into the House in the early days of the Labor Government. We do not intend to shirk any responsibility. Let me remind the honourable member for Kooyong that the enlightenment of the electorate, as shown in the last election, which returned a Labor government, certainly will be rewarded by measures, of which this measure is typical. The need to lower the voting age was far too progressive a step for the previous Government to take, hesitant and indecisive as we knew it to be. As I have said, it endeavoured to throw the responsibility onto the court, but in the clearest terms the Chief Justice rejected that responsibility and threw it back to this Parliament where it belongs.
It is interesting to note the wide cross-section of opinion which supports action such as that which we are considering today. 1 quote from a statement reported in the ‘Australian* of 17th July last by Father Dethlefs who was at that time a full time chaplain of the Young Christian Students Movement in Queensland. Father Dethlefs was- commenting on a statement that had been made in Brisbane the previous week by the then Prime Minister that the voting age would not be reduced for last year’s Federal election. Father Dethlefs said:
Ten years ago a case could not be made out for voting at 18. But times have changed.
They give the impression a youth of 18 can handle the responsibility of voting quite well.
From the age of 13 or so students are discussing pollution and a wide range of social issues their counterparts would never have dreamed of.
We realise this fact, and we realise that in these changing times many young people who have reached the age of 18, who have left school and who have accepted the responsibility of assisting in the support of their families and in the payment of taxes from their incomes should be given the opportunity to receive the franchise and to have some say in the election of people from their own age group, if they so desire, to this Parliament to assist in the decision making of the nation.
So we axe pleased to have accepted the responsibility to introduce this legislation which will bring Australia up to date with a great number of countries throughout the world. It is my pleasant duty, in supporting this measure, to say that we were not anxious to take action to introduce a measure such as this without giving due consideration to the need for it. Having given due consideration to the need for it and having expressed clearly our intentions in support of it many times in the past, on the first occasion that we have had an opportunity to bring this measure before the Parliament we have done so. I support wholeheartedly the Bill. I hope that all honourable members, particularly those on the other side, continue to express support of the Bill.
– We are debating the Bill which was introduced by the Government to give the vote to young people aged 18, 19 and 20. This Bill is being supported by the Opposition. The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) imputed to members on this side of the House hypocrisy. I feel that that word is one of the words which should be struck from the parliamentary vocabulary because it smells so much of the ancient forms of party strife and because it has become meaningless. Like the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), some years ago I supported the principle of lowering the voting age for the very simple reason that I felt that young people, instead of being compelled, because of a lack of another means of expressing their views, to indulge in violence and protest should be integrated into the parliamentary system, should have the opportunity to convince fellow citizens that their views were right, should be able to elect members to the Parliament and should be able to bring about by parliamentary means the reforms they desired. The reason, as I say, was perfectly plain and simple, and for years I have supported this move.
I want to make only one point in the 10 minutes that are permitted to me. When a young person votes at the age of 18 he does not at that point of time suddenly become armed with all the wisdom, knowledge, and perhaps, prejudices, of an older voter. He does not, as it were, as in the myth, spring fully armed out of the head of Zeus. He has obviously acquired some of that knowledge, some of that wisdom and some of those prejudices before he attained the age of 18. It is with this small but important point that I wish to deal in the short time permitted to me. Already we have had reference from the honourable member for Bowman, and I think from one other speaker, to the fact that the Leader of the Australian Country Party a short time ago indicated that he felt his Party should establish branches in high schools, universities and so forth. There was a statement two or three months before that from the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party to this effect: Radical teachers were now being placed in positions where they could brainwash impressionable children. Of course we all remember the period prior to and during World War II when the Germans had established their Jugend or youth movement, and the Russians then had in being and still have in being their Konsomol or youth movement. This is obviously a sensitive area, that is, an area in which young people can be influenced in their political attitudes, and indeed their whole attitude to society. I think it was Saint Ignatius of Loyola who expressed the view that if he, representing the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, had a child from the age of 7 he could bend him in the direction in which he would go for the rest of his life. So this is a sensitive area, and it is the area with which in a brief time I wish to deal.
There is some guidance on this matter from the controversy that arose in Britain a short time ago when the vote for young people of 18, 19 and 20 was introduced in that country. At that stage Professor Crick of Birkbeck College, part of the University of London, brought together a conference of 600 teachers of . politics, civics and constitutional subjects to deal with the teaching of young people who would very shortly, in a year or two afterwards, have the vote. Subsequently he brought together under his chairmanship representatives of the British political parties. In short the matter was investigated in a systematic fashion. Quite obviously the parties interested in this matter are the schools themselves, the teachers of these subjects in the schools and, I would say, the government authorities themselves. Of course they also introduced the idea of a watchdog to see that the balance was properly held, that there was not indoctrination simply one way or the other way. They were able to call upon the Hansard Society to perform this most important function and likewise the teachers whom Professor Crick had brought together.
These are the parties involved, and I suggest that as the 18-year-old vote is now imminent the Australian Education Council, that is to say the body of Federal and State Ministers for Education, should give earnest consideration to it, that the leaders of the political parties should be involved in this, and the authorities that conduct the schools, whether they be State education authorities or authorities governing private schools; and, of course, the teachers themselves are concerned with the integration into their courses on government of politicians with due balance being preserved. Where you find the watchdog I am not sure, but I am quite certain that this is what is now requied as a preliminary to this widening of the franchise. I am glad to see that the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) is in the House at this time, as indeed I would expect him to be because I know his tremendous interest in all matters that affect directly or indirectly his portfolio.
I would hope that when the parties whom I have enumerated are brought together and have given consideration to this matter a report might be laid on the table of this House so that all might see the result of their deliberations and their proposals. I would further hope that from time to time, perhaps on a regular basis annually, the body that is set up to supervise this operation - that is, the teaching of government, politics, call it what you like, to children in the 2 or 3 years preceding age 18 in the schools - will report to this Parliament. I have been given precisely 10 minutes to say a few words. They have had to be a few words. I finish where I began by saying that this principle has had my support for a number of years. I throw back in the face of the honourable member for Bowman his charge of hypocrisy and I believe that as a consequence of this development the Ministers for Education should get together along the lines that I have suggested.
– This, of course, is a very interesting debate. It has been very interesting to listen to albeit that it seems that all members in this House are now agreed that votes for 18-year-olds are a proposition that should be put into effect. Yet not so very long ago, in fact I think somewhat less than a year ago, those who are now in Opposition were sitting on the Government side of the House and opposing the proposition that 18-year-olds should have votes just as vehemently as they are now sup porting it. I am just wondering what has brought about the change of mind. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner), jogged my memory somewhat when he objected to the honourable member for Bowan (Mr Keogh) using the word ‘hypocricy’. He made the comment that this is one word that should be struck from the parliamentary vocabulary. I would remind the honourable member for Bradfield and all those who object to the word being used - quite frankly I do not object to its being used, and if it applies to me I think it should be used against me - that it is in biblical in origin. Whilst my own vocabulary might not be as great as that of William Shakespeare I have searched the dictionaries and I cannot find another single word that describes the situation so well. It seems to me that it connotes that those who argue consistently upon a point, on a change of wind and for no other reason can argue just as consistently against it. I can find no other word, and if the honourable member for Bradfield could enlighten me I would be pleased to have that enlightenment.
It seems to me from all of the debate I have heard in the short time I have been in this House around this whole question of the franchise for people that I have hot yet heard a’ very sound argument why : 18-year-old people in this country should not have the right to vote. Arguments were put forward by the former Minister for the Interior, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt). I well remember that very strongly and very vehemently he poured out from the table a lot of diatribe about the Commonwealth Government not having the right to force 18- year-olds into doing things. It is significant that the honourable member was a member of the government which forced young men against their will to go to Vietnam to die or be maimed. When it came to a situation where he and those who advise him politically through his Party felt that a franchise given to 18-year-olds could place his Party’s right to rule at risk, it was a very bad thing to force people to do things. But it has already been brought out in this debate - and if it had not it should be - that the mere fact that people are now being given the right to enrol is not forcing anybody to do anything. Of course, after they have enrolled, they must vote. But giving them the right to enrol does not force them to do anything. They may choose to enrol or not to enrol .and those who wish to enrol should have that right.
The previous Government, , which is now sitting in Opposition, obviously has had a change of heart because the last words of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) were: ‘We support the Bill’. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition commented that when we were in Opposition we encouraged the 18-year-olds to come forward and oppose what he called ‘the system’. Now the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is saying that we are asking the 18-year-olds to support the system, rather than oppose it. Of course, the point that has escaped the honourable member’s mind is that there has been a change of administration and we know that it will be an administration that will be fair and equitable to alt in our community. It will not be the discriminatory sort of system which operated under the previous Government - a discriminatory administration that was selective in its choice of favours.
The honourable member referred to the young people supporting the Liberal Party concept of free enterprise. He said that youth supports free enterprise in the concept of individuality. I agree with that. But I would invite the honourable member, or for that matter, any honourable member opposite, to show me where in our society today there exists free enterprise. If they can show me that, under the Liberal-Country Party Government, there was no collusion amongst sellers, that the market place operated properly and that there was respect for individuals, to use the colloquialism, I will go he. The arguments put forward by the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) were incongruous in view of arguments that he elaborated on last year. He said there had been no clamour from the 18-year-olds to be given the vote. He said that people in South Australia who had the right to enrol had not exactly rushed forward to enrol. That statement only substantiates the point I have already made: It is a voluntary proposition, as to whether one enrols. Those who do want to enrol can enrol and those who do not are not required to do so.
Honourable members opposite always stand as the great champions of the individual, yet for many years they denied 18-year-olds the right to enrol. The Australian Labor Party says: ‘Give the individual the right to enrol’. So, we are the champions of the individual rather than this great, amorphous association called the Liberal-Country Party coalition. I also believe that one of the reasons why the Liberal Party maintained the position that it did in the past is because the councils of the Liberal Party are made up of elderly gentlemen and dear old ladies who sit around and deliberate on all matters. This is one of the reasons why the Liberal Party is now in opposition. These people could see a threat to their position if 18-year-olds were in fact able to come forward and cast their votes as to who should be governing this country. The question could be posed: Does the Liberal Party fear young people? Is that why it has opposed giving the vote to 18-year-olds in the past? I believe that the Liberal Party does fear young people.
There has been talk of politics being introduced into high schools. If people want to join a political party my party - the great and marvellous Australian Labor Party - makes membership open to those who are 16 years of age and over. So, we do hot worry about young people joining political parties and entering into political discussions, whether it be in their high schools, universities or anywhere else. We always hear from the conservatives in our community that politics should not enter into high schools or local councils. I have even heard a member in this House say that politics should not be discussed in this chamber. I ask you - where do we go from there? Who should speak about politics? Should politicians discuss politics with politicians or, in fact, are politics what people are all about and ire people what politics are all about? Let us get rid of the old shibboleth that politics are something that should never be discussed in public. In my view and in the view of my colleagues in the Australian Labor Party it is the very place that politics should be discussed. It is the very subject that should occupy the minds of the people because all the decisions that affect their lives are political decisions taken by political parties in a place of politics such as this. If we are going to stifle this sort of discussion among the people, this country of ours will have a very sorry future.
It is quite incredible to listen to debates such as this and realise that the Opposition does not oppose the Bill and yet puts up 13 speakers to debate it
– To agree with you.
– Yes, that is correct; to agree with it. It seems to me that there is only one reason for this action and that is to take up the time of the House when it could well be used on matters of far more significance to the people of Australia. As 1 have said, one year ago, the gentlemen who were sitting on the government side of the House - perhaps they were not all the same gentlemen who now sit in opposition - spoke on this subject and some of them were quite vehement in their opposition to it. I am wondering what is the reason for their change in attitude. 1 am wondering whether those who now come forward from the Opposition side to support this measure did not have the opportunity to speak so strongly in their party room when they were in government. So, they can now come out as heroes and say: ‘We support giving the vote to 18-year-olds and we always have. We would have supported it 5 years ago’. If they supported it 5 years ago, why did they not have the strength to convince their Government that that decision should have been taken. But they did not do that; they just like to come into this House to grandstand on the issue. What sort of criteria are used to determine the vexed question of adulthood? What marvellous wisdom descends upon somebody who reaches the age of 21 years?
– Or of 18 years.
– Of course, the same thing could be said about those who reach 18 years of age. What are the criteria? What is the yardstick? How do we determine that somebody suddenly becomes wise? if we care to go back through history we find that at different times people in differing situations and countries were regarded quite differently to the way we regard people today. For example, the Pharaohs of Egypt and the Caesars of ancient Rome regarded people as being of adulthood when they attained the age of 14. Perhaps that had something to do with physical rather than mental maturity but 1 am not prepared to enter into a debate on that; I just point out the facts. There has been argument not over the last 5 years but over many centuries - perhaps 20 or more centuries - as to what was the appropriate age for people to be given the right to enter into the determination of the affairs of their country.
The honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) quoted from a committee report and claimed that the argument that because a man was old enough to fight and die for his country, he should automatically gain the right to vote was fallacious. I suppose some of these arguments are hackneyed. But it is still an historical fact that, throughout the centuries, men and women who were eligible to serve their country in a military capacity were also regarded as being adult enough to do many other things in the community. I hark back to my earlier statement about the Pharaohs of Egypt and the Caesars of Rome. The legionnaires of Rome were, on average, 14 to 18 years of age. These were the men of that time who were given the right to engage in taking some decisions for their countries, apart from the decision to kill.
– They used to work in coal mines.
– The honourable member is a farmer. I have seen people much younger than that working on farms. If he and his conservative companions were in government and had their way and we were not in opposition to their thoughts, they would still have children working in the coal mines. That is how enlightened those conservative troglodytes opposite are. Despite the education system evolved by the backward Liberal Party, the reactionary Country Party and the nonentity called the Democratic Labor Party, people today are far more advanced in their thinking than the previous Government ever was. People have emerged from the jungle and the mire into which they were forced. They have emerged with greater vigour, greater understanding and greater inquisitiveness than their predecessors. They are better equipped and should be allowed to develop to the maximum. These things are all relative.
I support the proposition that 18-year-olds should be enabled to vote. If it were suggested that the voting age should be 14 years I probably would agree with that, because 1 do not know that there is any proper yardstick by which to determine at which age people should have the vote. 1 would not give some members sitting opposite a vote even if they were 75 years of age because they just do not have the mental capacity to sort things out.
– Do not talk about the honourable member for Bennelong like that.
– I was not speaking about the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer). If people are given the right to vote it is obligatory on the whole system to give them the further right to discuss the matters upon which they vote. The conservative members sitting on the Opposition benches almost certainly have never visited a high school in their electorates. If they have, then I would invite them to visit some of the high schools in my electorate and, incidentally, some of the Catholic colleges in my electorate.
– That would be the place to take them.
– My word it would be; they need some salvation. Believe me, if they want to hear enlightened political debate it is of no use their sitting in this place listening to themselves talk. Of course, they will learn a lot from listening to Government supporters. 1 frequently visit high schools and Catholic secondary colleges in my electorate. If members opposite did likewise they would have to face an inquisition by the young people. It is easy for them to sit in this House and to scoff and laugh, but people in the community regard these matters seriously. I would suggest that the 16 to 18-year-olds in our secondary schools could come into this House and take on the whole Opposition and do it like a dinner. Young people have a great capacity to learn and to understand. They take an interest in what is going on around them. This was made manifest in the results of the last Federal election. The community at large no longer is prepared to be persuaded by the hollow, archaic arguments that are constantly presented by the Opposition and found to be fallacious. This is exactly why members opposite are in Opposition.
We are debating whether 18-year-olds should be entitled to vote. We are not talking about anyone gaining any political advantage from this proposal. If we were I could name several people in my electorate who, for a variety of reasons, I should like to disfranchise. They are the people who did not have the wisdom to vote for me but who, for some misguided reason, voted for my opponents. There were not many of them. This matter should not be resolved on the basis of whether there will be a political advantage to the Australian Labor Party or to the other insignificant political parties in Australia but rather on the basis of whether it is fair, just and equitable that Australians should have the right to engage in every aspect of their social and political lives. The only way in which this can be determined is to remove this archaic, mandatory qualification of 21 years. This Bill represents a breakthrough. It seems that the age will be reduced to 18. This brings me to a small point. My son did not have the opportunity to vote in the last Federal election because he turned 21 after the rolls had closed. He is looking forward to having his first vote in the Victorian State election this year. This will mean the end of the Liberal regime in Victoria. Also my daughter, who is already 18 years of age, looks like getting her first vote.
– That is 2 votes you will have next time.
– That is so. With 2 stalwarts like my son and daughter voting, I serve notice on the Liberal Party in Victoria that it has something to worry about. However my son is upset that he does not enjoy a 3-year advantage over his sister. I have persuaded him to my point of view that 18-year- olds should have the right to vote. This legislation represents a breakthrough and we will work down the line.
– How far down the line?
– We might start from the middle and work outwards. While we are encouraging the young people to be franchised we might have to do something about discouraging the elderly, especially some of the elderly, to be disfranchised. After listening to this debate I put it to the House that there is not much substance in what members of the Opposition have said. I am led to believe that the Bill will be carried unanimously and that Australia will be the fifty-fourth country, if the statistics are correct, to give to 18, 19 and 20-year olds the right to have some say in the determination of their future.
– The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) introduced a deal of humour into this debate with his description of various political parties - the great and marvellous Australian Labor Party, for instance. On the other hand his description of the Democratic Labor Party as a nonentity, I am sure, will go down fairly well across Australia. Many people will rejoice in that description. Each man is entitled to his own opinion. I am certain that times are changing, and have changed since December I might add. Government supporters should get their ears to the ground a bit more before they shoot off their mouths about the great success they had at the last election. Good luck to them, but I advise them to keep listening. I am not apologising for supporting this Bill. I am not whining about it. A similar proposal was passed in the Northern Territory Legislative Council a couple of years ago by my own Party.
I cannot agree with the honourable member for Burke in insisting that the voting age should be reduced progressively down to 17, 16 - I do not know how young his family is - 15, 14, 13 or 10 years. Has the Government referred this matter to the Northern Territory Legislative Council or to the people of the Northern Territory? 1 repeat, a similar proposal was passed by the Legislative Council. Government supporters claim to be the great sponsors of freedom for all men, but the Northern Territory represents one-sixth of Australia and several people live in it. Consideration should be given to their views. Various other pieces of legislation are proposed for introduction to this House, including a Bill to provide for abortion on demand. Will this be referred to the Northern Territory Legislative Council or the people of the Northern Territory or will it be passed by a centralist government and pushed on to them whether or not they want it? That is a contentious issue. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is sitting at the table, will find that many of his own supporters would not support that proposal. 1 think that the Northern Territory is being insulted by the Government in this matter. The Northern Territory Legislative Council has passed also a proposal for the abolition of capital punishment. The Government disregards that entirely and says: ‘We will put the Bill through’. No government in the last 25 years has levelled such an insult at the Northern Territory Legislative Council. No democratic government should do this sort of thing. It should consider the wishes of the people of the Northern Territory. The Government was elected on a promise to give the Legislative Council greater autonomy so that the people could have more say in their own affairs but the Government is legislating in this House without any reference to the Northern Territory Legislative Council. Not only that, but also it has taken from the Northern Territory responsibility for the administration of the police, the Survey Branch of the Lands Department, the Abor iginal affairs authority and the body responsible for community affairs. Where does the responsibility for these services now lie? They are now administered from Canberra. This is another instance of this great, marvellous Australian Labor Party which obviously does not give one flick of the fingers for the Northern Territory. The Australian Labor Party is not concerned about the Territory because it is 2,000 or 3,000 miles from Melbourne and Sydney, or wherever the Labor members come from or get their votes in the outer suburbs of the big cities.
Or Jenkins - Are you afraid of the 18-year olds?
– No, I am certainly not afraid of the 18-year olds. In fact, I will stand here and say that they would have supported me in preference to the Australian Labor Party candidate in the last election. This is because I can identify myself with people of that age.
– Resign and give it a chance after the legislation is passed.
– The running commentary is not assisting me in making this speech. I turn to another aspect of the legislation. The Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) is not in the chamber but I know that he was displaying an interest in these matters and will hear of my remarks, as also will the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant). The advice circulated to honourable members shows that 4,362 persons in the Northern Territory are in the 18 to 20 years age group. The Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) cited the figure as 6,000. I do not know whether his figures are more up to date than those supplied to honourable members. Nevertheless, the informal vote at the last election, despite a termendous effort on behalf of the electoral officers concerned, was 5 per cent. The electoral officers - Mr Lee and the men in that Department - are to be congratulated for the effort they made to educate people, mainly Aborigines, to be able to vote with preference cards listing 6 or 7 candidates. The result of the election shows that they followed the cards quite accurately. As there was a 5 per cent or greater informal vote at the last election, I ask the Ministers responsible for this matter to start now to teach not only Aborigines but also young men and women down to the age of 18, or as the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) suggested, down to the age of 14 years. The teaching should start now because I know that many of these young people really do not understand the preference system. It is all very well to give them a vote, but the essential thing is to teach them what to do with it and how they can best help their own interests, whether this is to be achieved by voting for the Australian Labor Party or the Country Party.
– It will be first past the post.
– I think that the result would be the same. That is my advice to the Minister responsible for the passage of this legislation. I have no objection to the measure and I am not afraid of it. It was mooted in the Northern Territory 2 or 3 years ago. My message to the Minister is that the people who have to vote should be educated in the exercise of their rights.
– As I have listened to speakers on the other side of the House I have found myself at a loss to understand the great mystery surrounding the question of lowering of the voting age. It appears to me that these honourable members all support voting for 18-year-olds and over. Yet these same honourable members were in a government which left office only 3 months ago and that government not only failed to lower the voting age but consistently refused to legislate to bring about this reform. If we are to accept the word of those Opposition members that they supported this reform while they were in Government, it appears that they had the numbers in the party room to achieve this reform but were unable to count heads. What a golden opportunity these bright men of the Liberal Party missed. They were so closely knit as members of a government that they were unable to ascertain who their friends were and where support for change would come from. Today, I suggest, these Opposition members have been trying to pull the legs of the people of Australia. They will not succeed in hoodwinking the electorate and fooling the youth of this nation. 1 have great admiration for young people and I respect their good judgment.
I am particularly fond of the young people of the Lilley electorate. I say this because prior to the 1972 Federal election a number of schools in the electorate conducted mock elections and on each occasion the Australian Labor Party was victorious. This indicates the intelligence of the youth in the Lilley electorate, the good judgment that they showed and how they were able to anticipate the final outcome of the election. I suggest that this indicates that these young people are interested in political affairs and keep themselves informed.
Since the election I have visited many schools in the area at the invitation of the principals and have found that students of today are interested in the future of Australia. They are interested in government and they are keen to learn how government operates. No matter what excuses are made by the honourable members opposite for not lowering the voting age, no matter how much they say and to what extent they tell the people of Australia that they have supported this measure, the cold hard facts are that in government they failed the youth of Australia. They failed it in more ways than one.
The performance of the past LiberalCountry Party governments has shown not only that they were out of tune with youth but also that they are out of touch with people generally, out of touch with public opinion and out of touch with current trends. I am very much aware that the young people of the nation have an essential contribution to make which I feel will be to our benefit as well as to theirs. I am proud to support a government which is prepared to provide an opportunity for youth to have a say in the affairs of Australia. I firmly believe that the whole of the community has the right to determine the kind of future it wants.
Looking to the future 1 believe that we should understand the needs, the desires, the ambitions and the hopes of young people. During the last election campaign in my electorate the people in that area who worked on my behalf and on behalf of the Australian Labor Party were predominantly young people who were aware of what was occurring in this great nation of ours and were clamouring for change. We hear suggestions that young people at 18 might not be old enough to vote because they are not aware of what is required, but 1 say that the attitude of the majority of youth today puts the lie to that sort of suggestion. I have sufficient faith in the youth of Australia to believe that it will protect the nation, its people, its environment and its future much more effectively than have conservative governments over the past 23 years.
Youth has shown through its actions that it is concerned about the environment and its protection and is prepared to act against pollution of our waters and the atmosphere, lt is genuinely concerned about peace in the world and it is deeply interested in the survival of this planet and its people. I suggest to the House that in no era has youth done more to bring these matters to the notice of the world generally than it has during the past few years. I suggest that my confidence in youth is not misplaced when I say that youth of the 1970s and beyond will not be party to subjecting the aged, the sick, the invalid, and the widowed to conditions of poverty as 23 years of conservative government has done.
Much lip service has been given to the matter of lowering the voting age to 18 years. However, with the exception of Western Australia, only Labor governments have taken the initiative and acted to introduce the necessary legislation to bring about this reform. We have heard honourable members opposite today say that they support this measure. 1 think that everyone in Australia is aware that they had ample opportunity to do something about it. The disqualification of voters because of age by conservatives was consistent with their attitude to adult franchise and falls into a category similar to their opposition to the principle of one vote one value. I believe and anticipate that that principle will be attacked later during a debate in this House. Change is usually opposed by conservatives, but the sweet winds of change are already wafting over this continent and Australians are happily accepting them.
Perhaps the Opposition is well aware that the young people of today are more politically aware than they were in the past. Looking in retrospect at the opposition to electoral reform - giving the vote to the young people of Australia - and listening to the debate that has taken place today, it appears to me that the defeat of the then Western Australian Government - not a Labor government - after lowering the voting age brought fear of defeat to the Liberal-Country Party governments in other States and in the Federal sphere. They opposed this change and would do nothing about it because they could see that young people supported the Australian Labor Party in Western Australia. That might be the reason that the previous Commonwealth Government was hesitant to move and take action to bring about this just reform.
Since my election I have been inundated with requests from schools and from students seeking information about political activities. Everyone should realise that young Australians are interested in government. They want the correct answers. They will not fall for the fear propaganda with which successive anti-Labor governments held office for so long. No doubt the opponents of Labor trembled upon seeing the result of last Saturday’s election in South Australia in which the Dunstan Australian Labor Party Government was overwhelmingly returned to office. I would like to put on record my congratulations to Don Dunstan and his team for the wonderful victory in South Australia, a State in which a Labor government has given youth the opportunity to express a vote, and where the intelligent youth of Australia has been treated in a similar way to that handed out by other progressive countries. I am confident that when the Victorian election is held in the near future Clyde Holding and his team will have a similar success.
Everyone should accept the fact - this is finally being accepted by the other side of the House - that the people of Australia are predominantly young. They outnumber older people, that is, people of the age of the majority of honourable members opposite. They have a role to play in the community and a right to be heard. I congratulate the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) for his swift action in keeping Labor’s promise to give Australian youth a fair go. The step being taken by the Government to lower the voting age is commendable.
I was somewhat taken aback by what was said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) today in a debate which is dealing with what we believe to be a social reform. It appears from what has been said by honourable members opposite that the Opposition now accepts the lowering of the voting age. But even in a debate of this nature reference had to be made about Left wing activity. It was implied that because we want to lower the voting age we want to impress or brainwash young people into following a leftist philosophy. About 18 months ago the ‘Readers Digest’ published an article by John D. Rockefeller III who is the eldest of the 5 Rockefeller brothers. Those of us who have some knowledge of America and its history would not suggest that John D. Rockefeller III is a leftist or a socialist. 1 heard the
Deputy Leader of the Opposition refer to protest by youth. Let rae quote very briefly from what was written by John D. Rockefeller III. He said:
For some time I have been embarked on an adventure of trying to understand the world of the young - and particularly today’s student activists. I found that I have a chronological problem, being somewhat past the age of 30, and an image problem, being considerably more square than groovy. But 1 do feel that we communicated. When you show you are really interested in them, young people will not only talk - they will also listen.
He went on to say:
But the concept of law and order is meaningless without justice. We must re-examine our assumptions - and our laws. To do so, we must open channels of communication. If we do not - if we think the only answer is to suppress dissent - then the responsibility for violence will hang as heavily on us as it does on those who protest.
This was not written by a socialist, a leftist or an activist. Finally he said:
In my judgment, the best choice is simply to be responsive - to trust our young people, to listen to them, to understand them, to let them know that we care deeply. Instead of worrying about how to suppress the youth revolution, we of the older generation should be worrying about how to sustain it. The key to sustaining their idealism is more direct and effective action on the problems about which young people are concerned: the problems of the cities, of the environment, of racial injustice, of irrelevant and outmoded teachings, of overpopulation, of poverty, of war. We must take as seriously as do the young the great values we have inherited. We must be as dedicated as they in fighting injustices. We must have a sense of responsibility, individually and collectively, for resolving the massive problems of society.
A unique opportunity is before us to combine our age, experience and affluence with the energy and social consciousness of the young. Working together, almost anything is possible.
I repeat that I was somewhat taken aback to hear in a debate of this nature reference made to the irresponsibility of youth of Australia. I say again that I have every confidence in the youth of this country. I commend this Bill and trust it will receive the support of the House (Quorum formed).
– We support the Bill. We support the lowering of the age of franchise and candidature to 18 years. There has been a lot of discussion about the capacity of younger people to handle adult responsibilities. Clearly that capacity has grown in relation to political knowledge. I believe they can adequately handle the political responsibility. There has been considerable support for this reform within the Liberal Party for some time. Mr McMahon, the former Prime
Minister, announced prior to the election that we were moving quickly towards this step. I made it quite clear during that period that I strongly supported the measure and expected it to operate before the next Federal election. My colleague, the Premier of Victoria, Mr Hamer, has introduced similar legislation and 18-year-olds will be voting in the next Victorian State election.
The granting of the vote to 18-year-olds has always been seen to have implications over a wide range of public, legal and traditional attitudes, that is, the whole age of majority question. It was the wish of many people that a detailed and careful analysis be first carried out that has prevented the lowering of the age limit being adopted before now. Arrival at adulthood is a most significant point in the developing lives of young men and women. In most cases it can have fundamental consequences on the person’s family and social relationships. Many parents will regret its arrival. Others who have established sound and understanding communication with their sons and daughters, will see in it the blossoming of independence and character of their children. There are complexities and constitutional difficulties in the definition of adulthood about which the complex modern society is concerned. Some of the questions of adulthood by which the relations of unconnected persons are affected are: the age of legal responsibility for con.tractural and proprietary rights; the question of domicile and citizenship; the age at which certain social freedoms are permitted; the age at which marriage is permitted without parental consent; the age of responsibility in industrial matters; and age limitations in respect of financial legislation.
Throughout history it is clear that individuals - simply because they are individuals - have acquired de facto adulthood at different ages. There can be no doubt that attitudes to legal adulthood have changed sharply over the last decade. Perhaps I might add, for those who see the changes with regret or sadness, that nothing in the legal change removes a young man or woman from the influence and guidance of parents, if it is capable of being exercised through the relations of trust and reliance that have already been built. Nor should it. It merely acknowledges that young people are equipped today at an earlier age than in the past. I raise these matters not necessarily to support the contention that they all ought to be immediately reviewed or the age limitations reduced. No doubt, there are very good reasons which can be argued why the present law in respect to a number of them should remain. I do mention them as specifics which need to be taken into account in our general consideration of adulthood. The voting issue can stand alone and the franchise ought not be withheld while other social and quasilegal debate goes on in other areas.
The rapidity with which our education system has grown to bring a vastly expanded educative level to young Australians has made it possible for us to entrust the vote to 18- year-olds. It has made them better-informed, better able to judge, more confident in their judgments, more critical in their appraisals, and on more mature terms with society around them. (Quorum formed)
The honourable member for Curtin sought to take a point of order during the ringing of the bells following attention being directed to the state of the House. I now ask the honourable member to state his point of order.
– I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, whether it is in order for the Deputy Government Whip to call attention to the state of the House in the course of the speech by the Leader of the Opposition when it is the duty of the Government to maintain numbers in the House.
-I would point out to the honourable member - J ask honourable members who are seeking to interject to be quiet while I am addressing the House - that it is the duty of honourable members in the House to maintain a quorum. Any honourable member at any time has a right to draw attention to the state of the House if he so desires. If he draws attention to the state of the House and a quorum is present, he will be dealt with by the Chair.
– That was a deliberate Government tactic.
-Order! The honourable member will not rise to speak without being called. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– Before 1 was interrupted I was dealing with the youth of this country. I had said that the educative process has made them better informed, better able to judge, more confident in their judgments, more critical in their appraisals and on more mature terms with society around them. 1 am quite unwilling to conclude that al) people between 18 and 21 years are irresponsible simply because some are, any more than I would apply that logic to the older members of the community. I believe that this measure will inject more enthusiasm into Australian public life and put further pressure, on us to examine critically our values and attitudes to ascertain whether they answer contemporary needs and aspirations.
People often speak of a generation gap. There is an explanation for this. Older generations have value systems based on a pursuit of material objectives conditioned by a memory of when they were so difficult to achieve. Most of these material objectives are now won and are taken for granted by a younger generation. Consequently values shift towards seeking higher levels of achievement. Perhaps a clear example of this is the emphasis on security of a person who was affected by the depression. Older people urge security on their children when they are choosing a career. Young Australians, however, with their proper optimism are more adventurous, valuing security less highly, and take a more willing attitude towards risks which enterprise entails. This is an appropriate point for me to say that the present gallup polls which show a majority of young people leaning to the Labor Party, is a temporary aberration which will disappear as they find the doctrine of socialism is neither modern nor a natural companion for young vigour and confidence which they have.
Young people, because of the rapid pace of social change, detect a gap between what are their own real needs and the solutions which are offered by adult society. They see many aspects of our life and institutions which were developed in the past to cope with needs of the past. They see them now as irrelevant to their own problems. These practices and social conventions of the past do not have relevance to their developing attitudes and philosophical positions. Youth has always generated the question of values and individual personal reappraisal of past truths which may have become for them mere myths and which have been thrust upon them.
There is no question that much of the momentum of the new idealism which we see around us today results from the evolution of new values and high objectives of young people. We can see it in the strong participation of youth in what are regarded as the concern’ or the ‘life quality’ issues in our society, for example, the elimination of poverty, concern for those persons unable to adjust to a complex society, the socially handicapped, the preservation of our environment, the generation of better cultural and educational facilities, and interest in the wellbeing of people in other countries and aid for them. By this means they have made an immensely valuable contribution to Australian community life and it is a source of strength that the idealism of youth is being expressed in such creative and positive directions. Our institutions and entrenched values ought constantly to be challenged, as well as defended, and out of the polemics of this challenge and defence should emerge a new consensus of what is valuable, real and important to our community interests. Providing young people with the vote adds to the reforming influences in our community. It makes the pace hotter for the community to adjust to, but those who are seeking to build a better society will welcome the momentum.
I have referred briefly to the effect on voting patterns in party political terms. I believe the Liberal Party has nothing to fear by lowering the voting age. Studies have shown that the first votes of a young voter are more volatile, reflecting the fact that young people have not settled their political allegiances. Further, that as people become older their voting pattern solidifies; the voting patterns of young people reflect pretty well in party political terms the overall pattern of voting in the community. I believe we will be able to demonstrate to young people the superiority and greater relevance to their needs and interests in the philosophy of the Liberal Party. We are not bound by a doctrinaire and reactionary socialism which is itself an anachronism. Socialism is a philosophy founded quite reasonably by oppressed classes in another century, modified certainly to some extent. But still the manifestation of socialism in the Australian Parliament is one where the members of the Australian Labor Party are dominated on the admission of its own leader, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), by the policy directives of an outside body. Socialism does not meet the challenges of the new age and exacerbates those forces of de-personalisation with which modern societies have to contend. Socialism is predicated on a rigid science of human behaviour.
It is perfectly clear that the attitude of the members of the Government Party is that they believe they can always predict human behaviour. They most certainly cannot. They cannot even predict the behaviour of those people whom they acknowledge to be their political masters. They acknowledge in this Parliament that they have to wait until the July Conference before they know what their decision will be about such a fundamental matter as the stationing in Singapore of Australian troops at the invitation of that country. Socialism does have this predication to a rigid science of human behaviour which is quite unacceptable to the young people of Australia who know that they cannot be predicted because they are individuals who want to find their own enterprise, who want to find the rewards for their own actions and their activities and who want to express their views fearlessly and without favour. Socialism is a doctrine which by its very nature must be contrary to the free-wheeling aspirations of youth in Australia.
The Liberal Party, on the other hand, will seek new ways in changing circumstances to give fuller meaning to the aspirataions of individuals throughout the entire community, and to youth in particular. We will provide an outlet for the vigour and idealism of youth. We will encourage their individuality, their enterprise, their personal dignity and their freedom of expression. Young people will always provide political parties with a challenge, but it is a challenge that we as a Party will meet and in the process the quality of our community will be enriched. I support the Bill.
– I wish to speak briefly to this measure. It does have extremely important implications for education. As we are now enacting the adulthood of 18-year-olds and 19-year-olds it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain that we should continue the present structure of high schools where we attempt to subject young people, who are legally adults, to the disciplines required of 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds. For this reason there is a growing tendency in education for the development of secondary colleges which takes the classes of the last 2 years of high school out of the traditional high school and into separate institutions - secondary colleges - and gives them a broad range of curricula studies which approximate to studies in universities or colleges of advanced education or institutes of technology. I believe that this is an absolutely necessary educational development. Without this development there is a considerable alienation of the 18-year-olds and the 19-year-olds from the schools which exist today and from the sort of disciplines which are imposed on them today. Surveys have revealed this alienation. This alienation does not represent a foolish protest movement. It is a demand by young people to be treated as adults.
It is one of the taboos in education that you must not speak about dogmatic and polemical theology. This is the traditional secularisation of education. In surveys made through Australian cities the young people in the final years of high school wish to be able to discuss anything from Zen Buddhism to any of the Christian faiths and to have the sort of freedoms that would exist in a university. I believe that this freedom is essential. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) spoke about the need for political education in schools and somebody satirised him by saying that in the near future we will be hearing children chanting: ‘Subsidies for dairy farmers, subsidies for dairy farmers’. But I think that is a caricature of what the Leader of the Country Party meant. I certainly believe that in the curricula for young people - young adults who are being given their majority politically by this legislation - there needs to be a study of Australian government and the Australian Constitution. Any of us who campaigned on referenda know that a great many of their elders have not got a prayer about either the State constitution which governs them, the city constitution or the national one.
– We have in New South Wales.
– When campaigning in New South Wales, from which the honourable member comes, I asked people in meetings how they had voted at the last Legislative Council elections in that State. About fourfifths of the people concerned thought they had voted, but of course not a soul in New South Wales has a vote for the upper House. So there are people who are interested enough to come to political meetings who have no idea of the constitution of their State. And this applies also to the constituting city government throughout Australia; in some of our States most of the residents have no vote and some of the residents have 8 votes. This politi cal chicanery is becoming increasingly incredible to young people and the political parties which maintain that structure of local government are also becoming increasingly incredible to young people.- I agree strongly with the Leader of the Country Party about the need for political education if this is what he means. It would not necessarily be partisan education. It means simply that there is a sheer need for information about the nature of government, the structure of government in this country and, I would add, the main philosophies of the contending political parties. I believe that, as Disraeli once said, we have to be prepared to educate our masters.
When the franchise was greatly extended in Britain, the Education Act was extended to give an education to the people being enfranchised. We need to give a greater political education to those who are being newly enfranchised, which I take to be the contention of the Leader of the Country Party. Of course, many of them are receiving this education in universities and colleges of advanced education. This Bill extends citizenship rights to those in the high schools. I hope that more and more political education will be extended to secondary colleges. The measure, while important in itself as extending the franchise, needs to be followed up with a much wider recognition of the dignity and the needs of the young people who will now become our electoral masters.
made in this debate. Some of the other contributions have been good and others not so good. It seemed to me that a number of the Government speakers were somewhat peeved to find that the Opposition was not opposing the provisions of the Bill. They belaboured that aspect with a querulous tone in their voices which made it clear that the props had been knocked from under their argument. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb), who is not now in the chamber, made an attempt at a serious contribution to the debate although in many cases he sounded like a man used to talking to Labor Party branch meetings who has not had very much opposition. He made some good points, certainly a number of controversial ones and a number of superficial ones. One or two of these were taken up firmly by my colleagues, notably the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), who disposed completely of the old argument that, if a man is old enough to fight for his country, he should have the right to vote.
The honourable member for La Trobe tried to mock the fact that the age of majority is 21 by saying it assumes that all of a sudden a man becomes full of wisdom on his 21st birthday. Of course, one can make, an emotional appeal, but surely one can make that appeal for any age. People will be able to vote at 1 8 years of age, but we do not pretend that on their 18th birthday they suddenly become endowed with wisdom. That was the phrase the honourable member used. We are making an arbitrary decision that that is a more fitting date. This is really the crux of the matter, and I think it is the crux of the controversy that has previously surrounded this whole issue. But at present the right to vote at 18 is not contested. One can use all the emotional arguments that were used in favour of allowing people of 1 8, 19 and 20 years of age to vote, in favour of allowing people to vote at 17, 16 or some other age. Many countries have determined that 18 is a fitting age. At this stage Australia feels that it is right to adopt that age. I point out that a deal of simulated emotion on the rights of young people to vote does not really carry the argument forward. An arbitrary decision has been made. It is important to recognise that because it leads us to recognise what right we are conferring.
In the few minutes available to me I want to make a distinction that has not been made in this debate. When we give someone the right to vote we are demanding, because voting is compulsory, that he makes a judgment about the parties and the candidate he feels will act best on his behalf and in the interests of the country. That is not necessarily connected directly with the intelligence of those people as it is understood by a measurement of intelligence quotients, or their education, which has improved a great deal in more recent years. Education is in some ways a circumstance which locks these people away from public affairs and the practical day to day living which can influence their capacity for making good judgments. 1 make that distinction between intelligence, education and judgment.
One can build up a case - a case has been built - that younger people today have greater maturity in a biological sense and in other senses. But equally important is the day to day learning which people obtain from being involved in making decisions in ordinary daily life and in a wider sphere than in the high school or university. We ought to remember that, in making it compulsory for all 18, 19 and 20-year-olds to vote, we must have regard for the position of the average young person and not merely that of the high school and university students who may be. affected and who are, by definition, in a different position. If I appear to be showing some hesitancy for this legislation let me argue that we have seen an evolution in thought in this country and around the world in recent years. Those considerations to which I referred very briefly are considerations which have made many people who have wished to be. fair hesitate. Those people have not been consumed by bias in favour of a political party, if on analysis such an argument can be validly maintained. But the view has been growing around the world - the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) referred to a number of countries which have voting ages of 18 and above or ages below 21 - that youth is now more able to exercise valid judgments, that it is now more active and interested in public affairs and that it is now more politically conscious.
I believe that, all things considered, it is best to act in this direction at ail future Federal elections. Although several honourable members have spoken about this in terms of reform, one should not confuse reform with change. One might want to put out such an argument in a propaganda mood, but one cannot be absolutely sure about reform. However, I believe that this is the moment for us to come down on the side on which we have come down.
I want to add to the point that has been alluded to, and that is that if we concede, agree or promote that 18, 19 and 20-year-olds have the right and the obligation to vote, thus regarding them as adults, we should not look at the matter in isolation and say that they can have the vote but nothing else. As part of the Commonwealth Parliament, we should promote changes in the law over which the Commonwealth has control to give these adults full rights, obligations, liabilities and responsibilities in matters such as the making of contracts and wills. Perhaps we should consider making the age of 18 the cut-off date and raise to 18 years the age limit in respect of certain rights such as the obtaining of a drivers licence. In other words, we should not be looking at this as a piecemeal matter and as something to pander to the demands which have been made strongly by a few in the community but we should say that 18 years of age is to be the age of adulthood and therefore 1 8-year-olds must accept all the rights of adulthood in Australia and all the responsibilities that go with being an Australian citizen.
– I do not propose to extend unduly the second reading debate. In fact, I cannot help expressing some interest in the length of time which has been devoted to the Bill already, considering that support for it appears to be unanimous. However, as we are not to have a debate in the Committee stage, I take- this opportunity to put one question to the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). It relates to the mechanics of the change, especially in Western Australia. In his second reading speech the Minister said:
Efforts will be made with the respective joint roll States to fix a common date from which the lower franchise age will operate for Commonwealth and State purposes.
I am concerned because Western Australia does not yet have a joint roll with the Commonwealth, although this should have been achieved long ago. After a recent visit to Perth the Minister issued a statement which seemed to indicate that agreement in principle had been reached with the Western Australian Government on this matter. I ask him: What stage have the negotiations to which he referred at that time reached? When can we expect a joint roll to be established? If there are any barriers in the way of an early implementation, will he try to remove them quickly in order to expedite this change? Tens of thousands of dollars are spent unnecessarily on this duplication of rolls, lt gives rise also to unnecessary and continued confusion in the electorate. I hope that he will be able to clarify the position or to indicate what he can do to expedite this highly desirable change.
– in reply - I thank honourable members for what has been a very informative debate. I only wish that all honourable members had thought the same way a little while ago. If they had we would have had a unity ticket on this vital issue. I reply, firstly, to the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson). On a recent visit to Western Australia I discussed the matter with the State Attorney-General. The Government is now considering the matter favourably, I know. In a very short time I expect to hear an announcement from that source on the acceptance and fulfilment of what he suggested was very necessary - a common roll for that State. At this stage the matter is finalised to that extent. Queensland then will be the only State not co-operating.
In answer to the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), it is true, as he stated, that a person who turns 18 on a given date is entitled to enrolment on the previous day. I have with me the findings in a court case Prowse v. Mclntyre. I understand that a person who was born on, say, 16th April 1955 becomes not under 18 years of age on 15th April 1973. In other words, a person will be entitled to enrol on the day prior to his eighteenth birthday. I know that honourable members opposite will be happy to know that they are a day older than they thought they were.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Daly) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 28 February (vide page 43), on motion by Mr Daly:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Daly) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 28 February (vide page 43). on motion by Mr Daly:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Daly) read a third time.
(No. 2) 1973
Bill presented by Mr Daly, and read a first time.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Dr J. F. Cairns) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for Services and Property speaking for a period not exceeding 45 minutes.
– Minister for Services and Property) (8.4) - 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Free elections are basic to a democratic society. But free elections by themselves are not enough - the results must reflect the will of the majority both in individual constituencies and throughout the nation. If the electoral laws do not result in the Government desired by the majority - if they are manipulated to reflect the political interest of persons or parties - it would be a denial of the very essence of democracy and a travesty of the electoral process. The Government, mindful of its mandate and responsibility, is determined to ensure that the Australian electoral laws embrace those fundamental principles of human rights and democracy in this nation. With this objective in mind, on 1st April 1971, I stated in this Parliament:
The fact of the mailer is that the Commonwealth Electoral Act is outdated and outmoded. This applies not onlyto the actual drafting of the Act. but also to many of its provisions. To amend it completely both for Senate and House of Representatives elections is a major undertaking. On the election of a Labor Government next year, immediate steps will be takento redraft the Electoral Act to meet the changing needs of our time and to bring it into line with what has been found necessary in other fields of national legislation.
And now it’s time. It’s time for action. Already I have introduced on behalf of the Government a Bill to provide for the reduction of the age for voting and candidature to 18 years. A comprehensive review of the Commonwealth Electoral Act is being undertaken at the present time and further legislation covering many other important proposals, including additional representation for the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory will be submitted to the House later this year. I am hopeful that they will be passed into law before the next elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate. A notable feature of the Liberal-Country Party Government’s term was its reluctance to debate electoral legislation. On 31st March 1971 the Country Party Minister forthe Interior introduced a Bill covering amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act but. like so much else initiated by the then Government it was never debated and withered on the vine. On 1st April 1971 I introduced an Electoral Bill on behalf of the then Opposition providing for certain important reforms. The debate was adjourned and it also disappeared with the dissolution of the Parliament. The reason was obvious. At that time the Queensland Parliament was debating proposals for the redistribution of State electorates introduced by the Country Party Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, which was described by the Liberal Party State President, Mr E. Robinson now the honourable member for McPherson, as ‘electoral injustice at Country Party insistence’ and by others as the ‘worst gerrymander the world has ever seen’. With a State election pending and Liberal and Country Party members at each other’s throats, the State Parliament in turmoil, discussion of electoral legislation had to be suppressed at all costs.
The result of the census on 30th June 1971 established that Western Australia is entitled to another seat in the House of Representatives, making a total of 10 seats. This matter was repeatedly brought to the notice of the Parliament by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who was then Leader of the Opposition, but nothing was done by the previous Government. Nor was the general practice followed of having a redistribution of Federal electoral boundaries following a census. The Western Australian situation therefore makes a redistribution not only necessary but urgent and, if the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act relating to distributions are to be changed, appropriate legislation must be submitted urgently to the Parliament. The proposals in this Bill are therefore introduced in order to allow the redistribution in Western Australia to proceed with the maximum speed, as, generally speaking, the formalities take about 28 to 31 weeks. Mr Speaker, I seek leave of the House to incorporate a timetable prepared for me by the Chief Electoral Officer.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– In accordance with the usual practice, following the taking of the census, it is proposed to proceed with a redistribution in all States to remove the malapportionment of electorates for the House of Representatives. From reports it would appear that the Country Party is fearful of what changes the Government might make to the redistribution provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act but I will relieve their anxiety by informing the House that in fact the changes will be minimal. The title of the Bill, namely ‘A Bill for an Act - Relating to the distribution of States into Electoral Divisions’ - clearly indicates its limitations. The Bill changes only sections 19 and 25 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. It is intended to retain all the other provisions of Part III (sections 15 to 25) relating to the appointment of Commissioners, displaying of maps, submissions, comments, objections, etc., the majority of which were inserted by the Liberal-Country Party Government in 1965.
We believe in open government - let me repeat that for disbelievers; we believe in open government - and it is an indication of the Government’s desire to be fair, open, just and reasonable in the important field of electoral reform and redistribution. We seek only to introduce and perpetuate, as far as possible, the principle of ‘one vote one value’ and to ensure that the result will reflect the opinion of the majority. These principles are enshrined in the platform of the Australian Labor Party and our intentions were published for all to see before the last elections.
The purpose of this Bill is to bring down legislation which will establish equality of representation as the paramount objective in redistribution of a State into electoral divisions. It is therefore proposed firstly to reduce the permissible variation from the quota specified in section 19 (1) from onefifth to one-tenth, which is a reduction from 20 per cent to 10 per cent; secondly to revise the factors in section 19 (2) to which the Distribution Commissioners are required to give due consideration by deleting the references to disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance, the density or sparsity of population of the division, and the area of the division; and, thirdly, to vary section 25 (2) (b) to provide that a redistribution may be directed whenever in one fourth of the divisions of a State the number of electors differs from the quota by one-tenth - 10 per cent in lieu of 20 per cent.
Exact equality in the number of electors per division cannot be achieved, nor is it desirable. Some degree of variation from the quota or average must be allowed. At the same time, equality of political rights is inherent in a truly democratic State and these rights must be indisputably safeguarded by the legislature. To this end we intend to amend the law so that, as far as may be practicable, the value of the vote of one citizen shall be equivalent to the vote of another. Do honourable members opposite object to that? The existing law allows Distribution Commissioners to depart from the quota of electors by 20 per cent either way and it is a simple mathematical fact that this margin, in application, allows a division to have up to 50 per cent more electors than another division in the same State.
In 1965 the Liberal-Country Party coalition amended section 19 and added certain factors to give a distinct weighting to country electorates. I refer particularly to such things as ‘the area of the division’, ‘the density and sparsity of population’ and the ‘reference to disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance’. As a result of the insertion of these factors the Commissioners were obliged to depart from the quota of electors to a much greater extent than hitherto. Some of the examples of the departure from the quota, which ranged from 16.08 per cent above to 18.65 per cent below are as follows:
Darling - 18.65 per cent below the quota.
Grayndler - 14.01 per cent above the quota.
Brisbane - 15.44 per cent above the quota.
Griffith - 16.08 per cent above the quota.
Kennedy - 17.95 per cent below the quota.
Kalgoorlie - 18.65 per cent below the quota.
Swan - 15.76 per cent above the quota.
A law which permits such variations is not good enough for this country. If equality of representation means anything at all we must not tie the Commissioners’ hands to the area of divisions and the like.
The redistribution provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act which, until 1965 - remember this, those in the Country Party who criticise - had stood virtually unchanged since Federation were altered in such a way that the principle of substantial equality of representation between electoral divisions was almost eliminated. In general, the 1965 amendments diluted the value of the vote in metropolitan areas and weighted it in favour of rural areas. Equality of voting power became a secondary consideration. The Labor Party strongly opposed the 1965 amendments. We never accepted them as providing a proper basis for redistribution, nor do we accept the proposition that the relative value of a person’s vote should depend upon his geographical location.
It is proposed to revert largely to the factors which applied prior to 1965 and restore the emphasis to the quota by repealing the references to disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance, the density of sparsity of population and the area of the division. The redistribution provisions are set out in Part III of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918- 1966. They are contained in section 15 to 25 inclusive. For the benefit of honourable members I seek leave to incorporate those provisions in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Part III of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918- 1966 (Redistribution Provisions)
The whole number of electors in each State, as nearly as can be ascertained, shall be divided by the number of Members of the House of Representatives to be chosen for the State. 18a. (1) The Distribution Commissioners shall, by advertisement published in the Gazette -
Provided that, until the next ensuing dissolution or expiration of the House of Representatives, the redistribution shall not affect the election of a new member to fill a vacancy happening in the House of Representatives; but, for the purposes of any such election the Electoral Division as theretofore existing, and the Rolls in respect of those Divisions, shall continue to have full force and effect, notwithstanding that new Rolls for the new Divisions have been prepared.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act as existing prior to the 1965 amendments -
In making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration to -
Community or diversity of interest,
Means of communication,
Existing boundaries of Division* and Subdivisions,
State Electoral boundaries: and subject thereto the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution, and the Distribution Commissioners may adopt a margin of allowance, to be used whenever necessary, but in no case shall the quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
– The factors to which the Dis.tribulion Commissioners are required to give due consideration in determining proposed divisions have been revised by deleting certain factors which the Liberal-Country Party coalition added in 1965 in order to weight the vote in favour of country electorates. The amendment to section 25 (2) (b) is a natura) flow-on from the reduction in the permissible variation from the quota.
One of the main objectives of a redistribution is to restore substantial equality of rep resentation within a State where the population movement has caused imbalance in a significant number of divisions and this Bill is designed to achieve that objective. The 1965 amendments inserted by the Country Party transferred the emphasis from the quota to the factors. The changes proposed by this Bill will give some meaning to the principle of one vote one value’ without unnecessarily restricting the Distribution Commissioners in application of the factors when effecting redistribution. Why should the law permit one division to have 69,000 electors and another division only 46,400? This may well happen under a further redistribution as the average number of electors per division is approximately 58,000.
The Australian Labor Party’s platform providing that in electorates ‘the number of people should be as nearly as practicable the same’ is not a new development. Section 24 of the Constitution requires the number of members in the several States to be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people. The Constitution thus ensures equitable representation of the people in the House of Representatives, State by State. Applying similar constitutional provisions, the United States Supreme Court has, for the last 9 years and more, declared any form of malapportionment within a State to be unconstitutional. We should not accept regional discrimination for or against particular regions within States arty more than the Constitution allows us to accept discrimination as between States. Honourable members will know of very great variations in the numbers of people in the different electoral divisions represented here. For example, Aborigines, migrants and electors with young children are not uniformly dispersed throughout the various regions.
Although the principle should be to base representation on numbers of people and not on numbers of electors there are practical problems in the way. Because everyone entitled to vote must enrol, precise details are always available of the number of electors in a particular area. On the other hand, the population of an area, other than a State as a whole, can be known only after a census has been taken. There must also be some delay between the taking of a census and the publication of the results. By way of illustration I invite honourable members to consider the position if a redistribution were to be held now on the basis of population. The only figures available would be those of the last census - in this case 30th June 1971, nearly 2 years out of date. It is not at present possible to obtain reliable estimates of population in particular areas. Electoral redistribution procedures, taking as their starting point the Statistician’s estimates of the numbers of people in particular areas, can perhaps be devised. The Government has this matter under very close examination. The present Bill, however, does not include any proposal to change the basis of representation from numbers of electors to numbers of people.
In the light of criticism by those who say that a law which has been in so long should not be changed, let me say that in 1965 the redistribution provisions of the Electoral Act, which until then had stood in some cases totally unchanged since 1902, were amended by the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government in such a way that the principle of substantial equality of representation between electoral divisions was almost eliminated. In reply to those who say this clause, that has stood so long, should not be changed I would point out to them that on 31st March 1971, the then Minister for the Interior, the Country Party member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) introduced a Bill embodying certain changes which had stood since 1902. It is clear that the Country Party believes that it is good enough for them to change certain laws after 65 years but not good enough for the Labor Party to change them after 70 years. If it subscribes to this view, it is no wonder it is still seeking to manipulate electoral boundaries.
I now turn, in more detail, to the reasons why this legislation must be passed. The Liberal-Country Party Government in 1965 made some very significant changes to section 19 of the Electoral Act - which, as I stated, had remained unchanged practically since Federation - In regard to matters to be considered in the distribution of a State into electoral Divisions. Country Party pressure on the Liberal Party was once more irresistable Thereafter Commissioners were required to give legality and respectability to a degree of rural gerrymander formerly unknown at the Commonwealth level. It made it mandatory for the Commissioners to give due consideration to the new criteria set out in the amendments including - I repeat them - the following:
In fact, when the former Leader of the Australian Country Party, the Right Honourable Sir John McEwen, spoke in the House on this important matter he left no doubt as to what was intended - that country electorates were to be loaded against city electorates. I quote Sir John McEwen, uncrowned king of the Labor Party- (Honourable members interjecting.)
– I quote Sir John McEwen, the uncrowned king of the Country Party. I say something like that now and again to see whether the Country Party is still awake. I repeat this statement from Sir John McEwen, the uncrowned king of the Country Party:
There is in this measure a provision which I say unashamedly I hope will operate to bring out more tolerance towards the permitting of a smaller number of electors in the gigantic, remote and difficult electorates.
In other words he was on his horse of gerrymander. I ask honourable members to listen to what the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review in 1959 described as a form of gerrymandering. I quote from the report:
One form of gerrymandering is the creation of electoral divisions in which there are substantial disparities in the number of enrolled voters so securing for a political party greater representation than it should have. In all its forms, the device is thoroughly subversive of the democratic process. In making possible minority governments, the majority can be deprived of the government of its choice and the way is opened for arbitrary action impairing the freedom of the individual even though that action stands condemned by the majority of people who comprise the electors of the Commonwealth.
Thus the 1965 amendments were completely contrary to the 1959 views of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. Some Liberal members rebelled against the proposal. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner), a very distinguished and able member of this Parliament whose talents have not been recognised, was one critic in the debate. He is reported in Hansard, as early as 30th October 1964, at page 2576 as saying:
I am entirely in favour of the principle of one vote one value, and, when the relevant Bill comes before this House in the next sessional period I shall support that principle with my voice and with my vote. There can never be any doubt about that.
It was one of the finest speeches he has ever made. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) on 25th May 1965 also expressed his support of the view of the honourable member for Bradfield in relation to a 10 per cent disparity from the quota.
The 1968 redistribution of electorates starkly revealed the effect of these changes and the disparities in electorate population and voting power. The provisions are in truth the complete negation of the principle of one vote one value. I quote now just a few examples of the 1968 Liberal-Country Party redistribution. Under the 1968 redistribution the New South Wales division with the smallest number of electors - not population - was Darling with 42,955. The division with the largest number was Grayndler - my own seat - with 60,205, a difference of 17,250 electors or 40.16 per cent more than Darling. Ignoring Darling, which could really be disregarded as being somewhat exceptional, the division with the smallest number of electors was Riverina with 45,637 electors. Thus, the division of Grayndler had 14,568 more electors than Riverina - that is 31.92 per cent more. Similarly, the Victorian division of Mallee had 45,218 electors and the division of Wills had 58,213- a difference of 12,995 electors or 28.74 per cent more. In Queensland, the division of Kennedy had 41,609 electors and the division of Griffith 58,868 - a difference of 17,259 electors or 41.48 per cent more.
Time does not permit me to quote further. However, I seek the leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a statement showing the enrolment as at the 1968 redistribution and the population as at the 1966 census.
-Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the House. A significant factor of the 1968 redistribution was the disparity between the electors enrolled and the population of the divisions concerned as revealed by the 1966 census. For instance, in New South Wales they varied between 45.15 per cent in the electorate of Werriwa and 65.48 per cent in Barton. There are some striking examples of electors and population disparities under the 1968 redistribution. The seat of Sydney, which is your seat, Mr Speaker, had 59,967 and a population of 126,430 compared with 45,751 electors and a population of 79,730 in the division of Lyne, a Country Party seat. In other words, Sydney had 14,216 more electors and 46,700 more people than the Lyne electorate. Similar examples of this disparity are available in every State. This is a clear indication of under-representation in city electorates.
Similar disparities are evident in respect of the 1971 census. For example, the percentage of enrolment to population as at the 30th June 1971 was 43.25 per cent in respect of Werriwa and 66.13 per cent in respect of Barton. For the information of the House I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard a statement showing the enrolment and the population as at the date of the last census, 30th June 1971, including the enrolment as at 26th January 1973.
-Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the House. The disparity has magnified. The census of 30th June 1971 shows that Werriwa had 61,658 electors and a population of 142,568, while Lyne had 48,321 electors and a population of 80,475; and Mitchell, with 64,429 electors and 127,287 population, as opposed to, say, Gwydir with 48,737 electors and a population of 91,606. In Victoria, Diamond Valley had 65,196 electors and a population of 130,039, as opposed to Wannon with electors of 48,171 and 83,606 population. In Queensland- no State was exempt - Kennedy had 44,417 electors and a population of 96,289 as compared with Petrie with 61,266 electors and 114,918 population.
In South Australia, Bonython had 60,630 electors and a population of 128,497 as opposed to Wakefield with electors 44,972 and population of 77,195. Stirling in Western Australia had 64,317 electors and a population of 129,782 as opposed to Curtin with 54,413 electors and a population of 94,491. These, stated somewhat hurriedly, are glaring examples of inequality of electorates and representation.
The Labor Party is mindful of the difficulties of representation of electorates, both city and country, more so than any other party because we are truly a national Party - the largest single Party in the Parliament and the nation. It is interesting to note that of the designated country seats in the Parliament, the Australian Labor Party holds 22, the Liberal Party 12 and the Country Party 20. In other words, we are the largest country Party in the Parliament. Furthermore, the Labor Party holds the largest electorate in Australia - Kalgoorlie - wilh an area of 897,815 square miles, lt holds the electorate with the largest enrolment - the Australian Capital Territory (electors 85,000 and the largest population of more than 162,000) represented by the Minister for the Australian Capital Territory, the Honourable Kep Enderby. This is a reasonable answer to those who say that the Labor Party does not appreciate the needs of a country electorate, lt has the confidence of the country people, as exemplified at the last election.
The Joint Committee of Constitutional Review in its recommendations endeavoured to safeguard the people against gerrymanders either by lapse of time or distortion of population. The Committee agreed on the principle of one vote one value and recommended that the quota should not vary more than onetenth either way. The Committee further proposed not merely an alteration to the Electoral Act but that the principle should be enshrined in the Constitution itself, that the permissible variation from the quota should be reduced to 10 per cent and that this should be written into the Constitution. The Parliamentary Labor Party and the Australian Labor Party Federal Conference in 1961 decided to support the Committee’s recommendations. The Labor Party has consistently supported the principle of equality of representation in a Parliament and in 1961, 1962, 1965 and 1968 when electoral redistributions were under consideration, moved amendments for the variation to be reduced to 10 per cent and give effect to the Committee’s findings of one vote one value.
Every worthwhile authority supports the case for one vote one value, and equality of electorates. The Supreme Court of the United States and the Constitutional Review Committee are just 2 that come to mind. Even the Federal Council of the Liberal Party of Australia a few years ago came out in support of this principle, although I do not know whether it can be said that it is a responsible authority. I wish to quote the words of Chief Justice Warren in giving judgment of the Supreme Court of the United States of America when it ruled that electoral districts shall bc as nearly as equal as practicable. In his judgment he said:
Legislators represent people, not trees or acres. Legislators are elected by voters, not farms or cities or economic interests. To the extent that a citizen’s right to vote is debased, he is that much less a citizen. The weight ot a citizen’s vote cannot be made to depend on where he lives’.
Section 24 of the Constitution ensures that representation of the States in the House of Representatives shall be in proportion to their respective populations. Therefore, the vote of an elector in any one State shall be no more or no less valuable than the vote of an elector in any other State. This principle, enshrined in the Constitution, was destroyed by the Liberal-Country Party in 1965 by its amendments to section 19, making it possible for a vote of an elector in one division of a State to be as much as one and a half limes as valuable as the vote of an elector in another division in the same State.
All men in our society are adjudged to be equal before the law. Surely they should be equal in making the law. There can be no doubt whatever that a man is entitled to equal representation whether he lives in the city or the country. The city and the contry are not 2 hostile domains; they each depend on the other. The people in each are all Australians. The vote of one person, whatever his occupation or location, should be as good as the vote of another. There is no such term in the Electoral Act as country and metropolian electorates. Why then should this disparity exist? Perhaps it was designed to perpetuate -he type of gerrymandering which occurred in South Australia where at one stage there a as no redistribution for 25 years and some electorates - city and country - were 3 times as large as others.
– What about Queensland?
– In Queensland the monumental gerrymander inflicted on the State by the Country Party has removed every vestige of democracy from the people.
The Electoral Act - the mirror of a nation’s democratic image before the world - is expected to proclaim equality and not privilege. These amendments provide an opportunity for this Parliament to assert the principle of equality in our democracy - to say whether people in the city are just as equal as the people in the country - not more, not less. Only those who believe in a selective form of democracy oppose the principle of equality of voting, and the election of governments by the majority. In Australia the Country Party comes within this category. The Liberal Party unfortunately in this Parliament puts expediency before principle for doubtful support from their strange political bedmates.
Why does the Country Party oppose these amendments? I will state it simply: It is an established fact that of all the political parties in Australia, the Country Party at both State and Federal levels has consistently exercised ruthless control of the machinery of Parliamentary elections, both Federal and State. This extract from Don Whitington’s book ‘Inside Canberra’ provides the political answer:
The Country Party has never polled more than 10.9 per cent of the total vote at any House of Representatives election from 1949; yet it has invariably held anything from IS to 20 seats in a House of 124 and 6 portfolios in a Ministry of between 20 and 25. In short, while polling only 10 per cent of the public vote, it exercises a parliamentary vote of between 16 and 17 per cent and a Ministerial influence of more than 20 per cent.
To bring the Country Party right up to date I state that at the 1972 elections the Country Party polled 9.44 per cent of the votes, won 20 seats and has 16 per cent voting strength in the House. In this situation, why would it not want gerrymanders? This is a totally different story to the elections of 1954 when the Australian Labor Party polled 50.03 per cent against the combined Liberal-Country Party vote of 47.07 per cent and yet was defeated. In 1961 the Labor Party polled 2,534,702 votes, or 46.76 per cent of the votes, and in 1969 polled 2,870,792 or 46.95 per cent of the votes. In these cases it was defeated at the polls, although it had a clear majority over the combined totals of the present Opposition. If Labor had followed the same pattern as Country Party it would have needed only 20 per cent of the vote to win.
The Country Party has a vested interest in a policy of giving country voters a greater voice in the Government and the Parliament than their numbers warrant. They will sup port this policy - undemocratic and biased as it is - for on it depends their survival individually and as a party. Opposition members, particularly members of the Country Party, have a guilty conscience in regard to the Electoral Act. That is why reforms have been rare and legislation has been left undebated. They have fought tooth and nail against any reforms designed to maintain democratic elections in Australian Parliaments. Who will ever forget the events in the Queensland Parliament last year when the Liberal Party and Country Party were torn asunder and were at each other’s throats because of the Country Party’s proposals to perpetuate the greatest gerrymander of all time in the State Parliament. In fact, even the Liberal Party could not stomach it and 8 members crossed the floor. Yet they will put up with almost anything.
The bitterness apparent when its citadel of power was invaded and the determination of the Country Party to cling to office on its unprincipled scheme of electoral gerrymandering was revealed by the shameful events in the Queensland Parliament at that time. If honourable members want examples of this I shall be pleased to read a few of them.
I turn to Queensland, this bastion of selected democracy where the Country Party reigns; where redistribution of boundaries has been the scorn of the Party since 1958; where it is possible for the Labor Party to gain 46.75 per cent of the votes, more than the combined votes of the Liberal and Country parties (42.23 per cent) and to win only 33 seats as against 47 for the Government parties. In that State the Country Party, with the lowest total vote - the lowest percentage of the votes (20 per cent) - won 26 seats to the Liberal Party’s 21 with 22.23 per cent of votes, against 33 by Labor with 46.75 per cent of total votes cast. The Country Party which polled a minority of votes, and a minority of the percentage of the votes, holds the Premiership of the State of Queensland. What a gerrymander and what a mockery of democracy! Electorates must be equal and there can be no justification in the eyes of any fair-minded person to load country electorates simply to maintain Country Party representation in this Parliament or any other parliament.
This Bill underlines the Government’s belief that a person’s vote is of equal value no matter where he lives or whatever his occupation. All men should be equal in making the law as before the law. Electoral laws should provide equality, not privilege. These are the basic principles of this legislation. It gives to those who sit in this Parliament the opportunity to say whether they believe in these democratic principles and the equal rights of all electors, or whether they stand for manipulation of the Electoral Act to retain governments of their political colour irrespective of the vote of the Australian people.
This Act, if members of the Country Party who are interjejcting will be silent for the fleeting remainder of my speech, is a challenge to those who sit opposite to stand up and be counted on the fundamental democratic principle of one vote one value and majority rule. This is the basis on which this legislation stands - nothing more, nothing less. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lynch) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28 February (vide page 54), on motion by Mr Grassby:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Migration Bill 1973 introduced by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) is strongly supported by the Opposition parties. We firmly believe that all citizens should have equal rights and obligations under the law. Racial discrimination in all its forms is to be deplored. Governments have a clear responsibility to ensure that no law is discriminatory and that no law is administered in such a way that its effect is discriminatory.
Although we now join with the Government in removing provisions of the Act which are discriminatory 1 want to make it clear that it was our policy as a Government to eradicate discriminatory legislation both at State and Federal levels. Though our commitment to that policy and working with the cooperation of the State governments we now find that discriminatory legislation has virtually been eliminated. As the Minister stated in his second reading speech, controls on Aborigines as such have been lifted in all States and in the Australian Capital Territory. That I believe is to the credit of the former Government. Consequently it is in the nature of a formality that reference to controls on Aborigines be removed from Federal legislation. However, the Opposition, in agreement with the Government, believes that it is important to remove any existing legislative provision which is discriminatory. 1 might say that one of the last legislative acts of the former Government was to amend the Repatriation (Torres Strait Islanders) Act and the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act to ensure the removal of certain limitations which existed with respect to war compensation benefits. However, it is with no sense of pride that I refer to the removal of legislation which was clearly discriminatory in its effect. Legislation of this type existed under the successive administrations of governments of all political persuasions. The fact is that governments throughout our history must bear a measure of responsibility.
I believe that it is also important to emphasise that discriminatory legislation in many cases was introduced with good intent. In contemporary terms we recognise that much of it was clearly paternalistic. Recent experience, both in Australia and overseas, has made us aware of the undesirable effects of paternalism and of the distasteful philosophies which support this concept.
This particular legislative provision which is the subject of the attention of the House this evening is a clear example of that paternalism. In 1910 when this Act was introduced the then Minister for Foreign Affairs said in his second reading speech:
The Aborigines of Australia ought not to be exploited by persons who merely wish to make money out of them. Our Aborigines cannot possibly understand the conditions under which they will be employed outside the Commonwealth, or the experiences they are likely to undergo in a foreign country. They are not free agents, and we propose to take the part of guardians and say that in no case shall an Aboriginal native be taken from Australia without a permit, and then only under conditions that will ensure his being properly treated.
What is repugnant to us today was regarded by the government of the time as a responsible and correct attitude. The Opposition Parties fundamentally reject any concept of paternalism believing it to be self-defeating and discriminatory in itself. However, we recognise that Aboriginal Australians remain, in general, a disadvantaged section of the Australian community.
As such, Aborigines should be assisted to hold effective and respected places within one Australian society with equal access to the rights and opportunities it provides and acceptance of responsibilities towards it. At the same time they should be encouraged to preserve and develop their own culture. We recognised the right of Aborigines to choose the degree to which and the rate at which they intend to identify themselves with our Australian society.
The Government we believe must take into account the expressed wishes of Aborigines and it is our belief that programs of advancement will prove ineffective without the voluntary involvement of Aborigines themselves. For this reason the Opposition is concerned by the nature of the recently formed Aboriginal Consultative Council. We would hope that the Minister will work towards the establishment of an advisory council which is properly representative. To be representative there must be provision made for elections to be held. The Opposition does not mean that the elections must necessarily be proscribed by the formal systems now operating in Australia. They may in fact involve a greater degree of election by consensus or general agreement. However, we believe that the decision by the Minister to appoint the members of the Council is a retrograde step. Finally, the Opposition believes that it is essential that the present Council for Aboriginal Affairs should be replaced by a council comprising Aborigines themselves. The former Government gave a public commitment to do this aud we believe that the present Government should have the same objective.
We believe that Government policy in this area should be designed to encourage and strengthen the capacity of Aborigines to manage their own affairs; to increase their economic independence; to reduce their handicaps in health, housing, education, training and employment; and to promote their enjoyment of civil liberties. The conviction that governments must assist Aborigines to exercise their civil liberties is firmly held by the Opposition. As I indicated at the outset it is possible that laws can be administered in a manner which in itself is discriminatory.
It is also true that the complexities of our legal system often necessitate the provision of legal advice and guidance which can be beyond the financial resources of people within the community. It was in recognition of these factors that the Liberal Party in Government financed a series of legal aid services in major metropolitan areas. It is not enough to remove legislation which can be discriminatory in its effect and we in opposition would hope that the concept and applica tion of legal aid supported by our Party in government will be further developed by the new administration. In addition, the Opposition parties believe that greater emphasis needs to be placed on Aboriginal culture and history in Australia’s educational institutions. Most Australians are ignorant of the social and cultural aspects of Aboriginal life. Most Australians are equally ignorant of the historical aspects of the settlement of Australia by the Europeans and the catastrophic effects which this has had on the Aborigines. There is no doubt that education can play a significant part in contributing towards a better understanding of the problems facing Aborigines in our society and effectively assisting in the changing of attitudes which are discriminatory on racial grounds. Racism can never be wholly eliminated by the legislative actions of governments but substantial advances can and must be made in some of the areas to which I have drawn attention. The Opposition supports this Bill without qualification, and we commend it fully, as did the Government, to the House.
– It is exhilarating to see what 3 months in opposition can do to people who for 23 years in government did nothing. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) is to be congratulated for starting to remove the last relic of discriminatory legislation from Commonwealth laws. I am very pleased to have heard tonight the new found sentiments of liberality and conscience from the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch). I think the record shows that prior to his election to this House the honourable member did take a strong stand against racial discrimination. The fact is that in its initial actions this new Government has been able to introduce legislation to remove provisions that have been in Commonwealth legislation for a long time. We hope that we will have the full support of the Aboriginal people for the programs that we are developing at the present time for them.
I will refer to one or two matters which the honourable member raised in his speech. I will deal first with the Aboriginal Consultative Council which has been convened in Canberra to discuss future consultative operations of the Aboriginal people. The honourable member raised the question of the actual structure of this Council. Seventy-seven people from around Australia were invited to take part in a conference held in Canberra. They are designing the electoral representative system which is the real charter of the conference. In the near future they will design a structure to establish a really representative institution to advise the Minister. It is hoped that they will have some executive authority and perhaps ultimately, when we have established the system and the principle, they will have some statutory authority as well.
The provisions of this piece of legislation are brief. We are here this evening to record our pleasure at the fact that this problem is being dealt with. When I say that it deals with the last relic of discrimination in Commonwealth legislation, I remind honourable members of the long haul it has been to remove all the discriminatory legislation in Australia. When the campaign was begun 16 years or 17 years ago to give the Aboriginal people of Australia in the eyes of the law a free and equal place in society a whole pattern of discriminatory legislation existed. As my colleague, the honourable member for Flinders, pointed out, a great proportion of this discriminatory legislation was not based upon discrimination on racial grounds originally, but was part of the protective mantle which it was believed necessary to place around the Aboriginal people. Fortunately we have shed that paternalistic attitude.
The Social Services Act of 12 or 13 years ago discriminated against the Aboriginal people. We had a long campaign before free and equal voting rights were obtained for Aboriginal people, and the Queensland Government was the last to surrender on that account. The ordinances of the Australian Capital Territory which discriminated against Aboriginal people lingered until a few years ago. Discriminatory clauses were contained in health Acts of the various States and in the Post and Telegraph Act of this Parliament. The Constitution itself restricted the role of this Parliament concerning Aborigines; we have now removed that discrimination. However, there are still lingering areas of what I call administrative discrimination. I refer to the way in which the law is applied. It is true, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out, that it is not much good passing laws unless the application of the law is free and equal.
It is my concern - and, I believe, the concern of all people who have studied this matter - that in fact the Aboriginal people may well be equal before the law but not necessar ily equal before the law courts. Wherever one turns in Australia, one will find that Aborigines are more likely to be punished for the sins to which all humanity seems to be heir. I tabled a report earlier today concerning the Aboriginal people on the south coast of New South Wales. It showed that between 1st April 1964 and 31st March 1969. at Jervis Bay 16 Aboriginal people had been charged with drunkenness and found guilty, but no non-Aboriginal people were convicted of similar offences. I would like to think that the non-Aboriginal community of Australia was totally dedicated to sobriety. But I doubt that. This state of affairs can only occur because some form of discrimination, not necessarily conscious in the administration of the law in the courts but in the way the police operate and in the way the community accepts its duties in these matters, affects Aboriginal people more than it affects nonAboriginal people. This situation must be challenged.
It is true that the legal system, established initially by the previous Government and now to be developed further by the present Government, is aimed at removing that kind of discrimination. I think the honourable member for Flinders is a little astray in assuming that the last discriminatory legislation has been removed from the statute books. I only hope that he sends an autographed copy of his speech to my friend, the Premier of Queensland. The recent legislation in Queensland retains discriminatory clauses to which the Aboriginal and the island people of Queensland fall victim. The old Queensland Act was very restrictive and controlled people, property, movement, marriage and things of that nature. The new Act which was passed in 1971, but gazetted recently, transferred the control over the funds and property of Aboriginals and island people to the existing legislation. That measure is still retained.
Last weekend I had contact with people whose finances were being handled by the Queensland Government. Child endowment was being paid through official channels rather than directly to the mother. Of course, the situation on Aboriginal reserves removes a great deal of freedom from the Aboriginal people. There is still this challenge to be removed before we can say that the Aboriginal people are free and equal in the same sense as the non-Aboriginal people are. I congratulate my friend, the Minister for Immigration, for this action. He is a very good Minister for Immigration. Politically and administratively - I do not say personally because I do not use that sort of criterion in this place - he is a big improvement on his predecessor.
– in reply - In closing this brief debate on this measure, I express my appreciation first to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) for his words of congratulation and also his passionate attachment, as on all occasions, to equal rights for all of our citizens. 1 also express my appreciation to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), who spoke on behalf of the Opposition tonight, for his support and the support of the Opposition for this measure.
I feel that this is an historic occasion in the annals of our national Parliament. We have had a Federation and a national Parliament - an embryo nation, I suppose - since 1901, that is, 72 years. I hope that in a few minutes we will pass through all stages this Bill, the provisions of which when enacted will wipe from the national statute book the last piece of racial discrimination that exists in our national laws. This is an achievement and I feel that all members of this national Parliament tonight can take some pride in the fact that we are unanimous about this measure. 1 remind the House that section 64 of the Migration Act is the last remaining provision that can be described as discriminatory on racial grounds. This legislation also enables us as a nation to go to the United Nations - the supreme international forum - with a view to ratifying the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. We have to pass this legislation to enable that convention to be ratified. 1 might say that when the Australian representatives rise at the United Nations to vote and indicate our ratification they can be fortified by the fact that this decision was unanimous. I take considerable pride as an Australian in the fact that the national Parliament is unanimous tonight. I say on behalf of the Government that on this night of 13th March the important point is that we have excised the last of these discriminations and also we have. I think, on both sides of the Parliament a common dedication which we should enshrine tonight in large letters whenever Australia is being discussed and wherever its attitudes are being debated, because I noted that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said tonight - I hope he will again signify his agreement - that no law should be discriminatory. I welcome that because it is the intention of the Government to ensure that all Australian citizens will be equal in all ways before Australian law. This Bill is a token of our dedication in that direction and of the endeavours that will be pursued in this session of the Parliament to ensure that there will be no discrimination between citizens; that there will be one citizenship; that there will be one criterion; that there will be one allegiance. It is for this reason that I can take particular satisfaction tonight in the unanimity of the Parliament.
Reference has been made to the fact that the Aboriginal people in 1910 perhaps were viewed paternalistically. I think that the sin of paternalism has continued a long way past 1910. It has continued right up to the present time but it is nice to know that in this national forum it has been rejected. There is nothing worse outside of genocide than the gentle easing out of people by paternalism. It may take a bit longer but they die anyway. Tonight the Aboriginal people, emerging with a new pride and a new independence, may take satisfaction from the fact that this last piece of discrimination on the national statute book has been removed. My friend and colleague the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has referred to the States. He said that he is not satisfied that in a State such as Queensland this position appertains. That is another matter for another time. It was as well to mention it but as far as the national statute book is concerned the slate has been wiped clean. We can now go to the world forum with a clear conscience and a clear statute book. I think it is probably not a bad idea to remind ourselves tonight that on the birthday of this nation - on 26th January 1788 - 1,000 migrants arrived in this country and on that day all Australians were black. The first migrants were of assorted colours and not terribly well selected.
– But by the best of judges.
– My friend has said, by some of the best judges. That is possible. But since that time there have been many changes in the state of the nation and its composition. As far as this Government is concerned, one thing that we are absolutely dedicated to from now on is the complete equality of citizens in our country.
– Except as between unionists and non-unionists?
– This measure is a token of our endeavour to wipe out all distinction between citizens before the law and is one of the key steps to achieve that position. I did not quite hear the interjection made a moment ago by the Leader of the Australian Country Party but I would hope that on this historic night he would be in agreement with the principle that has been enunciated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. If there is any dispute perhaps they can confer and let us know the end result of their deliberations.
– There is no dispute at all.
– There is no dispute. I am very glad to have the unanimity confirmed. I want to be quite clear and definite on this matter. I hope, following the remarks that were made earlier on behalf of the Opposition, that this measure has the unanimous support of the national Parliament. I think it is important to have it. I hope that on this day, 13th March, if we vote on the motion that the Bill be read a third time, we will do so unanimously. Then we can go forward from this House, each of us in our respective political parties, and be a little bit prouder of the nation of which we are a part because we have done one small thing to eliminate a hangover from the colonial past.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Grassby) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 February (vide page 53), on motion by Dr X F. Cairns:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I rise to speak on the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Bill 1973 which is designed to amend the Act to increase the maximum contingent liability which the Corporation may assume under contracts of insurance and under guarantee. I applaud the action of the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns) in introducing this Bill. Basically the Bill increases the Corporation’s contingent liability from S500m to S750m. The fact that this change is needed is itself evidence of the very rapid growth in exports in recent years under the stimulus provided by a government dedicated to the task of export encouragement. That dedication stands in stark contrast, I believe, to the attitude of the present Government which seems committed to the task of sabotaging the export industries. If it pursues this course, as it seems determined to do, then if will discover that it is seriously damaging - indeed it has already - the productive and export base of the Australian economy, not to mention the Australian people who depend on that base for their living.
It is interesting to look at the fast growth of business by EPIC and to consider whether this growth should be even faster. At the end of the first year of its operations EPIC had issued policies worth S22m or 1.3 per cent of Australia’s total exports for that year which amounted to Si, 636m. At the end of the last financial year EPIC had on issue policies worth $622m or 12.7 per cent of our total exports for that year, which were $4,902m. So EPIC is today insuring an increasing proportion of our exports. But when you know that the Export Credits Guarantee Department in Britain insures about 36 per cent of that country’s exports, there would appear to be room for even further growth in the proportion of Australian exports which EPIC insures. Of course, there are differences in the composition of Australian and British exports. This must account for some of the difference - perhaps much of the difference - between the proportion of export insurance business carried on by the 2 organisations. Nevertheless, I think the Government should be making every effort to encourage exporters to make use of EPIC’s facilities to cover a growing percentage of our exports. While I would like to think that this will happen, I am not encouraged to think that it will.
The actions of the Government so far in damaging the export capacity of this nation deserve the strongest censure.
This damage has been done to all export sectors - primary, manufacturing and mining - principally through the Government’s impetuous and ill-advised decision to revalue the Australian dollar by 7.05 per cent last December, compounded and exacerbated by the Government’s deliberate decision to do nothing when the American dollar was devalued by 10 per cent in February. It is very hard to believe that a Government that would strike such a deliberate blow at our export industries has the will to do all it should to encourage growth in exports. lt is fashionable in some quarters today, of course, to deride the suggestion that we need continuing and growing export activity in this country. The astonishing thing is that this is said when it is only in recent months that we have been able, for the first time in 10 years, to balance our international books of account.
The damage I spoke of a moment ago to our export industries has been made all the more a matter for concern by the Government’s outright rejection of appeals that it agree to compensate exporters who suffer losses as a result of the Government’s decisions. I am sure that if the Minister had been given an opportunity to put his views to the Government on this whole question of revaluation, and of compensation for export losses, the outcome might well have been different. But he was not allowed to do that, and now we are stuck with a situation in which a wrong decision has been made, and the Government refuses to do anything about it or even to do anything to try to offset some of the results of that decision.
This is a matter about which the Government will hear a great deal in the future, not only from me and my colleagues, but also from a vast area of business and industry in this country as repercussions of the Government’s decisions flow through the country. I can mention one very well known Australian manufacturer of photographic and other equipment which exports 60 per cent of its production. Now, as a direct result of the decisions of this Government, that company is facing an impossible situation in that it will not be able to export, thus losing a major outlet, and loss of the export market will so affect its cost structure that it will not be able to compete on the domestic market either. As a result of the disastrous policies of this Government, that firm, which must be typical of many, expects that the employment of 700 people at its plant in Sydney will be in doubt within 12 months.
If the Government is sincere in its commitment to export, as this Bill would suggest, I urge it to think again about the value of the Australian dollar and about the direct and serious financial losses it has imposed upon Australian industry.
The Export Payments Insurance Corporation was established by the Liberal-Country Party Government in 1957 and since then a number of improvements have been made to the Corporation’s facilities. An unconditional guarantee facility for certain transactions was introduced in 1964. Cover against political risks came in 1965 and the unconditional risk cover was extended in 1969. In 1970 the Corporation was empowered to insure exports to Australia’s external territories and the maximum contingent liability was lifted in 1971. Also in 1971 the buyer credit facility was introduced - a most important improvement which placed the Corporation on a more equal footing with its overseas counterparts.
Honourable members may remember that a minimum of $200,000 for at least 2 years was originally imposed when EPIC’s unconditional guarantee policies were first introduced. This placed the scheme beyond the reach of all but a very few Australian exporters. It was suggested that a minimum of $40,000 would be nearer a reasonable mark. Events quickly proved this to be right. In the light of experience the minimum was later reduced to $50,000 and after further experience the minimum criteria for unconditional guarantees have now been brought down to $1,000 in excess of 180 days. The new buyers’ credit scheme as proposed will be just as inadequate as a practical export aid as was the unconditional guarantee scheme in its initial stages. I strongly urge the Government to avoid a long process of evolution to bring the new facility to a generally usable state by aligning it more closely at this stage with EPIC’s present unconditional guarantee scheme and with buyers’ credit schemes already existing in competitor countries. We all are aware of the need to avoid any kind of international credit race, but there can be no reason why Australia should voluntarily remain so far behind its competitors in the struggle for international trade. So I say that there is need for improvement in the area of buyers’ credit. The scheme was introduced. It is now working successfully. I think it needs to be amended and brought up to date, as the unconditional guarantee scheme has been brought up to date.
These days interest rates are very much an integral part of the credit terms with which Australian capital equipment exporters must compete overseas. Many countries are offering long term loans at interest rates which simply cannot be met by exporters relying upon normal commercial rates. The trading banks and other institutions providing buyers’ credit will be up against this problem. For that reason I firmly believe that it is essential that they be assisted by the Reserve Bank to lend at competitive interest rates when necessary to gain export business in Australia.
I hope the new Government will take note of these remarks and will continue to look for ways of improving facilities which the Corporation offers to exporters. I commend the Minister for bringing this measure before the House. I appeal to him to do all he can to persuade his Government to adopt a less damaging attitude to Australian industries and exports. I heard on the news tonight that the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry will continue the export incentives for a further year. This is welcome news to secondary industry, which was left in an uncertain state as to whether this operation would continue. I am sorry that the Government can make a decision for only one year. The situation seems to be clouded in an atmosphere of doubt when the Government can make a decision pertaining to a further 12 months only. Normally decisions in relation to export incentives have been made on the basis of 3 years. Apparently industry will be left now in this state of uncertainty and doubt as to what will happen. On the other hand, I must commend the Government for its action in lifting the amount of this liability. I know that the action will be appreciated by industry.
– The provisions of the Bill raise the statutory maximum contingent liability of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation from $500m to $750m. The principle embodied in the setting up of this legislation is a good one. The legislation has been subject to amendment on a number of occasions, amending Bills having been brought into the House. On the last occasion that such a Bill was debated in the House - 1 think it was in May 1971 or thereabouts - I took the opportunity, because there had been some controversy at that time about whether the principle was in accordance with the principles of the Liberal Party of which I am a member, to discuss what I thought were the principles involved. I shall not repeat them, but I allude to them because I believe them to be sound and thoroughly in accord with Australian Liberal Party principles.
I note that the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns), in his second reading speech, listed the occasions on which it has been thought necessary to raise the statutory maximum contingent liability, lt is interesting to note that it was necessary to increase the initial $50m to SI 00m in 1959, an increase of 100 per cent. In 1964 it was increased further by 50 per cent, in 1965 by 33 per cent, in 1970 by 50 per cent, in 1971 by 66 per cent and now we are increasing it by a further 50 per cent. Perhaps the Minister will take up this point: 1 question whether it is really worth while in a measure which, as far as I can see, will have universal support to have to bring back into the House so relatively frequently amendments to the contingent liability provision, and whether on this occasion it would not have been justifiable to raise it to a sum of SI, 000m in the full expectation of a great deal of necessary future expansion in the activities of this very worthy Corporation.
The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), who is not present in the chamber at the moment, made what I presume were some pretty wild allegations about the Corporation. He made the charge that the former Government used the Corporation to support wheat sales, which tactic he obviously thought was very dubious. The charges that he made were serious. I presume that we have to take his remarks seriously. I ask the Minister, in his replay or on another occasion, to examine these matters to see whether there is any truth in them. What the honourable member suggested amounted to an improper practice. I think that the matter should be answered and that the Minister should have the strength to answer it. If he has not the information in front of him, no doubt he can obtain is easily.
The Corporation was set up to encourage exports from Australia and that was recognised - I believe it is still recognised - by thinking people to be a very desirable objective. Let us be clear that the real danger which we face with our balance of payments is that of a deficit and not of a surplus. The events o! the past few months seem to me to have been an over-reaction to the position which built up in respect of our balance of payments. We had a long history of such great difficulty with deficits that when we got a surplus we seemed to go to other extremes. In December the Government made a unilateral decision to revalue the currency by 7.05 per cent, which put it in a position in which it received a blow, which I believe was completely unexpected by the Government and its advisers, when the United States decided to devalue by what is effectively 11.1 per cent against Australian currency, thus greatly affecting many of our exports. That leaves the Australian dollar overvalued in world terms. It is idle for the Treasurer (Mr Crean) to say that he made no decision when the American dollar was devalued. Of course there was a decision to leave the Australian currency unchanged when the currency of the greatest power on earth, America, was devalued. I believe that those decisions by the Government have weakened Australia’s capacity to export. This Bill stands as an attempt by the former Government, supported by the amendment proposed by this Government, to encourage exports. The 2 attempts are hardly consistent, and I think this is an occasion on which that inconsistency should be drawn out.
– The Bill before the House seeks to increase the contingent liability of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation by $250m. At 31st December 1972 the Corporation held 1,090 policies which had a contingent liability of $415m, which was very close to the limit allowed under the provisions of the Act. It is clear that the liability needed to be extended to increase the business of the Corporation. The Corporation was established ‘n 1956 as a non-profit making body to cover the risks associated with overseas trade. Throughout its life it has increased its services to the exporter. Now it provides insurance for investment overseas. Thirty-three joint policies have been issued under this activity of the Corporation. They have a liability of Sl im. Buyer credit, which was introduced in 197.1-72, has attracted a great deal of support. Forty-five firms have taken up policies which range from 2 to 10 years in duration. This has enabled Australian manufacturers to enter the capital market overseas. There is a growing market for Australian products overseas. Recently 104 firms applied to take part in a trade fair which was to be held in Hong
Kong between 12th and 17th March. Our manufactured exports overseas have increased from S80.4m in 1967-68 to $ 103.4m in 1971- 72.
No doubt the interdepartmental committee which is considering the advisability of establishing an export bank will be looking very closely at the Corporation. The Corporation is now geared to examine the factors which contribute to risk associated with the sale of capital goods on long term credit. It arranges credit, and it has an information service which gives an extremely good dossier on overseas buyers and their credit worthiness. It might be argued that the export bank could be based on the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. I would like to develop for a few moments the general principle underlying the Corporation because I believe that government risk-taking organisations could play a larger role in our total economy than they do. The Corporation is a purely business operation. No subsidy is involved in this operation. There is a sensible economic evaluation of risk, and the Corporation has the resources to cover those risks. In many other areas of our economic activity Australia is confronted with the same risk problem - either the risk is too great for private enterprise to take or it involves capital larger than any organisation in Australia could muster.
A government risk-taking organisation which followed the principles of the Corporation could, I believe, be developed to insulate primary producers from movements in prices on world markets and could be used also to develop a drought relief organisation. The principle of basing risk taking on proper economic considerations, I believe, deserves a great deal of consideration to insulate these other areas of our economy, some of which have caused great difficulty over the years. I commend the Government for supporting this particular activity, which is indeed properly based and does not demand from the Government any particular subsidy to insulate our exporters from risks. Without the organisation there can be no doubt that our export trade would not have grown as securely as it has since 1967.
I would like to take, too, the basis on which our export market is developing. We have heard from the Opposition that the Government’s action in regard to the appreciation of the dollar and its subsequent failure to follow the Amerian dollar down have placed the manufacturing industries of Australia and exporters in general on a very poor basis. Of course, this is true in relation to our conventional outlets. It is true in relation to America and appears to be true now in relation to Britain, although the future may hold a different answer there. It is not true in relation to Japan or now, since this morning, in relation to Germany. The fact is that the whole monetary situation of the world is in the melting pot. One of the major facts which has emerged from recent considerations and could have been anticipated from at least 1971 when the Americans devalued their dollar for the first time is that the American dollar is now not the powerful influence in world business that it has been in the past. The hard reality of this position is that American influence is not as dominant as it was in the past, and we would be very unwise indeed to remain completely chained to the American situation because we could, for example, have found ourselves now in a situation where we would have to follow the European Common Market countries into a float, and then we would know whether or not the present government action had been correct. I sincerely hope that the solidity of our currency can be maintained, and I believe it will be because of government action, and it will not be necessary to float our currency. If it is, the world will pass its judgment. In economic terms the world has already passed its judgment.
This country was forced to take the action that it took on 23rd December in which we appreciated the dollar. It was forced to take this action in pure economic terms, as any economist could read from the level of our overseas reserves. More importantly, I believe, we were forced to take this because of American pressure. I find it very difficult to accept the contradiction inherent in the Opposition’s argument. On the one hand this Government is being condemned because of its refusal, the Opposition says, to go along with American directions in foreign affairs, and on the other hand this Government is being condemned by the Opposition for taking the very action that the Americans would wish us to take in regard to our currency. If any honourable members have any doubt about this we only have to examine statements that have been recently made by Secretary Sholtz, of the United States Treasury in which he has announced that the Administration would soon have to introduce a comprehensive
Trade Bill that would renew the President’s authority to raise or lower tariffs in relation to trade concessions. This Bill of course has been supported by the President. The Americans have also threatened to use retaliation against countries such as ours with high overseas reserves, and these retaliations would involve capital controls, trade restrictions such as quotas, and tariffs.
There can be no doubt that unless the Australian Government had taken the sort of action that it has taken we would have found that our export outlets in the American market would have been restricted by the use of these controls. More importantly, the Americans are now contemplating relaxing the ban on the flow of overseas currency. They presently have a tax of 11.25 per cent on United States purchases of foreign securities. It is intended to eliminate that tax. They presently have restrictions on United States bank loans to foreigners and it is intended to relax that restriction. There are limits on the amount of American money that firms can send out to build factories overseas. They intend to relax those limits. In other words, unless Australia held a very strong position in terms of its currency in relation to America’s we would have found various controls which have insulated us in the past from selling out to this country being relaxed and it becoming extremely difficult, apart from the introduction of very stringent controls in this country, for us to have maintained any sort of jurisdiction over our own currency.
So I believe that the export climate is very favourable in the medium to long term for our Australian industries. In the field of primary produce the market prices tell their own story. Insofar as the export of manufactured commodities is concerned, it would seem to me that it is necessary for Australian manufacturers to look for the markets where we have the strongest competitive advantage. This is a world of change, and one of the areas in which change is becoming very, very frequent and very strong is the area in which we sell our produce and products. Clearly at the moment one would look very carefully, as manufacturers are doing, toward Japan. We must take a second look now at the European Common Market and also, of course, we must look very carefully at China and Russia. These are the changes that the currency movements at the moment are indicating as the future for Australia. It is in such a changing situation, full as it is of risk, that the Export Payments Insurance Corporation plays such a dominant and useful role for our exporters. I commend this Bill to the House and hope that the same principle will be considered for other areas of risk in this business community of ours.
– I do not propose to follow in detail some of the arguments just advanced by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) because I regard this subject as sufficiently important in itself. I think it stands by itself without attracting arguments about the world foreign exchange position and many other things which one might easily draw in. What this Bill does, as previous speakers have announced, is to seek to expand the contingent liability authority of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation from $500m to $750m. As noted also, at first when authority was given in 1956 it was for a total contingent liability of $50m, and it has expanded stage by stage over the years until the last occasion when we dealt with it. That was to increase it to $500m in May 1971. At that time, the then Minister, the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony), who has just spoken in this debate, indicated that this was expected to be sufficient authority for the Corporation to carry on for the next 2 years. From the Corporation’s report issued at the end of 1972 it is already obvious that the ceiling needed to be raised. It has for some time been bumping this ceiling. At the end of 1972 the maximum contingent liability on unexpired risks was $375m and the similar contingent liability on business which was insured at the risk of the Government itself was $258m. This made a high total and it was quite obvious that the ceiling needed to be expanded. We are now making that ceiling $750m.
I agree with the Government’s intention in this regard but in a slightly different way from one of my colleagues who spoke earlier in the debate. I believe that this is a very important increase in contingent liability. It involves an increase of $250m contingently. This is a large sum which this House should watch carefully. If in fact it is necessary later to raise the ceiling still further to above $750m, it is an important matter of which this House should take full cognisance. The report issued at the end of 1972 makes clear that there are 2 ways in which the business of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation has expanded very considerably in recent months. One is that it has entered the field of buyers’ credit. This is a new departure from an earlier experience and a very profitable and hopeful one which, so far, has proved a great success. The other expansion is of business which has been insured at the risk of the Government. This includes things which the Government felt from a national point of view should be insured but which the Corporation itself, if left to its own business judgment, would not have accepted as an ordinary commercial risk but has been induced to go further by a government guarantee. So, the Corporation has expanded its business considerably.
But this process in itself contains one or two matters at which we should look. We might note that, towards the end of 1972, this was becoming a significant institution. For instance, the Corporation now insures 10 per cent of Australia’s export trade. That is a large volume of trade. Last year 87,200 individual shipments to 154 different markets were dependent on the operations of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. The report also notes that, although we can still sell a large proportion of our primary products and minerals for cash, the credit and the insurance provided by the Corporation have made a big difference in the overseas sale of our manufactures, which is an important and expanding part of our exports. In this regard the report also notes that this is a highly competitive sphere of business in which the credit and terms that go with manufactured goods are highly competitive with those of other countries and in this field export insurance plays a vital part in whether Australia secures an order or fails to do so.
The fact that we cannot sell anything like all our exports, including even our mineral exports, for cash is indicated in the Corporation’s report which shows a bigger variety of spread of different commodities. For instance, the Corporation has insured heavily exports of nickel and aluminium - a total of $137m out of a total of $622m - as well as a large number of miscellaneous items which include wheat, which was insured up to $81m and a series of other products such as meat, earth moving equipment, dairy produce, processed foodstuffs and a wide variety of mixtures of manufactured exports, processed exports and raw materials.
– How much do the various figures amount to? ] Mr BURY - If the honourable member cares to look at page 8 of the annual report of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation for 1972 he will see the figures set out in precise detail. About 20 items are listed and the total amount of insurance provided was $622m. As I mentioned, the articles vary from household appliances, washing machines, etc., which were insured to a total of SI. 2m, to primary products and all kinds or other items. These are set out in detail on page 8 of this report; I will not weary the House by reading the full list. But it is interesting and important for Australian trade because trade is highly competitive in these items and export credit is essential to secure the orders. At the same time we must also observe the dangers which the Corporation itself notes. For instance, the Corporation also notes - this would interest the honourable member for Eden-Monaro - the spreading increase of agreements to guarantee. The report states:
There is a growing practice for certain countries to make bulk purchases of primary products through central government buying agencies. To help cater for this type of trade on acceptable credit terms, the Corporation has devised a technique of providing a prior commitment to issue, on agreed terms and conditions, its insurance policies to exporters and its related unconditional guarantee to the Australian bank providing the finance. Such an agreement for the purchase of up to $A10 million of Australian primary products by Chile is already in operation. These arrangements have the merit of flexibility in meeting the needs of particular countries as well as enabling finance to be made available. Bilateral agreements of this kind appear to provide considerable scope for trade promotion.
A later paragraph in the same report indicates some of the dangers involved and why it is quite sound for the Minister not to go beyond this big step of raising the ceiling available to the Corporation to $750m. For instance, it recalls a statement made on Chile by the President of the World Bank to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Honourable members, particularly the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), should listen to this. They would be interested to know that, since the mid-1950s, publicly guaranteed debt in Chile has been growing at about 14 per cent a year. At the end of 1971 it stood at over $60 billion - quite a large sum - and annual service of this debt exceeded $5 billion. Servicing of debt since the 1950s has been growing at the same average annual rate of about 14 per cent. This is about twice the rate at which the export earnings, from which the debt must be serviced, have been growing. Such a relationship cannot continue indefinitely. This is - obvious and it is what important customer countries of ours are doing.
A little while ago the Treasurer (Mr Crean) expressed some displeasure or concern, as well he might, at some of the lagging of payments on the debt which grew out of sales of wheat to the United Arab Republic. Obviously, this is the sort of thing which must be watched in this whole process. It is important that when we increase the contingent liability the House look carefully at what is involved for future public financial commitments. I was also glad to note from the Corporation’s annual report that our experience is continuously being shared with that of other countries. Australia, through the Export Payments Insurance Corporation, is one of the 23 member countries engaged in export insurance which are members of the Berne union, which is a very specialist institution where all countries involved share their experience of underwriting and public and economic information about all their customers. It provides a kind of forum in which notes can be compared. This is what we all regard as a potential international rat race - that is, the extension of large sums of money at concessional rates with creditor countries which can ill afford to do so competing actively to obtain orders by this means. It is entirely healthy that they should compare notes and we should be in discussion with the other countries concerned. Since we have joined the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development we have belonged to another body through which it is possible to bring about some rationalisation of the extension of credit by the countries involved. This is a good measure. I support it and I also support the Minister in thinking that for one step he has gone quite far enough.
– The Exports Insurance Corporation Bill 1973, which is before the House, is a further step to assist exports from Australia. It is a necessary part of establishing trade relations and trade with overseas countries to have measures such as this. Similar measures were introduced by the previous Government over many years. Until recently Australia relied almost entirely for its exports on its primary industries and although it still does rely very largely on them, secondary industries have been playing an ever-increasing role in helping meet our balance of payments. If I remember correctly, 20 per cent of our exports in recent times have been from secondary industry.
The legislation that is before the House this evening is a means of encouraging secondary industry, as well as other industries, to make contacts and sales overseas. I am sure that without it people involved in secondary industry would find life very difficult at times. If my memory serves me correctly, when such legislation was first introduced in this House it was indicated by many in the business world that it was not necessary. Time has proved that to be incorrect. The amendment that we are dealing with this evening indicates that more assistance is required and that secondary industry is growing.
Many factors are necessary in the promotion of export trade. Three of these are confidence on the part of the people engaged in trade, incentives by governments and others to exercise their ability to capture markets overseas, and exchange reality. Incentives is one matter we are dealing with tonight. Other measures can be taken. If confidence in industry is destroyed Australia will be in trouble. Some of that confidence has already been destroyed in the last few months, because exporters do not quite know where they stand in relation to Australian currency exchange. This is very disturbing and there is plenty of evidence coming from industry to support that statement. As I said a fortnight ago in this House, it is necessary as I see it, and I am sure as industry sees it, for the Government to look very closely at what is happening to industries which have been exporting and making a worthwhile contribution to Australia’s trading position over recent years.
It is extremely difficult, as no doubt the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) realises, to capture markets overseas. Australia has certain disadvantages, one being its remoteness from many world markets. Having captured those markets we should do nothing to upset the situation. It is important that the present relationship should continue and that no confidence is lost. There should be no monetary problems which would hinder in any way exports from this country. These are vital matters. The Bill will assist in the preservation of our trade. But the other points that I have raised are equally important to the successful continuation of exports from our secondary and other industries. If these other points are not watched very closely, confidence will be lost and industry will not be able to continue as it has in recent years. If it loses markets, it will be doubly difficult to recapture some of them because we are living in a very competitive world.
The honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury), quoted the 1972 report of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation which clearly indicates the business being undertaken by that body. What is interesting is the spread of business over various commodities. This highlights what I have been saying about the type of industries that have been developing as export industries. We have amongst these, of course, some of our traditional industries. Our traditional primary industries are involved but a few years ago one would not have thought of many of the industries which have been seeking assistance from EPIC as becoming exporting industries. We have been exporting plastics, paper and paper products and household appliances. These sorts of industries undoubtedly have to face very severe competition overseas and would be in trouble if we did anything to upset their routine.
It is interesting to note from the EPIC report that Australia is finding export markets in Europe, South East Asia, the Middle East, the Near East, North America, Central America, South America, Africa and many other countries. Of course, there is no better market than the home market for any product that is manufactured or grown in Australia. But having built up trade around the world in the last few years through the various incentives that have been given by the previous Government and having, as I mentioned a fortnight ago, balanced our current account, including the invisibles, it is most important that not only should legislation such as this be extended but also that every aspect of our export trade, whether primary or secondary, should be watched closely. Exporters should be encouraged, and we should try to ensure that they have a fair opportunity to succeed on the very competitive world markets.
With Australian currency as it is at the moment I feel that, regardless of what he said, if the member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) looks closely at the position he will find that business is in trouble, especially in the mining areas. It is quite obvious from the evidence that I have been able to gather - obviously as a Western Australian I am able to gather quite a deal of information - that these particular industries are in very serious trouble. The point is where do we go from here? In these circumstances will industry continue to develop? Will it continue to put capital into new operations? Will mining in Australia ever reach the complete stage that is being spoken of at present? I refer to the development of another steel mill, whether small or large. Obviously a large steel works is out. But will development proceed under these conditions? From the evidence I have I believe that such development could be seriously retarded. The situation should be closely examined by the Government. Nothing should be done to stall or hinder the progress that has been made in recent years with Australia’s exports.
– Together with those who have already spoken in this debate, I commend the Government for taking the action which it has taken to increase the contingent liability of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. I had not intended to enter this debate but I feel that certain points which have been raised need some clarification and perhaps some answers. The Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) indicated in his remarks in support of the Bill that this Government and Australians generally face some quite serious dangers because of the decision to revalue the Australian currency. I point out that most economists in Australia supported the revaluation procedure which was carried out
For years it has been acknowledged that the Australian currency was under valued and that people were pouring money into Australia and exploiting its resources for their own benefit. No doubt some of the capita] that came in - in fact, a good deal of it - benefited Australia. But there was other risk capital which came here specifically because people saw the opportunity to make money rather quickly. I quote the right honourable John McEwen’s words to a Country Party conference when he said: ‘We are selling a bit of the farm each year’.
I think that the decision to revalue Australia’s currency has desirable consequences in many ways. There is no doubt in my mind after weighing up the whole situation that the Government had no alternative but to revalue when it did. I think the honourable member for Eden Monaro (Mr Whan) pointed out that despite the changes in the world monetary balance Australia is, in fact, in a better position to compete in some countries than it was before revaluation. We need to be flexible in our approach to exports. I think it is particularly important that we should look at the economy as a whole and examine the effect which our policies will have on all exporters and producers in this country.
It goes without saying that there is a need for world monetary reform. The old gold standard no longer holds the sway that it did. First one currency and then other currencies, referred to as ‘hard currencies’, become the medium of exchange. The United States dollar has been successively devalued. I suggest to the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) that one of the things that we ought to do is to renegotiate contracts that were written in United States dollars. I appreciate that this is not always easy but it has been done before and I think that we ought to do it again. Also we should recognise that there is a difference between external and internal control. We can make particular adjustments for particular industries. I hope that this Government will make sure that valuable Australian industries are properly protected. This applies to both secondary and primary industry.
A country is as rich as the goods and services it produces. We ought to be encouraging production. Australian industries should be judged on their viability within the Australian economic context and not judged by some other yardstick which may be drawn from outside. For instance, Australian industries should not be judged against those of a country which has a very low labour cost. At the same time I think that we should be careful that we do not indulge in featherbedding. We should make sure that industries are efficient. I believe that sufficient criteria are available to enable us to judge this.
The proposed legislation is another step on the way to regulating the economy. Once upon a time all these steps were held to be wrong by people with a conservative political point of view. These people now accept much more readily that a government, through various controls, ought to exercise some restraint and help industries from time to time. I remember that for years when people suggested that wool pies were operating in Australia - the Honourable Reg Pollard often talked about these things in this House - it was said that nothing could be done and that the law of supply and demand determined what should happen.
During the last couple of years corporations have been set up to guarantee a floor price for wool. This is one of the factors which has enabled the wool industry to recover. When the people who manipulated the industry realised that the Government would control it they decided that they could no longer manipulate it to the same extent. I do not suggest that this is by any means the sole reason for the change in the price of wool, but I believe that it is one factor.
I believe that the Government’s power under this measure should be extended. We should be looking to some means of guaranteeing to manufacturers and primary producers who are operating efficiently that the produce that they sell will be properly marketed. The Government should take some sort of interest in what goes on in this field. I do not believe that confidence will be lost because of revaluation. Revaluation was a necessary step to save Australia from, among other things, being taken over completely by foreign risk capital.
There was a need to act and the Government acted. I believe that it acted decisively. I can see no reason why any changes which have been brought about by revaluation cannot be adjusted by the use of other measures. We do not want to get into a situation again where Australia is inundated by risk capital. In conclusion I should like to commend the Bill to the House. It is one more step along the way to ensuring that exports will be protected properly. It is an extension of a step which has been taken before. I believe that we should take a great many more of these steps in the future.
– As the Minister for Overseas Trade and Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns) said in his second reading speech, this debate refers to the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act 1956-1972 and makes particular reference to the maximum contingent liability, which presently stands at $500m. The Government and its advisers want to increase the maximum contingent liability to $750m. As previous speakers have said, it has been the practice for this Parliament over the years since 1956 to increase the Corporation’s contingent liability with such Bills as this. Initially the Export Payments Insurance Corporation had a contingent liability of $50m when it was established in 1956. This sum has been increased quite regularly because of the diversity of activities of the Corporation and the fact that it was able, through its activities, to assist exporters.
I believe that there are one or two points concerned with Australian exports which the Minister should examine. I shall refer to those shortly. In past debates I have talked about EPIC, as it is generally known. In May 1970 I encouraged the then Government to increase EPIC’s contingent liability from $200m to $300m because then, as now, the Corporation’s liabilities were increasing at an enormous rate. The maximum contingency was increased further in 1971 from $300m to $500m. Now the Minister desires a further increase to $750m.
As I have said, the diversity of the Corporation has increased enormously over the years. Particular reference was made by the then Minister to the fact that the Corporation was doing no business for exporters from Australia in Papua New Guinea and other Territories of Australia. Included in the Act then - it remains in the Act - was provision for the Corporation to insure exports to Papua New Guinea. I think that what I had to say on 12th May 1970 on this matter bears repetition. I am reported in Hansard as saying:
I am surprised that the original legislation and the amendments that have been made over the years have not included provision that insurance of goods exported from Australia to Papua and New Guinea should be on the same basis as Japan’s arrangements for looking after its traders and manufacturers. I should think that the proposed amendments relate more particularly to requests by industry in Australia to make certain that they do trade in Papua and New Guinea on equal terms with Japanese manufacturers, German manufacturers and the like. I am pleased that the Minister has seen fit to plug this loophole.
Anybody - any member of this House or any trader - who went to Papua New Guinea in those years would have seen, and no doubt would still see, the amount of goods sold in Port Moresby, Rabaul, Lae and other centres in Papua New Guinea which come from Japan, Germany and other countries. Of course, the exporters from the original country are supported by an insurance corporation much the same as the one that we have established in Australia.
A good look at the reports of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation indicate the type of business that the Corporation now covers in ever increasing amounts. For instance, business in the metals section of the Corporation increased by 140 per cent, the amounts being $50.3m in 1970 to a grand total of $120m in 1971. According to the Corporation’s report this was further increased during 1972 to $ 137.7m. These are staggering increases and one can only commend the then Government which introduced legislation setting up the Corporation, and the fact that the Corporation has carried out its work in a very favourable fashion. So on the surface there is need each year for the Government and the Parliament to admit that the contingent liabilities of the Corporation should be increased and no doubt, as the Minister has said, there is a good argument for the increase of its contingent liability from $500m to $750m on this occasion.
In his second reading speech the Minister said that at the end of December 1972 the actual contingent liability stood at $41 6m. However, private members of the Parliament do not have these figures available to them. We must have recourse to the reports of the Corporation and the last one, of course, was the report for the year ended 30th June 1972. In a debate of this nature I believe that this Government - as was the case with the past Government - should give its private members the same form of information that is available to the Minister. We are debating the fact that the Minister has said that the contingent liability at December last year was $4 16m whereas the only amount that we have comes from the last report of the Corporation for the year ended 30th June last year. My assessment from the 1972 report indicates contingent liability for the commercial activities of the Corporation of $375.3m. But if one adds to that the Government account, a further amount of $169m is involved. It would be reasonable to assume that if these 2 amounts were added together the contingent liability of the Corporation should be increased to the amount mentioned by the Minister. However, I had a further look at the reports and I find that the Government account consists mainly of primary produce and, as 1 understand the reports of the Corporation, sales of wheat, meat and dairy products are being made to countries on a long term credit basis which in effect is good for producers in Australia. It is my belief, however, that when wheat is exported to a regular importer on a long term credit basis the wheat can be consumed overnight but there is still a liability on the part of the importing country to repay the amount required for that wheat. Therefore, what this Government, and Australia in effect, is doing is giving a long term loan to the importing country for a consumer item.
I believe that there should be a split-up between the commercial activities of the Corporation and the government activities of the Corporation if the major portion of the government activities consists of consumer items. A quick look at the figures concerning the points I have raised indicates that the contingent liability on meat insurances during 1970 amounted to $ 11.6m. In 1971 the contingent liability increased to $ 14.4m and in 1972 to $38.5m. Therefore, on meat alone the insurance was increased by almost 4 times. The reports of the Corporation indicate that there was a contingent liability on wheat insurances of $lm in 1970, $32.4m in 1971 and $8 1.9m in 1972. In effect there was an increase in insurances for the export of wheat of about 82 to one. I have no doubt that the amount of wheat and meat sold in the years I have mentioned, perhaps with the exception of the latter part of 1972, has increased and has still to be paid for by the importing countries. This confirms my belief that Australia is giving a long term loan to the importing countries. There ought to be a better way of granting loans to these countries rather than sell them produce of this nature. We could indicate to them that we will give them long term credit. It would be far better for the Treasurer (Mr Crean) to agree that a loan be granted to the country concerned.
Dairy produce is another item that has shown a tremendous increase. For the year 1970 the contingent liability on government account was $19.4m. In 1971 that amount rose to $27.5m and in 1972 it is shown at $36.2m. In other words, the contingent liability for this consumer item has doubled in 2 years. I have selected only 3 items from the various reports to indicate that we are kidding ourselves when we say that we are exporting these goods to the importing countries and helping them. Of course we are helping them. But I believe it would be far better to grant loans to them so that they in turn could pay for the wheat with our loans. This is, in fact, what we are doing and I think we ought to say so. The danger, of course, is that the food we export is consumed in a very short time but the importing country or the importer concerned still has to pay for this food.
The reports of the Corporation indicate also that most exports, particularly exports of primary produce and minerals, can be sold for cash. I believe that the officers of the Corporation should have a further and a deeper look at the possibility of selling these goods for cash rather than granting these loans to the countries concerned.
Actually, as the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury) has said there is a growing compulsion throughout the world to sell all goods on credits, and long term credits at that. In fact the granting of credits for imports with many countries is of vital concern and is a vital factor for importing countries. I view with alarm the fact that the Corporation has said in its most recent report that 9 contracts still have between 5 years and 10 years to continue. I should like to know whether these contracts are for consumer, engineering or manufactured items. Eighteen contracts are still outstanding between 3 years and 5 years and 58 contracts between 1 and 3 years. The Corporation has said in its reports that Australian producers must match the competition of other exporting nations. -I doubt whether a proper assessment has been made by the exporters on the one hand and by the Corporation on the other hand. In other words, I believe that exporters do indicate to the Corporation that to obtain this export business the exporter will have to grant this credit to cover 3, 4, 5 or more years. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development does not believe, as I do not believe, that exporting in this form is in the best interests of the major manufacturing countries. In fact I am pleased to learn that the OECD is now actively engaged with exporting countries in an endeavour to rationalise the giving of credit. The OECD has indicated that as yet very little has been achieved in this respect. But I do consider that its efforts should be supported by the Australian Parliament so that manufacturing countries, exporting countries and producing countries receive a fair deal as well as those countries which import on this long term basis.
The honourable member for Wentworth has said that the President of the World Bank also has become very concerned about this giving of credit by exporting countries. The President of the World Bank said recently in Chile in dealing with international credits, no credits to Chile itself:
Since the mid-1950s publicly guaranteed debt has been growing at about 14 per cent per annum. At the end of 1971 it stood at over $60 billion and the annual debt service exceeded $5 billion.
I have no doubt that the President of the World Bank was referring to American dollars but those figures indicate the extent to which credit is given and the debt involved with respect to importing countries. The President of the World Bank said further that the annual debt rate of 14 per cent was double the rate at which export earnings grew and, of course, the servicing costs increased proportionally. What he was saying was that the $5 billion for servicing of the present debt would increase as this practice of giving credit for consumer and other items increased. If this practice continued, he felt, world financiers would need to intervene in this granting of credit by export countries to those who import. One needs only to look at the figure of 14 per cent per annum to realise that this form of credit giving cannot continue to increase year by year. I do hope that the Minister for Overseas Trade will look at the figures with respect to EPIC before the Government finally decides that EPIC’s contingent liability should be increased from $500m to $750m.
Revaluation has been discussed tonight by speakers on both sides of the chamber. The general impression is that if we have to depress our currency the present exports of the various commodities covered by the Exports Payments Insurance Corporation can be maintained, but if our currency is left at its present value our exports will decrease. If the latter reason is the probable one, it is quite obvious that no need exists for the contingent liability of the Corporation to be increased from $500m to $750m. Here is another question at which the Minister will need to look and the Government must relate its decision to whether this country should devalue its currency or whether our currency should remain at its present level in relation to other world currencies. However, generally, over the years I have supported the need to increase the contingent liabilities of the Corporation and, by and large, I support the contention now. But I do believe that the Minister faces more problems today with respect to the Corporation than that body has experienced hitherto. I hope that he will give to some of the contributions made by honourable members a good deal more thought than has been necesssary in the past.
– in reply - In closing this debate may I say how much I appreciate the statements by the right honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony) who was the Minister for Trade and Industry in the previous Government on his acceptance of this Bill and his understanding of the work of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. The Bill is a simple one. It seeks to increase the contingent liability of EPIC from $500m to $750m. I assure members of the Opposition as well as Government members who have spoken in this debate that their remarks about other ways in which EPIC might be improved, expanded and strengthened will be carefully noted. I expect that in the relatively near future we will be amending the legislation to increase the scope and effectiveness of EPIC. The suggestions that have been put forward in the debate tonight will be carefully taken into account when that course is adopted.
The honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury) began bis speech by saying that the subject of the debate was important enough not to draw in the world monetary situation. I suppose 1 would agree with that view, but the leading speaker for the Opposition, the right honourable member for Richmond, who is the Leader of the Country Party, spent the greater part of his speech drawing in the world monetary situation and deploring the effects of revaluation. So it was hardly likely that, that lead having been established by the Opposition, the subject could be ignored thenceforth. I suggest that the honourable member for Wentworth settle with the Leader of the Country Party how debates ought to be conducted in the House.
The right honourable member for Richmond spoke about the fast growth of EPIC and argued that it should be faster. I contrast the arguments of the honourable member for Wentworth and the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) who were worried about the growth of EPIC. One of them said that $750m goes far enough. So again we have differences of view on the Opposition side which I suggest ought to be reconciled. I leave Opposition members to reconcile those things between themselves. I agree with the right honourable member for Richmond when he says that EPIC should grow faster; it will grow faster. The honourable member pointed out that the exports credit agency in Britain insures 36 per cent of British exports which is more than double the percentage that we insure in Australia. This is because the British economy is more geared to exporting, is more sophisticated and has had more development. It is time that we caught up with Britain rapidly. The Government will encourage industry to insure with EPIC to a greater extent.
The right honourable member for Richmond accused the Government of being dedicated to the task of sabotaging the export industries. I do not think any responsible person in this country would accuse a government of being dedicated to such a task and I am very surprised that the right honourable member can use language like that. He spoke of the effects of revaluation, but revaluation was not something that the Australian Government gladly chose. It was a course that was forced upon the Government. The world monetary system, as the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) said, is still in the melting pot. The Australian dollar cannot be expected to chase the American dollar all over the globe. Had we not taken the action we did to stabilise the Australian dollar we simply would not have been left in an unaffected situation.
Had we not appreciated the Australian dollar in relation to the American dollar and in relation to some other currencies, it is quite obvious that the American Government would have taken additional steps in relation to the Australian dollar. They were pointed out by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. Opposition speakers who simply look at appreciation as something that we had a free choice about, who believe that if we had not appreciated there would have been no other consequences and that the United States would have done nothing about our meat exports or our other exports into that country, completely fail to understand the situation. The appreciation of the Australian dollar was an action which protected Australia against the consequences that otherwise would have come, and these are things that are so frequently not understood by the theoretical analysts of the situation as well as by ordinary political speakers. No-one would choose to change currency values unless there was very strong reason for it and the effects of it can be quite clearly identified although they will take quite a long time to work out.
The right honourable member for Richmond spoke about the effect in imposing losses upon Australian industries. Let us look at the rural industries first. Wool, meat, wheat and sugar prices have gone up to almost record levels and it was not so long ago that the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) was on this side of the House deploring the effect of high wool prices in encouraging the use of substitutes and making clear that wool prices could go too high. Now the appreciation of the Australian dollar has offset that and has reduced the competitive effect of substitutes on Australian wool, and the growers of wool, meat, wheat and sugar generally are in a very satisfactory situation today notwithstanding the revaluation. The people who are suffering the most from the effects of that side of the economy are not the producers of these commodities but the consumers in Australia who have to pay fantastic prices for meat, for example. I sometimes wonder where the demands of the rural producers will end. The price situation of those 4 commodities ought to be enough to satisfy anybody under existing circumstances.
The Government has taken immediate action in the formation of an interdepartmental committee which has established criteria to assist primary industries. The cases of those industries has gone to it and where it was considered fair and reasonable proper assistance has been given. This applies particularly to fresh and canned fruits. Now, where is the damage? I point out that there are benefits of appreciation which very considerably offset the damage that might be done. The Government has taken a comprehensive view - not a one-sided view - of this and I suggest that it might be a little better if on this question members of the Opposition like the right honourable member for Richmond were prepared to take a little less one-sided view as well. He looked at the manufacturing industries and he mentioned a Sydney photographic firm. It is a firm of very great enterprise-‘ in fact remarkable enterprise. It has managed to export as much as 60 per cent of its output. The honourable member said that within 12 months the employment of 700 people in that company will be in danger. To that statement I say, yes if nothing happens. The Government is well aware of the position of that company. I have recently had lengthy discussions with its managing director.
We are doing 2 things about this. One of course is the establishment of the interdepartmental committee that has been considering the position of secondary industries. As soon as we know what should be done action will be taken, but the Government is not simply going to proceed to hand out public money without properly examining and investigating the circumstances. Yesterday it was announced that the Government will continue the export incentive scheme for another 12 months after 30th June this year. That is about IS months from now. That scheme will cost $96m gross and about $55m to $60m net. It is a very considerable amount of money to provide to industry as an assistance to export. The right honourable member for Richmond mentioned that this assistance was only for a year. It is for IS months. In the meantime the Government will examine the situation and arrive at a plan. If this is satisfactory the plan for a subsequent scheme of export incentives will be announced this year so that industry will have ample warning of what the situation will be. But again I emphasise that the Government will not easily and loosely hand out as much as $96m a year to manufacturing industries unless it is satisfied that it is essential to meet the purpose to which it is directed. We are extending the present scheme for IS months because we believe that industry is in some condition of uncertainty. We will not pull the rug out from underneath it at short notice. No responsible government would do that. But at the same time we will not simply go on with the scheme unless we are satisfied - I submit that previous governments associated with the scheme were never satisfied - that the scheme is achieving its purpose. I think that the Government is doing a considerable amount to deal with the situation.
The right honourable member for Richmond said that we need to encourage exports. I believe that. I believe that the great economic problems and crises in Australia have been caused by a deficiency of exports and export earnings. We need a long term plan to ensure that these crises are avoided. If one looks at manufacturing industry one can understand the argument about exporting. Australian industries that export are well known to be the most efficient industries, because experience in exporting brings them into contact with new ways of doing things. They can innovate and develop more effectively. We know that in the case of large scale production the industries need a larger market than Australia can provide. In order to obtain that market they need to enter into exporting. These are all reasons that justify the importance of exporting.
The right honourable member for Richmond talked about the necessity for extending export into buyers’ credit. He talked about the necessity for lower rates of interest so that Australia can be competitive. All this is valid argument. The Government has put into the hands of an interdepartmental committee the job of recommending what might be done about an export bank. As the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) has suggested, this could well be closely associated with EPIC. I am sure that before this year has gone very far we will be proposing an amendment to this legislation or new legislation to answer the need that the Leader of the Country Party suggested there is for increased buyers’ credit. I have noted the points made by the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland), the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) and the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn). These points will be taken into account in subsequent action by the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr 3. F. Cairns) read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– Order I It being 15 minutes to 11 o’clock p.m., in accordance with the order of the House I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I would like to enlarge on some remarks I made last Tuesday night regarding railway sleepers. I am deeply concerned for this industry and so bring this matter to the notice of the House once again. The Australian timber sleeper industry is important to the livelihood and wellbeing of the whole community. It is a decentralised, labour intensive industry providing employment directly and indirectly for more than 1,500 Australians. Representations made on behalf of concrete interests in South Australia for the development of a new industry are understandable, but immediately at stake are some 300 jobs in the south west of Western Australia. The employment situation in Western Australia has been lagging behind the rest of the Commonwealth over the last couple of years. South Australia has an almost over-full employment situation. Loss of the market for Commonwealth Railway sleepers will cause great hardship and loss to many country workers in Western Australia who will have little option but to gravitate to the city in search of alternative employment for which they will have to be retrained.
The loss of this market will also cause long term hardship to the business community in the south west of the State and to a large number of persons residing in the Forrest electorate who rely on sawmill employment as a means of financially assisting their farming activities. It is understood that an analysis of figures quoted in the report of the Bureau of Transport Economics suggests that concrete sleeper manufacture would be necessary at Kalgoorlie for the major part of the transAustralia track requirements. This possibility plus the claimed reduction in maintenance personnel required would, I suggest, have an adverse effect on employment in the Port Pirie and Port Augusta areas. With exports overseas of railway construction timbers currently earning in excess of $3m per annum, it will be obvious that this important contribution to the country’s export trade will be jeopardised by an Australian Government decision to use concrete in preference to timber in the nation’s own principal railway system. It is very significant that a number of overseas countries purchased timber sleepers at prices in excess of locally manufactured concrete sleepers. As far as can be ascertained, all overseas countries utilise local hardwood resources for sleepers to the limit of availability. In this regard an in depth study by the United Nations Economic and Social Council has revealed that in 1972 there were 707.5 million sleepers in use in Europe - 75.7 per cent of wood, 15.4 per cent of concrete and 8.9 per cent of steel. If information from Russia, Bulgaria and Roumania were incorporated, the proportion of timber sleepers would rise to 82 per cent of the European total. In this connection it is pertinent to bring to mind that over 20 per cent of the total of Western Australian hardwood production is in railway sleepers.
In today’s technological environment I believe there is no need for government sponsorship of new cement based products. These have already displaced timber in many uses, such as major buildings and bridges, where the economics of their use are clearly and demonstrably viable. It is therefore not in the national interest to allow timber to be displaced in an area where even using the most negative assumptions the economic justification for other material is purely marginal. I understand that the Commonwealth Railways in its cost-benefit analysis of the Port Augusta to Whyallaline ‘guestimated’ that the saving would be approximately 10 per cent taken over a 50-year period.
With the increased public interest in environmental considerations, it is pertinent to note that timber sleepers are produced from a naturally replenished source of organic material. The Western Australian forests are managed to provide a perpetual yield of raw material to industry while at the same time maintaining forest areas for water catchment, recreational pursuits and tourism. At the end of its useful life the timber sleeper faces ready sale for the construction of stockyards and the like. At the very worst they will rot away or be burnt.
By contrast, the concrete sleeper is produced from once only limestone and stone quarries which are usually responsible for undesirable scars on our natural features and environment. Further production is carried out in cement making and stone crushing by techniques which give rise to dust pollution. At the end of its useful life as a railway component, considerable problems of disposal will exist. That factor was not considered in the Bureau of Transport Economics report. The report stated:
No allowance was made in the evaluation for the disposal of old sleepers as the cost of disposal, or the possible resale value, is largely a matter of unpredictable local circumstances.
That may have reduced considerably the 10 per cent which was estimated earlier in the report. I understand that there are sound technical reasons for the continued use of timber, which are evidenced by the fact that the 4 iron ore consortia which are operating in the north of Western Australia, after evaluating timber and concrete, opted for the timber sleeper in their recently constructed tracks. This year they will carry 75 million tons gross compared with an estimated 5 million tons by Commonwealth Railways and 72 million tons by all other railways throughout Australia. Although solid arguments can be put forward to support the continued use of timber for sleepers, one wonders whether the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has not decided already to use concrete sleepers. In his annual report 1971-72 the Commissioner stated:
From the point of view of long-term planning and future maintenance cost reduction, one of the most satisfactory aspects of the year just concluded was the progress achieved in the laying for the first time in Australia of a rail link on concrete sleepers, viz the Port Augusta-Whyalla Railway.
By continuing to specify timber sleepers for Commonwealth Railways maintenance work and new track construction the Government will assist positively in keeping a major decentralised Australian industry viable. Finally, I believe that the timber industry in all States provides basic stable employment leading to a confidence which allows the establishment of local economic business interests, community activities, development work programs and tourism, and provides an incentive to rural pursuits.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to this question is as follows:
Nuclear Tests by China (Question No. 146)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice;
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
How many persons were employed in each Commonwealth Government Department at the latest date for which figures are available.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Public Service Board has informed me that the latest figures on employment in the Commonwealth Service are as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What was the total number of Ministerial staff
What staff was (a) approved for and (b) employed by each Minister on each of the above dates.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
One Private Secretary
One Press Secretary
One Adviser/Research Officer
Two Assistant Private Secretaries
One Steno-Secretary, Grade 1 and
Any variation from this basic establishment requires my personal approval.
Ministers are still making appointments, within their establishments, to their personal staff. When these appointments have been completed, I shall make available to the Right Honourable Member and to the House details of the staff employed by each Minister and by office holders of the non-Government parties.
Information about ministerial staff under the previous Government is available in Hansard for 27th April 1972 (pages 2182-2185).
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What was the staff of the Public Service Board in each State and Territory as at (a) 30th June 1955,
Will he have a table prepared indicating by States and Territories the number of classified positions in the Public Service Board In the (a) Second Division at (i) Level 6, (ii) Level 5, (iii) Level 4, (iv) Level 3, (v) Level 2 and (vi) Level 1, (b) Third Division at (i) Class 11, (ii) Class 10, (iii) Class 9, (iv) Class 8, (v) Class 7 and (vi) Classes 1 to 6 and
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Public Service Board has’ supplied the following information:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Attorney-General’s Department (Chair). Department of External Territories. Department of Primary Industry. Department of National Development. Department of Shipping and Transport. Department of Foreign Affairs, and Department of the Treasury.
Senior officers of the Department of Defence and of the Navy also attended meetings of the Committee.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 March 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730313_reps_28_hor82/>.